By Stefanie Friese, Germany, MA in Peace and Conflict Management
As a student of the MA in Peace and Conflict Management Program one has the great opportunity to take MUN as an elective and become a member of Haifa’s Model United Nations Society. MUN societies exist around the globe with approximately 400 MUN international conferences held annually. Many known world leaders participated in MUN societies during their academic studies.
This intense two-semester course depicts the UN in the larger framework of the international arena and world order. During simulations students familiarize themselves with the Rules of Procedure of United Nations plenary sessions. The syllabus is completed by academic tours (e.g. to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs), lectures, workshops and conferences.
Last Monday we looked into one of the key discussions within the UN which can be described as “state rights” vs. “human rights” while simulating a Human Rights Council meeting (UNHRC) on Detention Conditions & Human Rights Violation of Political Prisoners. After several suggestions we ended up discussing Kazakhstan’s proposal, i.e. whether the question of political prisoners and the conditions in which prisoners are held should be left to the sovereignty of the states concerned…no independent international monitoring committee needed… not surprising that this motion was very much supported by Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, the Russian Federation and Venezuela… enough votes to push for a moderated caucus (which means to temporarily suspend formal debate in favor a specification of the suggested topic for a certain period of time).
On the opposing side, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America would form an alliance whose rejection of our proposal couldn’t be greater…Eventually, someone brought up Guantanamo. As a result, Brazil and the US engaged in a heated debate on the situation of prisoners there.
In conclusion, this simulation was intense, extremely exhausting and great fun! As participants we learn to argue convincingly even if we sometimes have to represent a point of view that may well be not our own, contradictive even. We learn the relevance of the UN and its contribution to world order while, at the same time, understanding the limitations to its influence. This course is a great opportunity for students to understand the global balance of power while improving rhetorical and writing skills, diplomatic strategy and negotiation skills at the same time.