WHAT IS MODEL UNITED NATIONS?
Simulating international organizations began well before the founding of the United Nations in 1945. During the 1920s, American college students began conducting a series of simulations of the League of Nations. Today, Model United Nations programs are the immediate successors of those student-directed programs and are conducted across the globe. The oldest currently operating Model United Nations conference began in 1952.
Model United Nations is an authentic simulation of the prinicpal organs of the United Nations, committees and organizations within or connected to the United Nations, or other international organizations. Among these other organizations are the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Organization of the Islamic Conference, League of Arab States, African Union, Organization of American States, and European Union. Many conferences also offer historical and reformed versions of the above organizations and committees, as well as conducting emergency simulations to gauge the delegates' ability to react to rapid developing situations. Some conferences have a few dozen delegates while others have a few thousand. Some conferences run for a few hours while others run for a few days.
The goal of Model United Nations is to educate delegates about current affairs and international relations, to enhance research skills, and provide outlets to hone effective written and oral communications. In order to do this, delegates act as ambassadors or diplomats from their respective countries to a particular committee or organization. Delegates research the committee, the topics being discussed by that committee, and all aspects of their country's history and foreign policy. This knowledge is taken to conferences where delegates debate the topics as a diplomat from their country would do and attempt to find resolutions to or make recommendations about those topics.
The popularity of Model United Nations has continued to grow for the past half century with conferences being formed across the United States and the world. More than 200,000 middle school, high school, and college students participate annually. At least 400 different conferences are held each year in more than 50 countries. Many of today's leaders and celebrities have participated in Model United Nations. Among these are actors Rainn Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former World Court Justice Stephen Schwebel, former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, former Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge, and Ohio State Senator Capri Cafaro.
Photos courtesy of LEIMUN participants