Shrewsbury School

‘ShrewsMUN’ - Shrewsbury School’s inaugural Model United Nations Conference

Friday 10 March 2017

United Nations flags fluttered proudly above the Main School Building last weekend, to welcome more than 100 delegates representing countries from all over the world to the inaugural Shrewsbury School Model United Nations Conference.

Devised and organised by a small and extremely hard-working Executive Committee made up of Sixth Form students led by Secretary General Ed Plaut (S), ShrewsMUN 2017 was hailed an outstanding success by delegates, organisers, Chairs of Committees and accompanying members of staff alike.

Together with Ed, Deputy Secretary General Max Morris (S), Joint Heads of Press Michael Schützer-Weissmann (S) and James Whitaker (Rt) and Head of Media Sebastian Hervas-Jones (S) had collectively put in hours of work in the weeks and months leading up to the Conference. They were supported, too, by a team of fellow ‘MUN-ers’ who took on the roles of Chairs of Committees and Presidents of the Security Council, preparing resolutions, and researching and writing briefing notes for delegates. 

The Committee were delighted that seven schools from across the UK signed up for the Conference and they were particularly thrilled that two teams from Frankfurt International School travelled over from Germany. They were also very honoured to welcome Justin Bedford, Head of the UN Strategy Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to give the Keynote Speech at the opening General Assembly – particularly given the fact that he had spent the previous week travelling in China and South Korea and had flown back to the UK only the day before. He gave a fascinating insight into the world of international diplomacy, and answered very skilfully some challenging and probing questions.

The Keynote Speaker in the final General Assembly was former Head of School Esmé O’Keeffe (MSH 2013-2015), a talented and enthusiastic ‘MUN-er’ during her two years at Shrewsbury, who is now at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge studying French and Italian. She spoke about her experience last summer working for a humanitarian aid agency in the Ukraine and her research for a report she had written for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  As Ed Plaut said in his vote of thanks, she demonstrated to the ShrewsMUN delegates “that these issues are not as removed from us as we might think, and that we do not have to wait to make a difference to those things we debate at MUN”.

During the course of the weekend, the ShrewsMUN delegates debated some of the major global issues currently being discussed in the ‘real’ United Nations, including the question of migration, the Syrian Civil War, sustainable energy in developing countries, cyber warfare, the use of drones in war and the treatment of terror subjects.

Work in the each of the six Committees was intense and productive. In their closing remarks in the final General Assembly, all of the Chairs of Committees paid tribute to their respective teams of delegates for the high quality of debate – commenting that it made the awarding of Commended, Highly Commended and Outstanding Delegates difficult to decide.

"It was great to see all of our hard work and hours of preparation pay off over the weekend, as everything worked extremely smoothly," Ed said at the end of the Conference. “Everyone really enjoyed their weekend and learned a great deal, either as a delegate, a chair, or on the organisation side of things."

Michael Schützer-Weissmann  agreed: “Given Shrewsbury's prolific MUN record, it's extraordinary that we have had to wait until 2017 for our own ShrewsMUN conference. But no matter - it was well worth the wait.  For me, the key to this conference's success was its almost entire dependence on pupils' commitment and initiative."

As joint Heads of Press, Michael and James were responsible for producing a newspaper during the weekend, which they published in time to hand to delegates in the final General Assembly. Meanwhile Sebastian, as Head of Media, roamed the Conference with his camera and put together two films that captured the lively spirit and positive atmosphere of the Conference. 

Speaking at the end of the Conference, Ed Plaut was warm in his thanks not only to his fellow organisers but also to the members of staff who gave up their weekend to help with the Conference. In particular he paid tribute to Mr Peach, Master in Charge of MUN. “He is the man I must credit with not only introducing me to MUN, but supporting me and mentoring me every step of the way, including to the end of this conference. His leadership of MUN has irrevocably and positively shaped generations of Salopians, who, like me, are eternally grateful for all the hours that he has put into us as MUNners, but more importantly as people. ...He believed in our vision for the conference, and let us run with that vision with complete control, for which we are so thankful.”

Mr Peach expressed his huge pride in their achievement. “Ed, Max and their team of committee chairs, administrative staff, delegates and journalists shouldered the vast majority of the planning and work for this conference and were a tremendous credit to themselves and Shrewsbury School. Because this conference was their brainchild, they ‘owned’ it, and were thus determined to make their conference a success. It's strange, but true, but some of the greatest moments that I have experienced in my teaching career (and this was definitely one of them!) have come from standing to one side, doing very little and just watching as talented stars of the future like Ed and his team take flight.”

Ed concluded the Conference with his favourite quote, from Ronald Reagan:
“I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

Ed, James and Sebastian gave a very engaging interview on Radio Shropshire shortly before the start of the Conference on Saturday morning. Please follow the link to listen to it and scroll forwards to 2:17:15 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04sx4st


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