While everyone else was disappearing home for the holidays or jetting off to distant Caribbean islands the names of which I can’t pronounce, a group of nine pupils (and one rather selfless member of staff) rose sleepily the day after term ended and slowly drifted into KH for breakfast. None of us were feeling particularly eloquent as we loaded up on bacon, cereal, and above all caffeine – but as this was a Model United Nations conference we were preparing for, we were going to have to wake up and find some eloquence in the hours that followed.
For those of you who have never experienced MUN, the format is this. Within a committee (which is focused on set topics, such as Disarmament or Politics) resolutions are proposed. These are then debated, modified, debated further, and finally voted on. There are no winners or losers as such – the aim is to be as persuasive and influential as possible, to get your resolutions passed, and to accurately represent your country’s policies. Normally that last part is the least exciting: but on this conference, we were representing the People’s Republic of China. Thus attacks on capitalism and “western imperialism” were not only acceptable, but rather expected. Shrewsbury aimed to please.
Upon arrival, our first port of call was to find toilet facilities: it had been a long and nervous journey. This we did without too much trouble, putting us in an optimistic mood for the rest of the conference. A small victory. We then settled into the main hall for the opening ceremony and speeches. The main speaker impressed upon us the point that MUN is real preparation for politics and a chance to change the world. Whilst we were of course highly attentive and listened in rapture to his every word, really what we wanted to do was start debating, like every other school there.
It was then that we finally got involved in our committees. One of our core tactics was to immediately make as big an impression as possible – not only were we the only Shrewsbury team there, but we were representing China of all countries. Fortunately this was not too difficult, as many of the delegates there were fairly new to MUN, meaning China managed to seize many opportunities to speak over the more apprehensive newcomers. Even in Security Council, where the standard Salopian mixture of bluff and bravado would no longer cut it, Shrewsbury had a powerful presence in the form of Anna Olerinyova. In the other, more playful committees, we found other ways to stand out. Our notepaper, done in the style of a Chinese menu at the suggestion of James Humpish, was very popular with other delegations and the chairs of each committee, helping make the Shrewsbury team stand out in a conference dominated mostly by local schools.
Committees finished at five, and we returned to our hotel. In the evening we went out for a curry at the local Spice Lounge. Here I learned my most important lesson of the conference: do not order the hottest curry you see if you’re planning to do public speaking the next day. Burned throats are not the best for making speeches.
Our second speaker of the conference was the ‘global head of technology’ from Price Waterhouse Coopers. While we were all sure afterwards that he had delivered a memorable and eloquent presentation, nobody could quite remember what it was he had said. This was because everyone was more concerned with how he believed the world was home to seven trillion people. Nor was this just a typo, as it was repeated twice. One would expect a man in such a position to know such things rather than being out by a factor of a thousand. At least it meant everyone remembered his speech, if for the wrong reasons.
We then learned of the crisis we would be facing in General Assembly the next day. A terrorist group called the Free Earth Militia were claiming responsibility for power outages in several countries, threatening further disruption unless all activities harmful to the environment were stopped. China responded to this with a typically Salopian sense of priority by trying to come up with an amusing acronym for their resolution. Eventually having settled on UNBOOMBOOMBOOM, we tried to piece together an actual resolution in which to put it. Thanks to the intervention of Theo Simmons, tightening up the team’s production line and actually getting the resolution finally typed up, we submitted it to the chairs in the nick of time.
Unfortunately it was not chosen for debate. Nevertheless the team made efforts to speak as often as possible in General Assembly, asking several points of information and also being recognised to address the assembly. This was thanks to some hasty but successful alliance-making by Daniel Edwards and Henry Nead, with Mark Huang’s established committee alliances coming into play. Ralph Wade in particular made excellent use of the stage, delivering a persuasive speech and fielding questions with typical flair.
In total Shrewsbury won eight awards – most notably, Rory Fraser winning Outstanding Delegate in his committee, and the team as a whole winning Best Delegation in General Assembly. Of course, far more important were the unofficial awards voted on by committees, with China dominating thanks to our significant presence in every committee. Among those won were “Most likely to become a communist dictator” and “Most creative acronym” (UNCHINESEFOOD, by the way).
In conclusion, this was a very successful conference: Shrewsbury secured a disproportionately large number of awards despite fielding only a single team where others had fielded up to five. Most importantly, however, we all enjoyed getting involved and speaking – and the awards were a good conclusion to a great conference.