Future We Want Model United Nations (FWWMUN) took place at the United Nations headquarters, and some of the surrounding hotels, between the 9 – 11th of March. FWWMUN drew to New York 2574 delegates and staff members from 136 countries. 1500 of these delegates were able to participate with a scholarship which covered registration and accommodation. HelpMyMUN sat down with both delegates, and staff to learn about FWWMUN from the perspectives of delegates, chairs, and secretariat.
We started our round of interviews in the ECOSOC room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The first delegate we found was Jaunico Van Der Walt is an International Relations major from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. At FWWMUN Jaunico is representing Finland in the UN LEGAL 6 committee, discussing the topic of Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission.
Tell us about the conference
“I’m enjoying FWWMUN a lot, it’s something I’ve never seen before. I Love that we can be inside the United Nations headquarters. You feel included in the process of decision making.”
Did you make friends?
“At the networking event you meet a lot of people. If you’ve vocal enough during sessions it builds connections outside the session. If you’re lucky, you can keep in touch and meet at other conferences.”
Who has made the best impression so far?
“Mexican girls are really fun. Latin American girls are very lively and inclusive. They all want to dance. The Latin American delegates in general are positive and always inclusive.”
While Jaunico is new to Model United Nations, FWWMUN being his 2nd conference, some delegates were reaching the double digits. Marco Antonio Garcia Mendez, who will be studying International Relations at the University of Edinburgh is at his 9th MUN conference.
Tell us about your conference experience
“It makes you hopeful that so many people with momentum are interested in international relations and what we will do when we are the ones to lead. For me, FWWMUN is 10 out of 10. We had some bumps but overall people are happy.”
As a MUN veteran, does being at UN headquarters bring anything different to the MUN experience?
“Yes. You don’t get to see what the real ambassadors see every day. Also, delegates from more countries have come here. My father is a diplomat. In my 19 years, I’ve lived in seven countries from South America to Europe. Nigerians can be good at one thing, Mexicans at another. At a Model UN, it all comes together to make something more complete.”
What keeps bringing you back to Model UN?
“I feel most at home at MUNs. Moving around so much it’s hard not being the local. At the UN you’re not the outsider. Everyone is the outsiders. It’s an aura of great people learning from each other. You get to put your little grain of sand into this big project we’re doing here. The sustainable development goals and everything that will take us forward from here.”
To get a chair perspective, we sat down with UN Legal chair Elisavet Dravalou. Originally from Greece, Elisavet now lives in Sweden and is doing her second masters in European Economic Law in Stockholm. She has been doing Model UN since 2013.
Model UN, was is love at first sight?
“My first Model UN was a little bit scary. I was representing India. At the opening ceremony I was informed I had to speak in front of 500 people. I had no speech but I had to improve. After that, I felt so confident and could speak in any committee. After that, the ice broke immediately and I saw I can do that.”
What do you think of FWWMUN UN Legal committee?
“I like them. Their position papers were good. The delegate of Iran wrote a position paper that was very detailed. I am a lawyer and I couldn’t write that. The delegates representing the United Arab Emirates has rhetoric. They have it. I like seeing the interaction between the delegates.”
What is your favorite part of the conference?
“Being at the UN and chairing here. At the UN I feel I take some of the glory that doesn’t belong to me. It helps you believe that anything is possible.”
Moving to the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), we spoke to Arbora Aliaj. Arboda is from Albania and is studying law at the University of Tirana.
What do you have to say after your first day at FWWMUN?
“I’m excited. Learned many valuable things. Every delegate was very active and the interaction was at a high level. I can’t wait to go back and implement what I’ve learned in my university and community.”
What do you most appreciate about the conference?
“It is hard for Albanian students to get to New York. Model UN has helped me a lot, as it made it easier for me to get a visa to go to places that would have been harder to get to.”
Also delegating in the CSW is Andjelka Jankovic. She is from Serbia, and originally graduated in 2010 and has been working in production, radio and culture. She was not a Model UNer the first time around and was very happy to be doing now during her MA in Gender Studies at the University of Belgrade.
As someone with work experience, what do you think of Model UN?
“I’m a newborn. I appreciated seeing young people passionate about the topic. As I never had the opportunity before it’s important to learn how to manage communication. Skills are useful even if you don’t want to be a diplomat in the future.”
What benefits do you feel Model UN uniquely brings?
“In Model UN you learn how to deal with people. I like the speaking, learning and talking. It’s important for teenagers. I envy them for having this opportunity that I didn’t have before.”
Do you think Model UN can impact the real world?
“We have 2546 delegates here. I’m sure at least one of them will be deciding something important about our future here and I think that’s amazing.”
Do you feel your life experience gives you an advantage?
“For me, even though they are younger, I sometimes feel that someone older is sharing an opinion. We can learn from the youth much more than we think.”
Are there any other Model UN benefits?
“Model UN helped me get a visa. If they don’t see a connection between your job and going abroad they tend to be skeptical if you don’t have a family and children. The visa letter helped a lot for me and other Serbians.”
“I had the chance to ask Jane Connors (A guest speaker) some questions, specifically, do we need men in our fight for feminism. She said yes. I got some important answers. She told us about the knowledge and skills we need for our career. I want to work in the UNDP one day. I want to realize that idea and I got that idea here.”
Another of the international staff, one of HelpMyMUN’s own, ECOFIN chair Ali Zain Kara said “Compared to other conferences at the UN who conduct only openings or closings at the UN, with FWWMUN all of us actually experienced committee sessions inside the different UN halls and what it meant to chair from the same dias that had been used thousands of times before by real diplomats to change the world. Despite some teething problems and logistical hiccups, the conference turned out much better than expected for all participants. The level of diversity was incredible, including on the Secretariat itself.”
Tell us about your conference experience
“It was a good experience overall. There is definitely room for improvement, but isn’t there with all conferences? I’ve been doing Model UN for 8 years now, and amongst large scale conferences with 2500 delegates, this has still been one of the better-executed projects.
Also, I loved being in New York. The food, the trains, the weather (not so much). You need to make sure to appreciate the host city and contribute to the local tourism economy, instead of just sitting in conference rooms all day.”
In one word, how does this conference differ from others that you’ve attended
Give us some Model UN words of wisdom
“Model UN is not about politics. It’s about diplomacy and international relations. It is important that we remember that as we grow in the world that is Model UN.”
After leaving the committee rooms we moved on to what seemed to be a secret room on the ground floor of the United Nations, where we found FWWMUN Secretariat at the end of a long day. Secretary General Maxton R. Scotland was kind enough to give us a few minutes.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview
“I am happy to. I love what you guys do at HelpMyMUN, with your MUN initiatives and .”
What drives you to run a Model UN conference like FWWMUN
“Many people on senior levels underestimate Model UNs and the quality of information shared by young people. Inshallah, there will be an organization similar to a UNA to monitor Model UNs at the UN level.”
What is the origin of FWWMUN?
“In late 2017, Future We Want Model United Nations was created by the Italian Diplomatic Academy. The students who began the initiative said that they took inspiration from the REO 2012 initiative in Brazil. The idea that Model UN should be accessible for all was important to these students. Until this point the academy would send students to Model UNs in the United States. In a joint brainstorm, the Diplomatic Academy and the students came to the conclusion that the money giving to fly so many Italian students to the US could be used to bring less fortunate students a chance to experience Model UN. We reached out to permanent missions to the UN. We identified students who needed the scholarship and told them where to come. We needed to verify that those who got the scholarships were the one who needed them and not students from the top schools.”
Tell us about your Model UN journey
“When I found MUN I was a very young veteran, just finished time in the armed forces. You’d think, living in London, you’d have heard of it before, but I did not. After I began, I met people in Egypt, Syria, Greece, all over. I’ve been to places like Lebanon, where my embassy told me to check in twice a day. Just to see in the first committee session, with young people discussing global issues, showed me that this is a world I want to be part of.”
What about your journey as Secretary General of FWWMUN
“When I came on board I made it my business that he 1500 scholarships will go to less developed countries. From Bangladesh, Fiji, the Caribbean. I’m originally from St. Vincent. I read thanks to a light coming through a window. I want people to relate from this level. For me it’s not about making the conference perfect. We know we made a lot of mistakes but we are learning and we want to learn. It’s most important that everyone is there from different places. We will learn to dot and I’s and cross the t’s. We want to learn about the UN. How the secretariat runs. We want to know how the UN makes decisions.”
How has MUN changed your life?
“MUN has changed how I see and appreciate different cultures. It made me more accepting and understanding. Just looking at these young people talking about serious things, like Captain Planet, talking about fixing the world. I have been to so many places that can only be called unbelievable with people even more incredible.”
Finishing our day, we managed to catch a few words from the other members of the FWWMUN secretariat:
Adria Yelina de la Cruz, Head of press
“We were lucky to get scholarships for the 1500 students who were able to come for free. This is an amazing activity, but most people can’t afford it. The only way those students can interact with other cultures is this. The only way to meet cultures from different regions is thanks to Model UN.”
How does FWWMUN benefit someone like you?
“I come from an Island, for me it’s very different. When I set on the train I only hear people speaking Spanish. We have a few immigrants from Haiti, and other cultures we are close to but it’s not like New York where people speak different languages on the same street. The initiative of Future We Want, even if we didn’t achieve our goal 100%, is to get our Model UN to people who wouldn’t get it otherwise. For the people who don’t have Model UN societies in their countries. We have a lot of lessons to learn but the dream is to have more affordable and easy to access education opportunities for all. There is a gap between what we say and what we do, and we want to break this gap.”
Alexander Sohl, from Berlin, Germany the Under Secretary of Admin (“I fix problems”) has 10 years of Model UN experience.
What does Model UN bring you after 10 year experience
“Being at the UN is always special. Even after 10 years of politics I’m still an idealist. MUN is about making friends internationally. Yes, there is an academic part. Yes, there is a self-development part but the essence is finding people from all over the world from different backgrounds. You share common goals and a common vision, and that’s the United Nations.”
How has MUN changed over past 10 years?
“Commercialization, professionalization and size. Back in the day 300 is considered large, now it’s 3000.”
Joshika Saraf – USG Committees by day and a lawyer in India by night.
How did MUN change your life?
“I started MUN in high school. I was a shy kid. I got exposed to many things. Started speaking quite a lot. I gained confidence.”
How was working with the FWWMUN secretariat?
“Being honest, we have had so many issues. But we remained strong, the five of us. Max made sure we all remained sane. He lost his sanity for us.”
Maryam Nsaif – Deputy USG Admin from Lebanon. Studies at Norte Damn University and is her third time on a secretariat.
How was working with this team?
“I can summarize it in one idea. We have not snapped at each other. We have faced so many issues. We did not sleep and did not eat for many hours and I realized that we did not yell at each other. Despite whatever goes on.”
“Joshika always offers me chocolate and Adria takes care of me in such a sweet way.”
How has MUN changed your life?
“Before MUN the last time I got on stage was a spelling bee in 5th grade until my 1st MUN in 10th grade. I still stuttered but it helped me regain my confidence over the years. MUN helped my research abilities and even start a career of research in engineering. I wanted to become a mechanical engineer and not I’ll be a research engineer.”
We finished off our day with a social at the Grand Hyatt in central Manhattan. There, we sat with Abramo A. Chabib, the Executive Director of Italian Diplomatic Academy.
What do you see as the main benefit of Model UN
“We want youngsters to get connected to Model UN. It’s a life-changing experience. You start building your skills and personality and then they meet they test their limits.”
How is FWWMUN an improvement on what you did before?
“We used to fly Italian students all over the world to get training in Model UN. Now, we bring them to one place and we all meet them here. Now, they get the same practice with other Model UN people but it is also an opportunity for the delegates who get the scholarship to take part in this rare and empowering activity.
What’s next for FWWMUN?
“We want to replicate future we want in four locations. We will repeat in New York and in the near future we will run conferences in Bangkok, Geneva and Dubai.