On the second day of freshers, Lauren spoke to the UN Society…
Impact’s News Editor, Lauren McGaun, caught up with the UN Society’s Gen Sec, Amir Khan, to find out more about the United Nations Society and their plans to host their annual conference in November in a COVID-secure way.
Q: What is the United Nations Society and how can people get involved?
Amir: The United Nations Society is a society which focuses on engaging its members through weekly debates on a variety of topics surrounding global issues. We also hold “miniMUNs” which are just small conferences, and we hold one major conference a year called NottsMUN. All our weekly sessions will be online via zoom for the duration of first term. We also plan on holding a variety of online socials were our members can relax without endangering anyone’s health.
If you wish to get involved, please do the following:
- Buy membership of our society on the SU’s website, it is £5 for the year.
- Join our Facebook Group.
Q: What is your favourite aspect of the society?
The ‘social’ aspect of a society is always of paramount importance and I value it greatly
Amir: Being someone who has never been hugely interested in politics, and who has not studied politics in an academic sense, MUN for me was initially a way to make friends and debate topics which seemed interesting to me, without the stifling format of debating to which I was accustomed. For me, despite having taken part in a large amount of debates and conferences over the past three years, my favourite aspect of Model UN will always be the social aspect, and how great it is as an environment for meeting new people and having a good time while also learning about important global issues. I’m fully aware a die-hard politics student might have said something different, but, for me, the ‘social’ aspect of a society is always of paramount importance and I value it greatly.
Q: Do you need any prior experience or knowledge of politics to get involved with MUN?
Amir : Short answer: no.
Long answer: MUN, while being inherently political in the sense of the topics which are discussed, is not an inherently political activity. This is because, it is essentially a skills-based activity which relies on one’s own ability to understand material, process it, be able to communicate ideas effectively and negotiate to find a solution. None of these require a background in politics in an academic or practical sense. Of course, having a vague interest in global politics would be useful, but it is by no means necessary to take part and any holes in your knowledge can most likely be fixed by a Wikipedia search before the session. I strongly urge that anyone who might be interested in MUN but feels as if they ‘don’t know enough about politics’ gives it a go.
Q: Can you explain a bit more about what your yearly conference involves and how do you plan for it to go ahead this year with the social distancing regulations?
Amir: Our conference is usually a three-day affair which begins on a given Friday and ends on the Sunday of the same week. The initially planned dates for this year is the 20-22nd November. We normally have a variety of committees and crisis chambers. To define these:
- A committee is a chamber in which each individual is assigned a country, and there are two chairs who lead the debate. This debate goes ahead in the standard UN General Assembly format, which we take the time to teach to anyone who does not know it. The debates can range from discussing things like nuclear deterrence to labour rights in South East Asia depending on in which committee you are based.
- Crisis chambers follow a different set of rules. The premise of a crisis is that you take the role of a country’s leader on an issue of great importance, usually one of global disaster or large-scale war. These debates can be much more varied and unique than committee debates and are also far less regulated in terms of the format which is used. On the flip side, they usually require much more flexibility than traditional ‘debating’ activities.
Along with these debating chambers, we usually have socials on the Friday and Saturday nights. The Friday night is usually a sit-down dinner and the Saturday night is a more active form of socialising.
We are considering delaying the conference to March if the situation simply would not allow us to put it on as well as we would like
As far as social distancing goes, we have come up with a plan to socially distance every room we would use through two metre distancing, as well as cleaning each room before and after the day’s session. Also, each committee would essentially function as a ‘bubble’ where once in the committee the delegate would not leave apart from for lunch, which would be at staggered times, in order to reduce any health risks. As well as this, we would follow university guidelines regarding masks in university buildings. We would also not serve food to our delegates like we usually would, in the interests of safety, so each delegate would be advised to bring their own lunch and eat it in their committee ‘bubbles’.
It is important to note that we are considering delaying the conference to March if the situation simply would not allow us to put it on as well as we would like.
Please see our NottsMUN Facebook page for more regular updates and information.
Q: As well as the conference, do you have any other events lined up for the rest of the year?
Amir: Well we will continue to have our weekly debates but via zoom – please see our Facebook page for more information on that – but we will also continue to hold our ‘MiniMUNs’. To explain, a MiniMUN is effectively a small conference which occurs over one day, usually a Saturday. These can cover a vitality of topics ranging from preventing (or causing if you’re that way inclined) a nuclear apocalypse, the Hundred Years War and the French Revolution. They are incredibly fun and a great way to bond with other members of the society.
Our first MiniMUN of this academic year will be a futuristic session on the 2020 US Presidential Election. It will be held on October 10th. Our Facebook page will contain up-to-date information as it is released.
Apart from this, we will also be attempting to go to other universities for conferences, although at the moment the only conference I can say with any hope of certainty that we would be attending is YorkMUN in February.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I hope that any new member has just a fruitful experience as I did and, once again, please don’t be too afraid to try
Amir: I would just like to reiterate my point that MUN is a great activity to engage in regardless of your knowledge of politics. It is a great way to build useful transferable skills such as research, communication and negotiation while doing so in a safe and friendly environment.
However, most importantly, it is a great way to make friends with likeminded people. Personally, I made almost all of my friends in Sixth Form through our MUN and many of my friends at University I made through our MUN.
I hope that any new member has just a fruitful experience as I did and, once again, please don’t be too afraid to try.
UN Society FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nottinghamUNsociety
NottsMUN FB page: https://www.facebook.com/NottinghamModelUnitedNations
Featured image courtesy of Nottingham International Model United Nations. The photo use has been granted to Impact by the University of Nottingham United Nations Society.
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