The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

McMUN Virtual

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During the last weekend of January, four members of Dartmouth Model UN (DartMUN) attended McGill’s Model UN Conference, McMUN. In the past two years, DartMUN participants have traveled to Montreal to compete at McMUN; however, due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s McMUN conference was held virtually over Zoom. DartMUN delegates participated in a wide range of committees, from The Global Summit to End Gender Discrimination to the Ad Hoc Committee of the Secretary-General. Not only was McMUN an exciting opportunity for DartMUN staff to participate in debate, it was a valuable opportunity for us to experience a virtual conference as delegates before running our own conference in April.

Despite the virtual format, McMUN’s schedule proceeded almost exactly as it has in prior years. The conference began on Thursday evening with opening ceremonies, which were livestreamed on Youtube. The keynote speaker was Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who delivered an address discussing indigenous rights in Canada and engaged in a moderated discussion with the Honourable Minister of Justice David Lametti. Later in the night, the first committee session began. Generally, committee proceeded as a typical MUN conference always does, but adapted for Zoom: speeches were made, and people reacted to them via emoji, blocs were formed in breakout rooms, and notes were passed via Zoom chat and Slack. I participated in the Ad Hoc Committee, which sought to coordinate a voyage through space to Treasure Planet, a fictional planet home to mysterious treasure. Ad Hoc committees are usually small and entertain experienced delegates with fast-paced debate and exciting crisis updates on a topic that is not revealed to delegates until the day of the conference. Virtual Ad Hoc at McMUN was no exception. It was thrilling to be in a committee of such creative delegates working alongside a dynamic crisis staff. I felt challenged to contribute as much and as meaningfully as I could.

While the actual workings of committee were easily translated to Zoom, unfortunately, the interactions among delegates that always happen outside committee were lost. Quick discussions between committees, getting lunch with fellow delegates, and rapid-fire strategy sessions at the end of the day were largely lost in the Zoom environment (though Slack facilitated these connections during non-committee hours.) Despite these challenges, McMUN committees remained a valuable experience. Brandon Zhou, DartMUN’s Director of Finance and a participant in the Second Royal Commission on the Future of Healthcare in Canada committee, representing the Minister of Indigenous Affairs in Alberta at McMUN, said of his experience: “Although the Zoom format for McMUN was very different from what I’ve experienced in prior conferences, I still felt that I was able to meaningfully contribute to debate and form connections with my fellow delegates. It was great to have the opportunity to debate issues with the Canadian healthcare system especially as we’re impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a world facing a pandemic, racial injustices, and heightened political tensions, McMUN served as a reminder of the value of Model UN. The program allows participants to develop the ability to think critically about a wide range of global issues, consider perspectives other than their own, and work collaboratively to come to a solution. This experience was invaluable in helping to inform our planning for DartMUN 2021 this April, and we look forward to welcoming delegates and faculty advisors to DartMUN virtually in the spring!

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences