When I arrived at Kintex, delegates were already debating. I wanted to panic but I knew I had to arrive calmly and silently. I sat at the back with Guinea Bissau and another European dude. I didn’t have the chance to talk to them as much. I was immediately immersed into the conference proceedings. There’s already a whole bunch of people in the speaker’s list (the list of people who will be speaking as recognized by the Chair). If I remember it correctly, delegates were giving speeches on proposed solutions to the conflict in Bosnia. I observed first, took notes and tried to group arguments whether they were for diplomatic solutions, military intervention, humanitarian relief or other forms of political dialogue.
Our committee was composed of around 150+ single delegates (countries were represented by pair in other committees). It was a little tricky but exciting. Its called the Historical General Assembly where we went back to 1995 when the Bosnian Crisis was happening. We had to provide recommendations to the Security Council or provide peaceful mechanisms to end the conflict. The challenge was to keep certain facts given the hindsight of what happened and act as if we were at the moment. Precisely on May 1995 when UNPROFOR troops were captured and there was an impending genocide in Srebrenica. It was expected of us, if it not being our moral obligation, to make better decisions than what was made by policy-makers then. We’re doing it in real time and quiet a few moments we got updates on the ground such as Canadian Forces between captured by Serb paramilitary forces. What we were going to do and how it would impact the flow of the proceedings, were basically up to us to decide.
GIVING A SPEECH
We were about an hour into the formal session. Somehow the discussion leaned towards the establishment of schools and provision of peace education. At that time, I found the opportunity to speak up. I got included in the speaker’s list. The first speech that I delivered was nerve-wrecking. I was planning to make a written speech but my hand was shaking that I couldn’t even write. Since computer was not permitted during formal session, I couldn’t type. When my name was called, I stood and got into the podium with whatever I had.
The first few sentences were the most difficult to start with. I saw the whole committee in its full glory and felt as if all eyes were piercing through me. Well in the middle of the speech, I just stopped caring about it as I wanted to end my ordeal. The point I wanted to raise was that the talk on education, infrastructure and health were long term goals. While they were necessary, the first thing we had to do was to make sure that conflicting parties would sit in the negotiating table, put down their arms and determine ways to create peace in Bosnia. It was only when there’s peace that public institutions can be built and strengthened to serve the people.
DIFFICULTY WITH LOBBYING
When I came back into my seat, notes started coming in. People were asking to form coalitions or to have lunch together and begin drafting a resolution paper. I didn’t realized then how fast moving WorldMUN was like. It was because the sessions were dominated by moderated caucuses that new ideas are being brought forth every time. There was also not much time for lobbying and resolution writing during sessions as we’re always on a moderated caucus.
I was used to the system in the Philippine MUNs where we had long unmoderated caucuses that allow me to help write resolutions and roam around the conference venue to lobby. Here, the only way I could lobby was either to pass notes (and not listen to speeches which I found important even if I didn’t agree with some people) or do it during lunch breaks. Evenings were impossible since I went to socials and I was staying in Myeongdong, which was an hour and a half away from Kintex.
The bigger challenge here was how to convince people. Eloquent lip service would lead to nowhere. A lot of delegates demanded substance. Many were brave enough to be on their own because they didn’t agree with the points raised by most delegates in the committee. The mix of delegates were simply amazing. A lot of delegates in my committee were either doing their masters or in their latter years as undergraduate students or taking Juris Doctor program (there were PhD students in other committees). We had students from Sciences Po, Korea University, University of Cape Town, Sydney, Adelaide, Kyoto, Waseda, Georgetown, Yale and NUS to name a few. The veterans and very successful delegations in past conferences were the Universidad Simon Bolivar and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello (Venezuela), American Military Academy at Westpoint, American University of Beirut, London School of Economics and MUN Society Belgium (included some notable universities like the Free University of Brussels and Catholic University of Leuven). Apart from learning during conference proper, it was the friendship and network that you build with these people that would last beyond the conference itself.
The morning of the second day already had a lot of action. The bigger action was happening unnoticed because they were done through note passing. People were already forming alliances and had plans to reconcile their ideas during lunch. I was hesitant to give people a yes in joining their working group. I was still testing the waters and see which working group could accommodate my national interest and where I could contribute most productively.
The Chair then called for a short unmoderated caucus. Delegates grouped in circles inside and outside the room. I was going back and forth between those circles and listening to people sharing their ideas.
Some delegates were very smart that they were already consolidating ideas from other delegates. It only took a laptop or a notebook and patient listening to collate all the ideas of the group. These people acted as moderators in the discussion, listening more and clarifying arguments than making their own. That didn’t mean that they don’t have arguments and positions. It’s just that they let people to speak out and, later on, add their ideas in the resolution. They acted as gatekeepers who determined which ideas could make through the resolution and which would not. In that way, they were solidifying their leadership step by step. Brilliant strategy!
There I was on the side observing the groups. Obviously, groups could be very big that there were people who couldn’t speak and felt left out. Those were the people I liked to be with. In local conferences, that was how I formed alliances. Having observed around, I could look for people who had similar national interests with me and whose personalities matched with mine. In that way I was able to have few and select people to work with. It is easier to produce a resolution when all people are doing the job. They are committed and passionate to defend the resolution because they contributed in writing it. In big working groups, not everyone have the opportunity to do so. Essentially, alliances in small working groups can be stronger and more stable than bigger ones. Resolutions can be refined later or half of it could be scrapped, but the important thing is to have a resolution done immediately to allow more time to furnish it.
Another problem with haphazardly selecting allies is that differences fundamentally resting on national interests would surface sooner or later (unless one is inclined not to follow his or her national interest). Conflict of personality would strangle resolution writing as the group would be more engage on unnecessary arguments than constructive, meaningful and efficient conciliation of national (and, yes, individual) interests.
I wouldn’t say that I got this strategy head on. I was frustrated the first day because I couldn’t find an ally. I tried forming alliances several times with this or that delegate only to break down immediately. Some delegates were so blunt giving a note to me and saying that they wouldn’t want to work with me anymore because my ideas simply wouldn’t work. Inside my mind I wanted to BS that person but I had to keep my cool because I didn’t go there as a judo player or trash talker or boxer-like-Mayweather. I was there to act like a diplomat. Ergo, I had to be diplomatic.
I honestly found those statements sarcastic. A lot of Filipinos and Asians in general don’t usually put disagreements into the open, like telling people you don’t agree with them in the face. We’re into euphemisms. Many Europeans and Americans are straightforward. WorldMUN taught me to better understand where people’s actions were coming from, either from their culture, experiences or upbringing which could be markedly different from mine. I think every delegate and world leaders, in reality, have to deal with a lot of people different from theirs. Or worst they don’t like. Putin and Obama everyone?
To think of it, dealing with people different from myself or I didn’t like was a little price to pay if children in Bosnia was to feel safe in their homes, a wife relieved knowing her husband has been released from concentration camp, a girl unafraid of being raped by soldiers who wanted to get even on their enemies or a student my age could finally walk free, live free and enjoy life because there’s peace and a prosperous future to look forward to.
At WorldMUN, delegates are being trained to make those sacrifices to better the lives of many people around world. Such an important lesson for everyone to learn in order to make WorldMUN life changing indeed.
Part 4 to follow.