U.N.derstanding politics at MUN 2019

U.N.derstanding politics at MUN 2019

Autumn Dixon


About 20 Whittier College students and Professor of Political Science Michael McBride trekked up to Burlingame, California on April 12 for the sixth-ninth annual Model United Nations of the Far West (MUNFW) conference. MUNFW participants took part in a simulation of the United Nations, discussing issues related to sexual rights, statelessness, and religious freedom. This year’s MUNFW, themed a Common Humanity: Back to the Principles of the UN Charter, hosted schools, including: Whittier College, Heidelberg University, University of Nevada Reno, and others. Every country Whittier represented won the Slanczka Achievement Certificate, which is awarded to those who turn in their policy statements, resolutions, and country profiles on time. 

Whittier’s own fourth-years Alex Russell and Madison White and third-year Piper Lowinger chaired the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. In this role, they moderated discussion among other delegates on issues such as xenophobia and statelessness. 

While the chairs monitor and moderate the room, delegates are the ones who participate in discussion and resolution making while representing their countries’ political stances and beliefs. Every other Whittier College student acted as a delegate for the following countries: Finland, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Pakistan. They were divided amongst different committees, representing their countries’ views on the respective issues presented. These issues varied based on the committee they were in, as each committee serves to monitor discussion on the environment, international peace and security, protecting refugees, and human rights. The purpose of the delegates discussing and writing resolutions is to adequately address some of the UN’s most complex problems discussed in the committees, while providing realistic solutions.

The General Assembly encountered a different experience than other committees, as they were given a high-level event that was not listed on their agenda. Delegates had the day to come up with a consensus resolution on cyber security attacks on water treatment centers in Europe. “I’ve never felt so stressed out and so much enjoyment in tackling these issues and interacting with so many people with different walks of life,” said second-year Eliott Bergerson, who was a Deputy Permanent Representative for Pakistan, causing him to stay in the General Assembly for the entirety of the weekend. 

“The Environmental Assembly deals with the environment, and this year we discussed air pollution, water acidification, and natural resource extraction,” said second-year Jezebel Kline, who also represented Pakistan. The Environmental Assembly was reaching consensus on their agenda topics when they were given an unofficial high-level event of sorts; the chairs decided to bring in an “alien” who was demanding gold from all the Earthly countries. This distraction only lasted a night, and the delegates were able to resume resolution making the following morning. 

Whittier will return to Burlingame for MUNFW next year as the host college, its ninth time hosting since 1994. With this title, members of the class will be responsible for setting agendas and providing chairs for committees and a press team. “One of the hallmarks of Whittier’s hosting the conference is that each of our Secretaries-General and many of the other MUN participants from Whittier have had experience at the ‘real United Nations’ as interns with a UN agency,” said McBride. “We hope this brings a sense of realism to the way we have run our conferences. For instance, this year’s Secretary-General, Kelcey Negus, served as a UN intern with UNHCR in the summer of 2016, where she sat in on the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees.” The upcoming MUNFW will mark McBride’s 50th conference. “I walked away from this conference with new friends, memories, and an appreciation for our UN System,” said Kline. To join MUNFW 2020, or any questions answered, email Dr. Michael McBride at mmcbride@whittier.edu.