By Anna Huber
In the second academic term of 2014/2015 I was asked by the United National Society (UN Soc) of the University of Nottingham to attend the London International Model United Nation (LIMUN) 2015 conference. LIMUN is a student-organised event, in which students have to represent assigned countries throughout the conference, simulating a United Nations (UN) conference. LIMUN aims to build an understanding of global challenges and encourage participants to find solutions to future global problems that are compatible with the aims and principles of the UN.
Like any other UN conference, LIMUN involves research, debating, writing skills and public speaking. Whereas the former three skills are well thought by our department, I think that the latter is a skill that can only be fully gained by your own individual efforts. Additionally, attending lectures where you are confronted with issues such as the uneven growth and exploitation of developing countries, democracy having the potential to lead to tyranny of the majority and the misuse of nuclear weapons – demonstrate how essential public speaking is in order to make your voice heard! So even though seminars tend to make even the quietest students speak up during heated debates (especially when it comes to private schools), I believe that many students still hesitate to confront people on these challenging issues rather than introducing others to their thoughts. I therefore decided to join the UN Soc and sign up to a conference as soon as the opportunity arose which is how I ended up at the LIMUN in London.
Having arrived there, I stumbled into a room full of a hundred students from all over world, such as India, USA, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. Every delegate had to introduce himself or herself at the beginning – there it was, the anticipation of having 200 eyes resting on you – which was followed by a discussion about which topic should be on the agenda first. After the nervous atmosphere in the room subsided heated debates started and I threw myself into them. Thus, public speaking suddenly turned from a burden into excitement. The topic ‘Solving the issue of opiate trade and trafficking’ was put on the agenda first. As I was representing Italy, I had enough to say about the opiate trade, as after the Afghan War in 1979, the Sicilian mafia became the intermediaries of the Pakistani laboratories, supplying more than 60% of the European market. The greatest debates escalated between the delegates of third world countries and the developed ones. European countries where keen on focusing on greater boarder control rather than trying to solve the deep rooted social problems of developing countries which led to opiate trading in first place. Soon blogs formed, such as the South American, European and African blog, which refused to move away from their standpoints unless it led to any kind of amendment for them. This made me wonder how difficult it is to reach solutions during a real UN debate if all countries are that firm with what they want as we were. Hence, reciprocal solutions where desperately needed but hard to find in a room full of different opinions. After three days of intense debating, the final resolution paper was submitted to the chair. It is impossible to describe the feeling in the air, when we all agreed on how to combat opiate trade in the future.
A punctual and engaged presence as well as attention for up to four hours consecutively was required, as every minute counts and each speech can be valuable and offensive for the position you are fighting from. This makes the adrenaline kick in even more, and alongside the stress and the exhaustion, you learn how to carefully and selectively focus on what is important for you/your country. Thus, for the first time, after having started studying IR, I felt like experiencing a real life potential job scenario: I needed to think fast, act fast and meanwhile collect the best facts to form an argument and hence, prove that my point of view is the most valuable and benefiting for the UN community as a whole. I was able to use the knowledge I attained from attending IR lectures and seminars whilst improving my debating as well as communication skills alongside practicing diplomatic terms. I also got awarded with the ‘Best Position Paper’, which is one of the three prizes you can gain as a delegate. Besides this, even though I normally prefer to speak during seminars rather than lectures, I became more secure of asking and responding to questions in lectures too. This security of public speaking came clearly from my attendance at the LIMUN 2015. Being an IR student, I find it almost obligatory to attend such conferences to get an overall idea of the different topics that are concerning the UN and all its different branches and I am grateful for having received the opportunity from the School of Politics and International Relations to do so.
Anna Huber recently completed her second of undergraduate studies in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham.