By Tayiba Ahmed
This past weekend, nearly 1,000 students gathered at American University of Sharjah (AUS). You might wonder what was interesting enough to cause such a large number of students to spend their weekend on campus. The event that attracted not just AUS students but also students from various different institutions from across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was the tenth conference of the annual American University of Sharjah Model United Nations (AUSMUN). Although the conference is in its tenth year, many AUS students might still not be aware of what Model United Nations is about, the connection it shares with AUS and who participates in it. This article aims to answer questions you might have regarding AUSMUN.
What is Model United Nations?
Model United Nations (MUN) is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about civics, effective communication, globalization and multilateral diplomacy. In Model United Nations, students take on roles as foreign diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization (IGO). Participants research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems.
Before playing out their ambassadorial roles in Model United Nations, students research global problems to be addressed, drawn from current headlines. Model United Nations participants learn how the international community acts on its concerns about topics including peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development and globalization. MUN delegates also look closely at the needs, aspirations and foreign policy of the countries they will represent at the event. In almost all the Model United Nations around the world today, it is a common practice that students (delegates) are not allowed to represent their own countries of origin.
During MUN simulation sessions, participants must employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to represent the countries they are assigned. The skills needed and applied include public speaking, small group communications, research, policy analysis, active listening, negotiating, conflict resolution, note taking and technical writing (required when drafting resolutions or working papers).
How is AUS connected with the MUN conferences?
In 2007, AUS participated in the Harvard Model United Nations, the largest and oldest of its kind in the world. At the conference, AUS students were able to learn first-hand about different aspects of the international political system and grasp their role as citizens of the world. In a course of months, students from AUS, along with the Department of International Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), worked relentlessly to create a similar conference that both delegates and advisors would enjoy and dearly remember. Then, in April 2008, the first AUSMUN conference was held on campus, organized by twenty AUS students and three faculty members from the Department of International Studies. The delegates left the conference with a significantly improved understanding of international relations and organizations. Since the birth of AUSMUN 10 years ago, students from all over the UAE and other countries have been to share a similar experience at American University of Sharjah every year. The organizers strive to replicate that remarkable feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction each year.
Apart from organizing the AUSMUN every year, students from AUS also actively participate in other international MUN conferences held both locally and internationally. For instance, last year AUS sent a team of seven to the New York edition of the conference, which was held from March 27 to 31, 2016. The delegation consisted of international studies students Hanan Arab, Reem AlNuaimi, Mehak Ayaz, Hend Mitkis, Nasser Anwahi, Ahmad Azari and Omar Khattab, all of whom were selected through an interview process by the Student Leadership Program (SLP). The students were all also active participants with SLP and/or the AUS Model United Nations. The team won the Outstanding Delegation Award, the highest possible recognition, out of 2,500 delegates from 230 universities. Moreover, AUS was the only participating university from the GCC, adding prestige to both the delegation's involvement and their win.
Who participates in AUSMUN?
High school and undergraduate students participate in the MUN conference by representing a member state or an organization in a formal assembly. At the first AUSMUN, students from only six UAE schools acted as delegates forming four committees. This year however, students from 40 different institutions—including high schools across the UAE as well as universities such as NYU Abu Dhabi, American University in Dubai, Paris-Sorbonne, Herriot Watt, University of Sharjah, Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, and RAK Health and Sciences University—participated in AUSMUN. Moreover, two international high schools also participated in AUSMUN this year, one from Kuwait and the other from Afghanistan. The conference featured 20 committees, offering the widest selection in AUSMUN history. More than 200 AUS students, most of whom are international relations students, working alongside faculty members to organize the event.
The growth of the conference over the past decade has been incredible, and hopefully AUSMUN will continue to grow and offer students a unique experience as time goes by. To stay up-to-date with news regarding AUSMUN, visit the official website at www.ausmun.com.
Tayiba Ahmed is a student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah