What is Model UN? What is NHSMUN?
“NHSMUN 2019 was my second year of MUN and I can honestly say it was one of my fondest memories that I’ve made in high school. It really shaped how I see my place in the world.”
Model United Nations (MUN) is a student simulation of the proceedings of the United Nations. Students, referred to as Delegates, are assigned a country to represent in one of the UN’s numerous committees with pre-set topics to debate. They research the background of their country, their country’s position on the topics at hand, and prepare notes on possible solutions to the problems faced. Students then convene at Model UN conferences, which range in size from 100 to 5,000 delegates, to debate their assigned topics with students representing the other UN member states. Much like the real UN, the goal is to identify solutions, by negotiation and consensus, on which many countries can agree.
The International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formally associated with the Department of Global Communications of the United Nations, hosts Model UN conferences around the world. IMUNA’s flagship conference is the National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) Conference, held in New York City. NHSMUN is one of the best-recognized conferences on the global MUN circuit and the largest conference for high school students. Since its first session in 1975, NHSMUN has been attended by students from more than 130 countries across 6 continents, making it a truly global experience. IMUNA is also committed to serving as a leader to the high school MUN community, providing resources to schools trying to start MUN clubs and assisting schools that host local conferences around the world.
Students who attend NHSMUN are treated to a truly unique experience. To kick off a rigorous week of debate, students are typically welcomed by a guest speaker who plays a major role in international relations. During recent conferences, NHSMUN has welcomed speakers ranging from UN, government, and international affairs experts like US-UN Ambassadors Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Jonathan Cohen, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General Jeffrey Sachs, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, NYC Commissioner Penny Abeywardena, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Ret. General Stanley McChrystal, and Ret. General David Petraeus to UN humanitarian programme directors or celebrity advocates like President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Caryl Stern, Mandy Patinkin, Joe Manganiello, and Demi Lovato. Students have the opportunity to meet with the Permanent Mission to the UN (embassy) of the country they are representing, a unique experience for them to engage directly with professional diplomats. If an embassy is not available for a meeting, students can instead attend a workshop or seminar featuring experts on their committee topics and their connections to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students then break out into their committee simulations, where they deliver speeches on their country’s policy in an attempt to convince their peers of their country’s point of view.
The students’ charge for the conference is to write and pass a resolution, which is a document that describes the actions that they propose to take. This requires countries with very different points of view to discuss their differences and find common ground. With the diversity of the UN member states in each committee, reaching a compromise can take plenty of debate. Subject to the availability of space at the United Nations, the simulation features a special session at the UN Headquarters, where students are seated in the General Assembly Hall that has hosted many of the most prominent heads of state from the past few decades. Students discuss the final resolutions during the plenary session and closing ceremonies. All resolutions that pass an affirmative vote are published online after the conclusion of the conference.