Politics become reality at latest Model UN

“With all due respect to the authors of draft resolution 1.2 and to the esteemed delegate from Mongolia, this draft resolution is trash.” Here, the delegate from Maldives raised a paper up for the entire Historical General Assembly of 1971 to see… and tore it up into the microphone.

“Maldives cannot support a resolution with such a strong bias towards India, and we urge the Arab nations to unite together behind our Pakistani brothers in this conflict!” Amidst the cheers and clapping from the left side of the room, and calls for “Point of order!” and audible grumbling from the center and right sides of the room, the moderator banged his gavel on the podium and called for decorum.

From February 16 through 19, 17 Eastern students, with our advisor Paul Brink and head delegates Adam Brittin and Sara Anderson, represented the delegation from Nicaragua. My classmates and I were taking part in the Harvard Model United Nations conference in Boston, where over 2,500 students from 181 colleges and 24 different countries had gathered to simulate the bureaucratic inner workings of the United Nations and do some hard-core politicking.

When I first stepped from the van that Thursday afternoon, I had no idea what to expect from the weekend. The lobby of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel was swarming with students from many different universities and their mountainous luggage, and the elevators were jammed to bursting.

By the end of the weekend the beleaguered elevators creaked and heaved ominously, both going up and coming down. When we arrived, our rooms weren’t ready, so we dumped our suitcases in a pile and waited around in the lobby, watching delegations arrive from as far away as Italy and Venezuela.

In a few short hours we were in session, all dressed in formal business wear and sporting snappy little badges with our country (Nicaragua), university and name.

Divided into committees of varying sizes, we debated international topics such as narcotics, decolonization, infectious diseases and atomic energy. The goal was to pass a resolution on the conflicts presented to each committee, so, for a very intense four days the delegates made speeches and formed coalitions, stated opinions and made compromises, all the while trying to stay within the bounds of their own particular national policy.

Working with Anderson, a three-year veteran of the Model U.N., I was part of the Historical General Assembly of 1971, where we debated the 1971 conflict between India and Pakistan. A combination of civil war in Pakistan and refugees fleeing into India by the millions made for very interesting debate.

Should the U.N. step in between the two opposing Pakistani factions? Would temporary humanitarian aid be enough to solve the problem? Had state-wide crimes against humanity been committed by the Pakistani government? Should India be commended for taking care of the refugees or rebuked for having its troops on Pakistani soil?

All these questions, and many more, were hammered out in working papers, speeches and moderated and unmoderated caucuses over the 20 intense hours of committee sessions. By Sunday morning our committee passed the seventh draft resolution that had been written, with one amendment and a handful of very vocal dissenters.

By this time I had ceased to refer to people by name. They were now Honduras or Swaziland or France, and when I ran into a fellow delegate from the Latin Block at the water cooler, I greeted them with, “Ah, Brazil [business-like nod]. How’s it going?” Or perhaps, chatting with Mexico in the ladies room, “So, what do you think of working paper 1.3? I hear Botswana and Pakistan have been working on it all morning.”

The Model U.N. Conference was a wonderful experience, full of new people and situations as well as the high drama of parliamentary debate, and gave me a much more tangible understanding of political negotiations. My only regret is that, being a senior, I can’t go back next year.

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