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World Domination, Simulated

Reborn Model UN Grabs Awards, Heads for Greece

By Aaron D. Mihalik

Associate Features Editor

For students lacking an outlet for their public speaking abilities and their interest in world politics, the award winning MIT Model United Nation Society is waiting. In the past year the Model UN team has undergone a rebirth, and is bringing home awards from World UN competitions. Model UN will be sending 15 delegates to the Harvard World UN in Greece on March 25th.

“The aim of Model UN is to tackle the same problems that the world leaders of today are tackling, but with youthfulness and a different perspective than the old fogies,” said Aziz H. Hassanali ’02, president of the MIT Model UN Society. “Model UN is basically a simulation of the United Nations.”

The Model UN is comprised of the general assembly, in which every member nation participates. At the Harvard World UN competition, the general assembly is divided into three committees -- World Health Organization, Disarmament, and Special Political and Decolonization.

Aside from the general assembly, there are caucus blocks including the Organization of African Unity and the Middle East Summit. “Model UN tries to promote the idea of discussion,” said Hassanali. These committees “happen at the UN but they usually happen behind closed doors.”

MIT to participate at World UN

The Harvard World UN is a collection of students from all over the world. “It is a very diverse group of students coming together to solve a problem. It’s probably the closest simulation to the UN that you will have,” Hassanali.

This year, approximately 700 students will travel to Greece to participate in this five-day competition. At the competition, MIT’s delegates will represent three countries -- Algeria, Palestine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Participants are required to research their country and determine the country’s stance on relevant issues and present those perspectives to their committees.

For example, Algerian delegates in the World Health Organization will have several responsibilities. “Primarily, they will have to figure out what Algeria’s prospective on health issues is,” said Hassanali. “Secondly, they will have to look at it from a global level. [They will consider] what other countries have done and how they can apply things that have worked in Algeria. The whole idea of the exercise is to make you aware of the country and to use your intelligence to come up with solutions.”

Although it might seem that Algeria might not have much to offer in discussions in some topics like the disarmament of Iraq, the delegation does have a role to play.

In reality, “any problem that effects some region of the world has ripple effects throughout the whole globe,” said Hassanali. And no matter which country you are representing “you can provide some insight to the situation.”

MIT provides diverse, strong team

The MIT participants come from a variety of majors. “It’s one of our strengths. At other schools, most participants are international relations students. Our views on topics are much different than an IR person and that adds to the debate,” said Hassanali.

As an MIT student, it is difficult to participate in such a time-consuming activity. “At MIT there are many other students who can participate, but MIT doesn’t allow them to participate in extra curricular activities,” said Hassanali. “We always welcome more people to join.”

“The reasons that people participate are not only do they get to learn about world issues, but they get to interact with people from different school, different backgrounds and different societies,” said Hassanali.

For MIT participants, most of the competitions are subsidized by MIT Model UN. MIT Model UN is primarily sponsored by Prudential Securities and “they’ve deferred much of the cost,” said Hassanali.

Rebirth increases student awareness

The rebirth of MIT Model UN Society began in March 1999. The basic premise of Model UN Society is two fold. The first purpose is “to create an awareness on the MIT campus of global issues. The second goal is to attend conferences.”

MIT Model UN has met with success since its rebirth. MIT sent five delegates to last year’s Harvard World UN, in Cambridge, England, and won best delegate honors in two committees. During recent Harvard National UN, MIT sent 17 delegates and won two best delegate awards.

Model UN has general meetings every two weeks. During meetings, participants discuss current world issues and listen to speakers.

Speakers provide students with a realistic insight into a complex political situation. “A lot of times [students] can provide solutions to problems, but we don’t know the little bits that aren’t made aware to the public. When you watch a CNN broadcast, it is very difficult to evaluate things like that,” said Hassanali.

“Last month we had the Indian ambassador talk about nuclear proliferation, and the situation with Pakistan and Cashmere. We get people who know the inside story,” said Hassanali.