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BY NAZLIN AMIRUDIN

SOME of the brightest Malaysian undergraduates will be joining forces to tackle pressing global issues – or at least pretend to.

We’re talking about the Malaysian national Model United Nations (MUN) team, which is made up of aspiring policy-makers studying in universities across the world.

And get this: the team will be coming together to represent Malaysia at the upcoming WorldMUN conference in Seoul, South Korea this March!

What is Model United Nations?
What the heck is Model United Nations, you ask? It’s a competition where students learn about diplomacy and international relations by role-playing as delegates at a United Nations conference.

Model United Nations Malaysia

Delegates at the Nottingham University MUN (NUMUN) conference last year in April. NUMUN this year will be held from 28th February to 1st March.- Photo by Nottingham University Model United Nations Association (NUMUNA)

So if you’re into finding solutions to war conflicts, helping to provide humanitarian aid and addressing global economic issues, then MUN would be your kinda thing.

MUN has been growing in popularity among university students over the past few years, with MUN clubs and societies popping up in loads of local universities.

“If we do well this year, hopefully we’ll be able to lobby the Ministry of Education to officially recognise and support MUN in Malaysia,”

So how does an MUN competition work? Well, once a team (normally representing a university or high school) has registered for a MUN conference, it is assigned a country to represent.

The teams are then separated into smaller teams to strategise different issues in the country (political issues, environmental concerns, etc.) in preparation for the conference where they will engage in policy-making debates.

Meet the team!
Most MUN teams represent their universities at international MUN conferences, but a select few (like MUN-ers from Belgium, the Netherlands and now Malaysia) represent their countries instead as national teams.

Since there were no other rival teams competing to represent Malaysia, the current eight-member team has, by default, become the national team for the upcoming WorldMUN conference.

WorldMUN

(From left) Timothy Wong, Hafidzi and Thomas Wong hope to make the country proud at the WorldMUN Conference. Photo: NUMUNA

Being selected for the national team was no easy feat as candidates had to go through an online application process before the final selection was made by an ad hoc committee made up of experienced MUN-ers.

According to Internaional Islamic University Malaysia student Mohd Hafidzi Mohd Razali, who is both the team leader as well as a member of the ad hoc committee, the online application process differed based on candidates’ skills and experience.

“Some people had to write essays, others went through an interview while some just qualified automatically,” he said.

Apart from Hafidzi, the others who made it to the team were Timothy Wong Ka Ye from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Daniel Subramaniam from University of Warwick, Farrah Ping Dahim from University of Adelaide, Amir Hamzah Roslan from London School of Economics and Political Sciences, Basil Yap Ji Tsing from National University of Singapore, Sheau Yun Lim from Yale University and Arvind Jayaratnam from Nottingham University.

“In Malaysia, some delegates tend to be very well prepared while others are less so. But here, everyone comes to the table prepped,”

Because the team is spread out over four continents, Skype is crucial for staying in touch, conducting meetings and planning strategies for international conferences.
The team also has a mentor in veteran MUN-er Thomas Wong, who has a masters degree in International Relations from Nottingham University.

As MUN is not recognised by the Ministry of Education, the national team is endorsed and sponsored by the United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNAM), an independent NGO with consultative status with the UN. UNAM gives the team access to keynote addresses by past and present diplomats as well as talks by local and international speakers.

“If we do well this year, hopefully we’ll be able to lobby the Ministry of Education to officially recognise and support MUN in Malaysia,” said economics student Arvind, 21.

“We have a pretty strong core of around 500-600 students who consistently attend the monthly conferences hosted by private schools and universities around Malaysia,”

The growth of MUN in Malaysia
At the moment, there are over 1,000 members on the “Malaysian MUN-ers” Facebook page.

Notices about workshops and conferences are frequently shared here and also provide members the opportunity to practice and learn from experienced MUN-ers.

“We have a pretty strong core of around 500-600 students who consistently attend the monthly conferences hosted by private schools and universities around Malaysia,” said Arvind.

Model United Nations Malaysia

Hafidzi (left) and Arvind

While MUN is not as widely recognised in public institutions, the local MUN community has a few active independent groups, like those from SMK Bandar Utama 4 and the Johor Student Leaders Organisation.

An organisation, Selangor MUN, has also been set up to promote equality in MUN and encourage public school students to participate.

But for the MUN scene in Malaysia to really flourish, MUN-ers will need to get more experience in international conferences.

“I would say Malaysia is on par with the global standard, and that the culture is rather similar in that we are a close-knit community,”

Team Malaysian MUN-er Daniel Subramaniam is now on the University of Warwick’s MUN team, and he said he always has to up his game when competing at international conferences.

“In Malaysia, some delegates tend to be very well prepared while others are less so. But here, everyone comes to the table prepped,” he said.

On the other hand, Timothy Wong, a nine-year MUN veteran currently studying in Melbourne, believes conferences in Malaysia are already at a very high level.

“I would say Malaysia is on par with the global standard, and that the culture is rather similar in that we are a close-knit community,” he said.

“MUN also introduces students to a world outside Malaysia, allowing them to become increasingly globally aware and open-minded.”

What’s the big deal?

MUN Malaysia

Yale University student Sheau

It’s natural to assume young people wouldn’t be interested in things like diplomacy and policy-making, but MUN is proving that they can be, as long as they’re given an interesting – and fun – platform to immerse themselves in all that.

“It’s coming up with ideas that can make us move forward.”

Yale University student Sheau Yun Lim said: “MUN is an activity that teaches students how to research, speak, negotiate, and present themselves in a formal setting. These are skills that cannot be taught in a classroom.

“MUN also introduces students to a world outside Malaysia, allowing them to become increasingly globally aware and open-minded.”

Hafidzi, on the other hand, relishes the opportunity MUN provides to make a difference.

“Forming the team itself has been an accomplishment. Our goal now is to bring more awareness and encourage more students to participate in MUN,”

“MUN is not public speaking to please your audience,” he said. “It’s coming up with ideas that can make us move forward.”

At the upcoming WorldMUN in South Korea, team Malaysia is determined to lay a strong foundation for future Malaysian MUN-ers.

“Forming the team itself has been an accomplishment. Our goal now is to bring more awareness and encourage more students to participate in MUN,” said Arvind.

Interested in finding out more about Model United Nations? Find out more here.

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