Debating world issues

By Tahnee Hopman, Pic by Athula Devapriya

In its simplest sense, the concept of the Model United Nations (MUN) Conference could be described as a glimpse of a typical day in the life of a diplomat.

Looking beyond this, the MUN experience has come to be known not only as a platform for youth to learn the rules and protocol of diplomacy and to broaden their perspectives, but also one which gives youth the opportunity and the confidence to speak their mind on pressing world issues that they are passionate about.

SLMUN is an annually held simulation within the framework of the United Nations. The conference is held for three consecutive days, during which participants collaborate and work as a team in order to derive a feasible solution for the problem at hand. During this phase of the conference, students step into the shoes of diplomats and make resolutions based on their topics. Each participating school represents a delegation and each student is given the opportunity to dutifully represent the policies of their assigned country.

Sri Lanka is no stranger to MUN conferences, having conducted many successful conferences in the past, the organizing committee of SLMUN 2009 has worked hard to do things slightly different this year.
“For the first time,” explains Isuru Kotigala the Secretary General, “the conference will be a trilingual one, and translators will be provided when needed. We feel that this would give participants the freedom to express themselves comfortably without being subject to the challenge of language barriers.”

Under the theme of “Freedom, Stability and Sustenance,” the conference will follow three key discussion points – namely terrorism, climate change and the financial crisis. Says Kithmina Hewage the Deputy Secretary General, “for the first time, we’re also attempting to take a look at the legal aspect of the problems we plan on addressing. Where the tendency is to focus more on the social aspect of a problem, we feel that knowledge of legal considerations would enhance the discussions during the conference.”

New to the line up this year is the addition of the International Press Corps which will serve as media coverage throughout the conference. The members of the IPC are assigned the roles of journalists, photographers and cartoonists.

Approximately 1000 delegates from all over the country– Galle, Matara, Puttalam, Kandy and Jaffna will participate in this year’s conference, and the 32 member committee agrees that in a time of reconciliation, SLMUN 2009 will be a great place for youth to come together. These youth will be joined by delegates from India, Pakistan, USA, and China, along with individual delegates from several other countries, making SLMUN the largest of its kind in South East Asia and the third largest in the world.

The committee also agrees that SLMUN is also about having fun, meeting new people and gaining self confidence. Senior MUN participants Yohan Senerath (the President of the Security Council) and Sashini Gomez (Director, UNESCO) describe their long MUN experience as multi faceted and thoroughly unforgettable. “We learn that there are always many nuances to a topic,” says Yohan, “and we also learn the art of agreeing to disagree.” Adds Sashini, “it also promotes equality among youth. And what is great is that while improving diplomatic skills, we get to socialize, have fun, and most importantly prove ourselves.”

Sponsors of this year’s conference include the Ministry of Education and the Sri Lanka UNESCO Commission as principal sponsors and the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology, Virtusa, Seylan Bank and Mobitel as Silver Sponsors. The Bronze Sponsors include the Ministry of Tourism, American National College, Ashok Glass (Pvt) Ltd, Sanasa Development Bank, the Daya Group of Companies, the Associated Electrical Corporation PLC, Cargills Ceylon PLC, Unilever (Pvt) Ltd, General Sales and the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission - Ministry of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, with Asian Alliance Insurance Company (Pvt) Ltd as Printing Partners.

The conference is set to take place at the BMICH on August 2, 3 and 4 and as always, promises to offer future diplomats and world leaders their first stepping stone towards accomplishing their goal.

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