The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. In the next few days, we will have the honour of publishing reports on the six committees’ debates, brought to you by the journalists of the GIMUN Chronicles.
By Roberta Marangi
Thirty hours, twenty-five delegates, five full days, a presidency made of two highly professional members, two journalists, taking turns in recounting all that has happened in the Salle XXVI of the Palais des Nations. And one final report to try and bring back to life all that has happened.
‘The Role of Economic Sanctions on Vulnerable Populations’ and ‘Empowering Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries’ were the two topics covered during this year’s Annual Conference by the ECOSOC. Yes, they are two of the most sensitive subjects that could have been chosen. No, it has not been an easy ride.
Coming back to my notes and this week’s reports, I realised I have written more than six thousands words which, in turn, brought the realisation that writing a comprehensive piece on all that has happened is impossible. What I can do is trying to put into words an experience that somehow resists such closure.
I think it wise to start by comparing the initial debating stages of both topics. In the case of Topic B (Empowering Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries), the first discussed, almost all delegates agreed on the necessities of taking action against discrimination and inequality. A lot of love in the room, agreement all around among the delegates. It was in the middle of day two, when ideas for improvement started to be presented, that things got complicated. In short: everyone agreed this was a very important topic, everyone agreed something needed to be done, but very few agreed on how it should be done.
On the other hand, the discussion on Topic A (‘The Role of Economic Sanctions on Vulnerable Populations’) saw a plethora of divergent takes on the subject from the very first moment and it seemed like no one would budge and the committee would stand in an impasse forever – or at least for the remaining three days of the Conference.
However, in both cases, something singular happened. It took a very simple reminder for the delegates to move beyond these stalemates. “We are at the United Nations’ Offices of Geneva. Let’s work together, compromise, and find a solution.”
One of the things I found most surprising about this amazing group of students was the fact that, not even for one moment, they behaved as if they were thinking: ‘this is not important, this is not real’. They tackled problems that would make any great diplomat’s knees buckle and they did so with fervour and with the seriousness of those who try to change the outer world, starting from their own. In fact, they did reach a compromise and wrote two proposals that were approved with a qualified majority of two thirds.
The first one, to borrow the words of the delegate of the UK, centred on ‘education, microfinance, and the elimination of barriers that limit women’– although, to be fair, it was the delegate of Guatemala who emphasised the importance of microfinance.
The second proposal proved to be a bit trickier in the making, especially because it seemed that the issued bordered with the Security Council’s jurisdiction. In the end, they focused on trying to find a balance that would make the implementation of economic sanctions a bit less strenuous. In this case, there were many more doubts and objections – the delegate of Sweden’s punch-line will forever remain impressed in my mind (‘this is all very nice but we do not live in kukuland!’), as well as the delegate of Syria’s irate walk across the room that reminded me of Beyoncé’s performance at the last Super Bowl – but they managed to come up with a proposal that satisfied the majority of the delegates.
To me, the ECOSOC committee redesigned what the M stands for in MUN. Because they were not ‘modelling’ the real committee as much as they were being themselves a model to follow. It really does not matter that much to me if their final proposals are the same ones the real ECOSOC would have written and signed. What matters the most is that they embraced the spirit of the United Nations and worked hard, respectful of others and of the place they were standing on.
I am grateful and honoured that the last piece I am going to write for this year’s Annual Conference is about them. My swan song is for you, ECOSOC.