Colombo Operated Model United Nations (COMUN) reached its lowest standpoint this February, during the 22nd session. As of late, it is rather justifiable to pinpoint COMUN as the only conference allowing a foul monopoly to continue, more apparent than ever now. A monopoly between two international schools. Or better yet, a big game played not by a bat and ball, one that results in minor injuries easy to recover from. But a game played by adults, the collateral damage being: the children. Unfortunately, this game was enabled by the Secretariat of COMUN and members of the Executive Committee; probably unknowingly.
This year we witnessed the induction of a Secretary General, a position that is of great prestige and honor, taken up by a student who is yet to attend an MUN conference as a delegate. We saw this being applied to the Executive Committee during selections, selecting chairs more skilled in photography than moderating debate, chairs more interested in socializing with delegates outside of committee during sessions, chairs creating conference topics outside of their committee mandates, chairs who never applied to be chairs and the list goes on. Everyone deserves a chance, yes. But that doesn’t warrant the participating delegates having to go through a bad experience because of an equal opportunity festival.
During conference we had chairs openly admit to tampering points, chairs openly accuse other chairs of bias, chairs leaving committee for hours on end, chairs doling out committee positions after every hour or so, chairs asking delegates which award they would personally prefer. But who is really to blame for this blatant mockery of a Model United Nations conference? Is it the Executive Committee or those that selected the Executive Committee? Another important question, weighing on our minds as we saw Faculty Advisors drift from committee to committee, having intense conversations with chairs as the delegates wondered: Is this really a student run conference?
It can be concluded that only when positions of authority are publicly exploited, does the delegate count decrease to the lowest number ever seen since COMUN introduced Sri Lanka to MUN, that being 270 delegates. Other MUN conferences in Sri Lanka have had single committees that can boast of a larger delegate count than COMUN 2016. Was this imbroglio the result of casually handled administrative work before conference or the rocky start (and finish) by the secretariat? Traditionally, a secretariat is meant to lead the executive committee, set an example for them to follow and lead them to success.
6 people left the Executive Committee prior to the conference for various reasons. And that reflected badly on the leadership of the secretariat. COMUN set the standard for ‘student run conference’ or pretty much student run anything in its golden days. Yet it came into question by all those who have personally witnessed the wrath of some Faculty Advisors and their expert negotiating skills, lack of accountability and seas of collateral damage left behind.
The first ever university level foreign delegation to take part in COMUN was told at the end of the first day, they were not eligible for awards. The same university students who were initially invited as international delegates to attend COMUN and who also fit within the age barrier provided by COMUN. Was it ethical to have them come all the way from Malaysia for conference, to only be told they are disqualified ? Did the faculty advisers have a role in this ?
Was it the Secretariat that oversaw the awards being decided? And thus oversaw a committee decide to award the Best Novice Award to an experienced delegate and previous chair ? It’s a relief though that her hard work was commended by some award. But one can only feel sorry for actual Novices in the committee.
Nepotism, bias, personal vendettas, vested interests were all personified two weeks ago, as we witnessed delegates told before the closing ceremony that they cannot be given awards due to ‘internal reasons’. Delegates in tears as oblivious chairs casually informed them that ‘at least you know you deserve it’ and then apologized for not being able to give them what they deserve. The appalling behavior and lack of justification that arose within that weekend when protests were raised have stained the flag of The United Nations, forever for some.
Unlike them, we do believe in acknowledging those that do indeed deserve recognition for their hard work and for that we congratulate certain committees simulated during COMUN for the integrity they did possess. We are sorry but obliged to state that in this case, the bad has overshadowed the good. The release of the point system which indicated that those that won awards had lower averages than those who didn’t did not help the conference’s case either.
Due to the wrongful execution of this conference, it is easy to deem all MUN conferences as being unprofessional and unproductive. Thereby, it is the duty of those that continue to believe in the positive impact of MUN to assert that all hope has not been lost. There are other MUN conferences in Sri Lanka. The right conference always does justice to the delegates by making every individual their priority. Choose wisely, don’t lose faith in MUN yet.
Comments from Delegates about COMUN 2016:
General Assembly 1: ‘A travesty and a joke.’
General Assembly 3: ‘Unproductive and uncoordinated. Were the Milo and Maggi breaks really necessary?’
General Assembly 4: ‘Too much injustice as a result of supervision and monitoring by the Secretariat. Bad debate and lack of professionalism. My head-table clearly did not know that chairing is not the equivalent of sipping milo outside of committee whilst having a nice chat with an admin.’
UNEP: ‘COMUN was pretty much a tragic waste of time. What actually came out of it was corruption and a really bad aftertaste of bias.’
ECOSOC: ‘There needs to be a group of people to accept the drawbacks of a conference. That’s what a secretariat is for. The reaction I witnessed from them is that they were more than willing to turn a blind eye on many of the discrepancies and when asked, I was told to “sort it out myself.” The points system did not reflect the awards presented and it’s no use posting the marks after the distribution of awards because there is nothing to be done.’
UNHCR: ‘Wouldn’t have been worth it at all if I wasn’t there with my school. Personally no hate because I had a good committee, and good human beings as chairs. However just hearing about other committees reflects how unprofessional it was.’
Security Council: ‘I was in a well-run committee, in which, without a doubt, the best debate of the conference took place. However, a few good committees do not make an entire conference.’
A response to this article was received on the evening of 15th March.
IntCa understands this is a very controversial article regarding a high school event, considering most of our core readership are MUNers. It is the very first anonymous article published in our site. The author being a delegate who took part in the conference, wished to remain anonymous since the author is still a part of the MUN community in Sri Lanka.
As a platform for free expression of opinion, we saw this article being published a necessity to ensure accountability within the MUN community of Sri Lanka. IntCa or its team members have no interest to defame COMUN. Or to sell other conferences in Sri Lanka.
In the past platforms like IntCa were not open for free expression for high school students. This adds a sense of accountability to the process.
If someone believes the article is inappropriate, please do not request it be taken down. What is best is to write an article in reply to this article. IntCa is ready to publish such articles. Just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As Editor and a former MUN, I have written an article reviewing some of the mentioned issues in;