Democracy once again proved its potent power in General Assembly by the end of conference. The Delegate of Palestine walked out of committee and said, “they failed our resolution”. He was slightly frustrated. He had upped in game on Day 2 and displayed a few of the features of debating that had made him quite the notable MUNer over the years. I noticed a want to ensure the resolution he supported passed. But it didn’t and considering the ‘Super Delegates’ vs. Rest division, it was no surprise.
It was ironic that the last time I had witnessed Palestine debate, back at SLMUN 2010 ICJ, I was part of the ‘democracy’ that defeated his Judicial Opinion. I was too young back then to understand what he and his co-sponsors had written and believed it was non-understandable because it was so full of let me not use that word.
It proved to me again that quality of debate and a great resolution are not the means to passing a resolution in a General Assembly or at times any committee. Instead it is socialising and connecting with delegates to capture their votes that is vital. The ‘Super Delegates’ simple forgot to do that, probably because lobbying is not given as much a premium in Sri Lankan MUN as it is eles where. Points allocation is highly debate centered, so a failing resolution doesn’t take away your award.
The chairs opened up debate on Day 2 with speaker’s list, giving some of the more silent delegates in the committee a chance to be part of the ongoing debate. It was cut short by unmoderated caucus which clearly displayed the divisions in the committee. UK, Afghanistan and India were leading most of the committee to their resolution that was resolutely against the resolution of the ‘super delegates’ – France, Russia and Finland, supported by Palestine and China.
The ‘super delegates’ also committed the mistake of bunching up and sitting right in the front of the committee, reducing their chances of interacting with most of the committee other than through the statements. In contrast UK, Afghanistan and India were seated in three different areas of the committee allowing each of them to interact with a larger number of delegates informally throughout the sessions. So it’s no wonder that they had more signatories supporting their resolution. All delegates going to GAs should keep in mind at conference that if they have a functioning alliance with a few other delegates, its best to sit in a dispersed manner to increase their ability to gain the support of more delegates.
The next cleaving factor between these two blocs was the use of technical jargon that is well reflected in the content of the two resolutions. The Russo-French resolution contains references to a wide variety of technicalities from the MARO handbook, Taylor Seybolt’s Morality Index, National Peace Councils to the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. And the delegates behind the resolution were frequently using such jargon during debate. Such jargon can be highly unfavorable if used in a manner that confuses most of the committee. Personally, I used to avoid using such jargon without taking time to explain the concept in a simple manner so as to avoid most delegates thinking I am simply showing off my research. After all who likes a showoff.
The Anglo-Indian resolution had its fair share of technical references from Building Stability Overseas Strategy, Upstream Intervention to ICISS. But the wording and structure of the resolution was kept very simple with minimal use of sub-clauses relative to the Russo-French one. Even during debate, the supporters of the Anglo-Indian resolution were emotional and rhetorical in speech than technical; a very smart way of gaining committee wide support.
The debate on the Anglo-Indian resolution was most heated around the operative calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to create an advisory panel for prosecution against UNPKF. Russia, France and China questioned vehemently on how such a panel would have any effect when India and USA were yet to sign or ratify the Rome Statute that created the ICC. Palestine pointed out that for a resolution addressing the R2P concept, it failed to address the third pillar of R2P and thus, failed to address a vital aspect of the topic. The sponsors defended these points by stating the panel was only advisory and the signing of the Rome statute did not remove the applicability of that advice and that the topic was not limited to the conventional responsibility to protect, calling for amendments to address the third pillar if there were any.
Yet, most amendments ended up being either to remove or amend the last few operatives in the resolution. Another amendment called on the IMF to help fund provisions in the resolution but made no attempts at ensuring that the provisions were within the IMF mandate. Delegates need to keep in mind that the IMF’s main role is to aid countries avert balance of payments crises and not fund non-financial reforms.
With the Russo-French resolution, debate heated up over the MARO handbook that had been suggested for used in post-conflict scenarios to protect human rights. The opposition stated that its use by the US military made it a violation of other countries’ sovereignty if a UN resolution endorsed it. The MARO handbook based operative was important since it provided a certain guideline to be followed during an international intervention scenario. The chairs identified its pivotal role and used it as a pivotal point in deciding who between France and Russia had the edge to be Best Delegate. The Russian delegate came out on top clarifying the MARO handbook’s use by the US military was only to study human rights complication of post conflict situations in their military academies.
Despite its technical aspects, the Franco-Russian resolution failed and my tweet from the morning proved to be right – the Anglo-Indian resolution did indeed pass because of its bloc’s sheer size. This is a common incident at General Assemblies. Experienced delegates need to be very careful when forming blocs and avoid ending up in the same bloc, since at the end it reduced the chances of the eventual goal of producing and passing the most comprehensive resolution.
The delegate of UK must be applauded for his ability to give leadership to most of the committee despite his inexperience in MUN. He tactfully used rhetoric to garner support in the committee and overcome the weakness on the technical side of his resolution. Hence, he highly deserved the Best Novice Award.
The rest of the awards were won by the ‘super delegates’ bloc for obvious reasons of experience. Palestine and China on paper should have been the main contenders for the top two awards. But their inconsistency in debate – probably due to a bit of rust building up – led to the younger generation grabbing the top three awards.
The Delegate of France was keen to state how much she learned from listening to the Delegate of Palestine speak, using the BPS style of debate of multi-level analysis; an aspect rare in MUN over the last few years. It was nice to hear France, Russia and Finland accepting, at the end of the day, that had Palestine and China actually tried removing their rust and consistently debating they could have been routed.
Even the Headtable featured a combination of two (or was it three? Hmm) generations of MUNers. Sam and Yashodara were brilliant chairs, but Pramuk was the one in form and knew exactly how to get the committee running smoothly. When he disappeared to help with other areas of conference work, the committee would occasionally derail for a bit.
What I learned was that MUN is an activity that you get better at with age, with experience but most importantly better at when you are in form and lacking a bit of MUN rust.
NYMUN 2016 achieved a great deal for MUN in Sri Lanka by bringing together such a wide diversity of MUNers together. The General Assembly was a case in point for this success. The older generations of MUNers were slightly rusty but they managed to teach the youngsters a few things and give them a new direction to follow to improve their skills. It also brought into light a whole new set of novice MUNers into the spotlight. Now all we need is for NYMUN 2017 General Assembly to happen, so that we can see how the next clash of generations and blocs turn out to be.