Setting the Context
Model UN has seen a rapid growth over the past few years in Sri Lanka, with more students venturing into the MUN circuit, as well as more conferences popping up to cater to the increasing trend in growth. Yet, the novice delegates and some others have trouble adapting themselves to perform well at a conference. Enter LISMUN – Sri Lanka’s largest training conference.
Boasting a delegate count of just over 200 delegates, LISMUN 2016 was off to a phenomenal start. In his opening speech, the Secretary General promised that they’d go on a journey like no other – a journey beyond diplomacy. And, that’s precisely what the delegates went through- a trans-formative experience that molded them into more experienced diplomats.
The committees simulated at LISMUN 2016 included :
- I) General Assembly 1 – Disarmament and Security
- II) General Assembly 4 – Special Political and Decolonisation
III) United Nations Human Rights Council
- IV) Economic and Social Council
- V) Arab League
- VI) Security Council
VII) International Court of Justice
The committee choice allowed for a wide variety of topics to be discussed due to the diverse mandates seen across the board. And, for the purpose of maximised committee engagement, the committee sizes were kept comparatively small. The GA’s had roughly 60 delegates each; the UNHRC and ECOSOC had roughly 30-35 delegates each; Arab League boasted a 24 delegate committee, with representatives of Bashar Al Assad and Israel as observer parties in the usual 22 seat council, while ICJ and UNSC were restricted to 15 seats. By the end of the second day, it was affirmed that each delegate in every committee has spoken out and presented their views at least once.
In the subsequent feedback received, it was found out that delegates who have never spoken out at other conferences due to nervousness, fear, lack of recognition, large committee sizes, etc; had ample opportunities to speak out at LISMUN.
Here are some excerpts from the feedback received.
“LISMUN 2016 has provided a great environment for me to brush up on my confidence and speaking skills. This is the first conference where I was convinced to speak and I made a lot of friends including the delegates of Russia and Botswana. The chairs were very helpful throughout my LISMUN experience and for me, the final experience was great”.
(Delegate of the United Kingdom, UNHRC).
Some may have questioned the inclusion of the ICJ in a training platform considering the complex nature of the ICJ’s mandate and the completely different rules of procedure, some of which maybe daunting to most MUNers. Yet, to a committee where nearly all the delegates had never stepped into an ICJ or even a legal centred committee, there was not much hassle in the transition to adapting to the ICJ’s norms. In fact, there wasn’t a single moment when there was a placard down at the ICJ. Here’s what the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Hague had to say about his experience.
“As a delegate of the ICJ, I personally felt that there was absolute satisfaction of the quality of debate as it was both heated and complex. In terms of recognition, there were zero problems and the ICJ proved its standard as small committee with a high level of involvement by all its members in debate. Seeing that everyone adjusted almost immediately to the different rules of procedure, there was satisfaction and in fact enjoyment as the vast amount of time spent on the traditional resolutions were spent on quality yet heated debate. With respect to the complexity of discussing the detailed implications of international and customary law, research was truly taken to the next level. Nevertheless, as an easily comprehensible study guide was provided to the delegates the difficulty of this was significantly reduced. Regardless of the fact that the first verdict failed, a wide range of important aspects were discussed and thus the ICJ proved and lived up to the standard of the principal judiciary organ in the United Nations.”
The same could be said about all the committees spread across LISMUN where the delegates were constantly on their feet, voicing their opinions.
Another interesting facet to LISMUN 2016 was the facilitation of short, impromptu inter-committee debates; usually on a branch of a topic pertaining to the main topics of their respective committees. This rendered several fruitful outcomes – not only were the delegates pushed to think on their feet, but also, it allowed for interactions and building of bonds between committees. This certainly enhanced the overall MUN experience for the delegates.
On the third day, after the delegated had debated and voted on their committee resolutions, the following announcements were made :
- a) The UNHRC was to present their resolution to the General Assembly
- b) The Arab League was to present their case to ECOSOC and UNSC.
The massive intercomm debates took off, and just as the resolutions were about to be discussed, the Secretary General dashed into the hall screaming, “DELEGATES, WE HAVE A CRISIS SITUATION”.
A Crisis – the most anticpated facet of a MUN conference.
What followed was a crisis like never seen before. Never before in the MUN arena have the delegates seen such heated debate and escalation, with directives being proposed every minute and more than 50 placards being raised at every instant. Even delegates who had no idea about crisis procedure adapted in no time and got involved without hesitation. The atmosphere in the Crisis Councils was as electric as it could be.
Did I mention LISMUN was a training platform? Yes, but its not just for the delegates. It applies to the chairs as well. Nearly all the chairs at LISMUN 2016 were first-time chairs, never having any remote experience of moderating debate. Yet, after chair training in the months running upto conference, it could be safely said that the chairs did an amazing job. There were barely any disgruntled delegates at the awards ceremony as the delegates had seen the anticipations of who-gets-which-award come true. Furthermore, the delegates were very pleased with the conduct and manner of the chairs and there was barely any animosity between the delegates and the executive committee.
Birth of a New Era
Finally, this year’s LISMUN featured a pioneering venture- the debut of Sri Lanka’s first ever online MUN platform – MUNation.
One of the platform’s primary aims is to act as a centralised research hub. It was noticed that quite a few aspiring delegates, especially the novices found researching for a conference to be a daunting task. Hence, through systematically organised sections, MUNation provides research on a myriad of topics in a single centralised location.
Apart from that, MUNation also serves to provide news and updates on the various conferences taking place in Sri Lanka. Another initiative taken includes the facilitation of delegate workshops, so that delegates from different skill levels can meet, learn and share their knowledge.
(The website could be visited at munation.com.lk)
LISMUN 2016 proved to be an experience of a lifetime for all those who were part of it. From jaw-dropping points of entertainment to ear piercing screams of debate to the teary-eyed farewells at the end of the conference; LISMUN 2016 was certainly a journey like no other – a journey beyond diplomacy.