01 April 2019
“I witnessed two days of high-stakes debating”
Lower Sixth Students Husain Abedi, Patrick Miles and Deven Ruparelia write about organising John Lyon’s first Model United Nations
The first John Lyon Model United Nations conference was a great success, with over 50 delegates representing 25 countries. Debates were hosted on topics which have been becoming increasingly relevant in society. The conference was opened by economist and journalist Evan Davis who spoke on the topic of retribution and its place in society. He proposed that retribution was acceptable, but only to the same level as the aggressor. Evan engaged in a brief question and answer session after his talk where delegates asked him about the BBC and insanity.
If it weren’t for our keynote speaker Evan Davis, I doubt our opening ceremony would’ve been much of a ceremony. His talk wasn’t just another among many, but rather forced us – forced me – to consider the instinct for revenge, about how far a person should go when asserting their opinions, or forgiving a friend. His delivery zoned out any distractions and just by glancing at the audience, it wasn’t hard to determine that many felt that giving their weekend was worth it. Just before, and immediately after, I talked with Evan, and he wasn’t just approachable, but he was just insightful and knowledgeable as when he stood on the stage. A massive thanks to Evan for making space in his busy schedule for a group of passionate individuals debating topics that matter.
I think we must credit a large part of our success to our guest speaker Evan Davis, who to most was a unique opener to a conference of this sort. With his interpretation of the idea of retribution, I along with the audience were introduced to new ideas of punishment and how it is in our human nature to seek revenge. Additionally, he addressed how to deal with strong characters within a global context and when referencing people like Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un the cohort seemed to be amused.
His closing remarks are the ones that stuck with me the most. Evan managed to connect and ended with a glass half-full / half-empty comment: “When you are all 80 you will be the only people left that will remember this strange era”, referencing Trump’s presidency and the United Kingdom driven into turmoil due to quarrels over Brexit. I found that his words inspired the people sitting in the hall to focus on the true meaning of a conference like this – that if you want to change something don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and act on it.
Co-secretary generals Patrick Miles and Hussain Abedi also gave speeches on the importance of MUN and what they expected from the delegates. Once the conference was officially opened delegates were sent away to their respective committees.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Committee debated on the topics of ‘the question of preparing for an unknown disease’ and ‘the issue of mental health in teenagers and adults’.
Concerning my committee (the World Health Organization), it initially started tensely, with people nervous and apprehensive about participating, but with some encouragement by me (as chair of the debate), the delegates started to come alive. I forced Canada to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star after he swore, I made Mexico play the bongo drums after he made the mistake of using personal pronouns (forbidden in a UN debate) among other unique disciplinary practices. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed presiding over the committee and I truly think that many of the inexperienced participants will be eager to return after seeing the delegate of India dance.
The Political Committee debated on the topics of: ‘the issue of nuclear non-proliferation’ and ‘the question of the proxy war in Yemen’.
Concerning my committee (Political), it initially started with natural groups forming on either side of the room. However, with a lobbying session where delegates were able to socialise and break the awkward barrier, debate quickly kicked off. It even got to the point where the delegate of Russia called South Korea an ‘insignificant country’, forcing me as the chair of the debate to expel the delegate to a five-minute ‘sin-bin’. All in all, I enjoyed taking charge of the debate and seeing how even delegates who were attending their first ever conference managed to come out of their shell and give convincing speeches to people who were one, older than them and two, experienced MUNers.
During committees a crisis situation was introduced by assuming aliens had invaded earth and the provisions required for this. After the committees met and discussed their topics everyone reassembled in the General Assembly for one final debate on the topic of ‘Lunar ownership’. The closing ceremony included speeches from Patrick and Hussain announcing the best delegates from each committee, India in the WHO and Australia in Political, who received recognition and prizes. The same went for the delegation of France who won the best overall delegation.
I thought that the event went really well, despite my worries the night before about if there would be enough water or whether I should I sit to the left or the right. But the moment Patrick and I banged the podium with our bare hands (as we didn’t have a gavel) to open the conference, many of these obscure and irrelevant worries evaporated and I witnessed two days of high-stakes debating, fierce competition and the occasional song or dance.
I could go on and on about all the inside jokes and passionate speeches and narrow majorities which made this conference a success, but that would be a book of multiple volumes. Suffice it to say, I have to extend an enormous thanks to Patrick, the other Co-Secretary General, for all his sage advice and powerful speeches, as well as Deven for pointing out what could be better and of course for securing Evan Davis to speak. The Senior Management Team, the Photographers and all the school who attended. Thank you. And finally, Dr White for being a huge help throughout the process and never giving up on us. Without any of these people, I doubt this conference would be nearly as successful as it was. Again, thank you all.
Personally, I thought the event was a success, despite my high levels of stress and lack of sleep. The week preceding the conference was filled with last minute errands and finalising badges. However, my biggest concern was to have a conference which would not bore the participants within the first hour of it starting. With reassuring words from Dr White we entered the Boyd Campbell Hall with proud smiles and high hopes. When we came out on the other side, after two days of debate, we were confident that our participants had enjoyed it.
I must extend a huge thanks to Husain, the other Co-Secretary General, who not only was my right hand man throughout the process and shared the same passion as I have towards organising a conference like this, but also someone who is creative in finding solutions to problems which continuously arose. Moreover, I would like to thank Deven for securing such a prestigious guest speaker, as well as making sure everything went smoothly on the day. A thank you must go out to Adnan who helped to increase our numbers, and most importantly Dr White someone who I praised a great deal in my closing speech.
Photography by Usmaan Khan, Upper Sixth student