An Englishman in New York: A Review Upon IMUN Catania
An Englishman in New York: A Review Upon IMUN Catania. If you have read my previous article (My Story Fit Into 2 Countries and 20 Months), you can probably guess what this one is going to be about, but let’s summarize the happenings that brought me here once more;
In December 2016 I applied to AFS Intercultural Exchange Programs – at first, kind of reluctantly to be honest – and went on with my ordinary life and MUN career through the admission process. In the first week of May 2017, after the hard and very long process, I learned that I was admitted to the programme, and if everything went alright I’d study and live with a host family in Italy for 10 months, complete the year corresponding the 11th grade in Turkey. Everything went alright, and I have left Turkey in September 2017. For the last 5 months, I’ve been living in the small town of Paternò in Catania city, in Sicily, and there are 5 months more until I complete the program.
At first, I though KALMUN 2017 would be my jubilee or the beginning of a very long pause for my career since I didn’t really think I’d have anyone around to attend to another MUN before I left. Apparently, and thankfully, I was wrong. I acquainted the best friends I could ever imagine to have and my dear girlfriend. Later on, we decided to attend to IELMUN 2017 as to conclude our summer in terms of summer MUNs and to bid me a farewell for the last time. I can say it was the best days of my life, few days before the conference, through and few days after it, they were unforgettable and actually made it harder for me to leave.
For the second time I thought IELMUN was the beginning of my pause, but no, I just couldn’t stop. After a desperate few months of searching for a possible MUN, the chance came to me by itself. I have learned about IMUN (Italian Model United Nations) organised by United Network, and I immediately decided to attend.
Well, let me make it clear, despite that I was so eager to participate in the beginning, this article is not going to promote the conference. Not at all. It took me a while to sort out how to fill the application form. I needed to register to the United Network website first, then I could fill out the form, and to be honest, it was poorly thought and designed – it has let me choose from only 4 different MUNs to state as my previous experiences. Since I have not attended to any of the conferences they have presented, I had to leave the section blank, so according to their system, IMUN Catania would be my first experience ever, while it would be my 7th. I have eventually filled and sent the form, and received the mail with the payment information. Literally translating from Turkish I can say the fee “hurt” – and further literally translating, I can even say I couldn’t sit for a while – because you don’t pay 100€ for a 3-day conference every day. Honestly, I was so desperate for an MUN that I didn’t care much about the fee.
About 3 weeks before the conference we were informed that we had to log into our profiles on the website to see our allocations. I was allocated with the Gambia, in UNHCR. There was only one committee in the whole conference and it consisted of around 170 delegates, around 160 of them being first timers, so it was obvious that this experience would be, let’s say, unusual.
The topic was “providing refugees with healthcare, education and political rights”, after seeing the agenda item I said to myself “you could’ve just made it open agenda right?” out loud, and yeah, that didn’t change anything. The big day came and the conference began. When the committee director (who also was the Secretary-General, because, you know, only one committee) was picking delegates for Speakers List, there were about 120 countries listed. I was miraculously in the second place, had myself added again immediately after I’ve given my speech, and could never speak again in Speakers List.
Throughout the entirety of the first day, I was just losing my head every few minutes due to my worries regarding the debate. Unlike anything we have seen and can possibly see in Turkish conferences, towards the end of the first day there was nothing concrete about the discussion – nothing at all. Everyone came up to the stage and stated that we should’ve solved the problem at once. At the 65th speech of the day I was about to fall asleep. I don’t think there were more than 2 motions given for a caucus that day.
The first 1-1.5 hours of the second day were no different. After some time someone had the courage to give a motion for a moderated caucus and the delegates finally accepted to debate on something particular. Or I thought so. Listening to the speeches and observing, it took not more than 2 speeches for me to realise everyone has gone on with their old or spare speeches only regarding the frame of Speakers List. “At least I can speak now,” I said, and for the rest of the conference, I tried to speak as much as I could so there would be a few good people who were willing to somehow direct the debate.
Towards midday, we somehow began to write a resolution, with still nothing as a solid fruit of debate in our hands. There were 3 alliances, whom 2 of them were the strongest. Our alliance consisted of Canada, Japan, and me, the Gambia. The second alliance was formed by USA, Singapore and Italy, and the third was formed by two South American countries that I don’t precisely remember, and that have joined us towards the end of the second day. The rivalling alliance of 3 have gathered a great mass around them in the first day, and we could express our ideas to only a curious crowd that we could ally with only a small part of.
Towards the end of the day, we have done probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever done in an MUN conference; a Q&A session in order to explain our resolutions. Each alliance was given 5 minutes to explain their draft resolution and 5 more to answer any questions which basically robbed us from a quarter of a session and served nothing at all.
Through this Q&A session, the personal problems between the delegates of Italy and Japan came clear, more precisely, the unprovoked hatred of Italy towards Japan. After we have explained our resolution -that had been written by the contribution of many countries and were meant to serve everyone- the delegate of Italy asked around 3 questions to the delegate of Japan regarding their policies on the refugee crisis. After his 3rd question I could no longer refrain myself from warning the delegate so I took the microfone and said that him focusing on only and only on the delegate of Japan was a great disrespect to every country who worked and contributed to, or at least that expects something from our resolution since all he did was to neglect a whole committee, and also the delegate of Japan couldn’t be interrogated or blamed for their policies since he only represented his government and was not authorized to decide or determine policies in behalf of his government. After this, there were no longer personal discussions between the delegates of Japan and Italy.
I honestly don’t believe that our draft resolution (and basically any resolution presented) was well-structured, mainly because the flow of the conference has lacked very important points, for example, as I mentioned, a solid debate on a small scale. Everyone wanted to talk about everything at the same time, which in the end caused us to talk about nothing at all. With an allocation like the Gambia and around 170 other delegates in the committee, I failed to direct the debate towards a relatively more focused topic, which resulted in us to have nothing at all in our hands, during the debates, the writing of the resolution and the voting.
We have sent our draft resolution to the chairboard the same evening, which made this draft resolution the fastest written one throughout my career. The next morning, the draft resolution was returned to us for us to correct and clarify some points. After working on it for about half a session (I need to mention that the sessions usually lasted for about 4 hours) we could finally complete and send our draft resolution to the chairboard, with every statement made clear.
Then, for those who didn’t understand (or basically didn’t pay attention) the chairboard decided that it was in order for a second Q&A session, once again regarding our resolution. We were given the same amounts of time, and I believe we used it much more efficiently than the other alliances.
After we were done with another Q&A session and wasted another half an hour, we finally started to present our resolutions. We presented the first, read the clauses, briefly explained and concluded our presentation. The second alliance has presented their resolution, and as far as I can remember they have had around 25 perambulatory clauses, around 20 of them stating previous UN resolutions they referred to. I found their resolution pretty weak, mainly because they have had nice presentations for solutions but no ideas about how to make them come true, also because they somehow managed to inflate the resolution with useless statements. I’m not claiming we did otherwise, though. We did what we could’ve done with what we have in our hands and for me, it was pretty much a failure.
Our resolution failed in the voting, and the rivalling resolution passed with a slight majority. I wasn’t going to be satisfied with any of the resolutions presented anyway, but I honestly though ours was the lesser of two evils. The conference concluded and I was seen worthy of a mention award. In a committee that 3 best delegate awards were given out, I don’t believe any award of this conference could have decisiveness.
Before stating a few more things I want to make it clear that all the comments made in this article were upon my observations, expectations and experience, so you might agree or not. The conference was structurally very different from those we have gotten used to; admission process for application, a different interface of the website, only one committee in the whole conference packet with around 170 delegates, allocations handed out regardless of previous experiences, often occurring procedural exceptions (like the Q&A session I mentioned). This made the conference hard to adapt, and 3 days weren’t enough. Also, one more thing that made everyone else adapt easier but for me harder; everyone spoke Italian. During the unmoderated caucuses for example, statements about our working paper were made in Italian so even though I understood what they were talking about I couldn’t state my ideas properly because everyone was eager to speak and listen in Italian while I spoke English, even though I can speak Italian moderately by now (still not enough to explain a working paper).
The procedure was implemented weakly, the chairs could not ensure the order in the committee, during the roll, calls the chairs often had to stop between every 2-3 countries to silence the crowd. Think of that there are 170 countries on your list and you have an 8-10 second pause in between every country. The roll call literally took half an hour and I was banging my head on my table– oh wait, one more thing. We sat in chairs with these small folding tables (which most of them were broken) so we didn’t have a table to bang our heads to – or to simply write on. Maybe you’ll say “how did you expect them to give out a desk to 170 delegates in the same room?” and this brings us back to one of our primary problems which I’d suggest “have you ever thought of splitting delegates into different committees?”
Maybe some of you have started thinking “what about the social events?”, but no. There weren’t any.
The sessions usually lasted between 3-4 hours which made it extremely hard to concentrate. There was no administrative staff (we were only allowed to send notes to the chairboard and not in between delegates so we had to get up and leave the note to the chairs’ board instead) or a press team (the Secretary-General took some photos).
I should be fair though, there are good things to say about the conference too. The chairboard really strived with us 170 delegates but overall I can say they did a pretty good job, if it wasn’t for the delegates I could’ve said it was perfect. They directed us towards writing a better resolution, pointed our blank spots and told about how to cover them. The delegates, even though they were kinda noisy and had a habit of speaking Italian, were pretty dedicated, nearly all of the delegates contributed to the solutions, there were nearly no “dead” delegates. I was pretty surprised with their English skills, most of them had an English level above average and way above my expectations.
After all of these, I’m not going to say it was a “bad conference” or those people “failed” because no matter what, I believe it’s important to have at least some respect to their efforts. Maybe the conference didn’t meet my expectations, it’s still fine to say “I didn’t like it” though, and I can say that it was an experience that widened my horizon. I guess meeting and experiencing different standards of MUNs are a part of this cultural exchange.
Eren Meriç Tatlıer
The Writer of MUNTurkey.com
Note: Pictures are taken from the official Facebok Page of UIMUN.