We are naturally expected to know the origins of Model United Nations (MUN) as prospective delegates and advisors of future MUN conferences. This short article aims to provide you with some interesting and historical facts as regards the beginnings of traditional (in-person) MUN conferences and Online MUN conferences alike.

The first meeting of the League of Nations, 15 Nov 1920, in Geneva
Photo Credit: National Library of Norway

Before we start, it is equally important to clarify what we know about the United Nations (UN). We all know that the United Nations is an international organization consisting of 192 independent states. In other words, almost every sovereign state or country in the world is represented in the UN. The principal goals of the UN founded just after World War II on the 24th of October, 1945, are to develop friendly relations among nations, to maintain international peace and security, to promote better living standards and social progress, and to advance human rights. One important fact concerning the UN is that the member states are bound together by the principles of the United Nations Charter, which is an international treaty that specifies their rights and duties in detail as members of the world community.

The first meeting of the League of Nations, 15 Nov 1920, in Geneva
Photo Credit: National Library of Norway

The first Model United Nations conference was first held at Oxford University in 1921 with the title “Model League of Nations” for there was no real UN at that time. Believe it or not, the original MUN delegates at Oxford University showed up in 1921, but the students modelled League of Nations committees, which were known or referred to as “International Assemblies”. If we delve into the documents of the original delegates, it can be seen that the protocol of the conferences of those times was largely similar to those of today.

There are little or no records pertinent to the first Oxford International Assembly meeting held in 1921. However, some striking information as regards the fifth assembly organized in 1925 can be found in some reliable sources. Both Oxford and Harvard have favoured using two topics to begin debates despite the multiplicity of various topics. For example, the topics of one of the meetings were as follows: the Admission of Turkey into the League and British occupation in Egypt.

Delegates from Yale University representing Germany, Latvia, and Ethiopia at the 1932 New England Model Assembly of the League of Nations at Brown University. (The Yale Daily News, March 16, 1932)

Mir Mahmood, who was the first President of the first Oxford International Assembly, travelled to Harvard in 1922. The first American International Assembly was created by the Harvard Liberal Club in 1923, which was a response to his historic visit to the USA. The assembly held in 1923 was the first recorded Model UN in the USA. This visit also laid the very foundations of the Harvard procedures. Among the committee offerings of some Model UN conferences of today are simulations of the League of Nations.

It was not until the end of the Second World War, and 1952 in particular, that a real and comprehensive MUN conference was held. It was the University of California at Berkeley that held the first Model United Nations conference in 1952. This first conference helped lead the way for Model UN to flourish throughout the world. The following are also recorded instances of early MUN conferences in the past, some of which are still popular today: the MUN Conference at Swarthmore College in 1947, the MUN Conference at St. Lawrence University in 1949, Model United Nations of the Far West (MUNFW) Conference at Stanford University in 1951, and Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) Conference in 1954.

Harvard Model United Nations

The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Conference is one of the oldest conferences in Europe. Mr Paul Sand from The American School of The Hague organized the first Model United Nations in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 1968. Then “The Hague International Model United Nations” was born in 1981. THIMUN has organized several MUN conferences up to now. It also started its own online conferences’ network throughout time in various countries and began to hold several online conferences beginning from 2005. It is important to note here that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is located in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

When we look at the history of MUN conferences in Turkey, the Turkish International Model United Nations (TIMUN), a THIMUN-affiliated conference held in 1995, by Üsküdar American Academy can be given as the first conference. Another THIMUN-affiliated conference called MUNDP, which models the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), was first organized in 1999 by the Koç School.

THIMUN

As for the history of online MUN conferences, it is obvious that it is an issue that is worth studying particularly after the coronavirus pandemic. As mentioned above, THIMUN started its online MUN conferences decades ago (in 2005) way before we began taking part in Zoom-based MUN conferences due to the pandemic. Another online example of MUN conferences is O-MUN (Online Model United Nations). O-MUN began organizing online MUN events in 2011. Here most pressing national or international issues are discussed and debated by high school students through popular online debating platforms. O-MUN defines itself as the world’s first fully online MUN program which is designed to provide Model UN opportunities to anyone with the Internet. This spectacular online program includes weekly regional debates, monthly global debates, and aims to expand the scope of the Model UN community.

General Assembly

Finally, it should be noted that the United Nations has been mostly indifferent to the organization of MUN conferences around the world. Nevertheless, as of 2009, the UN started its UN4MUN initiative, which has made it possible for MUN resources to be more accessible. It has also allowed conferences to more closely reflect the true procedures of the United Nations. The Model United Nations program, which was created about ninety-five years ago as the Harvard Model League of Nations, has now expanded to over sixty thousand potential delegates, ranging in academic level from the sixth grade through graduate school. To lay the details of the historical facts aside, MUN conferences have always been good examples of student-directed simulations (at both high school and college levels) in which students can cultivate their leadership and debating skills. Furthermore, MUN helps students improve and acquire second or foreign languages through interaction with other delegates and rich comprehensible input obtained from various resources. Enjoy future MUN conferences and become a part of the MUN history.

by VEDAT KIYMAZARSLAN

 References:

McIntosh, D. (2001). The Uses and Limits of Model United Nations in an International Relations Classroom. International Studies Perspectives. 2001:2, 269–280.

Frazier, E., & Asquith, S. (2019). Developing the Skills to be a Global Learner through a Model United Nations. Literacies and Language Education: Research and Practice. Autumn 2019. https://kuis.kandagaigo.ac.jp/eli/publications/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Frazier-_-Asquith_Autumn_2019.pdf

Web Sites Resources:

https://www.oxfordglobal.org/blog/2020/10/6/a-brief-history-of-model-united-nations

https://www.wisemee.com/history-of-the-first-mun/

https://www.un.org/en/model-united-nations/step-step-outline-organizing-mun

https://www.onlinemodelunitednations.org/

https://foundation.thimun.org/

http://www.modelundp.org/home.php

https://www.uaa.k12.tr/en/haber/426/26–timun/

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1923/1/10/hold-first-meeting-of-international-assembly/

 

Video from Mr Vedat Kıymazarslan at MUNSummit

 

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