Model Citizen

We chat to Justin Raphael, a Grade 12 student at The Westminster School — Dubai, about his recent experience at the Model United Nations conference.

In early November last year, Justin Raphael looked to get involved in an extracurricular activity that he could submit with his college applications. Having already participated in Model United Nations (MUN) in Dubai during the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF), he wanted to do it internationally.

He found a conference that was free of charge, a point he used when opening negotiations with his parents to allow him to go. After a hassle-free application process, he was accepted and went to New York at the end of March this year.

Held annually at the Grand Hyatt New York, ‘The Future We Want’ MUN is one of the most diverse conferences with more than 2,500 delegates representing students from over 135 countries. Delegates are assigned to different assemblies, and Justin was assigned to the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA). Participants are required to draft position papers and research papers of about 2,000 words each on the country they have been assigned to represent.

Justin represented the Czech Republic, and he started preparing months in advance to learn about the country’s scientific background, its laws, and its policies. In the run up to the conference, he printed government and NGO statistics. Since delegates may not bring devices with them to debates, Justin also printed all the papers produced by his competitors well in advance, which he kept in a binder so he could prepare to counter any of their arguments.

“Get to know your competitors. The conference usually gives some information on their background — use your tools as much as you can,” says Justin.

There are many, sometimes heated, debates during the conference where delegates can submit notes by raising their placard. In a room of 500-1,000 people, it can be difficult to be noticed. Justin’s efforts paid off as he was one of five delegates to walk away with an ‘Honourable Mention’ award, which was given based on the delegates’ contribution to the draft resolution.

Justin’s advice for any student considering taking part in a MUN conference is just to go for it. “Gather your confidence and do it. It’s a really good experience and a good platform to connect and network with other people; you have nothing to lose.”

Justin plans to study an economics degree in Canada, the US, or the Philippines, and afterwards he would like to read a law degree.