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UM Model United Nations Team Receives Top Honors for Fifth Consecutive Year

April 14, 2008
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UM Model United Nations Team Receives Top Honors for Fifth Consecutive Year

 UN Team Picture 1
Co-head delegates Hema Datwani (left) and Manuela Londoño

A team of UM students, many from the School of Business, won the Outstanding Delegation Award at the 2008 National Model United Nations conference held in New York March 18 – 22. This marks the fifth consecutive year that UM delegates have received the highest honor at the annual conference, which this year drew 4,000 students from 250 institutions and 65 nations.

NMUN is the world’s largest and one of the most prestigious collegiate MUN programs in the world. The conference is a simulation of the UN General Assembly which is based on collaboration and cooperation among nations and includes working together through multilateral diplomacy. The 20 students on the 2008 UM team, carefully chosen to participate in the five-day conference, represented the country of Peru.

 “These students work really, really hard to authentically represent their country’s point of view and remain in character as its delegates,” said business law assistant professor Patricia Abril, the team’s faculty advisor.

In order to represent their country as “delegates,” students must understand not only the issues to be discussed and debated but also the culture and history of the country they represent.

“The interesting thing about these team members is that they are not all international relations and political science majors, which you might expect,” said Teresa de la Guardia, director of International Student and Scholar Services and NMUN team advisor. “The students come from a variety of academic backgrounds including majors in finance, economics, business, geography, Spanish, and motion pictures. That’s the great thing about offering this as an extra-curricular activity. Because Professor Abril is willing to donate so much time and invest in this program like a course, a variety of students are able to be involved.”

The event is described by the Model UN Network as an opportunity for students to step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization's agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student ‘delegates’ make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN conference rules of procedure - all in the interest of mobilizing ‘international cooperation’ to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.

“The best part of the experience this year was listening to the opening ceremonies speaker Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, while in the General Assembly of the UN,” said Hema Datwani, a UM co-head delegate. “The experience made all the hard work that was to follow seem that much more relevant since the resolutions we would be producing could be reviewed by any number of distinguished international figures. Ultimately, our resolutions will enact real change.”

The team exists as part of the UM MUN Club which was created in 2003 stemming from the team’s desire to have more UN-related events apart from the New York competition.  The club held its first Canes Conference in the same year. The Canes Conference is a UM sponsored event much like the NMUN in New York. Students are assigned a country to represent in the two-day simulation and must create resolutions to solve any number of international issues ranging from water population to nuclear proliferation to reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals. From the Canes Conference, students are chosen to represent UM at the NMUN Conference in New York.

The first team from UM to compete in the NMUN was a small delegation of seven students representing the Cook Islands in 2002. The next year, with sponsorship from the President’s office and the Office of the Provost, 13 students participated as delegates of Yemen. In 2004, UM delegates were the first to win the Outstanding Delegation award for their efforts representing Cyprus. The UM team won again in 2005, for Amnesty International, in 2006 as Somalia, and again in 2007 representing Cuba.

In addition to Professor Abril’s leadership as faculty advisor and de la Guardia as team advisor, this year’s team was led by head delegates, Manuela Londono and Hema Datwani. Although the University of Miami has now established itself as a leader at this conference in the fields of political science and international relations, according to de la Guardia, there is still more to accomplish. “Our vision is to go forward, to continue to challenge ourselves and our team by attending more conferences and competing at an even higher level.”

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