Berlin (BERMUN) Diary

24/11/2013: 6 students from the 2013/2014 Milestone Academic Year Programme attended the 22nd edition of the Berlin Model United Nations conference (BERMUN), where they represented Egypt (5 delegates) and Libya (1). Here’s the second near-live report with pictures from the conference.

After three days of often intense debate, the 2013 edition of the Berlin Model United Nations conference (BERMUN) has come to an end. The motto of this year’s conference was “Education: The Key to Advancement, Equality, and a Secure Future”. The delegates (including 6 Milestone students) discussed this topic as well as other issues, such as the access of indigenous people to education (Human Rights Committee), international rules on cyber war (Disarmament committee), the cultivation of genetically modified food (Environmental Committee), the social reintegration of child soldiers (Political Committee). In addition, a Special Conference on Education was convened to address the issues contained in the conference title.

As in real diplomacy, the actual negotiations often don’t take place during meetings but around them, in corridors, during lunch, on the sidelines of coffee breaks or even via social media. This way, even delegates of countries that one would expect to remain in the background can accrue disproportionate clout because they know where to be at the right time, how to convince others, or how to forge compromise between opposing interests.

The conference programme also left some time to explore Berlin, which the Milestone delegation used well by visiting the dome of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island and a German Christmas market, bratwurst and all.

21/11/2013: Following their arrival and collection by their various host families Tuesday evening, the 6 members of Milestone Delegation participated in the official Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, where after a number of welcome addresses and a keynote speech on the importance of education (the topic of this year’s conference) each country’s designated ambassador gave a one-minute speech; for Milestone and Egypt, this was delivered by Denisza Bencze (see picture).

The conference began in earnest at 8.30h sharp on Thursday morning, when the delegates met in their various committees (the Political, Disarmament, Environmental, and Human Rights Committees, the Security Council, and the Special Conference on Education, amongst others) for “lobbying”, where they seek out likeminded nations and try to convince others of the merits of their position.  Once a group of delegates have come together and “merged” their resolutions (before the conference, they should have prepared a draft that reflects their country’s point of view and forms the basis for the negotiations during lobbying), they can submit it to the committee chair.

If the resolution is accepted by the chair, it is then officially introduced for formal debate. This follows the formal rules of the real UN, which means that delegates never use the personal pronouns “you” or “I”; instead, they speak in the third person, and will say funny things like “Egypt strongly disagrees with the honourable delegate from France”, or “Wouldn’t the distinguished representative of Chile agree that his position is nonsensical?”, for example.  At the time of writing—Thursday evening—all committees have moved from lobbying to (often heated) debate on the draft resolutions, which try to address different global issues. The name of the committee is a good indication of what the focus of debate will be in each case.

In committee, guest speakers will also share their experience with the students.  This afternoon, for instance, the Special Conference on Education had the privilege to listen to His Excellency John Kornblum, former US ambassador to Germany (pictured), who also happens to be the man responsible for the speech in which President Reagan famously said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Stay tuned for the issues under discussion and the progress of the conference in next update from Berlin!