International Labour Organisation
From 7th to the 9th of November 2014 the MUN delegation of the TU Munich took part in the OxiMUN conference. I was one of five TUM students who came to represent the Republic of Rwanda. In hindsight, the fact that each delegation got to represent the same country added a special note to OxiMUN, creating a more realistic simulation. In the competitive environment of this conference with hundreds of brilliant delegates from all over the world, we formed a team, representing the interests of Rwanda. In the preparation phase, we could further our research by exchanging resources and discussing possible policies. When our country was mentioned two times during the opening ceremony we signalled our approval with a standing ovation. In this moment of sincere patriotism for Rwanda I left behind my existence as a student and became the delegate from Kigali, at the UN to shine for our people.
The opening ceremony took place in St. Aldate’s church and began with a lecture of Antonios Tzanakopoulos, professor of law in Oxford. He gave us a concise introduction to the legal framework of the United Nations and especially the Security Council. When subsequently he analysed the legitimacy of UN peacekeeping missions and raised controversial topics such as the legal basis of a bombing of ISIL, he had to defend his viewpoints to challenging questions from the audience.
Shortly afterwards I found myself within the walls of Europe’s most prestigious university, waiting for my first committee session at my first Model United Nations Conference to start. Throughout the conference I represented Rwanda in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which suited me well, because I prefer debating economy related topics. Our committee was relatively small with roughly 25 delegates which facilitated the work on the resolutions. While I was waiting for the chairs to officially start the committees work, I gathered around other African Countries in order to build first alliances and to get in touch with the other committee members. When I look back I can’t imagine that there were only two and a half days to get to know the co-delegates. The long committee sessions and the need to cooperate with and listen to other delegates makes you get acquainted with every streak in their characters. Still now I can see the fire in the eyes of Argentine who wanted to hand in her draft resolution prior to the one of South Africa.
Overall my fellow delegates were well educated and enriching people with a huge variety of different backgrounds. Interestingly one girl came from Rwanda. While I saw an advantage in the light authoritarian leadership of President Paul Kagame for the development of the country, she enlightened me with slightly opposing views. Luckily I had well prepared for the discussions in advance, reading about the country, researching both topics and drafting my position papers.
Throughout the conference, the ILO discussed the following two topics:
1. Employment Security: Towards the Single Employment Contract.
2. Promoting sustainable job creation, especially for young people.
In the end, our committee work was very successful as we passed two resolutions. However, most satisfying was the general quality of the debates, the speeches and the working papers. Subsequent MUN conferences bitterly disappointed me in some of these regards, verifying the international reputation of OxiMUN. The good working atmosphere in our committee had one main reason in the thoughtful guidance of our chairs. Both of them had acquired experience in a double digit number of MUNs. They knew what was particularly important to discuss about the topics and provided us with valid information concerning the rules of procedure (ROP) that are so crucial for a democratic decision-making process. As opposed to Mr Kagame’s decisions, in the UN every voice has to be heard and the resolution can only be a compromise between conflicting national demands. It is the main challenge of a MUN conference to identify your country’s interests and to convince other delegates that these are their interests too or that they don’t oppose them, in order to get a large supporter base and eventually shape the resolution.
Taking part in this process gives valuable insights into globally relevant political issues, the rules for decision making in the UN and the working and thinking behaviour of other people.
The closing ceremony took place in the prominent setting of the Sheldonian Theatre were one of our delegation’s members was awarded as best delegate. In conclusion, the OxiMUN conference convinced us with high quality committees, interesting fellow delegates and the extraordinary atmosphere of Oxford University. Consequently, future
OxiMUN conferences won’t be neglected by the MUN-TUM delegation and future OxiMUN resolutions will be shaped by TUM students.
Ebola and the Ukraine Crisis: those were the issues that I had to resolve together with 14 other countries in this year’s OxIMUN Security Council. For those not so familiar, the UN Security Council was established in 1946 as one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. Its primary responsibility or role has been and still is to guarantee peace, security and stability in this world. To achieve such, it has arguably more power and influence than any other council in the UN. For example, it can request peacekeeping missions, but also establish sanctions against member states that have violated international law. The council itself consists of 15 member states, 5 of which are permanently in the Council and 10 of which hold a seat for a temporary time of 2 years.
I had the honor of representing the Republic of Rwanda in the Security Council. This was told to us before the conference. Preparation as a result not only focused on the topics given, but also on the country allotted and the country’s view on the topic. Even though Rwanda has been fortunate not to have any cases of Ebola up until now, its relative proximity to infected African nations makes it potentially vulnerable. As a result, the fight against Ebola is of primary interest to us. Of course, Rwanda also has an opinion on Ukraine. Having witnessed the abysmal Rwandan genocide just 20 years ago, the Rwandan government knows of the dangers and potential outcomes of internal conflicts. Consequently, Rwanda’s position has always been a clear one, namely to cease all hostilities immediately, establish short term methods to improve the humanitarian situation there and find constructive and inclusive solutions to build long term stability and prosperity for East and ultimately the whole of Ukraine.
So after weeks of intense preparation, my delegation finally arrived at Oxford on Friday, the 7.11.2014. After registration and an impressive opening ceremony, committee and thus debates commenced. After a voting procedure, our committee decided that we should debate Ebola first. Most of the countries used the beginning of the debate to read out their opening speeches and make clear their positions. After this, debate revolved around the speakers list (open debate time, in which countries can make speeches regarding anything they feel is important regarding the issue), moderated caucusus (closed debates, in which countries make speeches usually on a certain sub-topic) and unmoderated caucuses (countries get together informally to freely discuss issues and work out resolutions together). What really surprised me was the high quality of debates. Even though a debating conference at Oxford was bound to be competitive, the sheer quality of debaters still left you awestruck. There were delegates from all over the world, namely the Netherlands, Australia, China, Belgium, Germany, the UK, France, Switzerland and Greece. Also surprising was the diversity in their studies. Our committee was composed of political scientists, computer scientists, business students, international relation students, history students and even one human genetic student. As a result, discussions were of a very high quality regarding the diversity of opinions as well. What surprised me the most was the fact that critical discussions were centered on details, rather than the grand scheme of things. Practically everyone agreed on the basic solutions, such as establishing better public health infrastructure systems in the countries affected, promoting the capabilities of international health organizations, such as the WHO, and finding local solutions to a local problem, such as strengthening local capabilities and involving regional organizations (ECOWAS and African Union) more. However, it were the how and the implications of that how that were heavily debated upon. For example, Western aid to West Africa was seen as highly imperialistic by the Russian delegate, who also criticized the growing militarization of the region should more and more foreign soldiers be sent there. Nonetheless, part of the quality of the delegates was the ability to compromise, which was not always there in high school MUN conferences that I partook in. In the end, my resolution was merged or combined with the one by the United States, so as to produce a common resolution. Ultimately everyone agreed that the main sponsors should be the three African nations present in the committee, as it was a consensus that this is a crisis that is ultimately best addressed with the primary initiating power being African nations. The resolution passed on Saturday with a unanimous vote of 15 for, 0 abstentions and 0 against.
After that, Ukraine was next on our agenda. Here there were fundamental disagreements between the Western bloc and Russia, which consistently made sure to deny wrongdoings, such as the existence of Russian troops in Ukraine. Furthermore, he was stubborn that the committee should not refer to Crimea as Crimea, but as Russia. As part of the “third” or no-alignment bloc, Rwanda, like several other states had as its primary goal to stop the fighting and improve the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
To be fair, debate on Ukraine was very much more heated than on Ebola, with personal accusations not being rare. At one point, the Russian delegate compared the opposing bloc’s resolution to a drink of Vodka, by remarking how like Vodka, the resolution by the Western bloc would just plunge everyone involved into a state of intoxication and danger. The American delegate instantly rebuked by comparing the Russian resolution to a bottle of Vodka as well, saying how like Vodka, it is not transparent and can thus not be trusted. However in the end, delegates were aware that any P5 nation could use its veto power and thus once again assembled to produce a common resolution. Here Russia was adamant in its claim for steps towards autonomy for East Ukraine. Several nations disagreed with the use of the word autonomy in this case and what followed were 40 minutes of heated disputes about the semantics of the word “autonomy” with some countries, including Rwanda, arguing that greater autonomy should be the way, while Russia insinuating that its definition of autonomy was the establishment of a separate state. In the end, this issue was resolved as well, with our final resolution passing on Sunday by 11 votes for, 4 abstentions and 0 votes against.
Now a great part of MUN, it must be said, takes place outside of the debating room. For example, MUN allows you to visit places you have never been to. In this case, it was Oxford, an absolutely stunning city, also called the “city of the dreaming spires”. Many of the buildings were plain majestic. The organization was also excellent, with the Friday night delegate reception being held in a tradition hall with great jazz music playing.
For me, however, the greatest thing about MUN is the plethora of people that you meet and talk to, as well as the many great friends from all over the world that you make for life. On Saturday evening, our whole delegation went to a traditional pub, socializing, teaching each other foreign languages and talking about life in his or her country. MUN conferences are places, where the sometimes harsh life of university is forgotten and everyone comes together to debate and have a good time together. As a result, it is very easy to make contacts that you will never forget and might even help me in the future, whether it is visiting a foreign country or trying to get internships abroad.
All in all, OxIMUN 2014 was an unforgettable experience on so many levels. The absolutely high quality of debates, the city of Oxford and the many great friends that I made for life are just of the reasons why this has been a truly awesome experience that I will never forget.