Of all of the inspiring and intellectual co-curricular activites on offer at grammar and independent schools up and down the country, Model United Nations (or MUN) is perhaps the most useful and constructive. 

Fred Darley, one of Hampton School’s most successful current MUNers, claimed that the MUN experience is “educational, eye-opening and an invaluable experience for young people,” and if you were to spend some time at one of the regular bustling conferences, you would find it hard to disagree. It is a truly atmospheric and thrilling event that can take a day or, in the case of the conferences hosted by Magdalen College and Haileybury School, two and three days respectively.

It is easy to be put off this pastime, which is often a highlight of a hosting school’s calendar, by the terminology barrier. Indeed, when I was conferring with a friend of mine about the upcoming Guildford High School MUN (GHSMUN), another keenly-listening pal referred to our dialect (and make no mistake, the official and formal United Nations terms do constitute a new dialect) as “a completely different language.” This is perhaps not entirely true but the MUN dialect is brilliant fun and is overcome fairly quickly, giving the event a huge feel of authenticity.

Most conferences do take a full day, during which a number of topics are discussed depending on your committee, some staples of which include SOCHUM (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), SPECPOL (Special, Political and Decolonisation) and of course the Security Council, in which proceedings are conducted slightly differently with more of a sense of urgency and an impromptu need for negotiation acumen then the usual manner. This is when ‘resolutions’, or documents submitted by a delegate, or representative of a country which aim to resolve the solution at hand, which can range depending on committee from malaria eradication to the democratic backsliding seen in Turkey.

Model United Nations can open one’s eyes hugely to the goings-on of the world around us and provide delegates with an unrivalled platform for making connections with likeminded colleagues. It also allows for the exhibition of the dying skill of being able to debate with someone you may not agree with, even if you do personally, in a tolerant and respectful manner.

One of the great clichès of MUN is the “diplomats and leaders of tomorrow” line, which is reaffirmed valuably at the beginning of most conferences. It is easy to scoff at this and think that a light-hearted secondary school activity can have no such significance but the skills that MUN arms one with can truly be what turns an aspiring politician with a love for negotiation and the hectic world and sleepless nights that accompany the profession into the finished article. The next generation of politicians will be ones who have had their eyes opened to that world from a young age, and an environment where they can exhibit their skills and beliefs as a team can be a huge catalyst for this. Model United Nations is the future of professions previously perceived by teenagers as stuffy. It is to politics and economics what Pokémon GO is (or, at least was) to long, family walks in the park.