The Road to Harvard
New York City, February 12th 2010
It was a cold and windy Saturday. There was something in the air that night. New York seemed its normal self, but a sense of unusual excitement was lingering in the streets of the city that never sleeps. That day, close to midnight, the reason for this extraordinary vibration took shape at the corner of 45th West Street and 5th Avenue.
Taxis were pulling up in front of Holiday Inn Express Hotel, and in the darkness the shapes of the distinguished members of the United Netherlands delegation 2009|2010 appeared.
The delegates set foot on New York soil with only one purpose. They were here to take the last hurdle on the road to representing the Russian Federation at the Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) conference: the New York Training Week (NYTW).
Exhilaration soon filled the lobby, hallways, and bedrooms of the twenty-two-floor building, and sleep surely was hard to catch that night. Glorified by blue skies and rays of sunshine finding their way through the skyscrapers, the final twenty-four hours before the start of the NYTW were spent in feverish picture taking and exploration.
Monday morning seven thirty sharp: before heading out, delegates made sure to fill their tummies with a good old American style breakfast, some still surprised to find hamburgers and gravy being served.
The Foreign Press Centre, located in the building of the State Department, formed the stage on which the NYTW would show its true self for the coming five days. After a warm word of welcome by the director of the Centre and the Junior Board of Studies (JBoS), the NYTW commenced. The first days proved not only to be hard work, delegates were also committed to play hard, in the true spirit of United Netherlands. New York was about to experience the delegates' presence at a wide variety of events ranging from a classical piano concert in Carnegie Hall to a legendary NBA basketball game where the delegation as a whole cheered the New York Knicks to victory.
As delegates started to feel more and more at home, and getting the hang of the life in the Big Apple, the training week was slowly coming to an end. The aim of the final training days was for delegates to sharpen and perfect their diplomatic skills. Aside from this, visits to the Dutch permanent mission to the United Nations and the United Nations headquarters allowed delegates to experience true diplomacy in practice. To add to the Russian feeling, the MUN trainer made sure to provide delegates with a Russian flag-pin. And with this the JBoS not only concluded the NYTW but also gave the delegates their last words of advice and inspiration on the road to Harvard.
One legendary evening proved to be Thursday, where the delegation split into two groups on Boys and Girls night. Comfortably seated in Hummer limos, the boys and girls explored the city by night and finally united in the fashionably chic and famous meatpacking district. Although the NYTW had come to an official end, the delegates kept their stamina high and showed their commitment by continuing their preparation for HNMUN. This meant that the hotel lobby was filled with laptops, empty cups that where once filled with the famous Starbucks coffee and piles of documents that highlighted their research. During the week the delegates had shown that one can work hard but still find room to play hard. Sunday morning, while a number of us were still sleeping, others quietly moved to Harlem to attend a service in one of the many gospel churches. Still overwhelmed by the warm welcome they had received, the rollercoaster continued as later that day the Superbowl kicked off. Here the delegation was part of yet another proud American tradition, but only this time they cheered for the winning New Orleans Saints.
On the supposed final day in New York City the delegates had their last supper at the Antique Garage before being plunged in the madness that is HNMUN. In Soho an abundance of food and live jazz music in the background proved to be a successful closing of the NYTW. This was not the case for all delegates because even though the delegation had to leave early the morning after, some still chose to go for a round of karaoke. Everyone present sung old time classics such as Born in the USA and Jesse like it was their last time.
On the day of departure Snowverkill (the already epic blizzard of February 9th 2010) wreaked havoc in the streets of New York. Despite tireless efforts to get out of the city, the entire delegation got stuck in this city of endless possibilities. Taxi drivers stayed off the streets, and all other forms of transportation were blocked off. Nonetheless the delegation worked hard to cross the t's and dot the i's in their never-ending preparation for HNMUN. Luckily the blizzard was only going to last one day so the delegation is still ready and able to participate in HNMUN after all.
Armed with knowledge, skill and high spirit, the United Netherlands delegation 2009|2010 truly lives up to the Russian saying Artelnyi gorshok gusche kipit (To work as a team produces better results).
OxIMUN 2009 in a nutshell: Through a UNL-delegate lens
Day 3 at OXiMUN 2009, November 1st 2009
The day has come to say goodbye to the temporary 'global village' of Oxford. The OxIMUN 'Best Large Delegation Award' of 2009 is taken home with by the Belgium MUN Society. We hereby congratulate them once more with this very good result. Although this "cherry on the top of the cake" didn't go to the UNL delegation this year, the delegates have done an admirable job, because of their substantive contribution to debate, their dedication, constructive attitude and their stamina! After all, it is the cake itself that tastes best. Like UNL delegate Rik Rottier said: "Participation is more important than winning."
To get an impression of the OxIMUN experience yourself, the statements below reflect how the UNL delegates perceived it.
"My experience of OxIMUN: 'amicable', in two ways. It firstly refers to my committee in which all participants worked in a greatly constructive and friendly atmosphere. And last but not least, it refers to the UNL group which became closer during OxIMUN."
Jelle Vos, student of Economics at University of Groningen
"Participation is more important than winning."
Rik Rottier, student of Corporate Law & Business Administration at Radboud University
"A very useful experience with a lot of hilarious moments" Charlotte Deelen, student of Dutch & Notary Law / Philosophy at Radboud University Nijmegen
"OxIMUN was a great eye-opening experience and learning moment. Moreover, it was about tremendous fun and a strengthened bond with our delegation and beyond."
Rosalie Salameh, student of Law at VU University Amsterdam
"The overall experience was great. This was due to the combination of debating with international students in a 'Harry Potteresque' setting, and the social part in the evenings. It was exhausting, but worth everything!"
Wouter Sterk, student of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at Radboud University Nijmegen
Marcel van der Wal, student of Civil Engineering at Delft University of Technology
"I was touched by the wonderful experience of OxIMUN, especially by the group spirit: everybody was very helpful and nice."
Marieke van Geffen, student of Psychology at Radboud University Nijmegen
"OxIMUN was a bond. A bond created within United Netherlands, a bond connecting myself to my passion for diplomacy and international relations. It was a chance to learn a lot, to debate, to seek for cooperation, to strive for your opinions and ideals, and above all, it was certainly a lot of fun!"
IsadÃ´ra Caporali, studentof International Relations at University College Maastrich
And for now... start the countdown towards traveling to Obama-land to participate in the world's biggest and oldest MUN: the Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN)! We already wish the delegates a lot of success in representing the country of the geographical east side of the past Cold War, famous ballets, imaginative fairytales, vodka, the Kremlin and much more. Having in previous years represented powerful nations, and indeed most of the P5 countries (permanent member countries of the United Nations Security Council), United Netherlands feels honored to enter the HNMUN conference as Russian diplomats!
Work Hard, Play Hard!
Day 2 at OxIMUN 2009, October 31st 2009
The above mentioned slogan is often referred to by United Netherlands (UNL) members if they try to summarize the essence of a MUN in UNL style. Well, we can assure that this elementary principle has been carried forward by the United Netherlands delegation of 2009-2010 with the utmost efforts and persuasiveness!
Debating about serious, triggering international problems and finishing the day with a Halloween Party, it is not surprising that, let's say (diplomatically, as it behooves United Netherlands) somewhat idiosyncratic moments marked the ambience of the committee sessions. UNL delegate Marcel van der Wal (United Nations Environment Program - UNEP, representing France) for example cheerfully recalls the delegate representing Angola having a hard time: 'When he was recognized by the chair, he initially did not respond. After a couple of seconds, the chair again recognized him, in a somewhat louder voice. Then the delegate stood up and started speaking: 'Sorry Madam Chair, the delegate of Angola just woke up. He has been missing the discussion for some time, but he is sure that everybody is doing a good job today. Thank you.'
UNL delegate Marieke van Geffen (UN Economic and Social Council - ECOSOC, representing France) remembers a similar moment. 'Besides the special content of his speech, his opening was also quite special. Instead of starting with something like "thank you Ms. chair", the delegate representing the United States namely started his speech with "cheers". Apparently he forgot that the party night was already over.'
Moments of confusing serious lobby time with more informal lobby time in the hours of the moon, are not that awkward since participating in a MUN does not fall in the category of working from 9 to 5. In fact, ground-breaking decisions for a resolution are often taken outside the committee session periods.
Another trend inherent to a MUN conference is the particular capacity of acting. Some persons even tended to temporarily transform into the person they were representing. Taking their role so seriously is reflected in the following example: Jelle Vos (UN International Monetary Fund - IMF, representing Egypt) remembers the person representing Iran in his committee stating his utmost antipathy towards Western capitalism. 'In the will of Allah we must stop the greedy capitalists in looking for possibilities of interest-free loans as interest is not allowed in the Koran.' But nothing equals the 'realm of theatre' of the so-called 'crisis committee' simulations. Official Rules of Procedure? For what reason! Indeed, in crisis committee simulations, opportunism is the rule and bluff is omnipresent. UNL delegate Robert de Graeff (representing Robert Nicholson, a Canadian politician who represents the riding of Niagara Falls for the Conservative Party and the current Minister of Justice) and some fellow delegates even managed to overthrow the current Prime Minister Steven Harper and decided without further discussion that Robert Nicholson would be his successor.
When asking UNL delegate Robert de Graeff for an anecdote which would typically describe the ambience in the committee, he cheerfully referred to the other UNL delegate in the crisis committee simulating the 'Canadian House of Commons'. According to him, UNL delegate Sjoerd Louwaars (representing Robert Rae, another member of the Canadian House of Commons) stood up at his chair and said the legendary words: 'This is revolution', referring to the earlier announced (fake) bomb threat. He subsequently organized the military junta instead of the Canadian parliament.
This supreme chaos (note UNL delegate Robert de Graeff's summary: 'An exciting, reactive game that ended in madness'), exhibited in most crisis committees during a MUN, stands somewhat in contrast with the simulations of more formal debate procedure, of United Nations bodies. Although tact and strategy certainly play a role in crisis committees as well, it is indeed the quote that UNL delegate Rik Rottier referred to when describing his committee experience, that is appropriate here to mention: 'A diplomat must always think twice before he says nothing'. Even though smooth talking and jokes could be considered as two of the Three Musketeers with regard to speech skills, MUN would not be MUN without serious, constructive and substantive talking and negotiation, at least when applying UNL style. UNL delegate Rosalie Salameh (UN Security Council, representing Burkina Faso) for example describes her committee experience as: 'High level active debate in which you have to be on top of your game every second. 'Jelle Vos recalls that the director of his committee (IMF) summarized the working process of the committee: 'A devoted committee that knew when to work seriously, but also when to have a good laugh!'
Day 1 at OxIMUN, October 30th 2009
Oxford is generally known as a city where multiple international talents are assembled to live and study together between the walls of the archetypal Oxford university buildings. The city is even referred to as the 'city of the dreamy pinnacles', a term coined by Matthew Arnold to describe the harmonious architecture of the university buildings.
From October 30 until November 1 2009, the Oxford International Model United Nations (OxIMUN) took place, making the character of the city even more multicultural. Yet, if one were to describe the emblem of the 'OxIMUN ambience', this would end in a symbol of 'cultural hybridism', rather than one of 'cultural pluralism', because of not revealing cultural boundaries. Not only were there students coming from around 25 different countries, they also represented another country than their own, which is an essential requirement for a MUN in general.
Throughout the day, young men and ladies, all dressed up in smooth suits and classy dresses, marked the image of Oxford's streets. Walking quickly through the mosaic of the various university buildings, to the committee session locations, they attempted to guarantee their committee's director (chair of debate) getting more than a glimpse of their presence.
The delegation 2009-2010 of United Netherlands (UNL) greatly contributed to this image. Counting 29 well-prepared and excited delegates, they formed the largest delegation of OxIMUN 2009-2010. It was, nevertheless, not only their seat position in the committee room, but especially and most definitely the UNL so-called 'blue-hearted' spirit that kept them noticed by the respective directors. Excited to give an extraordinary opening speech, followed by ad hoc moderated caucus talks, at all relevant times, they raised their placards high! The smaller clock hand did not even point to the number indicating the elapse of an hour and several UNL delegates had already attempted to convince their committee of setting the preferred topic of the country they were representing.
The preceding opening ceremony and this first short committee session formed the prelude to an extensive weekend of negotiation, debating and rhetoric. The day finished with the Global Village event, a typical MUN gathering which reflects the temporal nature of the city where the MUN takes place and in which the MUN participants exhibit various, irresistible food delights from their homelands. Irresistible as the wealth of (mostly) sweetness is, one can imagine that this 'food exhibition' does not limit itself by watching, but evolves in a true plunder phenomenon. In addition to plundering, it was this event where the UNL delegates could leave their fixed country positions for a while, talk, laugh, make movements which could be called dancing, and be their own person: an ambitious young student and global citizen!