A group of internationally-minded students at the University of Saskatchewan have started a model United Nations club to simulate the procedures of the real-life organization.
The Usask Model UN Club began in the fall of 2013 as a means of organizing U of S students for a trip to the North American Model UN in Toronto. Four students from the original group attended this year’s conference from Feb. 20–23.
Beth Thiessen, Usask Model UN Club deputy-secretary general, said the NAMUN had a steep learning curve but was a worthwhile experience.
“It was an interesting experience because it was my first one so I didn’t necessarily participate as much as a seasoned model UN-er, but now I’m a bit more comfortable with the procedures,” Thiessen said.
“It’s hard to know what to do without having ever done it, so there was a lot of observing involved in terms of picking up what the procedures are.”
Thiessen said the group was originally intending solely to organize the trip to Toronto, but continued on because of growing student interest.
“It started out with us going to Toronto and I really didn’t think it would continue on after that, but it has and there’s interest on campus and we’re still trying to reach new people,” Thiessen said.
As the club’s secretary general, Momina Mateen said the group has attracted interest from all over campus. While the group was originally made up of social science students, it has grown to include others from engineering, biology, chemistry and, in the case of Mateen, health science.
Thiessen said a lot of students have previous experience with model UNs from high school and want to continue pursuing that interest while they are in university. However, the U of S has been without a model UN club for over a decade.
“The only person I’ve talked to, who was an alumni that did model UN, was here in the late 90s. As far as I know, over the last 14 years, there hasn’t been a club active on campus, so we’re trying to fill that void,” Thiessen said.
Mateen said there are a number of reasons why students would want to participate in a model UN.
“It improves your research skills and allows you to talk from different perspectives,” Mateen said. “It can put you in situations where you don’t necessarily agree with what’s being debated, but because of the country you’re assigned, you have to comply to that country’s procedures.”
The club is currently planning a mock debate scheduled for March 28 in Arts 133. The topic of the debate will be “protecting civilians in combat zones.” In advance of the event, the group is holding weekly training sessions to get participants familiar with the formal procedures of a UN debate. This includes preparing the documents students will use throughout the debate, such as resolutions.
The Usask Model UN Club is currently not ratified as a campus club and is instead operating as a sub-group under the International Studies Student Association. Thiessen said they will be seeking ratification in the fall.
“That’s our ultimate aim — to become a ratified group and hopefully there are students willing to carry it on,” Thiessen said.
Without U of S Students’ Union funding, Thiessen said the club has mostly been doing promotion on social media. The Usask Model UN Club’s Facebook group currently has 25 members.
The club has enjoyed the support of several faculty members in the department of political studies. Associate professor Carin Holroyd and sessional lecturer Martin Gaal, who has previous experience with model UN clubs, have both offered advice to the group’s leaders.
Students wanting more information on the Usask Model UN club can email the group’s organizers at Usaskmun@gmail.com. The group also holds weekly training sessions on Fridays from 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. in Education 1039.
Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor