The Bede’s Model United Nations (MUN) team arrived in drizzling rain at Benenden School in beautiful Kent on December 4th. Compared to the sunny morning we enjoyed when we arrived at our previous MUN conference, which was at the Royal Grammar School (RGS) in Guildford, the suboptimal weather at Benenden seemed to reflect the jump in difficulty we faced for this conference.
At Benenden we would face off against many more other delegates in our committees compared to RGS, giving us less of a chance to make ourselves stand out among the crowd (literally). Nonetheless, we weren’t going to let any of that intimidate us into mediocrity - indeed, as soon as we arrived and settled down in our committees, we immediately got stuck in and involved.
At Benenden, our MUN team represented a politically diverse range of countries: I led the delegation from China, my good friend Prithvi Ann led the delegation from Denmark, and the experienced Ollie stepped in to lead the delegation from Syria after the original ambassador Francis was unable to join us on the day. We understood well the importance of leveraging our positions, with myself advising my delegation to take an active role in the committees we were assigned to, in order to reflect China’s ever-growing geopolitical importance. Other team members who were delegates of Denmark spoke of the ease that representing that country gave them, as Denmark remains a fairly uncontroversial country that can get on well with many other countries. And as for the Syrian delegation, despite the inherently poor position that they were placed in, under Ollie’s leadership they made a great effort to participate proactively in debates.
Things went off to a great start in terms of getting involved when we delivered our policy statements, with our friends Pippa Nunn and Zoe Whittington speaking courageously in front of many others in their committees. Many of us were also able to submit our resolutions for debate, and also gain plentiful support from other countries; Prithvi for example was able to secure quite the handful of co-signatories for her Danish resolution on artificial intelligence(AI), and further demonstrated her abilities by defending it in committee against detractors. An interesting fact to note is that not all of us were there simply as delegates: our very own Joseph Connolly served as chair of the AI committee that Prithvi was on, and managed to work adeptly with his co-chair and steer the committee’s debates in the right direction.
Elsewhere, my fellow members on the Chinese delegation managed to exert their influence just as I had hoped they would; take my friend Joseph Leonard, who busied himself with the task of protecting and advancing Chinese interests on the Security Council. He fared well in this task, managing to shoot down a proposed clause that would have threatened China if it was passed by criticising its vagueness. In DISEC, our beloved Charlie Bennett tried his very best to secure as many speaking opportunities as the Chinese delegate, and although he was unsuccessful on multiple occasions in doing so, it nevertheless showed his commitment to getting involved in the committee’s goings-on. My experience on the SOCHUM Committee was a similar story, with myself being relegated to repeatedly raising multiple points of information (POIs) throughout the debates in the morning as the Chinese delegate in that committee.
Things only improved as the day went on, however. As the Danish delegate in the ECOFIN committee, James McNicholl took on the task of defending his resolution on debt management for developing countries, speaking bravely on a complex and difficult topic that would’ve been hard for any of us to understand. He also caused a fair share of exciting drama by accusing the delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) of representing a corrupt country, a shocking remark that was upheld by the committee chairs; further controversy was created when the DRC delegate responded by accusing James in turn of representing a corrupt country - a remark that the chairs struck down, much to the disdain of many others in the committee!
The SOCHUM committee also became livelier as I finally managed to secure speaking opportunities and delivered well-received speeches supporting the Costa Rican resolution on assisting South American refugees affected by COVID-19, appealing to high-level concepts such as the theory of intersectionality and also methodically dissecting and praising each and every clause of said resolution. In this regard I was helped by allies such as the delegates from Iraq and Afghanistan, whom I worked closely with throughout the day to build a formidable voting bloc that was able to overwhelmingly pass all the resolutions we were in favour of, while simultaneously crushing every amendment we disapproved of.
In a break with previous conferences, Benenden did not offer a General Assembly stage for their conference after closing the committee debates, but this did not diminish the efforts that each and every member of our MUN team put in for said committee debates. Indeed, at Benenden we were able to replicate our successes at RGS despite competing against a notably greater number of people, winning 5 official awards in total (as well as quite a few joke awards, I must add). For my efforts as the Chinese delegate in SOCHUM I was awarded Commended Delegate, as was Pippa for her work as the Danish delegate on the UN Environmental Programme. The Chinese delegation under my leadership also received two other awards for a total of three, with Joseph Leonard winning Highly Commended Delegate for his work on the Security Council and Charlie Bennett winning the same for his work on DISEC. And last but not least, Prithvi also won Highly Commended Delegate for her laudable efforts on the AI committee as the Danish delegate.
These successes mean that alongside RGS, Benenden has become our joint-best conference with our MUN team winning 5 awards each in both! We have also continued our unbroken streak of winning awards at every MUN conference we’ve been to. On behalf of the entire MUN team we would like to thank our teacher advisors Ms Webster and Mr McIntosh for their guidance throughout the conference as well as their work in getting us involved in the first place - we couldn’t have done any of this without you. And finally, given how much we were able to refine and develop our public speaking, debating and negotiating skills at Benenden, we are definitely looking forward to more experiences like this in the future.