GDS held its first Model UN (MUN) conference on Oct. 27 and 28. Students from seven schools attended as delegates and participated in four committees.
MUN co-heads Aidan Mostashari, Nico David-Fox and Geo Maur-Batsaki began planning the conference last spring. (David-Fox and Maur-Batsaki are on the Bit’s staff.) After an initial postponement due to scheduling issues, the three heads finally achieved their goal of hosting a conference at GDS—one they have had since they were rising juniors.
MUN is a mock United Nations conference in which delegates pretending to represent different countries form committees to discuss real-world issues such as human migration and control of nuclear arms. The committees are groups of people who are dedicated to researching a certain topic and how it applies to their assigned country’s policies, with the goal of creating a resolution to solve the issue.
On the day of the conference, delegates debate the positions their country takes on different topics with other delegates until they come to a conclusion that satisfies the majority of the committee. This conference’s committees were Space Regulation, Nuclear Disarmament, Counter Terrorism and Ad Hoc.
Planning for the conference involved finding chairs and co-chairs for the various committees, ordering supplies, managing volunteer opportunities and working with GDS administration to create a website to advertise the conference. GDS students, GDS alums and members of the American University MUN team served as chairs and co-chairs of the committees. Mostashari said he and his team sent emails to over 300 schools in the DMV about attending the conference.
Students of the school hosting the conference don’t usually participate, but Mostashari said he briefly considered letting GDS freshmen be delegates so they could experience an MUN conference. Eventually, he decided to not let GDS freshmen participate because “it’s not a super orthodox move. We wouldn’t want people thinking there was bias if a GDS person won an award, even though there obviously wouldn’t be.”
Instead, GDS students volunteered to distribute snacks, sign delegates in and out of the conference and put together CandyGrams—bags of candy that delegates could send to one another. The students received service hours for their work.
Sidwell Friends School was supposed to send 25 delegates to the conference but ended up sending two. The head delegate of Sidwell had signed up without discussing it with their faculty advisor, and the faculty advisor was unable to chaperone. Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy said that Sidwell delegates could attend the conference as long as they were unaffiliated with the school and found a parent to chaperone them, so two delegates came to the conference.
Having only two delegates from Sidwell “definitely made things less entertaining than they could’ve been” because there were fewer people at the conference, junior Emerson Rising said.
Due to the minimal attendance of Sidwell delegates, there were not enough members in the committees focused on the 1997 UPS Strike and Sex Trafficking. These committees were combined with the Ad Hoc Crisis committee.
In order to prevent cancellations from happening in the future, Mostashari proposed having delegations pay for conference admission a week in advance instead of paying after the conference. He hoped that requiring payment in advance would mean delegations would not cancel at the last minute.
“It all ended up being fine, but if they already had to pay, that wouldn’t have happened,” Mostashari said, referring to Sidwell’s cancellation. “Or at least we would have gotten our money for it.”
Siddanth Vinay, a student at Chantilly High School, said he enjoyed the smaller group because when there are too many delegates, conferences can get disorganized. However, he said a smaller number of delegates can be problematic when there aren’t enough members to fill committees. “I would like to see just a little more people so that there’s individually enough committees,” he said. “But it was overall really organized.”
Mostashari said organizing the event was “very stressful, but now that it’s over, it’s like a very big sigh of relief.” He anticipates the conference will become an annual event and said that he is hoping to complete most of the planning for the next conference before he graduates in the spring. Mostashari said the purpose of the conference was to create a tradition that would continue even after the current MUN co-heads graduated. “We’re super excited to see how it goes in the future,” he said. “Maybe one day I’ll come back and chair.”