By Hannah Gow
The College’s International Studies Club hosted the first TCNJ New Jersey Model United Nations (MUN) Conference at the Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel on the weekend of April 9 – 10.
Sigma Iota Rho, the international studies honor society, helped with the selling and distributing of MUN merchandise to be sold at the conference, as well as giveaways for the student participants at the end of the weekend.
With special guest Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, a retired U.N. ambassador representing Pakistan, the Conference was destined to be a success. John W. Vincent, president of the Princeton and Trenton area chapter of the United States and the United Nations (UNAUSA), was another resource utilized by the International Club.
The retired Foreign Service officer used his ties and resources through UNAUSA to help the organization bring Kamal to the Conference. When speaking to him he described the role of UNAUSA as a tool for local colleges as well as providing a broader base of understanding to multicultural issues and what they mean to the people of the United States. He knew of the International Club, specifically those involved with MUN, as “award winning, experienced and a very savvy, enthusiastic group.”
The two-day conference started with the high school students arriving and checking in. Each student was split into three committees, the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), Security Council and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which all mirrored actual U.N. councils.
Each committee had a feel of its own, from tension and fast-paced debating in the small Security Council room, to the more relaxed and cooperative atmosphere of the UNICEF room. Unlike many conferences, the UNICEF room came to a conclusion the first day of the conference for their discussion and debate on HIV/AIDS, and were introduced a new topic, child soldiers, for Saturday.
The largest room utilized was the Amphitheater setting for the Disec committee, basically a much smaller scale of the actual U.N. amphitheater. Sunita Yavalli, chair of UNICEF and sophomore International Studies and Political Science major, said, “I’m really impressed with the delegates. They’re respectful every time they stand up and try to make a point.”
For most students this was a learning opportunity and the staff wanted to explain everything thoroughly while staying respectful as to not put the students down with their mistakes. “They didn’t yell at us, they clarified everything and it was more relaxed,” said Zachary Weinstein. The staff didn’t let them get off too easy though. When a committee came to an agreement, staff had a great time performing “kidnappings” and complicating the issues, modeling real life situations and crises.
For many, Ambassador Kamal was inspiring and a highlight of the conference. “Ambassador Kamal was very enlightening and my favorite part, as well as the constant food and pool tables,” said Lacey Kaplan.
On Friday, the ambassador spoke in the amphitheater to participants of the conference on today’s issues and views of the United Nations, as well current events and everything in between. To the student’s surprise he peppered his speech with jokes, and though he had a humorous tone, Kamal fluidly brought the atmosphere back to more gravity when speaking on subjects such as society’s hunger for war, the tragedy in Rwanda, nuclear armament and proliferation. One key point Kamal wanted to get across was the false view of the UN not as people but a distant organization.
“The U.N. is not an organization, it is actually a table with people sitting around it,” said Kamal, “We need to replace U.N. with WE.”
For secretary general and junior international studies major Parsh Bavishi, the conference was a long dream carried out through years of planning. Though he had help from club advisor and assistant professor of political science Potter, much of the paperwork, preparation, negotiation and monetary estimations were delegated to him alone.
“When I was a sophomore in high school I told my parents I would do this,” Bavishi said. “Hopefully when I come back in 10-15 years this is still up and running and they’re still doing this stuff.”
Leading the way for this grand undertaking wasn’t easy. “We were doing it by the seat of our pants,” Potter said.
“It was like the stock market,” added Bavishi.
In fact, they’d even had a school drop out that weekend and another join barely prior to the start of the conference. Though, for all the work Bavishi put into his dream, he pushed his fellow peers to do the same. Many of the MUN staff from the conference prepared well and were drilled for the weekend months in advance.
Their work certainly seemed to pay off. On Saturday all committees finished their working papers and all came to agreements.
“Be aware that there is a great big world out there,” said Vincent at closing ceremonies, “Above all, ask the right questions on issues that have some bearing in the U.S. and the world as a whole.”
After closing ceremonies were over, students proclaimed their satisfaction with the weekend, many anticipating their return.