Harvard World Model United Nations 2016 in Rome

09/14/2016: A conversation with Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis

This year a delegation of HSBA students took part in the Harvard World Model United Nations – with four HELM representatives among them. A ‘Model United Nations’ (‘MUN’ for short) is a simulation of the United Nations by students. Within this framework the participants discuss global political topics such as intellectual property, sustainable cities, international labour law, and even the European refugee crisis and the risk of terrorism – and work out resolutions together. This time the students met in Rome.

During the opening ceremony, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gave a thought-provoking speech. He emphasized over and over again that in an age when terrorist groups attempt to spread fear and mistrust between individual states by means of bloody attacks, it is vitally important to form a common front against this, based on peaceful dialogue and intercultural exchange.

In a private audience, Pope Francis also reminded us that as the next generation it is in our hands to decide on what basis we wish to encounter one another in the years to come.

Nothing could have reflected these speeches better than the legendary ‘MUN spirit’. Throughout the day we listened carefully to each others’ opinions, and were also required – as the hypothetical representatives of Belgium – to represent a different opinion to our own, in order to achieve a definitive agreement.  

A particularly formative year

I organised the HSBA participation at the World MUN this year for the third and final time. My memories of the trips to Brussels, Seoul and Rome will stay with me for many years. However, looking back, it is this year that has left the deepest impression on me, as this time I represented Belgium on the ‘Emergency Summit on the European Refugee Crisis’ Committee – exactly one week before the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Following a simulated attack on a major European city and within the context of the current refugee crisis, our Committee was required to formulate a political response in its role as a UN representative body, provide aid, and defend the respective refugee policy in communication with the local population and other nations.

The country attacked in our simulation imposed a state of emergency; all other countries expressed their sympathy from a distance, and several countries closed their borders – in short, all the nations involved isolated themselves from one another and against everything foreign. The nations represented on the Committee became wary of each other and began to suspect that the other countries involved in the situation would only pursue their own interests.

What I learned on this Committee is that in the case of attacks such as those that have dominated the news in recent weeks, we can do very little on our own. However, it is within our power to decide what conclusions to draw and how to react. At each World MUN I have experienced how all the delegates fought tirelessly to defend the interests of their own country – yet were able to create a community that openly and tolerantly permitted differing viewpoints and was able to reach common agreements.

Viktoria Blum 
(Dual student HSBA, third year of vocational training)