One of CIEE students Fall 2012 Ruxi Zhang (Macalester College) was invited to chair the Security Council of SPB-Model UN conference (organized by the faculty of International Relations of Saint Petersburg State University )
As a passionate MUNer, I started seeking for membership in the local Model United Nations chapter on my first day at the CIEE Study Center at the Smolny Campus of St. Petersburg State University.When I learned that I could not join the Model UN team of the International Relations department because of a scheduling conflict, I decided to start my own bilingual Model UN club in the Political Science department for Russian students and studying-abroad American students. My Russian friend Viktoria Kobzistaya, a first-year political science student, was very supportive of this idea and volunteered to co-organize the club with me.
In mid-October, we launched the CIEE-Smolny Model UN club and recruited around 20 American and Russian student members. At each weekly meeting, Viktoria and I conducted a bilingual presentation under a certain topic, followed by a short UN session for students to practice diplomatic skills learned from the presentation. We went through topics including: UN history and structure, opening/position speech-delivering, resolution-writing, lobbying, and voting. At the last meeting, we shared UN internship and career opportunities around the world.
Although I have been presiding over the training of the Model UN team of my home university, the team was an already existing student organization with established operational tradition. Starting my own project in Russia has been a very exciting experience for me. Running this club significantly improved my organizational skills. I learned to design a weekly program so that the language barrier is minimized and to adjust the agenda when scheduling conflicts occur.
From November 29 to December 2, I was invited to chair the only English-speaking committee of the St. Petersburg Model UN Conference, the Security Council. I oversaw a 4-day
discussion under the topic of the Syria Crisis, encouraged delegates to cooperate in producing a resolution paper, and facilitated delegates to reach consensus on various sub-issues.
I have participated in six international Model UN conferences in four countries, but this is my first Model UN experience in Russia. As the only English-speaking committee, the Security Council was composed of a very diverse student delegation, with students not only from Russia, but also Canada, China, France, Ghana, Italy, Latvia and Poland who are currently studying in St. Petersburg. Model UN conferences in the United States have a stronger emphasis on committee awards - recognitions to individual delegates who have contributed the most to the committee sessions. Most delegates are therefore highly award-oriented; they act aggressively and try to dominate committee discussion at the expense of diplomacy and adherence to their country’s position. At this conference, however, all delegates remained “in character” during policy debates and exhibited a high-level of professionalism throughout the conference. They truly treated the committee sessions as an opportunity to practice international conflict resolution.
Nevertheless, this Russian Model UN conference revealed its lack of xperience, comparing to Model UN in America which has a history as an academic simulation for almost 90 years. Confusions with regards to procedual rules and miscommunication between organizers and
delegates occurred several times.
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN and an alumnus of my home university, has inspired me to pursue an interest in international affairs. Since he withdrew from the Syria
mission, I have been wondering about possible solutions to the current impasse in the ceasefire negotiation. Chairing this committee allowed me to learn several interesting and thoughtful ideas for a ceasefire from the delegates. I am glad to have connected with the Model UN society in Russia, to help more students who are passionate about global affairs to practice diplomacy, to share my Model UN experience, and to be inspired by their ideas at the same time. It was very nice to get to know my co-organizer and students of the Model UN club, CIEE and St. Petersburg State University faculty whose support made my organization possible, and delegates from the St. Petersburg Model UN Conference.