By Rain Ji ’19
On Thursday, January 24, The Gunnery Model United Nations club traveled to Boston to compete and participate in the annual Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) conference, representing El Salvador. This is the club’s fourth year attending a prestigious conference and third time attending HMUN. Last year, the team traveled to Washington D.C. to compete in the North American Invitational Model United Nations Conference (NAIMUN) hosted by Georgetown University. This year, the team decided to return to Harvard mainly because of its dedication to social impact and to make MUN a familiar concept to rookies.
According to Harvard MUN website’s mission statement, “the mission of this conference has always been to foster a constructive debate on complex global issues, and empower young leaders.” This year, the conference’s theme was Leadership In Action, which was evident from the choice of speaker at the opening ceremony.
The Gunnery MUN team worked relentlessly to represent El Salvador’s position and they proposed solutions through debate, negotiation and the drafting of working papers and resolutions. The conference required intense concentration throughout, since HMUN is one of the most prestigious high school MUN conferences in America. Indeed, Harvard University has always been the pioneer in hosting global-minded conferences, from when it hosted the first annual model League of Nations in 1927 to the first model United Nations conference in 1953.
The Gunnery MUN club did not officially become a club until 2015, when it was founded by a group of students from various grades, including the current seniors in the club, Wyatt Cicarelli ‘19 and Rain Ji ‘19. Nevertheless, The Gunnery has sent representative to participate in various MUN meetings around the state from 1960s to 1990s. The cocurricular option of MUN during winter term was established in 2015 with the hope that participating students could develop a deep understanding of diplomacy and various international issues in the increasingly globalized world. 2019 marks the fourth year of the MUN club and co-curricular at The Gunnery. Though the program is still relatively young and immature in comparison with other established teams at the school, the group has made steady progress in past years.
The conference was intensive. From Thursday to Sunday, each committee met for roughly eight hours every day with short lunch and dinner breaks. Moreover, in the specialized agency Syrian Cabinet 2020, which Rain Ji ‘19 was part of as the Iranian ambassador to Syria, there were midnight crises on some evenings. Midnight crises are exactly what they sound like.They occur without the delegate knowing they’re coming, and last from midnight until 4 a.m. Although exhausting, midnight crises mirror what would actually occur in a cabinet or the UN Security Council.
Other members of the club represented El Salvador in different General Assemblies of United Nations. Jolie Kaplan ‘20 and Alex Hinkel ‘21 participated in Legal Committee, in which they discussed the legal status of stateless individuals. In their position paper, a prewritten essay that outlines the country’s official stance on the issue, Hinkel wrote, “in 2013, a law which allowed El Salvadoran citizens to vote from abroad was passed in order to facilitate these individuals with a simple way to practice their right of voting from outside the country. El Salvador urges all member states of the United Nations to do the same and allow their citizens abroad to be regular participants of their country’s political affairs.”
In addition to topics related to human rights issues, environmental concerns are also the center of debate at HMUN. Erica Zhang ‘20 was part of the United Nations Environment Programme and she debated issues pertinent to illicit trafficking of marine wildlife. Zhang proposed “trans-organizational collaboration with the assist from UNODC on the intersection of sea territories” in order to resolve the issue. She wrote, “In order to regulate the transit section of illicit trafficking, the countries should always check commercial fleets and report to the UN if there are any endangered marine species that listed by the CITES” in her position paper.
Wyatt Cicarelli ‘19 represented El Salvador in the Economic and Financial Committee, which focused on rights of laborers. Cicarelli stressed the viewpoint of El Salvador in his position paper, saying, “El Salvador would like to work with other Central American countries in order to establish a working group to make the future the best it can be for out citizens. El Salvador would provide a stable framework for labor laws that provide safe working conditions and reasonable hours that are able to be enforced countrywide.”
After the group returned, in an anonymous feedback survey, one student wrote, “It [HMUN] was amazing. I enjoyed the kindness in my committee. I made a few friends that I still talk to.”
Expressing similar sentiments, another student wrote, “My favorite part about MUN has to be going to Boston for the conference. The reason is that I was able to learn more about the world and the problems that are happening. Also, I stepped out of my comfort zone by talking to different students from all over the world.”