MUN 2020: Furthering and Strengthening Democracy

By Jonah Rebert ’20

At the end of January, the Model United Nations class attended the 56th annual THIMUN conference. The Hague International Model United Nations enjoys a special status as a simulation accredited by the U.N. as a non-governmental organization.

Students prepared throughout the year for this event, which hosts over 3,000 students from around the world, all striving to further and strengthen democracy.

This year’s class proudly represented Romania, a country many students knew very little about before enrolling in MUN. However, as we completed every new research assignment and mock debate, each delegate felt increasingly prepared to defend Romania’s positions and interests in an international forum.

Thus began our trip.

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We landed in Amsterdam and headed south to the capital of international diplomacy: The Hague. But before getting down to diplomacy business, we took in the sites, most notably the Mauritshuis. This art museum houses Johannes Vermeer’s “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” among other famous works.

Heading back to Amsterdam for a deeper exploration of Dutch culture, we visited the Anne Frank House as well as the Rjiksmuseum (the national museum of The Netherlands) and Van Gogh Museum. While these were each impressive in their own ways, the favorite landmark for many was an Amsterdam house church, known as “Our Lord in the Attic.”

During the 17th century, Holland restricted religious freedom, forcing Catholics to practice their faith within their homes. Believers began to organize over time and constructed “house churches,” with all the traditional features of a Catholic church in a much smaller, clandestine space. In addition to being an architectural triumph, “Our Lord in the Attic” is a testimony to the power of religion and the will of the faithful.

After a day trip to Brussels, we headed back to The Hague for the start of the conference. That first day, students felt their anticipation, built up from every policy paper and news quiz taken in preparation for the trip, transform into excitement. Topics ranged from the funding of terrorism to Facebook cybersecurity, depending on committee.

While each student had to have a command of a different topic, the class was united behind Romanian policy and status. For example, the former Eastern Bloc country has struggled to develop its infrastructure due to a lack of funds and technological backwardness, a fact that affected many students’ actions and strategies during the conference as they lobbied other delegations and debated resolutions.

An accident of birth led to truly special experience for the class. We visited the International Court of Justice, which adjudicates matters of international law, and spoke with a a sitting judge on the court, Patrick Lipton Robinson. Judge Robinson is the great-uncle of MUN student Maya Robinson ’20, and this connection gave us a deeper understanding of the United Nations and an unforgettable experience.

Despite the seriousness of the whole affair, we managed to share many lighthearted moments with classmates and students from all over the world. From Hasan Maqbool ’20 dancing with his new Saudi Arabian friends, to Matt Armitage’s ’20 daily battle with his necktie each morning, the conference was as entertaining as it was enlightening.

The trip served, and I think we will all remember it this way, as a global educational experience that broadened our understanding of the world in which we live, as well as providing a unique opportunity to deepen friendships and connections among classmates — by travelling 3,000 miles from home.