During quarantine, schools and students have had to make many adjustments to their routines, and this situation has carried over into extracurriculars. Model United Nations, MUN, a form of debate, is a club that gives students, or “delegates,” the opportunity to take on global humanitarian, economic, and political issues that have or currently face the United Nations. These MUN conferences are held at high schools, prestigious universities such as Harvard and UCLA, and the UN Secretariat Building in New York. The conferences that take place for delegates are often done in large numbers all over the globe, something that isn’t possible in the world’s current state. Being able to quickly adapt to these large changes and continue to come together and hold conferences online has had its own opportunities and challenges.
Hosting a MUN conference online is no easy feat. At a normal MUN event, the average number of people in attendance is often anywhere from five hundred to a couple thousand. Shifting that same number of people to an online conference is difficult for the hosts and the internet. MUN conference hosts have had to come up with clever ways to accommodate new circumstances.
One of the ways that these hosts have done that is by making smaller committee sizes. The regular United Nations is built up of multiple different committees, which is carried over into Model UN. With Covid-19, these committee sizes have been made smaller so that each group can have their own Zoom room to debate in. Another thing that hosts have done is creating multiple opening and closing ceremonies. Opening and closing ceremonies at normal conferences take place at the beginning and end of the conference. These ceremonies usually have all participants at the conference in one room. When doing online MUN, it isn’t possible to have a thousand people in one Zoom room. Because of this, hosts have created multiple Zoom rooms where clusters of committees can do smaller scale opening and closing ceremonies.
Although virtual MUN has had its difficulties, there have also been many interesting benefits. One of the amazing things about being online is that delegates have been able to attend conferences that they wouldn’t have been able to in regular school. Recently, the Granada Hills Charter High School MUN team was able to attend a virtual MUN conference in Calgary, Alberta. Delegates were able to experience MUN procedures in a different country and meet delegates from around the world. The conference in Canada brought together people from India, Ontario, British Columbia, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Washington, and California.
Shifting Model United Nations online wasn’t what everyone planned for, but it has brought about unforeseeable benefits that have brought together hundreds of people. During these unprecedented times, being able to continue doing extracurriculars that were part of our “normal” is exactly what everyone needs.