By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
The International School of Beijing (ISB) has been hosting the Beijing Model United Nations (BEIMUN) since 1993, but in 2021, this will be a unique BEIMUN for unique times.
Later this week, BEIMUN, which is entirely student-led and enjoys a reputation as one of the best high-school Model United Nations conferences globally, will be held entirely online. Over 600 students from 35 schools in 10 countries will dial into Microsoft Teams from Thursday to Sunday for this academic simulation of one of the world’s most important diplomatic organizations.
The move will maintain the BEIMUN tradition despite the practical challenges of Covid-19, and it will create new possibilities for the conference. BEIMUN Secretary-General Shawn T, ISB Grade 12, said, “Transitioning into an online conference that is free of charge has allowed us to open this opportunity to more students from different regions. This year, we can accommodate schools in Turkey, Fiji, and South Africa that have not always been able to travel to Beijing.”
Model United Nations (MUN) events see students role-play delegates from various countries and debate solutions to real-world problems against their peers. MUN develops skills including critical thinking, public speaking, collaboration, and leadership. These events always look to focus on the weightiest of contemporary issues. And we all know what the big one is in 2021!
The upcoming BEIMUN has been adapted so delegates can consider Covid-19 and related hot topics. “The theme of our upcoming conference, ‘Discourse in a fragmented world,’ deals heavily with the polarization of media, which is a root cause of the changes in the social and political landscape in the midst of this pandemic,” according to Shawn.
“In response to the pandemic situation, we have added a specialized ‘World Health Assembly’ forum that will deliberate public health policies. Throughout our conference, issues like emergency global health responses, post-pandemic economic recovery, and media bias will be debated.”
To alleviate fatigue caused by screen time, the conference schedule has been developed to feature shorter debate sessions with more breaks in between.
Shawn, a five-year veteran of MUN, said delegates this week will – as always – learn more about current events and develop soft skills in a process that can’t be replicated in class.
“Through our compelling discourse in the upcoming BEIMUN, I hope that other students can obtain critical thinking and communication skills while learning to circumnavigate the challenges that our generation will ultimately face. Instead of competing with one another, I would call upon our delegates to embrace the benefits of collaboration. I am sure that students of every experience level interested in all career paths will gain something meaningful,” Shawn advised.
In addition to the usual tests of current affairs analysis and public speaking, this MUN being conducted online presents a new organizational challenge. The best way to succeed in BEIMUN via Teams is to remain positive and flexible, said Shawn. “This will be a beneficial experience for everyone as virtual events will not be going away anytime soon.”
The opening ceremony, a pre-taped video featuring guest keynote speaker Jaime FlorCruz, CNN’s Beijing bureau chief and correspondent from 2001 to 2014, will be premiered on YouTube at 5:00 pm (Beijing time) on Thursday, February 25. For your own taste of BEIMUN, see the event’s website, beijingmun.org, where a video of the opening ceremony will be posted soon.