AIMUN 2007: A Lesson in the Art of Communication and Diplomacy
The next generation Diplomats
Nine people from Bangladesh armed with a limited knowledge of Chinese and the inability to be understood in sign language invaded china. What would ensue would be eight days of trying to play charades, at which I might add we were quite unsuccessful. However aside from our comedy of hand gestures which we tried to use to get us from point A to point B, there was a conference. Ironically the conference was a Model UN conference, all about diplomacy through effective communication. That's why with pride I can say that the Bangladesh delegation communicated not only in the language of the United Nations, peace, tolerance and understanding, but also spoke in the language of our rich culture, passion and colour.
It is only at international arenas and platforms does one realise that Bangladeshi students have a uniquely cosmopolitan outlook and understanding of the world. We have our developing world experience and our close understanding of the developed world.
It's this perspective that bridgedthe gap and gave the team the connection with almost all countries and nationalities within and outside the conference.
The nine member United Nations Youth and Students Association Bangladesh delegation headed by myself was a representative group of students all selected for their volunteer work in various United Nations and associated events. The group included myself, of London College of Legal Studies, Nafiz Imitiaz of Dhaka University, Nader Rahman, Adnan Khandker, Shehrina Kamal and Farah Ahmed of North South University, Saharnaz Faruk of American International University Bangladesh and Nusrat Matin and Ziyad Nazem of East West University. The delegates represented Philippines in Disarmament and International Security Council (DISEC), Human Right Council (HRC), the Economic and Social Commission of the Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and ASEAN, Jordan in DISEC and HRC and Sri lanka in ESCAP. Each committee had two topics on which to deliberate and pass resolutions on. The topics ranged from women's education and immigrant rights, to oil and gas exploitation and even the illicit sale of small arms. In DISEC Bangladesh had its maximum number of members, that is three and in the remaining committees there were two members each.
Over the four day conference everything from shock, anxiety, stress and finally euphoria would be experienced by the team. The before the grand opening ceremony the team had the opportunity to gift the deputy Principal of Peking university with a small token of Bangladeshi culture. A high for the team was being in conversation with four special guests each of them ex-permanent representatives to the UN from China and eminent diplomats of the Chinese Foreign Service. All of them spoke at the opening ceremony and spoke eloquently appealing to the large Chinese speaking audience and the English speaking audience as well. Early set backs and unfortunate circumstances would see the team miss the first day's sessions and part of the second day's session. Shortly after the opening ceremony as one of the members of the delegation had to be rushed to emergency room and entire team spent a good deal of time helping him recover.
The initial shock and trauma of having a member down in such a close nit delegation only brought the team closer together. It was with good team spirits and morale that the next day eight members forged on in session. Resilience became the stand out quality of the team. Taking turns missing sessions to look after their sick member didn't stop each member from being integral if not a driving force in each of their committees working towards active diplomacy in reaching a resolution. Over and above having to attend committee sessions the Bangladesh delegation also had agreed to put on an impromptu cultural function at the International Night. One of the few international teams putting on a show, festivities were kicked off early during session that day as delegates were gifted ethnic Bangladeshi gifts, wooden flutes and 'gamchas'. It would also be the first night since one of their team member's illness that the entire team would be out together. Proud and confident the entire team made it to International Night happy to have the team together. What happened next was a mixture of exuberance and just not having enough time to contract stage fright. With little to no preparation Nafiz accompanied by myself and Nusrat sang “Mon Tore” a song by the band Bangla and hopefully not too badly. If that wasn't enough the female heavy team made use of their abilities and all five women on the delegation put on a little dance in sarees to the popular Habib song Krishno. Whether it was the singing and dancing or our costumes, sarees for the women and kurtas for the men that stole the show can't concretely be said but it was definitely met with excitement and awe. One thing was sure if only for a little while the entire delegation were run away celebrities. So it can safely be said that our culture was proudly identified for all its wonder, colour and uniqueness.
Having showcased other talents the team moved on the next day into the final day's session rearing to go and achieve everything they had set out to do. Set backs and excitement aside the real goal of reaching resolutions through diplomacy and constructive debates would be the real prize. The friendly non-competitive environment created by the organisers would bring about the final result resolutions which everyone had a say in and believed in not just from the perspectives of the countries they represented but also for themselves. Perhaps the greatest gain or lesson at the end of the day was at the UN system works if you want it to and if you are willing to use as an active means to solutions we need across the world. Indeed it can only be hoped that with the next generation of diplomats learning to cross barriers and cultures to bridge ideas and ideologies maybe the UN and the world can look forward to more effective and better diplomatic solutions.
It was with high spirits and possibly some of the same optimistic feeling for the future having made such good friends along the way that everyone entered the Presidents hall where it all began for it to finally end. The electricity in the air wasn't from competition rather camaraderie and genuine joy at seeing fellow delegates receive awards for their efforts.
A special moment was when fifteen year old K. V. Hewage, of the Sri Lankan Delegation representing Bangladesh went to receive his award as an Outstanding Delegate wearing a Bangladeshi “gamcha”. However the Bangladesh delegation's achievements didn't fall on deaf ears as I was awarded an Outstanding Delegate award in the Human Rights Council. Along with that the entire Bangladesh was team was awarded one of the Outstanding Delegations awards, which was a tremendous honour. That was the part where the team experienced euphoria.
However by no means did the trip or the “adventures” of the Bangladesh team end there after all no trip to china would be complete without having seen the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great wall. For students from Bangladesh who have never experienced temperatures so close to zero one of the adventures and trials of everyday would simply be staying warm. The trek to the Great Wall was made in good company with some Swiss and German students, all I might add much more acclimatised with the weather conditions. The long trek off the trodden path to a less commercialised part of the Great Wall was well worth its weight in gold. The entire group of fifteen managed to catch the rare sight of snow on the Great Wall. An experience which anyone whose experienced it I'm sure would vouch for its sheer splendour. After having made the entirely long walk across the wall all excepting two members of the group decided to take the adventurous route down. This route entailed being strapped to sliding down a long wire that leads above and across a lake down to the other side and then a short two minute speed boat ride to the desired destination. The Great Wall followed by Peking Duck provided the perfect end to an eventful trip.
After having forged such good ties and wonderful relationships with other teams any depiction of the conference would be remiss without the mention of some very helpful international friends. Jerry TB and Woodstock both from Beijing International Studies University who were the epitome of Chinese hospitality. Mention must also be given to Scott St. Marie, Colin Felsman, Adrian Haimovich and Sarah Tadalou, from Columbia University for being good sports competitive and best of fun and friendly. Who could forget out of a sea of helpful people especially Leo Chen Guang, Secretary General of AIMUN, Wang Zhuoyun, Program Manager who some how were always right behind the delegation, whether it was in crisis or just simply lost for direction and in need of an interpreter they were there. And last but certainly not least our brothers in arms and partners in crime throughout, without whom gesticulating our way through Beijing wouldn't have been as worth while Shi Ji Sydney, Tao Tao, Denys Shatokhin, Fabrice Bernhard, Clemens Grassberger, Engin Bumbacher, Marek Kuhwede, Chrsitoph Engert and Johannes Reck. They were some inspired Germans, French and Swiss with many a talent. The entire experience without these few people would have been lost. In the end in the true spirit of the UN the conference was about people. It's about people from all corners and nationalities exchanging ideas, ways of life and creating a greater tolerance and understanding of each other. Diplomacy would have been lost had it not been for the people at the conference wanting and striving to make it work. It is in the end that which we come away from the Asian International Model United Nations with, that the hopes lies in the next generation of diplomats.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007