Students and Policy Makers
The Asian International Model United Nations (AIMUN) conference is one of the largest MUN's in the world and after a stellar performance last year Bangladesh looked to go one better in 2008. Last year the United Nations Youth Students Association Bangladesh (UNYSAB) selected a 9-member team to represent the country and after the successes of 2007 they had another rigorous selection process to go through to ascertain which young leaders would uphold the country's reputation at AIMUN 2008.
After much debate they decided to retain three members from 2007's successful team, they were myself (Nader Rahman), Sahar Naz Faruk and Farah Ahmed, along with being selected for the second year in a row they also bestowed upon me the title of Head Delegate which meant I was in charge of the team. The logic was to have a good blend of experienced performers along with some new faces. After a thorough vetting process the other members of the team emerged, from IBA Md. Naimur Rahman (Kushal), from East West University Mirza Salman Hossain Beg and from North South University Samira Saif, Imran Juniad and Ahmed Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan. Along with these eight two other members had been selected but due to illness had to drop out at the last moment. Less than four days before we were to leave our team was down to eight people and those on our waiting list were more than surprised when we asked them if they would join us on the trip barely a few days before our flght. Luckily Shovan Chakraborty from IBA was ready for the challenge, after having been on the waiting list he jumped at the opportunity to join us so much so that within a few hours of being told he took a bus back to his village home to pick his passport up. With dedication like that I knew we would do well, but we were still one person short. Without the final person we would not be able to avail our group fare for the plane tickets and the expenses for the trip would skyrocket. After a lot of convincing we lured last years Best Delegate and leader of the team Farheena Rahman of LCLS back again for another shot and barely a few days before we left our team was finally completed.
Before we left there was a lot of perpetration to go through from buying gifts for our fellow delegates at the conference to MUN practice for the newcomers. The work was shared equally by all the team members as the gifts were bought, and tickets and visas were arranged. But one thing became quite clear early on that the trip would be anything but cheap.
With that in mind we searched for a sponsor and were lucky enough to find Rahimafrooz. After a few discussions and deliberations with Iftekhar Hassan of Rahimafrooz it was decided that not only would they sponsor us, but they would even assist us with some of the gifts we would take to China. While they could not sponsor each person fully the amount of money provided by them was what helped many of us even make the trip.
With a strong team and our bags packed we left for Beijing on the 12th of March. The flight there was anything but easy, with horrible food and at times alarming turbulence we were just happy to finally land in Beijing. After landing at 11 PM we faced our first hurdle, how to make our way to the hotel without knowing a word of Chinese. It took some time but we finally managed to get three Taxis together and after dumping our impressive collection of luggage we squeezed in and made our way to the hotel. The hotel itself was impressive and stylishly decorated with an interesting name, FuramaXpress. At the hotel we were met by Jenny who had been our person of reference so far. All our e-mails and work seemed to have been done by her personally so it was good to finally associate a name to a face and meet the person who had been most instrumental in our taking part in the conference. After we had all settled into out rooms it was well past two at night but we were all hungry and then we made our first forage out for food. Less than five minutes from our hotel was an all night McDonalds which we poured into and seemingly emptied of all food. The following day was to be the first of the conference and we all needed some sleep before what would be a hectic day.
After barely a few hours the team was dressed and ready for our first day and now all we had to do was find Peking University. We had been told that Peking University was a short walk away form our hotel, but what we were not expecting was a more than 30 min walk in the icy cold weather of Beijing. I guess that's what a short walk in Beijing is called. We made our way to the university whose campus was about the size of Dhanmondi just in time for the rules of procedure lecture which was expertly given by Cody Swyer. The Rules of Procedure was something that I wanted everyone specially the new delegates from out team to attend as it would spell out how the Model UN works, how do raise points, discuss issues and most importantly how do make a working paper and a draft resolution which is the final outcome of such a conference. While the lecture was on as Head Delegate I had to register our members in their different committees, while they had all prepared their position papers ahead of time it was a formality that needed to be finished.
It was to be Ahmed and Kushal in the Security Council (SC) representing Belgium discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict and the reform of UN Peacekeeping operations. Farheena and Samira were in the General Assembly Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) representing Belgium and Laos respectively. They would be discussing the racial discrimination faced by Muslims and the protection of unskilled and semi skilled migrant workers.
Farah and Shovan represented Laos in ASEAN where their topic of discussion was energy cooperation in Asia. Sahar represented Laos in The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) where the topics were diversifying economies, increasing international competitiveness and promotong eco tourism. Salman was in UNICEF, Imran in UNESCO and finally I was in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) representing Laos discussing Measures to Combat Global Warming and Environmental Policy Making in the Pacific Rim along with the Illegal Wildlife Trade. This is a good time as any to describe how or what a Model United Nations (MUN) conference does. The thing about MUN is that people come from diverse backgrounds and represent countries other than that ones they come from. For example we from Bangladesh represented three nations at the conference Laos, Belgium and Peru. One has to think from that country's point of view and fulfill the needs of the country one is representing. This process occurs through various UN committees such as UNESCO, UNICEF and UNEP where one seeks to represent a country in a model or mock UN situation. The real outcome of the conference is for people to think globally, take into account how countries deal with each other on the international stage and to pass a resolution on the topics being discussed. What we all sought out to do was to pass a resolution which would include the countries we were representing, and their individual points of view. It is a lesson in policy making and possible the best lesson one could get.
After the rules of procedure talk we ambled back to our hotel having lunch on the way only to figure out that we were going to be late for the opening ceremony. We rushed to get ready as the people who were ready first left for the ceremony. I happened to be one of the last to leave and after Farah, Imran myself and Sahar lost our way around campus we finally reached our location as the ceremony was ending. From what little I saw and what I heard it was a grand affair with some moving speeches and all rather formal. With the opening ceremony done it was our first opportunity to meet our fellow delegates and soon everyone had found some people from their respective committees. We trudged back home in our business suits for a few hours off before the welcome party and cocktail reception.
The party was not far from the hotel and we were all asked to get suitably well dressed for the event so the guys brought out their best suits and ties while the girls had to put on ball gowns. The restaurant holding the party was very spacious and within minutes the place seemed packed with delegates all eager to find their respective committee heads and delegates. With an unlimited supply of fresh juice along with a buffet style selection of Chinese sweets it was a perfect welcome, meet and greet party. The delegation from Yale also attended and we found out we were all on the same floor of the hotel and the Bangladesh team and them got along very well. At the party we also met last years Secretary General Leo who was very warm and introduced us to this years Secretary General Weihao.
Even though he was probably the busiest man at the conference he spent a long time with us and the team talking constantly asking if we needed anything. Lin, the girl in charge of Business was also in charge of socials. The evening ended with Tibetan dance and a graffiti session.
The next day was the first of the actual conference and the reporting time was bright and early. As people filtered their way into their respective committees now was the time to turn their hard work and practice into genuine results. For those in a large committee such as CERD where there are over 150 delegates it was difficult to get noticed as Samira and Farheena could not even get to talk once in the first session. The others had a little easier time with the double delegates of Ahmed and Kushal along with Shovan and Farah making an immediate impression. My committees seemed rather difficult at first with people being slightly standoffish (by people I mean the countries they were representing). By the end of the first session our team had been well integrated into their committees and it was time for the group picture. As it so happened we brought gamcha's as gifts for the participants of the conference and in the SC the gifts were given out early. Their group picture that followed had everyone wearing Bangladeshi scarf and came out quite stunningly.
The second and last session of the day was more than three and a half hours long and during that time most people were deeply immersed in the conference and dabbling in international relations. Working papers had been sent out and the politicking was in top gear, it was proving to be very fruitful for the Bangladeshi delegation. At the end of the second session our team handed out the gifts we had brought for everyone and in a few minutes it seemed as if almost everyone on campus was wearing a gamcha.
It was truly a sight to behold. That evening there was also a social event held at a prominent Beijing club that went into the wee hours of the night which also proved to be great fun. After the club night the girls on our team Farah, Sahar, Samira and Farheena practiced a dance routine all night as the following day they would have to perform it at the farewell cabaret.
With no sleep what so ever the team headed into the decisive day two rather groggy and a little late for our first session. Between the first and second session our team was also interviewed for the newsletter that was published for the conference. By the end of the second session our team was out of energy but still performed in their respective committees manfully. With no time in between the last session and the cultural night we rushed home to change into Kurtas and Sarees and along with a big bag of goodies left for the cultural show. This proved to be a big night for the team as well as Bangladesh, the crowd was thrown into a tizzy when the girls danced to a Habib song and with Channa Chur, Aam Shotto, Mehndi and little flags of Bangladesh everyone crowded around our stall for their own little taste of Bangladesh. By the end of the night more than 500 people were chanting Bangladesh and with the gifts, food and the dance performance by the girls we were the undoubted stars of the night.
After a good nights sleep everyone was ready for the final committee session which would decide exactly how well we performed. It went off without a hitch and after lunch with our respective committee members we were pumped and ready for the closing ceremony. Within minutes of the ceremony they were announcing the best delegates from every committee and Farheena was the first to win and award as the Best Delegate from CERD. This was her second Best Delegate award in a row at the event continuing where she left off last year. Surprisingly I also won a Best Delegate award and soon enough so did Salman and in half an hour we had three awards. At this time we were neck and neck with a few other institutions on three awards and then came the big one. We were awarded the best delegation award and with four awards officially were the most successful team at the conference beating out more than 80 other institutions.
The conference was hugely successful for more than just Bangladesh but also for the organizers from Peking University and I salute them for hosting such a well organized and enjoyable event. There are also special thanks for Weihao and Jenny who helped our delegation with everything and anything. The friendships we have made are invaluable and so was the experience of being a future policy maker.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008