What is Model United Nations? What are NHSMUN and IMUNA?

Model United Nations (MUN) is a student simulation of the proceedings of the United Nations. Students, referred to as Delegates, are assigned a country to represent in one of the UN’s numerous committees with pre-set topics to debate. They research the background of their country, their country's position on the topics at hand, and prepare notes on possible solutions to the problems faced. Students then convene at Model UN conferences, which range in size from 100 to 3,000 delegates, to debate their assigned topics with students representing the other UN member states. Much like the real UN, the goal is to identify solutions, by negotiation and consensus, on which many countries can agree.

The International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and a UN-recognized non-governmental organization that hosts Model UN conferences. Its flagship conference is the National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) Conference, held in New York at the Midtown Manhattan Hilton Hotel and at the United Nations Headquarters. NHSMUN is one of the most well-recognized conferences on the global MUN circuit and the largest conference for high school students, with nearly 4,000 students attending in 2016. Since its first session in 1975, NHSMUN has been attended by students from over 100 countries on 6 continents, making it a truly global experience. IMUNA is also committed to serving as a leader to the high school MUN community, providing resources to schools trying to start MUN clubs and assisting schools that host local conferences around the world.

Students that attend NHSMUN are treated to a truly unique experience. To kick off a rigorous week of debate, students are typically treated to a guest speaker that plays a major role in international relations. Past speakers have included US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and economist Jeffrey Sachs. Students are also treated to meetings with the permanent mission to the UN (embassy) of the country they are representing, a unique experience for them to engage directly with professional diplomats. If an embassy is not available for a meeting, students can instead attend a speakers series featuring experts on topics such as the Sustainable Development Goals. Students then break out into their committee simulations, where they deliver speeches on their country’s policy in an attempt to convince their peers of their country’s point of view.

The students’ charge for the week is to write and pass a resolution, which is a document that describes the actions that they want to take. This requires countries with very different points of view to discuss their differences and find common ground. With anywhere from 15 to 300 students in a committee, reaching a compromise can take a lot of debate. The simulation ends with a special session at the UN Headquarters, where students are seated in the General Assembly Hall that has hosted many of the most prominent heads of state from the past few decades. Students debate the final resolutions on the floor of the UN, then take formal votes on whether or not to pass each resolution.