The twenty-fifth session of the Harvard WorldMUN conference was held in Rome, Italy, from March, 14th to 18th. Over 2500 students from over 110 countries came together in this truly unique venue in order to shape the future of tomorrow. Our delegation represented the Republic of Namibia in three of over 20 committees, in the Disarmament and International Security Committee, in the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the Committee on African Union.
The Eternal City offered a spectacular environment for all the participants to discuss politically relevant issues of our world and to find approaches to problems that affect all of us nowadays. Moreover, the memorable and fascinating opening and closing ceremony have to be mentioned, where we got the possibility to assist to speeches inter alia by Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, as well as Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Region of Lazio, and Maria Elena Boschi, Italian Minister of Constitutional Reforms and Relations with the Parliament.
Furthermore, another highlight of this week in Rome was the audience on Thursday with His Holiness, Pope Francis in the Vatican City where he addressed us in a memorable speech followed by a standing ovation. After meeting Pope Francis, we took part in a breathtaking Parade through the ancient part of the City of Rome: through the Imperial Fora, the Via Sacra, the “Holy Street”, before entering the Colosseum. Due to the fact that during the Parade every student was showing off the flag of his country, it was a really colorful and international Parade where the WorldMUN spirit could be felt in a unique environment.
Although, there have been some critical aspects as well, especially regarding the chosen hotel and the location where the conference was held. The Sheraton Parco De’ Medici didn’t meet the expectations of the Organizing Team and the participating students. The venue wasn’t conceived as a conference venue for so many people and therefore wasn’t able to comply the requirements necessary for such a huge conference.
With the following remarks, we would like to give an overview over the committees we took part in, the topics that were discussed and the strategies that our delegates followed; besides the experiences we made during the conference.
Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC)
Although our delegates in DISEC, Lena Stránská and Elisa Calzolari, tried to push for the topic of Occupation of Disputed Territories, the majority of the 198 represented states decided to vote in favour of discussion concerning Violent Non-State Actors. This topic being rather a new one, definitions of these actors and the position of the international community towards them portrayed the majority of content of all draft resolutions, regardless of their authors.
After a split in the African group, our delegates joined Uganda, Cambodia and many other countries from all-over the planet in an attempt to draft a resolution that would attract a majority and pass. Although the number of supporters for their efforts was high, at the end turned up to be insufficient. This was also the case with two other draft resolutions, leaving thus DISEC without any final adopted document.
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
„Venimus, vidimus, vicimus!“
It was a tough job, but in the end – we came to Rome, we saw the opportunities and we won. But what had happened? Our first impression was one of confusion, since our conference room was labeled as „UNHCR“, which is the acronym for the „High Commissioner for Refugees“ and not the „United Nations Human Rights Council“. Not only the letters were swapped, but the number of committee members as well. We took part in a committee, with much more member states, than in reality.
The UNHRC consists of 47 member states. The UNHRC of WorldMUN 2016 had approximately 70 member states. Still, working in this committee was way simpler, than compared to the DISEC with its 400 delegates. On day 1, the committee members decided to discuss the topic „The Right to Health“ – unfortunately, since our focus was more on the topic of „Poverty and Equality“. Yet, this was another unfortunate swap for us. Ulrich Schmid was mainly outside, negotiating, while Gunnar Hamann was inside, following the debate and giving speeches himself.
In the first two days of the committee, he held four speeches on different issues with regard to the topic, such as „Women and the Right to Health“ or „The African Union and Health“. Meanwhile, Ulrich Schmid tried to merge the different working papers with respect to the national position of Namibia and sometimes didn’t even go for a lunch break. After days of negotiating, holding speeches and withstanding a simulated crisis (a sexually transmitted disease, also affecting the Republic of Namibia), we were ready to vote on two different draft resolutions. Finally, our common draft with Argentina, France, Ghana and Greece passed with a simple majority, as well as our very own draft amendment on the resolution. It was a very close call, since another draft resolution, supported by the United States of America, Russia, China and Great Britain, was voted upon first. After all, we managed to celebrate together – be it „winners“ or „losers“ – since these categories are in the end truly swappable.
Committee on African Union
Cynthia Möller and Christina Gerantoni represented Namibia in the African Union Committee. The work of our delegation in the African Union had us in a special position: since Namibia has been a very stable country of Africa and a member of the SADC, chances were high that we would be able to work on this influential basis. The committee soon agreed on working on the topic of “China in Africa”. Our aim was to figure out a policy to have African and Chinese actors work together, on equal terms and not Chinese determined terms. The first day of discussion ended with the establishment of working papers. Due to the shortening of time for committee work, Wednesday demanded a lot from all participants since working papers and already draft resolutions were called for. This intense working atmosphere was stressful and motivating at the same time. Some of our strongest partners were Lesotho, Angola and South Africa. During the day a crisis hit the committee calling for response and the division of working on drafts and statements condemning a violent take-over of the Chad by terrorists who were equipped by Chinese weapon manufacturers. On Friday the drafts were discussed and a resolution adopted. Unfortunately it was not the resolution we worked on, on one hand because of the rules of the voting procedure and on the other hand because of the time pressure leading to a massive confusing at the end. All in all our work in the African Union was an interesting challenge in a small venue which called for many personal discussions and an in-depth involvement with the topic.
All the members of our delegation have had a splendid time in Rome, during the conference as well as during our Thursday activities and social events. We were given yet another opportunity to test our diplomatic and negotiation skills and at the same time a chance to meet people from all over the globe. We would like to once again thank all of our sponsors for making our study trip and all activities connected to it possible. We believe we will benefit greatly from the experience we had.