In Ourselves: RMUN 2021

By Duncan Phang (22A13B), Mei Feifei (22A13A), Keiran Koh (22S06M)

Debating about maritime oil spills or the 2nd Libyan Civil War in third person in front of a web camera may not be an activity that most would associate with their precious June holidays… except for the delegates attending the 29th edition of the annual Raffles Model United Nations (RMUN) held on 3rd and 4th June this year.

The theme for this year’s RMUN was ‘In Ourselves’: in the words of Russell Choy (21A01B), Secretary General of RMUN 2021, “a call for us to look inward and to find the strength we need to make things better in the ways that we can.” 

“As individuals, it is all too often easy to deflect responsibility to others or the collective and to play down our own role in bettering our communities.”

As such, with the seven councils in this RMUN discussing issues ranging from examining the impact of the pandemic on refugees to reforming the US Electoral College, this conference aimed to prompt delegates to evaluate the existing systems that have shaped the geopolitical tensions in our world today.

Making a Point

This year’s delegates’ passion for MUN was evidenced by how delegates across the board for every council actively volunteered for the General Speaker List (GSL)—the backbone of any council session that allows for delegates to take turns to speak. 

In one council, a delegate seemed so inseparable with the GSL to the point where the two were jokingly nominated as ‘the best couple’. 

Delegates heated up the debate by introducing various motions into moderated and unmoderated caucuses (a fancy word to describe alternative debate formats) so as to narrow down the discussion to specific topics. 

Regardless of the form of the caucus, the delegates made good use of every second of precious speaking time to push their own country’s agenda while simultaneously lobbying for support from other delegates. 

Building Blocs

A key part of any MUN Conference is the passing of a resolution. For their draft resolution to pass with a simple or two-thirds majority depending on the council, delegates generally found that forming coalitions (in MUN terms, a ‘bloc’) to advance a common agenda was much more effective than being a lone wolf. 

However, the formation of blocs inevitably leads to direct clashes between groups with conflicting interests. In such cases, whether or not a draft resolution would be passed did not so much depend on the size of the bloc but rather the strategies employed by the blocs. 

In the US Senate, delegates ingeniously applied their knowledge of the Rules of Procedure (ROP) to effectively stall the voting process. The crafty Republican delegates deviously introduced amendment after amendment to their bill, effectively impeding the Democrats from presenting theirs for voting.

Delegates also showcased their tact in making comrades out of their fellow delegates. As the great Greek tragedian Sophocles once said, “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong.” 

This diplomacy was well embodied by one Crisis delegate whose Day 2 speech opened with an apology to the Ministers of Health and Finance “whom [they] now identify as responsible and accountable individuals.”

It was evident that delegates poured in dedication, time and effort into preparing for this MUN, from researching content down to the minutiae of the ROP, eventually culminating into a fruitful conference.

On the Chairs’ End…

Even though technical incidents occasionally hampered council sessions, Russell felt that the experience of hosting an online MUN Conference was no less of a valuable learning experience. 

Pang Ler Yng (22A13B), Chair of the Crisis Council, also shared that she found it rewarding to witness delegates progressively grow and blossom as speakers over the course of the conference. 

“Everyone has to start somewhere… [MUNning] is by far one of the most enriching and enlightening experiences you will have [and RMUN] is a perfect starting point for anyone looking to dabble in this academic adventure.”

Pang Ler Yng (22A13B)

The Chairs of beginner, intermediate and advanced councils all shared the sentiment that participating beginner and veteran delegates alike did not disappoint with the quality of their discourse. 

Ler Yng commented that she was heartened to see beginner delegates speaking up even when they held different stances from the more experienced delegates who are often more aggressive during discussions. 

All in all, delegates showed commendable courage in stepping forward to tackle some of the most complex and ambiguous issues that confront our world today, all while representing their assigned country’s stance with remarkable nuance and insight. 

Although this year’s RMUN Organising Committee (consisting of the Year 6s from the History and Strategic Affairs Society) had to work with the innumerable constraints posed by the pandemic, it is no exaggeration to say that RMUN 2021 was a resounding success. Raffles Press is sure that delegates, current and prospective, are looking forward to next year’s installation of the conference. 

P.S. For those interested in reading more about what exactly transpired in each council, look no further. RMUN’s Press Council—a special council where delegates assume the personas of journalists from various news agencies rather than country representatives—delegates have doggedly tracked the motions and resolutions passed. Their articles may be accessed at this site.

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