What do you picture when thinking of diplomacy? People with great experience who graduated a long time ago, entering the New York building of the United Nations, wearing a suit?
Well, I didn’t need all of that –except for the suiting up part– to see what the world of international negotiations was like.
HEC, and in particular the “MUN HEC” club, organized a MUN (Model United Nations) weekend in September, which consisted in simulating international negotiations just like at the United Nations. More than 150 people were dispatched into four committees, each of them debating on a specific subject: the refugee crisis, the Third World debt crisis in the 1980s, new technologies in modern warfare, or even maritime piracy. By groups of two, we represented a country in particular and had to defend its interests and take its point of view.
I have to admit, I did wonder before it started if inventing such negotiations on the HEC campus was not going to be too far from the reality of such debates. And it wasn’t: the whole weekend was organized perfectly, with a real desire from the members of the club to reconstitute as closely as possible the procedure (sometimes hard to catch but explained with great patience) of UN negotiations. Walking down the hall towards the debate rooms, we could feel was it was like to change the course of the world just for once.
I am currently dreaming of a career in international politics and diplomacy. Given the current situation of the world, I feel that so many topics and issues are to be dealt with urgently. I, therefore, care to use my future diploma to help a cause, such as the refugees’ situation or the problem of hunger and poverty, as much as possible. This “I want to change the world” speech may seem dreamy and unrealistic, and I would often think it was, but having the chance to actually try that concretely showed me that, with a dash of hard work, it was actually a viable career plan.
However, even if you don’t dream of that kind of career –which was the case of many people taking part in the debate– I would strongly advise you to participate in MUN events. The interest may rely on other aspects of the negotiations.
I found, just like many of my fellow participants, that having to take the side of a particular country was very interesting because it prompts you to defend something other than your opinion. Many people had to defend dictatorial regimes, and they had to go beyond the bad image they can have of it to try and understand what internal and external struggles those countries may face as well. Others were representing the United States when in real life they were completely against liberal ideas. And I was representing India, in the eighties moreover (the debate of my committee took place in the past), and having to understand that state of development was quite an interesting challenge for people from such a different, and richer country.
In terms of negotiating skills, the MUN was also a great opportunity to just get up, make a stand, defend and argue, answer questions from “enemy countries”, write resolutions, tackle others with amendments… Plus, it was really satisfactory for me to manage to break resolutions that didn’t comply with what my country needed, to propose new ideas, to try to analyze whether a proposition was or was not a good idea for all parties and countries represented. The game of alliances also provided us with a great opportunity to better assimilate the complex strings of international politics.
Eventually, none of this was real and the world has not been changed by our weekend. However, I can assure you that I truly felt like I had actually done something when at the end of our Sunday, apart from more realistic measures, my committee managed to start peace talks between Iran and Iraq in 1987 and to end the Apartheid in South Africa!