Over 200 students and recent graduates participated in this year's United Nations Simulation Conference, acting out the role of diplomats grappling with real-life global issues. Held at the Vienna International Center from 31 July to 4 August 2011, the event marked the 17th time that this academic exercise has been held under the auspices of Vienna International Model United Nations (VIMUN).
At this year's conference, 34 students simulated a session of the IAEA Board of Governors. With each participant representing a Member State of the Agency, the student-delegates discussed current nuclear safety issues in light of the Fukushima nuclear accident. While trying to draft and adopt a resolution advancing global nuclear safety, they gained a better understanding of the issues involved and were able to hone debate and negotiation skills that are crucial in international diplomacy.
"It was an extremely productive simulation and I particularly liked the interest of all my colleagues in the topics debated," said Daniil Klubov from the Russian Federation.
"I really enjoyed the atmosphere here. The sessions were very competitive and we had some heated debates. But in the evening people were extremely friendly and we had the opportunity to interact with students from all around the world," said Sunjic-Alic Sasa from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"This was my first simulation. It was very interesting, and at the same time very difficult to represent my assigned country's opinion in front of other countries with very strong positions," said Labib Kazkaz from Germany.
"The toughest part was the debate because every country defends its own interests. You have to know a lot about the topic to represent your country and to defend your position. This is the most difficult aspect of diplomacy," argued Andreas Kindsvater from Germany.
"This is my first time as a chair at a Model United Nations. It was a very rewarding experience and although we had many beginners I believe that at the end they were very enthusiastic. Some are now infected with the 'Model UN Fever' as well," said Jose Magnaye from the Philippines.
At this year's VIMUN exercise, conference delegates simulated six different committees: the Human Rights Council, the UNIDO Industrial Development Board, the IAEA Board of Governors, the FAO Council and the UN Security Council Committee I and II. They discussed topics from the "Human Rights of Asylum Seeking Persons" to "Genetic Engineering for Nutrition to Reduce Hunger in the World."
Through VIMUN, college-aged students engage in academic simulation that mimics the real-life workings of the UN and other multilateral bodies. By assuming the role of a diplomat and representing an assigned UN Member State, the students gain better understanding of global issues and processes involved in reaching international consensus.
VIMUN has been in existence since 1995, and more than 4 000 students are estimated to have taken part in VIMUN exercises since the conference's inception.