Reflecting on Power and Privilege in Model UN

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Pace University New York City Model United Nations Head Delegate Priya Sakaria ’17 (center) represents China, with Julie Burke ’16 (second from left), representing France, in a simulation of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the 2016 Geneva International Model UN conference.

Attending the 2016 Geneva International Model United Nations (GIMUN) conference was definitely a unique experience. Though it did not come without its challenges, being a part of a simulation that was so immersive, geographically as well as culturally, definitely made the conference that much more enriching. Moreover, I think being able to spend our days and attend committee sessions, especially an actual session of the Human Rights Council, at the UN Headquarters in Geneva added to the realness of the simulation and allowed us to get as close as possible to walking in the shoes of a real delegate.

As a more experienced delegate representing China in a simulation of the World Health Organization (WHO), it quickly became evident that I, along with a couple of other delegates had the upper hand. My personal knowledge and experience while an advantage, was one because it gave me power, much like my status as a member of the “P5” (Permanent Members of the UN Security Council). Therefore, I soon began to question whether this simulation was truly reflective of how Member States, especially China, would act in the real WHO or whether my role/voice in committee was due to my previous MUN experience. Perhaps, it was both.

Being a delegate of China knowing I had power and privilege was a given, but I think truly understanding that power and privilege was something completely different. I think in pursuit of recognizing such power, the effects of this power, such as the intense pressure/position and leadership role that P5 members are placed in, are often overlooked. After participating in GIMUN and having represented different types of Member States in the past, I have definitely gained more insight on what it means to such an influential country in the United Nations.

– Priya Sakaria ’17, Head Delegate.

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About Matthew Bolton

I am assistant professor of Political Science at Pace University and author of Foreign Aid and Landmine Clearance.
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