The American University in Cairo sent its students to the annual National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in New York, USA last month where they received the award for Outstanding Delegation for the sixth year in a row.
Some 4,000 students from different schools represented different countries in the United Nations Councils such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the International Court of Justice. The purpose of the conference is to present delegates with pressing topics that are of global concern and ask them to recommend solutions to these topics. The solutions must be all-encompassing and must represent the policies of each individual country that the delegations represent.
This year, 26 AUC students represented Togo in 12 councils, with one delegation representing the US in the Security Council, a first for AUC. The students were accompanied by Radwa Hamed (Secretary General), Rana Shafik (Graduate Advisor) and Hesham Sadek (Organizing Committee Head) who were all participants as Head Delegates at the conference. They were also accompanied by the Faculty Advisor, Dr. Walid Kazziha, and this writer as his assistant. As head delegate Shafik explains that she “was basically responsible for directing my delegation and assisting them. My responsibility was to prepare the delegates before the conference and provide them with all the substance and material necessary for the conference.”
Head delegates do not participate in the actual conference; instead “we are more of the link that unifies the team’s goal,” says Sadek.
This was not the first MUN outing for some, like Hamed, who adds that, “As a second timer and a head delegate, the pressure this time was way more and the challenge to ensure the university wins Outstanding Delegation was not the challenge of working hard myself, but the challenge of working hard to guarantee the best team dynamics and the best outcome for the team as a whole. My role was to select with my co-Head Delegates, Rana and Hesham, the best candidates possible for the delegation, support them before traveling with trainings and resources, motivate them in NYC to work hard and to stay up to the standards AUC has always had, and finally to represent them in the board committee meetings in NMUN to guarantee they get all the needed materials and support required.”
In preparation for the conference, Shafik says, “There was a very rigorous process for the delegates,” with three phases of selection ahead of multiple trainings to prepare the final team.
“First, interviews were conducted to assess applicants’ knowledge, commitment and preparation for interview,” says Shafik. The second phase was a simulation of the NMUN conference sessions to “assess the delegates’ lobbying, negotiating and public speaking skills. The last phase was based on position papers assigned to the applicants to assess their qualifications for writing, research and their understanding of the delegation’s foreign policies,” she explains.
Members of the Organizing Committee participating as delegates studied and researched just as much as the other delegates, if not more. In preparation for the conference, OC Head Sadek says, “The OC members attended the same trainings. NMUN is about many sets of skills not only substance. While choosing partners we choose two people with different types of skills in order to make a strong delegation in each council. While the OC members might not be as equal in substance as others, they [make up for it] with really strong social skills.”
Once in New York, there was an intense amount of pressure on the students to perform well, particularly because a lot of them were first-timers. But others believed the team was strong enough to land the required points to place first.
NMUN’s points system measures the skills of delegates, such as diplomacy, knowledge of topics, adherence to foreign policy, ability to work with other delegates, teamwork and cooperation, and leadership.
“As AUC we are one of the most known delegates in NMUN due to us getting Outstanding for five consecutive years. This reputation forced us to select the best of the best to preserve the image of AUC and to win the 6th Outstanding. Compared to other delegates, the AUC delegates were [some of the best] present and this showed officially after they got Outstanding Delegation,” says Shafik, adding, “This conference is competition-oriented and the number of high-caliber students is a lot. But the AUC delegation has proved to be among the best 20 percent of those delegates.” Hamed says that the students’ performance is what proved the quality of the AUC delegation, “Having won Outstanding Award as a whole team as well as Best Delegation by both Yasmin Sabek and Mayar Dessouky shows that the quality of delegates was up to the level and some of them even exceeded our expectations.”
In addition to the inexperience, there were other challenges faced by this year’s team. “Not all delegates abided by foreign policy which made it sometimes hard for our delegates to reach agreements with them,” explains Hamed.
Then there was the concern that some of the participating delegates were part of AUC’s Organizing Committee not the Academic Committee so they had less experience, as well as the issue of drop outs.
Two hours before the conference, one of the delegates dropped out due to personal matters and was forced to return to Egypt, leaving the Economic and Social Council with only one delegate, Safeya Zeitoun, who was applying for a Chair position. If she were to get this position, there would be no delegation of Togo in the Economic and Social Council. It was essential that someone replace the dropout so that AUC could get a substantial amount of points in that council. “We had Omneya Makhlouf fill in for another delegate and perform perfectly well,” recalls Hamed.
But perhaps the biggest challenge the AUC team had to deal with was the lack of cooperation from other delegates. “Among the obstacles we faced during the conference was the very highly competitive nature of other delegates. As a head delegate it was my duty to support my team and enable them to get through the conference without breaking down,” explains Shafik, noting how other delegates were determined to bring AUCians down by trying not to cooperate with them or excluding them from the group. “Constant support and boosting their esteem is what got the students motivated. Appreciating and recognizing their effort and work is what motivated them to utilize their utmost potential and, of course, providing them with substance when needed. … Constant supervision and feedback sessions after each conference day also helped the team to keep their motivation. Making them realize that such conference highly depends on collective effort, in which each delegate’s work and effort do make a huge difference.”
But what made AUC stand out even more was the acceptance of four of the delegates as Chairs this year. “Our three returning delegates, Mariam Mohsen, Laila Fouad and Safeya Zeitoun were all picked as Chairs in the conference alongside Rana Shafik, one of our Head Delegates [who volunteered to apply for this position],” says Hamed.
At the end of a very tiring and long four days of conferencing, all the hard work paid off when the AUC team nabbed the much-coveted award. “Of course I did not know [for sure] that the AUC delegation was going to get Outstanding,” says Hamed. “However, I believed in my team’s capabilities and skills… Each and every individual on the team was more than qualified to be a delegate at the conference.” et
by Omneya Makhlouf