Gaining moMUNtum: Working Towards a More Equitable Model United Nations Circuit
For the hundreds of thousands of students who participate in Model United Nations every year, these international relations simulation conferences are an incredibly enriching, uplifting, and educationally impactful opportunity. Students research, debate, and collaborate to resolve the world’s most pressing issues. They hone critical academic and social skills, while building a network with universities and peers that will last a lifetime.
MUN experiences are transformative and empowering in many ways — for those who are able to participate.
While dozens of countries from around the world might be represented at a conference, the MUN circuit overall is not always an equitable place. moMUNtum is a national, not-for-profit, student-led organization that seeks to change this.
Gated Access to a Global Activity
As we discuss in moMUNtum’s National Framework for Action (written by contributors from all over the country), there are many barriers to access in MUN. MUN conferences require traveling to a university, finding meals and accommodations, and wearing business attire. A dedicated teacher (and working/caretaker students) must take time off work and be away from family for an entire weekend.
It’s not just expensive plane flights and hotel reservations — for many students, not knowing how to start a MUN club or how to compete in the committee room poses a challenge to participation. MUN culture is filled with jargon, nuanced parliamentary procedure, and insider traditions. A novice club grapples with all of these obstacles simultaneously. A negative or overwhelming conference experience lowers the probability that a school will attend another conference.
Due to these burdens, MUN has historically benefitted students from wealthy private schools who can afford the material and mental expense of conferences. The high cost and knowledge barriers mean that certain backgrounds are perpetually excluded from meaningful inclusion, like students from poorly funded, rural, or racial/ethnic minority areas.
Elitist MUN systems are obviously harmful to the historically underrepresented groups who don’t get to participate, but they’re also damaging to the educational environment overall. When diverse voices are absent, we lose the vibrancy of debate that makes MUN a dynamic representation of actual global affairs.
MUN Leaders Taking Charge
At moMUNtum, we believe that since MUN has the power to create world leaders for tomorrow, MUN leaders have the responsibility to make the MUN world better today. We have several ongoing initiatives to help achieve a more equitable circuit.
moMUNtum partners with conferences all over the country to help execute equitable conferences, including assisting with diversity recruitment, structuring financial aid plans, thinking through committee selection, and designing inclusive programming. We host educational panels with speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, including current and former MUN delegates, international relations professionals, and collegiate conference secretariats. We have an open blog to share stories and social media pages to promote innovative MUN ideas. We provide resources and hands-on assistance to new clubs through our moMUNtum Launch incubator. We are even running a MUN Leadership summer camp in North Carolina!
Importantly, at moMUNtum we believe that everyone has something unique to contribute to our movement. We have designed our organization to be incredibly low-hierarchy and high-engagement. We are constantly in search of additional collaborators and contributors who can help us develop our current projects or discover fresh ones.
If you love global affairs and want to help provide an educationally, socially, and professionally impactful experience to delegates of all backgrounds, join our project and help keep up the moMUNtum!
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Mikhal is a rising 3rd year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University studying Statistics and Peace, War, and Defense through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. Mikhal's American-Israeli background lent her a passion for global awareness from a young age, which she nurtured through Model United Nations, language immersion, and exchange programs throughout high school and college. She is the founder and co-director of moMUNtum, a national, student-led, not-for-profit organization dedicated to making MUN more accessible, equitable, and uplifting for all.