Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
“Reconsider your privileges and let go of your beliefs.” This is the advice that Wannes Lint, president of the United Nations Student Association (UNSA), gives in his speech at the opening ceremony of the EuroMUN 2010, at the MECC on Wednesday 5 May. According to Lint, putting yourself in the shoes of people from another country, without holding onto your own perspective, is the only way to find surprising solutions to the international issues that are currently being discussed. The opening ceremony kicks off the third Model United Nations (MUN) in Maastricht. The UNSA is in charge of organising the event, and has managed to attract 535 students from 50 countries and 112 universities. It is their job to represent the viewpoints of a given UN member at the different committee meetings during this five-day conference.
The Aula is packed with students. The majority are Dutch or German, but representatives from other continents are easy to spot too. How did they all manage to get here? And how did they find out about the EuroMUN in the first place? Kenyan students Jane Bosbori and Nyambura Maina from the United States International University in Nairobi spontaneously signed up online when they googled it one night. “This is our first time in Europe”, says Bosbori. “We’ll attend another conference in Germany and then go to Paris”. They could both see themselves working for the United Nations in the future. Maina: “I like the humanitarian part of international relations. I want to represent my country abroad, but the most important thing is to fix things at home. So I won’t move away from Kenya like many students of my generation do”. Both have attended other MUNs in the past. The friends they met at the Kenya MUN formed their greatest incentive in coming to Europe.
Conference manager Arian Meyer, a second-year student of European Studies, confirms that meeting people from all around the world is the best part about the MUNs. But guest speaker Caecilia Wijgers, from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, believes that there is more to it. “MUN makes students realise what international negotiations are like. And how difficult it can be to reach a consensus.” Wijgers’s job is to represent the Dutch vision on post-conflict situations at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Wijgers: “It’s not only about being a convincing speaker. The key is to understand that countries look at problems from different perspectives”.