March 2013

Making international politics accessible to students

MUN stands for Model United Nations. The rest of the letters is added depending on the city or country it is taking place. There are over 400 MUNs taking place all over the world every year and one of them is in Cochabamba!.

By: Joanna Filejski
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Schleswig-Holstein - Germany

Official Dressing

Photo: Courtesy Federico Fröbel School

What is a Model United Nations?

It is a simulation of the United Nations in which students take the place of a delegate of a country (usually not their own) and debate about different world issues. They sit in committees, as for example the Human Rights Council, and talk about the situation of human rights in Iran or alike. Their job is to debate as the delegate of their appointed country, which means they do not defend their own opinion, but the one of the country. It may, in fact, be very different than ones view on the matter. The goal is to write a strong resolution that will pass the committee and in some cases the simulated General Assembly. Resolutions that pass are then sent to the actual United Nations, as their benefit from those simulations is to see, if students may come up with solutions to problems politics and diplomats did not think of.


The Cochabamba simulation takes place in the Colegio Alemán Federico Froebel (CAFF) and hosts more or less 100 students from five departments of Bolivia during its three-day conference. The students have participated in TOLMUN, a Mexican simulation, since 2001, but this year was the first time to host such an event in their own school. BOLMUN CAFF was organized mainly by students with the help of ambitious teachers. The participants were high school and university students from the districts of La Paz, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Sucre and Cochabamba with each school sending around 10 “delegates”.

The language used in this event is Spanish as all participants speak it, but there are plans to have a MUN with other German schools and hence doing the simulation in German. During the simulation there are certain rules which determine the course of events. The students are expected to dress formally just like real delegates and they are only allowed to speak following certain rules. These are called the “Rules of Procedure” and there are two existing in South America. One comes from Mexico and the other one from Argentina with CAFF sticking to the rules from Mexico.

They determine when someone is allowed to speak, if the resolution can be amended or when to take a break. The costs are mainly covered by school funds, but each student has to pay US$ 20 in order to participate. The participants are also expected to have participated at least in two MUNs prior to BOLMUN CAFF. Although it is a model of the United Nations, the organizers have decided to add some committees distal from it. Some of the non-UN committees included the G-20 or the Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) as they have the same aim as other UN committees, which are to discuss current world issues and finding solutions for them. CAFF is also the first school to add the penalty court to its MUN, a committee that was only found in university level simulations. Prior to the “real thing” CAFF organizes a Mini-BOLMUN with primary school students. This way, even the younger students have the chance to learn more about world issues as Camilo Cuba, 18, Secretary General, tells me. They discuss them in a smaller circle, so when they enter big simulations as 15-year-olds they have the confidence of actively participating as the delegate of their country.

Official Opening Ceremony

Photo: Courtesy Federico Fröbel School

What benefits does participation in BOLMUN CAFF bring?

I asked this question both teachers and students. The principal of CAFF, Señora Mary Angulo, and the coordinator of BOLMUN CAFF, Señora Clara Sensano, both agreed that their students are able to gain skills they couldn’t have gotten in any other way. MUN participants are confident and great team players; competences every employer looks for. Furthermore they are able to tackle real world problems as they have practiced it many times and are able to debate. This means they can listen, understand and argue without being offensive, a skill many people lack. The students also have to take responsibility and learn to organize and lead an event with so many participants. The simulation helps a lot in forming their personality as it gives them many opportunities to develop.

“The simulation definitely has the potential to develop into something bigger.”

The students I spoke to, although aged 16-18, were very confident and appeared much more mature. They spoke calmly and reflected what the teachers had just mentioned about their gained skills and formed personality. They had taken some of the most important positions in the simulation. Macarena Olea, 18, and the Deputy Secretary General, told me that in her opinion the delegates of BOLMUN CAFF 2012 can be very satisfied with their results and “the simulation definitely has the potential to develop into something bigger.” The other two agree and Rodrigo Torrico Lema, 16, Moderator of the Security Council, adds that by having the Mini-BOLMUN as a preparation to the later simulation, all students are invited to participate in such an event. When asked what they learned while participating they all agreed that besides having a much broader knowledge about international politics, they also learn to analyze and discuss, “which is very important also in other stages in life” says Rodrigo. Macarena adds: “Your character gets formed and your personality shaped by participating.” When it comes to their professional careers, two of the students told me they want to go into a political direction. Lorena Quiroga Torrelio, 16, President of the OEA this year, said that she wants to study International Politics. “Having the BOLMUN experiences makes me much more orientated in this subject. It is a great start as to how politics work on an international level which makes it a lot easier for me to understand”, she tells me. Macarena is the only one not wanting to go directly into politics, but she stills sees many benefits for her career: “I want to do business management. You can see BOLMUN CAFF as a little company itself. You have to manage the whole process of debating and have the responsibility for a lot of people which is a great practice of management.”

Cochabamba Mayor and other authorities

Photo: Courtesy Federico Fröbel School

The simulation, however, is not meant to be praise to the real political organization of the United Nations. The students learn to understand the UN and question it. They say it is a great idea with big potential, but also has many errors. Their job is to find out what lacks the UN and try to improve it by adding their suggestions. BOLMUN CAFF is a great chance to learn about politics, other opinions and meet new people. The students also improve their chances in their professional career, as many leaders in law, government and business around the world are former MUN-participants.

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