Society Gave It A Go: Leeds Model United Nations

Thinking on your feet, being a persuasive speaker, and maintaining a certain level of poise are all desirable qualities for any person, especially a recent graduate who wants to pursue a role with a high level of responsibility. For this reason joining societies that help you exercise skills learnt from your degree and are focused around societal issues will definitely add to that all-important CV.

Society editor Lara Groves went along to one of Leeds Model United Nation’s weekly meetings to discover how debating goes global…

As I am now well and truly in my third year, graduation is not far off and so too looms the adult world of jobs and careers. Having deliberated (and re-deliberated …) want I want to do I am looking at undertaking a career in the third sector or public sector. So, to find ways of proving that I am interested in current affairs and know how to construct a good argument besides scrolling through Twitter and writing strongly worded emails to my landlord, I headed to Leeds MUN this week to see if I could summon any debate skills.

Said debate skills, as it turned out, were woefully inaccurate compared to the other fifteen or so participants this week. The meetings follow the style of a real UN debate or conference, and each week the committee pick a topical global issue for the group debate on. This week, it was Tax Evasion, following the leak of financial documents dubbed ‘The Paradise Papers’, in which many countries globally were seen to either be hosting offshore accounts (including such tropical locations as Bermuda, as well as those notably less glamorous – sorry Isle of Man), or having high numbers of citizens participating in tax evasion. It was an interesting debate for Leeds MUN to choose not least because tax evasion, though immoral, is not actually illegal, which formed a substantial part of the debate.

Guests pick a country from a pile, and take on the role of delegate for that country, with the event led by the Chair. It starts with a General Speakers List, where countries who choose to speak ‘take the floor’ in a minute and a half speeches on the issue, including their respective solutions, in what is called a ‘Moderated Caucus’. Several countries had high profile involvement with the Paradise Papers, such as Luxembourg, Germany and the UK. Speakers take turns to offer solutions/motions, which included Punishment of Individuals, Blacklisting Countries, Increasing Transparency and Incentives for Proper Tax Reporting. I was really impressed with the level of knowledge on the subject of the speakers and there were points were debate travelled back and forth remarkably succinctly.

The overall tone was more light-hearted than completely serious due to plenty of joking between delegates, so the atmosphere remained friendly and not staunchly competitive as I had feared. Nevertheless it came quickly apparent that my knowledge of South Africa’s, the country I picked, role in the Paradise Papers was completely nil, so I sat out and instead tried to keep up with the political patter. Next, we moved to ‘Unmoderated Caucus’ where the aim is to get other countries to agree with your motion, before Resolutions are drawn up. In the end, the Resolution 1.1, whose main proposals included ensuring tax evasion remains an international issue, as they argued ‘tax evasion has a detrimental effect on economic development’, won the most votes. Signatories for this were China, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Jamaica and Cuba – echoing relations that exist in the real world.

I sat down briefly with Treasurer Umamah so she could tell me a little more about Model UN and why you should consider coming along. She told me that people from “ all disciplines are encouraged join, not just the Humanities or Business”, and if you are passionate about global affairs or “want to take a leadership role in the near future” you are “always welcome”.  She also says she is continually amazed by the arguments and ways of looking at a problem that people bring to the table, and really helps you “exercise initiative”. If you get really good, there are opportunities to go to conferences across the UK and compete with Model UN groups from other universities. She was also keen to tell me that they hold socials every week and it’s a great way to hang out with people “with the same views or completely opposing ones!”.

I thought the session was definitely thought-provoking, and allowed me to come away feeling as though I knew a lot more about the issue on a global scale. It was great to attend something where everyone gets a say, and is intellectually stimulating while not being stuffy. I would encourage everyone who has an interest in politics, international affairs or those who just take pride in having well-versed opinions on things to come get involved. See you on the floor!


Facebook: Leeds Model United Nations


Lara Groves