Here we go. Mexico –> Boston –> Brussels.
“In Brussels, we ask: why do things simply when you can make them complicated?” Laughs resounded as the opening speaker finished her remarks in the auditorium of the Bozar theatre in Brussels, Belgium. It was true, Brussels is known for its many different tiers and levels of governance over the years, despite it being such a small country. This week, we would be simulating the work of the United Nations right here in a city at the crossroads of Europe–
this was Harvard WorldMUN 2014.
On the one hand, it was very strange to be sitting once again in a very familiar place while being in a wholly foreign country. I first participated in Model United Nations in middle school and continued throughout high school, but it has been a long time since I have sat with my fellow chairs, secretariat, and delegates at the opening ceremony of a conference like this one. And I have certainly never attended one of this size (Harvard World Model United Nations has well over 1,000 participants from around the world). But to back here wearing my old Model UN hat feels incredible. It’s an activity that is easy to fall in love with–not only because of its unique mission of bringing students together to discuss issues of international concern, but too because of its promise of conferences that are part-classroom, part-design space, and full-camaraderie.
As Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, stepped up to the podium to give the keynote address, the room fell silent. I couldn’t help but think that Inesha would have loved to be there too, listening to the words of such an important figure in European politics, especially considering the ongoing conflict regarding Crimea. For an American like myself, Van Rompuy’s description of the relationship between different European delegations was one that I hadn’t heard before. He said that “Europe can be derided at times as a Florence Nightingale” in that the continent is not a soft power, but does command soft powers. “We don’t just send nurses and nutritionists…” he said, highlighting the variety of resources at the Council’s disposal. If negotiation is truly an art form as Van Rompuy believes it to be, then he said that the United Nations is not just a diplomatic body between nations, but too helps to build greater understanding between the people within them.
A second address was given by Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who spoke about the Sustainable Development Goals–the next installment that is being discussed as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals which expire in 2015. He came to the end of his address to a truly international audience of students, professors, advisers, and esteemed guests at the opening ceremony with this short story:
Imagine that there is a small boy with a bird in his hands. He asks a woman near him: “Is this bird alive or dead?”
If she says “alive,” then he will squeeze the bird and it will die. If she says “dead,” then he will open his hands and set the bird free.
Either way, the woman would be wrong.
So what is the answer to the boy’s query? The woman says to the child: “The answer is in your hands.“
Hence the theme of Harvard World Model United Nations 2014:
Be part of the story.