Millennials face pressing issues, BeyMUN conference discusses

Demi Korban
News Editor

With the increasing changes the world is witnessing politically, socially and economically, AUB becomes a platform to discuss, analyze and solve current affairs thanks to BeyMUN.

After a year of sweat, BeyMUN organized its second edition of Beirut International Model United Nations, joining delegates from across cultures to debate on the most urgent issues at stake.

The conference took place over three days, starting off with an opening ceremony on Friday, April 21, where several influential figures took the stage to encourage and advise delegates on how to tackle the topics of debate.

The ceremony was mediated by student Fadi Kanaan, who captivated the audience with an introductory video presenting the conference’s theme as well as the committees.

Millennials at a Crossroad: Facing the Challenges of a Changing World Order” presented itself as the theme during the video. BeyMUN aimed to unify the voices and ambitions of millennials with their theme in order to achieve milestones for world order.

The conference was composed of four committees being DISEC (Disarmament and International Security), WHO (World Health Organization), ECOSOC (The United Nations Economic and Social Council), and a Crisis Committee.

The dais leading each committee was formed by a chair and two assistant chairs. The dais’s role was to write study guides, moderate the conference and choose the Best Delegate Award winners.

Two topics were covered by the DISEC committee, which was chaired by business student Mira Fakhreddine, being “Cyber Warfare and Weaponizing of Social Media” and “Emerging Technologies, Security and Regulations.”

The ECOSOC committee, chaired by E3 student Pamela Rizkallah, also tackled two key economic issues that the world is facing, which are “Reassuring Free-Trade Areas and Agreements” and “Regulating the Sharing Economy.”

In face of the rising conflicts the world is facing the WHO committee, chaired by pre-med student Yara Barbar, dug into two topics: “Coordination and Response in the Face of Human Crises” and “Addressing Health Concerns in Areas of Conflict.”

The last committee, the Crisis Committee, debated the topic of UN Whistleblowers. Biology student Malika Elhage Hassan chaired the committee, which was considered the most advanced.

Following the video that elaborately discussed each committee’s topics and aims, Secretary General and Political Studies student Rim Sinjabi took the stage to shed light on BeyMUN’s achievements.

“BeyMUN you did not cut corners, you did not jump on free rides and you did not do the minimum required, instead you went above and beyond and instilled discipline that overwhelms me with pride, and here I would like to pay special tribute to our Director General Nader Noueiri, to our three Under Secretary Generals Hanan Adlouni, Fatima Haidar, and Fadi Kanaan. They helped me steer the wheel and direct this three-day international conference in the right direction.”

Sinjabi also offered extended thanks to the support of AUB, the efforts of BeyMUN 2016, the help of the student body and the enthusiasm of current delegates and MUN-ers.

The Secretary General also shared the immense achievements that BeyMUN has accomplished since its first edition, last year.

“This year BeyMUN is bigger and better, we went from having 150 delegates registered in 2016 to 430 in 2017. From three committees to four. From having 1.3 percent of international students to 20.7 percent. From having no app to having an app,” Sinjabi said.

The newly-created application, which is available on both iOS and Android, will give delegates access to all the information they will need throughout the conference. Not only that, the app will send breaking news to test the delegates’ ability to face urgent issues. The committee chairs can also notify their delegates through the app as a way to engage them more in the topic.

Sinjabi also discussed the immense energy and force it takes in order to be part of BeyMUN and complete your studies at the same time.

“Now, if all of this has not impressed you already, let me tell you a couple of things about hosting an MUN conference, it is a fully-fledged job that in an alternative universe, you would be paid good money for, why, because it comes with demands, expectations, and challenges of a full-time job and on top of all of that, you have to fulfill your academic requirements,” Sinjabi shared. “Every member in BeyMUN has impressively juggled their responsibilities in BeyMUN and their academic work and other extracurricular activities.”

BeyMUN is a place for all due to the wide array of positions and roles that make it up, be it leader, manager, writer, creator, designer, trainer, artist, photographer, developer, delegate or more.

Sinjabi ended by giving the delegates advice on how to approach the pressing issues they will encounter during the three-day conference.

“Today, Millennials stand face-to-face with a new world but the weight of history of still heavy on their shoulders, therefore when you join the debates on emerging technologies, on commercial drones, on 3D printing, on cyber warfare, on the shared economy, such as Uber and Airbnb, on whistleblowers, on health concerns in refugee camps and war torn countries, do not repeat the same mistakes of the past and let your solutions be colored with the values of our generation,” Sinjabi said.

The first guest speaker was the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs’ very own Director, Tarek Mitri, PhD, who has served as Minister of Environment, Minister of Culture, Minister of Information, and Minister of Foreign Affairs throughout his service in four consecutive governments running between 2005 and 2011. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also chose Mitri to lead the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

Throughout his speech, Mitri compared, contrasted, and critiqued the structure and role of the UN today with its ambition when it was first conceived.

“I am going to look into the mirror of the United Nations to try and understand, not claim to explain, but try to understand the changing world order. Faith in UN doesn’t grow anymore without saying, disappointment and criticism of its shortcomings and failures are quite common, in this part of the world and elsewhere,” Mitri said.

He continued to speak about the utopian world that the UN promised when it was first established.

“I’m using the word utopia without meaning international attempts to create an ideal world order or a universal societal model; that simply does not and will not exist. I meant by utopia, a defining and energizing principle of hope, not an exercise of fertile imagination of what a perfect world should be. In the early years after its inception, the general assembly of the united nations was a custodian of the utopia,” Mitri elaborated.

He referred to Kofi Annan’s 2005 report titled in larger freedom, which criticized the General Assembly for focusing too much on achieving consensus and for having a largely broad agenda.

Mitri said that the larger the assembly became the less authority it had over its members.

“With a few exceptions, the UN failed to protect civilians. We were constantly reminded that the UN is an organization of sovereign states. Therefore, the United Nations, and I conclude, is bound to live with inconsistencies in a changing world order and may not be able to choose once and for all between contradictory values, those of sovereignty and no intervention, in one hand, and promoting human rights, protecting human population, on the other,” Mitri said.

However, despite the harsh criticism the organization receives, Mitri said that the UN plays a global role in politics.

“Such inconsistencies make the UN in the eyes of many people less beneficial than what it pretends to be, but living with inconsistencies is better than losing relevance. No matter how disappointing the United Nations can be, a world without the United Nations would be undeniably a worse place to live in,” he said.

In between the reflective speeches, the AUB Zaki Nassif Ensemble for Arabic Music entertained the crowd with lively tunes and angelic voices.

Next to speak was Her Excellency Christina Lassen, the EU ambassador, who has taken on many influential roles during her career, being the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Danish Ambassador to Syria and Jordan.

“Mabrook for choosing to spend your weekend on this, because I’m not exaggerating when I say I envy you in a very positive way for the opportunity you have this weekend to throw yourself into the universe of multilateralism and international cooperation,” she said. “Participating in a Model UN is a chance that I never actually had myself, but I wish I had it, but even more so I wish that all students of the Middle East as well as the politicians sometimes, would get such an opportunity.”

She added that the conference is a chance for the youth to consider the challenges that they may face as future decision makers.

Her excellency, Lassen also emphasized what Mitri previously mentioned about the UN’s image and work.

“The world without the UN will be a world much worse to live in, that’s why the European Union engages with its partners as a natural response. In times of change and unpredictability, challenges such as terrorism, climate change and migration, can only be successively met if we all work together,” she said.

The European Union has a strong relationship with the UN, being its largest financial contributor.

“We believe in this organization but we also believe that we can all work to make it work even better,” Lassen added.

Lassen told the students to be more critical during the debates they will take part in throughout the conference.

“As you will engage in debates of future challenges that you face as millennials, I encourage you today to look at the world from a global and multilateral perspective, in spite of all the frustrations and the hard work,” Lassen said. “I encourage to not only rest importance on strong cooperation and multilateralism, but also to cast a critical eye on what’s been achieved and the way it has been achieved and the shortcomings and missed opportunities that Dr. Mitri was pointing at. It’s only by doing so that we can cultivate the necessary knowledge to build courageous and strong international partnerships in the face of challenges of a changing world order.”

Last to speak during the opening ceremony was the German Ambassador to Lebanon, Martin Huth. Throughout his career, he had long withstanding positions in the UN, where he represented his very own country, Germany.

Huth spoke about the UN in parallel to the previous speakers, who were criticizing the work of the intergovernmental organization.

“It is not surprising that in a time where the world and various regions of the world are facing so many challenges and so many problems that discussions multiply about the usefulness of the United Nations, its successes and certainly its failures,” the German Ambassador said. “I have witnessed and taken part in a number of these discussions and I have to say to you that they always end with us agreeing that despite all the failures and shortcomings, if the UN didn’t exist, it would need to be invented, and I would add that the same is probably true for the Security Council, as well, as unrepresentative as it may be.”

Huth added that the challenges that the UN is facing are similar to those the world is facing. One prominent challenge relates to terrorism.

“How we can actually fight terrorism in an effective way if we can’t even agree on a definition for terrorism and that has been a state of affairs in the UN for many years. There is no agreement on what terrorism actually is but we still commit to fighting it. That just gives you a taste of what some of the challenges are like,” Huth said.

Huth then recalled three personal experiences he had while working with the UN.

“The first experience relates to something probably close to all our hearts, that is the issue of Palestine. I was fortunate enough to be in the General Assembly when President Mahmoud Abbas came to the UN waving a paper saying this is the membership application for Palestine,” Huth said.

He continued that it wasn’t very fortunate for him because he was supposed to debate the application. Along with his colleagues, Huth questioned how he deal with the issue as a professional. So, what they did was look at it from a leader perspective and investigate whether Palestine is a state and what components make up a state.

“I must say to you that it was clear from the beginning that the application of Palestine would not receive the sufficient majority within the Security Council to be passed and adopted,” Huth said.

Huth’s second experience is related to a new concept, which is the responsibility to protect.

“It is convincing and appealing to say that in today’s world, a country is not entirely sovereign anymore, that the principle of noninterference has its clear limits and that the first duty of a state is to actually look after its citizens, rather than to ward off anybody who wants to express their view from the outside and say, you know, it’s not okay how you treat your people in terms of human rights,” Huth said. “This is a good idea but as with any wonderful concept, if it is in the hands of the wrong people, it can have its detrimental effects and I think we have seen some of this in this region here.”

His last experience was an educational one as a result of engaging with delegates from various countries across the world.  

“I find it absolutely exciting working there, being able practically everyday to meet with delegates from 193 countries, knowing fully well that some of the discussion will be tough, there will be so called friends, there will be so called enemies,” he said. “But what you learn actually is that you are dealing with intelligent and gifted people who do their best to represent their countries, who do their best to present their views, and who do not turn away from even the most frustrating meeting at the UN without ever having learned something and gaining insights.”

And so the opening ceremony came to its end, and delegates cheered the beginning of the second BeyMUN conference.

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