In a recent editorial published in the Taipei Times, Philip Yang (楊永明), a professor in the department of political science at National Taiwan University (NTU) criticized Taiwan's media for paying too little attention to international events and called on television stations and print media to increase their international coverage and analysis. But if Taiwan's media and citizenry are all but ignoring what is happening off the island's shores, a group of students from NTU have over the past three years been increasing their knowledge of the world through a club known as the Model United Nations (MUN).
The main purpose of the club is to prepare students to participate in MUN conferences like the National MUN conference being held at NTU from Friday to Nov. 26. Open to all university students in Taiwan, the conference has already attracted 185 participants.
Like MUN conferences of its kind in other countries, NTUMUN is a simulation education activity modeled after the UN's General Assembly and focuses on all aspects of multilateral diplomacy. Students take on the roles of foreign diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization (IGO). The "delegates" are given a country to research and then take on the role of a diplomat, investigate important issues influencing their country, debate, deliberate, consult with delegates from other countries and finally develop solutions to world problems.
According to the United Nations Association of the United States of America, more than 90,000 students take part in over 400 model UN conferences in 48 countries throughout the globe every year. While some simulations are small ranging from classroom sizes of 20 students, the largest is the Model UN conference, which is held by Harvard University and generally attracts between 2,000 and 3,000 participants.
"Since we are not a member of the UN, this is the only chance for students to participate in this kind of conference," said Hsiao Yao (蕭瑤), a politics senior and NTUMUN secretary-general.
The NTUMUN shares the same ideals and goals of other organizations of its kind, the members of which must employ a variety of rhetorical skills and critical thinking to defend the policies advanced by their country.
To attend a conference or simulation activity abroad, participants must first past an oral and written test that is created and administered by the NTUMUN club, of which there are currently about 60 members.
The written test covers a broad variety of international topics, rules and procedures of Model UN conferences and writing working papers or resolutions. The oral component tests the student's ability to communicate in English — the language used at the UN — by having them introduce a particular topic and engaging in teamwork.
As Yang points out, the unique aspect of NTUMUN is that it is administered by students for students. From the professional Web site to organizing conferences, the club is a volunteer organization that relies only on student's expertise to get things done.
The UN in Taiwan
The focus of this year's conference will be three UN committees — United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Each committee is given two topics to discuss and debate with the eventual goal of adopting and passing two resolutions by the majority of delegates. Before the conference begins, the chair of each committee chooses one to three delegates to represent each country.