Last week a select group of sixth form students attended a Model United Nations event at the Felsted School. Year 12 student Maddy Howard has kindly written up her reflections on the day:

On the 27th and 28th of February alongside 7 other students, I had the amazing opportunity to attend an annual and regional MUN conference at the prestigious Felsted independent school. It was an honour to be invited and the fact that the sixth form at Thomas Gainsborough is connected to the event is a fabulous opportunity that I am sure many students in the future will also utilise and be inspired by.

The conference did seem intimidating to begin with due to the suggested extensive preparation, the certain and specific language used as well as the fact that to get the most out of the experience it usually involved speaking in front of others. However, we were soon put at ease with the welcoming initial opening ceremony in one of the many lavishly decorated halls that in particular included the introduction of the charity ‘Flying Seagulls’, which was headed by the charismatic Ash and was supported over the weekend through the selling of merchandise. After this, we began to debate topics within small groups which allowed acclimatisation to the nature of the event. Starting in these small committees meant that we all got used to how we were expected to act formally, how to suggest ‘resolutions’ and how to raise questions and remarks. In each committee we further covered a range of global issues and current affairs, whilst also making sure that the voices of the countries we were allocated to were also represented.

It was clearly notable that through the first day everyone's confidence grew and the majority of attendees contributed at least one argument which was really lovely to see. The organisation of lobbying and ‘mingling’ intervals through the day also meant that we got to socialise and meet new people behind the countries they argued for, as well as making good use of the generous food and drinks selection provided. Making connections with other people was one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip, especially as it was a trip that clearly attracted students who shared an interest in perhaps pursuing future courses, learning and careers in international relations, economics, politics, English and even geography. 

The second day further built upon and developed public speaking skills, critical thinking and social connection through continuing conference debates that replicated the setup of the UN but on a larger scale compared to the day before. We began with combined committee meetings that consisted of Ecology and Environment, Health, Economic & Social and Human Rights committees all being interchanged to allow conversations on relevant topics such as vaccinations to be further discussed. To hear a range of views from the global community was relevant, educational and useful to consider, as it illustrated the different perspectives and arguments of say the ability and approach to sustainable development in different nations all over the world. This further encouraged discussions and innovative thinking in how these issues may be solved in the future. Therefore, despite the whole event essentially mocking up the actual UN meetings, it was in itself also useful especially as in a decade or so many positions of such global leaders will be replaced by those of our generation, which places a huge responsibility to tackle the growing issues with sensitivity, effectiveness and appropriate priorities. 

The debates and meetings also enlightened me to the difficulty of tackling global issues, with so many countries having to come to shared conclusions despite being on different economic, development, political and geographical fronts, demanding a certain amount of compromisations on many parts. Some ‘resolutions’ took entire mornings to pass through several different views, interjections and amendments being made. However, this just reiterated the importance of having such forms of global governance in order to stop divides and global conflict perpetuating without the effective communication between nations.

Later on in the second day we also had a speech provided by foreign affairs and internationally recognised journalist Thomas Sparrow. Working as a correspondent for many media companies and outlets such as the BBC and NBS, he is actively involved in the communication and updates of current affairs, particularly regarding the escalating Russia/Ukraine conflict. In his informative speech he  focused on the ever relevant topic of censorship and reliability of sources, especially as he stressed he has found has many manipulated reports of the current conflicts in the media at the moment, as a result reminding us of the utmost important to identify and prevent mass media misinformation and the insidious and deliberately misleading ‘disinformation’ from causing confusion that is often used to create biases and even the basis for further propaganda.

To end the last day we were then faced with an ‘emergency conference’ in which we were given a realistic but fictional event - in this case the invasion of Taiwan by China, that we had to try to tackle through debates and governance strategies. It was more nerve wracking to talk in front of everyone at this stage due to all the approximately 30 teams each made up of 4-6 people being grouped together. Despite this, I feel teams were able to effectively approach a new situation with an effective conclusion through the acquisition of all the skills that were learnt over the course of the trip.

Overall, in reflection I feel not only are we all incredibly grateful for all the teachers who made it possible for us to attend, but that we also look back on it being hugely successful, rewarding and engaging event that introduced us to so many new perspectives, skills, laughs and friends formed over both days, being something that if given the opportunity I am sure many of us would love to replicate next year as well!