Students came together for UTM’s first annual Model United Nations Conference to debate solutions to global issues in human rights, technology, and health in an event hosted by the UTM Debating Club.
The club planned the event in collaboration with UTM Partners in Health, ICCIT, and UTMSU for the weekend of January 31—although it was announced 10 minutes before the conference that some UTMSU representatives who were chairing sub-councils would not be attending after all.
“My expectations are to basically bring the idea of MUN on campus […] We’ve never had something like this,” said Talha Mahmood, president of the Debating Club, before the conference started.
Participants had a forum to represent the various countries of their choice and speak about their views on current global issues while developing their public speaking skills.
The conference was to feature three committees: the UN Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, and the Special Summit on Technology.
Due to the low turnout—22 out of 37 registered participants—including the absence of three UTMSU VPs who were supposed to chair the Human Rights Council—Mahmood and MUN vice-president Bilal Sandeela merged all three committees into a General Assembly and split up the teams into delegates for individual countries.
Mahmood said he was told by UTMSU president Hassan Havili, who participated in the conference, the morning of the event that VP equity Melissa Theodore—who was supposed to chair the council—and VP external Ebi Agbeyegbe were “not feeling well” and that VP university affairs and academics Genny Lawen had prior commitments. Agbeyegbe and Lawen were slated to co-chair the same council.
The assembly was also moved from a large lecture hall in Kaneff to a smaller classroom for the two days.
On the first day, the General Assembly was chaired by Shrey Handa, a fourth-year finance specialist and the director of the conference.
Illegal immigration was discussed in the assembly when the motion proposed by the Iranian delegate to discuss the inflow of narcotics due to illegal immigration was passed.
By the end of the first session, motions were proposed by the delegates of the U.S., the Holy See, the U.K., and India to debate the flow of illegal immigration from Hispanic nations, and consequences such as racist ideologies, terrorism, and tighter border controls. The motions were passed.
In the second half of the day, delegates lobbied and drafted resolutions during the unmoderated caucus. Delegates presented their working papers to the General Assembly, after which the final resolution was voted on.
A resolution by Canada and the Holy See to provide basic necessities to illegal immigrants in every state and create an organization to control illegal immigration passed with 10 votes.
The conference resumed the next day, chaired by second-year history and political science specialist Fergus Talbot. Delegates unanimously voted to take up the issue of cyberterrorism.
After the delegates presented their prospective resolutions, the resolution proposed by France was passed, which called for the increased mandate of the International Criminal Court to try cyberterrorists and the foundation of an international organization to track and prosecute cyberterrorists.
Delegates of Canada, the U.S., India, and France committed to form an international organization to deal with cyberterrorists through financial and other means.
After an hour-long break, the award ceremony was held.
First-year student Siddartha Sengupta, representing the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, received the Best Delegate Award in recognition of his oratory skills. Honourable mention went to sophomore Philip Power (U.S.) and part-time high school, part-time UTM student Hermish Mehta (Holy See, People’s Republic of China).
Asked whether the event was up to his expectations, Talbot said he had mixed feelings.
“On the positive side, the delegates managed to both spark and preserve a lively debate […] On the negative side, both the Debating Club and its MUN subsidiary nearly suffered a setback when three VPs from [UTMSU] decided not to commit to the event,” he said, hoping for “more professionalism and increased support” next time.
“A few executives could not arrive because of unexpected events,” said Havili. “I arrived on campus around 8 a.m. and notified members […] as I was preparing logistics and materials.”
Havili projects that the event will be around on campus for years to come and said it was a great experience.
In a Facebook post after the conference, the UTM Debating Club called it a “unique experience” with “intense, exhilarating and rewarding debates”.
Handa also expressed his satisfaction with the event, adding that the Debating Club will work on making the MUN “bigger and better” in future.