What is Model United Nations?
In 1945, in the wake of World War II, the The United Nations was founded with the original mission of preventing a Third World War. In the time since then, the purview of the United Nations has expanded to a myriad of other subjects, and it has become a vital tool in issues that transcend national borders. Model United Nations, or MUN, is an educational simulation of the United Nations that engages students with international relations and diplomacy.
Representing assigned countries, students assume the role of delegates to the actual United Nations in simulated committees, debating assigned topics with the aim of passing resolutions. MUN conferences facilitate these activities by bringing hundreds of students together from a variety of schools into concentrated committee sessions. Typically sponsored by a high school, college MUN organization, or a related nonprofit, conferences are organized by the Office of the Secretary-General (OSG) and committees are chaired by experienced and passionate university students.
In and of itself, MUN is a globally unifying experience. Thousands of middle school, high school, and college students across the country and around the world participate in Model United Nations. It develops key skills that are necessary to succeed in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. As a simulation of the United Nations, Model UN inherently nurtures a global mindset in its participants. Furthermore, it provides the opportunity for delegates to craft and practice research, writing, and public speaking skills simultaneously, in a practical context. The skills students develop at HAMUN translate into abilities that will help them in a myriad of future professional endeavors. HAMUN is a conference where critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, and diplomacy are a requirement, not a recommendation, for success.
History of HAMUN
In 1975, a Memorial High School world history teacher, the late Andrea Flynn, decided to create a simulation of the United Nations as an educational tool for Houston high school students. That program would become the Houston Area Model United Nations (HAMUN).
The first HAMUN, held in 1976, was a simulation of the UN Security Council. 18 students participated. The program quickly expanded, adding a simulation of the General Assembly (GA) plenary and four committees in HAMUN III. HAMUN VI added a simulation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), with Professor Jordan Paust of the University of Houston Law Center serving as its first president and legal advisor. HAMUN X added a model Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the program expanded further in later years to include many additional UN committees, outside UN Agencies, and even a model International Criminal Court (ICC).
From its original 18 student delegates, HAMUN has grown to encompass many high schools in the Houston area and throughout Texas, including schools from outside Texas and from Mexico. Over one thousand student delegates now attend each year’s conference. Texas college students, mostly former HAMUN delegates, serve as the Secretariat and run day-to-day operations with Board oversight. From its original days, as it grew larger, HAMUN added a Board of Governors in HAMUN IX. Members of the HAMUN Board of Governors have included many distinguished figures from the Houston educational community, including various members of the faculty of the University of Houston, University of St.Thomas, and Texas Southern University.
While originally a program administered in part by the Houston Chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA-USA), HAMUN became a separate nonprofit corporation following HAMUN XVI. In its early days, the University of Houston played a major role in working with Andrea Flynn to make the program a success. Not only were University of Houston professors such as Joseph Nogee and Jordan Paust heavily involved, but the University made its facilities available to HAMUN for its annual conferences (initially free, then at a very low cost) and provided HAMUN with an office in the Department of Political Science. While HAMUN had to move its offices from the University of Houston in 2010 due to the Department’s need for additional faculty space, HAMUN continues to share a close relationship with UH, including through its active Model UN Student Club.
Former HAMUN delegates and Secretariat officers have gone on to serve on the HAMUN Board and in careers in law, medicine, engineering, and international relations. One current HAMUN Board member has assisted in drafting proposal resolutions for the UN Commission on International Law and previously represented the UN/FAO World Food Programme. Other Board members have included veterans of the United Nations itself, including an in-house counsel who worked for the UN for over 20 years.