The City of Royals Once More in the Spotlight of World Affairs

By February 29, 2020 No Comments

© Tilman Turpin, 2020

Reims. When Katia Garnier-Luna, President of Reims International Model United Nations (RIMUN), took the stage, much had already been said by more experienced orators. But it was her appeal to the 250 student-turned-diplomats that set the tone for a weekend of debate of “Changing the Status Quo” at the Reims campus of Sciences Po Paris: “Model United Nations is not about International Relations of the present, but about International Relations of the future.”

Model United Nations, mimicking the processes of professional diplomacy as an educational tool, has a long tradition in Reims, as Frédéric Mion, President of Sciences Po highlighted. Next year, RIMUN will be celebrating its 10th edition. Students listened on and enjoyed a cocktail at the Reims city hall before the conference – and work – truly began.

Committees in French and English, reflecting the diversity of the delegates, fostered thought-provoking discussions and new solutions to address the most pressing issues of modern and past times.

Uncommon for a Model United Nations conference at the university level, many high school students took an active role in committees tailored to them. Many first time delegates were able to learn from MUN veterans and debate human rights violations in countries they had little knowledge of previously.

Some delegates listened more carefully to Ms. Lauren Beakley, a guest speaker from the US embassy to France, and followed her recommendation of “listening more than you speak,” while others pressed forwards in the debates.

Heated debates directly erupted on Capitol Hill, room K302, as Senators fiercely argued the removal of the sitting US President, Donald J. Trump. It all comes down to the president’s control of his party. The verdict: 50-50! Democratic pressure campaigns remain unsuccessful, Trump in office. Acquitted! An ironic outcome for a conference that aimed to change the status quo.

Unimpressed by the US President’s behavior, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) was committed to end femicides and other acts of violence against women. While most of the resolutions are recommendations to member states, the committee carefully designed them to bind as many member states to cooperate as possible. Their biggest success undoubtedly is the creation of the United Nations Agency on Women’s Rights in Conflict Zones monitoring and reporting about women in danger to the UN directly, facilitating a faster decision-making process to prevent femicides.

On Sunday, the UNCSW was joined by the all-male FIFA, presenting their proposals for a stronger integration of women into football. After extensive questioning by the UNCSW, many of their proposals were supported, giving them further credibility. Whether FIFA will follow up on their proposed path to creating a “second Olympia” where gender is unimportant to spectators and the professionals are treated equally, remains unclear.

Following the Commission on the Status of Women in the pursuit of equality and the protection of basic human rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) debated the pressing issues of improving access to education for refugees and climate change and forced displacement. Content with their resolutions, the delegates erupted in a joyful rendition of “Stand by me” by Ben E. King, followed by further karaoke performances.

Meanwhile in the Soviet Union, the Polit-Buro had few reasons to dance. Dealing with the 1986 nuclear catastrophe at the Chernobyl power plant, the Polit-Buro of the Soviet Union was in crisis, arguing controversial propositions to contain the crisis. Ultimately, the KGB found itself with no other alternative than to kill President Gorbachev. General Pikalov took over the regime and narrowly avoided nuclear war with the United States. However, a deadly virus killed the entire Soviet Elite, causing the premature collapse of the Soviet Union in 1986. The collapse might have been prevented, if it were not for an excessive party the night before.

Saturday evening, delegates and guests gathered in the historical Palais du Tau, once the residency of French Kings during their coronation in Reims. It was a brilliant gala filled with glamour and joy, where delegates were able to practice their soft diplomacy skills. This event is one of the most memorable occasions of the weekend: drinking champagne, making new friends, and dancing to the sounds of Afrobeat and the Chillbeanz all made for an exciting evening.

Photo 2: © Clément Guermeur

Unfortunately for the debates and important votes, many delegates seemed to have been incapable of continuing their diplomatic functions following Saturday night. Some might have had trouble finding their way back home, others resumed the negotiations in more private settings and must have found bilateral agreements, rendering some of the debates obsolete, much to the dismay of their fellow diplomats who were in attendance.

Photo 3: © Clément Guermeur

When RIMUN came to an end on Sunday afternoon and the delegates went back to their home countries to inform their supervisors of the agreements, the staff stayed behind. RIMUN could not have been as successful had it not been for the team behind it. While the executive team was applauded by Mr. Mion, vast amounts of the organization went almost unnoticed. Working tirelessly for not only the weekend, but the weeks leading up to the conference, the entire RIMUN team can be proud of the conference they put up. They helped illuminate Reims once more, putting it on the map of world affairs. All members of the association deserve to be proud of the work they did and hopefully got a good night of sleep afterward – after all, they need to be well rested for RIMUN 2021.

Photo 4: © Diva Jain

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