Should COVID-19 vaccine patents be shared globally? Aside from vaccines, what options are available for countries around the world? VMA students recently discussed such issues in the final class of their Politics and International Relations course. They imitated the committee proceedings of the World Health Organization, set up the roles of bureau members, representatives of various countries, and news center reporters, and successfully completed a small Model United Nations (MUN) meeting.
During the class, representatives from developed countries, developing countries, and least developed countries were given equal opportunities to speak. Each representative tried their best to speak for the group they were chosen to represent. What the representatives were likely to face was a dilemma between “maximizing national interests” and “sharing global results”. International relations are not just about knowledge in textbooks or the game of interests between various countries. Neither are they as deceitful and arrogant as the media might suggest. Delegates were exposed to real international affairs, shared their respective experience and limitations in epidemic prevention, while proposing a global, mutually beneficial, optimal solution to the COVID-19 challenge, and simulated the process of international policy formulation.
MUN is more than “Debate on behalf of a country”
The MUN conference has a set of strict rules and procedures to promote its process, which helps ensure the fairness and justice of its decision-making. Preparation before the meeting is also extremely important. All participants need to have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations of the UN. Bureau members and representatives of various countries need to write background documents and position papers respectively, which will form important arguments for their speeches at the meeting.
All participants abide by the principle that procedural matters are passed by a simple majority and substantive matters are passed by a two-thirds majority in both the running of meetings and the reaching of resolutions. The performance of each representative will be considered comprehensively. After the meeting, the best position paper, best delegate, and other honorary winners will be selected according to the nomination of the Bureau and voting by representatives.
MUN has its unique charm and value, and is widely popular among young students. “The biggest advantage of MUN is that it allows students to participate in the discussion of international issues and the formulation of international policies through role-playing, allowing them to see the positions and perspectives of different countries, and the complexity of the issues, so as to get rid of prejudices and cultivate empathy.” This classroom model is also the embodiment of the VMA philosophy of “cultivating global citizens and leaders with Chinese identity”.
This year’s Politics and International Relations course is mainly for VMA G10 students. It is the first time for most of the 21 participants to attend MUN, but their lack of experience did not stop them from speaking in public. They had many creative insights, and were respectful enough to leave time for other representatives to speak after expressing their own positions, which impressed the teacher Ms. Huang deeply. She said that although there are certain limitations in using MUN for experiential learning in the classroom, and the entire meeting preparation process is quite time-consuming, it still has irreplaceable value, and the fun it brings greatly promotes the classroom learning effect.
Ms. Huang also added a reflection session to the traditional MUN meeting format. After the meeting, students must present in the form of group discussions or reports. “My experience is that it is valuable to do so because students truly learn better by doing,” she wrote it in her teaching reflection.
Ms. Huang said that in recent years, the field of global education has frequently mentioned a term - “Global Competence”, which is defined as “the ability to analyze regional, global, and cross-cultural issues, and to understand others’ opinions and perspectives; the ability to understand and appreciate, the ability to interact openly, appropriately and effectively with people of different cultural backgrounds, and the ability to take action for collective well-being and sustainable development.” Whether it is through MUN meetings or other forms of learning in the classroom, she hopes the students can think independently, analyze and process information critically, and deal with global changes from a broader perspective.