Model United Nations at AUC Celebrates 25th Anniversary
The largest student-run activity on campus with more than 500 members, MUN went from an experiment to an institution
In 1989, the United Nations Association invited AUC to send a Model United Nations (MUN) delegation to Moscow for its annual conference. Tim Sullivan, provost emeritus and former political science professor, recruited a number of distinguished AUC students and flew to Moscow. The team fared well, and a tradition was born: the Cairo International Model United Nations (CIMUN), which has flourished over the years to become the largest and most prestigious Model United Nations conference in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the largest student-run activity on campus with more than 500 members. Today, the conference is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“The Model United Nations at AUC started as an experiment and is now an institution,” said Sullivan. “I wanted to use it, and the Model Arab League (MAL), to teach students how to think creatively out of the box, how to take responsibility for their actions, and how to organize and manage a program. I think it has been a marvelous success, and I am very proud of all the students who have benefited from participating in it over the years.”
This week, CIMUN managed their biggest event of the year –– the annual conference at AUC New Cairo. Speakers at the conference included Khawla Mattar, director of the UN Information Center in Cairo, on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; and Ambassador Hesham Badr, deputy foreign minister and head of multilateral affairs at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. AUC President Lisa Anderson and May Kassem, associate professor of political science, were also in attendance.
“The conference was both exciting and stressful, as we have been working the entire year toward this week’s events,” said Hussein Heiba, head of CIMUN’s organizing committee. “This year, our slogan was ‘The Change of Power, the Power of Change.’ Our goals were to build a strong platform, to continue competing at the highest level possible and to leave a legacy and foundation for the next set of leaders.
The conference caps what has been a busy and productive year for CIMUN. It hosted an iftar (breakfast) and activities for approximately 60 orphans during Ramadan; held a three-day MUN conference for refugees that included 30 participating delegates; collaborated with the Student Union to organize an on-campus awareness program about the plight of people in Gaza that raised a total of LE 300,000 in aid; hosted the seventh Junior Cairo International Model United Nations conference, bringing more than 500 students from 26 different high schools to AUC New Cairo; and collaborated and formed a partnership with the United Nations programs in Egypt. “I’m very happy about what we have achieved and honored to be part of the high board of the 25th CIMUN,” said Heiba.
CIMUN began as a single simulation of the United Nations Security Council and has grown over the years to include several major UN fields of operation. Each year, participants engage in lively discussions about a variety of challenging and controversial topics on the agenda of the UN and international community, paving the way for many to occupy leading posts in foreign diplomacy and public service after graduation.
Among the first of those students was Mohamed El Farnawany ’89, the first secretary-general of MUN. El Farnawany, who received the Parents Association Cup from AUC in 1989, said that his long career in diplomacy owes much to his time spent with CIMUN. “It helps students develop skills such as research, negotiation, public speaking and organization of events,” he affirmed. “When you are young and develop these kind of skills, as well as a better understanding of the dynamics of interaction on an interpersonal and international level, it prepares you for the real world where you can help make a difference in the lives of people in need.”
Reem Al Salem ’97, ’00, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sub-office in Lago Agrio, Ecuador who was extensively involved with MUN and MAL during her University years, shared similar sentiments. “There is no other student activity that could have prepared me better for the real world,” she said. “That rings true in general for the quality of education that I received at AUC, of which activities like MUN are central parts. It was there that I first overcame my fears of public speaking, learned how difficult it is to negotiate and come to agreements, recognized that to understand a position you had to also ‘listen’ to what was left out in a speech and always read between the lines. The fact the CIMUN has survived that long and continues to go strong is an attestation to the benefits that students feel. Even before the series of profound transformations began with the advent of the Arab Spring, youth in the Arab world had a high level of political awareness and thirst for international affairs. CIMUN knew how to channel all this curiosity, energy and creativity into a meaningful and constructive activity.”
Shaden Khallaf ’98, ’04, who has worked for 15 years at UNHCR and now teaches at AUC's Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, spoke of the collabartive effort among MUN delegates, as well as the managerial skills gained from the program. “Being a part of MUN was the most defining characteristic of my time at AUC,” she said. “Being secretary-general of the 10th CIMUN was particularly exciting and a big challenge to excel in terms of substance and organization. The teamwork and the friendships that were an intrinsic part of the process have lasted to this day. Furthermore, the immersion in how the United Nations works was what opened the door to my career path after graduation.”
As Sullivan put it, “CIMUN and its sister organization, CIMAL, were marvelous teaching and learning opportunities for all of us who were involved. Apart from the fact that the topics discussed are intrinsically interesting, CIMUN and CIMAL empower those who participate. That makes organizations like this especially attractive to serious students and helps to account for the fact that CIMUN has not only survived, but has also thrived.”
Photo caption: Hussein Heiba, head of the CIMUN organizing committee, speaks at the opening event of the annual CIMUN conference