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Episode 1 Jamal Khashoggi, UN Founding, Choosing MUN Conferences, and Strategic Research

Written by Frank Pobutkiewicz

I'm the founder/Managing Director of the All-American Model UN Programs! If you have any questions, please email [email protected]. Happy MUNing!

October 17, 2018

Episode 1 Jamal Khashoggi, UN Founding, Choosing MUN Conferences, and Strategic Research

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In the News: Jamal Khashoggi

On Oct 2nd, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to get the paperwork needed to marry his Turkish girlfriend. Fearful of reprisal from Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi allegedly left his iPhone with his girlfriend in the car when he entered the embassy, using his apple watch to record himself while inside. That was the last time anyone has seen Khashoggi.

But who is Jamal Khashoggi? Why was he fearful of Saudi Arabia? What happened to Khashoggi inside the embassy?

Jamal Khashoggi is a progressive journalist and citizen on Saudi Arabia. He wrote multiple critical pieces about the Saudi royal family and, in particular, Mohammad Bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Since coming to power, the self-branded MBS has done much to consolidate power—by arresting members of the military, government, and royal family—by using an image of anti-corruption and reform. For example, while Saudi Arabia recently gave women the right to drive, the government has arrested and imprisoned the leaders of the movement to give women the right to drive.

Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia and became a permanent resident of the United States in 2017, where he continued to criticize the Saudi government. He has been a recurring guest on BBC, US cable news channels, and writes for the Washington Post.

Turkish authorities claim they have proof that Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi embassy. After which, he was interrogated, tortured, murdered, and dismembered, allegedly by a group of men from Saudi Arabia that have been referred to as “an assassination squad.” These men have been identified by Turkey as entering the country on a private jet, bringing a bone saw with them, and leaving Turkey within 24 hours. Khashoggi has yet to be heard from since.

In response, US President Donald Trump has been wary to levy any accusation or criticism on Saudi Arabia. Trump has referenced a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, though it should be noted the Washington Post has determined that figure to be false.

What will the official response of the United States be if Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered inside the Saudi embassy? How will Turkey react? What rules govern the rights and protections of embassies?

The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations sets standards for overseas missions, their rights and protections, and the role of host countries. Containing 53 articles, the convention has several key provisions:

  • A country may declare an official representative of a mission persona non grata and the sending state must recall the diplomat.
  • All diplomatic missions and documents contained within are inviolable. Despite the misunderstanding, diplomatic missions such as embassies are not sovereign territory. Rather, host countries agree to protect embassies from outside intrusion and agree never to enter a mission without express invitation.
  • Diplomats inside a mission must have freedom to communicate with their home governments.
  • Diplomats are not subject to local taxes, customs, arrest, and detention for civil and criminal offenses.

All UN members states, with the exception of Palau, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and South Sudan are members of the Vienna Convention.

UN Deep Dive: How the UN was Founded

In often surprises me how often Model UN delegates know so little about how and when the UN was formed. Let’s review from key dates, treaties, and events in the development of the United Nations.

  • Following World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson presented his 14 points to the Versailles Peace Conference. Point 14 was a proposal for a League of Nations, meant to prevent another great territorial war.
  • The League of Nations was formed in 1920 and reached its height in 1934 with 58 members. Following its inability to prevent Axis aggression that led to World War II, the League was officially dissolved in 1946.
  • In 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined the phrase “United Nation in the Declaration of United Nations when 26 governments pledged their allegiance to defeat the Axis Powers.
  • With the end of WWII in sight, representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States met at Dumbarton Oaks between August and October 1944, to outline the formation of a new inter-governmental organization, the United Nations.
  • In 1945, 46 countries were invited to San Francisco to officially write and adopt the UN Charter. Any sovereign country that declared war on Nazi Germany and Japan could subscribe to the UN Declaration. Four more additional countries– Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, newly-liberated Denmark, and Argentina—were invited by the conference, bringing the original members to 50. Later, after Poland was able to form a government, it signed the UN Declaration as a founding member. Germany and Japan were not original members of the United Nations.
  • On October 24, 1945, the UN Charter was ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories. UN Day is observed on this date every year.

MUN Strategy Session: Conference Calendar

Let’s spend the first MUN Strategy Session on how to choose Model UN conferences to attend. Before I can give you advice and tips on how to best perform at Model UN conferences, you need to set your calendar to maximize your success.

There are a number of factors when setting your conference calendar:

  • Budget
  • Number of Members
  • Faculty Availability
  • Time & Travel
  • School Policies

The budget will usually play the most critical role in determining the number and type of Model UN conferences that you attend. While some programs have booster programs, school support, or external partnerships, many lack the resources to go to multiple overnight conferences. Review the annual budget with your club officers and your teacher to better understand the financial position of your Model UN organization. And if you don’t have the resources to attend multiple conferences, figure out how to make the most of what you have.

The number of members in your Model UN organization will also play a key role in setting your conference calendar. If you have a large organization, more than 40 members, than you may consider bringing different types of delegations to conferences. Choose some conferences as training conferences for younger members, select others as competitive conferences based on merit, and others as learning or academic experiences. Setting the goal for each conference gives you the best chance of a positive conference experience and avoids disappointment.

Even if you have the budget and membership to go to multiple conferences throughout the year, the point may be moot if you don’t have a faculty advisor. Plan in advance and get a commitment from faculty members at your school so that you don’t have to cancel at the last minute. Check with conferences to see what their advisor policy is. Some conferences have a maximum number of students per teacher. Other conferences don’t require faculty members. Do your research.

Some people are hardcore Model UN nerds. I was when I was in high school. If you’re listening to this, you may be, too. But not all of your members will be as dedicated to your Model UN team. Understand this. Respect this. Not everyone will want to give up a weekend every month. In addition to time commitments, keep in mind the expense of traveling. Check to see if seniors can drive others to conferences. Your school may or may not have strict travel policies.

Speaking of school policies, always check early and often about rules that your school may have regarding missing classes, travel programs, traveling out of state, and traveling out of the country.

With that all laid out, here are my recommendations for setting a conference calendar:

  • Try to attend a Model UN conference every other month. For a school year that starts in September and ends in June, that means five conferences each school year.
  • Pick one Major conference to attend. All-American Model UN recognizes seven major conferences in the US: HMUN, ILMUNC, YMUN, PMUNC, MUNUC, BMUN, NAIMUN. Each is four days, hosts more than 1,500 delegates, and is hosted by a leading university. These will be the most expensive conferences because of travel and hotel expenses.
  • Choose two or three local conferences to attend. Look for inexpensive one or two-day conferences hosted by high schools within an hour’s drive of your high school. Don’t underestimate the competitiveness of local conferences.
  • Choose two or three Mid-Major conferences to attend. These conferences tend to offer the best experiences. Conferences such as Johns Hopkins, William and Mary, Boston University, Chicago International, Brown University, George Washington’s WAMUNC, and others offer outstanding committee experiences without being as cutthroat competitive as the major conferences.
  • Once you’ve chosen the conferences that you want to attend, make a budget and start planning! Set goals for each conference. Decide how many delegates to take to each conference. And come up with your training schedule.
  • If five conferences are too many for your school, don’t sweat it! You can always register as an independent delegate, if the conference allows it, or you can join or start a private team to attend with.

Model UN Coach’s Corners: Solutions Based Research

Ok, I get it. You’re a Model UN veteran. You’ve been to a bunch of conferences. You tell yourself, “I don’t have to research for this conference. I’ve got this in the bag. I’ll bullshit my way through it.” And then, closing ceremonies comes, and you get an Honorable Mention, or even worse, the dreaded Verbal Commendation.

What happened? You spoke all the time. You made motions. You were a leader in the second biggest bloc in the committee. What gives?

The answer may not surprise you.

You should have done research.

But I get it. Researching complex international issues can be daunting. Where do you start? There are thousands of books on the reduction of small weapons and light arms in lesser developed countries.

Most high school delegates make two common mistakes in the research. First, they concentrate on their country or assignments instead of the problem. And second, they think they’re prepared because they’re armed with facts about treaties and dates.

While both are important parts of researching, you’re missing the bigger picture. Model solutions-oriented debate program. The goal of every Model UN committee is to address your assigned topic while staying in character, or on policy.

Try this in your next Model UN meeting. Have everyone on your team draw a 4×4 table on a piece of paper and draw a big 4×4 table on a chalkboard or whiteboard.  On the top row, starting in the second column write the words Economic, Political, and Social. In the first column, starting in the second row, write PAST, ANALYSIS, and NEW.

Spend thirty minutes with your team filling out this table about a particular topic. Use Small Weapons and Light Arms, or HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, or Indigenous Rights in South America. And then choose a country to base your research on.

In the second row, figure out the past solutions proposed by the international community and your country focusing on economic, political, and social approaches. Next, analyze the effectiveness of those solutions. And then, most importantly, develop new, novel approaches that haven’t been put into action.

Now when you go into your next conference, you won’t spend the first two committee sessions saying things like, “We need to come up with a solution.” You’ll have a solution to propose and you can spend time lobbying for its adoption.

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