UCF Helps Organize Iraq’s first National Model United Nations Conference


Model United Nations (MUN) conferences have a long history. Dating back to 1921 (then – Model League of Nations), these simulations introduce students to the parliamentary procedure of the organization, increase their understanding of the international order and engage them in discussing crucial matters of diplomacy, human rights, security and humanitarian assistance around the world. Initially held by only a handful of Western European universities, today MUNs are hosted by almost a hundred countries, bringing together students and thinkers to discuss important topics and learn lifelong communication skills.

This year, UCF helps bring Model United Nations to students in Iraq for the first time. The conference is part of the partnership between UCF’s Kurdish Political Studies Program and Soran University of Iraqi Kurdistan. Supported by a grant from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), it will bring together 100 students from across Iraq. For several days, the students will assume the role of country delegates and take part in the parliamentary proceedings, and debate issues of international importance while practicing policy research, negotiation and the drafting of resolutions.

The originator of this initiative is Mohammed Obaid Shwani, the International Programs coordinator at Soran University and a Bates College student who visited the UCF campus in early February. Originally from Kirkuk, Shwani spent his early student days studying at the U.S.-funded United World College in Bosnia before heading to the U.S. to study political science. An exceptionally driven person, Shawni has already organized smaller conferences in Iraq before.

“Kurdish students have a unique perspective on international topics, but there are very few opportunities to engage them in such discussions.,” Shwani said. “The MUN we are currently working on will help bring the student community together and show them that world affairs concern everyone and they have just as much say in them as everyone else”.

As part of his three-day visit, Shawni met with Professor Güneş Murat Tezcür, Ph.D., the Jalal Talabani Chair and Associate Professor Nikola Mirilovic, Ph.D., Miroslav Shapovalov, a Ph.D. candidate in Security Studies at the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, who will attend the conference at Soran in person. He also had meetings with members of UCF KnightMUN club, a student organization hosting yearly MUN conferences for high school students across Florida. The club members shared their experience of organizing conferences, and offered their support for the project.

In addition to the conference, the project also includes the creation of educational modules on the topics of international economy, citizenship and international organizations. The modules are delivered to a group of Soran faculty in form of seminars, then introduced to students as part of the university’s curriculum.

The project is off to a good start, with full delivery of the modules in mid-January.  The conference itself is expected to be held in early fall. Ultimately the project may be used as a foundation for the country’s own Model United Nations Association, which will ensure future MUNs for new generations of Iraqi students.

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