The fax machine can never replace the need for diplomatic missions abroad! This was the sentiment of Andrew Key, Deputy Head of Mission for the British Embassy in China who gave the keynote speech at the opening of the 20th Model United Nations hosted by International School of Beijing. Key told the 900 international students and potential future diplomats in the audience, that it was personal curiosity about cultures and countries that led him to a career in the diplomatic corps. Diplomacy is not outdated! With the challenges and opportunities the world faces, diplomacy is needed more so now than ever before. The role of the diplomat is more important now than it has ever been with the increasing role of mass media in our lives and the inundation of information. The diplomat is needed to help make sense of this information in terms of foreign relations. Can a diplomat truly understand a country and its people without ever having lived there? NO! As an international teacher, I would definitely agree with Key. My perspective of who I am and others in the world has changed because of my living and working overseas. Diplomacy like education underlies the need for communication and collaboration in order to understand cultures and our relationships with others in order to build partnerships that bridge differences. This was the message of Key to the students and thus the 20th Beijing Model United Nations began with a roar of enthusiasm.

To some Model United Nations is an exercise in futility. On the contrary, it is empowering on many levels for students. It provides for personalized learning environment whereby students can inquire into areas of their interest to participate in a forum to solve problems of the world. In this process the teacher/advisor acts a coach. This is 21st century learning at its best. Over the next three days, students wrote resolutions, lobbied, debated over these with some eventually being passed that creatively addressed some of the worlds most pressing challenges. For me, one of the highlights of Model United Nations was watching the student-run General Assembly in action on the last day.

The closing ceremonies highlighted the events of the last few days and acknowledged the successes of the students.  So, in the end was MUN an exercise in futility.  NO!  As Dag Hammarskjold once said “The UN is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real. The day will come when men will see the UN and what it means clearly. Everything will be all right — you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”  The students realized for themselves the efficacy of the UN and the role it can play in shaping our world.

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