We head down to the Model UN in London to see what Gen Z, and the potential leaders of the future, feel about the biggest issues facing the world
LIMUN, or the London International Model United Nations, is a group of enterprising students from around the world meeting in a big old fancy building in the centre of London and engaging in debate, simulations of real UN protocols and practises, and, of course, partying. There was a ball on the first evening of the weekend, which featured speakers like Rory Stewart, but us scruffy oiks at Change Incorporated felt we were too under-dressed to attend. Free booze as well. Nevermind.
One of the organisers, Deputy Secretary of LIMUN Benjamin Santhouse-James said: “In increasingly isolationist times, the concept of gathering so many young people of 100 different nationalities together in London to discuss 'Challenging the Dilemmas of Progress' is really quite an inspiring one.
“As Europe's largest MUN conference and the most internationally diverse one anywhere, LIMUN always has a high bar to live up to. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback that we received, it is safe to say that we met that challenge.”
Anyway, we thought that a conference of politically engaged young whipper-snappers would be the ideal place to gauge some opinions about the world today, and what, if anything, institutions like the UN can do to help. It’s likely a sizeable amount of the ankle-biters in this room will one day be in terrifyingly high positions of power, so good to get their thoughts. Here we go!
Hi Lena. How long have you been involved with LIMUN?
I was a delegate last year and I’m chairing this year. I’ve done a few Model conferences.
What prompted you to join it?
When it comes to LIMUN, it’s the prestige of it. Also the international nature, so normally I go to just UK conferences because they’re cheaper and this one’s right at home in London, but it’s very international. You have schools from Thailand, Vietnam, competitive European teams, so it’s a lot of fun meeting people from all around the world. It’s a completely different experience to a regular model UN conference in the UK.
It also shaped what I want to do later on, so I’m doing history now and regret my degree choice. I wish I went for politics or International Relations or something of that nature. It’s definitely had a strong influence.
What would you say is the biggest issue the world is faced with and what do you think needs to be done about it?
Anything you want.
Any issue… In particular I’m interested in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) relations. If you got to university here and you’re talking about international relations people like to focus on the European Union, but we should also be paying attention to the other side of the globe. You get a lot of organisations like ASEAN popping up, while a lot of people are saying we’re entering a ‘bi-polar order’, or whatever, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. ASEAN countries are building a lot of economic strength and I find that very promising.
What do you think the role of diplomacy is in the decade to come?
I mean, it’d be hard to say! I’m just a humble student so I don’t think I have the authority to say what diplomacy’s going to be like in the future. Maybe it’s because I’m a student and I’m naïve, but I don’t think we’re completely doomed. When you’re reading the news it all seems very depressing, Trump, Boris etc., people focusing on their internal politics, but I wouldn’t like to generalise and I don’t think it’s necessarily the case in Asia. So yeah! Fairly positive, I think there’s a big role for diplomacy.
That’s good to hear. Thanks Lena!
Hi Rumana! How did you get involved in LIMUN?
I’ve been doing Model UN since I was 14, so then I just carried on. After I left secondary school I just looked for the next thing and found LIMUN at university level. This is a lot bigger!
What attracts you to Model UN?
You get to meet so many different types of people. When you walk in here it’s rare that you hear an English accent.
Do you think that’s important?
One hundred percent. To achieve all the goals that we have we need to understand other cultures and other people, otherwise we won’t really progress.
What’s the biggest problem the world faces and what should be done about it?
At the moment, climate change is a pretty big issue. It’s not just one or two countries that it might affect, it’ll affect the entire world. If we don’t tackle that then everything else is useless.
Do you think enough is being done at the moment?
Oh, no. Everything is still worsening. We need to let people know that this is a serious issue, a lot of people just brush it off at the moment. They need to know the severity.
Hello Fadimr. How long have you been involved in LIMUN?
It’s my first year actually. I’m in my final year in university and I thought it would be useful to get involved in the model United Nations, simply because I’m actually interested in one day becoming a part of the UN, either getting into committee work or charity work or working as an ambassador.
What do you think the biggest issue facing the world is right now?
I believe the biggest issue facing us right now is the work that the UN is doing in impoverished countries in Africa and Asia. I feel like the policies and the rules that the UN has outlined to be followed aren’t really being followed and there’s a lot to be done to make sure these rules and policies are actually being reinforced. I do feel like, especially a lot of NGOs, are just not doing enough work, and I’m just hoping to make a change. Everything’s outlined but no one’s implementing it.
Certainly feels that way. Thanks Fadimr!
How did you get involved in LIMUN?
I’ve been involved for three years now, the first year I was a delegate and then I became a volunteer. I was really shy and I needed something to help me talk in front of an audience and be less stressed about it, and more outgoing. We’re debating real issues, too.
What’s the biggest issue facing the planet and what needs to be done?
I think the big thing right now is the environment, we’re polluting a lot. All the countries have to agree to reduce pollution. The thing is, already in the UN it’s hard to make one decision, to get 200+ countries to make a decision together.
Yeah sounds like a pain in the arse doesn’t it? Thanks Nour!
Why did you join LIMUN?
From the second year I became really interested in helping students in organising conferences, more in the marketing area. I applied for LIMUN because in the future I’d like to be part of the conference department of the UN, so I want to start building my experience now.
What’s the biggest facing the planet and what do you think should be done about it?
I think the big thing at the moment is climate change, and we’re seeing some really drastic events unfortunately. Regarding what can be done, the UN is actually working on it at the moment. I remember last year I did a paper on Swedish climate change and basically every state has to change their internal policy first and then join a coalition. Reducing carbon emissions, not using fossil fuels. Another thing is taking into consideration a country’s economy too. Somewhere like Bulgaria can’t really afford to go full eco-friendly energy-wise at the moment, they need oil and gas to survive and for people not to die.
Do you think people don’t talk about that enough?
I would say that in the west we’re actually talking about it a lot. In the east [of Europe] however, they don’t, there isn’t such a focus on recycling and things like that when I go back there. Or maybe they do consider it, but pretend not to, to avoid another headache.
Could be, Mircea. Thanks!
So there we have it, the younguns who want to be our overlords one day are not only aware, but also optimistic about the impending climate crisis, and other existential political issues. It’s encouraging and heartening to see so many politically engaged students coming together, voicing their concerns and learning the skills they will need to enact change on a global scale. That is, if there’s even a globe left by that time. Mars anyone?