11th March 2014 London, UK

The Model United Nations in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office- by Dr Jon Yorke, Reader in Law, School of Law, Birmingham City University

Group picture
MUN Group Picture

On 11 February, 2014, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted students from the BCU School of Law and the FCO Youth Inspiration Group for a Model United Nations Security Council Session. The event provided invaluable experience in Security Council member state presentations, the political intricacies of alliance building at the multilateral level for session voting, and the vicissitudes of selecting the appropriate legal language for the formulation of a UNSC Resolution. 

A Facebook page was created for the event, https://www.facebook.com/BCUMUN?ref=stream  which provided information on the fictional scenario of the crisis in a created African country, “Ruritania,” supporting United Nations documents and relevant international relations materials. The Facebook page was the initial forum for the participants to build alliances with “like minded” governments, and for them to try to engage with governments who had contrasting political perspectives.

The Security Council speeches were held in the magnificent Locarno rooms. This gave the students a real sense of occasion. It was not lost on us that in the FCO at the same moment the British government was monitoring the situation in Syria. The participants played their roles in the spirit of professionalism with regards to their individual country prolife. The Heads of State and Foreign Ministers gave passionate and engaging speeches which spoke to their political sentiments and aspirations for dealing with the fictional crisis.

MUN speeches
MUN speeches

Following the speeches there were alliance building sessions and it quickly became evident that state compacts were forming; the EU countries, the African and Asian counties, and then Russia and the United States appeared to be “politically” isolated. We came together in the Entente Cordiale room and had a very lively discussion on the humanitarian and human rights issues for voting on for inclusion in a “Resolution on the Crisis in Ruritania.” The veto was only used once but it became difficult to achieve the required nine votes for many issues.

We identified limited sanctions, healthcare, and logistical issues for the inclusion into the resolution. Then the drafting process began. Here the participants experienced both the galvanising of alliances and the collapse of others.  This intensified the focus on the language in the drafting of the resolution. In the heat of some of the discussions, the text shifted from producing defining obligations to enumerated aspirations. It was perhaps an accurate simulation of life in the United Nations Security Council.

Speakers at the event.

Robert Hannigan speaking at MUN
Robert Hannigan speaking at MUN
FCO Speakers at the MUN

Everyone had a wonderful educational experience, not only of the UN, but also of the working of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We had the privilege of hearing talks by Ms. Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary, DCMA, who gave an engaging and inspiring address to women in the civil service, and provided cogent advice for achieving a gender balance in senior civil servant positions. Mr. Robert Hannigan, Director General for Defence and Security, explained some of the processes for collating information and the use of information to help protect British interests. He affirmed that the British government has a crucially important role in the global arena to help ensure peace and security. Then Ms. Melinda Simmons gave fantastic insights into the importance of international dialogue to help reduce domestic and international conflict. She spoke to the importance of cross-regional alliances in the United Nations, and the new role of the European External Action Service of the European Union for helping to maintain global peace.   


It was an extremely successful day, and post event feedback has been very positive. Mr. Lamiegha Brinemugha, an LLM in International Human Rights Law student has written a blog post on the event, revealing the significant educational value of the MUN, stating that it was a “dream come true,” http://jonyorkehumanrights.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-fcobcu-model-united-nations.html . The Erasmus students, and the Youth Inspiration Group, have also been Tweeting and commenting on Facebook about how fantastic the event was. We also attracted members of the legal profession, including Birmingham solicitor, Mr Jimmy Ogunshakin. 


I must thank Mr. Christopher Layden, who I initially discussed the idea of an MUN at the FCO, and he was instrumental in helping organise the FCO/BCU event in 2013, http://jonyorkehumanrights.blogspot.co.uk/p/human-rights-education_22.html.  Thanks also to Ms. Louise de Sousa, Head of the Human Rights and Democracy Department, who provided the logistical opportunities for both MUN events. Finally, thanks to Emily Farrow who organised the day, invited guest speakers, and made sure that everyone had a memorable experience at the FCO. We all did. It was an extremely successful collaborative event, and both the BCU students and the Youth Inspiration Group will always remember it.

FCO Staff
FCO Staff

6 comments on “The Model United Nations in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office- by Dr Jon Yorke, Reader in Law, School of Law, Birmingham City University

  1. This was a great opportunity for us all to take part in such a hands on event like the MUN. This gave us all a greater understanding of how complex international law is and why it is so difficult for countries to come to a consensus. This was a once in a life time experience which I and we all are very honored and appreciative to have been able to be a part of. All of the speeches were at such a high standard and I would advise all prospective students taking part in this event to enjoy the day, to ask lots of questions and not to worry too much about your speech! you will remember the day a lot more if you enjoy it!

    Thank you to everyone at the FCO for making this happen and for all the speakers for sharing their knowledge and expertise, and to Dr. Jon Yorke for all his support and work for making this day run smoothly

  2. The day in the FCO was a great experience.
    The work in the MUN was very interesting and I got a good insight in the work of the UN. Moreover, the three talks gave a good insight into the real work of the FCO. Especially if you are interested in human rights and humanitarian law issues the MUN session will help you a lot for a better practical understanding.
    I want to thank the team of the FCO and Dr. Jon Yorke for that amazing day.

  3. MUNSC meeting… An awesome and worthwhile legal experience on the intricacies of the UN Security Council and operations of the FCO. I Urge students and also those interested in the UN and FCO to participate in tne MUNSC Meeting whenever the opportunity is made available.

  4. A great academic experience to say the least! A very memorable day and an excellent hands-on experience; the MUN provided invaluable experience that you will not be able to get in a lecture theatre. It enabled us to understand the complexities of international law and engage with it hands-on. It helped me understand and appreciate why countries struggle to agree on many issues! An excellent platform for academic and professional advancement.

    I would love to take part again and recommend the same to all students, it is definitely an opportunity NOT worth missing.

  5. This event was a great opportunity to rudimentarily experience the difficulty of finding a consensus on an international level. Furthermore it was an informative supplement to the studies of humanitarian law. Thank you to the FCO and staff for the hospitality. Thank you to Dr Yorke for your wide-ranging support.

  6. I have had the honour to participate to the session and it is has been an unforgettable experience. It has not only provided a deep insight into the decision make process and in the difficulties of drafting a resolution but it helped students to become familiar with the UN mission and to start thinking about a potential career. I have seen enthusiastic speeches and bright students committed to an excellent result.
    Looking forward to the next MUN!

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