Samantha Chihuri, second year BA (Hons) International Relations student, outlines the events that took place during the 22nd session of the London International Model United Nations Conference (LIMUN). The theme for LIMUN this year was, ‘Reimagining Global Governance’.

This year, LIMUN took place virtually over Zoom from 26 to 28 March. In the days leading up to the conference, there were many networking events and discussion panels attended by various diplomats. These were incredible opportunities for all who attended. During the conference, Victor Nzioka (second-year BA (Hons) International Relations and Politics) and I represented the University of Portsmouth as single delegates in different committees.

Victor represented Ethiopia in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) where they discussed the topic of ‘Sustainability and Challenges Facing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’. The committee had two draft resolutions but was ultimately unable to pass any of them. Overall, Victor found it to be an informative session with great debating and negotiation, intense competition and deadlock (much like the real UN).

I represented Vietnam in the Security Council, and we discussed the topic of the situation in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the duration of the conference, we engaged in a very lively, passionate, informative debate over the many facets of the situation, with Turkey and Greece present as member states. In the end, however, the two blocs that formed were unable to work together and pass a resolution. I was voted “Most Likely to Work in the Real UN” in my committee for my efforts.

The conference was inspiring from beginning to end, with delegates being greeted with a welcome message from Secretary-General António Guterres. We then had the pleasure of listening to three keynote speakers, such as Bulgarian politician and former Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, who spoke on the necessity of moral solidarity in order to effectively tackle our generation’s biggest problems: sustainable development and climate change. It was a pleasure hearing her speak again, as we had also heard from her at the Harvard National Model UN Conference in February.

The second speaker, Aurelia Nguyen was the managing director of the COVAX facility. She spoke about the glaring inequalities that were brought to light with the pandemic, especially considering that she was tasked with ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines reach as many people as possible. She emphasised that the issues we face today do not respect borders, politics, race or any other thing that keep us divided, and therefore we must work together.

The third speaker, Norwegian diplomat Erik Solheim, emphasised the power that we, as delegates and young people in general, have to change the world. He also talked about how business is reinventing itself as a global leader.

Erik Solheim and Aurelia Nguyen both emphasised the notion that crisis breeds necessity, which in turn leads to more innovation on our part.

When it was opened to Q&A, I asked all the speakers what their take was on the argument of the recession of the UN’s relevancy, as well as the argument that the UN needs to be more representative in order to counteract this. This was something I personally found very interesting when we were learning it in our Analysing Foreign and Security Policy module last semester. All the speakers essentially responded similarly, stating that though the UN truly does need to be revisited, it is not only unlikely to happen anytime soon, but also that it is still very necessary and relevant today.

The closing ceremony featured keynote speaker Catherine Bertini, the former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program (UNWFP) and current Chair of the Global Alliance to End Hunger. She spoke at length of multilateralism and the need for a global reform of IR structure. She encouraged delegates, saying, “No matter your career, I hope that you sustain the interest that brought you here so that you can use it in your work to make better changes”. Being the youngest Executive Director of the UNWFP as well as the first woman to hold this position, she faced a lot of discrimination from many colleagues, and even several heads of states. She encouraged delegates, especially those of us who were female, to try and break through the glass ceiling, before going on to warn us that only a few exceptional women manage to stay beyond it.

A welcome yet unexpected surprise towards the end of LIMUN was the visit to the Bobcat Alpacas farm in Edinburgh, who had partnered with Marie Curie and the LIMUN Foundation to raise money for charity. The delegates were able to go on a live virtual tour of the farm and interact with the alpacas.

It is with this final talk, as well as several speeches from the LIMUN Secretariat and the awards ceremony, that the conference drew to a close, and with it, a very exciting, exhausting and inspiring weekend.

Once more, it was a great pleasure for us to be able to represent our University at such a rewarding and prestigious conference.