Political societies provide a way for opinionated students to exchange ideas, stage campaigns and challenge beliefs but to the outsider they can seem intimidating, exclusive and occasionally, pretentious. That is why we at the Bubble are creating a series dedicated to showcasing the experiences of their members, so you, the reader, can find out more about what happens inside these societies. This week’s article features the Durham United Nations Society; look out for more societies in the upcoming weeks!
On nearly all counts, the first two decades of the 21st century have been difficult. The world’s strongest democracies have been shaken by populism, and violent conflicts continue across Africa and Asia. The news can seem like a never-ending parade of disasters and destruction.
Within this bleak portrait, however, there are glimmers of hope. Institutions, built in a more optimistic time, continue to fight for development, human rights, and climate protections. The United Nations is foremost amongst these bodies, created in the aftermath of the Second World War in order to prevent conflict, and guide humanity into a brighter future. Founded on the idea that diplomacy and compromise is always superior to violence and threat, the United Nations seeks to make concrete steps towards creating a more peaceful, and more prosperous, world for all humanity.
This global enterprise may seem distant, and almost utopian. At Durham United Nations Society, however, we seek to engage directly with the ideals and approaches of the UN. We aim to promote the work of the United Nations, and to discuss and debate the political challenges of our time.
To get students engaged with these aims, the society runs a range of activities. The first, and most frequent of these, are our weekly delegate training sessions. Many students take part in Model United Nations conferences in high school, and these training sessions give a great opportunity to continue what is often an engaging and rewarding hobby. These sessions a structured formally, in the format of a Model United Nations committee, but new participants are always welcome! Training sessions are also an excellent opportunity to debate politics and international relations with like-minded people, and to make new friends! To keep things light, the society will occasionally run ‘fictional crises’- these are committee debates set in a fictional world, and previous crises include the resurrection of Lord Voldemort, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The society also regularly publishes news and opinion in its online journal, The Mondial. The Mondial accepts pieces from students on a range of topics, from politics to art and culture, and there are plans to expand the journal moving forward. The current editor of the Monial, Alexandra Beste, describes the journal as ‘a platform to engage with international politics and challenge students to approach global issues from a different angle’. Currently, the Mondial is published online at our website (https://durmun.com), and there are plans to produce printed editions in the coming year.
Last but not least, the society orchestrates DurMUN, one of the largest Model United Nations conferences in the northeast. Welcoming delegates from around the world, the conference represents three days of intense debate and discussion, led by world-class chair-people. This year, the conference began with an opening ceremony hosted in Chapter House (the set of Professor McGonagall’s classroom in the Harry Potter movies!), followed by a formal dinner at the prestigious Durham town hall. For anyone interested in meeting interesting people, and debating some of the most crucial issues in modern politics, DurMUN cannot be missed! The society also sends delegations to similar conferences around the country, and even to conferences in European cities like Paris and Budapest.
DUUNS offers a whole host of different ways to engage with politics and international relations. Weekly training sessions and conferences give great opportunities to explore new places, and meet some amazing people. The Mondial gives students the opportunity to express themselves on a platform that values original ideas and expression. A DUUNS membership offers access to some of the best debates, discussions, and writing in Durham.
If you’re interested in getting involved, you can email the society at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/DurhamUNSociety/