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11 March 2003

Model UN Conference Coincides with a Period of Heightened International Tension

950 international delegates debate on the present political situation at the WorldMUN in Heidelberg, 23 to 27 March

From 23 to 27 March 2003, the 12th Harvard University World Model United Nations Conference (WorldMUN 2003) will be taking place at the University of Heidelberg. In 16 parallel committees students from 29 countries will simulate the work of the United Nations on subjects of major topical interest in world politics. An especially cordial invitation is extended to the media to attend the opening ceremony on 23 March and the press conference on 26 March, with a view to reporting directly on this unique event.

A Student's View of the United Nations

The conference will be taking place at a time when the position of the United Nations as the supreme authority in the community of nations, the standing of international law and the principles of diplomacy are in danger of being sacrificed to other interests. On the other hand, intellectuals and various high-ranking personalities in public life have committed themselves with almost unexampled vehemence to the cause of preserving the role played by the United Nations. Accordingly, there could be no more timely moment for an engagement with the activities of the UN. The fact that American delegations are traditionally very well represented at the WorldMUN conferences—and the Heidelberg event is no exception in this connection—can be expected to give an additional edge to the proceedings. In short, it seems likely that discussion will be passionate and intensive.

Harvard WorldMUN provides an arena for a contest of positions and ideas in English between students from different countries, an encounter of inestimable value in defining precisely where one stands on issues of crucial significance. It is an extended exercise in rhetoric, self-presentation, communication and team spirit, serving to demonstrate the extent to which acquired knowledge and opinions are able to assert themselves in the pressures of a conference held under real-life conditions.

The Schedule

The Opening Ceremony

The conference begins on Sunday, 23 March with a ceremony in the Great Hall of the New University, to which the WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V. also invites representatives of the press. There will be speeches of welcome to the approx. 1,000 international students taking part from the Rector of the University of Heidelberg, Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, the finance minister of Baden-Württemberg, Gerhard Stratthaus, and the Mayor of Heidelberg, Beate Weber. After brief introductory remarks by the director of the BASF Sustainability Center, Dr. Lothar Meinzer, and Wolfgang Stöckl from the staff of the Federal Foreign Ministry, the Chairman of the Standing Conference of the Rectors of the German Higher-Education Institutions, Prof. Dr. Klaus Landfried, will deliver the opening address.

In view of the limited seating capacity in the Great Hall, the WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V. requests journalists to indicate their intention to attend by phone or e-mail.

Press Conference

We also invite the press to attend the official press conference on 26 March (10.30 to 12.30 a.m.) at the NH hotel (formerly Hotel Astron, Bergheimerstrasse 91, 69115 Heidelberg) and report on the course of the debates. First there will be detailed accounts by the organisers in Harvard and Heidelberg and by representatives of the University of Heidelberg on the significance of the Conference and the state of discussion in the various committees. Subsequently, there will be ample time for questions and interviews.

Committee Sessions and Social Programme

The committee sessions (Monday to Thursday) will be organised in strict conformity with the rules of procedure at the United Nations and are unfortunately not open to the public. The "conduct of business" is supplemented by a varied social programme enabling the participants to acquaint themselves more fully with their host country and the cultures from which the other delegates hail.

WorldMUN in Heidelberg

This is the first time that this renowned students' conference, under the patronage of the Secretary-General of UNO since 1994, has taken place at a German university. The entire organisation, planning and financing of the conference lies solely in the hands of the WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V. society founded for the purpose by nine students and postgraduates.

Official partners to the enterprise are the University of Heidelberg, which assumes the role of host alongside the WorldMUN society, and the City of Heidelberg. After a number of organisational snags had been cleared up, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Federal Foreign Ministry saw their way clear to making a symbolic contribution. Far and away the largest financial contribution to the conference comes from the world of industry. Without a generous donation from BASF and additional support from SAP, the Harvard WorldMUN Conference 2003 in Heidelberg could not have taken place.

The major sponsor is the BASF company (Ludwigshafen) with a donation of 30,000 euros. The commitment of the world's leading chemical company to the conference is a token of its concern to enhance the attractiveness of the Rhine-Neckar region and the institutions of higher education situated in the area. Social responsibility is just as important a motivation for BASF as the desire to be "out in front" in the competition for the best minds, irrespective of culture or nationality. "We want to be accepted as a good neighbour and a reliable partner in the social environment of our industrial locations," said Dr. Lothar Meinzer of BASF's Sustainability Center. "We want to be perceived as a company that acts responsibly and counts as an attractive employer." He went on to add that the project under the patronage of UNO Secretary-General Kofi Annan created ideal conditions for promoting the exchange of ideas between the countries of the world and for practising entrepreneurial negotiation skills. These, he said, were precisely the abilities required by young people to carve out a career for themselves in an international company.

The WorldMUN Concept

The WorldMUN conference is a simulation of the work of the United Nations and its special organisations engaged in under realistic conditions by students from all over the world. Appropriate resolutions are tabled and adopted, with due concern for the political, economic, military, environmental and health-related aspects of the issues under discussion. Especially noteworthy is the interdisciplinary nature of the proceedings. The various committees are made up not only of delegates from different countries but also of representatives of various disciplines, thus assuring as comprehensive a discussion as possible of the problems addressed. The participants are assigned a particular country and called upon to represent its interests as convincingly as they can. This means that in the simulation of the UNO plenary assembly an American student may be asked to represent Iraq or the German position on a given topic.

The conference was initiated by the University of Harvard in 1991 and takes place at a different host university each year. Its aim is to acquaint the participants with the diplomatic work of the UN, to enhance their political awareness and arouse their interest in the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

In view of these aims and the present political situation, the Harvard WorldMUN Conference is an attractive event for the public as well. Thus it makes very good sense to introduce this conference and its objectives to a broader audience and hence increase the likelihood of conferences of this kind taking place at German universities in the future.

For more information go to (Heidelberg) or (Harvard).

Your contact
Nick Schneider
Director of Public Relations
WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V.
Schneidmühlstrasse 12
69115 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/659219, mobile: 0177/4495753
fax: 089/244365657

General inquiries from journalists can also be addressed to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 14.03.2003


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