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In early 2009 a group of students from the University of Birmingham organised and held the first ever Model Arab League (MAL) Conference to be seen in Europe. On its 5-year anniversary, UoBMAL 2014 is fast approaching and is set to be the largest edition yet. This Friday we will welcome 55 delegates from the UK and across Europe to partake in a 3 day crisis conference where the likes of Nadim Shehadi from the Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House, and Michelle Pace, an expert in EU-Middle Eastern relations from POLSIS will be speaking at our opening ceremony.
So what’s all the fuss about? UoBMAL 2014 is a crisis conference set in an exaggerated fictional reality, created and controlled by a team of students who rely on participants to dictate the tempo and direction of events that shape the outcome of the region under focus, the Middle East. This year’s crisis faces a backdrop of civil unrest, where the Council of the Arab League (The Arab’s League central decision making body), will meet in Cairo to address increased tensions on the Lebanon-Israeli borders. As well as the Council of the Arab League, four other country cabinets (Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iran) will be actively involved in the crisis and will act as independent actors in the conference, involved in shaping the future of the region in the wake of the Syrian crisis.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some of you reading this have heard of Model United Nations (MUN) and are thinking that UoBMAL is a similar adaptation… But you would be wrong. What we’re doing at UoBMAL is actually completely different. Different to MUN, where you are assigned a role as a delegate in a sub committee of the United Nations, at UoBMAL, you’re assigned a real-life position, where you could find yourself as the Head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad; as Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah; or as the Saudi Arabian King, in the Council of the Arab league… In other words, you’re representing a minister/head of state within an official government cabinet, pretty cool huh? And like any government, there will be other ministers present, whose responsibilities will be varied. At this point I suspect your wondering what happens next… If there’s no MUN procedure, then what do you do as a government official once the conference kicks off?
Unlike MUN conference, where you would typically be expected to research and recite your delegation’s official position and policy on a specific issue; participants at UoBMAL are provided with character profiles. Character profiles are assigned by the organisers of the conference, and outline your position as is true in real life. Here’s an example of one from last year:
Though your character profile outlines your ‘aims’ at the conference, crisis conferences are by nature dynamic, and could change from one minute to the next. Because of this, participants must be flexible, and able to make their own decisions in response to unfolding events, such as a military invasion from another cabinet in the conference, or an influx of refugees! The direction which the conference takes is thus completely in your hands. The unpredictable nature of crisis conferences places students in a situation where they are forced to negotiate, compromise and often backstab other ministers to consolidate their power in government, mirroring the reality that is politics around the world!
If you’re interested in attending our opening ceremony this Friday at 4pm and listen to Nadim Shehadi and Michelle Pace in the Guild Council Chambers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your place.
For general information on the conference, check out our website at www.uobmal.org.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham