This week the very first The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Online Conference is taking place, with the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating this move to a virtual forum. ASH has a rich history and involvement in the origin of THIMUN and so in a week where this conference is embracing a new chapter, we wanted to reflect on how it came to be and ASH’s involvement.
In January 1969, The American International School of The Hague (AISH), now American School of The Hague (ASH), held the first meeting of the International Political Association (IPA), a forum that brought together students from all over Europe to exchange ideas, facts, and opinions relevant to current social and political topics. This co-curricular club for students was formed in 1968 by Paul Sand, an ASH staff alumn, in response to the political turmoil that the world was experiencing at the time. Though the name “Model United Nations” wasn’t coined as the event title until the year later, the concept of THIMUN was born from that IPA club, and has been an important part of many ASH students’ high school careers, and that of students across the globe.
As a founding member and main THIMUN sponsor, each year ASH sees nearly 100 of our own high school students take part in THIMUN activities, either as a delegate or an administrative team member. In recent years, The Hague Model United Nations (THIMUN) has brought together nearly 3,000 students and teachers from over 200 schools around the globe, for 5 days of intellectual stimulation, political debates and diplomatic challenges, with student cooperation at its core. It is the largest model student congress outside the United States, and arguably is the most prestigious MUN event around the world each year. Flipping back through time to the ASH yearbook from 1969, the group of founding student participants was smaller in comparison, a few hundred at best, but no less prestigious in its ambitions. The first student delegates from that founding year recount:
“A whirl of enthusiasm drowned out the skeptical cries of ‘It can’t be done’. Mock elections roused the intellects...ideas grew, horizons expanded... students turned to politics for stimulation. The Model U.N. was probably the most effective plan ever realized (by the AISH), further stimulated people's minds as well as bringing students together from all over Europe. Under the creative, dynamic leadership of Mr. Sand (ASH Faculty Alumni), the students showed a skeptical audience how well they could respond when given a leader. Perhaps more than any other club, IPA has done more to involve, wake, anger, please and educate a majority of students at AISH”.
For those who do not know how THIMUN operates, the student delegates simulate the activities of the United Nations and attend different conferences as delegates of the nation that they have been assigned to represent. During these conferences, students lobby with other student delegates to present resolutions, which are then debated, and UN procedures of format and formality are followed at every step of the process. The work begins long before the week THIMUN takes place, with each participating student completing countless hours of research, months of preparation, meetings, and lots of time spent on writing a THIMUN resolution - all in preparation to be a knowledgeable delegate or administrative THIMUN team member. This hard work culminates during the week long THIMUN simulation, with speeches and debates in the general assembly and proceedings, and to have the resolutions they worked on and developed read, judged and debated upon by their student peers (usually) in a prestigious setting (The Hague World Forum), emulating the work of the Model United Nations.
It's an event that not only allows students to discuss current political, economical and social issues in an international setting, but with other like minded individuals, all who have an interest in making the world a better place, in a forum which replicates real life and modern day political platforms. Mr. Sand, who helped organize and supervise this annual event until he left ASH in 1974, returned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of THIMUN in 1988 by special invitation and gave inspirational speeches during the opening and closing ceremonies:
“Where I stand now, and here you sit now, this present day, is the living presence of the class of 1969. That year, the students of the American International School of The Hague (now ASH), helped create the Model United Nations. Those students would be proud to know that they have been immersed in the stream of history. Clearly, the past has continued to be the present, and the present has continued to be the future. As for the future, I believe that, in your dreams for peace and in your visions for a world free from pain and suffering, someday soon our leaders will affirm the dignity and worth of all people.”
Each year this global collaborative event proves to provide an opportunity to demonstrate student leadership and active learning, where the students take away skills of diplomacy and respectful negotiation, skills that help pave the way for the future. And although the conference has had to move to its online format this year, the learning and takeaways from this event for students around the world will be no less meaningful.
Below are just a few of the hundreds of staff and student reflections on the THIMUN conference over the years: (Insert slides - using some of the quotes from below).