Photo: lev radin/Shutterstock

Lessons From the United Nations: An Interview With Mike Reed

by Ian MacKenzie Apr 10, 2007

Mike Reed has been many things: a surfer, a musician, and a backpacker. We had many grand experiences while traveling around the coast of Australia back in 2002.

Recently, Mike decided he would experience cultural relations from the perspective of the Model UN, held every year in New York City. I caught up with Mike to ask him about his trip and his newfound insights into the challenges of navigating nations.

Why did you participate in the model UN?

I’m soon to be finished my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Victoria. International relations has been a significant area of study in my undergrad education, so to actually put my knowledge into practice at the Model United Nations Conference in New York seemed like a great opportunity.

I have known about the UN Club at UVic for a few years now, but I hadn’t joined in previous years because I thought it would be too time consuming with all the planning, fundraising, and studying that is required leading up to the conference.

I went for it this year because I realized it would be my last chance to do it before I graduated and the experience would significantly open my eyes wider than what I was learning in the classroom.

What interests you most about international diplomacy?

The notion of peace. International diplomacy is there to provide a safe world and to prevent violence and injustice. With 193 sovereign states on the planet, international diplomacy is absolutely crucial to global stability and maximization of peace.

What are some challenges you found when participating in the model UN?

The international system is extremely complex. Each country in the UN tries to push their own agenda, while simultaneously fulfilling their commitment to peace and cooperation. What is difficult about international diplomacy is getting all the dynamics to align.

UVic was representing the Republic of Korea (South Korea) at NMUN this year and my particular role was a delegation to the UN in the Conference on Disarmament.

To give you an example of the challenges I faced in my conference, I was trying to persuade the United States of America to work multilaterally and cooperatively, rather than aggressively sanctioning nuclear capable countries like North Korea.

Inside the conference room there were other difficulties, like students who were taking the simulation a little bit too seriously, causing emotional tension at times. Particularly the delegates representing both Israel and Syria were at each other’s throats, which made it difficult to get through the voting process and pass our resolutions.

If countries are not getting along, it can be devastating to the development of resolutions.

Any amazing moments you had down in New York that altered your perspective or expanded your mind?

I felt the most inspired during the opening and closing ceremonies of the conference, which took place inside the UN headquarters.

Some of the speakers were high profile individuals from the UN talking to us students about our future and our responsibility to play a role as individuals toward a more peaceful world.

I was sitting in the same room where major decisions get made that have enormous impacts on our world. For the first time I could see that I had the opportunity and capability to contribute to a better world.

What are 3 life lessons you took away from the entire event?

1. Opportunities are out there for anyone wanting to contribute something positive to the world.
2. The world is complex, as is life, and will always require proper management.
3. Every person has the power to make a difference.

Also check out: Mike’s photos from the Model UN and a clip of Jon Stewart mentioning the students in the audience during The Daily Show.

Ever participated in a model UN? What do you think of the larger role of the UN?

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