Feeling jaded about the future of global politics? Spend a day at COMMUN, the Commonwealth Model United Nations conference. Seeing impassioned, informed, and inventive sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders work toward peace, universal human rights, and mutually beneficial trade agreements just might restore your faith in politics (and humanity).
During COMMUN VIII, held April 29, 2023, more than one hundred students from local middle schools flocked to Commonwealth School in Boston to flex their debate and diplomacy skills to great effect—just see the list of awards below.
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“Throughout the day, as I walked through rooms, read position papers, and talked to my chairs, I was constantly impressed by the deep understanding each of you demonstrated of your topics,” said Secretary-General Moe ’23 during his closing remarks. “I am sure that these research, public-speaking, and quick-thinking skills will take you far.”
Over the course of the conference, wars started and ended, intergalactic treaties were passed, ancient Athens rose again. Even the aliens were willing to parley. Charmingly anachronistic points of parliamentary procedure (aka “parli-pro”) governed the day, with delegates raising placards to speak or make a motion. Only a few times was a gavel’s sharp rap needed to call for decorum—though not during the fascinating keynote address.
Dr. Peter Abbott—His Britannic Majesty’s Consul General to New England—began the event by discussing his career as a diplomat, including working to end forced marriages, the joy of being on U Street in Washington D.C. the night President Barack Obama was elected, and the political implications of playing cricket in Pakistan. His winding professional path served as a model for the students listening to him, he said, as he urged them to embrace the twists, turns, and unexpected opportunities they will surely face in the years to come.
Following the keynote, committees filled Commonwealth classrooms, where they tackled modern-day issues surrounding prison reform and Melanesian separatism; past conflicts involving the Invasion of Crimea in 2014, the Beaver Wars of the 17th century, and the Second Greco-Persian War of 480 BCE; and the Wei-Human War, a sci-fi conflict conjured up by Kerem ’23 (“something my goofy, quirky, obstreperous, and whimsical middle-school self would want to attend a committee on”).
What happens in these chambers? In the Prison Reform committee, delegates proposed solutions to many problems plaguing prison systems the world over, such as how to provide more compassionate conditions for incarcerated mothers; one after one they stood, suggesting reforms such as relocating mothers to the facilities closest to their children, ensuring infants stay with them throughout the breastfeeding period, and offering culturally competent health care. And they talked through which countries should pay for such changes and how.
Stepping back a couple millennia: “We let them take Athens and try to retrieve as many people as we can,” said the Leader of Aegina during the Second Greco-Persian War committee, as he considered the implications of facing Athenian archers. (A surprise attack might be the best option—though a last resort.) “While that's happening, we need to bring around half of our forces to Persia.”
In the Beaver Wars committee, tribes including the Algonquin, Cayuga, Mohican, Susquehannock, and Seneca, facing the decline of beaver populations due to European colonizers’ overtrapping, defended not only their economies but their stewardship of their land and its resources. As they debated the role of war in bringing about peace, without warning, Commonwealth students burst through the door to inform the crowd that a battle had broken out! (One of several pre-planned “crises” inflicted on the delegates.) Once the figurative dust settled, students shifted their strategies accordingly, based on the new information.
In another rewriting of history, delegates considered the Eastern European political landscape of just a few years ago, during the 2014 Russian Invasion of Crimea. They worked toward (fictional) trade agreements that would both empower the region economically and bring political stability in the years to come—an eerie exercise as the war in Ukraine puts Crimea back in the headlines. At least at COMMUN, the students worked toward and achieved peaceful resolution. “The countries that are here…are going to be able to help in any way they can,” said the delegate from Armenia. “I don't necessarily have as much money as the U.S. or nuclear power, but I can still help out and show that I do want to help this country.”
Through such challenging committees, COMMUN helps participants build skills and familiarity with international relations, as it has been designed to do since its founding in 2016 for the nearly 1,000 students who’ve since participated. “I really liked how we got to learn new things,” said the delegate from France. “I think everybody was really dedicated to the cause,” Netherlands added. The young delegates praised their warm, funny, and knowledgeable Commonwealth student chairs, who have spent most of the school year planning this event—some even applying their own past COMMUN delegate experience.
Moe has been involved in COMMUN for the past six years: two as a delegate and four as an event organizer. Junior Secretary-General Henry ’24 will take the reins next year. Rounding out their leadership team were Ben ’23, Undersecretary of Policy, and Ted ’23, Undersecretary of Crisis, ensuring that each chair and crisis head knew how to run their committee.
“This COMMUN community that we are all part of has come to mean a lot to me,” Moe said in his closing remarks. “It is wonderful to see delegates and schools that have been coming for years and to welcome in new faces. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude that you are all here and that COMMUN has been going strong for this much time.”
COMMUN 2023 Awards
- Best Delegate: Seneca
- Outstanding Delegate: Algonquin
- Honorable Mention: Susquehannock
- Best Position Paper: Oneida
- Best Delegate: India
- Outstanding Delegate: Thailand
- Honorable Mention: Norway, US
- Best Position Paper: China
Invasion of Crimea
- Best Delegate: Russia
- Outstanding Delegate: Chile
- Honorable Mention: Armenia, Nigeria
- Best Position Paper: UK
- Best Delegate: Indonesia
- Outstanding Delegate: Papua New Guinea
- Honorable Mention: Fiji
- Best Position Paper: India
Second Greco-Persian War: Greek
- Best Delegate: Pausanias the Regent
- Outstanding Delegate: Leader of Arcadia
- Honorable Mention: Leader of Aegina
- Best Position Paper: Eurybiades
Second Greco-Persian War: Persian
- Best Delegate: Leader of Macedonia
- Outstanding Delegate: Hydarnes II
- Best Position Paper: Xerxes I
Wei-Human War: Wei
- Best Delegate: Omniship AI
- Outstanding Delegate: Sugon Bluw
- Honorable Mention: Uagif Greay
- Best Position Paper: Lite Bluw
Wei-Human War: Human
- Best Delegate: Arl Uplift
- Outstanding Delegate: Aroone of the New Empire
- Honorable Mention: Lang Karanik the DreamCatcher, Hiwbow Osbwoyw
- Best Position Paper: Tella Allfather