Defending the indefensible? ‘Outstanding’ success of boys at debating conference, where QE delegates had to represent Russia

Defending the indefensible? ‘Outstanding’ success of boys at debating conference, where QE delegates had to represent Russia

Four QE delegates won awards for their public speaking and debating skills at a Model United Nations conference.

The three-day weekend ‘HabsMUN’ event, hosted by Haberdashers’ Boys’ School, saw a ten-strong QE team take on more than 500 delegates from other leading schools.

MUN gatherings are designed to simulate real UN conferences, with teams representing countries’ interests. Half of the QE group represented Nigeria, while the remaining five delegates had the difficult task – given current political circumstances – of speaking for Russia.

One of the latter, Zaki Mustafa, positively relished the opportunity: “Spending a weekend in the mind of Vladimir Putin was both a thought-provoking and exhilarating experience. I got the chance to defend Russia’s actions in front of hundreds of people without them all walking out on me!”

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “Our students made eloquent and persuasive contributions and were duly rewarded: with four out of ten of them earning awards, QE was among the most successful schools there.

“It was an outstanding result, achieved in spite of the strong competition our boys faced, their relative lack of experience (with so many events cancelled during the pandemic, this was the first in-person conference for all of them), and the lack of time for preparation, since the event came directly after our Year 11 mock exams. Part of the academic challenge of the Model United Nations is that participants are called on to argue from the viewpoint of their assigned country and thus often face the task of promoting causes and outcomes they would not personally agree with.”

The awards went to:

  • Saim Khan (Best Delegate in the Security Council – the top award for an individual delegate)
  • Zaki Mustafa (Distinguished Delegate in Disarmament and International Security)
  • Ady Tiwari and Uday Dash (Highly Commendable Delegates in Special Political 2 and Disarmament and International Security respectively)

In addition to Zaki, the Russia delegation comprised Saim Khan, Koustuv Bhowmick, Keshav Aggarwal and Hari Rathakrishnan. Representing Nigeria were: Chanakya Seetharam, Uday Dash, Kanusan Naveendran, Hari Kumarappan and Ady Tiwari. All are in Year 11, except Keshav Aggarwal and Hari Rathakrishnan (both Year 9).

They fended off challenges from several powerful country delegations, including Habs (representing the USA), Royal Masonic School for Girls (UK) and North London Collegiate School (China).

Saim spoke of his surprise at winning his award, presented in front of all the other delegates – “truly an unforgettable and powerful moment”.

His favourite part of the conference was, however,   “the opportunity to meet some fantastic people with whom I have made some great memories, whether it was clashing horns with the US over the future of Afghanistan, participating in icebreaker challenges where the delegate of Ecuador confidently stated she could defeat a black bear, or just working together with other delegates to achieve some fruitful debate”.

Similarly Uday said: “I have formed connections and met some fantastic people through this conference, which has undoubtedly been the best part of this process. Having debated strongly with and against them (with a little bit of karaoke sprinkled in between!), I have no doubt that I will continue to form stronger bonds with these people throughout my life.”

Uday’s fellow Nigeria delegate, Chanakya, added: “As someone with a keen eye for detail, I found that HabsMUN proved the ultimate opportunity to ‘geek out’ about what were, superficially, the trivialities of international law. Whether it was considering territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the International Court of Justice’s precedent, or the moral responsibilities of corporations towards society, the conference provided a challenging, yet rewarding, forum in which to debate geopolitical issues.”