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“We worked collectively to resolve the crisis”: Insights from Model NATO

Students in the School of HAPP recently came top in the annual UK-wide Model NATO competition held remotely this year. The team, coached by Professor Alister Miskimmon, included Sunniva Henden and Joe Reilly representing the UK, and Bebhinn Tankard and Matthew Dumigan representing Slovakia. In this interview, Matthew shares some of his insights from the experience.

The final year Queen’s students represented Slovakia and the UK and were coached by Professor Alister Miskimmon

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Matthew and I’m a final year undergraduate from England, studying BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics at QUB.

How did you hear about Model NATO?

I first heard about the Model NATO event from a HAPP School email that was sent out to students a couple of months prior to the event. It immediately stood out to me as an immensely worthwhile opportunity to both gain a deeper understanding of NATO and bolster my CV. 

The email detailed the application process, which included an initial 100-word piece on why you believe you’d be an ideal delegate and what you expect to gain from participation. Upon successful completion, candidates were then invited to interviews, which took place over MS Teams. At the interview, questions were asked to determine your interest and understanding of NATO as a political and military alliance, as well as more general questions regarding why you think you’d be a good candidate for the model event. 

How did you and the team prepare for the competition?

Since QUB was sending two delegates for each team we’d been selected to represent (UK and Slovakia), our first task as delegates was to decide who would represent each team. After this, we began meeting regularly with Alister, our coach, to discuss aspects of the model event and the kind of research that would enable us to maximise our performance on the day.

Before delving deeper into researching the positions of our respective countries, it was necessary to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of NATO’s working methods and the structures that make up the organisation. Without going into too much detail, reading up on these areas was intriguing, and turned out to be of fundamental importance on the day as the crisis unfolded. 

As my fellow delegate and I were representing Slovakia, we conducted extensive research into topics ranging from Slovakia’s military strength to their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we endeavoured to uncover who Slovakia’s close NATO partners were in preparation for cooperative decision making and influencing on the day. Ultimately, however, no amount of preparation can prepare you for some of the curveballs thrown on the day! With that in mind, being able to think and speak quickly on your feet supplements any research conducted prior to the mock crisis.

One of the Queen’s teams represented Slovakia. What did this entail on the day?

As Slovakian delegates, it became necessary to work closely with our allies, which included the Visegrad nations (Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic) and several other NATO member states. In this way, our reach and influence were bolstered as we worked collectively to resolve the crisis with other NATO members and represent our nation’s interests at the NATO level. 

For example, we grouped together with like-minded member states to put forward three draft texts, which ultimately formed part of the final draft resolution. Such draft texts ranged from mobilising resources within our respective nations to aid the relief effort, to promoting the use of our intelligence agencies to monitor the ongoing crisis. 

What was the main thing that you took away from the experience?

The main thing I took away from the experience was the importance of clear communication and cooperation in conducting crisis management activities. Regardless of whether this on an international stage or in an office boardroom, such transferable skills are vital in ensuring that objectives are met and that crises are resolved swiftly and efficiently. 

Furthermore, the importance of compromise was clearly emphasised throughout the day. Since different actors often represent different views, attitudes and beliefs, it’s important to find common ground and make appropriate compromises in order to ensure the smooth functioning of crisis resolution. 

Do you have any tips for students who might be considering taking part next year?

My main tip would be to make sure you’re well prepared and that you know your country’s position on a wide range of issues inside out. On the day, the judges are looking for delegates who can accurately represent their nation’s stance on particular events and use that to collectively work with other member states in resolving the crisis. In fact, the other QUB team (representing the UK) won the outstanding delegation award for doing just that.

Also, make sure to enjoy it! It’s a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to both hear and learn from actual NATO representatives and diplomats.

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