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MILMUN continues fine tradition of opening ceremonies with tenth anniversary

The tenth-anniversary edition of the Milan International MUN opened to a roaring start this Monday, not only with the usual solid introductions from the ExComm and Secreatariat (Victor Henkel von Donnersmarck, Elena Sandell and Ian Ssali all making an appearance), and the Dean at Università Bocconi (Prof. Andrea Sironi), but with outstanding introductions also from a high-calibre panel of distinguished guests.

Paolo Magri, Director at the Institute for International Political Studies, began by saying that ISPI is ‘very fond of MILMUN’, and proceeded to give an enlightening presentation on the challenges of food security and malnourishment that face the developing world as it continues. Mr. Magri argued that although 200 million people have been taken out of world hunger since the 1990s, the Millennium Development Goals which aimed to eradicate world hunger were in some respects too ambitious, failing to take into account that the growing global population would lead to the perpetuation of malnourishment in certain areas. Mr. Magri showed the mutually reinforcing links between conflict and food insecurity, and the effects of desertification and urban expansion on the shrinking of available arable land. Particularly striking were the relative impact of different kinds of agricultural land use, noting that a kilo of fruit or vegetables requires merely a square mile to be produced, while a kilo of meat requires a full thirty square miles. As dietary shifts lead to an expansion in meat consumption – with China having outpaced the United States in meat consumption in 1990, and more than doubled it in the time since – there will be future challenges ahead in ensuring that global food needs are met.

Antonio Ferrari, correspondent at Corriere della Sera, spoke about the Middle East and North Africa, which he saw as a longstanding ‘cradle of political unrest’. He noted that we are currently witnessing the progressive disintegration of no fewer than four Arab states – Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen – with 15 million out of a population of 27 million displaced in Syria alone. Mr. Ferrari saw these developments as part of a completely new scenario where conflict tends not toward interstate solutions and the restoration of political order under the new regimes, but instead tends ever increasingly toward chaos and disorder: a situation in which stable regimes are replaced by political vacuums filled in turn by fundamentalist groups. These developments place a greater challenge on the ability of the global community to provide for the people who have become victims of conflict, as a third of the resident population of Jordan are refugees from conflict elsewhere, and the refugee camps in Syria are turning into full-fledged cities.

Vera Hallé, Chair at Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN), spoke more optimistically, noting that while a solution to the challenges Middle East is at present unforeseeable, so too was an end to apartheid unforeseeable within her lifetime when she began working in the international sector in 1977. Ms. Hallé spoke enlighteningly about her experiences in building political clout for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which had been established in that year and by 1984 was still little known. This was a challenge however in gaining support from the Senate appropriations committee to pay the fund the United States’ $90 million in arrears, until the enlistment of the country singer and hunger activist John Denver as a celebrity face of the organisation. At that point, the doors opened and IFAD was able to secure the support it needed.

Ms. Hallé concluded in emphasising the importance of the MILMUN conference as an experience for delegates, underscoring the benefits of developing writing and analytical skills and exposing oneself to the specialisation in more technical fields of work within the United Nations. As she argued, it is in such emerging technical fields and organisations that the most work is currently readily to be found.

The sentiments echoed those of Prof. Sironi, who emphasised MILMUN’s capacity to test delegates’ skills for logic and argument, while also adding that he hoped delegates enjoyed their time and had fun at Bocconi – ‘but not too much fun.’

JH

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