Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers

Aaqib Md. Shatil

From October 16 to October 28 of 1962, the whole of mankind was pushed to the brink of an abyss, as the two most powerful nations of those days, the United States and the Soviet Union, were engaged in a confrontation, gearing up the possibilities of a nuclear war.

The crisis that is popularly known as the Cuban missile crisis ended successfully, assuring peace all over the world as the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove its missiles from Cuba in lieu of a rock-solid guarantee from the US that they would never invade Cuba. President John F Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey.

The Cuban missile crisis was a remarkable diplomatic success, as the two superpowers avoided the most catastrophic war in the history of mankind, without firing a single shot. The crisis depicted how crucial the role of diplomats could be. The need of peacemakers during decisive negotiations was felt on October 28, 1962.

Many do not even know the United Nations played a significant role in pacifying the two nations when they came too close to a nuclear war. The then Secretary General of United Nations U Thant is widely credited for having defused the Cuban missile crisis by interceding between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

Amid widespread criticism, the UN has ensured its impact on many international crises from behind the scene. Shashi Tharoor, an Indian diplomat who served as an under-secretary general of United Nations pointed it out in his address on UN day, 2012. He said: “Dag Hammarskjöld once described the United Nations as an adventure, a new ‘Santa Maria,’ to use the name of Christopher Columbus’s ship, battling its way through storms and uncharted waters to a new world. But, as he explained, on the shore there were always people who blamed the storm on the ship, rather than on the weather. Five decades later, the metaphor sadly still holds true. The UN continues to sail in uncharted waters, but it is blamed for the squalls that assail it.”

It is not entirely true that the UN is blamed unreasonably. In many cases, it has failed to play a pivotal role to fulfill the demand of time. For example, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the organisation could not make any significant step to save our people.

In Bosnia, UN peacekeepers were equally liable for the massacre of Srebrenica and the annihilation of at least 8,000 people. In addition to these, the insignificant role of the UN during the Iraq War and the massacre at Gaza strip made it clear as a bell that there is still a long way to go.

Holding Model United Nations conferences is considered as one of the best initiatives to make the UN more effective and vibrant. Model United Nations or MUN is an educational simulation and academic competition in which students learns about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. MUN involves and teaches research, public speaking, debating, and writing skills, in addition to critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities.

The concept of MUN is very simple. In an MUN, replicating the procedures of UN, delegates from different countries are allocated with their countries and committees. The delegates represent their previously allocated countries and lock themselves in a healthy debate.

MUN conferences around the globe are aimed to produce efficient future diplomats who can successfully tackle future problems of their country in the international arena with proficiency, building some highly skilled peacemakers.

In Bangladesh, activities related to the MUN conference started in 2002 when a number of selected delegates engaged in a debate on the role of their countries on combating terrorism worldwide. Since then, many MUN conferences have been held till date.

One of the most prominent organisations to organise MUN conferences in Bangladesh is Dhaka University Model United Nations Association – DUMUNA. DUMUNA has been credited for holding the largest MUN conference of the country since 2011. This year, the organisation is going to organise the third session of the conference, the DUNMUN 2014 under the theme “Empowering Youth for Sustainable Development”.

DUNMUN 2014 is expecting more than 500 delegates from around the world. The organisers have already received more than 2,500 applications from aspiring youths who want to take part in this largest youth conference of the country. The prime goal of DUNMUN is to make the youths of the nation aware of world politics, as well as to let them learn the diplomatic skills through a discussion on contemporary issues.

Nevertheless, DUNMUN is committed to providing a platform to the youths of the nation to express their thoughts and show their leadership quality. Through the continuous dialogues between the delegates, they will acquire the necessary skills to develop themselves as peacemakers.

Bangladesh is lagging behind due to the blunders committed by our inefficient diplomats. Moreover, Bangladesh hardly has any impact in the decision-making level of UN after the resignation of Ameerah Haq from the post of under-secretary general last July. The practice of MUN can be beneficial for Bangladesh from both aspects. Bangladesh will surely find some great peacemakers in the coming days, if the MUN conference is held on a regular basis.


Aaqib Md. Shatil is a writer, campaign consultant and development worker, currently working for The Daily Star
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