One of our Sixth Form students, Rew, recently took part in Asian Youth International MUN (Model United Nations) virtual conference where she won “most outstanding delegate”. This was one of just five awards given at the event, out of 100 other delegates from across Asia. We caught up with Rew to find out more.
Congratulations on winning this award, Rew. Can you start by telling us a bit about the model united nations (MUN), for those who aren’t familiar with it?
Sure, I would love to elaborate more about this conference! Replicating the UN conference for younger generations, the Asian youth MUN challenges participants to debate on pressing global issues, draft resolutions in response to the problems, and collaborate with others who are also passionate and determined to create change. The conference this year was held virtually due to the situation with the pandemic. Nonetheless, the debates and committee sessions didn’t lose any of the energy you would expect from an in-person conference which was something I am very grateful for having experienced. Participants (commonly referred to as delegates) have the chance to represent their allocated country as diplomats and engage with other delegates on current pressing issues around the world. However, the topic of discussion will depend on your allocated council which for me, was the International Monetary Fund or IMF. During the conference, you get the chance to debate with other members and also work collaboratively to write a draft resolution to the issue of the committee. Any points not mentioned in the ‘moderated caucus’ section of the committee session will not be allowed to be added into the working paper; therefore, it was important for everyone to share all their ideas so we were able to construct the most holistic and informative resolution to the issue at hand.
Why did you enter yourself into the Asian Youth International MUN?
Joining an MUN has always been on my list as I have heard many great things about the skill and experience that participants gain. From verbal skills to collaboration, the conference is tasked with fostering the ability of participants to engage diplomatically with others and to develop clear communication skills to get their points across as convincingly as possible. Moreover, the opportunity to learn from other talented delegates was a priceless opportunity that I would have had if I hadn’t participated in this event.
What happens once you’re elected?
I firstly had to fill in a form answering why I was interested in participating and describe the traits that would make me a good fit for the council of my choice. After waiting a few days, I received an email informing me that I had been elected to participate. The whole process leading up to the conference date was really streamlined and much more efficient than I had imagined. I received detailed instructions (through email) on how to proceed to the following steps and there was also a google drive folder shared with us which contained all the details about how MUN worked and tips & tricks to public speaking. One of the most useful documents I had received was called ‘MUN 101’ which contained all the vocabulary and procedures specific to this conference. I was bombarded with MUN-specific terms like ‘unmoderated caucus’, ‘motion to raise a parliamentary inquiry’ and ‘draft resolution’, but the MUN 101 booklet along with the live ‘guidance sessions’ held on Zoom truly helped me familiarize myself with these terminologies massively. In addition to that, I also had to write a ‘position paper’ discussing an overview of my allocated country and its stance on the topic of my council. This gave me the chance to do preliminary research on the topic.
What was the topic for this year’s event?
This year’s topic for the IMF council was ‘the rise of digital money and Fintech’. This is an issue I am passionate about, as I believe that this revolution is here to stay and that its significance is probably of equivalence to President Nixon’s declaration to decouple the dollar from the gold standard back in 1971.
What were you hoping to achieve by being part of it?
Initially, I wanted to expand my knowledge in the area of Financial technology and learn about how different countries held different perspectives when it came to promoting digitalisation for banking services. However, after joining the first council discussion session, I’ve realised that there were many more factors that deserved consideration in order to equitably and successfully transform in-person banking services and transactions online. For example, it is not just cybersecurity concerns that need to be addressed, but also ensuring financial inclusivity and a proper legal framework for these digital transactions to occur.
Where were most of your fellow delegates from?
Most delegates were from countries all over Asia (mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) but as the conference was held virtually, there were a few delegates from the UK and some from Europe. This conference is aimed at delegates with ages ranging from 15-25 years old but the majority of delegates in my council were in their 20’s so I had the chance to debate with people that were studying this topic as their majors in university! Conversing with older students helped immensely with broadening my view and also encouraged me to articulate my speech and ideas to match the level of professionalism in the session.
Where did your interest in digital fintech come from?
As someone who likes to keep up with the latest news from all around the world, I have found myself particularly intrigued with news relating to Fintech and cryptocurrencies that are based upon Blockchain technology. From the Shiba Inu meme coin that spiked through 400% in value to the Bahama’s launch of one of the world’s first Central bank digital currency called the ‘sand dollar’ back in October 2020, I believe that this field is evolving at an exponential rate and only those that can keep up with it will be able to reap the benefits this revolution is bringing to the table.
Additionally, the possibility of e-money replacing physical cash is something I find interesting because this will completely transform the way our economies work. Many professionals in the field speculate that digital assets which are approved as legal tenders will only complement the cash in our wallet and not replace it but there remains doubt in this area. Though there are many forms of digital currencies, the main distinction would be whether they are centralised or decentralised. The development of Central bank digital currency (CBDC) was a big topic discussed in my council and is a form of a centralised digital currency that provides many advantages to users such as relatively low transaction fees and more stability in terms of valuation because central banks hold the liabilities for this digital asset. On the other hand, critics believe that CBDC’s will deprive users of their privacy since banks will have complete control over money issuance and records of transactions. Despite this, CBDC’s are very much under the prototyping stage as there are very few central banks that have officially launched CBDC’s in their country.
What did you learn by taking part in the MUN?
The most valuable skill that I had gained from this experience was practising how to present my points in the most convincing way and using the research I had done to my advantage. Typically, I would have a few minutes to get my point across in a normal situation but during the MUN, delegates were added to the ‘general speakers list’ as many times as they wished, but were only limited to 1-minute speeches at a time. A single minute to get my points across in a conclusive and compelling manner! The chair of my committee emphasized the importance of tangible evidence to support the points we were making and this challenged me very much due to the fact that there was so much to learn in so little time about financial technology and I couldn’t base my arguments upon mere opinion because there had to be a law or technical description to back up whatever it was that I wanted to suggest. Furthermore, I also developed the skill of spontaneous thinking because there were moments in our council discussions where everyone ran out of ideas and the debate became really static so I tried my best either to make a new point or counter a point made previously by other delegates. This is much easier said than done!
Some points discussed in my working paper proposal are as follows: regulating cryptocurrency mining and agreeing upon universal cryptocurrency taxes, encouraging the IMF to cooperate with other UN agencies to promote financial literacy and security, determining the feasibility of developing countries that are seeking loan packages from the IMF to solve balance of payment issues, suggesting IMF member states to revise their AML/CFT laws to curtail money laundering or the financing of terrorist groups.
With the fundamental issues revolving around fintech that I have had the chance to familiarise myself with, I hope to be part of a project that addresses these issues directly – whether that be in my remaining School years or even later in life when I attend university. If I could have the chance to be part of a team that develops a CBDC for Thailand or even work with organisations to digitalise their transactional platforms, I would be very honoured. In the short run, I see myself initiating an IPQ that perhaps touches on this topic in hopes to find meaningful answers to the topic I have raised in my project. The scope of this field is just astronomical and there is so much more that I want to learn in order to become qualified to advance the digital revolution further in a sustainable yet innovative way.