JoMUN XV’s opening ceremony was held on September 29, 2017 with a performance by the AISJ Rhythmantics setting the tone and inspiring future leaders to rise and find their voices as they stand up for issues that they feel passionately about, and empower them to feel that they can make a change in the world.
The theme of the conference, “Empowering Africa”, is about empowering youth to enforce change, as well as changing Africa. Amogelang Maepa, the Secretary General of JoMUN XV, addressed the delegates of JoMUN by asking delegates' questions such as, “What is the purpose of Model United Nations? What real impact does it have on society? What could 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, 16 and 17-year-olds possibly do over the course of this conference to impact change?”
He drew some laughs when describing how he thought during his first conference delegates would “dress up fancy, act sophisticated, and pretend their solutions would solve world issues”, which ultimately did not “fulfil the aims of the activity.” His self-deprecating reminiscing about being a Delegate of Congo in his first year of participation involved “walking with his chest puffed, shaking people’s hands and saying, good morning and good afternoon, versus the casual, 'hey' or 'hi'." He has changed since then, challenging delegates to make a difference in the world that goes beyond the conference to tackling specific issues.
Thus, the more important question is, how can we make JoMUN more effective? Realistically, the conference and its resolutions will not change Africa, but that doesn’t mean delegates can’t pursue their issues outside of the conference and try to make a difference. As Maepa said, the purpose is “making the conference more about the issues and not about your personal interests.” Consequently, delegates will become more caring and empathetic, which will then impact change in the world. He urged the audience to find solutions that matter and pursue progress, stating that “the future lies in the hands of the youth.” Participants of JoMUN can determine what Africa will look like in 50 years. “You are here because you have a social consciousness,” he implored. We won’t change Africa in a weekend but we can care about our topics and issues “because as soon as we start caring, more change will start happening.”
Director Andy Page-Smith built on this theme of service and making a difference in the world. Youth of today are better informed and service is an important balance for a well-rounded person. “If our attitude and caring for others dominate our mindset, it is not important who you are but what you can do for others.” He encouraged participants to debate hard, fair, and thoughtfully while trying to find answers regarding what it is to be a delegate in the world.
Keynote speaker, Anne Shongwe, who has worked over ten years for the United Nations and owns a digital company, spoke on issues surrounding the United Nations and its efforts to make change in a large bureaucratic organization that has pros and cons. She challenged delegates to bring their fresh ideas, innovations, youth, and digital knowledge to the landscape of the United Nations to make it more agile and adaptable in a changing world. She describes the United Nations as a "slow, monolithic institution," but one that brings unique cultural perspectives that can be powerful collectively and hopefully can change the status quo. She told delegates interested in this career path to pursue issues they are passionate about, find work in government and non-governmental organizations, and learn about small institutions. She doesn’t recommend jumping into work at the United Nations until a background knowledge has been built around an issue delegates are passionate about. She left us with the message and famous African proverb denoting that even one person can affect change: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”