Interview of Neil Plummer, one of the two Secretary Generals of the Conference, at the International School of Lyon, 11.11.17
Interview by Helwan Felappi (ISL)
Neil is a British, Grade 12 student from the International School of Lyon. He has been involved in ILYMUN for the past four years, and is now Secretary General. We discussed his role in this year’s conference with him.
Press: What is your role in the ILYMUN organizing team?
N.P: I am one of the two Secretary Generals. I, along with the secretary general from CSI ( Cite Scolaire Internationale) and the entire executive board of ILYMUN organize the conference. From start to finish, we look at all the different things concerning ILYMUN. We give roles to different people, and we make sure that the conference goes as smoothly as possible.
Press: How did you become Secretary General?
N.P: In 9th grade I was a delegate; that was the first time I ever went to an MUN conference. Then, in 2016 I was a Chair for the Security Council. In 2017 I was a Head of Chairs and Chair for the special conference on Human Rights, and this year I'm secretary general. So I started from the bottom and now I’m here! (laughs.)
Press: What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered, being Secretary General?
N.P: Making sure that everyone knows what they're doing, because sometimes people know what they need to do but don’t know how to do it. We need to find the time to tell them what they need to do and make sure that things are done when they need to be done.
Press: Most rewarding experience you’ve had as Secretary General?
N.P: Honestly, being chosen. And I'm sure during the conference I’ll get that sense of ‘’ I did this. I helped do this’’. It's very narcissistic, I know.
Press: Why do you think you are you the right person for the job?
N.P: Because ILYMUN 2018 will be my 9th MUN conference, which, along with my Deputy Secretary General Jack Pattinson, is the most anybody on the executive board has ever attended. I think that going to so many MUN conferences, not only ILYMUN but also ones in the Netherlands and in Berlin, helped me to see what different MUN conferences can do and to bring the best ideas from those conferences and put them into ILYMUN.
Press: This year’s edition has several new features, including the International Court of Justice and the Historical Security Council. Why include them?
N.P: So, for the ICJ, that was something we learned about last year when we were at the Berlin MUN. The person who’s now Head of the ICJ, went to see it, and she really liked it. We therefore played with the idea of introducing it at ILYMUN, since it would be something new and interesting, and then we forgot about it. Later, when we were assigning people to positions, we suddenly remembered, “Oh, we were planning to do the ICJ, that would be something really fun and interesting.’’ So we picked 3 people who had been interested in it, to be in charge of organizing our own ICJ. In November 2017, those three went to an MUN conference in Berlin where they were in the ICJ so that they could learn how to organize and run it. So that's where the ICJ came from.. As for the Historical Security Council, that was part of the ILYMUN conference during the first and second years I attended. The executive board from last year decided not to have and HSC. But I later took part in HSC at another conference and really enjoyed it, and I thought other delegates would enjoy it as well, so we decided to bring it back.
Press: You’ve been in ILYMUN for a very long time. What do you think has changed, and what do you think has improved, over that time?
N.P: It's definitely become a lot bigger. There are more delegates, from around the world, and more people becoming involved with it. There are more delegates saying after the conference, “ Oh, I can't wait to go back to ILYMUN next year.’’ The first year I went to ILYMUN, we had a Facebook group and one or two people posted saying “ Oh, I can't wait to come back next year.’’ Then, the year after that and the year after, everybody in my committee was like, “Thanks so much to the chairs and to everybody else; I had such an amazing time, and I really, really hope that I can see you guys next year.’’ So, it's more that sense of community that really improved ILYMUN.
Press: How do you see the future of ILYMUN?
N.P: Hopefully, getting quite big, so I hope that ILYMUN will stay popular and keep improving. This year we had people from Australia, Austria, the USA and large schools in other countries in the world wanting to take part, so I hope that in future years the executive board will be able to invite more international schools to come and really make ILYMUN more international.
Press: Why choose ‘’Cities’’ as a theme for the conference?
N.P: We chose it because, directly or indirectly, our lives are always affected by cities, and even just walking through a city you can see the problems that they face. These problems are getting bigger and bigger, and if cities don't deal with them in the right way, people’s lives will be changed, not necessarily for the better.
Press: Do you like this theme?
N.P: Yeah! It’s very interesting; we have some very interesting topics to discuss.
Press: What do you think ILYMUN brings to its participants?
N.P: It makes you think about how global everything is. People don't necessarily get the chance to talk to people from around the world, but ILYMUN, you get a chance to do so. Since I come from an international school, every day I get to speak to people from all around the world. I get a different sense of what the world is actually like and how bad or good other people's lives are. People going to ILYMUN will hopefully be able to see that as well.
Press: What advice would you give to newcomers to ILYMUN, or people who want to join?
N.P: Don't be scared. I was petrified when I first went. I spoke once. It didn't make any sense, I was sweating so much, I almost cried. It was horrible. However, everybody at ILYMUN is nice to you. You just have to ask someone and they'll be completely willing to help you. For delegates, your Chairs are there to help you; they want to help you. It's really important that you realize that people are there to help you. Don't be shy, if you have something to say and don't know how to say it, talk to someone about it.
Press: What are your expectations for this year? Is it going to be the best ILYMUN ever?
N.P: I genuinely hope so.
Press: Do you plan on continuing MUN after you graduate?
N.P: Yes. When I graduate I plan to go to the UK to study History and Politics. ILYMUN and MUN in general are very helpful for that, and they are what inspired me to go and do that for my further education. So, I genuinely hope that this passion for MUN continues throughout the rest of my education.
Press: Do you plan on a career related to MUN, for example, joining the real United Nations?
N.P: The real UN would be the dream job. I know that's very hard to do, but a boy can dream! I’d like to work for a diplomatic organization. It’ll be very hard for me (due to Brexit), but i’d like to work for the EU, for which I’d need to get French citizenship. The EU or the UN would be what I’d like to do, or, since I’m going to the UK, I could work for the Foreign Office,
Press: Do you think the UN is useful to the world? If yes, why?
N.P: I think the UN is very important. It’s true the UN has failed to act in certain places and those have been disastrous, but in the places where it has intervened, the people there are living in better conditions. Just think about how many conflicts the UN has stopped, and the lives the UN has saved, stopping useless wars. I think cooperation between countries is very important. What's the point of going to war? We’re all humans; just because one person has this nationality and another person has this other nationality, why should they hate each other? The UN allows them to come together to find diplomatic and peaceful ways to solve what could potentially lead to needlessly lost lives.