Geneva International Model of United Nations: Bilingualism and its benefits

Who is GIMUN?

GIMUNGIMUN is an accredited NGO by the United Nations fully managed by students and has a special consultative status by the Economic and Social Council committee. GIMUN is part of JUNES (the Swiss UN Youth Association) who is one of the founding members of UNYANET. Each year we have the chance to welcome to Geneva, in our different activities, around 500 students from all across the world. Our main event is the Annual Conference where we try to bring students closer to the diplomatic and political world. We seek to promote the UN values in order to achieve a greater peace. During the different events, the participants learn how essential negotiation and collaboration are, and their key-role for development. “Bringing students closer to the United Nations” – that was always how we introduced GIMUN to students. Besides our Annual Conference which welcomes hundreds of students from around the world each year, we hold other events during the year, such as UN Days, a Study Trip and an ‘International Geneva’ week. Our different activities try to respond to our central objective. During the ‘UN days’ we welcome more than 100 students in the UN headquarters where we hold different panels in order to discuss the main issues our world is facing. We choose the most problematic questions and try to understand them from different point of views in order to find applicable solutions. During this day, we welcome different guest-speakers who provide us with their useful insight on the topics in question. Each year we have the pleasure to welcome M. Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN headquarters in Geneva, who has always been very supportive of GIMUN and its values. The Study Trip is one of the events that make our NGO truly distinctive. A dozen of participants explore a different country in order to go and discover a new culture and to gather new perspectives on the world. Each year we focus on one topical issue, like the refugee crisis for the 2016 edition, in order to show participants complexities they might not otherwise be acquainted with. Finally, our last event is the International Geneva week, during which we welcome students from different places who want to discover Geneva and all its international organizations and measure how impactful this place is in the rest of the world. We get to see the direct and indirect impacts different NGOs and organizations have in Geneva, and we further understand how they work and collaborate together. We believe that promoting those values for future generations can make a difference on the long run, and we are committed to making happen the change we want to see in the world. What makes us different is not only our NGO status, neither our privileged relation with the United Nations office in Geneva, but mainly our bilingualism, a value that we conserved for more than 17 years now.


The Logistics behind a multilingual conference

Putting up an annual conference with several hundred delegates and Secretariat members from across the globe is already a very demanding exercise in itself. Geneva MUN not only makes sure the standard expectations of MUN conferences are met, but we further ensure that committees are both offering French and English as working languages. Basically, this means we need teams of both interpreters and translators who are assisting delegates in their work. For several years now, we have been in touch with a professional team of interpreters who come from across Europe to offer simultaneous or consecutive interpretation during committee sessions. A delegate speaking in English in the room is therefore simultaneously understood by a Francophone delegate in that same room. This is only possible due to the hard work of our Under Secretary General for Interpretation, Gaspar Obregon, who is in charge of managing a group of student interpreters coming from the best interpretation schools. The result is even more impressive both for delegates and Secretariat members since GIMUN uses UN facilities in Geneva. Our Under Secretary General for Translation is on the other hand in charge of making sure all written documents – and first and foremost resolutions – are offered both in English and French to participants. Background guides are also offered in both languages at a professional level. Some translators and interpreters are using their time spent with GIMUN in order to gain professional experience and validate their work as part of their curriculum. Achieving such objectives year after year is only possible due to the strong partnerships GIMUN has been able to create and strengthen throughout the years with multiple private and public institutions that are at the top of their field. Organizing such a conference undeniably comes with additional hurdles, but we, GIMUN board, remain confident that this puts delegates in the very best conditions to impregnate themselves with the challenges and the rewards of diplomacy.


What difference does it make?

GIMUNThere are numerous upshots to participating in a bilingual conference – and even more so to a multilingual one. Intellectual flexibility might be one of the most prominent benefits. Delegates indeed familiarize themselves with the rigorous exercise of being comfortable, agile and witty in several languages simultaneously. This is not only a personal asset the delegate gains outside of the MUN classroom. This is more importantly a necessary criterion in order to fully grasp the complexities inherent to each language. We all know the writing of resolutions sometimes rests on suggestive phrasing. Whilst adding another language to this most certainly brings further technical complications, it most importantly forces delegates to work on a clause in great detail in order to make sure it is clear and unambiguous. In other words therefore, you have by now understood how bilingual conferences extensively focus on the content of what is produced.

Having two different languages at the same conference implies greater cultural diversity. This is a fact that makes GIMUN conference a very unique experience and explains why we welcome each year students from all around the globe. Delegates can debate in their own language, with which they think they can truly convince the others, and they do not have to worry about how the information will be received or said. This is a true benefit from attending GIMUN’s Annual Conference. There is a real difference between speaking a language, and convincing in a language. Rhetoric is an art, and we want the delegates to show us their work of art. We are convinced that bilingualism guarantees the uniqueness and richness of this conference. Therefore, even with the complications it can cause, we really want to offer the very best to our participants. By removing the language barrier – whilst embracing cultural diversity simultaneously – GIMUN gives its very best to delegates, presidents and staff members. We hold on to this very tightly, and we are determined to enable all participants to blossom in such an environment.


Charles Bonfils-Duclos and Kanzy Kassem

Secretary Generals 2016-2017



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About Pau Petit

Born in Barcelona. European Citizen of the World. President of UNYANET 2016-2017. Former PR Officer and former Chair of the Fundraising Experts Commission of UNYANET. Member of UN Association of Spain - Youth Section and representative to the United Nations Youth Associations Network (UNYANET) from 2010 till 2014. During this time he has been a very active MUNer going through all possible positions in the MUN world in several conferences around the globe. Also, as a proud GMUNer, Pau has met Ban Ki-Moon twice along his MUN circuit. Currently he is studying in Geneva his master’s in European Studies, specializing in economic and foreign policy of the European Union. Moreover, he has completed different internships and volunteering programs i.e. with UNESCO, UNYANET, ICTSD, among others, where he has also learnt about altruism and philanthropy. Furthermore, as an avid sportsman, Pau enjoys every possible sport on Earth and together with his former team won the basketball league of Catalonia. Finally, Pau is firmly committed with human rights of people with disabilities and believes that education and sports can play a key role in building trust and peace in post-conflict societies. His dream is world peace.

2 thoughts on “Geneva International Model of United Nations: Bilingualism and its benefits

  1. Wow the UNYANET is creating this great platform to harness Networking and Partnership among the world’s youth. I think that is the way to solving most of our predicaments. UNYANET should be active voice for the voiceless youth in the world.but how would it benefit the 3rd world countries?