“I have loved participating in Model Arab League,” says Bethany Crisp, a senior majoring in Political Science. “It is a great opportunity to grow while at BYU.”
Crisp was part of this year’s Model Arab League team, which recently competed very successfully at the National Model Arab League Competition, held March 25–28, 2021. Nine BYU students participated, while a tenth, Christian Hawkes, served as secretariat—the first time that a BYU student has been part of the national conference leadership.
Model Arab League is similar to Model UN, but with a focus on the Arab League. “Each school is assigned one specific country from the Arab League to represent on several councils,” explains Hawkes. “Students are given a list of topics that will be considered at the competitions and encouraged to do background research before each conference on the topics and how their country might feel about them. At the conferences, students debate each topic and draft resolutions that propose solutions.” Another part of the competition is the Arab Court of Justice, where schools are assigned “court cases” and a side to represent. This year, BYU was assigned to advocate for the UAE in a case about a spy ring.
The national competition is usually held in Washington DC, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event was held over Zoom. “There were benefits and drawbacks to the online format,” says Hawkes. “On one hand, there is an in-person energy and excitement that gets lost in an online format, and as we know Zoom fatigue can be very real. But the online format allowed students to participate in ways that they otherwise might not have.” And, says Crisp, the team still found a way to enjoy the competition: “The students still met up to compete as a team so that we could have that sense of camaraderie . . . and snacks.”
The BYU team was very successful at the competition: two students won distinguished delegation, two students won outstanding delegation, and BYU’s team won distinguished overall delegation. And a BYU student who participated on the Arab Court of Justice won distinguished advocate.
The benefit to participating in Model Arab League, says Hawkes, is the skills you learn: writing—as students are constantly writing about their topics—as well as diplomacy and working with others. “Above all, it’s a great way to develop and practice rhetorical skills, especially under time constraints,” he says. “You often only have 30 seconds or a minute to articulate your point and raise issues that you think are important, so you learn to be succinct and to-the-point in your speeches. These are all very important skills academically and especially in future careers.”
Students don’t have to major in Political Science, International Relations, or Middle Eastern Studies to get involved with Model Arab League, says Hawkes: “Anyone and everyone who is interested in diplomacy, debate, or international relations, or even is just interested in competition or refining writing and public speaking skills, should definitely sign up.” Interested students should reach out to Dr. James Toronto, faculty advisor for Model Arab League, at email@example.com.
—Emily Nelson, 28 April 2021