Law students from Birmingham had an exciting opportunity to participate in a ‘Model United Nations’ in the magnificent rooms of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London.

Professor Jon Yorke from the School of Law organised for students from the LLB International Human Rights module to experience giving speeches in a UN setting, vote on human rights issues and draft a Security Council resolution.

IMG_4881In collaboration with the Foreign Office, fifteen students joined members of the FCO Young Diplomats Group, the FCO Youth Inspiration Group, and Chevening Scholars. The students engaged with complex international humanitarian and human rights challenges, and worked together to formulate the appropriate UN action to be taken in the crisis situation of the fictional African country, “Ruritania”. The MUN scenario included the humanitarian and human rights violations caused by several bombs destroying government buildings, with members of parliament dead and injured, and mass civilian casualties. The country had entered a state of emergency following a breakdown of Ruritania’s communications infrastructure. There was a collapse of the healthcare system with looting of medicines and attacks on healthcare professionals, and the emergency teams did not have the capacity to deal with the mass casualty medical circumstances that ensued.

The MUN opened with fifteen illuminating, and sometimes controversial, speeches by the member states. Mr Jack Wilson, LLB Year 3 and BCU Mooting Champion 2014, acted as the Prime Minister of Morocco. He made a fantastic speech highlighting the humanitarian law issues and was resolute in the need for the African Union’s interests to be observed. Miss Ayotomilade Ademola, LLB Year 2, acting as the President of Rwanda, affirmed the importance of the Security Council but urged an “African solution to an African problem”.

Next was a working lunch in which the participants attempted to build alliances, and dismantle others, to form voting blocs to get the issues within the resolution which best reflected their own member state interests. There were lively discussions on appropriate sanctions to be imposed and manifestations of state sovereignty, and the need to protect “national and regional interests” was placed heavily on the agenda. An interesting conflict occurred between, on the one hand, the European bloc joined by Ecuador and, on the other, the United States, Russia and China, with both sides appealing to the African countries to forge a cross-regional alliance. The key controversy concerned the different levels of sanctions aimed at the Ruritanian government and the militia’s attempts to achieve self-determination through violent means. There was an insightful exchange on whether the militia should be regarded as “terrorists” under international law.

IMG_4708Each member state voted on the humanitarian law and human rights law issues to be included in the text of the resolution. The permanent members of the Security Council have the right of veto. LLB Year 2 student, Miss Jessica Bradburn, as the President of the United States, exercised the veto on a specific UN Charter criteria and forced the Security Council to narrow the engagement within selected humanitarian issues. It was a significant political move which modified the power and influence of the UN.

The resolution vote was a lively occasion, reflecting the alliance building which had been occurring leading up to the event on Twitter and on the MUN Facebook page, ‘BCU FCO Model United Nations’, with the participants using the hashtag #FCOMUN15.

The formulation of the text of Security Council resolutions is an extremely complex exercise and it was no exception at our MUN. We had lively discussions on the text referring to governmental and militia embargos, and there was a significant conflict between the participants on who should monitor the provision of healthcare and humanitarian aid.

LLB Year 2 students Miss Anna Hajilari, President of Russia, and Miss Nabila Okino, President of France, provided cogent suggestions to balance competing interests in the drafting of the resolution, and we were able to create a text which represented a compromise reflecting member state and regional perspectives. In the end, we were successful in formulating a UNSC ‘Resolution on Ruritania’ and it was a wonderful practical experience for the students on the workings of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the Security Council.

The School of Law is very grateful to the FCO for hosting the event, and especially, to the fantastic organisation by Samantha Elmes, FCO Communication Excellence and Reputation Officer. Mr Christopher Layden gave a talk on his vast experience working in various British consulates around the world. Three Desk Officers who entered the FCO via the Diplomatic Service Fast Stream, provided illuminating talks on the FCO recruitment policy in both working for the Foreign Office as a British national, and as a locally engaged staff overseas. The FCO has 270 diplomatic posts in 160 countries around the world and there are a variety of employment opportunities which BCU law students learned about.

Overall, this was a wonderful opportunity for the students to engage in a high level experiential form of learning. They embraced this unique opportunity and enhanced their skills in delivering speeches on human rights issues, developed negotiation skills for political alliance building, and learned about the complexities of drafting legislation through selecting appropriate enumerating or defining wording for the formulation of international law and policy.


At the end of the day we had the exciting opportunity to support the Patchwork Foundation’s campaign for the general election 2015, #GetInvolved2015 and we gathered for a group photo in the grand setting of Durbar Court. Miss Anna Hajilari summed up her Foreign Office MUN experience when she tweeted, “#FCOMUN15 was one of the greatest experiences so far” in her undergraduate law studies. This was a sentiment felt by all.

We look forward to the Model United Nations in 2016.

Follow BCU School of Law on twitter: @BCU_Law

Follow Professor Yorke on twitter: @_JonYorke

For information on pursuing a career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, see “Working for FCO

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Jon Yorke

Jon Yorke

Reader in Human Rights Law, School of Law