Athens & Thessaloniki, May 2023

Dear friends, advisors, former collaborators and founding members,


It was a quarter of a century ago, in February 1998, when the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC Athens), along with a small group of volunteers, organised the first Athens Model United Nations with the participation of 23 local schools. Until then, barely a handful of Greek schools had any MUN experience. Over the next few years, the conference grew in size, as did the team of volunteers. Part of the same team was behind the first Thessaloniki MUN that took place in November 2002.

Following the unfortunate closure of UNIC at the end of 2003, after six successful editions of AMUN, this team decided that it was important to keep the conference alive for future participants and, despite taking charge of the organisation with just 3 months’ lead-time, was instrumental in delivering AMUN 2004, ensuring that AMUN proceeded with no interruption.

These efforts laid the ground for the further development of these conferences and, in 2010, the Hellenic Model United Nations Organisation (HMUNO) was founded to become the institutional home of AMUN and TMUN. Under this organisational framework, the AMUN was the first MUN conference in Greece to reach its 20th session in 2017, with TMUN reaching the same milestone in 2021.

Our mission

The HMUNO was created as an entirely non-profit organisation exclusively dedicated to promoting MUN as an educational activity for high-school students, mainly through the organisation of the annual AMUN and TMUN sessions. As it had been since the inception of AMUN, our core mission was to provide an accessible opportunity to local schools and students, especially those facing the steepest financial barriers to joining such programmes.

The benefits of participation are too many to list and go well beyond the few typically highlighted, such as the opportunity to practice English or to develop essential “soft skills” that will prove valuable to students in nearly any career they decide to pursue, such as public speaking, proper argumentation, research, presentation skills and teamwork. They even go beyond simply learning about global affairs and international organisations, or learning respect for one’s interlocutor or opponent.

Model UN conferences provide a distinctive blend of academic, social, and personal development activities that stimulate personal and intellectual growth. Indeed, far from AMUN and TMUN being conceived simply as a promotion of the UN, as it is often framed, it was rather our goal to take students out of the conventional school context and have them engage with their peers in a setting where they are treated as responsible individuals and held accountable for their actions. This puts students in a position to set higher standards for themselves, to surpass their limits, to aspire to personal improvement. As they tackle complicated topics and hitherto unsolved problems of international significance, they catch a glimpse of the complexities that lie further ahead; they achieve a broader understanding of society, of international relations and of history. Most importantly, we hoped to stimulate their curiosity to learn more on these and other topics on their own initiative.

A unique organisation

To this day, AMUN and TMUN have been unique in that they are entirely organised and managed by former participants, each generation recruiting and training the next in an unbroken chain stretching back to the very beginning. This team has also been the only one in Greece, and probably among very few in the world, organising not one, but two MUN conferences every year in two different cities.

It was perhaps not always clear from the outside that these two conferences were the work of only a very small number of volunteers, all of them university students or recent graduates. On the other hand, this was the greatest strength of the organisation; an independent and flexible team, able to focus exclusively on the quality of the conference, approaching the needs of the participants from a vantage point not too far removed from the students themselves. This was especially evident in the fundamental matter of Student Officer selection and training, where it was possible to establish a professional working relationship with the selected students that cannot be easily replicated inside a school environment.

Since 2003, this has also been an entirely delocalised team. Almost 20 years before teleworking and remote learning were abruptly thrust into our lives by the COVID-19 pandemic, this team, spread out in two different cities and with no physical headquarters of any kind, was already making use of early tools of remote collaboration at a time when smartphones, social media, Google documents and even USB memory sticks were still in the future, 3.5” floppy disks were the medium of choice for digital file transfer and a 2MB mailbox was considered a luxury.

A meaningful impact

To this day, 22 editions of AMUN and 20 editions of TMUN have taken place. We estimate that 8000 students coming from 245 schools have taken part in AMUN and TMUN. You can find additional information on the conferences and participating schools in the report, which we kindly invite you to take the time to review.

During each conference, we had the immense pleasure of observing hesitant and uncertain students, uncomfortable in formal attire and ill at ease during their first moments in an MUN, finding the courage to take that first leap and soar to exceed even their own expectations. Being there and contributing to set the stage for those small – yet big – moments of personal courage, discovery and realisation of new possibilities has perhaps been the most gratifying aspect of this work for us. Over the years, some of these students joined the AMUN and TMUN organising teams and worked to provide the same opportunities to younger participants.

It has also been a privilege and a pleasure for us to meet and work with a small army of dedicated educators. Without the sacrifice of your personal time and effort, without your tenacity in carving out the space for these activities in your schools, these conferences could never exist. Many of you have been with us for nearly the entire lifetime of AMUN and TMUN. Throughout the years, your enthusiastic commitment and kind words were an indication of the trust that you placed in us to deliver high quality conferences for your students and a strong motivation to carry on.

All good things

Yet all things come to end, and good things are no exception. It has become clear in recent times that certain necessary conditions for carrying on are no longer met. The greatest strength of this team is also its greatest weakness in that it must rely on a regular influx of motivated volunteers. The recent pandemic, preventing the organisation of in-person conferences, which were the best recruitment vehicle for new members and the best training ground for new recruits, delivered a fatal blow by interrupting the indispensable continuity that lies at the core of our organisation.

We are therefore in the sad position to announce that the HMUNO is permanently ceasing its operations and will therefore offer no further editions of the Athens and Thessaloniki MUN conferences.

1998-2023: a different landscape

As our activities come to a close 25 years after the first edition of AMUN, the landscape looks quite different. Virtually unknown at the time, MUNs have today become a permanent fixture in the calendars of many Greek schools. We can even speak of an MUN “explosion” in the form of several private initiatives establishing several new MUN conferences.

This is in sharp distinction to the early years, when formal recognition of such programmes was scarce and the few teachers involved were operating almost “in the wild”, frequently tolerated rather than supported within a system still unfamiliar with and suspicious of “unconventional” educational activities. It took a number of years at the beginning to iron out the status and terms of operation of these conferences with the Ministry of Education, including several meetings and written briefs, before some permanent institutional memory was finally established.

Looking ahead

Excluding the two MUNs organised by the HMUNO, there are now another 10 MUN conferences for schools taking place in Greece, mainly in Athens, Thessaloniki and, more recently, in Patra. Some, like AMUN and TMUN, have been around since the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, while others are a few years old. The spread of MUN in Greek secondary education can be counted as a collective achievement of the last 20 years.

In this broadly encouraging picture, the geographical limitation of these opportunities is nevertheless notable, even as a number of schools occasionally made the trip to AMUN or TMUN from such diverse locations as Alexandroupoli, Larisa and Tripoli, to islands such as Rhodos, Chios, Samothraki, Lefkada, and even tiny Ag. Efstratios, just to mention a few.

Of even greater concern, however, is the steep cost of participation in the majority of currently offered MUNs, even for local students. The total participation costs for a school can exceed the corresponding costs in AMUN and TMUN by up to more than a factor of three. On the other hand, our experience suggests that MUN conferences for 200-400 participants can be successfully executed and achieve their educational objectives at an individual cost below 35€, even when, as in the case of AMUN, the venue needs to be fully rented at market rates. It is also worth recalling that AMUN and TMUN were funded exclusively by the participation fees, meaning that this low participation cost was offered without relying on external sponsorships. With the loss of AMUN and TMUN, there is now the regrettable risk of limiting access to only a small subset of schools.

While geographical disadvantages are more difficult to overcome, it is our sincere hope that the entities responsible for the organisation of Model UN conferences in Greece will make every effort to lower the financial barriers to participation and actively seek to attract a diverse pool of participating schools.

With a little help from our friends

As we take our leave, we gladly profit from the opportunity to express our gratitude for the invaluable contributions of all present and former volunteers, collaborators and institutional partners that allowed these conferences to grow and prosper for over two decades.

In Athens, the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights provided a much-needed institutional cover for AMUN during the transition period between the UNIC closure and the founding of the HMUNO. In Thessaloniki, the American Farm School offered to host the 5th edition of TMUN in 2006 and went on to become the permanent home of the conference. We could not have asked for better hosts than this unique institution and we are grateful for their support.

Finally, the UNIC staff and first generation of volunteers combined their talents to bring the first AMUN to life 25 years ago. The thousands of students that have taken part in AMUN and TMUN, and many more who benefitted from other conferences that sprung up as a result, as well as us, AMUN and TMUN organisers of the past two decades, owe them a debt of gratitude for setting this all in motion. Thank you.

In closing, we would like to take this final opportunity to extend to all of you, teachers and students, past and present collaborators, and friends made along the way, our most sincere thanks for joining us on this journey and our most heartfelt wishes for your future endeavours.

For the final time,

Sincerely,


The HMUNO Board

The AMUN Organising Team

The TMUN Organising Team