Why and what kind of simulation?

In the past, the Munich European Forum’s efforts have been focused on carrying out the annual “Brussels European Forum” conference, an intensive week-long international student conference. During this week, participants from across the European Union and beyond further familiarise themselves with current European and global issues by playing the roles of delegates in different real-life committees simulating the current agendas.

We aim to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the study of international relations by providing expert-led workshops on topical issues, special courses on rules of procedure, resolution writing and negotiation tactics, as well as a visit to the centres of European policy in Brussels.

The Munich European Forum organisation aims to heighten students’ and young professionals’ interest in European and international affairs, as well as allowing participants to network with other members of the European and international university community, as well providing inspiration and skills invaluable for future career opportunities.

The philosophy behind simulations

Simulations are related to role playing, a method adapted from the theatre to allow students to learn-by-doing. Students can for example learn valuable skills and gain experience through the role-play of a conflict-resolving event such as a peace negotiation summit.

Simulations reconstruct an external environment, but do not confine the students to “reading” prepared lines. They instead provide a framework within which the students can freely develop their characters, their arguments, and their relationships with other participating students.

The framework of a simulation is set by the choice of a decision-making body, its composition, stated purpose and rules of procedure. While the roles of its members are determined by the positions of the “real” delegates, such as the President or Prime Minister of the respective country, simulation participants are not bound to a script. They have to stay in character, but they are also free to improvise during the course of negotiations. Participants can even find solutions to problems that have been overlooked by real negotiators. This relative freedom is what distinguishes simulation from mere role playing.

Simulations are the perfect testing ground for so-called counter-factual experiments. This involves the unexpected manipulation of the mandates of the committee, either introducing agendas that the participants may not otherwise have dealt with, confronting the participants with fictional situations, or by filling them with delegates who represent alternate positions. The results of these experiments may reveal new answers which perhaps some day might be applicable in real-life.

Simulations have a further advantage – given the lack of real consequence of any outcome of the negotiations, participants can operate within the framework to test the limits of his or her position in the search for some common ground with the other committee members.

Simulations have been widely employed at the high school and university level, primarily in the form of Model National Parliaments and Model United Nations (MUNs). A whole array of MUNs have sprung up across the world in the last decade.

In contrast, the Council of the European Union in the Brussels European Forum focuses specifically on the European agenda, whereas the G-20 and NATO both focus on two separate scopes of international policy. At the same time, the organisers of the Brussels European Forum strive to multiply the synergetic effects created when students from different countries and regions come together.

Students from Central and Eastern Europe have always played a crucial role in the simulations of NATO and the EU’s agenda points on Eastern enlargement. This meeting of East and West, North and South is and will remain one of the principal goals and strengths of the Munich European Forum.

In this way, the Munich European Forum hopes to offer students not only an intensive, highly motivating learning atmosphere but also an excellent environment for inter-cultural dialogue, and of course a healthy dose of fun.