UNU G20 Simulation: Revisiting an Old Friend

By- TANDOKO, Effendi (UNU-IAS M.Sc Student)






Disclaimer: UNU G20 Simulation is a projection of G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is trying to reiterate the intensity of inter-governmental discussions in achieving a consensus upon a certain set of topics. This is in no way trying to undermine the level of negotiation in the real G20 Summit, but a vessel to expand one’s horizon and strengthen the network among UNU students and staffs. Getting an opportunity to visit Maastricht, the Netherlands for a weekend trip sounds like a very lavish dream of mine. But it happened, and I could not think of anything that could make the experience sour.

Prior in 2017, UN University – Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) was invited by its counterpart UN University – Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) to participate in a G20 Simulation hosted by the latter on 7-8 April 2018. As the result of a selection process, Tamara (UNU-IAS 2nd Year Master’s Student) and I were chosen to take part in the conference. We were then assigned a country to represent and a partner each to construct a Position Paper on the topic of Refugees Crises in Europe, Asia, and Middle East. I was so intrigued to be the Italian Republic whereas Tamara got to represent the Federative Republic of Brazil. Both are significant regional actors in terms of receiving and taking care of refugees and migrants which would have implications for our later stances. But beyond the veil of exciting individual research, specific details such as but not limited to the Summit’s Procedures were not revealed until just before the conference.

Fast forward to the day of the conference – ignoring the strenuous hours of flights and transits from Tokyo to Helsinki to Düsseldorf to Maastricht – we finally stepped into UNU-MERIT and met a diverse pool of students from not only MERIT but also University of Maastricht, Ghent University, and UN University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), as well as staffs from all over including UN University – Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS). As someone who needs time to adapt over a new crowd, it genuinely felt like a social blitzkrieg to me, though it was still eye-opening no matter how many times I have experienced it.The first act of the first day was a warming up Opening Assembly for all of the delegates in recounting our commitments and affirming our countries’ status upon the topic. Subsequently, we were split to the Council of Prime Ministers and the Council of Ministers where each of the Council will discuss two predetermined agenda topics respectively, as follows;

  1. Develop a burden sharing, resource mobilization and fundraising capacity framework,
  2. Support key refugee host countries with humanitarian and financial assistance,
  3. Work with the UN for a global institutional resettlement and migrant mobility framework,
  4. Accelerate 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development implementation in refugee crises-ridden countries.

Following that arrangement, we began discussing the importance of funding, capacity building, and appropriate technological measures to accommodate the crises. However, there seemed to be a stark notion that most countries did not want to accept more refugees into their borders but leaving the main responsibilities to key entry countries such as but not limited to, Greece, Italy, and Turkey. Before an agreement was even reached, a crisis alert erupted baring the evidence that the island of Lesbos in Greece was struck by an earthquake causing a humanitarian crisis. This phenomenon escalated the debate on the utilization of military and UN Peacekeeping Mission to conduct a search and rescue efforts around the vicinity. Meanwhile, main key entry countries refused to accept more refugees from this incident unless new incentives were given. This includes EU ascension for Turkey and EU funding for Italy, which adds new layer but exacerbate the magnitude of the debates.

The second day was fortunately less intense as countries began to agree on establishing a tech-visualization tools for collective data gathering proposed by Brazil and investing in refugees-prone regions through sustainable businesses, public-private partnership, and social inclusion measures proposed by Italy. Countries also has written down their new upgraded individual commitments regarding the Lesbos incident and the issues as a whole, mostly by providing financial assistance. We then adjourned the Councils and moved to Closing Assembly where documents from both Councils were merged to make one G20 Leaders’ Communiqué. Finally, we proceeded to divide the questions (asking whether there are objections on each clause) before moving to a roll-call vote. Fortunately, the document reached a consensus although the idea of being an odd one out titillated me.

As someone who has a modest Model UN background, this simulation brought back interesting memories as the ‘stubborn-negotiator’ fatigue dawned on me, yet I was completely taken aback by this one’s level of flexibility and passive-aggressiveness. I do, however, wonder whether the simulation would go much fruitful if we had reiterated the European Union instead. But beyond that, I would like to extend my gratitude to the organizers and UNU-IAS as well as to Tamara and Maiko-san for being such awesome travel fellows. I truly enjoyed my time in Maastricht, a small beautiful welcoming student drink-fest town, where I popped my European cherry.

Can’t wait to visit more in the future! Hopefully next time I will really revisit real old friends.

See the UNU G20 Leaders’ Communiqué: Link