An interview with two Chairs on a bench
09 June 2022
About ten days before the start of SMUN, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the head chairs of UNFCCC, Christian, along with one of his co-chairs, Pranesh. I interviewed them because, to quote Christian, “UNFCCC is the poster boy of SMUN this year”, and this is true, but I chose to probe further - why the sudden popularity of UNFCCC? What struggles were faced when planning and preparing for a rather unique council? Is it worth it? And to these I did indeed get wonderful responses from the duo, and I shall cease myself here to talk about what they had to say.
Beginning on a lighthearted note, I asked them what they thought of the fruit punch from Stamford Catering - the usual caterer for conferences and the like, at least pre-COVID. It is also their most popular item in the entire buffet spread, but they were rather critical - 7/10 and diarrhoea-inducer. In relation to the latter, I was offered information on bowel movements. I did not need that information at that time of the day.
The unfortunate thing about council chairs is that unlike press chairs, they are restricted to their own councils. So naturally I enquired which council they would love to eavesdrop on if given the chance, and there was a unanimous reply of the House of Commons:
Christian: The House of Commons, because, I think, UK politics in a simulated fashion could prove to be extremely vibrant and engaging and interesting from an outsider’s perspective. (Writer’s note: this was said with considerable hilarity, sorry HoC dais).
Pranesh: In line with what Christian said, ererererere. (For the uninitiated, the “ere” is the cry of assent that MPs use when they agree with something in the Chamber).
The both of them are doing A-Level literature, and so am I, and one of our literature teachers had said that the best way to understand a character was to live like them for a day. In line with this,
Abhyuday: Which character from Saint Joan or Pride and Prejudice should delegates aspire to be like?
Christian: I think all delegates should aspire to be like the servant to Robert de Baudricourt so they can be ‘submissive and breedable’ to the powerdels.
Pranesh similarly agreed, but replaced ‘powerdels’ with ‘chairs’. Moving on from their truly wonderful insights into literature and life, which in a free and fair publication would have been published in full. Moving further into the recording I stayed my hand (keyboard?) when considering whether I would be writing out their more censor-worthy responses to the question. Suffice to say, HoC delegates were likened to be Bluebeard in an ideal state (again, so sorry HoC dais).
Moving on to more serious questions about substantive matters which I had mentioned in the introduction, I asked them if they thought it was tokenistic that UNFCCC was being included in so many MUNs this year and possibly beyond since it gained little international attention prior to the Glasgow summit where everyone was only focused on it.
They vehemently disagreed with my rather cynical assumption, stating that it is not a superficial move and that by including so many climate councils more people are engaged closely in matters related to the most pertinent issue of our time, youth engagement and conviction would be driven up and this is necessarily a good thing. They however stated that given the current state of climate negotiations, it would be redundant to include it in future conferences if there remains continued stagnation and underwhelming commitment by countries.
In this vein I, and possibly everyone reading this, was curious to know what was the commitment they found most underwhelming.
Christian mentioned how China said that it would stop funding international coal plants in a moratorium of sorts, immediately pointing out how they effectively made their declaration a loophole in allowing themselves to continue investing in and constructing domestic coal plants, positing that it was a false facade.
Pranesh interestingly presented a rather cynical and somewhat popular view that diplomatic conventions exist less to solve problems and more for countries to push blame on one another so they can delay the resolution of such pressing issues. He mentioned nationalism here, but I thought it was more of selfishness inherent in human beings which is naturally extended to policy decisions because they are after all being made by humans. The two do give each other, but to what extent is a question for delegates, not for us (so lucky).
I wanted to end this off with fun questions as well, so I made the decision to segue to more personal questions, namely how on earth did they cope with JC1 and writing a mammoth study guide, and whether they were insecure about being thrown into the deep end with their first chairing experience being FCCC.
I thought it unusual that they put across chairing a difficult council as a formative trial-by-fire kind of experience, which they were meeting with some level of nerves and trepidation, but they did appreciate the learning experience as the stress enabled them to be better every day.
Furthermore, when sharing about the experience writing study guides, they mentioned how the overlapping of the first deadline and miscellaneous extracurriculars led to quite a bit of stress and a falling short of quality of both the study guide and sometimes general academic performance. They did however reconcile this with their earlier statement on it being a learning experience, citing how it effectively trained them to cope with such stress which would be rather common throughout their two years in JC, especially since they cited it as a source of “suffering” and “sleep deprivation” in their chair introductions, which I of course asked them about.
They chose to focus on the novelty of the JC experience (which I found unusual) and how the lows are negated by experiencing the highs with one’s friends, with Christian citing Pranesh as a friend he has experienced many of these ups and downs with, so perhaps they power through the suffering and sleep deprivation together. Pranesh took the high/low dichotomy further, calling JC a simultaneous heaven and hell, with the latter giving strength to return to the former.
At this point the mood had gotten somewhat sombre, so by chair’s discretion we moved to wrap up the interview with fun questions to lift the mood. A key aspect of MUN is superlatives. Well, not key, but everyone insists on it anyway. So I asked them very candidly - who did they think was the hottest dais? It was at this point that they revealed themselves to be unabashed narcissists (affectionate), with Christian’s response instantaneously being “definitely UNF triple C”. They went into some level of excruciating detail about their co-chairs’ and their own attractiveness which again I shall ellipsis for the sake of this being a premier conference.
Suffice to say, they ended with declarations of wishing one another to be gavels for certain purposes, claiming most of them are ‘single and ready to mingle’.
Rather than end on this interesting note, I asked a question which was about as progressive as one can get - should men be allowed to wear more dress-like attire to SMUN and would you, to which the answer was a unanimous yes because of convenience, comfort, and society moving forward past old stereotypes. (This is a recommendation for all secretariats of all MUN conferences moving forward).
With that I chose to wrap things up, and before I sign off here, I would like to reiterate to all readers from a personal level that Christian and Pranesh are decent characters to aspire to and I find myself more or less aligned with the substantive views they presented, and I do not say this often.