From November 8th to 12th, I went Bangkok, Thailand to participate in the IASAS MUN Conference along with 9 other students from YIS. Before going there, I was very nervous because I have heard many stories from students who previously went to an IASAS Conference and how it was very high level. Since it was only my second year of MUN, I was not sure if I will be able to participate in the conference as much as I would like to. For the conference, I was allocated Saudi Arabia in the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and the topics of the debate were:
- The question of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on economic development.
- The question of ensuring compliance with non-discrimination and non-coercion standards in labor markets.
- The question of the use of unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries.
Before going there, I researched about Saudi Arabia’s stance on these three issues and wrote a position paper as well as some resolution clauses. Here is the link to my potion paper and my resolution clauses. At the actual day, I was a little scared but also excited. The conference started with each of the countries giving a 1.5 min speech on their stance and when it was my turn I was able to get up and say my speech. This gave me confidence and after that, I did a for speech, POI (Point of Information) and participated in a moderated caucus. After the second day, we broke off from our committees and had a General Assembly where we discussed some topics from different committees as well as had an emergency crisis. The emergency crisis was a cyber attack from either China, Russia, or United States where the Internet shut down and was having a big impact on the economy. It was actually fun and interesting to debate about this and write a resolution on it. Overall, it was a great experience where I got to understand the world in more detail, developed my debating skill and got more confidence talking in front of an audience.
From this experience, I was able to gain a better understanding of the differences and similarities between the countries in terms of economic, social, political and other points of view. The main takeaway for me has been my learning on the power/privilege of women and men in Saudi Arabia that is closely related to the religion of Islam. Firstly for the power/privilege of women and men in Saudi Arabia, I learned that the rights that are granted to each gender are very different. For example, in Saudi Arabia, there is a legal ‘guardianship’ system where men become the ‘guardians’ of women and have the right to control almost all parts of the women’s rights. This means that a woman cannot go to school, travel, shop or even get certain medical treatments without the permission of her male guardian. I thought this difference in power and privilege given to the separate genders were unfair for the women because they are unable to do what they want to do and their social advancement is very limited. Compared to where I am from, which is Japan, I realized that Saudi Arabia’s case is very different from that of Japan. Even though Japan is not the most gender-equal country in the world, it is still more equal than Saudi Arabia but at the same time, it is also working towards a more equal society for all by encouraging more women to work and have a leadership role in them. This made me notice that the different steps each country must take to achieve gender equality if very different because the situations and the cause of it depend on each country.
I also learned about the influence of religion on this difference in power and privilege, which is my second main takeaway. According to the research that I have done, I found out that the reason Saudi Arabia regards women as inferior compared to men is because they claim that the Qur’an and the Shariah law states so. It is true that there are some verses in the Qur’an or the Shariah law that suggest this but, I still believe that it is too severe in Saudi Arabia’s case. However, the issues related to religion is a very sensitive topic and I recognize that it is not an easy issue to solve. For this reason, it was difficult for me to debate and convince the other side about the role of women in society during the meeting. While other Arab nations and some Islamic countries agreed to my points, the European countries and American countries totally opposed to Saudi Arabia’s stance, so in the end, we were not able to pass a resolution during our council. However, all that I have learned about the influence of religion on the country have changed my perspective about gender equality and made me understand that some issues are harder to solve than others because they are related to what people believe, which is something others cannot control.