When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, two John F. Kennedy School students proposed the creation of a Berlin Model United Nations (BERMUN). Initially, they had two objectives in mind: to establish a dialogue with students from East and West Berlin and to facilitate understanding and promote consensus-building by debating international political, humanitarian, economic, social, and environmental issues in a forum simulating the United Nations system.
Their inspiration came from The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN), unquestionably the largest and most successful promoter of the MUN concept. Convinced of the value such a program offers young people, the JFKS administration and faculty lent their support to the student initiative. Since then, BERMUN at the JFKS has grown from fifty participants in 1991 to over seven hundred. From a program primarily aimed at integrating students from East and West Berlin, it quickly expanded to include students from Eastern and Western Europe, the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Singapore, etc., thus making BERMUN a truly international gathering.
The primary objective is to foster greater international understanding among youth. BERMUN offers young people the opportunity to interact with their counterparts from around the world. Students represent countries vastly different from their own and express political beliefs and values often diametrically opposed to those of their own cultures and nationalities. Through this four-day simulation, they perceive the world and its problems in a wider context. They broaden their understanding of the complexity of issues that confront today’s world. BERMUN offers students a unique opportunity to gain experience in the democratic process. When BERMUN delegates interact, they openly address viewpoints, prejudices, and barriers that continue to separate young people.
Over the past years, BERMUN has developed into a highly recognized program, enjoying wide support in the Berlin community. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung provides the opening venue for the introductory session of the larger November Conference and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung opens its facilities for BERMUN2 February / March Conference. Keynote speakers at the opening ceremonies have included representatives from United Nations agencies and members of the diplomatic corps in Berlin, including ambassadors from India, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United States of America. From the modest vision of facilitating dialogue among fellow students in a unified Germany, BERMUN has evolved into an international forum for youth and offers an opportunity to encourage dialogue with contemporary policy-makers.