One year after Yale-NUS opened its doors, the college’s International Relations and Political Association hosted its first Model Association of Southeast Asian Nations Conference last weekend.
From Aug. 22 to 24, over 150 students from around Southeast Asia gathered at Yale-NUS in Singapore to simulate summit meetings of the actual ASEAN, a political and economic organization of 10 Southeast Asian countries. Similar to a Model United Nations conference, participants assumed the roles of different country delegates and debated Southeast Asia’s most pressing issues, ranging from the South China Sea to climate change. According to conference organizers, the association hopes to make Yale-NUS ASEAN conference a yearly event.
The conference also hosted two esteemed diplomats — Singapore’s former ambassador to the UN, Kishore Mahbubani, and Singapore’s former ambassador to the United States, Chan Heng Chee.
Walter Yeo NUS ’18, honorary secretary general for the conference, said he and some friends were initially inspired to organize the forum after attending a Model UN conference in Taiwan.
“I thought that it would be a really cool idea to bring ASEAN back to Singapore, especially as Singapore was a key driver in many of [the conference’s] programs. A couple of us discussed this while in Taiwan and shipped the idea home,” he said.
Jared Yeo NUS ’17, secretary-general of the conference, said that planning for the conference took about six months.
The Model ASEAN conferences are distinct from Model UN conferences in that they have consensus voting versus majority voting, Walter Yeo said. He added that no university in the area had organized a model ASEAN conference before.
Conference organizer said they hoped the weekend would make more students aware of ASEAN and give them an outlet to discuss Southeast Asia.
“We wanted to provide a platform where students debate very regional issues not found at other Model UN conferences,” Walter Yeo said.
In future years, the conference may involve American students to diversify perspectives, conference organizers said.
In his speech, Ambassador Mahbubani spoke about ASEAN’s unique role as a regional organization and how it has been more successful than originally predicted.
Walter Yeo said Chan’s speech about Singapore’s place in the world reminded him of how a single conference could inspire future leaders to invest in regional politics.
Miranda Melcher ’16, who is helping to organize a Model UN conference for 1,000 students at Yale-NUS in January, emphasized that the conference was organized by an organization that was only a year old.
“It’s pretty impressive that they’re doing this and that they’re doing it successfully,” she said.
ASEAN was founded in 1967.