Teaching, Learning and Outreach – The BISA/FCO Model NATO 2019

On 2 December 2019, at the London offices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), we ran a model NATO simulation as part of the run-up to the UK-hosted 2019 NATO Leaders’ Meeting. We worked in partnership with the FCO to host and run the event, which was attended by 90 students from 15 participating universities across the UK. Through their participation in the event, students learnt about how NATO works and why the significance of the Alliance for UK and European defence.
Prior to the event, countries were drawn for each participating university and the students were given a crisis briefing so they could prepare to act as their designated country. Each of the 29 allies were represented, along with new NATO member, North Macedonia. Malahat Zafar from Staffordshire University said: 
“My preparation for the event gave me insight on the organisational structure and the decision-making process that NATO members follow. I aimed to absorb as much background information about the assigned country as possible and studied the crisis brief to develop a context for the event. My team also explored possibilities to help prepare for the second Crisis briefing”.
The crisis simulation involved a string of natural disasters including an earthquake, tsunami and volcanic eruption. These resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. Working through two specialised NATO bodies – the Military Committee and the Civil Emergency Planning Committee – the students had to agree a detailed set of actions. These were then endorsed in a final declaration by NATO’s highest authority, the North Atlantic Council.
The students all did an excellent job of representing their delegations, and during the course of the day were visited by several practitioners. This included the Foreign Office Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Simon McDonald.
Ryan Fallon, a final year Politics and History student from Newcastle University said:
“It was a terrific experience, one that I will not forget in a hurry. There were definitely times when I got carried away by my own excitement. If that room was recapped, you would have definitely heard me shouting and furiously scripting letters to other delegates.”
“A moment that stood out to me was the tiredness of it all. Under normal situations this would have been a bad thing, however, I believe the tiredness of the event proved to be its strength. It really played into how real things where. You could feel the jubilation around the room when the NAC approved our overall bill and our hard-work had paid off. It definitely felt real."
Some of the students participating in the Model had the opportunity to attend and present to ‘NATO Engages’, the official public outreach event for the Leaders’ Meeting. You can view the presentation by Capucine Guillet (KCL) and Vida Koster (University of Birmingham) on our YouTube channel.
Mark Webber, Chair of BISA and NATO specialist said:
“We were delighted to provide the students with a unique experience that allowed them to be active learners. Preparation for, and involvement in, a model summit can inspire students to embark upon careers and projects in diplomacy, government, the charitable sector and the armed forces. We hope that participation will have had a lasting impact.”
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can view images, tweets, videos and more on our Wakelet mood board.
The participating universities were:
  • Birmingham
  • Cardiff
  • Kent
  • KCL
  • LSE
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • Plymouth
  • Queens University Belfast
  • Sheffield
  • Stirling
  • Surrey
  • Staffordshire
  • University of South Wales
  • Westminster
British International Studies Association
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