FerMUN 2017: Young people debate IP and other global issues UN-style

Author:Benjamin Phillips - Amélie Bernard Beeckman - Edward Barnes - Maria Lalain - Manon Michel - Jan Hulsebosch - Lucie Parrinello - Maïlis Fontani
Position:Chairs of IP-related committees at FerMUN 2017

In early January 2017 more than 600 pupils from 21 countries took part in FerMUN, an annual bilingual conference modelled on the United Nations (UN). FerMUN is organized by the International Lycée in Ferney Voltaire, France, and UN organizations based in Geneva, Switzerland. The 2017 edition was hosted by WIPO.


The Conference simulates UN-style international negotiations and gives young people a chance to explore complex policy issues and seek solutions for a better future. Our presence at WIPO was an ideal opportunity to learn about intellectual property (IP) and its relevance to issues such as indigenous peoples’ rights, innovation and health, and competition. Before this year’s Conference, none of us knew much about IP. It is not something we learn a great deal about at school. So this was a fantastic opportunity to find out about it and how it touches so many aspects of everyday life.

Of the Conference’s 10 committees, four focused on IP-related issues. The wide-ranging debates gave students an opportunity to examine a range of viewpoints and to experience first-hand the challenges – and frustrations – associated with reaching common agreement on specific issues of global relevance. The students who took part in FerMUN 2017 were highly motivated and worked hard to come up with recommendations to tackle a range of topical issues. The way everybody worked together was quite remarkable, and the whole experience will stay in our memories for a long time. We all learned that achieving consensus among diverse groups on complex issues takes a lot of time, hard work and concentration. This article highlights some of the key things we took away from the experience.

Illegal downloading of copyright-protected works

The discussion on illegal downloading was particularly lively, with many students holding strong views on the subject. We learned that the copyright system is designed to ensure that creators are recognized for their work and have the opportunity to earn a living from it, but that they and other owners of IP face many difficulties because their rights can be bypassed or abused so easily online.

We explored different dimensions of the issue: the need for people to be able to access online content for educational and social (entertainment, etc.) purposes; the need to safeguard the economic interests of creators whose revenues are under threat; and the role of governments in regulating the issue.

We looked at ways to dissuade pirates from creating online platforms like PirateBay, for example by using sanctions inspired by France’s Hadopi law. Although it has since been put on hold, France adopted Hadopi in 2009 to encourage users to respect copyright by imposing fines and other sanctions on repeat infringers. The debate made us aware of the...

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