This section has been prepared for those who have never taken part in Model United Nations before, or just want to refresh their knowledge and are willing to explore the distinguishing nature of Model UN along with the great opportunities it has to offer. We strongly encourage you to start your MUN adventure with us, in March, during Tricity Model United Nations 2018.
Model United Nations (Model UN or MUN in abbreviation) is a simulation of United Nations procedure, usually organized by a high school or college MUN club. During the conference, the participants roleplay delegates representing a nation, or NGO (non-governmental organization), in a simulated session of an organ (committee) of the United Nations, for e.g. Human Rights Council, World Health Organization, the General Assembly etc.. Throughout time, some signs of re-invention have also been visible when it comes to MUNs - today, some MUN conferences hold simulations that are not, in fact, UN committees.
MUN sessions include various types of debates, which structures are moderated by the Rules of Procedure (the hosts of the conference provide their delegates with the Rules of Procedure in a form of a document before the conference takes place – it is highly recommendable, particularly for first-timers, to get acquainted with the RoP the debates shall follow).
As a delegate, you are taking on the role of a diplomat. Along with other delegates, the goal of your committee sessions is to draft a UN resolution, which clauses shall include the measures, policies and ideas solving the issue given in the topic, and to try to get it passed by a majority within the committee you are simulating. At the end of most conferences, outstanding delegates in each committee are recognized.
The purpose of MUNs is deeply enrooted in the will of bringing up generations responsible for the world we live in, and able to address and influence its important issues. Participation in MUN conferences helps to develop knowledge about international relationship in current affairs and diplomacy, while skills such as critical thinking, persuasion, building arguments, analysis of situations, research skills, public speaking and presentation are being fostered.
After you signed up for the Model UN conference you will get your country and committee assignment, as well as the topic you will be discussing. This is where your preparations are about to begin:
Proper research is indisputably the foundation of your performance in a committee. Getting acquainted with the Rules of Procedure will help you understand the structure of the debate and what kind of “behavior” is expected of you. Keeping this in mind, you are bound to feel more confident during the conference – factors such as stress or fear possibly accompanying the participation in your first MUN session will distract you less, and after having gotten familiar with how the Rules of Procedure work in practice once the conference starts, you will be able to focus on debating and finally enjoying yourself.
Apart from some basic information, the minimum knowledge a delegate should have about the country of her/his assignment includes:
national interests - search for what your country wants right now within the given simulation, what is important to its government and (if relevant) what are the interests of the people you represent; be very careful to rely on your research here, expressing any of your personal opinions is not allowed.
political structure – the limits your country's state employers have limit your actions as this country's representative; know the possible internal and external pressures influencing the undertaken actions as well as political system and any other characteristics of your country.
past and current political affairs – both inside and outside of your country.
You will receive a study guide/background guide from the conference which will serve as an introduction to the problem. When expanding your knowledge: Although it seems too obvious to be mentioned, do make sure you the given topic is clear to you. Develop an overall understanding of the topic and search for the key-players in the international arena – the countries who are most affected by the issue or have the most impact on the issue. Be aware of the actions that already have been undertaken with regard to your topic and who undertook them. Look for predictions and trends concerning the topic as well as for critiques of the current situation and recommendations for what to do in the future. Most importantly, think of how to address the topic according to your country's interests - approach the problem in a way that is relevant to you.
Model United Nations committees vary in terms of responsibilities, powers and budgets. Do learn how your specific UN committee works:
Relying on the knowledge you already have, you should now learn who you can and cannot work with, since in order to get their support to pass a suitable resolution together, you will need to interact with other delegates in the committee. Persuasive speaking skills might and most probably will turn out to be useful in building alliances.
Your allies will have similar interests to you, while your opponents are those who might share the same motivations, yet their policy, for example, contradicts yours.
Be prepared for questions your opponents may ask - think of arguments which may weaken your stand (and adequate responses!) along with questions to be asked for other delegates that may benefit you. Coming to a consensus is a much greater achievement when differences are overcome – that is why having allies and opponents is crucial for the quality of the debate and negotiations.
Make sure you rely on valid and updated data when preparing for the conference.
Below you will find a list of adequate sources to be used in researching.
It is also advisable to see (if possible) the recent UN Resolution on the subject. Such a document would provide you with valuable knowledge of the most recent update on where the United Nations (or other body) stands on the issue along with phrasing and preambulatory clause ideas.
Many conferences require position papers or country profiles to be submitted before the conference takes place. Nature of position papers will be discussed later in this section. A country profile is a page with information about your country which gives the reader an idea of your country's relation to the topic.
Apart from the above-mentioned, relying on your research, you will generally need to prepare:
Model United Nations give their participants an outstanding opportunity to master certain skills - one of them is, not surprisingly, public speaking. Research is therefore essential for speech making but knowledge alone will not suffice.
It is highly possible that the discussion will go in a different direction than you have planed, maybe even a better interpretation of the topic will present itself, so do not get locked into the knowledge you have gathered, perform beyond your research. It is flexibility, adaptability and the ability to make the most of any situation that are essential for diplomacy.
If you feel nervous or intimidated about speaking in front of the forum, remember that all the MUN participants are students just as you are, and that everyone was once a beginner. Do not be overly harsh on yourself. MUNs are about stepping out of your comfort zone and having fun.
Position paper is a document preceding your first committee session which most conferences require you to write.
Most often, apart from helping to organize one's thoughts, writing and submitting a PP enables the members of the committee to read and study what other delegates wrote in order to strategize their performances.
A model PP aims at showing your country's unique understanding of the problem, how did your country approach the problem in past actions (preferably with relevant examples), presenting the current policy towards the issue and finally, suggesting measures, policies and ideas that you, as a delegate representing the interests of your country, believe should be included in the resolution. The three afore-mentioned aspects provide justification for the last one.
A model PP should create an impression that its author deeply understands the problem and in fact, has much more to say, apart from the centrally important ideas included in the writing. This is achieved by the right use of information and allocation of materials.
Below you will find a sample position paper.
Committee: Economic and Social Council
Topic: Reducing inequality within countries through the integration of first-generation migrants.
Country: The Federal Republic of Germany
Integration is a long-term process aiming to draw all people living legally and permanently in a country into the society. Integration of migrants has always been a serious, substantial issue concerning many societies. People would choose more developed countries as their destinations in search for essential feeling of security, financial stabilization, freedom of word or faith, greater civil liberties or better development possibilities. Proper assimilation of migrants is crucial for both sides to benefit from migration.
The Federal Republic of Germany provides a wide range of integration possibilities for foreigners, who are truly willing to become a part of the society, depending on their competences, various skills and level of education. Immigrants are to be able to participate fully and where possible equally in all areas of society. It is compulsory to learn the German language and to know, respect and comply with the Constitution and legislation. At the same time, immigrants need to be granted equal access where possible all across society. There is a special integration course held in German and migrants who have successfully completed an integration course are able to shorten the time they have to wait for a settlement permit or, if desired, for citizenship.
Due to the sufficient support of the educational system, at a certain moment, migrants are able to enter the labour market. Settlement permits, financial benefits and different residence permits are available in response to those, who come for the purpose of education or training, labour, research or as immigrants on humanitarian, political and similar grounds – in search for asylum. Specific help will be provided for those who qualify for the refugee status.
In order to make reduction of inequality within countries through the integration of first-generation migrants possible, the role of the government is not only to take care of the foreigners, but in the first place to strongly support the country's citizens. Further impact should be put on educating the nation in order to popularize social awareness and understanding of the situation of migrants. Knowledge about cultural diversity and relevant global issues is essential for avoiding certain conflicts and misunderstandings – in order to prevent issues like the radicalization of Muslim immigrants, which is unfortunately already existing.
In your preparations do not forget about getting dressed properly – usually the delegates are required to comply with the western business attire. A certain exception on the individual basis may be allowed and that is when a delegate wishes to wear the traditional attire of the country represented. Do check the Rules of Procedure in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
Planning to attend MUN, you are probably looking forward to having a good time. Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to the chairs and fellow delegates, be confident, polite and simply enjoy the event.
The conference usually starts with an opening ceremony. Throughout the days of the conference committee sessions are held, with lunch and coffee breaks in between. In the evenings there might be some social programs organized. The conference ends with a closing ceremony during which best delegate or diplomacy awards will be given to recognize outstanding performance of delegates in different committees.
Each committee, except for the crisis and legal committees, has its chairpersons, who are in charge of it. The chairpersons are responsible for leading the discussion, making sure the RoP are respected, running the chairing software and giving awards at the end. If RoP are disrespected or a delegate has committed some sort of other misdeed, punishments are to be applied. Punishments are commonly considered a very amusing part of MUNs.
As it has been said in the introduction, the goal of the session is to produce a resolution. Since a resolution is a formal document produced and adopted by various UN bodies, a MUN resolution is more of a summary of a solution, of a very particular structure, that contains all the clauses written by the delegates during the session to be voted on at the end. Clauses contain measures, policies and solutions.
The session begins with a Roll Call and delegates state whether they are ''present'' or ''present and voting''. The only difference between these two is that having declared ''present and voting'', the delegate cannot abstain from voting during any voting procedure. Next, presenting the policy statements follows and afterwards the committee moves between three formats which are General Speakers list, Moderated Caucus and Unmoderated Caucus, until a draft resolution is achieved. Multiple drafts can be produced, sponsored by different blocks of countries, and after they are introduced they can be amended. A block of countries is a term describing different groups of delegates that have similar ideas and opinions about the topics, who will typically work together to create a draft resolution.
What characterizes each of the stages?
Working papers are meant to contain solutions to the topics discussed in the committee, and consist of signatories, sponsors, pre-ambulatory clauses, and operative clauses. Working papers become draft resolutions when introduced, and then, if passed, become resolutions. Resolution writing will be discussed later in this section.
[The structure presented below is applicable to most Model UN conferences but not all of them. Sometimes the Rules of Procedure are different and this is why they should be reviewed before each conference.]
As mentioned before, creating a resolution is the purpose of a committee session. This document is the final result of discussion, ingenuity and negotiating as well as of effective consensus. The resolution is drafted by delegates, then presented to the forum and eventually, voted on by the committee. Normally, the document requires a simple majority to pass. It is of critical importance to remember that the UN bodies, with the exception of the Security Council, have no executive power and thus cannot compel nations to take actions - recommendations or suggestions for future actions in addressing a specific problem or issue are what the UN resolutions are comprised of.
Once again, draft resolutions are all resolutions that have not yet been voted on.
A draft resolution has a very fixed overall structure: it is one long sentence with sections separated by commas (in the preamble section) and semicolons (in the operative section). The subject of the sentence is the committee making the statement, which consists of three main parts: the heading, the preamble section (where the pre-ambulatory clauses are listed) and the operative section (where the operative clauses are listed) - the structure of each of the parts justifies its purpose.
The preamble section may:
Bearing in mind
Expressing it’s appreciation
Keeping in mind
Noting with deep concern
Nothing with satisfaction
Taking into consideration
Viewing with appreciation
* Not all resolutions contain pre-ambulatory clauses, this must be clarified with the type of committee.
The operative clauses address the issues specifically mentioned before in the preamble section. The operative section is action oriented - policies are implemented in a form of instructions, stating the measures proposed by the sponsors of the resolution to resolve the topic issue.
These clauses should be kept clear, concise and practical, any emotional or descriptive language is not allowed. As it is a direct list of solutions which is being built in this section, successive clauses should support one another. Recommendably, details should be added to the clauses in order to achieve a satisfying, clear and complete solution.
Draws the attention
Expresses its appreciation
Expresses its hope
Takes note of
Some committees can also write directives, which are shorter “emergency” operative clauses.
It is the overriding goal to prepare exceptional, unique yet clear and precise clauses that implement effective policies and measures in order to meet the interests and views of the highest number of countries possible within the committee, and therefore let the resolution pass with the majority.
[List of pre-ambulatory & operative phrases adapted from: http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/model-un-preparation/resolutions/preambulatory-and-operative-clauses]
Sponsors: Apart from a rare case where an observer state is not allowed to directly write a resolution, any delegate can write one. Sponsors of a draft resolution are its main authors who strongly support its content, and who are the only people entitled to approve immediate changes.
Since the the draft resolution requires a majority to pass although it is possible to have only one sponsor, this rarely occurs at the UN. Most resolutions have multiple sponsors. Some conferences allow delegates to sponsor multiple resolutions for each topic while in other cases delegates are only allowed to sponsor one per topic.
Signatories: Countries who are either in favor or who do not agree with the content of the resolution but wish to see it debated, perhaps to propose amendments later on. In order for it to be accepted, a certain percentage of the committee members must be either sponsors or signatories to a draft resolution.
An amendment is a written statement that adds, removes or changes an operative clause in a draft resolution - it is through amendments how approved draft resolutions are modified. Thus, a stronger consensus among a larger number of delegated in achieved.
There are two types of amendments:
A friendly amendment is a change to the draft resolution that all sponsors have nothing against. The amendment becomes automatically implemented into the resolution after it is signed by the sponsors and approved by the committee director or president.
An unfriendly amendment is a change that some or all of the draft resolution's sponsors are against and must be voted upon by the committee. In such a case, it is the author's/authors' of the amendment responsibility to obtain a required number of signatories in order to introduce the change (usually 20 percent of the committee). The committee votes on all unfriendly amendments before voting on the draft resolution.
Resolution writing is a team-work activity and various things might come to action – here are some suggestions for first-timers who happen to find themselves in such a case. As it was mentioned before, any delegate in a committee can draft a resolution (of course keeping in mind one's research and the country's policy capabilities). If you find yourself in a situation that someone is “too controlling” on the draft resolution writing-stage, it is very probable you are not the only one who is disenfranchised. Why not search for others who are in the same position? Perhaps a sufficiently sized voting block, which might later appear powerful will be created? In order to avoid your ideas marginalized or taken, together work on your own clauses.
Bringing pre-written clauses to the conference is not a recommended strategy. Some conferences even strongly forbid such actions. Nevertheless, as a person who is just about to gain experience, you may think of some applicable clauses before the conference, as a part of your research - obviously, it is highly unlikely that the clauses you have come up with before will fit the discussion in the committee. This will provide you with a base though, so that when the resolution writing part begins you will be able to adjust and modify your previous ideas to the situation in the room, and will serve as an ice-breaker to your fear of contribution and writing.
Before the delegates who created the resolution may submit it to the committee staff, the draft resolution must gain support within the committee. Many conferences require signatures from 20 percent of the countries present in order to submit a draft resolution. Once support is gained, the draft resolution is read by the committee director/president to ensure that it is relevant and in proper format. Only after formal acceptance of the document and assignment of a number, the document be referred to in formal debate.
In some cases, in order to introduce the draft resolution, a delegate must make a motion while in other cases the sponsors are immediately called upon to read the document. After the document is presented, speeches in favor and against follow, next possible amendments are brought up and eventually, the committee moves to the voting procedure. Since procedures can vary, it is essential to check the ROP for the resolution process during the conference you plan to attend.
If you happen to be giving a speech about the resolution remember to include the following: state why you are in favor or against the resolution and support your statement with a few operative clauses.
Below you will find a sample resolution:
General Assembly Third Committee
Sponsors: United States, Austria and Italy
Signatories: Greece, Tajikistan, Japan, Canada, Mali, the Netherlands and Gabon
Topic: "Strengthening UN coordination of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies"
The General Assembly,
Reminding all nations of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity, equality and inalienable rights of all global citizens,
Reaffirming its Resolution 33/1996 of 25 July 1996, which encourages Governments to work with UN bodies aimed at improving the coordination and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance,
Noting with satisfaction the past efforts of various relevant UN bodies and nongovernmental organizations,
Stressing the fact that the United Nations faces significant financial obstacles and is in need of reform, particularly in the humanitarian realm,
[This resolution has been thoroughly adapted from: http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/model-un-preparation/resolutions/sample-resolution]
Language other than formal based on usage of motions and points in order to communicate with the chairs or fellow delegates, is not acceptable during the committee session. Points and motions are tools to ask for things, clarify things or appeal them.
Do not forget that as a delegate speaking on the behalf of a larger body, most likely a nation, you are not allowed to speak using first person. A delegate abusing the form ''I'' is likely to be punished. The forms ''the delegate wishes to point out...''/''the delegation of the United States is here today...''/''the stand of the Russian Federation is'' are required.
When a speaker decides to end her/his speech or give up the remaining time in her or his speech, she/he needs to yield the floor back to either the chairs, another delegate, or to questions or comments to her/his speech.Points
Motions are made by delegates to direct the debate in a certain direction, used mainly for transition between stages of committee, for e.g.: to move into unmoderated caucus or the voting procedure, as well as for opening and suspending the debate.
[List of motions and opart of ''other terms'' adapted from:
Participation in Model United Nations is unquestionably demanding, and for someone, who had never attended MUN it might seem even intimidating, what it is perfectly understandable.
However it is particularly the prospective first-timers, who need to realize to what extent the benefits outweigh the factors one devotes to her/his preparations and generally to the ongoing conference – not mentioning how valuable is the effort, the gathered knowledge and the abilities themselves.
Why not challenge yourself?
See you in March!
Authorship: Agnieszka Górska
Supervision: Kosma Krzyżanowski