– Nathan Emery –
What do I need to know? How much should I print out? Which materials should I prepare? What issues are most pressing to my country for my position paper? If you have been assigned to a committee in Model United Nations, questions like these are probably familiar to you. Preparing for Model UN can be a daunting task, especially to those who are new to the process and have no guide. There is so much information available, it is hard to know what is necessary and what is not. Learning to extract the essential pieces of information from a plethora of articles and briefs is the secret to enjoying your Model United Nations experience.
The most important (and most daunting) step in preparing for Model UN is research. To be able to debate, you must be familiar with your country, your committee, the issues you will be debating, and how the United Nations functions. For suggestions about how to research and write position papers and resolutions, please see the relevant page on our website. For tips on researching your country, please refer to our page on this website.
This page will help you learn basic tools for navigating the internet to learn about the United Nations, international news, and how the different United Nations committees work together. It will also cover committee procedures and how Model United Nations debates work. With this page as your guide, you will successfully equip yourself to represent your country at a Model UN.
There are many different committees in Model UN, each having its own purpose. The General Assembly (GA) committees are usually the largest and have the broadest range of issues. GAs work to solve global issues and crises, ranging from economic issues to global warming. Each country represented voices concerns over the issue and recommends global actions. The resolutions in these committees must function on a global scale, providing solutions for both small and large countries. The General Assembly committees are especially recommended for those who are new to Model UN. Because of their large size, new participants are able to learn from experienced delegates without being thrown into action immediately.
Most Model UN conferences have smaller Specialized Committees that focus on very specific issues. The smaller size of these committees makes it easier for each participant to share his ideas; there is less competition for speaking time. Specialized Committees follow the same procedure as the GAs, except on a smaller scale.
An interesting type of committee also found at many Model UN conferences is the Crisis Committee. These committees are recommended for experienced Model UN delegates. These committees typically range from 10 to 20 delegates and focus on a specific issue in the past, present, or future. Each delegate takes on the persona of an important historic figure and attempts to persuade others to recognize his ideas. Crisis Committees do not follow standard Model UN procedure and delegates must be very active participants and have strong debating skills.
This link lists the committees for ILMUNC 2013 and is representative of the types of committees you will find at most Model UN conferences.
After the delegates have been assigned their countries and committees, the first step is research. There are seemingly infinite resources available during research. Having a guide can eliminate wasted time by giving structure to this process and providing direction in finding relevant information.
Participants must first research the United Nations organization. They must learn how the United Nations functions and the role of each of its major organs. It is beneficial for the delegates to familiarize themselves with the standard rules of procedure in the UN, as the committees of Model UN often simulate real bodies in the UN.
After the delegates have become acquainted with the United Nations, they must learn about the committees to which they have been assigned. Most committees are based on actual United Nations committees, excluding the Crisis Committees. Students should gain a knowledge of the committee’s main functions and previous actions that it has taken on important issues. If assigned a Crisis Committee, this step is absolutely crucial. The United Nations’ official website, http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/index.shtml, is an excellent resource to garner information about your committee.
Unless a delegate is assigned a Crisis Committee, extensive knowledge of the assigned country is necessary. For an in-depth guide on how to research a country, please visit the respective page on our website. For those who are assigned Crisis Committees, each delegate must learn about the person whom the delegate will be representing, as well as his past actions and decisions.
Participants must also gain a deep understanding of the issue(s) they will be debating. When assigning committees, most Model UN conferences provide the delegates a background guide that details the issues that will be debated. However, it is important to research the issues beyond the materials provided in the background guide. The background guide serves as a spring board from which to dive deep into the issue. Delegates must research all aspects of the issues at hand, making sure to learn about the issue from every side and looking at the benefits and drawbacks of multiple proposed solutions.
It is important that delegates research the history of the issues they will be debating. They must have knowledge on how the issue came to be and what steps have been taken or are being taken to solve the issue. They need to also be aware of the country’s history on the issues. Books and documents published by the UN are useful resources for learning about all sides of an issue. If the delegate’s assigned country has released any documents about the issue, the documents must be read and analyzed thoroughly in order to understand the country’s stance on the issue.
The link below provides a simple way to search for and navigate documents published by the UN. Use key words of the issues to scan the documents for relevant information. This is a very important resource, as it provides an easy way to find documents which are often packed with information about the topic directly from the UN.
TIP: It is always a good idea to print out the most important information and organize it into a three-ring binder. This will allow quick reference to any articles or data while at the conference.
Model UN is a conference of debate. Each committee debates the issues presented and individuals’ suggested solutions. It is very important to know the rules of debate before arriving at the conference, keeping in mind that Model UN debate more closely resembles persuasion than argument.
A Model UN committee session always begins with a roll call. The chair reads the name of each country. Each delegate replies “present” or “present and voting” when that delegate’s country is announced. It is recommended that novices say just “present” until they become familiar with the flow of committee. The phrase “present and voting” means that the delegate must vote and cannot abstain from voting.
The first session of debate usually begins with a motion for a speaker’s list. The speaker’s list allows each country to be put on the list and have time to debate freely. Delegates should try to get on the list as early as possible so that they may present their personal views, as usually about ten delegates get to speak before the speaker’s list is closed. When a delegate motions for the speaker’s list to be opened, the delegate must also suggest the topic to be discussed and the speaking time for each delegate. On this list, each delegate may raise his placard to be put on the list. The delegates then speak in the order in which they were put onto the list. During the first session, the speaker’s list is usually used to discuss which issue of the background guide should be debated first. When enough delegates have spoken, one makes a motion to close the speaker’s list.
When the first speaker’s list is closed, a vote is usually taken on which of the issues in the background guide the committee will discuss first.. Speaker’s lists can be motioned for when the chair asks for motions, if the delegate believes it is the appropriate time for a speaker’s list.
Many other motions may be made throughout Model UN. After the moderator asks for motions, delegates may raise their placards to make a motion. One of the first motions made is a motion to open the speaker’s list which opens the speaker’s list, discussed above. A motion to set the speaker’s time changes the speaking time for each delegate. A motion for a moderated (or unmoderated) caucus opens a moderated (or unmoderated) caucus, discussed below. After the motion is made, the delegate who made the motion must propose the total time of the caucus, the topic to be debated, and the speaking time for each delegate. A motion to adjourn debate ends the debate of the topic. This motion is usually only made after a resolution has been passed at the end of the conference. A motion to adjourn meeting ends the committee session. A motion to close debate moves the committee on to voting procedures, in which resolutions are voted on. A point of order may be made at the same time as motions to point out an error. A point of inquiry allows a delegate to ask the chair a question of procedure. A point of personal privilege allows a delegate to make the chair aware of a personal discomfort.
Caucusing makes up most of the debate in Model UN. After a motion is made to open a caucus, the student who made the motion must set the topic, the total time of the caucus, and the individual speaking time. The motion is then voted on by the rest of the committee. If it wins by simple majority, the caucus opens. The delegate who made the motion speaks first, then the other delegates raise their placards if they would like to speak. The chair then randomly selects a delegate from among those who raised their placards. A caucus generally lasts 5 to 10 minutes with a 30 to 60 second speaking time for each delegate who wishes to speak.
There are two types of caucuses: moderated and unmoderated. Moderated caucuses allow the delegates to formally debate on a specific issue. The delegates must discuss the proposed topic. Only one delegate speaks at a time, and the delegate usually must stand and speak to the rest of the committee. Moderated caucuses are the most frequently used form of debate. They allow delegates to present their views on a certain topic to all of the other delegates. This allows each participant to listen to other’s views on an issue and present their views, if they wish. Moderated caucuses allow delegates to debate with all other delegates and attempt to persuade them to support their ideas in a controlled manner.
In an unmoderated caucus, the delegates can talk and debate informally. They may discuss anything they would like with anyone they would like. Generally, unmoderated caucuses are only used when discussing and writing working papers or resolutions. Unmoderated caucuses do not have set speaking times, and all of the delegates are allowed to speak to whoever they would like. They may leave their seats and walk anywhere they would like, as long as they are back in their seats by the end of the caucus. Unmoderated caucuses allow delegates to discuss issues freely and openly with other delegates. It is especially important to form coalitions with other countries. It is also important to find a group of countries in the first unmoderated caucus, and propose ideas on how to solve the issue. If the other delegates have similar ideas, then the delegates can write a working paper together, and eventually draft it into a resolution. If a delegate’s views do not concur with the other’s views, the delegate must speak to other countries in order to figure out who has similar views.
In debate, it is very important to have proper public speaking skills to be able to convey your ideas to the committee and persuade others to join your cause. Most General Assemblies use microphones, but smaller committees do not. Delegates should be able to project their voices and speak in a confident, engaging manner so that others will actively listen to their speeches. The link below will help you improve your speaking skills so you will be ready to debate.
The dress code is very important at Model UN. Proper business attire must be worn. The link below details the dress code for Model UN.
Preparing for Model UN may seem overwhelming at first glance. I hope that the information above will make your Model UN preparation evolve from a daunting task into a fun learning experience. The extensive research and preparation will pay off when the actual conference arrives, and the skills gained from the entire process will benefit you in many other areas of life.