How to Write a Position Paper

– Nicholas Emery –

            One of the most important aspects of Model United Nations preparation is the position paper. The crowning step of your Model UN research, the position paper details your country’s perspective on the agenda, derived from its historical and current actions.  The position paper expresses the specific, comprehensive steps your nation would like to see implemented to address the issue.  The position paper represents the distillation of your research and the foundation of any resolutions you might work to present on the floor in committee.  Because the position paper is integral to your contribution to a Model United Nations session, it must be thoroughly prepared and well-written.

The length of the position paper is determined by the Committee chairs.  The standard format consists of three paragraphs. The first paragraph is a basic historical overview of the issue, tracing the path of the problem over the recent past and providing facts and statistics to show how the problem has evolved over time. In particular, take into account whether the issue has become more or less severe in the past few years.  While the Background Guide prepared by the Committee Chair is a valuable resource, it should be considered as the starting point for further research.  The position paper must go beyond what has been developed by the Chair and should represent original, country-specific research targeted to the issues in committee.

The paper’s second paragraph describes how your country has been impacted by the issue in question and lists past actions your nation has taken to resolve the issue, in particular, though United Nations efforts.  Include recent documents and news items indicating national policies of your nation. Include United Nations resolutions that your nation has supported.  The United Nations website provides a search engine for all documents and resolutions.  If possible, provide pertinent statements from ministers, delegates and ambassadors, indicating their stance on the issues. The United Nations Bibliographic Information System has a database of speeches from UN delegates.

The final paragraph of the position paper is probably the most important. Here describe the concrete and comprehensive plans a delegate of your country would want the committee to implement in addressing the issue at hand. Use information from your first two paragraphs—the changing history of the problem and your nation’s past policies concerning the issue—to formulate actions you believe the committee should take to help solve the issue in question. Be sure to make your proposals feasible for both your nation and your committee. Also, be certain that your plans do not contradict your country’s current views on the topic. Finally, make your solutions broad and internationally focused. Delegates of the international community will be more likely to concur with your views if you provide plans that impact the globe rather than merely a specific region.

For each topic listed as an agenda on the committee Background Paper, create a position paper, and then present them in ranked order, indicating their importance for your country. If you have written a good position paper, you will almost surely have used outside sources. Record these in Modern Language Association (MLA) style at the end of the paper. Guidelines for MLA citation can be found here.  As a final step, read over your position paper at least twice—first for content and organization, then for grammar and style.

A position paper is both an ending and a beginning. The paper is a culmination of weeks of Model United Nations research. Further, as your research provides a foundation for debate in committee,  writing a strong position paper is an important step to an excellent Model United Nations experience.


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