Getting started with Model United Nations – Model UN Made Easy
Are you looking to participate in the exciting world of Model United Nations (MUN)? Are you wondering how does Model UN work?
MUN is an amazing extracurricular activity that will teach you about the world, develop new interpersonal skills and connect you with amazing people from all walks of life. You will learn to research, speak publicly, critical thinking and develop leadership skills.
Given the rules and procedures that may be new to you, Model UN world may seem confusing at the start. The following article introduces the basic tools to navigate the MUN waters and land on your feet as you begin this exciting journey.
What is Model United Nations?
Model United Nations (Model UN / MUN) is a simulation of United Nations procedures. Participants role-play as UN delegates and engage in negotiations, discussions and lively debates, the cornerstones of UN activity.
Model UN educates students about current events, international relations, diplomacy and the United Nations agenda. Along with knowledge of the world we live in, participants develop skills in public speaking and presentation, persuasion, analysis of situations, research and critical thinking.
During simulations, participants role-play as diplomats representing a nation, or NGO, in a simulated session of an organ (committee) of the United Nations. This can be the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, the General Assembly or any of the other United Nations bodies.
Participants become diplomats, researching a country, and proposing solutions to the problems of the day. Through debate, deliberation, and compromise delegates attempt to draft a United Nations resolution with clauses that address and mitigate or resolve the stated issues. Delegates then face the challenge of getting their resolution passed by a majority within the committee they are simulating. For example, as a delegate, you could represent Canada discussing climate change or Indonesia trying to help rebuild post-conflict zones.
What is The United Nations?
The United Nations is a forum for all nations to come together to discuss and solve global challenges. The organization was founded in 1945 immediately after WW2. The goal of the UN was to avoid catastrophe and make sure peace was maintained.
The UN has 193 member countries, and two observer countries, with its headquarters located on international territory in New York City. The UN structure involves operating different bodies that deal with a wide range of responsibilities, among them providing food, curing disease, providing education, supporting refugees, addressing climate change, spurring innovation and so much more.
Where did Model UN come from?
MUN began as student-led Model League of Nations simulations. The first Model League of Nations was believed to be held in November 1921. Model League of Nations was revolutionary in that it was the first simulation of a body that had all the members of the international community present, as opposed to the bilateral and multilateral treaties between countries that was the norm before World War I. While the League of Nations did not last, the idea of a simulation that would represent all nations did and set the stage for future similar simulations.
After the United Nations was founded, on October 24th, 1945, the first Model United Nations was held at Swarthmore College on April 5, 1947. Throughout the following years many other conferences sprouted up throughout the United States. In 1987 a few American students studying at The Hague founded The European International Model UN, Europe’s first university Model United Nations conference. In the years that followed, the new Model UN has spread across Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe with hundreds of conferences for university and high school students taking place annually.
What does a Model UN conference look like?
Model UN conferences can be found across the globe and are organized by universities, high schools, nonprofit and for profit organizations and other types of education groups. Model United Nations is not owned by the United Nations, or any particular organizations, so anyone who is interested can create a society or organize a conference.
There are many committees that can be simulated at a MUN conference. MUN conferences usually have more than one committee being simulated. Sometimes there are many committees and often at least one of them is not a United Nations committee but rather another international body such as NATO or the European Union. Sometimes historical or futuristic committees will be simulated as well.
The conference usually starts with an opening ceremony. Throughout the days of the conference there will be committee sessions, usually in the morning and afternoon with lunch and coffee breaks in between. In the evenings there are usually social programs and sometimes the hosts provide tours of the city or other related activities. At the end of the conference there will be a closing ceremony where best delegate or diplomacy awards will be given to recognize diplomatic excellence in the various committees.
How does a Model UN committee session work?
Each committee is led by a director, or chairperson, with the exception of crisis, legal committees. The chairperson has three roles: facilitate discussion, run the chairing software and give awards at the end. In some conferences, the chairs are required to give feedback to the delegates at the end of the round. Chairs follow the Rules of Procedure to ensure orderly and organized debate in the MUN committee.
The goal of the simulation is to produce a draft resolution, which is a compilation of policies written by specific delegates and voted upon by a majority.
Simulations start with setting the agenda, where the delegates choose which topic to speak about. Once the topic is chosen the discussion moves into debate which has three formats.
– General Speakers List, where everyone can talk about anything and yield time to other delegates.
– Moderated Caucus – A less formal discussion moderated by the chair where delegates speak on a specific topic.
– Unmoderated Caucus – Delegates move around freely and can negotiate and lobby with each other. This is also the time delegates can work on writing working papers and draft resolutions.The committee will move between these three formats until a draft resolution is produced. Multiple drafts can be produced, sponsored by different blocks of countries. After they are introduced they can be amended. The simulation ends when the first resolution to get a majority of votes passes. When a resolution passes it is considered that policies in the document are implemented.
*This structure is applicable to most Model UN conferences but not all of them. Sometimes the Rules of Procedure are different and should be reviewed before each conference.
Where do I find Model UN Conferences?
There are many ways to participate in MUN, both near and far. You can travel from an airport or participate in an online MUN at home. The internet is a great tool for finding MUN conferences near you and a simple internet search should yield results. Friends and other members of your society can also be an excellent resource.
Once you find your conference, signing up should be easy. Usually one should simply follow the application process on the conference website. This process is usually straightforward and they usually have a contact email address if you have any questions.
Model UN conferences vary in size, structure and the committees available. When starting out, it is usually better to go for committees aimed at helping beginners and moving forward from there.
What do I need to prepare?
After you sign up to the Model UN conference you will get your country and committee assignment, as well as the topic you will be discussing. At this point, you will need to research your country to come up with the identity of the character you will be paying and what kind of policy you will be pursuing.
Once you have the background guide provided by the conference you should learn about the following:
1. Your country – history and interests
2. The topic – study guide and your own research
3. Your committee – mandate and abilities
4. Past actions and future policy recommendations
5. Your allies and opponents relevant histories and interests
It is preferable to start with basic information about your country. This will give you insight and help you understand through what lens you will be processing the rest of the information. Once you know who you are, read about the topic followed by getting an understanding of what your committee can and can’t do. You should also see which other countries are in the room and map out who you think you can work with. For an in-depth guide on how to research we suggest checking out our article “How to research”.
Many conferences also require position papers, or country profiles, to be sent before the conference. A position paper is where you write your country’s relation to the topic along with some policies that your country would want to be implemented. The sections of a position paper have you (1) show your Position in relation to the topic, (2) show your country’s Relation to the topic and (3) layout policy Proposals you would want to be implemented for the future.
A country profile is a page with information about your country which gives the reader an idea of why your country has the position it does about the topic. Information about your country’s position can be found in the news, the CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia, interviews with governmental officials and the government’s websites, among others.
In addition to your research, you will generally need to prepare the following things:
1) Opening statement
The opening statement, or policy statement, is the first speech that you give on a specific topic. The goal is to inform the other delegates in the room as to your position and also serves as an initial shout out to allies and opponents. A good opening statement should help frame the topic in a way that relates to your country’s interest. It should give facts about the case and also put out the policies that your country is interested in advancing. The opening speech is your first impression to the committee members. If you’re not to MUN don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Practice and experience are an important part of improving your MUN abilities and you will improve over time. The most important part is to get up, practice and watch things improve from there!
2) Research File / printed materials
Some Model UN conferences allow the use of computers while others only allow paper materials to be used for support. In either case, it is important that you have supporting materials and facts on hand to help make your case stronger as the committee session progresses.
Just because the conference allows for the use of computers to take notes and research during the sessions does not mean we have the time to start our searches on location. When you are writing your position paper, or preparing your opening speech / policy statement, you will come across facts that you know may be useful but don’t want to put in your opening speech. A useful tip is to put them on a separate document, organize them and keep them for later use. While your opening speech is very important, you will be giving more speeches and, as the debate heats up, you may have less time to research. Having a folder with support materials, bookmarks for useful websites and a document with the extra facts will give you information to have at your disposal for future speeches and to use during lobbying time.
Paper based conferences
When computers are not allowed you need to be more selective; you cannot print everything on the internet. However, the same principles used in a conference that allows computers apply here as well. Make sure you have your extra facts sheet printed, together with relevant information that you can get from the news, weekly news magazines (Newsweek, The Economist), the UN website, think tank policy recommendations and anything else you think might be useful. Once you have it, print it out and organize it in a way that will be useful for you.
Whether computer folder or hard copy, the key is to make sure what you put together isn’t too long and is easily accessible when you need it. Both research and organization become easier with practice and as you get better at Model UN.
3) Clauses / Ideas for clauses
Many high school Model UN conferences require delegates to bring clauses in advance. Other conferences forbid pre-written resolutions, as the goal is to write them together on location. However, even in those cases the nature of the debate can often be predicted and ideas for clauses compiled. Clauses need to be practical and actionable, with no emotional or descriptive language.
This may seem like a lot but it all falls into place quite naturally when you see it in action in real-time. Remember that no matter how much we prepare, sometimes the best teacher is experienced, and we just need to jump right in!
What skills will I need to succeed in MUN?
The most important skills needed to succeed in Model UN are curiosity, a willingness to learn and ability to work hard and invest time.
Model UN will help you improve your public speaking, research skills, negotiation tactics and critical thinking but you need to be willing to invest time and effort. These skills build through practice and you cannot improve research skills without spending time researching, or public speaking without speaking in front of groups of people multiple times.
Here are some of the skills you will need to be a good Model UN delegate:
Research – Knowing what to look for and being able to identify it does not come naturally
Public Speaking and Speechwriting– A good public speech is deliberately structured with three general purposes: to inform, persuade and entertain. For this reason, having the right material is just as important as how you present.
Building an argument – An argument is a reason, or set of reasons, aimed at persuading others that an idea or action is right or wrong. With limited speech time, it is important to understand how arguments are structured and how to use them both on and off the floor.
Negotiation – The method by which people settle differences and find compromise. This is done by engaging on the main issues, or by tactically avoiding them. A good negotiator is able to achieve the best possible outcome for their organization, or interest, and preferably have the other side feel that got a good deal as well.
UN Resolution Writing – The ability to write detailed clauses as part of a legal document is an important skill you can gain from participating in MUN. Additionally, the ability to read and edit the draft resolutions is a useful ability to have in many professions.
Critical thinking – Possibly the main skills that are underdeveloped in school and university are analysis and evaluation, the tools needed to be able to make informed judgment calls. Model UN, throughout its practice and skill-building, develops the kind of critical thinking that is applicable in all aspects of life.
To Sum up
Model UN is an extracurricular that may seem simple to learn but, in truth, takes work and persistence to master. The key is to improve from conference to conference to continue to grow through consistent practice. While we covered a lot in this article, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to MUN. What is most important when learning a new discipline is not to be afraid to ask, whether about writing a position paper, how to give a speech or how the United Nations works. Model UN gives skills which change lives, but like anything worth having, these skills are acquired through practice and hard work.
WiseMee.com has many resources to help you improve your Model UN skills and we are always adding more! With articles for beginner, intermediate and veteran Model UN delegates, chairs and organizers, WiseMee.com has what you need to not only excel at Model UN, but also develop the skills that will help you be more effective when you are interviewing for university or a job. Beyond that, these are the skills that will help you excell once you get that dream position.
Have fun and good luck with this life changing activity!