The challenges of chairing a double delegation committee
As the Chair of a committee, you will be faced with a multitude of challenges throughout the day. No matter how hard you’ve prepared and how well you know to ride the flow of a Model UN committee, something will always come up that you didn’t expect. Chairs have to know the subject being debated, they must know the rules of procedure, they should be able to maintain control of the room, and they need to monitor delegate performance. In practice, chairing is measuring a simultaneous event in real-time.
Another challenge that Chairs will run into is figuring out how to evaluate a double delegation committee. If the conference you are chairing for allows double delegations, you will find yourself with two delegates for every country. Imagine all the challenges listed above, but now you have double the amount of people in the room. Depending on the type of committee you are chairing, this can mean quite a lot of people. For a small Security Council committee, double delegates mean around 30 people. For a large 200 country General Assembly, this could mean up to 400 people.
If you are going to be the Chair of a double delegate committee, we want to give you the best tips for doing your job well.
What a Chair should look for
- Watch both parties – When dealing with a double delegation, you will find that their schools often paired them together for a reason. Sometimes, one delegate will have more experience than the other and they want it to be a learning experience for the lesser experienced delegate. Sometimes, they will both be beginners. Sometimes they will both be veterans intent on taking home an award. As a Chair, you will need to identify which type of double delegation this will be. When the pair will have a more experienced member, it will be enjoyable to focus your attention on the more experienced delegate as they make good points and perform well as they establish their positions. However, you should be measuring them as a unit and need to make sure to evaluate both. Countries that have one strong delegate and one weak one are only as effective as a country that has two mediocre delegates. Double delegating is a balance, and the two delegates should be at least trying to share duties equally.
- Look for teamwork and cooperation – When you are observing the double delegates in the same place, see if they are actually working together. If you see one delegate doing all of the work, there are a few possible things to look out for.
- Just like in other group projects, sometimes one person pulls all the weight. A good delegate could have gotten stuck with someone who has no interest in being there. Unfortunately for the one who is working, this will affect both of them as you should judge them as a single unit.
- The more experienced delegate may be handling most of the work. This could be because they think they need to because of the lack of experience of their partner, when they should really be teaching their partner and trusting them. If one delegate is more experienced than the other, you should see them teaching and helping.
- The more experienced delegate may be making their partner do all the grunt work, such as passing messages and notes, simply because they can. This is not okay. This is a partnership.
Teamwork and cooperation is the most important aspect of a double delegation. Two delegates that wisely use their skills can become a powerful force. When a pair of varying abilities, you should see one delegate helping the other during the entire conference. Take this story as an example of why it is important for both delegates to be active and standout. This is from a committee Chair:
“One time I chaired identical twins representing Belarus, didn’t know it at the time. Later, a friend of mine who was also their head delegate asked how his delegation was. I said I was not aware that there were two of them as heard no speeches and barely saw any lobbying to make up one delegates worth of activity.”
The point here is this – If the delegates are not even getting your attention, whether through their speeches, negotiation skills, or another valuable way, so much so that twins can seem like less than one delegate, means something is missing from their gameplay.
Tactics to more effectively evaluate the room
Depending on the size of the committee, some of these tactics may be more relevant. Smaller committees can be handled by a Chair or two, but if you are dealing with hundreds of delegates, you should be on a team with at least five or even seven Chairs.
- Delegate responsibility to your chairing team
- If you are not the only Chair, you can strategize with your fellow Chairs. If you are trying to control, and evaluate, a giant General Assembly with hundreds of delegates, you need to place Chairs around the room so that no delegate is unobserved. Since much of the work is done in unmoderated caucuses, this means having Chairs stationed outside of the committee room as well. Make sure they take notes on which delegations are doing well and which ones need improvement. These notes should be compared with the in-room notes and discussed by the delegates at the end of each day.
- Utilize the admins and runners
- For larger committees, conferences will employ the use of admins, also called runners, to help the Chairs. The admins can pass notes, the microphone and water, as well as something run the Model UN software. Use this staff as your eyes and ears. They are on the ground and because they walk between the delegates, and approach the more active ones, they see more than any other member of the dias. Instruct them before the committee session so they know what to look out for. Essentially, they are your spies.
- End of day summary
- You need to have a debriefing with your Chairing team at the end of each day. This keeps everyone on the same page and it gives you time to compare notes. Inevitably, some delegates and delegations will stand out. Now is the time to make a “shortlist” of delegations. DO NOT let this shortlist keep you or your team’s focus off of other delegations as the conference moves on. The shortlist is tentative, and delegations can fall off or be added on throughout the next day. You are using this list to look for patterns of good and not so good work.
- If you need help, ask for help
- As you know by now, being a Chair is much more than simply sitting at the dais and calling up speakers. You must be able to properly read the room, which will be impossible for one or two Chairs in a room of hundreds of delegates. No matter how experienced a Chair is, there is a limit to their skills with those numbers. Not only is it not fair to you, but it is unfair to the delegates that are attending the conference.
- If you see you are only two or three chairing a room of 200, or more, ask for more Chairs, or at the very least, more admin help. When the draft resolutions start rolling in, and the chairs now need to start reading and reviewing the content, a Chair has even more to keep up with. In such cases, find the Secretariat, or the Secretary-General of the conference, and let them know your concerns.
Fairly evaluating diplomatic performance
The hardest part of Chairing a double delegation is fairly judging the performance of the team. Is it fair to hurt the chances of a Power Delegate winning awards simply because their partner did a poor job? Maybe. When you see a standout delegate whose partner is not performing well, try to find out why and see how the Power Delegate handles it. There could be three possible scenarios.
- They were partnered together so that one could learn from the other. If that is the case, and you notice an improvement from the lesser performing delegate throughout the conference, then the Power Delegate did their job and deserves credit for it.
- If the Power Delegate is making no effort to help their partner, but you notice the partner trying to figure out a way to be active, this is a problem. The more experienced delegate should be doing their job and helping, not stealing the show.
- However, if their delegate that is performing poorly is doing so because they simply don’t care to be there, try to separate judgment of them away from their partner. The Power Delegate may be on their own and trying to make the best of a bad situation. In these cases, chances are, they didn’t choose their partner and that should be factored into their scoring.
You will find that two solid delegates working together will be more powerful than a country with one strong delegate and one weak delegate. Good teamwork goes a long way towards making up for a lack of experience.
- Remember that natural talent, or experience with related disciplines like debate or moot court, can also impact first-timer performance. Just because a delegate is less experienced with Model UN does not mean they will not dominate the room.
Judging a room of double delegation masters
You may end up Chairing a smaller committee that is specifically for expert double delegates. This is going to bring a whole new set of challenges. For example, if you end up Chairing a double delegate Security Council, chances are that all 30 delegates in the room have won awards at previous conferences. For that matter, many of them would have likely taken the Best Delegate award in any other committee. However, in this room of champions there can still be only one (double delegation). Some of the delegates may also have more experience than you. It is important to temper your excitement, keep calm and prepare to observe, and to judge, a room of MUN masters.
This can also be a good Chairing opportunity, as you can really judge on all aspects of what makes Model UN great.
How to evaluate double delegation masters?
- Country Position Representation
- In a smaller committee, you can really focus on whether or not the delegations are properly representing the position of their country. See if all the delegates stay in character. If you see an immediate team-up between the US and Iran in a room where the topic is nuclear weapons, you know something is probably wrong.
- General effectiveness in all aspects
- These delegates should never miss a motion of confusing rules of procedure. You will probably see rules rares used to become commonplace. From speaking regularly, to resolution writing to offering creative motions, all delegates should be performing well across the board.
- Superior performance by a delegate in a specific area
- Look for a delegate, or a delegation that specializes in one area. It is normal to see a strong double delegation, where each delegate takes the lead on a substantive matter, between the topics. This shows that they have done their homework and really understand the issue before them. This ability to take turns as the main content provider can also give them the upper hand when it comes to maneuvering around other delegations.
- How they engaged and cooperated with other delegations
- In a room full of Power Delegates, really focus on what extent a double delegation is engaged, and cooperating with other delegations. They should be using superior negotiation techniques. Be sure to watch during unmoderated caucuses and for subtle negotiation and cocktail diplomacy.
- Don’t look at the voting record on past resolutions
- With passed resolutions, it will be tempting to focus on the countries that worked together and voted for it. Don’t fall into that trap. Voting against a resolution is just as important because often the delegations voting against it did so because that is their country’s position. They are upholding the spirit of the conference. Judge them accordingly on what they do, not what they did.
- Take detailed notes
- Always take notes. No matter what size committee you are Chairing, you absolutely CANNOT remember everything. Where ideas develop, start and end is an essential part of good chairing. At least one of the chairing team should be writing short notes of each delegate. Shorthand notes from others can be helpful when there is a need to remember. It is recommended that a Chair take notes even if there is a reporter, as they may have been chosen simply to type what is said and not write it in a MUN friendly manner, which shows what is important for later use. Be responsible and take notes.
As a Chair, there are so many tasks you have to keep up with. Don’t let yourself get buried in administrative work at the expense of your observation time. Chairing double delegations can be a great experience, but it also takes a greater effort on the part of the Chairs. You have double the amount of people and you need to be on top of your game. Learn to read the room and fairly evaluate the delegates. This can be a great experience for everyone involved.