How to Chair an Unmoderated Caucus
To contrast, a moderated caucus is the formal setting in which proper rules of procedure are followed. Everyone has a chance to give speeches and have their position noted by the rest of the committee. During these moderated sessions, the chair has the responsibility to chooses speakers and try to keep balance between the different sides. Once enough information has been discussed, the delegates will need to follow up on their speeches interpersonally and form blocks. That is where the unmoderated caucuses come in.
How can a chair oversee an unmoderated caucus when they can’t actually control it? It is an organic, natural process which will take on a life of its own. For advanced committees it is about effectively watching the room. For beginner committees the chair may get involved, depending on the background knowledge and personalities of the delegates in the committee. Whether adjudicating and guiding, it is the responsibility of the chair to insure that the session is going in the right direction and that everyone is participating.
How does an unmoderated caucus work?
A type of caucus in where delegates leave their seats speak freely. Essentially, lobbying. Enables the free sharing of ideas to an extent not possible during formal session. Unmods are the time when delegates will form blocks or pull out laptops and start writing working papers.
An unmoderated caucus is a break from the rules of a formal session but certainly not a break from the negotiating. During the formal committee session, each delegation has a chance to state their official positions.
These statements will be thought out and broadcasted to the entire committee, regardless of whether certain countries will be working with them or not. When the time comes to follow up on the statements made, and the interpersonal note sending needs to progress to the next step, a motion will be made to move to an unmoderated caucus.
This will be the time when coalitions will be built and, sometimes, destroyed. When the moderated formal session breaks into an unmoderated caucus, you, the chair will see a flurry of activity. Laptops come out immediately as delegates prepare to get working papers written. You will see natural allies, whether by country or Model UN ability, block together to gain strength for their position and delegates from smaller countries try to gain a foothold against the larger countries.
Seasoned Model UN veterans will know that this is the time for them to make their moves. Those are the ones to keep an especially trained eye on. More assertive delegates will quickly try to control their blocks and begin working on draft resolutions to support their positions. Those delegates who prepared ahead of time with proper research, and with the right support materials, will be the ones who to take control. You will find that the delegates who get an early jump on working papers and resolutions usually end up with the discussion and debate revolving around them and their ideas.
Unmoderated caucuses usually range from three to twenty minutes. When extensions are added, they can run on to an hour or more. To keep track of progress, be ready to keep track of time and activity.
What A Chair Should Do During an Unmoderated Caucus
While the chair is a vital part of formal debates and sessions, they should also be active during these unmoderated caucuses. It will help you know what to expect when you get back into the formal setting as well as help you prepare awards.
Walk the room and actively listen
The delegates will keep moving and so should you. Also, you should have 1 – 2 other chairs with you. Stick to one block or switch between. What is important is that you watch the blocks and interactions. Watch who is working with whom and who seems to be leading. The only want to see what is happening is to walk around and listen for minutes at a time.
Take notes (really, take actual notes)
Taking notes during the unmod will help you remember what you saw. As it is dynamic and fast, detailed notes are not needed. A few words in shorthand will help a lot and should be enough. Make sure you have a few words to help you remember by the end of the unmod. You don’t want your flow chart (note-taking page) to have an hour of blank. That can make things very difficult when you need to decide awards.
Coordinate with the other chairs
To have all of the chairs looking at the same group is not as bad as all their chairs taking a break and leaving the room but is a far cry from properly doing the job. The role of a chair is to evaluate diplomatic performance and with many delegates and multiple blocks, the best way to manage that is to speak to the other chair, or chairs, who you are sharing your responsibility with. You can stick to the same block or switch between yourselves. The most important part is to compare notes so that all of you have an idea of what is happening in the other parts of the room.
Page is a resource
If you are in a committee with pages (note passers) that the conference provides have them help you see what is going on. Before or after the first session, tell them your chairing criteria and that they should keep an open eye. Especially in large rooms, the pages are an excellent resource when there are not enough chairs to go around.
What To Look For In An Unmoderated Caucus
- Do you see any runners between groups?
- Are there any big disagreements?
Strategies for Observation
While the delegates may pretend to be acting naturally, they are aware that you are watching them. You can see in our guide on How to Win Best Delegate that there are man tricks for delegates to use to make sure chairs see what they want them to see. Some delegates who use these techniques really are quality diplomats. Others may try to fool you. As a chair, it is your job to get the best read on the delegates. To do that, you must be strategic to get the most objective read possible.
Don’t make your presence seem awkward.
Make a habit of wandering the room
Stand in one places for minutes at a time
Delegations, who will naturally change their behavior when you are around, will not be able to keep up false performances for long periods of time
If you are always around, the delegates will be used to it and be themselves
Stand towards the middle of the action
From the middle, you can judge best where the action is.
Have a pad of paper with you
Don’t worry about getting every word or action
Shorthand your notes
Observe and note patterns of activity so you will know which delegates participated the most
Have a unified methodology with the other chairs
Take the core tips that work for you and coordinate with the other dais members
Make sure you are all aware of what is happening in the room
If a delegate pulls some kind of trick make sure you all know what happened
What to look for during an unmod
A good chair is always aware of the dynamics of the room they are overseeing. Our article, How to Chair Like a Pro, is a great guide for the entire art of chairing from opening speech to a final vote. If you have chaired before then you know that there is the simulation you thought you were going to get and the simulation that actually unfolds. No matter how you expect a session to operate, the outcome will likely be different. That is okay. Just as in real-world negotiations, the dynamics of the people present to determine the outcomes. Every session will have its own personalities that play the diplomatic game differently, and as the session moves on, these dynamics can and will shift suddenly. Don’t be surprised if a delegation suddenly changes their position on a topic. This happens in the real world as well. You never know what deal was made for the shift to occur. It is all part of the simulation.
An unmoderated caucus is still a debate, just a less formal one. Work is still being done at all times. As chair, you need to make sure that things do not get out of hand. This includes the need to do the following:
Be aware of delegate strengths and weaknesses
It will become apparent which are your strong delegates.
Note which ones may have trouble inserting themselves into the debate.
Do the delegates know the correct information.
Watch for anything out the ordinary
If a delegate is going completely against what their country would normally do, please bring this to their attention.
If North Korea and the US are close allies, gently remind them that this is not realistic.
Look out for delegates who aren’t participating
Some first-time teams may have nervous delegates.
Gently suggest where they would fit in.
Watch out for “friendly” delegates
Some will try to flatter you because you are helping to choose award winners.
Remember, whether you like the delegate or not, treat them all equally.
You will decide on the awards, so you have to know your delegates.
You will decide on the awards, so you have to know your delegates.
Never forget that you are in overall control of the room. You can steer delegates in the right direction if they need a little assistance, but most of the time you just need to be aware of who is doing what and how well they are doing it. Having successful unmoderated caucuses will lead to an overall successful committee session. If the caucuses are beneficial and productive, your committee will produce working papers that lead to resolutions. However, when awards are announced, and the wrong delegates chosen, a bad taste is left in everyone’s mouths. The way to avoid that is to watch the unmoderated caucus because that is what the real decisions are made. Make sure to see them.