How to Write A MUN Clause – With Examples
Knowing how to write clauses for mun takes a mix of writing ability, common sense and some UN resolution format knowledge.
Resolutions are an integral part of every Model UN committee, the MUN resolution consists of perambulatory clauses, and operative clauses. Resolutions are legally binding documents are the outcome of hours of work, and show the impact and influence of your country on the ideas that will become a reality. Clauses in MUN resolutions are important; but what are they? What makes a MUN clause good? And how do you write MUN clauses?
This article will teach how to write clauses properly and effectively, especially focusing on operative clauses. You can learn more about Model UN Resolutions and perambulatory and operative clauses in our other articles. When written properly, operative clauses are a central part of every Model UN strategy. However, most Model United Nations delegates are never properly taught how to write a Model UN clause. The road to better clause writing starts here!
Whether it is a perambulatory clause stating the issues at hand, or an operative clause stating how that issue is to be dealt with, clauses tell the reader what the organization producing the resolution is going to do. Therefore, a MUN clause is only successful if it tells the reader what the committee knows, believes and what the committee plans to do about the situation at hand.
Clause writing is a skill. It combines writing skills, knowledge of the UN resolution format, legal language, strategy and common sense. In the following article, we are going to teach how MUN clauses work and how to write them. Understanding the science of clause writing will keep you relevant throughout the resolution writing stage, and give you the best chance to stand out among the resolution writers at your next MUN conference.
What is a Clause?
A clause is a specific section within a written binding document (UN Resolution, Contract, Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), etc). A clause clearly defines the duties, rights and privileges of each party under the terms specified in the document. Each clause addresses a specific aspect related to the overall subject matter of the document. In MUN, a clause is a written instruction detailing the practical policy you want implemented if the resolution passes.
In Model UN, clauses are broken down into preambulatory and operative clauses. Preambulatory clauses give background, and support regarding why we are taking the actions specified in the operative clauses. Operative clauses are written instructions which will result in the practical application of the policy we introduced in our MUN speeches and develop over thorough negotiation and lobbying. Putting these ideas into writing lets the other delegates know exactly what they are voting on. Each clause should cover a separate idea, or aspect, and use sub-clauses to give further detail of multiple variables or steps involved.
How to Write a Clause?
A preambulatory clause is a reason for why we are doing what we commit to in an operative clause. Though the preambulatory clauses come first in a draft resolution, they should be written after you know what you want to do in your operative clause to make sure they best to support it.
The first step of clause writing is to have an idea of what you want to. Once you have your idea, write it out. It should have no adjectives.
Your clause should be open to as little interpretation as possible.
A preambulatory clause should clearly state something which justifies action. This can be recognizing a situation or a law which justifies taking action if something happens. Direct quoting, or citing, can be used if it strengthens the clause. The same goes for mentioning the previous resolution on the issue.
A preambulatory clause starts an italicized phrase. A preambulatory clause ends with a comma.
An operative clause is a written instruction.
The first step of clause writing is to have an idea of what you want to. Once you have your idea, write it out. It should have no adjectives.
Your instruction should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). Again, make sure your instruction is open to as little interpretation as possible.
An operative clause starts with a number followed by an italicized phrase. An operative clause ends with a semicolon. The last operative clause finishes with a period.
MUN Clause Rules
Each clause needs to be the complete and conclusive thought on the issue at hand. This should be supported by facts, names, dates, and exact numbers. Whether it is a perambulatory clause, or an operative clause, they each need to convey a complete idea to the reader. The data needs to be contained within the clause as each clause needs to stand on its own merits. For example, if a reader were to pull clause five out of your resolution to debate it, they should be able to do so without having to pull out clauses two and six.
A Clause Commits to Sometimes
A clause is a collection of words that see the subject of the sentence actively doing the verb of the sentence. The verb is known as either the operative phrase or preambulatory phrase and is the legally recognized term that is at the head of each clause.
A Model United Nations clause must be able to stand by itself as a complete sentence. Here are some examples with the subject in bold and the verb underlined:
- James decided on the red shirt.
- The fox jumped.
- Commends the World Health Organization for its early diagnosis treatment between 1990 and 2010 that reduced the number of deaths from tuberculosis.
- Further invites Member States with vulnerable health-care systems to submit annual reports; to identify and put in place appropriate health technologies in particular medical devices that facilitate access to quality services in primary health care.
Most Important Comes First
If you want neutral delegates and blocks to get an idea from what you show them, it is especially important that the main idea is seen in the first few words.
Expresses hope that the Director-General of the World Health Organization can initiate promptly a research and reporting program on the epidemiology of drug dependence;
Also calls upon the Central Africa Republic Authorities adequately protect the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in national policies and legislative frameworks, including freedom of movement, and supports durable solutions for IDPs and refugee populations, including the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return to one’s home or local integration or resettlement;
Reaffirms the crucial importance of universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, taking into consideration the central role of those instruments in the fight against trafficking in persons, and urge Member States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the Convention and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as a matter of priority; to urge States parties to those instruments to implement them fully and effectively, and welcome the decision of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to continue the process of establishing a mechanism for the review of the implementation of the Convention and the Protocols thereto;
Urges Member States that have not yet done so to ratifying and acceding to the Convention and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as a matter of priority, Reaffirms the crucial importance of universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, taking into consideration the central role of those instruments in the fight against trafficking in persons, and to urge States parties to those instruments to implement them fully and effectively, and welcome the decision of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to continue the process of establishing a mechanism for the review of the implementation of the Convention and the Protocols thereto;
Wherever possible avoid writing clauses like the one above. They are long, convoluted, and can be better understood in a shorter clause or in multiple clauses.
Digging deeper, into the example above: we have no idea what is important and what is new. It takes active effort to see that the most important part of the clause comes in the middle when it says “urge Member States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the Convention and the Protocol to Prevent.”
If the length must be preserved for ethical or coalition maintaining purposes, the clause would be better served written like this.
The most important part of the clause, which urges member states to join and support the Convention and the Protocol to Prevent, is at the beginning. If this is the buy-in for delegates to join you, you will not have the time to move your finger to the middle of the clause to explain. You can even pass the task of explaining to another block member, if it is easy for them to understand what they need to convey, and putting the most important part first will make that clear for them
Use Data in Clauses
The more you can use statistics and data to back up a clause, the more powerful it will be. Concrete numbers also go a long way. Let’s see how the following clause can be improved using hard numbers:
Calls upon each member nation to give a portion of their GDP to assist in rebuilding institutions in Afghanistan, up to a certain amount;
This clause is vague and does not stand alone. There is no specified portion for each country to give, nor is the “certain amount” defined. The reader is also are not sure which institutions will be rebuilt. This is a better way to write the clause:
Calls upon each member nation to give .002 percent of their GDP to help rebuild critical governmental institutions in Afghanistan, up to twenty billion dollars;
Sub-clauses could also be used to list how much each institution is to receive.
There will be times when sub-clauses will be necessary to make a clause complete. The following clause is taken from an actual 2016 UN Resolution dealing with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:
Decides that, for the remainder of the current cycle of the high-level political forum under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, the sets of Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed in depth shall be:
(a) In 2017: Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14;
(b) In 2018: Goals 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15;
(c) In 2019: Goals 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16;
In order to keep the flow of this operative clause, the authors made the choice to break it into sub-clauses. Putting all of this information into a one-line clause would make it confusing for the reader. Making a, b, and c separate clauses altogether would not make sense either, as they are directly related to the main clause, and do not contain enough information to stand on their own.
Clause Writing – What Not To Do
Until now, we have discussed the content of a clause. When it comes to content, the first rule is that adjectives are a no no. To understand the correct use of language that commits within a clause, let us look at an example of an operative clause gone wrong:
Don’t Be Long Winded
Taking note, with much appreciation, of the report the extremely competent Secretary-General submitted to the extremely efficient committee of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the date of June 20, 2017 calling for the lessening of the extremely harmful and unethical illegal wildlife trafficking which hurts so many poor, sad and abused animals by at least fifteen percent by the year 2021 so that more animals will not be subject to pain torture and humiliation;
There are a few problems with the clause above. It is not concise, there are unnecessary adjectives, and the language is far from clear. It does say everything that needs to be said, but also says a lot that it does not need to say, and takes too much space in doing so. Below is a better example of how to convey the same idea.
Takes note of the 2017 report of the Secretary-General to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to reduce illegal wildlife trafficking by at least 15% by 2021
As seen above, removing unnecessary words makes a big difference. This operative clause is short and concise, and the reader can quickly get the idea and move onto the next one.
Avoid Adjectives and Flowery Language
Let’s look at another example. Like the one above, this one too is full of unnecessary adjectives and flowery language.
While the clause contains vague phrases and emotionally charged language, we have no idea what amount the increase calls for. If an amount has been settled on but is not listed in the clause, there will be room for debate over the amount. If this is not an area of contention for the resolution to pass, and the amount has been decided upon, state it clearly in the clause.
We likely already know that the budget is small, so stating that fact in a resolution is a waste of valuable space. The whole solution suggested by this operative clause clearly deals with children’s welfare and this will be known through the Preambulatory clauses and committee debates. Putting it in the operative clause is not necessary.
Don’t Be Afraid of Numbers
Let’s look at this clause again, but in a proper manner:
Requests a twenty percent increase in the children’s welfare budget of 2021;
In cases where the number isn’t obviously known, it too should be included in the clause.
Requests a twenty percent increase in the children’s welfare budget of 870 million United States Dollars (USD) to stand at 174 million USD;
Think of clause writing like fighting legal battle. Every word will be scrutinized, so the more vague elements you write, the more you give other delegations to pull apart, and the harder the battle will be. Unless your aim is to be strategically vague, or a certain word is used because of a compromise, you need to be as specific as possible. Retaining clarity in the right places is critical if you want the debate to revolve around the issues at hand, not the language you use to get there.
When To Use Vague Clauses
Strategically and diplomatically, you may sometimes have to use vague language in order for a resolution to pass. There may be times when there is an overall agreement on a topic, but some of the specific details may be undefined. For example, if developed countries have agreed to increase food aid to developing countries, but are having trouble deciding on how much of an increase, vague language may be necessary just to find common ground and pass a resolution acknowledging an agreement. Remember, it is always better to have an agreement in place than to leave a session with nothing to show for it. Even an agreement over a vague term for both sides can serve as a building block to create a better agreement later on. While not ideal, vague language can be useful. Here is an example of when it may be necessary:
Calls upon all member countries to increase food aid by fifteen percent over the next three years.
Maybe there is some debate over the percent increase and the number of years involved, but it is vital to leave the session with some kind of agreement, no matter how weak. This clause can be changed:
Calls upon all member countries to increase food aid within a reasonable amount of time.
This takes out the percentage requirement as well as a specified amount of time. While the above clause is not ideal, it is better than not having any agreement at all. Taking the clause a step further, we can see how, instead of being vague for all countries, it can give different sides the justification to act, or not act, depending on their circumstance and interpretation.
Calls upon all member countries to increase food aid according to criteria each member deems sustainable over the next three years.
Here’s another example where vague language will have strategic value:
Condemns any member country that continues to ignore the human rights of indigenous peoples within their boundaries;
This is a very strong statement. Any time the word condemn is used, someone will be upset. For this reason, there may be some powerful countries that will not sign with such language. China and the US have both had issues with indigenous peoples in their countries over the last few years, and because both are UN Security Council members with veto power, such language may not be a good idea to use. Though vague and weaker, this language may work better:
Encourages each member country to work with indigenous peoples within their borders to foster better relationships in the manner that suits them best;
As you can see, this is not very specific and leaves much room for interpretation. Again, this is not the usually recommended path to take with a clause, but sometimes it may be necessary.
Bringing It All Together
Understanding the ins and outs of clause writing above, let us see how they are used in real United Nations resolutions.
Single full clause examples from United Nations Security Council Resolution 2362 (2017)
Sub clauses example from United Nations Environment Programme UNEP/EA.2/Res.5
Sub clauses example from United Nations Environment Programme UNEP/EA.2/Res.6
While the last ones are vaguer than your Model UN clause should be, the clauses above show that what is scary when seen in a large cluster can be understood and broken down when looked at as a single clause. We can see how a United Nations clause has vague language that is open to interpretation and can be a base to facilitate later specificity and further discussion. Sometimes it is a single line which makes a clause revolutionary. Also, clauses showing support, or condemnation, can be a huge deal as they tells the global community where to look. The key is to see how the clauses above follow the rules of clause writing, can be understood, and that similar or better clauses can be created.
Learning to craft a powerful clause will be a game-changer for your resolution writing. Writing resolutions at a Model United Nations conference will be a joint effort with other delegations, but the ability to write strong and concise clauses will allow your delegation to control the content and the process. Just remember to be specific, detailed and make sure each clause can stand by itself. Avoid vague language, unless strategically necessary, and make sure to use facts and numbers when appropriate.
The whole point of the Model UN conference is to find solutions to the most pressing global issues and writing MUN draft resolutions strategically and effectively is part of that process. As a resolution is made up of clauses, when you learn to write one clause without fear or reservation, entire resolutions will follow.