How to Write a MUN Resolution
The basic principles of Model United Nations resolution writing and formatting
Many MUNers find writing a resolution more difficult than public speaking. Don’t worry, the skills needed to write a MUN resolution paper can be learned, just as speech writing, and lobbying.
A MUN resolution paper is the formal document produced and adopted by various UN bodies. In Model UN, it is a summary of the document that contains all the clauses written by the delegates during the simulation to be voted on at the end.
Before we start to learn how to write a quality Model United Nations resolution paper, it is useful to be reminded about the basics of MUN.
What is Model United Nations?
Model United Nations is an internationally practiced activity of simulating real United Nations debates. It can be practiced at all levels, although the most popular ones to this date remain high school and university levels. Often taking the form of conferences, people can attend on their own, through a club, or even their school, and practice a multitude of skills such as public speaking, confidence, adaptability, teamwork and, of course, resolution writing.
Why is resolution writing important in Model UN?
Typically, and with very few exceptions (See the articles about Crisis MUN), a Model UN conference will be composed of various debates, both formal and informal, and delegates will be asked to convince, cooperate and find common ground to issue a solution or a policy on the subject they were required to discuss. This policy making, in the context of the United Nations, takes the form of an official document called Resolution. It briefly summarises what the committee considered before writing their policy, and details afterwards what policies they would like to implement, and how, in as much detail as possible. Producing a resolution is, therefore, almost the sole aim of a Model UN debate, and it is a central document for the conference as a whole.
However, since it is an official legal document, a resolution has to follow an arguably strict format before it can reveal the brilliance of its contents and let the ideas behind it shine through. The specificities of this formatting will be discussed in detail in this article, so keep reading!
Anatomy of a Resolution
What does a resolution even look like?
Since a resolution is a legal document, it not only has to be original and brilliant, but it also has to look a certain way. MUN resolution formatting following the guidelines of that is set by the United Nations. Every couple of years, the United Nations updates their formatting guidelines for its variety of legal documents, but let’s spare you the read.
MUN Resolution Format
A resolution always contains:
1. A concise and evocative title (or number)
2. A list of Signatories
3. The name of the committee or the General Assembly
4. A set of PREAMBULATORY CLAUSES punctuated by semicolons (;)
5. An address to the Member states or voting parties
6. A set of OPERATIVE CLAUSES punctuated by commas (,)
7. A concluding clause punctuated by a period (.)
Sample MUN Draft Resolution
What is a Clause?
A clause is a specific section within a written binding document (UN Resolution, Contract, Warranty, Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), etc) that 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 Model UN, a clause is a written instruction which will result in the practical application of the policy we introduce in our MUN speeches and develop over through negotiation and lobbying. Putting the ideas in 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 are involved.
A preambulatory clause, as its name suggests, is a clause that comes before the actual resolution. The sole purpose of these clauses is to give context to the operative clauses and remind the committee of the mood and framework in which this resolution was produced.
A preambulatory clause always:
1. uses the substantive form of a verb (-ing): e.g. “recalling” in italics and ends
with a semicolon (;)
2. uses small letters as bullet points (e.g. a) b) c) etc…) for its sub-clauses
3. follows the title or the resolution and the committee name, but precedes the
address to the voting parties and the operative clauses.
To give you a visual example, here is a real resolution adopted by the ITU (a United Nations Agency) in 2014 during its Council.
As the name indicates, an operative clause summarises a policy, something that the member states present in this committee will be asked to enforce.
Operative clauses are a little trickier than preambulatory clauses, simply because not all committees have the same prerogatives and the same amount of power. For instance, except for all-powerful committees like the Security Council, the United Nations cannot give orders to member states, and will therefore formulate its operative clauses likes guidelines or suggestions. However, there are many UN bodies who do have resources and a budget but can only use it within the parameters of their mandate. Therefore, the cautious use of a very specific vocabulary will be necessary in this case. Do not worry, you can find a list of operative verbs at the end of this document.
An operative clause always:
1. follows the address to the member states or voting parties
2. starts with an operative verb in the operative form (e.g. “requests”) in italics
3. starts with numbers as bullet points, and uses Roman numerals for subclauses.
4. is punctuated with a comma.
Information on the specific case - Example
Underscoring its deep concerns on the prevalence of impunity, on the daily assassinations, on the restrictions on enjoyment of the freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and on the continued worsening of the humanitarian situation, marked by the more than 200,000 Burundian citizens seeking refuge in neighbouring countries,
Relevant rights and justifications - Example
Bearing in mind the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the primary responsibility of the Security Council under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security,
Citations affirming relevant treaties - Example
Recognizing the Potsdam Declaration which stated that Japanese sovereignty be limited to the islands of Honshu, Kyushu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku,
Reaffirming its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the need for all States Party to that Treaty to comply fully with their obligations, and recalling the right of States Party, in conformity with Articles I and II of that Treaty, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,
Precedents from similar situations, statements from officials and other - Example
Recalling its resolutions 1261 (1999) of 25 August 1999, 1265 (1999) of 17 September 1999, 1296 (2000) of 19 April 2000 and 1314 (2000) of 11 August 2000, as well as relevant statements of its President, and recalling also the statement of its President to the press on the occasion of the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace (International Women’s Day) of 8 March 2000 (SC/6816),
Welcoming the visit recently undertaken by the representative of the Mediator in Dakar for consultations with the Government of Senegal,
Here is an example of an Operative Clause:
After the operative clauses have all been detailed, it is time to close this resolution, with a concluding clause. This is the last clause of your resolution. In most committees, it will not have to follow a particular rule, it can just be your last idea. However, it will need to be punctuated with a period.
Anatomy of a Clause
Now that we have seen the formatting of the resolution, it is time to take a closer look at the contents. What makes a successful preambulatory clause? What makes a successful operative clause? What mistakes are to be avoided? All the answers to your questions are in this chapter.
A. The successful preambulatory clause.
Preambulatory clauses are often disregarded as futile, because they do not actually prescribe or recommend anything in a resolution, and yet they are one of the most crucial parts of resolution writing.
– Why are preambulatory clauses important?
Preambulatory clauses have a pivotal role in a resolution. If they do not prescribe anything new, they remind the committee voting upon the submitted resolution that the submitters have done their “homework”. It reminds the committee of the potential existing work on the subject, describes the perspective and the intentions with which this resolution was written, the general mood of the room, or even the scale of the emergency. It sets the context and the scope for the prescriptions that will follow.
As such, preambulatory clauses will have the role of “diagnosis”. Indeed, before prescribing anything to a patient, a doctor will have to carefully examine the previous medical records, the general well-being of the body, the temperature and so on, before being able to prescribe anything efficient. Preambulatory clauses are as important as this diagnosis, so do not skip them under any circumstances.
• What makes a successful preambulatory clause?
In MUN like in many academic fields, there are golden rules to include in your preambulatory clauses: references, and data.
– The references can encompass any official document or publication the delegates based their decisions and prescriptions upon. It can include anything from previous resolutions from the same committee, resolutions adopted by different committees, academic articles and nonfictional pieces of work, or scholarly articles. They are always referenced following Harvard standards.
– The data included in a preambulatory clause has to be sourced from a trustworthy source and referenced following Harvard standards. They usually take the form of statistics, but can be any demographics you deem necessary to include.
B. The successful operative clause.
• Why are operative clauses important?
Operative clauses, as previously mentioned, are calls to action. They prescribe and recommend specific measures to respond to a problem. As such, they have the most pivotal role in conferences.
Not only do they conclude the debate (as you know, a debate is closed when a resolution is adopted on the discussed topic), but they also summarise it. Operative clauses can be very revealing of the committee’s dynamics and the delegates’ level.
• What makes a successful operative clause?
Operative clauses are the treatment prescribed by the delegates after hours of debate in response to a specific type of diagnosis. As such, they ought to be as precise as possible. Again, think of the doctor metaphor.
Would you want your doctor to simply tell you “Get a pill” when you’re ill? You would want to know what want kind of pill, exactly how many you ought to take, when, and for how long. Think about operative clauses the same way and you will always end up with a satisfying resolution.
When writing a set of operative clauses, here are some golden rules:
– Have a clear aim in mind. What is this particular clause trying to achieve?
– Be specific. Model United Nations, by its nature as a simulation, is prone to be taken
less seriously. But do not forget that you are walking in the shoes of real-life diplomats, and learning skills that will last you a lifetime. Therefore, in international politics like many other things in life, precision is key. The more precision you add, the less loopholes are gonna be found by your opponents, so do yourself a huge favor and add numbers, names, countries, data, maps, whatever you deem necessary, and make good use of appendixes and annexes.
– Organize your resolution logically. Since it is all about convincing your audience (or the member states), to adopt your resolution, a seemingly logical construction will be your best ally. An argument is always more convincing when its development seems logical, because the conclusion reached will feel more natural. It can be chronological, consequential (one clause triggering another), hierarchies, etc…
– Think of the “W” rule: Who, What, When, Why, hoW? When writing a clause, much like when writing an article, always ask yourself “does this follow the W rule”? If it does, and all these W questions have been answered, you can proceed onto the next golden rule.
– There are never enough numbers. This rule cannot be stressed enough. When writing a clause, whether it is operative or preambulatory, it needs to be backed up with data. Is your aim to allocate funds to a cause? Write down how much money, its source, and the currency. Repeat as many times as necessary, without moderation.
– Subclauses are a thing, use them! Paragraph clauses are dull and messy, use sub
clauses as bullet points to make your argument clearer. Ask yourself if what you are about to write is thorough, original, concise yet satisfying enough to be its own clause, or would it be better off as a sub-clause in another, similar clause? Using subclauses will also make your resolution look more precise, more organized, clearer in its aim, and will allow the committee to discuss each point individually.
– Write as many preambulatory or operative clauses as you need. There is no rule that says you need more perambulatory or operative clauses. You need the right balance, depending on what you are discussing. Sometimes a few perambulatory clauses can lead to many operative clauses. Sometimes many perambulatory clauses can lead to a single course of action.(You can find an example of many preambles for one operative here. Scroll to “How to build a principled case: Example 1.”)
The Power Of Verbs
As previously mentioned, the majority of MUN committees do no hold sufficient executive power to coerce or force countries into doing something. They can usually only recommend actions to countries. The funds and forces at their command usually involve United nations resources, or those of partners and subcontractors. These little differences in executive power can seem tenuous, but they will be very important when writing a resolution, as you will not be allowed to use some verbs deemed too “authoritarian”. You can find the full list of preambulatory and operative verbs here.
Here is a small cheat sheet of verbs that are appropriate in most committees.
– Preambulatory: Alarmed by, Approving, Aware of, Believing, Bearing in mind, Confident, Convinced, Declaring, Deeply concerned, Deeply convinced, Deeply disturbed, Deeply regretting, Desiring, Emphasising, Expecting, Fulfilling, Fully aware, Fully alarmed, Fully believing, Further deploring, Guided by, Having adopted, Having considered, Having examined, Having studied, Having heard, Having received, Keeping in mind, Noting with regret, Noting further, Noting with appreciation, Noting with approval, Noting with deep concern, Noting with regret, Noting with satisfaction, Observing, Pointing out, Reaffirming, Realising, Recalling, Recognising, Referring, Reminding, Seeking, Taking into account, Taking into consideration, Taking note, Viewing with appreciation, Welcoming.
– Operative: Accepts, Affirms, Approves, Authorises, Calls, Calls upon, Condemns, Congratulates, Confirms, Considers, Declares accordingly, Deplores, Draws the attention, Designates, Emphasises, Encourages, Endorses, Expresses its appreciation, Expresses its hope, Further invites, Further proclaims, Further reminds, Further recommends, Further resolves, Further requests, Have resolved, Notes, Proclaims, Reaffirms, Recommends, Reminds Regrets, Requests, Solemnly affirms, Strongly condemns, Supports, Takes note of, Transmits, Urges.
The Art Of Signing
Once your resolution is beautifully written with surgical precision, and once you’re done double-checking all that was mentioned previously, comes the most confusing time for the delegates, no matter their level or the conference they chose to attend.
“Where should I put my name?”
“I want to be a sponsor of the resolution!”
Indeed, the abundance of titles to refer to countries who sign a resolution can be confusing. What is the difference between sponsors, co-signatories, signatories, and what do I do if I do not agree with this resolution?
Although the jargon can seem a little confusing, the signing in Model UN is actually fairly simple, and it all depends on your intentions regarding this resolution and your participation to writing it. It can all be summarised in this alignment chart:
You do not have to sponsor everything, all the time, and have the name of your country at the top of every single resolution in the room. Ultimately, the resolution will affect every single member state present if adopted, and by the time the list of sponsors and signatories is produced, the chairs have already decided on their awards policy. So if your name is not on a resolution, do not worry about it, the debate is the most important part.
N.B. If there is a limit to how many sponsors and signatories can appear on the resolution, you can still refer to this chart and compare your contributions with your colleagues.
How Amendments Work
To amend is to make minor changes (in a text) in order to bring about a desired outcome. In MUN, amendments are specifically changes made to a draft resolution. These changes to clauses can either strengthen consensus or force countries to vote against it. Amendments are a strategic tool and an important part of the final stage of every MUN simulation.
The three types of amendments: CAR
Changing the text of a clause / sub clause
Adding a new clause / sub clause
Removing a clause / sub clause
Your CAR will drive change in the resolution!
Amendments are included in this resolution writing article because they follow the same rules for writing as clauses for a draft resolution. The only difference is that amendments are added individually after a draft has been officially recognized and need to be voted into the draft to become part of it.
Amendments require a certain number of delegates to sign them before they can be submitted to the chair for review. Amendments can be submitted at any point in time after a draft resolution is recognized until it is voted upon. If amendments are voted on before or after closure of debate depends on each conferences specific rules of procedure.
MUN amendments divide into friendly amendments and unfriendly amendments.
Friendly amendments are a change to the draft resolution that all sponsors agree with. If the amendment is also approved by the chair no vote is required and it automatically becomes part of the draft resolution.
Unfriendly amendments are when one, or more, of the sponsors do not agree with the change. Unfriendly amendments can both strengthen or weaken a resolution, resulting in more or less votes and can even force sponsors to vote against the document they drafted. Unfriendly amendments are typically voted on in order of severity (the order of voting is usually established by the Chair).
Once the debate is closed the committee moves into formal voting procedure. At this point unfriendly amendments, if any, are voted upon followed by the draft resolutions.
Once the debate is closed the committee moves into formal voting procedure. At this point unfriendly amendments, if any, are voted upon followed by the draft resolutions.
Other Types of MUN Resolutions
Advisory vs Executive Committees
As we wrote before, different MUN committees have different scopes of operations. Many committees HAVE NO EXECUTIVE POWER and thus can’t commit to actions. These committees can only recommend courses of action in their resolutions. One such example is the Human Rights Council.
Some committees have budgets and can operate within a certain scopem such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) or the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Security Council is the most powerful executive committee with the power place sanctions and even condemn other states.
Committee Specific Resolution Formats
– Not all resolutions have Preambulatory clauses (clarify with the type of committee)
– Some committees have a very specific purpose and their resolutions are written accordingly (for example, a resolution in the Legal Committee will be focused on international law rather than humanitarian aid or direct conflict resolution)
Directives – Some committees can also write directives (shorter “emergency” operative clauses). Directives are common in crisis committees but are also used by non-crisis committees at some MUN conferences.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Even when you know how to write a resolution mistakes can happen. Let’s be honest for a minute here. No delegate is perfect, and you will eventually make some mistakes in your MUN career, and that is fine! However, a resolution is something you will have spent countless hours drafting and negotiating and discussing, so you might as well keep in mind some tips to avoid jeopardising your entire work.
1. If you have enemies, you’re in the right direction. The strongest resolutions, because they are so specific, so original and so thorough, will automatically attract some contradicting spirits in the room. Your aim is the majority, not unanimity. A resolution that pleases everyone is usually a resolution that achieves nothing at all.
2. Sic Semper Tyrannis. Literally in Latin “Thus always to tyrants”. We all know that ego plays a huge role in Model United Nations, and this environment nurtures the inevitable battle of wits. But being bossy instead of being a leader will not get you anywhere. If your resolution’s adoption is your priority, always learn to listen and compromise. Making people around you feel heard and valued is the quickest way to their vote.
3. Nothing is personal. Model UN is a simulation, where everyone plays a designated role, and is evaluated on their ability to upkeep that role throughout the conference. Do not let your emotions guide you through the MUN process, especially in resolution writing. If you, representing the United States, spend 3 hours trying to convince your best friend, representing North Korea, to join in on your resolution, you are wasting your time and everybody else’s. People in MUN will always be and should always be different people inside and outside of the committee room.
4. Reading is fundamental. Be sure to read your work again, and again, and again before submitting it. Check for spelling mistakes, formatting errors and, above all else, inconsistencies. Avoid including clauses that contradict each other, the most common case being the promotion of peace in one clause while another one prescribes to send thousands of soldiers on the field.
5. Be prepared, but don’t plagiarise. If there is one thing the chairs hate the most, it’s not chatterboxes, but clauses and resolutions that were written before even entering the committee room, and yes, they can always tell. Some MUNers, usually pushed by their schools or societies, come to the conference with a set of ready-made clauses before the debate even starts. Since the resolution should be a product of the debate, and since the figures you will include in your resolution are likely to be made up on the spot, a resolution prepared in advance will always be a terrible resolution. Enter your MUN conference confidently with a killer position paper, but always write your resolutions inside the room.
MUN Resolution Tips
Strength of Resolution is Inverse to Number of Votes
The strongest resolutions would have 51% of the countries voting in favor, the weakest ones have 100% voting on them. A good resolution will often not have every country on it because with some topics progress for one country can mean setback for another.
There is no obligation to be on every resolution, and a lot of credit can be given to a country who is not willing to give up their principles when the majority of the room is working against its interests. Early on you should have an idea of which clauses can coexist with yours. Is you see you will need to stay diplomatically relevant without a majority plan your steps accordingly.
Merge or Justify
The only way to justify not merging with another block is if you have a clause that says the opposite of theirs. Otherwise, it looks like ego is the only reasons you aren’t joining them. This looks bad to both chairs and other delegates. This means you need a direct clash with the opposing block.
Resolution 1.1: Calls for an increase in the number of peacekeepers between country X and country Y.
Resolution 1.2: Authorises reinforcements for the peacekeepers serving on the border of country X and country y.
As we can see, these two clauses call for the same thing in different words. Even if the troop numbers different, it is unlikely to hold weight.
Resolution 1.1: Calls for the increase in the number of refugees into country Z by at least 30% this year.
Resolution 1.2: Demands the number of refugees in country Z be reduced by 20% within the following year.
It is not enough for clauses in separate resolutions to say completely different things. Clauses that do not directly contradict can coexist on the same resolution. Blocks often write entire documents with “obvious” clauses that don’t commit to anything significant. These same blocks are later are surprised that the spent hours writing practically the same thing. When the documents are compared, the only clauses that will get air time and be spoken about are the ones with differences.
The first step to avoid the trap of multiple identical resolutions, be award of the ideas on the other side. Find something to disagree on and get it into the text early on. Chairs do not look favorably on blocks that won’t join because of the egos of the sponsors. Credit is only given to ideological differences and will justified reasons for not being able to work together. A clause which does the exact opposite of an important clause in your document is the strongest justification to not join forces and ideas.
Review Before You Submit
Nothing wastes time and reduces your credibility like clauses that repeat themselves, or worse, contradict themselves. This is why reviewing the document after you spent hours writing, and are exhausted, is so important. Sometimes editing one clause can solve the problem. Sometimes you need to amend many clauses. Sometimes, extra clauses without a clear contribution can even weaken your resolution. The worst case is when clause actually contradict, for example:
6. Requests the Security Council triple the number of peacekeepers in Liberia;
And further down in the resolution
13. Calls upon the Security Council to remove all peacekeepers and personnel from Liberia;
These things happen more often than we would like.
One way to avoid this is to put your clauses in order of importance. If each step has its place, it will be much easier to avoid duplication. Also, with a clause about peacekeepers, the clauses about increase and decreasing would be of similar importance so both find their way to the top where the contradiction can be discovered and resolved.
Take some time to think before the rush towards writing a resolution. We improve each time and the balance for speech writing, delivery, and Model UN in general can be found with patience, diligence, practice and a willingness to learn.
Find Those In The Same Boat
If someone is too controlling on the draft resolution, you are likely not the only one who is disenfranchised. Find other delegates who feel like you do. They can be frustrated from working with other intransigent delegates or with the same one who turns you off to work with their block.
Once you have a few of those, work on your own clauses and if you come with a sufficiently sized voting block. This will give you have more bargaining power in the later discussion than if you let someone else write all the clauses. Do not let the writer dictate everything!
The secret to overcoming inflexible power delegates is realizing that resolution writing isn’t scary. It can seem so at first, but it is really taking the CIA concept and turning it into legal jargon with a preambulatory or operative phrase at the beginning of the sentence. Once the idea is in writing, the debate continues and you continue to fight to get your idea passed with a majority.
Write Out Test Clauses At Home
Practice is important in every discipline, MUN notwithstanding. Getting practice at home with writing clauses is as helpful as reading draft resolutions, and for many even more so. We are not advocating to bring pre-written clauses. It is in bad form to do so at any conference that does not allow pre-written clauses.
The value of writing clauses at home if it helps you a) organize your thoughts and b) get used to formal clause writing. Your clause drafts will help you understand where to put sub-clauses, what parts are overdeveloped and what order the parts should be in. If you happen to be lucky and the committee discusses exactly what you wrote at home you will have a faster time writing it in committee.
Once you have experience writing draft resolutions you will likely not need the stage of practicing at home. However, until that point extra practice writing clauses is a good way to break the ice with yourself and get over your fear of writing.
Writing a good MUN resolution paper is a critical part of guiding your idea from opening speech to a successfully voted on resolution. The clauses are the policies from your speeches written form. Resolution writing is a critical part of guiding your idea from opening speech to a successfully voted on resolution. The clauses are the policy you speak in written form.
– Preambulatory clauses – Why we’re doing it
– Operative clauses – What we’re going to do
Clauses should be written:
– – Without emotion
– – Straight forward instructions (to be carried out by bureaucrats)
– – Preferably with little wiggle room (unless that is the goal)
Especially for MUN rooms with other advanced delegates, make sure your operative clauses are backed by preambs, the clauses are presented in order of importance and you have at least one clause which justifies why you are not merging with another block.
Hopefully, this guide shed some light on how to write a draft resolution. Now that you have a better understanding, the next step is to practice. After all, there is no teacher like experience. Good luck!