MUN Amendments Guide

An amendment in MUN is a change in the text of a draft resolution designed to modify the content. Amendments in MUN can also be used as a tool to alter another draft resolution, or your own, at some point before the final vote.

A MUN amendment is when you:

  • Add a new clause
  • Remove a clause
  • Change text in an existing clause

In MUN, there is a tendency to skip over amendments as unnecessary parts of resolutions. The idea is, “let’s hash out our ideas in resolution writing, and skip the need for amendments”. Whilst this is an honorable attempt at consensus, it misses some of the point of different blocs writing stronger documents in their own interests and then coming together to find common group and create consensus through legislation. Ultimately, amendments are the perfect forum to discuss how to improve resolutions and create a document that delegates can agree with and will be effective in decades to come.
In this guide, we will run through the various aspects of amendments, starting with why we have them, the standard rules guiding them (which change often) and how to become a master amender during committee.

What are Amendments?

What is the Definition of an Amendment in MUN?

A MUN amendment is a change made to a resolution during a committee session.

Once a draft resolution has been accepted by the Chair, the resolution will be opened for amendments. There will likely be quite a bit of action in the committee room when a resolution is opened for amendments. Many delegations, or groups of delegations, will have ideas of how they wish to modify the resolution up for debate.

There are two types of amendments: friendly and unfriendly.

Types of Amendments

Friendly Amendments

  • A friendly amendment is what it sounds like. If an amendment author introduces it as a friendly amendment and all of the resolution’s sponsors agree to it, the amendment will automatically become a part of the resolution.
  • There is usually nothing too controversial about friendly amendments. Most of the time they will be accepted by all parties and the Chair and become a part of the draft resolution.

Unfriendly Amendments

  • An unfriendly amendment is a change that one, or more, of the resolution’s sponsors, do not agree with.
    For an unfriendly amendment to be accepted for debate, it will need a certain percentage of the committee to sign off on it (the Rules of Procedure should state the percentage needed).
  • Unfriendly amendments will be open to debate. Time during the speaker’s list and caucusing can be dedicated to unfriendly amendments.

What amendments do

Amendments can do one of three things to the operative clauses of a resolution (note perambulatory clauses cannot be amended, but are less important).

 

1. Add a clause

2. Strike a clause

3. Amend a Clause

Tip:
You want to make sure to highlight what it is you are changing, which makes the chair’s life easier.
Fundamentally amendments can only do ONE of these three possible things, and if you want to effectuate many changes to a resolution, you have to either make sure that many are easy to pass, or that you get creative with the rules, which is what we will get onto now.

Note:
Fixing grammatical errors can also be amendment worthy, however, in MUN, the content should be the main focus. In most cases, spelling and grammar errors can usually be fixed without amendments, by just raising them to the chairs, who can fix them there and then.

Why do we have amendments?

Amendments are changes you can submit, debate, and vote upon for formal documents in the United Nations. They are vital for many reasons chief among which is adapting old documents to the modern age, such as amending the UN charter to expand the Security Council. However, in MUN we come across amendments in the process of changing resolutions before they are ready to vote upon.

In every UN Committee, resolutions are rarely passed without any amendments to them. It is usually necessary for resolutions to have a couple of amendments passed to allow changes that will placate other blocs in the committee, improve pieces of legislation or otherwise attack a resolution. In MUN these reasons are much the same.

Without amendments, delegates have to juggle far more than they can manage during debate and drafting of documents. Even when you are dealing with only a few pages in a resolution, there are often oversights and issues that only pop up during the submitting and read-through of a resolution. Amendments can make sure that an unpolished resolution becomes a perfect one. In this way, amendments fundamentally change the quality of the resolution, usually from average to good, but can also be used to turn an average resolution, into a failed one.

When do we use amendments?

amendments are used just after a formal document, like a draft resolution, is submitted and debate has begun in earnest on said document. If the early stages consist of debate, the middle stages consist of drafting, the later stages are dominated by amendments and voting. Unfortunately, you cannot amend documents like working papers, so oftentimes amendments are side-lined in favor of drafting (which is understandable as drafting takes a lot of time) but shouldn’t be forgotten.
Amendments are voted on at the end of the simulation but before the draft resolutions are voted on as a whole. It’s important to note that amendments are voted on before the vote on directives during simulations that have directives.

There is never any set number of amendments that can be submitted, but usually, a time-period given for a time to submit amendments and go through them. Depending on how the rules of procedure work for them (which we shall discuss in the next section) you can spend anywhere from only a session or two on amendments, to an entire day.
Another important thing to note on when they are used is that they can be used on any resolution that is introduced and on the floor. There is no restriction to the first resolution or the last, but all can be considered.

Amendments Rules in MUN

In ROPs based on Roberts Rules, or UNA-USA Rules of Procedure, Amendments are usually split into two categories, friendly and unfriendly amendments. Generally, all amendments must have some signatories before they can be submitted for approval to the chair, usually around 3 or 4.

Friendly amendments are amendments that are acceptable by all sponsors of a draft resolution (if the conference doesn’t have sponsors, then there are no friendly amendments) and when they are submitted with the sponsors as signatories, may automatically be introduced into the resolution, after being introduced to the committee. An introduction is usually done either by a motion or by chairs discretion but is rarely failed. As mentioned before, if you want to get many amendments done, this is the easiest way forward, but harder, as the sponsors might not always agree, and then you have the next type of amendment, unfriendly.

Unfriendly amendments are amendments that have some disagreement by a sponsor and therefore must be debated and voted on before it can be introduced to the resolution. To do this, you first need some other signatories who agree with the amendments, submit it to the chairs, have it be accepted, then introduce it to the committee. Once it is introduced into the committee, either a special speaker list or a moderated caucus can be used to debate the amendment. What type of caucus is irrelevant, all that matters is that there is a debate for and against the amendment. Usually, if a speaker list is used and no-one wishes to speak against, then the amendment automatically passes, but this is rare. Otherwise, once debate has finished, a substantive vote is made on the amendment, and if it passes, it is adopted into the resolution, otherwise, it fails and cannot be submitted again.

How to Submit an Amendment

Generally, submitting an amendment is done via email, but can also be done by paper, depending on the chairs preference. It is important to note on each submission the number of the amendments (or suggested number) and which resolution it is amending, along with signatories. Also make sure that they are written in draft resolution format, and are incredibly specific with what changes you wish to do.

Verbal Amendments

In a few rare cases chairs have asked for verbal amendments. This is extremely rare and when done should follow the guidelines in the Rules of Procedure.

Amendments to the Second Degree

Amendment to the second degree is when the same part of the same clause is modified two or more times. Some MUN conferences permit this. If you see your clause getting amending back and forth multiple times, and it is the main focus of the room, you probably did something right.

How To write an amendment

Amendments are essentially clauses that are written, or introduced after the draft resolution was approved by the chair. To understand the technical aspect of writing an amendment, and how to format a MUN amendment, check out our article on How to Write a MUN Clauses. The explanation of basic clause writing will help you get the insight necessary to write powerful amendments that will achieve your MUN goals.

As far as content, make sure your idea is clear and as close to the beginning of the sentence as possible. This is especially important when your amendment is longer than a line or two. The goal of an amendment is to be understood, discussed and passed. The main idea you present should be clear, as concise as possible and well presented.

MUN Amendment Examples

Below are two clauses from the middle of a MUN draft resolution. We will use these clauses to show how the different types of amendments work.

Example of Adding a Clause

You can add a line of text or an entire clause. Here is an example.

Here is what the new clauses would look like:

Example of Removing a Clause

You can remove text of an entire clause. Here is an example of removal of text.

Example of request to remove specific words for a clause

“Requests to remove the words “and demands that all armed groups cut off all ties with terrorist organizations and transnational organized crime” from clause 7

What the new resolution would look like

7. Calls upon all parties in Mali to strictly abide by the arrangements in place for a cessation of hostilities;
8. Calls for the inclusion within regional strategies of programs to address the stigma of sexual and gender-based violence and bring justice to victims;

Example of Modifying Text of a clause

You can change a word or words in a clause. Here is an example.

Requests to modify the wording of clause 7 from

7. Calls upon all parties in Mali to strictly abide by the arrangements in place for a cessation of hostilities, and demands that all armed groups cut off all ties with terrorist organizations and transnational organized crime,
to

7. Calls upon all parties in Mali to strictly abide by the arrangements in place for a cessation of hostilities, and requests that all armed groups cut off all ties with terrorist organizations in return for aid and medical supplies,

What the new Clauses would look like after the change.

7. Calls upon all parties in Mali to strictly abide by the arrangements in place for a cessation of hostilities, and requests that all armed groups cut off all ties with terrorist organizations in return for aid and medical supplies,

8. Calls for the inclusion within regional strategies of programs to address the stigma of sexual and gender-based violence and bring justice to victims;

Choosing what clauses to amend

You can often get a feel for which clauses will be most discussed during the drafting stage. If nothing stands out while our sponsors are drafting they will definitely become clear when the blocs try to merge. As the drafts are going through their final edits, you can often see where the wind is blowing. At this point you should already be ready to decide which clauses will be worth discussing and what strategic goal you are trying to achieve. Some amendments are submitting to pass and bring blocs together. Some can be submitting to do the opposite. Some amendments are not meant to pass as all and are submitted to push the discussion in a certain direction with a specific goal. Make sure to understand your goal before you send in your amendment.

A lot more on strategic use of clauses can be found in our guide on MUN Amendment Strategy!

How to get supporters

The first step to getting supporters is to make sure your amendment is relevant to enough delegates that you have a chance for the amendment to pass after it is discussed. Getting supporters starts with showing your amendment, getting their agreement, or signature, and then hoping you were persuasive enough for them to vote in real-time. Who your supporters should be will depend on what type of amendment and the state of the committee at the time of submission. The rule of thumb is that your idea needs to appeal to enough delegates. Who they could be and why they will support you will be elaborated on below.

Support from your allies

Support of friends and allies – Your obvious supporters are your bloc. In a smaller committee, it’s the countries you’re allied with. They will usually be more supportive it’s an amendment to another resolution. If it’s an amendment to your own you might need to do a bit more explaining. In either case, do the rounds, get the signatures and when you have enough support, send it in.

Support from a mix

A union of friends, foes and undecideds – Your supporters will often be from your bloc but they do not have to be. Sometimes, to pass an amendment you will need to utilize a mix of some of your bloc and some outsiders. The outsiders can be from another bloc or simply delegates who didn’t choose a side yet.

An example of a situation where you could get support from a mixed group is where a certain clause gives you a handful of votes within yout bloc but turns off a much larger group in the committee. This is a “ cut off the hand to save the body” situation where your amendment is what could save the draft resolution at the expense of a smaller group of supporters. These actions can be risky, though also have the potential for great reward. It’s important to get as much commitment as you can from the group who would support your action. As an assurance, it might be worth considering co sponsorship.

Support from your opposition

Working with the other side – There are times when you will need to work with select members of the opposing bloc to get your amendment the numbers it needs to reach the floor. Like the example above, for your resolution to pass (or another to not pass) this amendment needs to reach the floor. Getting support from the opposition is especially important in very small and very large rooms. In small rooms every vote counts while in very large rooms you will need blocs which are not your own to get an amendment on the floor. This is even more important if not all the delegates in your bloc will agree to your amendment.

Sometimes support is not needed

The three previous cases show situations where you want your amendment to pass and the different potential partners to do so. Strategically, there will be times when you don’t want your amendment to pass rather only to be raised to achieve a different goal. For example, when you don’t want enough supporters for your amendment to pass, just to get it to the floor keep certain countries in your block from breaking off. This is a very advanced strategy which we don’t want to get into here but you should know that such actions exist. (We do go into it in our article on MUN Amendment Strategy!)

How to use amendments effectively

As previously mentioned, amendments can be put to use for a variety of things, but ultimately you want to amend a resolution to push forward your or your blocs agenda. This may be through watering down clauses, strengthening them, improving or removing them as you wish. Of course this is all in the effort of finding consensus, not just being stubborn, but you will likely find pushback no matter what your idea is.

To be most effective, ask the sponsors of the resolution for their approval before submission (or the main stakeholders if your conference doesn’t do sponsors). This will allow you to either quickly have an amendment passed through, or allow feedback which you can use to either redraft the amendment, or use in further debate if you submit it as an unfriendly amendment.

Otherwise, to be effective in amendments you have to channel the same skills you used in stages one and two of the committee, debating and drafting. Always good is an open and honest discussion about amendments in a moderated caucus, with unmods to properly discuss and draft them for submission. In this stage of the committee, developed partisan sides can come together to create a resolution both sides can be proud of.

Of course, there is always the malevolent side to amendments as well. Whilst chairs will stop you from being merely attacking other delegates, there is a subtle art to sinking resolutions with amendments too. Imagine two blocs coming together to draft a resolution, whilst a third manages to push a resolution that splits these blocs together, giving their own resolution a better chance of passing. Whilst this is highly discouraged in MUN, it would be naïve of us not to mention it, so you can at least lookout for it.

Amendment Tips and Considerations

A few tips and tricks for amendments, before some examples of what NOT to submit to your chairs.

Always start thinking of amendment ideas during the drafting of a resolution, whilst your focus should be on getting what you want in this early stage, be prepared to amend resolutions in order to succeed

Submit your amendment first! Many amendments will come in during the final seconds before the deadline. Just as with MUN position papers, if yours comes in early it will stand out. Earlier also means your chair will have more time to read yours while others are coming in. Early + organized will give you the best chance.

Sponsor > Amender
Despite this, never be fooled by another delegate into sacrificing in the drafting stage to some “glory” in the amendment stage. As a rule, amendments are harder to pass and not always as glorious a victory as they may seem. Also, the chairs see the sponsors performance as more stable when evaluating awards. It is true that a game-changing amendment can be worth a lot but there is also a risk. Before your glory play, remember that it is always harder to get an amendment in that to draft a clause directly

Amend as much as you need
There are never too many amendments. If chairs get annoyed at you for submitting too many (which actually have a point) you’re probably on the right track.

Work across the aisle when needed
Some policies can work with multiple blocs. If you can convince opposing blocs to amend onto your resolution, you are a leader in documentation and ideas.

Don’t get too attached to your clauses
Sometimes sacrifices may have to be made. Sometimes your content will be amended. As a general MUN rule, don’t get too attached to your clauses. This is especially helpful if you do wish to push an amended resolution.

Things not do in MUN Amendment

Do Not Make changes for the sake of not being inactive
“Amendment to replace all references to “sandwich” to “Oranges” In the resolution”

  • This will just annoy your chairs, at the very least list out where these changes should be, and if they are really un-lenient, they might just ask you to submit separate amendments for each change

Do Not Refer to a general idea
“Amendment to strike the clause on climate change”

  • Always specify WHICH clauses you want to affect in an amendment

Do Not Submit too many ideas in one amendment
“Amendment to strike clause 4 from resolution 1.2, clause 6 from resolution 1.3 and clause 2 from resolution 1.1.”

  • You can’t do multiple actions in one amendment, either submit them separately or deal with it later

Conclusion

So there you have it. You are now an amending pro with your bloc firmly at your side and a finely crafted resolution. However, the end is not over yet. Once amendments are over then it is time to move into voting procedure, which has its own wacky set of motions and systems to deal with. Most important to note is division of the question, which can send all your carefully crafted plans down the toilet. Nevertheless, you’ve done your part, and thanks to your debating, drafting and consensus-building skills, you have outshone yourself as an excellent delegate!

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