What is a Crisis Committee?
Crisis in Model United Nations is a simulation that changes in real time based on the actions and decisions of the participants. Participants submit written requests in the form of directives that can make changes in real time, changing the scenario being discussed.
Crisis vs Crisis Committee
A “crisis” in a regular MUN committee is different from a “crisis committee”. A crisis in a standard MUN committee is a surprise situation which the delegates have to deal with.
While the situation has little time for preparation the Rules of Procedure stay the same as do the powers of the delegates.
Example: The United Nations Development Program can discuss water access in Sub Saharan Africa and suddenly a 7.8 earthquake hits central Chad.
In a crisis committee delegates are able to impact the simulation through directives which make changes to the simulation in real time.
Example: The UN Security Council is dealing with a succession crisis in North Korea.
A crisis committee can take form in many different scenarios. A United Nations committee, such as the Security Council, could be a crisis committee. There are other types of crisis committees such as historical crisis, futuristic crisis or even a fantasy / science fiction crisis. The common denominator between all of them is that the situation changes based on the directives and actions of the delegates.
Single Cabinet and Joint Cabinet Crisis
A crisis committee is defined by the constantly changing situation. A crisis can have one committee or a number of committees who can work together, or against each other, depending on the scenario.
A crisis in model United Nations exists in the following two forums:
A Single Cabinet Crisis (SCC) is where one cabinet is part of the crisis. This cabinet usually includes people who are technically on the same ‘side’, but this is not always the case.
A Joint Cabinet Crises (JCC) contains multiple cabinets (located in different rooms) who work with, or against each other.
A 3 cabinet Joint Cabinet Crisis dealing with the illicit drug trade in North America could take place today with the United States, Mexico and Canada as the 3 cabinets. The crisis could also be a historical crisis taking place in 1990 where the United States Drug Enforcement Administration is pitted against the crime families of Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder.
Single Cabinet Crisis: The United States Union cabinet of Abraham Lincoln in the American Civil War in 1964. The opposing Confederacy cabinet is simulated by the crisis staff.
Types of Crisis
MUN Crisis can simulate:
- Contemporary United Nations activity
- Non-UN contemporary crisis
- The past (historical crisis)
- The future (futuristic crisis)
- Fantasy/sci fi crisis, which are not based in reality
When a crisis takes place in the past, the known history of the situation up to the starting date of the crisis is usually taken as fact. When the crisis takes place in the future you will know what your crisis staff tells you in the guide. The same goes with fantasy / sci fi scenarios.
Crisis – A fast paced type of MUN where the situation keeps changing and, in most cases, delegates can impact the direction of the simulation.
Crisis Delegates – A participant in a crisis. Crisis delegates usually play characters and not countries.
Character Bio – Short for character biography. Basic information about the individual, or entity, the delegate will be representing in the crisis. Character bios are usually provided by the crisis staff.
Crisis Director (CD) – The manager of the entire crisis. The CD usually chooses the topic, coordinates the writing of the study guide and character bios and directs the crisis in real time.
Crisis Staff – The team who work under the Crisis Director. This can be anywhere from one or two people to teams of twenty or more. The rules include Deputy Crisis Directors, Backroom Directors, Backroom Staff and Frontroom Chairs.
Cabinet Director – The staff member responsible for everything that takes place in a specific cabinet. They usually approve smaller requests and take larger ones up to the Crisis Director.
Backroom Staff – A crisis staff member who is in charge of responding to individual directives. They can be assigned to one specific cabinet or work in multiple cabinets.
Frontroom Chair – Also simply known as the chair of the committee. The Frontroom Chair usually works with the backroom.
NPC (Non-Playable Character) – A personality or character who is within the crisis but is not represented by a delegate or chair but instead played by the crisis staff.
Types of Crisis
Single Cabinet Crisis – A crisis set in one room of participants.
Joint Cabinet Crisis (JCC) – Also known as Joint Crisis Committees. Multiple rooms of participants. If there are two they usually face off. If there are more than two they can form alliances with each other and evolve dynamically as the crisis progresses.
Historical Crisis – A crisis that takes place in the past.
Futurist Crisis – A crisis that takes place in the future. This can be the near future or a far off future which has significantly less basis on reality.
Fantasy / Sci Fi Crisis – A crisis that takes place anywhere but our reality.
Directive – Written requests sent to and read by the crisis staff (AKA Backroom). They can be approved, or denied. Directives can be personal or represent the interest of the committee. The outcome of the requests moves the crisis forward. (Everything to know about crisis directives can be found here!)
Joint Person Directive – JPD is a directive written by, or submitted by, multiple delegates. They are usually from the same cabinet but can also be from different cabinets.
In Crisis Actions
Crisis Update – When the Backroom gives the Frontroom new information.
Character knowledge – Information which your character is aware of in the crisis. This will differ greatly from the knowledge you personally know about the crisis or the characters as you might know how the crisis unfolded in history or some character secrets but your crisis character will have to work by sending directives to obtain that knowledge.
Defection / Betrayal – The act of a delegate, or chair, switching cabinets during the course of the crisis and retaining their character personality.
Death – When a participant’s character “dies”. This can be the death or the character but can also be when the character gets fired or is voted out of office. After “death” the participant gets a new character. In JCC’s a participant can be resurrected in another committee.
Crisis Committee Delegates
Characters, Goals and Powers
A crisis delegate is usually allocated a specific character rather than a country. This character has certain advantages, powers and resources that come with their position. This can be material (the character has a lot of money), strategic (owns a large steel corporation), military (has loyal troops) or diplomatic (has relations with characters in the opposing cabinets or non-playable characters).
As in standard MUN, delegates still need to represent the viewpoint and interests of their character. These characters may range from contemporary UN representatives (Security Council) to members of a country’s executive cabinet (Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Transport and head of intelligence) to historical figures (Julius Caesar or General Douglas MacArthur).
Your aim in a crisis committee is to use whatever advantages you have to work towards the benefit of your cabinet, and character. As a delegate, you will be tested on how to quickly and flexibly think on your feet in order to react to ongoing crises, and how well you can lead others to succeed in overcoming your collective obstacles.
The committee in a crisis is called a cabinet. The cabinet can take many forms.
Here are some examples of crisis cabinets:
Governmental executive body (India’s Council of Ministers)
Intra-Governmental Union (The European Council, where the heads of state meet)
Family unit (The House of Borgia, a Spanish-Aragonese noble family during the Italian Renaissance)
Corporation (Apple Board of Directors)
Fantasy school board (Hogwarts Teaching Staff)
Delegates As People
Whether in a SCC, or JCC, participants often represent real people instead of delegates of countries. Individual people come with the powers of their position and personal wealth. This means their interests can also be much smaller than those of a state.
When you represent a minister (such as the minister of defense or the interior) you are not only interested in the good of your cabinet but also keeping your job. You are also a member of society, with interpersonal politics between the other elites of your social sphere. This means your character can have resources and connections which are not officially part of the role. For example, as a person, you can utilize a connection through the marriage of your character, or an alumni of the same university to get the same information you would through a detective deploying spies to get information.
Your actions should be within the spirit of your character. This is because your character has a certain amount of influence over a specific field. For example, if your position is head of research and development within your cabinet, other delegates may expect you to act in matters relating to R&D. PLans involving your personal mandate may make it easier to get other delegates to back your plans. Additionally, personal directives which involve your personal role and resources are more likely to be approved by the crisis staff making them more likely to succeed.
You may also be limited in your decisions. Other cabinet members, or the head of the cabinet (usually the chair), may not support, or even overrule, your decisions. Take these in stride. Rome wasn’t built in a day and constructing a complex set up, or plan, will take time and can take multiple tries.
You can, and often should, take actions outside your obvious role. Having a basis for your action that is well-grounded in reality will improve its chance of success when evaluated by the backroom staff. Crisis has a lot of flexibility and room for creativity, and of course your role and motivations may shift and change throughout the course of the conference as may your role and standing in your cabinet among your peers.
Finally, do not be disheartened by being allocated a character that plays a “smaller” role. Most crisis roles have the opportunity for growth and large impact if played correctly.
It is important to use the abilities that your character has to help your cabinet, and yourself, thrive during the crisis. When an organization provides an individual with authority, they have an inherent responsibility to use that authority wisely. Additionally, diplomacy goes hand in hand with authority. Your fellow delegates in the room will be less likely to use their authority to your cooperative benefit if you misuse your position overtly, or try to take action using authority that belongs to someone else.
Delegates and Directives
Directives are how delegates communicate with crisis staff and impact the world (more on that in the directive section). It is helpful to imagine the backroom staff as a panel weighing your request.
A chair in a regular committee does not force the discussion in a particular direction, or tell anyone what to say. The backroom staff of a crisis committee do not force the directive outcomes in a particular direction; rather, they make sure they are consistent with the logic of the crisis scenario.
Crisis Delegate Goals Review
1. Faithfully act as you believe your character would
2. Make your cabinet prosper
3. Make your character prosper (this is distinct from point 2)
4. Be creative
5. Have fun
The crisis staff are the people who run the crisis simulation. They have the main role of deciding what directives pass and how the crisis unfolds. The crisis staff arbitrates ‘truth’. They decide what has and has not happened. They are in charge of keeping track of what occurred. If the crisis staff do not know an event has happened it has not happened. If unsure about something ask your crisis staff.
Crisis staff have a number of roles within the staff to help the crisis run smoothly. The crisis has a frontroom, where the delegates discussion takes place, and a backroom, where crisis staff decide which actions offered by the participants are allowed to take place. The person who chairs each cabinet is called a front room chair. The staff who manage the directives and what happens behind the scenes are called backroom staff. The person who manages the entire crisis is called the Crisis Director.
Crisis staff are responsible for creating the preparation materials for the crisis and running the crisis after the conference begins.
Preparation of Materials
The crisis staff design the crisis scenario to be challenging, intellectually stimulating, and logically consistent. The crisis staff also prepare the crisis preparation materials in the form of a study guide and character biographies (character bios).
These materials allow the delegates to approach the scenario from the same perspective, as well as familiarize themselves with the characters involved in the committee. The study guide is a good place to identify which characters are most relevant to your plans. After that, much of your research as a delegate will be done on your own accord to come up with creative ideas beyond the guide and starting point provided by the crisis staff.
Running the Crisis
After the crisis begins, the crisis staff are in charge of managing the crisis. This takes the form of a thoroughly planned initial event to get the crisis started as well as more dynamic twists and turns attuned to the way the crisis has unfolded throughout the conference. The crisis staff strive to make sure the simulated scenario will be as engaging as possible for all delegates. They will also help the delegates benefit academically by challenging their crisis related skills.
The Crisis Director is the head of the entire crisis, whether the The Crisis Director is in charge of recruiting the crisis staff, coming up with the topic, supervising creation of the materials and managing the crisis in real time. The crisis director decides on the direction, pacing and tone of the crisis, and backroom. The Crisis Director also has final say in all questions and decisions related to the crisis.
The backroom staff is in charge or reading, responding to and implementing the decisions of the written directives. The backroom is responsible for everything outside of the scope of the front room chairs.
Along with approving actions, the backroom can also provide answers to information questions. For example, if you ask how much personal wealth you have a backroom staff member will perform additional research related to the economics of your character and send you an answer.
Similar to chairs, the crisis staff also facilitate discussion, although this is a much more involved and intensive process in a crisis committee. Since much of crisis delegate interaction happens through directives, the backroom staff in a way are facilitating discussion behind the scenes by determining the outcome of directives. The analogy is more direct for the frontroom chair, who will be literally in the cabinet helping the discussion run smoothly. Although there are multiple roles to the crisis staff, from the front room chair who will join you in the cabinet to the backroom staff who respond to your directives, the entire staff works together to determine how the crisis situation unfolds, and how your directives impact the situation. They have the final say on what has and has not happened in the committee. For this to succeed, consensus between all members of the staff is necessary to limit confusion. It is usually advisable to be a bit patient in making certain all members of backroom staff are aware an event has happened without getting too far ahead of yourself in planning additional directives building on said event. For example, if a delegate from a rival cabinet submits a directive that contradicts your directive to a different member of the backroom staff, it might take some time for the staff to get on the same page. In this way, it is usually best to assume an event hasn’t happened until it has been announced.
In the initial stages, a cabinet would be disorganized if a delegate is allocated to be its head, with the authority to control the discussion in the room. Instead, the frontroom chair is given this position in the cabinet. Like the delegates in the frontroom (where the cabinet is present), the chair will be allocated a character and will represent their interests, informing your own character’s interactions with said character. However, like a standard MUN chair, the frontroom chair will help facilitate discussion, help all delegates get involved (especially if there is confusion and questions that need to be answered). Unique to the crisis committee, the frontroom chair needs to be responsible for communication with the backroom staff: letting them know what is happening in the committee, passing on messages from the backroom to the delegates, and ultimately helping determine awards.
The frontroom chair is also there to help the delegates in general so that they have the time to focus on being the best crisis delegates they can be, by determining the format of the debate and helping to keep track of everything that is going on. In the context of the characters being simulated, the authority to do this is based on the frontroom chair’s role as the “leader”.
Situations may arise where there is a miscommunication between members of the backroom staff, a directive is accidentally skipped, etc. Although the backroom staff represents the omnipotent reality of the simulation, the staff members themselves are quite human. This is important to remember because Crisis can be an intense experience and can cause frustration when dealing with mistakes.
The best path forward is to accept that, at a minimum, some directives will take a longer time than expected to receive a response. If you feel this is the case, reach out to the crisis staff and feel free to send the crisis staff a directive for clarification (for example referencing a previous directive and asking if it has been seen by the staff). Also, look around.If there are delays for the other directives, recognize that it is likely the staff is presently overwhelmed with too many directives, and are working towards resolving the situation.
A more proactive alternative is to avoid tunnel vision on one particular path to success. If your directive on an economic plan is being stalled, consider pursuing an alternative route or project in the meantime, such as gathering intelligence. There might be a good reason a certain type of directive is being stalled that isn’t readily apparent and a different direction is the way towards your goal.
A directive is a message sent by a crisis delegate, or frontroom chair, to the backroom staff with a written instruction about what they want to have happen in the crisis. Directives are how delegates impact the crisis.
A directive should have a goal and an explanation how the action will be implemented. Directives should also explain any associated costs and how long this process will take. Directives should clearly lead to an outcome. However, the directive should not assume or decide the outcome. The backroom staff decide if to accept the directive and, if they do, what type of impact the directive will have. It is advisable to be as specific as possible in order to achieve your goals. The backroom staff should not have to explain how every directive will affect the crisis from scratch, the purpose of the directives themselves is to cause these interactions. In order to achieve your goals, help the backroom staff understand what it is you want to achieve.
Pay attention to any additional instructions given by the backroom, or chairs, related to how often you are able to send directives, and make use of your opportunities wisely. There are resources and templates available regarding the specifics of directive writing in our article on MUN crisis directives.
Backroom staff evaluate directives and decide if they pass and succeed, pass with different results or flat out fail. When you send a directive to the backroom staff, do not expect them to interpret your intentions or write out the details of the action on your behalf. Their doing this work on your behalf would be unfair to the other delegates and goes against their purpose as backroom staff. Instead, be as specific and well researched as possible and you can expect greater success in the outcomes of your directives. This is in part due to your directive aligning with one of the goals of the backroom staff, raising the academic level of the crisis committee.
Rewarding directives which raise the committee academic level means that delegates are incentivized to send in more quality directives in order to achieve their goals. Of course, even the best written directive will sometimes fail. Even if your directive is perfectly written and supported by evidence, its hypothetical outcome could still fail for many reasons, among them someone else’s directive had an impact on yours.
For example, you could try to take actions early in the conference that would slow down the “debate” and hurt the academic challenge of the committee. It is similar to trying to submit a resolution on the first day of a conference, even if the resolution is well written the chairs won’t necessarily approve. If you do not achieve your desired outcome in a directive, (for example, your spies are caught by the enemy) be persistent and creative in considering alternate paths to success. It is not always immediately clear why a directive fails as you do not have the bigger picture as the backroom staff does, so flexibility is key to delegate success in a crisis.
Directives usually fall into the following categories:
Strategic, military, personal, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, press release
Individual – When one delegate sends a secret directive from themselves.
JPD, or a joint-person directive – When two of more delegates submit a directive together. The submitters can send the directive publicly or privately.
Cabinet – When the entire cabinet send a directive together. This can be sent by the chair or a high ranking delegate.
Communication in a crisis is key whether between the frontroom and backroom, between delegates in the front room or between cabinets. As such, all of your MUN skills: diplomacy, negotiation, debate, and public speaking remain present in a crisis committee.
In cabinet communication involves convincing your fellow cabinet members to cooperate in a certain direction is essential to outcompete any rival cabinets. A cabinet that works together will always achieve their goals better than a cabinet of individualists.
The second type of communication is between the various cabinets, which is often useful for any kind of diplomatic interactions to raise or lower hostilities. The format and amount of communication between cabinets is determined by crisis staff.
Communication with the crisis staff takes place through directives but can also happen in person. At times, a crisis staff member will visit your cabinet. This could be as a character in the crisis or as a staff member. You can communicate through electronic messages or physically. You will get your responses through messages, in person answers or communicated through the news.
There is a larger world outside the cabinets in the crisis to communicate and interact with. You can request to speak with characters not in the crisis. You can do this through written directives or asking your frontroom chair (who may tell you to write a committee directive) requesting to speak with whomever you wish to speak to. If approved the character you requested to speak with will be simulated by the backroom staff or, sometimes, a member of the secretariat.
The backroom will control how quickly time moves forward. Time in a crisis is often flexible, for example each few hours in the real world can be a few days or week in a crisis. A crisis will usually take place over less than a year. If there is a uniquely different jump you should be notified by your crisis staff.
Time in a crisis can depend on the delegates, crisis situation, frontroom chairs actions and events planned for the crisis scenario. Time can also jump. For example one day of the conference may focus on a specific event, and the next day you will be informed that time has moved forward to the following month.
Time jumps are helpful in that they allow for directives that are reliant on a certain amount of time to progress to be achievable. History and past events as of the time of the crisis scenario are determined by the crisis staff. It is crucial to pay attention to this as it will be beneficial for some directives to have appropriate historical basis.
To clarify how time works in your crisis, or how much time has passed, speak to your crisis staff.
Awards in crisis are usually given for making the biggest difference to the crisis. This is different from a standard MUN committee. This includes the impact on the front room committee as well as what happens behind the scenes. A best delegate in crisis generally impacts both of these spheres. A best delegate is crisis can be awarded for success of his character, his cabinet or a mix.
The first avenue for evaluation is how the backroom staff will be receiving your directives. Achieving beneficial outcomes with your directives takes the highest priority. Formatting of directives helps to achieve this goal. Secondly, the front room chair evaluates your performance in the front room. Your front room chair is the only person who is able to observe your manner directly. Demonstrate your MUNcrisis skills to the utmost within the room. Being strategic, diplomatic, cooperative and helpful to your cabinet (most of the time) are great ways to achieve those goals.
Crisis is fun. Experiment, be creative, strategic and open to new experiences. Also, remember to have fun! Follow these guidelines and you should be ready for a grand old time.