When we start doing Model United Nations we learn many terms that might seem confusing. These strange words and phrases are definitely not something we use in day-to-day conversation. This seemingly foreign language is far from impossible to learn and can flow quite naturally once we know what the MUN terms mean and where they are used. The following Model United Nations glossary will give you the basic Model United Nations vocabulary to learn the terms that you need to know going into a MUN committee.
Basic MUN Terms
Delegate: A delegate is a participant at a MUN conference who represents a country in a specific MUN committee. A committee can have anywhere from 15 to 400+ delegates. They can operate individually or in pairs. The goal of the delegate is to get their policy ideas and countries interest on a draft resolution, hopefully, to pass with a majority. Delegates do this through speeches and lobbying utilizing the tool and skills needed to succeed at Model UN.
Delegation: A group of delegates who travel to a MUN conference together. They are usually from the same Model UN club/institution.
Head Delegate: The student head of a delegation. This is sometimes also the head of the Model UN club but not strictly limited to.
Delegate Pack: A bundle of items provided by the conference. These usually include a handbook, maps of the venue, paper, pens, and other goodies.
Delegate Handbook: A booklet which usually includes welcome letter from the Secretary-General, a list of topics and chairs, a list of the committee rooms, the schedule, a map of the venue, city information and emergency help numbers.
Placard: The cardboard or paper sign with the country name written on it. Placards are used to identify presence, vote, and signal to the chair.
Chair: Facilitate debate according to the Rules of Procedure. They are seated in the front of the committee room and can call on delegates to speak, time speeches, open the floor to motions and facilitate votes on motions offered by the delegates. At the end of the conference, they choose the delegates to receive diplomacy awards. They also often give feedback to the delegates.
Director: Another name for the chair.
Dias: The collective name of the chairs or the group of people leading the committee
Out of Order: Actions that are not allowed according to the Rules of Procedure.
Gavel: A small wooden hammer which the chair uses to keep order.
Position Paper: A summary of how a country sees the issue being discussed, their connection and their policy proposals. Position Papers should be submitted to the chairs before the conference.
Study Guide: A Background Guide with information about the topics to be discussed at a MUN conference.
Rules of Procedure (RoP): The rules which dictate how to run a Model United Nations committee.
Decorum: A call to order. The chair will call for decorum if delegates get too loud or disrespectful. When the chair called “Decorum delegates” it is best to be quiet and go back to your seat. – Check out our full Introduction Guide to MUN Decorum
Motion: How you ask for something in MUN in the official request form. You can motion for many different actions to guide the debate forward in a specific way. Some examples of motions are motions for different types of caucuses (discussion), to move to vote or end the committee session altogether.
Second: A second delegate agreeing with a motion that has been proposed. Most motions require a second to be voted on by the entire committee. If there are no seconds a motion automatically fails.
Objection: After a motion gets a second, the dias asks if there are objections. At least one delegate needs to object for the motion to proceed to a vote by the entire committee. If there is no objection the motion automatically passes.
Simple Majority: A vote that requires at least one over 50% of the vote to pass. Most procedural votes require a simple majority.
On the Floor: When a motion, working paper or draft resolution is open to discussion and voting. (The term floor is a legislative term meaning the part of a legislative hall where debate and other business is conducted.)
Blocs: Groups of delegates who agree on certain principles. These blocs will work together to write draft resolutions, which they later introduce and vote on. Blocs can be formed based on any common interest. Some blocs are formed around regional, cultural, or ideological interests but there are many more. Choosing who is in your bloc should be done on a case-by-case basis depending on the topic.
Flow: The notetaking, or shorthand, MUNers use to keep track of all the ideas, policies and arguments said in other delegates speeches. Flow can be taken on paper or computer. Flow is used by both chairs and delegates.
“Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates”: This is how MUN speeches usually start. While it is customary to start a speech with these words it is not the end of the world if you don’t say them.
Secretariat: The team who organize Model United Nations conference.
Secretary-General: The head of the Secretariat. The role usually involved the recruitment and management of the other secretariat roles.
Director-General: A role usually of equal rank to the Secretary-General. Director General is a fluid title and can be in charge of the logistics or academics of a conference.
Under-Secretary-General: The heads of each department at a MUN conference. These can include academics, chairing, marketing, logistics,
Page: A volunteer who has the role of passing notes between the delegates.
Admin: A volunteer who functions as a page and also helps with other tasks around the committee.
Points & Inquiries
Point of Parliamentary Inquiry: Also called a ‘Point of Inquiry’. A question from a delegate to the chair about the Rules of Procedure (RoP) or anything else they don’t understand in the committee.
Point of Information: When a delegate asks a question of another delegate. These usually take place after a delegate completes a speech on the Speaker’s List. Some conferences do not have Points of Information. Consult each conference rules to understand how exactly they work.
Follow-Ups: A request to ask a second question after having already asked one as a point of information.
Point of Personal Privilege: Can be called for when a delegate feels hindered by something outside of the debate, which is not covered by the RoP. Examples can be going to the bathroom, room temperature and inability to hear another speaker.
Point of Order: Called by a delegate on another delegate, or on the chair, when the Rules of Procedure are not being followed. The specifics of a Point of Order varies between conferences and the specific RoP should be Consulted.
Right of Reply: When a delegate feels their country was insulted during another delegates GSL speech, the can ask for Right of Reply. If approved by the chair, the insulted delegate gets a certain amount of time to respond to the insult There is no Right of Reply to a Right of Reply.
Check out our guide about points and motions to learn more.
Start of Session
Member State: A country that has ratified the charter of an international organization, such as the United Nations but not limited to them. Member states have voting rights in the committee.
Observer: A delegate who is not a natural member of the committee. They can be a country who isn’t part of the organization (Portugal in the Africa Union), an international organization, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), national organization or even an individual. Observers can only vote on procedural matters. (For specifics, consult your conferences Rules of Procedure).
Roll Call: A procedure performed by the chairs at the beginning of each committee session to know how many delegates are present in the room (for a simple majority and 2/3rds majority voting) and to know who is ‘present’ and who is ‘present and voting’.
Quorum: The minimum number of delegates needed to be present for the debate to take place. (If unsure about your committee quorum check your RoP).
Present: What a delegate says when they are present in the committee and want to reserve the right to abstain on the final vote.
Present and Voting: What a delegate stays during roll call when they forgo their right to abstain. This means they can only vote for or against the draft resolution. This is usually done when they feel strongly about the topic.
Agenda Setting: Where the delegates in the committee choose which of the agenda topics they wish to discuss first.
Speaker’s List: Speaker’s List, or General Speaker’s List, is the default format of the committee. It contains a list of delegated who have been recognized to speak in a specific order. The Speaker’s List is suspended when a motion for something else (like a moderated caucus to move to voting procedure) is passed by the committee.
Yield: Used in MUN for when a delegate finishes their speech with the extra time that needs to choose what to do with it. The delegate can yield, or give up, their time to:
- The Chair: Meaning they give up the rest of their time
- Another Delegate: Another delegate gets to use the remaining time in their speech
- Question: The speaker will take questions and answer them with the remained of their time.
Informal Debate: When delegates motion to leave the Speaker’s List for a specific purpose. That can be speaking about a specific topic, speaking in a format moderated by delegates or lobbying and writing the draft resolutions. This is done through a Moderated Caucus, Unmoderated Caucus and Consultation of the Whole.
Moderated Caucus: A less formal discussion on a subtopic within the general topic, chosen by a delegate and passed by a majority. Delegates raise their placards to offer Moderated Caucuses when the chair opens the floor to motions. Moderated Caucuses need to offer overall time, individual speakers time and topic of discussion. For example: “Venezuela motions for a 10 minute moderated caucus, 45 seconds speakers time on the topic of ‘Where should we put plastic waste cleaned from the oceans’”.
Unmoderated Caucus: Lobbying time. When motioning for an Unmoderated Caucus usually no topic is needed, only the general time requested for the unmoderated caucus. Once passed, delegates get out of their seat and move freely around the room. During this time they can lobby, negotiate with other delegates and blocks and write draft resolutions.
Consultation of the Whole: An informal discussion where the delegate who is speaking chooses the next speaker. When motioning for a Consultation of the Whole (CotW) you only ask for a general time. The delegate who motioned for the CotW speaks first for as long as they like. When the speaker is done the choose the next speaker. This continues until the CotW time elapses.
Table: To suspend action or discussion until later.
Clause: A MUN clause is written instruction detailing the practical policy you want to be implemented if the resolution passes.
Working Paper: The first draft of ideas in writing which is compiled by the different blocs. They do not need to be written in resolution format but are often written as complete clauses.
Draft Resolution: The final draft of a working paper where the blocs combined policy ideas are properly formatted and approved by the chair for both content and format. Once approved by the chair they can be discussed and, after debate closed, voted upon.
Sponsors: Delegates who were major contributors to the draft resolution. They are usually the ones who wrote the majority of the document but not always. The number of sponsors is usually limited.
Signatories: Delegates who support a draft resolution, or at least want to see it discussed. There is no limit on the number of signatories.
Submitter: The main delegate that submits a clause or resolution. (Submitters and Co-submitters are an alternative to sponsors and signatories and work according to a different RoP).
Co-submitter: A delegate that signs another delegates clause to get credit for the joint submission.
Preambulatory Clause: Clauses that explain why you are implementing the policies described in the Operative Clauses. They can provide a background to the problem, legal precedent, and other supporting data. Preambulatory Clauses are usually italicized and not numbered.
Operative Clause: Clauses that detail the policies / explain what the draft resolution is going to do. Operative clauses can go into detailed sub-clauses to properly convey the idea. The first words are italicized are each clause is numbered.
Amendment: A written change made to an operative clause. Amendments can change an existing clause, add the new one or delete a section, or an entire clause.
Friendly Amendment: A change to a clause approved by all the sponsors. These get automatically added to the resolution.
Unfriendly Amendment: A change to a clause that at least one sponsor does not agree to. These go to vote and are only added to the draft resolution is passed with a majority in favor of the amendment.
Merging: When two or more draft resolutions are combined. This usually results in the blocs merging as well to give themselves more voting power.
Panel of Authors: A motion for the main contributors of a draft resolution to stand before the committee, give an overview of the ideas in their draft resolution and answer questions.
Introduce Draft Resolution: This motion needs to be approved by the chair to officially discuss the draft resolution by name. For example, the working paper is now draft resolution 1.2.
Introduce Amendment: A motion to review and vote on the amendments submitted to the chair. The procedure for how amendments are submitted and when they are voted on varies between conferences.
Close Debate: A motion for the committee to end debate and more into voting procedure. If this passes, the speaker’s list is closed and the only motions allowed are those that pertain to the voting procedure.
Voting procedure: The period at the end of a committee session. Once the debate is closed, delegates will vote on amendments followed by draft resolutions. During voting procedure, nobody may enter or leave the room.
Reorder Draft Resolutions: A mother to change the order of the draft resolutions which is different from the one where the one introduced first is voted on first.
Vote Clause by Clause: A motion to vote on each clause individually instead of all together. This is commonly done to get some of the clauses to fail.
Divide the Question: A motion to vote separately on a set of specifically chosen operative clauses. These clauses can come from anywhere on the document. For example, you can take a 12 clause resolution and divide the question so as to vote on clause 3, 6 and 11 separately, leaving the remaining clauses to be voted on together.
Divide The House: A motion which would result in countries losing their option to abstain. If this motion passes, everyone in the committee can only vote in favor or against.
Vote by Acclamation: This motion means a draft resolution can pass as long as no delegate objects. If one delegate objects the motion moves to a simple majority vote. Many conferences do not use this motion.
Vote by Roll Call: A Motion to have each country declare verbally if they are “For”, “Against”, “Pass” or “Abstain.”
- For: When a delegate casts their vote in favor of the draft resolution.
- Against: When a delegate casts their vote against the draft resolution.
- Abstain: When a delegate formally declines to vote either for or against the draft resolution.
Pass: To skip casting a vote and waiting for a second round. While this allows the delegate see how others vote, in the second round they must vote for or against and can no longer abstain.
Voting With Rights: When a delegates Votes with Rights they get to speak after the vote is completed. This is usually used when a delegate votes in an unexpected manner, for example against their own resolution.
Suspend / Table Debate: a motion to put the session on hold, generally for lunch or coffee break.
Adjourn: A motion to completely end the committee session until the next conference.
Security Council Terms
P5: The permanent five members of the Security Council who never rotate their seat. These are China, France, Russia, The United Kingdom and the United States.
Veto: When a P5 country votes against a draft resolution or motion. If a P5 vetoes it automatically fails.
Procedural Voting: Voting on something that does not impact the world outside. A motion for a moderated caucus is an example of a procedural vote.
Substantive Voting: When the vote does have real-world impact. The vote on the draft resolution (which if passed get passed into law and has real-world outcomes) is a substantive vote. At some conferences, the P5 can turn a procedural vote substantive. Once a substantive item is on the table it can be vetoed.
Binding: A UN resolutions that legally force nations to abide. Only the Security Council resolutions are binding, while resolutions passed by the other UN bodies are not. (Other non-UN bodies may also have binding or partially binding agreements or resolutions)
Crisis – A fast paced type of MUN where the situation keeps changing and, in most cases, delegates can impact the direction of the simulation.
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.
Crisis Director (CD) – The manager of the entire crisis. The CD usually chooses the topic and coordinated the writing of the study guide and character bios.
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.
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.
Directive – A 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!)
Death – When a participants character dies. This results in the participant getting a new character. In JCC’s a participant can be resurrected in another committee.
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.
Character bio – 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 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.
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.
Model United Nations Abbreviations
The following list of abbreviations are MUN conference terms, committee terms, UN terms and other MUN jargon commonly used at MUN conferences.
DSG – Deputy Secretary General
EU – European Union
GA – General Assembly (UNGA)
GDP – Gross Domestic Product
IGO – Inter-Governmental Organization
MDG’s – MIllennium Development Goals
Mod – Moderated Caucus
NGO – Non-Governmental Organization
JCC – Joint Crisis Committee
PGA – President of the General Assembly
PHRC – President of the Human Rights Council
PICJ – President of the International Court of Justice
PoA – Panel of Authors
PSC – President of the Security Council
SDG’s – Sustainable Development Goals
SC – UN Security Council (UNSC)
SG – Secretary-General
UN – United Nations
Unmod – Unmoderated Caucus
USG – Under Secretary-General
For abbreviations of MUN committees check out our full MUN committee list.
CIA: Clash, Information and Action are the three components of a strong MUN speech.
WAK: A countries claim to relevant within a given topic. They Want, are Afraid of, or Know the topic which is why they would be the most relevant.
OLaF: Research will show your connection to the topic to be Obvious, Likely or Flexible. Depending on which you are, you have more of less flexibility when deciding on what position to take.
SEEC: A formula to build strong arguments. SEEC stands for Statement, Explanation, Example, Conclusion. More on SEEC!
CAR: Your three options regarding amendments. You can Change, Add or Remove.
Orientation 180: The 5 things you need to know about your country to get a basic understanding of their perspective before you start your MUN research. This is your country size, population, neighborly relations, GDP rank, and political structure. More on MUN research!
Terms Not To Use in MUN
Teacher: Don’t call the chair teacher. It is incorrect and they don’t like it.
I: As in the letter “I” which means me. You represent a country, and not yourself, so it is best to say “we” or the country name. For example, you would say “We feel the best policy is” or “The Republic of Mali believes that we should…”
Other words you should not use: Yo, Dude, Buddy, Bossman, The big C, Your honor, Oh captain my captain
We hope you found our guide to MUN terminology helpful.