MUN Right of Reply – Procedure and Strategy

The Ultimate RoR Strategy Guide to When, How and Why

A Right of Reply (RoR) in the United Nations is a tool to respond to, and correct, an insulting statement in the same venue where the individual was insulted. A Model United Nations RoR fulfills the same role but is much more than a simple defense mechanism against insults. Like all else in MUN, the Right of Reply is a tool that, if used strategically, can further your ideas and objectives. This is true for both sides of the RoR which means, yes, sometimes it will be in your interest to instigate a ROR to further your interests.

This article will teach you when a Right of Reply is, followed by strategic ways to respond. We will also discuss strategies on how to instigate a Right of Reply and why you might do so (this is a very advanced tactic that is not for everyone, and must be used responsibly).

Right of Reply Procedure

MUN Procedure for a Right of Reply (RoR)

Right of Reply is a special rule that is invoked if a delegate feels that her/his national, or persona, integrity has been insulted in the speech of another delegate. The procedural process of a RoR goes as follows. 1) Raising a right of reply 2) Granting the RoR 3) The Reply.

Raising a Right of Reply

The two ways to request a right of reply.
1. Written note to the Chair (less common)
2. Raised placard followed by a verbal request (more common)

The request for a Right of Reply should clearly state the specific statement that provoked you to exercise a right to reply.

Granting the Right of Reply

Granting a Right of Reply will be decided by the Chair or Director. Justification for why you where insulted may be requested depending on the rules of the conferences. Take into consideration that some facts may sound insulting while they are not an insult meaning a Right of Reply would not be in order. Once the RoR is granted, the chair’s decision is final. No one can interrupt the RoR until it is completed.

Fact vs Insult

Fact
Sweden: Following the earthquake, Thailand’s lack of properly equipped rescue crews left tens of civilians who were trapped without food for days.

Insult
Sweden: Thailand’s incompetent response following last month’s earthquake is indicative of their general lack of regard for human life.

The Reply

Your RoR should be broken down into 3 parts, 1) Repeat, 2) Respond, 3)Segway. Doing all the parts smoothly may be challenging in the 15 seconds provided by some chairs for your right of reply (other chairs may give you up to one minute for your response).

Remember, using a RoR effectively is an advanced MUN strategy and can take lots of time to master. Try to refrain from falling into the habit of just giving a witty response to amuse the room. Smoothly segway from the RoR to your talking points is the most effective use of a RoR.

Point to keep in mind in a Right of Reply

a. Repeat – Paraphrase the statement that provoked you to exercise of the RoR.
b. Respond – Show why the insulter was out of line.
c. Segway – Connect your RoR to your talking points.

Example

The Insult
Vietnam:
Switzerland is so disengaged from the other countries we don’t even know why Switzerland is in this committee. We could have firing squads across the border and they wouldn’t care as long as they were still selling chocolate and watches.

**Switzerland motions for a Right of Reply and it was approved from chair**

RepeatGREEN
RespondRED
SegwayBLUE

Switzerland:

Vietnam says we don’t care about atrocities as long as we can sell our goods. This is false. Even though the numbers are small we have been contributing peacekeeping forces to the UN since its creation. Vietnam’s actual problem is not our lack of engagement, which is why we should be focusing on…

Other considerations:
Write your speech – If you have the time to write your speech/bullet points in advance
Time – Plan your speech for the amount of time a right of reply gives you
Tone – Your RoR should leave you in better standing by the end of it. Modulate how heavy or light your presentation is to achieve your specific goal.

After the Reply

Requesting an RoR of an RoR will never be in order (even if the RoR is even more insulting to the original offense).

When you have something to say about an RoR best you write is done and bring it up during your next opportunity to speak.

—————————————————————————————-
Until now we have been talking about the ABC’s of the RoR. In the next section, we will talk about when to call an RoR, identifying the type of RoR and improving the content of your RoR so as to make the most of the speaker time you have been granted.

Right of Reply Strategy

When do you call a Right of Reply?

A fact is not an insult. As seen in our examples that compare between the two. Bringing up certain facts in the speech can be non flattering but not necessarily incorrect. Some countries have not vaccinated their entire population. Some countries have low literacy rates. Some governments tap phone lines. An insult is a conclusion from the fact that specifically disrespects the country they are speaking about.

Fact vs Insult
Topic: Obesity in the developed world

Fact
According to the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35% in nine states, 30% in 31 states and 25% in 48 states.
(September 2019)

Insult
If intelligence were measured by obesity the US would be, by far, the smartest person in the room.

You should call an RoR when you are reasonably insulted. When you hear a fact and call an RoR you could seem petty. Make sure to identify something insult worthy before you call an RoR, justify it well, and you will probably get your speaking time.

What Should You Say in Your Right of Reply?

There are two types of insults that could get you to all a Right of Reply, strategic and non-strategic. When you hear the insult, recognize it and act accordingly. Each type should be handled slightly differently.

Responding to a Non-Strategic Insult

A non-strategic insult is one given by accident a delegate misspeaking, or intentionally, without a clear strategic purpose. Many times this is simply a delegate who wants to get a laugh out of the committee. When responding to a non-strategic insult you still want to ensure that you have a clear goal on why you are responding and what you will get out of it. It is also ill-advised to insult them back.

When responding to a non-strategic insult, you have no obligation to do anything more than have goals that are clear to you as you have no partner on the other side.

When giving an RoR to an insult with no real purpose you can:

  1. Give a 30+ second speech as if it was a regular speech the following Repeat, Respond, Segway.
  2. Treat it as a Strategic Insult, rephrase the insult (to start an ideological battle with one of the other blocks) and hope they take the bait.

In your RoR, after you repeat the insulting line, you get to explain why you are insulted by it. Rephrasing the insulting line to mean something different, or deeper, is a possible way to use the insult to create further dialogue. You can also redirect your response by making it seem that the insult is the opinion of multiple countries and then pivot to responding to a more relevant delegate in the room. Once you drop their name you will get their attention and from there you move on to responding to a strategic insult.

Each RoR should be given on a case by case basis reading the specific room you are in. The guiding principle for responding to a non-strategic insult is evaluating if it’s just another speech or if it can be used for something more. It is always good to get extra speaking time but why settle for one speech if the right strategic response can turn it into many.

Responding to a Strategic Insult

A strategic insult is thought out to provoke an RoR that ties back into the delegates case. Getting a strategic insult should be seen as flattering since it was targeted as you as an influencer of your block. Think of it this way, when you get an RoR you are given the opportunity to jump to speakers line to respond and hopefully segway to your talking points.

The Repeat and Respond are the same but the Segway to a strategic insult is where the difference is essential. When the insult comes from a competent delegate they are clearly targeting you / your block for a reason. Their insult will be calculated and look to elicit certain content in your response. Once you hear it, you have two choices which are the opposite of your response to a Non-Strategic Insult. You can a) Ignore the bait and give your speech or b) Engage and start a dialogue that can be built on, and referred to, in later speeches. In the later of the cases, you want to leave open questions and statements for later reference. Treat your RoR like a speech in a moderated caucus, where the other side will eventually respond, and use it to build constructive content.

RoR As Part of a Larger Strategy

The most important rule of RoR is that an effective response, or insult, does not mean you aren’t giving using the discourse to further debate. A Right of Reply can be part of a symbiotic relationship between two blocks in the form of the insulter and the insultee. Both sides could use each other to get more time on the floor. When done correctly, the interaction can bring both of them a stronger standing within their blocks and make their policies a more prominent place on the floor.
A RoR can easily be symbiotic where both delegates in the process can gain. Continued strategic insulting can let all the delegates involved occasionally skip the speakers list to keep their ideas current and relevant. Furthermore, intelligent jibes and amusing banter between the opposing blocks will make the chairs more likely to accept the RoR knowing it will be constructive or amuse the committee.

Example:
Topic: Responding to a Tectonic Earthquake in Ecuador
Peru: The global community has so far not come to the aid of our neighbors in need. Ecuador is reeling from a crushing 6.2 earthquake on the Richter magnitude scale and is so far mobilizing alone. Worse, countries like Denmark are too busy eating danishes and worshiping Vikings to care about the death and damage happening in the southern hemisphere. We feel everyone should contribute volunteers, professionals, and funds to help cope with this disaster and not leave it to the neighbors when it comes to this type of situation.
Denmark: Right of Reply
Chair: On what grounds?
Denmark: Peru said we care about danishes and Vikings more than human life.
Chair: That is accepted, Denmark you have the floor.
Denmark: Thank you chair. Honorable delegates, we do agree with one part of Peru’s accusation that we spend all day eating danishes and worshiping Vikings. We agree that we really do have the tastiest Danishes. However, our love of danishes does not get in the way of our global responsibility. Denmark is one of five countries that actually hit the 0.7% mark of contribution to the UN’s aid and development standard.

Where we really disagree with Peru, Colombia and the rest is that we feel an earthquake of this scale does not deserve a global response. As a top global aid contributor, Denmark feels those funds should go to countries who have no options, or neighbors who cannot help at all. The loss of life from this earthquake was minimal and regional friends are exactly the ones to help with projects like rebuilding, just as they do with large forest fires. We believe this should remain a regional issue and think the first line of aid should come from Peru, Colombia and other regional neighbors who can get there faster and know the terrain better. Do that and the Vikings would be proud.

As we can see here, the question of regional vs global for earthquakes is the center of the discussion. Denmark took the bait and even responded with humor. However, most importantly, Denmark actively responded to what Peru was really looking for, which was to further the debate on if the solution to an upper mid-level earthquake should be global or regional. While we are not sure which of these two sides will get a majority, words like danish and Viking stick in our minds. Furthermore, while we don’t know if the solution will be local or regional, we do know that delegates aren’t thinking of a) rebuilding poor neighborhoods b) moving the populations to new sites less prone to earthquakes or c) funding an early earthquake detection program for Ecuador. The symbiosis of the RoR gives more speaking time and prominence to those who use it. Peru and Denmark played their parts well. They got to set up their cases and helped both their blocks get the committee to focus on the ideas central to their resolutions.

Inducing a Right of Reply

There are times during a simulation where there will be value to strategically insult another delegate in the room and get them to call an RoR on you. Below, we will elaborate on when and why you would want to get someone to call RoR on you and how to go about it.
Question: Why would a delegate insult another delegate?

Non Strategic insult
Given by accident, out of frustration or to get a laugh.
Non-strategic insults have no clear purpose beyond audience response.

Strategic Insult
Tactical delivered to elicit certain material from your response that will further their block’s interests.
(This can be placed side by side in a box with bold on the top and text explaining below)

Why Induce a Right of Reply?

Insulting someone will get your attention. Whatever the delegate you insulted says in response to your insult, whether 30 or 90 seconds, will be focused on you. Sometimes there is a benefit in strategic insulting. Other times, a competent delegate will insult you to draw out a specific response. The key is to never look at a right of reply as a liability but rather an opportunity. A chance to speak or get someone else to speak about you and bring your points back onto the table. Before we go further, we will give a short review of the technical side of the right of reply and how it works.
A well placed RoR can:

  1. Bring you back into the conversation.
  2. Bring attention to your policy.
  3. Bring attention to your block and allies.

When to Induce a RoR?

Now that we understand why we should get someone to call RoR on us, let’s look at when we would be the best time to use it.

When it is strategic to insult?
Right before an unmod or long break
You won’t be speaking again for many speakers
Your block won’t be speaking again for many speakers
No side is particularly engages
No issue is dividing the room in an interesting way

How to Strategically Insult Someone

An insult to be mean or obnoxious does not play well with the audience or the chairs. When you insult a country to illicit a RoR make sure your insult gives them an opening to speak about what you want them to.

Rules for Inducing a RoR

  • Don’t say things indirectly – Make the insult harsh and direct
  • Fast, short and clear – Do not waffle. 1-3 sentences, any longer and it will lose clarity and punch.
  • Don’t say “and” – Pick one thing and do it right

Example:
(Opening)
Venezuela wants food aid from the UN. The policy in their opening speech focuses on how countries in need should get UN aid regardless of government policy. he Venezuelan delegate wants to get attention from the US.
(Opening)

Venezuela: The UN should be blind to nationality when it comes to giving aid. Innocent civilians in countries like mine are in need even as Americans are stuffing themselves. In reality, if we took even 10% of the food eaten by obese Americans, they would live their dream looking more like Hollywood stars while people who live in countries they don’t know exist would stop starving to death.

(closing)

Venezuela is not insulting for insult’s sake and is insulting along the lines of the policies he wants to see in the resolution. Unless completely oblivious, the US delegate will respond. If the US in an inexperienced delegate they will likely a) defend the weight of the 30% of Americans or b) Talk about the harms inflicted by the Venezuelan government on their people. The first does not further the debate while the second isn’t something the other delegates don’t know. At the same time Venezuela is more interesting and their speech has more traction. It is also likely that the US delegate may make a remark towards Venezuela in the future giving them the chance to RoR.

(closing)

Benefits of Inducing a Right of Reply

Insults are entertaining, they wake up a sleeping audience
The blocks of the insulter or insulted party pay specific attention
The focus makes you and your issue more important
Can kick-off a rivalry which keeps your content on the floor
Can become spectator event the entire committee will want to see perpetuated
As we can see, there are places where it can be beneficial to get another delegate to call an RoR on you. The key is not to insult someone unless you know you can follow through with using it to strengthen you, and your blocks, position within the discussion.

Golden Rule of Instigating a RoR

Only insult other delegates if you can see it through. Never insult if you have no purpose. There should always be a plan to follow through on your insult.

Concluding Thoughts

A Right of Reply is not as straightforward a tool as it seems. It is useful to defend honor and it is useful for comedic value but it’s most useful is when it helps further your agenda, especially in cooperation with delegates on the “other side”. What is most important is that you start looking at a Right of Reply with the same interest and eagerness as you do a moderated caucus that passes on exactly the topic you want. Once you do that, a new world of MUN opportunity will be open to enhance your MUN strategy and you can even have a little fun insulting people on the way.