Choosing good MUN topics is important. Whether a chair, USG academics, Secretary-General or coach, a good topic can be the difference between a memorable and boring committee. Therefore choosing a topic that is interesting, engaging, and intuitive is essential to a great committee. There are several types of topics that fit these criteria and this guide will give examples of MUN topics for future committees.
MUN Topics based on 17 SDG’s
SDG GOAL 1: No Poverty
Committee: United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF
Topic: Removing Tangible Barriers for Children to Escape Poverty
In a few words: UNICEF is dedicated to making sure that no child is left behind in the fight to make our world more equal and better for all. In this, focusing on lifting children out of poverty is one of the most important tasks of UNICEF and through the framework of the SDGs more can now be done to tackle the issue resolutely and comprehensively. Already systems of indicators and progress tracking have been deployed worldwide, and the focus is now to look at the tangible barriers for children, education, development, growth, and more, in order to lift them to a better life. The delegates of UNICEF must think of ideas that are sure to be sustainable and maintain the better lives of these children whilst not disenfranchising any others in the process. They must answer tough questions of cross-boundary competition and struggle and think of the long-term with every debate.
SDG GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
Committee: World Food Program
Topic: Food Security in Conflict Zones
In a few words: Conflict zones are unpredictable in the best of cases, and dangerous to civilians and aid workers alike at their worst. Issues include now knowing where the recipients are, knowing how many, lack of protection and overworking, all of which puts access to food in jeopardy. The delegates of the World Food Program must think of policies that ensure non-combatants receive food. They should decide which types of food are most relevant (food supplies, cash, a mix), transport mechanisms and other UN bodies to collaborate with. Delegates will need to answer questions on which types of food provide the most nutritional value, delivery methods, continuous access to food as well as long term distribution methods and mechanisms that can support eventual self-resilience.
SDG GOAL 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
Committee: World Health Organization WHO
Topic: Establishing Preparedness Protocols for Epidemics and Pandemics
In a few words: There remains no doubt that better protocols and planning could have prevented or at least hindered the current outbreak we are suffering. However, with the proverbial sunlight at the end of the tunnel for some countries, we must already begin to think of the lessons we can learn for future outbreaks. In this, delegates must consider some of the key collective protocols and efforts that can be made in order to reduce the possibility of a spread like this again. Mechanisms to monitor viruses, improve research, and widely prepare the world again will be useful not only for future crises, but also in current ones too.
SDG GOAL 4: Quality Education
Committee: United Nations Educations, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations UNESCO
Topic: Integration of Affordable Technology to Improve Education in the Developing World
In a few words: A good education is the key to a bright future, therefore a good educational system is instrumental to a prosperous society. The application of technology to national educational systems provides more tools to help improve literacy rates, make education more accessible and more affordable on a large scale. However, because of the challenges reducing the quality of life in the developing world, education suffers as a result.
SDG GOAL 5: Gender Equality
Committee: UN Women
Topic: Improving female access to education worldwide
In a few words: Despite making up a majority of the world’s population, girls are still not more likely to enter primary school than boys, and less than 40% of countries still manage to provide girls and boys equal access to education. It is important for the future of our societies worldwide that this inequality in access is rectified as quickly as possible, in all stages of education. This includes not just primary, but secondary, tertiary, and adult education. Delegates will be expected to lay a critical eye on the world’s attempts to improve education access to women, and look for new, diverse and effective ways to bring this dangerous inequality down, whilst simultaneously improving access to education in general for all.
SDG GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Committee: UN Water
Topic: Water Security in Transnational Desert Climates
In a few words: Water Security is quickly becoming a dangerous threat to many societies living in or near desert climates. With Global warming often exacerbating these areas, new areas are also becoming more at risk of desertification. The transnational aspect to this security threat makes the resolution of it especially difficult. What delegates must do is engage with how societies can be protected in these precarious situations whilst also managing to grow. It is not enough just to remain survivable but the world must work together to allow people living in these climates the ability to thrive too.
SDG GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Committee: United Nations Environment Program UNEP
Topic: Economic and Environmental Maximization of Winds & Solar Energy
In a few words: Green energy, especially that from the wind and the sun, is vital to reducing our carbon footprint and fulfilling many of the Sustainable development goals. As the technology to make such energy becomes easier to make and more efficient, we should now look to maximising the use of these energy producing methods and making them more accessible worldwide. Whilst countries with more developed technological fields might be able to include them in their energy grids more easily, it is up to those with more basic methods of energy generation to use these new technologies as it can speed up their overall industrialisation and productiveness. Without this, a dangerous new inequality could occur, and delegates need to grapple with both the economic drives of these green methods of energy production as well as the environmental benefits they bring.
SDG GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Committee: Economic and Social Council ECOSOC
Topic: Reduction of Brain Drain
In a few words: Brain Drain is the unfortunate situation many countries are facing where huge swathes of the often younger population move and stay abroad owing to a lack of educative or productive capacities within their home country. Whilst migration is a huge net positive, the lack of opportunities within a country can be devastating for societies, and the need to improve sovereign education and employment capabilities will be needed to tackle this. Delegates here should start to understand the societal and transboundary nature of opportunity generation, and look at new international ways to improve these possibilities for future generations.
SDG GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
Committee: United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO
Topic: Accelerating the creation of inclusive and sustainable industrial development
In a few words: Industry keeps our world running. The creation, manufacturing, delivery, and recycling of the objects we all use in life is a literal lifeline for our societies. However, for decades and centuries the development of industry has been a dirty and often dangerous business. With new technologies and opportunities we must look at how sustainable industry can proliferate across the world, helping especially those countries who lack such an inclusive industry so far. For this delegates will need to look at how industry works, and the unique situations many countries find themselves in through labour and work.
SDG GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
Committee: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTaD
Topic: Improving growth in least developed countries
In a few words: For many centuries, growth has been a concept states have treated unequally. However, it is imperative that to reduce global inequality that growth be focused on those with the most need for it to lift people out of poverty and inequality within their own societies. To this end, delegates must take a look at the current trade and development system and understand the inequalities within them and how they can be best tackled, whilst not discriminating or hindering growth elsewhere. It is a delicate topic to deal with and an important one for the future of billions who are losing out.
SDG GOAL11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Committee: United Nations Human Settlements Programme UNHSP
Topic: Improving the sustainability and living standards of our cities
In a few words: Urbanisation is progressing at a rapid pace in our modern world. The rate of people moving from the countryside to new or old cities is becoming an issue of growing proportion. Already over half of the world’s population live in cities, and this is only going to grow in the future. Furthermore, the rapid, often uncontrolled, growth of cities directly endangers the living standards of those in these cities, as well as often lacks sustainable mechanisms to keep the population safe. Delegates here must look at how this uncontrolled growth can be managed and how the living standards of those within cities can keep growing, building on the lessons of millenia of urbanisation.
SDG GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Committee: Food and Agriculture Organization FAO
Topic: Reduction of Factory Farming
In a few words: In order to produce enough food for our burgeoning global population, factories have often been used in order to create enough food to sustain big populations. However, this factory farming is problematic for several reasons. The quality of the food it produces is often low, and the sustainability of the food, not to mention the horrible conditions of the animals, are all too poor. It is time now for delegates to look at some of the overreliance of factory farming, especially that of meat, and see how our reliance on it can be reduced, and conditions improved, moving to higher quality sources of food for all our populations, whilst managing our ever growing population.
SDG GOAL 13: Climate Action
Committee: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC
Topic: Evaluating the Progress of the Paris Climate Agreement
In a few words: The Paris Agreement climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance is a seminal agreement in our fight against global warming and climate change. Amounting to key commitments in limiting CO2, financing of sustainable development initiatives and most important nationally determined contributions for each member state. It is important that this document and its contributions remain salient and evaluated at every opportunity for improvements, and to make sure that member states are keeping their commitments to the agreement. It is the cornerstone of global efforts to stem climate change and it is important that delegates address this in their debates.
SDG GOAL 14: Life Below Water
Committee: UN Oceans
Topic: Protection of Coral Reefs
In a few words: Coral reefs are some of the most beautiful and important ecosystems on our planet, and also some of the most vulnerable. Hosting a huge amount of life, and essential in many ways to our survival, coral reefs have faced a devastating amount of destruction owing to the warming of the seas. Through regulation and good environmental practice, many of these reefs can be protected and brought back, but for some it might already be too late. Delegates must look to enshrine this protection solidly and robustly in order to protect these reefs and the life that they protect.
SDG GOAL15: Life on Land
Committee: UN Convention on Biological Diversity
Topic: Protection of endangered animals and threatened wildlife
In a few words: There are over 40’000 different animals and wildlife on the endangered list. Over 10’000 of them are at a further risk of extinction, meaning that their species and life may never be found again. It is a key responsibility for the world to protect these species and encourage their growth to bring them out of endangerment. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is a key forum for this protection, and at this conference of the parties delegates must find ways to protect these unique animals and encourage their continued growth, whilst also protecting humankind at the same time.
SDG GOAL 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
Committee: United Nations Development Program UNDP
Topic: Improving Democratic Governance and Democratic Institutions
In a few words: Democracy and the rule of the people is one of the founding principles of the United Nations and of the international order we protect and enshrine. However, in times of difficulty, the democratic institutions that uphold this principle wain, and continual investment and improvement of these institutions and practices of governance is necessary to keep democracy alive. In tackling this, delegates must look at how institutions can be widely supported and improved to bring back and bring forward new democratic ideals and participation from the citizens of the world that the UN serves.
SDG GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Committee: United Nations Educations, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations UNESCO
Topic: Increasing Financial incentivizes for Future Local Partnerships
In a few words: Civil society and local initiatives are essential ways to anchor the SDGs and the United Nations to citizens of the world. However, many of these initiatives and partnerships face issues of funding and support, and with the myriad of work they do, it is important that delegates find sustainable and robust ways to support the financing of these institutions either though national or international means. Here delegates must also look to the good running and governance of these partners, and find ways to improve win-win scenarios for both the partnerships, and the local people they work with.
8 Other MUN Topics
Committee: Disarmament and International Security (DISEC)
Topic: Impact of Private Military Security Contractors on Global Security
In a few words: Security is a vital part of all nations work, and the military that often protects its security is kept under keen supervision in order to minimise loss of life and the dangers of war on civilians. However, when this security is taken by private persons, oversight and potential breaches of human rights becomes all too likely. Nevertheless, private military security can also be a way to safeguard security in areas where it is all too dangerous otherwise. Delegates here must take a nuanced and important look at global security, and the role that private contractors can take within it. The grey zone that they exist in is too dangerous to civilians and human rights to ignore.
Committee: International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA
Topic: Revaluating Non-Proliferation Mechanisms which have lead to breaches in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
In a few words: The NPT remains an important document for global safety and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, it still remains an incomplete document, with several important nations of the UN having not signed it, and worrying developments for those who have previously signed, or pulled out of, the treaty. Delegates here must look at the mechanisms enshrined in the NPT and identify how they can be improved and made more efficient and robust if the treaty is to survive a potentially catastrophic proliferation of nuclear weapons and associated weaponry.
Committee: United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime UNODC
Topic: Examining the Relationship between Legalization of Marijuana and Drug Related Crime
In a few words: Some members of the international community have taken steps towards the legalization of marijuana, bringing forth a key debate between this legalization and the crime that often accompanies it when it is illegal. With drug related crimes decimating populations and state legitimacy across the world, any actions that could improve or alleviate the damaging effects on society are welcome. Through this, delegates must look at how legalization affects crime through key studies and sources, and take a nuanced and respectful look at changing global positions towards this.
Committee: United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
Topic: Rethinking the Legalization of Prostitution
In a few words: Prostitution has often been called one of the oldest trades in humanity, and it has doubtless played an important role in society since the dawn of civilisation. However, in our modern society what role should it play? This is a key question that delegates on the UNCSW should be addressing, understanding the complex role of labour it plays in many communities, cultural relations between men and women, and evolving understanding of the regulation of women’s bodies worldwide. Already debates on the legalization of prostitution has evolved in regional and national debates, therefore a global debate should be ushered in to look further into this important topic.
Committee: World Trade Organization WTO
Topic: Impact of Industrial Capacity 3D Printing on Free Trade
In a few words: 3D printing threatens to revolutionise industry in ways few technologies have before. Through programming, printers with different materials and capabilities are already reaching science-fiction levels of productivity and capacity, and could have rapid effects on a free trading system by which specialization is key. How would selling the designs of a 3D printed industrial tool affect the free trade of said tools? What would 3D printing do in the medium-skilled industrial sector which is so vital for millions? These are just some questions that delegates in the WTO must look at, as well as a robust understanding of the modern ways in which global commerce operates, and is likely to change.
Committee: United Nations Security Council UNSC
Topic: Differentiating from Cyber War from Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Crime
In a few words: Cyber is a new domain by which devastating impact can be had on societies and entire nations. With the internet and otherwise digitally connected devices proliferating across the world, the nature between cyber crimes, terrorism, and all out war continue to confuse and delay appropriate responses from those protecting our society. The UNSC, as the key body defining breaches of peace in the international system, must evaluate these scenarios and set globally defining guidelines on malicious intent in the cyber domain. Delegates in the UNSC here must be able to delve in depth into both the political, and technological understanding of these different actions, and how the international community should seek to respond to them.
Committee: United Nations HLPF on Sustainable Development
Topic: Decarbonization of Energy Production
In a few words: At the High-level political forum on sustainable development, important political decisions and consensus must be made over one of the hardest issues facing our society and its approach to tackling climate change. Energy, vital to so much of our world, is one of the key contributors towards the high standard of living for many, yet also constitutes one of the most polluting, and dangerous sources of carbon. In order to reach many of the SDGs and generally improve the quality of life of people across the world, delegates at the HLPF must look at how we can decarbonize energy production worldwide, and set targets, goals, and put forward new initiatives to improve our worldwide efforts.
Committee: International Court of Justice ICJ
Topic: Reforming Mediation Efforts to Make a Fairer and More Efficient Conflict resolution Apparatus
In a few words: Mediation has always been and remains a key way to help bring conflict resolution. Both at the UN, other international bodies, and through private individuals, mediation has saved lives through the important neutral and trustworthy process it can be. However, both legally and politically mediation efforts are difficult to set up, and can sometimes lead to problematic situations of unfairness, strongarming, and inefficient use of resources. The ICJ, as a legal body for the United Nations to seek direction from, is able to push for some reform to the mediation process, and delegates within the ICJ here should seek to engage with important real-world examples of mediation, both successful and unsuccessful, to try and improve these efforts and save more lives in the future.
Coming Up With Your Own Unique MUN Topics
As a chair or educator, knowing which topic to choose is essential to the success of the committee. While there is no shortage of topics, certain topics don’t create the same level of competition and excitement as others. Before a topic can be considered a vital question should be asked, does the topic invite competition or collaboration? Since states within a committee interact in a number of ways between competing interests, coalitions, and more, the topic frames how the committee will operate. A committee can be successful as a collaborative problem-solving session or a competitive debate, but certain topics fit each style better. For instance, topics that lack strategic interest, such as topics relating to improving healthcare, will be better suited for the collaborative model because states won’t have a position against proving their national health, they’ll have different ways of how that’s accomplished. Whereas topics that include serious stakeholders, such as topics relating to security or vital economic matters, the competitive debate-style works better to fit that model. Therefore, once you find a topic, see if it fits one of those two models and the committee can be successful. Next, there are two primary variables that break down which type of topic it is and how the type impacts the preparation and execution of the topic.
Hot new topic
A hot new topic can be considered “breaking news” in the realm of geopolitics and typically includes numerous stakeholders with serious ramifications in real-time. These can be found by following the news and trends currently. New topics have their pros and cons for preparation and execution in the committee. Preparation wise, because these topics are developing, they often lack precedent, which makes it more difficult to create a comprehensive study guide as it’ll be more reliant on news and lack legal precedent and resolutions. Execution-wise, the breaking news element will organically create more urgency within the committee which can make for an intriguing debate but the lack of precedent also impacts how delegates operate in the committee as there is less long-term strategic policy guiding what is on and off policy. While this can be a very liberating feeling for delegates which can lead to more creativity among solutions, but it can also increase the likelihood that they’ll be off policy because there is less precedent to guide a delegate. These topics are more of a high-risk high reward type of committee.
A looming topic is something that is more known and established in the world of geopolitics. These can be massive existential threat-style topics, such as nuclear proliferation, or a more gradual development such as climate change. Regardless of what type of looming threat, these topics typically have way more research and precedent to them. Therefore, writing a study guide for these topics is less, ‘starting from scratch’ which is more of the style with the hot new topics, and more along the lines of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. The bodies of precedent solve pieces of the problems before you step into the committee and at a certain point the argument is more about details than overhealing macro policy for a new event. While this precedent can be beneficial, it can sometimes strangle delegate’s creativity as they’ll feel more confined by long term pre-existing strategy, but it also makes it easier to stay on policy since you have more direction
Existing topics can be very important to look at contemporary effects of our world and how delegates want to tackle them. A very obvious topic now would for example be tackling coronavirus, or the rebuilding afterwards. What’s important with existing or contemporary topics is that delegates should make sure to understand that the problem with topics such as these is no-one has all the information, and knows all the answers. When you are standing at a fork in the road with existing topics, it is natural that choices will be made, and delegates should be encouraged to explore and examine choices further, imagining that they are now a politician or diplomat having to push or make these choices themselves. Furthermore, with existing topics, attempt not to 100% replicate a meeting or debate that has just happened, as it can unduly influence delegates and their approach, instead look for a new angle, as this way existing debates can feed into the existing topic and help improve delegates’ understanding of the wider world.
Historical topics are an incredibly fun and exciting way to explore the past, and change the future. With a historical topic you are often going back in time (to as far back as you want!) and replicating a debate in a key forum of the past. Often, you will find that if you go back too far, i.e. pre-1900, it will be difficult to find information about the setting or details of each delegate debating the said topic, so remaining in the 20th and 21st century will always help. One of the hardest items to consider in a historical topic is the delegates within it, as they will have existed! Make sure that delegates are encouraged to rethink approaches, although not completely out of history, to improve the enjoyment and understanding of how past decisions ripple in time. What is vital for historical topics is both the explicit date it is set to (so delegates won’t research past this and be unduly influenced) and the scope of the topic (so that there is not too much research to have to fit in). However, when done properly historical topics can be an incredibly fun way to explore history and understand how politics, history, and personality truly change the path of nations.
Futuristic / Sci Fi
Futuristic topics are, in a similar way to historical topics, very interesting as they force delegates to think outside the box and evaluate new ideas and topics that they might not have thought of before. One of the hardest items with futuristic topics is the “worldbuilding” around them that is necessary for delegates to properly get into the committee. Try not to stray too far outside the bounds of reality, unless you are already working with delegates to set it, as otherwise miscommunication and different levels of understanding can affect delegates’ approach to the topics. Instead, consider a current event and roleplay it into the future, that way there are a continuation and link to the past / current day, allowing delegates to get into the topic better. Furthermore, worldbuilding a country will be necessary, but limit what you think is needed, and trust delegates to not go off the rails too much, or else it can get frustrating. Nevertheless, futuristic topics can be a real challenge for experienced chairs and delegates, and can be another exciting way to explore the future and how actions in the current day can affect them.
For the different styles of topics, follow our “how to write a study guide” article to get meticulous advice on how to research, prepare, and deliver a quality study guide which sets up the delegates for an engaging and successful committee.
A fun and engaging topic are essential to every committee. It’s fun for the delegates because it gives them a great opportunity to learn about something new in the world of geopolitics. Additionally, the MUN experience allows them to use their skills in interesting and creative environments for engaging and memorable debates. A good topic is key to a great experience so choose one that is thought-provoking and challenging in the best of ways. Have fun and make sure MUN is formulating a fun learning experience – the more interesting and current the topic is the more likely students will; be active in the debate.