PREPARING FOR MODEL UNITED NATIONS:
Preparation for the conference should not only include researching a country’s position but also reading background information about the workings of the UN, and reviewing parliamentary procedure. The following areas include the basic preparation for attending an MUN conference:
- Basic facts about the United Nations: Several texts exist and are published by the UN Organization that contains useful information about the origin, purpose, structure and function of this Organization. Although it is not necessary to understand the causes of World War I and all the details surrounding the creation of the League of Nations, it is helpful to be familiar with the failures of the League and the resulting differences in the make-up of the United Nations. In addition, a study of the organizational structure of the UN will give a clearer understanding of the various bodies and the functions each have. This is essential when writing resolutions because you need to know what agency can actually do what you are asking the UN to do. Students also need to be familiar with the rights of member nations within the General Assembly as well as the role of the Secretary General in heading this body. As a delegate, it is also helpful to know a bit about the history of the country you are representing within the UN. Understanding how members are chosen in the Security Council and how the veto has been used in the past will help delegates when they discuss expanding the veto power or enlarging the Security Council.
- Researching a country: It is very difficult to formulate a policy, both in written form (Policy Statement and Resolution) and in spoken form (Lobbying, Opening Speech and Debating) without knowing about the country or organization represented and having specific knowledge of the issues to be debated. Background research of the country you are representing should include the following:
- Political Structure (origin, type of government, stability)
- Cultural Factors (ethnic groups, religion, cultural history)
- Geography (bordering countries, topography geo-political considerations)
- Economy (monetary system, dependency and debt, membership in trade organizations)
- Natural Resources (basic commodities, trade agreements, degree of self-sufficiency)
- Defense (military structure, dependency on other nations, membership or alliances)
- Views on World Problems (role and influence in the world, membership in blocs)
- International Relations (major conflicts, foreign policy doctrines, past votes within the UN, and positions on major issues)
- History (general, last 50 years, recent history).
- Member country’s viewpoints on the issues to be discussed: Most of the issues discussed at MUN sessions are not merely current events or solely relate to the internal conflicts within a country. Rather, most of the issues have a long-term dimension and are somewhat global in nature, to some degree, affecting all member nations, whether or not the problem actually exists in each country. In some cases, a nation may be too poor, too isolated, or dealing with other problems that keep it from being a major player, but the solution to an issue listed for debate will affect all nations at some point in the future. Past resolutions often highlight the problems and point out the areas that still need attention as well as reveal how nations voted on specific issues. With the internet, research is made easier. All foreign embassies have websites, with many sharing helpful information on a variety of topics. When research fails and a delegate cannot find a country’s policy on a specific issue, it is proper for the delegate to make an educated guess based on the facts available and/or the stance of member nations with like-views.
- Viewpoints held by other member countries in your bloc: There are obvious blocs of nations throughout the world (African Union, Arab League, European Union, NATO, ASEAN, Group of 77, etc.) and understanding how each of them vote on all the issues is almost impossible, however you should know they exist and know the countries participating in them. This will help you when writing your resolution, since, you can ask one of these organizations to “do this or that”, with the UN’s avow. Through lobbying and listening to speeches, it becomes clearer which nations are your “friends” and which are not. Pay attention during informal sessions and participate in ad hoc meetings. But remember that countries have distinct viewpoints in different issues, if in one issue your country does not agree with another one, it does not mean that in the next resolution you have to be against them. The UN was created to reach consensus not to evoke turmoil.
- Know how to write a resolution and practice using parliamentary procedure: The Approval Panels (teachers and caucus leaders) will have strict instructions to follow, in order to approve or reject resolutions submitted by delegates. The content as much as the actual written document will be judged. Remember that caucus leaders and the Secretary General are here to help you, ask those questions at any time. All delegates must prepare resolutions prior to the MUN conference in order to understand how to modify and merge with other resolutions later. Attendance at an MUN conference is the best experience in learning how to use parliamentary procedure. Listen, observe and learn for the first 15 minutes and you will be able to participate for the remainder of the conference. Practicing a committee meeting before the conference is also very helpful.
- Organization: After several weeks and months of research, finding and utilizing an organizational system that works for you will be a key factor in your success. Find a systematic way to arrange your research, in accordion folders, file folders, a mega binder or wherever you would find it better; divide your papers under categories or topics so that you can easily access important information during debate, etc.