Model United Nations
This article will discuss the Model United Nations simulations. It will discuss what is a Model United Nations, what goes on at such a conference, as well as where there are Model UN conferences. This article will then list a number of excellent resources for individuals who want to learn more about this issue.
What is the Model United Nations?
A Model UN is a simulation where individuals model after the activities of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, as well as other organs of the United Nations such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Model UN is a great way for students to learn about the functions of the international organization, as well as the politics and other issues that arise within states in the United Nations. At these conferences, students get to interact with one another regarding host of international issues. A Model UN conference is an organized event that brings students (as delegations) together to one location to participate in simulations. Many of these students attending the conferences go to different colleges and universities, or, if it is a high school Model UN, they attend different high schools. It is said that “[m]ore than 1,000,000 people have participated in MUN conferences around the world since the conferences became popular over 50 years ago. Today there are more than 400 conferences that take place in 35 countries. Depending on the location, the average conference can have as few as 30 students or as many as 2,000” (UN, 2014).
What is the History of the Model UN?
In one of the most interesting facts about the Model United Nations, “simulating international organizations began even before the birth of the United Nations, when students held a series of Model League of Nations in the 1920s. The Model U.N. Program is a successor to a student-directed simulation of what preceded the U.N. itself, but it is not documented exactly how the Model U.N. began” (UN, 2014). This is important to note, because the League of Nations was an important precursor to the formation of the United Nations, and many of its institutions still exist in the UN. Thus, it is important to remember the history of the simulations of the League of Nations, as they too set the stage for the current formations of the Model UN that we see today.
What Happens in a Model UN Conference?
The Model UN conferences are usually broken up into different sessions, depending on how many students are participating in that said Model UN conference. Each session is chaired by a Model UN SC President, who runs the Model UN Security Council meeting. It is here that the students are representing different states, and it is here that they can discuss and debate the various issues on the agenda.
The Model UNSC meeting begins with an agenda, which is voted on for approval within the Model UN Security Council. Following the finalizing of the agenda (and here students can discuss, move issues around, etc…), students will be able to speak for a set time (depending on the motion) on the first issue on the UNSC agenda. After every state makes initial comments on the initial issue, states can make motions for moderated or un-moderated caucuses. With moderated caucuses, the chair of the UNSC collects names for the speaker’s list. Here states that wish to speak are able to add their names to the list. Here, delegates will have a set time to speak. This time is specific in the motion, and voted upon by the council members.
In an un-moderated caucus, states are free to speak with one another without the moderation rules. For an un-moderated caucus, a Model UN delegation can ask for a specified amount of time (e.g. five minutes or ten minutes). Following the end of this caucus time, a delegation can request an extension on the un-moderated caucus, or can make a new motion. It is also here were a great deal of cooperation takes place, as well as the initiations to any UN action, such as the drafting of a resolution.
It is often the combination of these meetings that delegations will agree on actions. Statements are often made in the moderated caucuses, whereas more detailed discussions, un-moderated calls for action, concerns regarding proposed actions, as well as the early drafting of resolutions can take place. If there is a motion for a UNSC resolution, following any drafts of resolutions (or multiple resolutions) within the UNSC meeting, the resolutions are brought to the floor of the UNSC for further discussion, and then, if there is a motion and a support of that motion, a vote on the UNSC resolution.
After an issue has been agreed upon by the majority of UNSC member states, the Model UN Council will then ask if there are any other motions with relation to that agenda item. And if there are none, a member can make a motion to vote on ending discussion on that issue, and then vote to move on to the next agenda item. This process continues until all issues on the agenda are fully addressed, or until the end of the conference.
This is a great opportunity for students to learn about the United Nations, how states advocate their particular interests, as well as learning about parliamentary procedure. Moreover, participating in a Model UN conference will help build communication skills, as well as teamwork abilities.
What Can Students Learn from the Model UN Simulations?
There are a number of skills that students can learn and develop while participating in the Model United Nations preparations and simulations at conferences. Students will get experience working through the United Nations system, learning as they participate in mock UN General Assembly or mock UN Security Council meetings. Furthermore, they will see and learn about how different delegates argue for their positions, and how to respond to such positions; the Model UN is a great place to practice debate skills. Furthermore, students will be able to think critically about international relations issues, trying to figure out how to move forward on global issues through cooperation with other international actors. In addition, students will meet other students with a similar interest in international relations, international studies, and/or an interest regarding the workings of the United Nations. Moreover, “[d]uring MUN simulation sessions, participants must employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to represent the the countries they are representing. Skills include public speaking, small group communications, research, policy analysis, active listening, negotiating, conflict resolution, note taking, and technical writing (required when drafting resolutions or working papers” (Model-United Nations.org, 2014).
For example, regarding public speaking, it is “one of the most important skills you will use as a Model UN delegate. You will need to convey your member state’s positions, help build consensus and formulate resolutions. Usually, the length of time a delegate is allowed to speak is set by the conference organizers. Delegates can make a motion to increase or decrease the time allotted to each speaker. If another delegate seconds the motion, then the committee will vote on changing the speaker’s time” (United Nations Association, 2013). Moreover, “[y]ou will have numerous opportunities to speak in your committee during a Model UN simulation. The Chair will maintain a speakers list of delegates who would like to make formal speeches. During caucusing you will have an opportunity to speak informally to delegates in your committee, but it is still important to keep the principles of effective public speaking in mind” (United Nations Association, 2013a).
How are Students Involved in a Model UN Simulation?
As mentioned earlier, students serve as delegates for different countries. For the simulation, they take on the simulated position of representing that country. Often, students will prepare weeks or months in advance, learning about their country and the country’s policies with regards to the issues on the Model United Nations agenda for that specific conference. Students often work in teams with other fellow delegates, or other student delegates from different schools, depending on the structure of that specific conference (some conferences have all students from one school as one delegation, whereas others mix up the representation).
To get ready for a Model UN conference, it is recommended that students prepare by learning more about the United Nations system (UN, 2002). It would be very useful to learn about the General Assembly, its rules, structures, activities, and powers, as well as the structure, actors, rules, activities and powers of the United Nations Security Council. These two organs are very important, since there is great state involvement in these parts of the UN, as well as key decisions that are being made through the UNGA as well as the UNSC. Moreover, you will want to familiarize yourself with UNGA and UNSC resolutions, as you may have to write them while in the Model UN conference.
Along with preparing by learning about the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and other organs of the UN, as mentioned above, students should spend time reading news and academic articles about their country and their actions in the United Nations. You will not only want to know about the country itself (UN, 2002), but also what positions it is currently taking with regards to UN issues (UN, 2002). The conference coordinator should send out the issues, as well as the country assignments well ahead of time, so that students will have ample time to prepare. Furthermore, it has also been recommended that one “[k]now your allies and your opposition. In order to adequately represent your country during the conference, you will need to interact with delegates from other countries. Knowing their positions on your topic will help you predict their arguments during debate. This will be very useful in helping you decide in advance where it might be useful to seek cooperation or compromise” (UN, 2002).
Lastly, it is also important to learn about the specific rules of the Model United Nations conference that you are attending (UN, 2002). It is important to ask the coordinator what the exact rules are, as they may slightly differ depending on the conference. Related to this, you would want to be familiar with parliamentary procedure, as well as Robert’s Rules of Order. The reason for learning Robert’s Rules of Order, and parliamentary procedure is that “[l]ike real UN bodies, Model UN committees have lengthy agendas and many delegates who want to convey their country’s positions. To help maintain order, Model UN conferences adopt rules of procedure to establish when a delegate may speak and what he or she may address. Some conferences adopt a few simple rules, while others use lengthy and complex rules of procedure. Because each conference is independent – there is no governing body for Model UN – rules of procedure vary. A few conferences adapt their rules of procedure directly from the United Nations rules while most use variations of the Roberts Rules of Order” (United Nations Association, 2013a).
Moreover, there is also formal debates, as well as caucusing sessions that take place during the Model UN conferences. It is here that students–as country delegates–speak with regards to the issues that they are discussing. During the formal debates, speakers are allotted time to speak in front of the General Assembly. There are also moderated and unmoderated caucuses; “During a caucus, which is a temporary recess, the rules of procedure are suspended. To go to a moderated caucus, a delegate makes a motion to suspend debate and the committee votes. Caucusing helps to facilitate discussion, especially when there is a long speakers list. A moderated caucus is a mixture of both formal and informal debate. Anyone may speak if they raise their placard and are called on by the Chair” (United Nations Association, 2013b). However, this differs from an unmoderated caucus, where “…delegates meet informally with one another and the committee staff to discuss and negotiate draft resolutions, amendments and other issues” (United Nations Association, 2013b).
Here is a link to a list of Model UN conferences for the 2014-2015 academic year. As you see, this list has many high school Model United Nations conferences, as well as various domestic and international college/university Model UN conferences.
Furthermore, here is a link that will help students with regards to writing a Model United Nations Resolution.
Model-United Nations.org (2014). What is MUN? Available Online: http://www.model-unitednations.org/index.html
United Nations (2002). Preparing for a Conference. Model UN Headquarters. Available Online: http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/modelun/prep.html
United Nations (2014). Frequently Asked Questions. Model UN Headquarters. Available Online: http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/modelun/faq.html
United Nations Association (2013). Public Speaking. Public Speaking: Model UN Preparation. Available Online: http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/model-un-preparation/public-speaking
United Nations Association (2013b). Rules of Procedure. Model UN Preparation. Available Online: http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/model-un-preparation/rules-of-procedure