How is The United Nations Structured?
Before commencing with any preparation, it’s important to understand the general structure of the United Nations.
The UN Charter splits the organization into six main divisions: the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the Trusteeship Council, and the Secretariat.
Most Model United Nations conferences are constrained by size and rarely include all of these bodies.
The General Assembly is where most members of a delegation will participate. Under the body of the General Assembly there exists various larger and smaller committees, from Disarmament and International Security (which can reach numbers of 400 at some conferences) to the United Nations Development Program (which is capped at 30 delegates).
At some conferences, the opportunity exists to send students to committees within the Economic and Social Council. Much like the General Assembly, this body is also divided into numerous sub-committees.
The Security Council is the most powerful wing of the United Nations and is entrusted with keeping world peace. As there can only be a maximum of 15 members (The 5 permanent members – US, Russia, China, Britain, and France and 10 members which “rotate” every 2 years), this specific committee is usually where a club’s most experienced delegates participate. Given its selectivity, the Security Council is characterized by fast paced debate and furious action.
The International Court of Justice is found less frequently than the Security Council at conferences, and involves delegate serving as “judges” to arbitrate a specific dispute.
How Do I Choose My Committee?
Committee choice is the first significant, individual decision that you will have to make as an MUN delegate.
When deciding on a specific council or agency, make sure to keep in mind the topic areas. As will be elaborated on further in this guide, these subjects will form the basis of most, if not all of the discussion during the sessions. It is imperative to pick a committee with a theme that you will find interesting and enjoy researching on.
Often students choose topics that correspond with an area in which they already have a degree of knowledge. For example, “Free Trade”, a common topic for the Economic and Financial Committee would be a perfect fit for someone in an Economics or Human Geography course as they would be able to tie the topic in with themes already covered in class.
Be wary of picking a committee that has one topic area of great interest to you, and another topic area in which you do not have the slightest interest. As will be discussed later on, chances are high, given various time factors and the depth to which some areas must be discussed, that only one topic may be covered, and this could very well be the one that was ignored while you worked on the other.
Some students will pick topic areas that are of particular relevance to the country the school has been assigned to represent. If the club is Palestine for the conference, the topic of land division in Israel is especially pertinent and would result in a fantastic opportunity for the delegate chosen to represent the country in this particular committee.
Again, you should realize that if in a scenario such as this (where the topic results in your country playing a prominent role), you will be called upon on numerous occasions to defend your views and correspondingly, you should be prepared to take on a leadership position.
If your desire in the conference is to quietly learn and take notes as opposed to be at the center of the action and controversy, you should realize that this committee might not be the best fit for you.
This article was written in high school by Al-Nawaz Jiwa St. George’s MUN Head Delegate and World MUN Champion. Al-Nawaz received a master’s in Political Science from Yale University.