When the conference begins, it’s time for all your research to finally pay off.
Once the opening ceremonies have concluded (be sure to relax and enjoy the speakers during this section – you’ll need to be charged up), its time for the first session of the MUN. Often, conferences will give you a short period for dinner, but to find a restaurant (or wait in line at one – there will be thousands of delegates hoping to get a bite) and eat comfortably requires more time than one hour will provide. Take a drink and a snack with you, power it down, and go mingle in your assigned room.As the delegates filter in, many will take the opportunity to come up and introduce themselves; they’ll tell you their names (and serial numbers if applicable), what they feel the topic of greatest concern is and just about anything else they can to get you initially on their side. At this point, you have the opportunity to join in and talk to other entering delegates, or sit down and collect your thoughts.
Be advised, though it may seem pointless (and while some of your fellow delegates may frighten you with their infinite pool of knowledge), now is a good time to build connections. Find out where everyone stands on the issues at hand, and particularly socialize with those who seem to have similar positions to yourself. It’s also good to take the chance to relate countries to faces, so that you’ll know exactly who to look for if a question arises.
Most important, however, is to scout out a chair in the front of the room, in plain view of the Moderator. The reasons for this are two fold: firstly, this location allows the chair to clearly identify you, and correspondingly call on you throughout session. Secondly, all the “keeners” tend to locate themselves at the front. These are the people you want to associate with.
Proximity to them leads to dialogue, and eventual alliance building. This will be incredibly helpful later on as you scramble to get endorsers for your resolution.
Setting the Agenda
Eventually, the Moderator will call the room to order after which he or she will proceed with role call to ensure that everyone is present.
So long as a quorum exists (40% of the countries are present), the Moderator will ask for someone to move for the agenda to be set. This is the first major action of the committee. Before any debate on a specific topic can take place, UN procedures dictate that the order in which the topics will be discussed must be established.
In most cases, this involves the committee deciding whether or not Topic A or Topic B should be addressed first. This is the time for you to voice your opinion as to which holds the greatest relevance to the committee and the world as a whole. Naturally, you’re also going to want to pick the area that you are the most proficient at as well.
The Moderator will call for a Speakers list to be set up for countries wishing to express their views. The Speakers list is something you will become familiar with by the end of the conference as it shows the speaking order of the delegations. Raise your placard (You are provided with these before the conference – A placard is a sign with your country’s name on it) if you wish to go up and talk.
As there will no doubt be a number of them in the air, hold it high and straight so that it’s easy for the chairperson to see you and add you to the list. After all names have been added, delegates speak for roughly one minute (the times are set by the chair) where after comments can be made by two other delegations. To comment, you must raise your placard at the conclusion of the student’s speech (as long as he hasn’t yielded his time to any source) and motion to comment on the speaker’s content. You will then be given 30 seconds to speak.
The only restriction is that your speech must directly pertain to the message given by the previous delegate. If at any time you find yourself near the bottom of the speakers list, comments are a great way to let the committee hear your opinions.
After hearing several speakers advocating different sides of the agenda setting, the chair will eventually call for a motion to close debate on setting the topic order. A vote will be taken and within a few minutes you’ll find out what the committee will be covering first. Many times, this will be the only topic that will be addressed.
Making Major Motions and Rules of Procedure
Before discussing the process of making speeches and tips for negotiations, it’s helpful to have a grasp of the rules you’re expected to adhere to while in simulation.
There are certain ways of bringing up points, and terms that you’ll have to commit to memory. The best way to cover these is simply to list them off. The rules of procedure are arranged in order of precedence (which point is recognized by the chair first).
Point of Personal Privilege:This can be used at anytime and states to the chair that your ability to participate in the discussions is being hindered in some way. This could be as a result of too much noise or talking by fellow delegates, or because you simply can’t understand what the speaker is saying (a malfunctioning microphone for instance). Simply raise your placard (even if someone is up at the front speaking) and you will be called upon to state your problem.
Point of Order: This again can be used at any time (but only during a speech when the speaker himself has violated a procedure) and states to the chair that one of the rules governing debate may have been broken.
Point of Parliamentary Inquiry: This can be used only when the floor is open (when no one is speaking or addressing the chair). Raising this point allows a delegate to ask a question about the MUN directly to the moderator.
Adjournment or Suspension of Debate: This motion occurs at the end of every session and calls for all discussion to be carried over to the next meeting so that the delegates can feed themselves or catch some shuteye. Everything remains exactly as it was before (the Speakers list stays the same). One half of the committee must vote in favour of this motion for it to pass.
Closure of Debate: This calls for an end of all debate on a substantive matter (for example a topic area). It requires the votes of two-thirds of the committee, and if passed, the Speakers list is closed and a vote immediately takes place on the resolutions currently on the floor (with any ones receiving a majority of the votes passing). When this motion is introduced, two speakers are permitted to speak against it.
Postponement of Debate: This (as the title aptly puts), calls for a postponement of any discussion of any resolution or amendment. This would result in the document being taken off the floor, and, as a result, it could no longer be referred to by delegates. This motion requires a two-thirds majority and when it is introduced, one speaker is allowed to speak in favour of it, and another, against it.
Division of The Question: This is arguably the hardest motion for new delegates to comprehend. When a resolution is about to be voted on (after debate has been closed) or an amendment has been proposed, a delegate can motion to divide the question, or split up the resolution (or amendment) up into different sections (i.e. clause by clause) and each of these sections to be voted on individually. This is helpful when one particular part of a resolution is controversial, and the majority approves the rest. If successful, dividing the question allows for the good parts to be kept, and the bad parts to be edited out without completely failing a resolution. You can divide the resolution in any manner you feel is relevant. Two speakers are allowed to speak for and against this motion when it is introduced, and it requires a one half majority to pass.
Introduce Amendment or Resolution: This motion is used to bring a resolution or amendment to the floor so that discussion can begin on it. It requires a one half majority. If it passes, the writers of the amendment or resolution are invited up to read it aloud clause by clause and answer any questions on it.
Resumption of Debate: This motion is used to propose that debate be resumed (surprisingly enough) on a resolution or amendment. This essentially cancels postponement motions. A two-thirds majority is required, and when this motion is made, two speakers can stand up and voice their opinions against it.
Reconsideration: If you voted with the on a motion, you can ask that the chair allow for a second, overruling vote to take place with the hopes that the decision may be reversed. This motion is extremely rare, and requires a two-thirds majority and gives two speakers the opportunity to voice their opinions against it.
Appeal: This motion requires a two-thirds majority and goes right to the Moderator. An appeal is used to question the ruling of a Moderator or Chairperson. He or she then defends the decision and the motion is then put to a vote.
Right of Reply: If at any point in time during the committee session, you are personally insulted, you have the option of going to the front and defending yourself from these erroneous allegations. As a general rule, these are amusing to watch.
There are two specific procedural motions/rules that have not been discussed thus far because of their particular importance and the need the stress them separately: namely, motions for caucus and yields.
Caucus: The Most Intense Part of The Conference
Without a doubt, caucus is where the most meaningful discourse during the committee sessions occurs.
There are two types of caucuses: unmoderated and moderated.
Both caucuses are established by motions (in terms of precedence, these rank right after adjournment of a meeting). The motion requires the support of one half of the committee, and must, when it is made, have a specific time limit and purpose (for example, to discuss a new resolution or idea that’s just been brought up).
Moderated caucuses are when delegates have the opportunity to speak for a period of time by raising their placards and being called upon by the Moderator. The Speakers list tends to move very slowly, and moderated caucuses occur often to infuse the committee room with new opinions and arguments. During a moderated caucus, you should try to not only forward your own ideas, but also, critique and evaluate the beliefs of those before you. Clash not only stimulates debate, but also makes you look “on the ball” to the chair. Take good notes while the other delegates speak, as you will never know when the chair will call on you. So long as you keep your placard raised, you can be next or tenth in line.
While the moderated caucus provides some semblance of structure for organized discussion, the unmoderated or unmediated caucus is the exact opposite. Once an unmoderated caucus has been declared, the room turns into anarchy for the time period. It is, more or less, a break, where the rules of procedure are abandoned, and the room turns into a huge MUN free for all. During this time, take an opportunity to walk around the room, discuss ideas with fellow delegates or work on a resolution.
While it’s a break from MUN rules, it’s not a break from the MUN. This is time that can be used constructively, and with all the other delegates completely at your disposal, you should take advantage of this opportunity.
As opposed to simply sitting down at the conclusion of your speech, there exists the option of yielding the remainder of your time to three different sources. Yields can be made to the Chair, to questions, or to another country.
Yielding to the chair prevents any comments (resulting from comment motions) from being made on your speech. If you have just said something particularly controversial and don’t want to give any opposition faction the chance to refute your points, this is the best option.
Yielding to questions allows for other delegates to pose inquiries about your contentions or about the topic in general for your remaining time. This is usually the best option so long as you have an opportunity to answer the queries (Do not yield to questions when you have four seconds remaining).
Yielding to another country gives a delegation of your choice your remaining time. Often, delegates may yield to allies, who in turn, use the period to support their mutual case. One final point: you may only yield on constructive speeches, that is, speeches for which you have been called from the speakers list.
Moderated caucuses, and comments do not offer yield opportunities.
General Speaking Tips
When going up to make a speech, confidence in your biggest asset.
If you give the impression that you feel strongly about what you are saying, others will feel the same way too. Be sure that you look presentable (Blazer done up, shirt tucked in): first impressions are very important.
The first speech you make (After being called up from the speakers list – make sure that you raise your placard quickly once the topic has been set so that you will be given a reasonably high spot) should outline your country’s foreign policy and how it relates to the issue at hand. As this is a descriptive statement, you can prepare this well in advance. Be sure to mention any current or historical action that your country has taken in reference to the topic.
From then on, your speeches should be predominantly analysis of committee happenings and evaluations of the suggestions put forth by other delegations. It’s always impressive when you can directly quote statements made by other nations and use them to emphasize a point.
Other than that, make sure to relax, keep yourself involved in discussions happening in and out of the session room, and be sure to stick to your country’s policy.
About a session and a half into the conference, people will begin to talk about Resolution writing. The ultimate goal of an MUN is to create a resolution that passes with the unanimous support of the committee.
The working paper and the resolution will be the next major step in the Model United Nations process.
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.