Model UN Clubs
Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an educational simulation and/or academic activity in which students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. MUN involves and teaches researching, public speaking, debating, and writing skills, in addition to critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities. Usually an extracurricular activity, some schools also offer MUN as a class.
Participants in Model United Nations conferences, known as delegates, are placed in committees and assigned countries, or occasionally other organizations or political figures, where they represent members of that body. They are presented with their assignments in advance, along with a topic or topics that their committee will discuss. Delegates conduct research before conferences and formulate positions that they will then debate with their fellow delegates in the committee, staying true to the actual position of the member they represent. At the end of a conference, the best-performing delegates in each committee, as well as delegations, are sometimes recognized with awards.
Model UN participants include students at middle school, high school, and college/university levels, with most conferences catering to just one of these three levels (high school and college conferences being most common). Delegates usually attend conferences together as delegations sent by their respective schools' or universities' Model UN clubs, though some delegates attend conferences independently.
Participation in Model UN is meant to foster negotiation, speaking and communication skills. In addition, crisis committees, which deal with crisis scenarios which can be contemporary or historical, can develop leadership skills and the ability to adapt and deal with unexpected situations. Material issues of diplomacy and policy are also approached through a quasi-academic process. In preparation for a conference, topics are chosen for each committee, and typically, research and background guides (called Study Guides) are made available by the organizers of a conference for each committee. Delegates of each committee are often expected to pre-formulate the position of the country or group they represent, based on these background guides, and submit the result of this preparation to their committee as a so-called Position Paper. The purpose of this procedure is to familiarize delegates with the substantial topics of debate, encourage academic research and writing, and to enable substantial preparation for conferences.
While several guides on the techniques of writing Position Papers, including templates and examples, are available, no conferences publish their Study Guides, Position Papers or Resolutions. Currently, only one subscription-based Position Paper database is available.
While Model United Nations conferences regularly simulate the bodies of the United Nations, the European Union, government cabinets, and regional bodies such as ASEAN as so-called Committees, as well as corporate boards, NGOs or so-called Press Corps, idiosyncrasies and fictional Committees also exist. An example for such a special committee that does not have a parallel in the actual United Nations which deals with a crisis is known as a 'Crisis Committee.' In this committee, a crisis is given to a team of students and the teams must come up with solutions. The Crisis Committee focuses on a single historical event. The event may be fictional or non-fictional.
In order to maintain decorum, most Model UN committees use parliamentary procedure derived from Robert's Rules of Order. However, most crisis committees forgo the formality of parliamentary procedure so as to ensure smoother operation. In addition, recently the United Nations has spearheaded efforts to introduce new Model UN rules of procedure that are more closely aligned with those used by the actual UN. Since there is no governing body for MUNs, each conference differs in the rules of procedure. The following rules of procedure apply to general MUNs but may not apply to every MUN:
MUNs are run by a group of administrators known as the dais. A dais is headed by a Secretary-General. Each committee usually has a chair (also known as moderator), a member of the dais that enforces the rules of procedure. A delegate may request the committee as a whole to perform a particular action; this is known as a motion. Documents aiming to address the issue of the committee are known as resolutions and are voted for ratification.
MUN committees can be divided into three general sessions: formal debate, moderated caucus, and unmoderated caucus. In a formal debate, the staff maintains a list of speakers and the delegates follow the order written on the 'speaker list'. Speakers may be added to the speaker list by raising their placards or sending a note to the chair. During this time, delegates talk to the entire committee. They make speeches, answer questions, and debate on resolutions and amendments. If there are no other motions, the committee goes back to formal debate by default. There is usually a time limit. In a moderated caucus, the committee goes into a recess and the rules of procedure are suspended. Anyone may speak if recognized by the chair. A vote on a motion is necessary to go into a moderated caucus. There is a comparatively shorter time limit per speech. In an unmoderated caucus, the delegates informally meet with other delegates and the staff for discussions.
Resolutions are the basis of all debate. They are considered the final results of conversations, writings, and negotiations. Resolutions must go through a draft, approval by the dais, and consequent debate and modification.
Traditionally, English has been the official and working language of most conferences, but, as Model UN has become more popular around the world, and as conferences in countries such as the United States have sought to appeal to underrepresented minorities (such as the Spanish-speaking community), committees using languages other than English, or which are bilingual, have become common. It should be noted, however, that this is still not yet a mainstream phenomenon, especially not in the United States, where most bilingual or Spanish language committees are found at conferences hosted in Puerto Rico or the South.
Nearly all Model United Nations conferences require delegates to wear Western business attire, as dressing professionally is an important way to show respect for the nation, organization, or individual one is representing, as well as for the rest of one's committee.
Books on Model UNs
A Guide to Delegate Preparation: A Model United Nations Handbook, edited by Scott A. Leslie, The United Nations Association of the United States of America, 2004 edition (October 2004), softcover, 296 pages, ISBN 1-880632-71-3.
Becoming a Model UN Delegate - An Essential Guide Through the MUN World, edited by Marko Kovacevic of MUNPlanet (August 2016)
Organizing Successful MUNs - practices, trends, innovation, edited by Marko Kovacevic of MUNPlanet (2015)