Model United Nations can seem like a complicated process at first, but the basics are quite easy to pick up. A good way to do this is to attend our MiniMUN sessions on campus, where we follow a simplified version of MUN rules in a relaxed and relatively informal setting. What follows is a brief outline of how more formal Model UN sessions at conferences unfold. To learn about the motivation and benefits of Model UN, visit our main Model United Nations page.
Each participant is allocated a country and must represent that nation’s viewpoint throughout proceedings. (Sometimes you will represent an organisation or other group, rather than a country.) Presenting a country’s perspective can be made a bit more difficult if you personally disagree with that stance, but it gives you valuable experience in exploring all sides of an issue.
The aim of the activity is to pass a resolution which has the support of the majority of the committee. Compromise and consensus-building are crucial, so Model UN also gives you an excellent opportunity to build these skills.
The simulation generally proceeds as follows:
- Firstly, the topic for discussion will be released several days or even weeks before the session. Participants will have time to do research on their allocated country and its position on the topic. We will soon be constructing a website section on how to research effectively, so check back before future Model UN events;
- Each participant (called a “delegate”) has the right to make a short position speech outlining his/her country’s view on the topic at hand. It is important to listen to all of these, so you can begin to see who your country can work with to advance a common viewpoint to the committee;
- The committee breaks out of formal proceedings into informal “caucus” discussion. Like-minded delegates collaborate together to produce “working papers” indicating matters of importance to them, and giving an early idea of provisions they would like to see included in the final resolution;
- Working papers are discussed in committee and questions may be asked of a working paper’s sponsors. More periods of informal caucus and formal debate may follow, until …
- One or more delegates submit a draft resolution, which must have the support of a certain proportion of the committee before it can be discussed. Draft resolutions form the basis of the final resolution and are discussed in a similar way to working papers. More than one draft may be submitted (for example, opposing groups might each submit their own draft), but only one will be under discussion at any time;
- Draft resolutions may also be amended by a majority vote of the committee. Amendments are each submitted separately, discussed by the committee and voted on; if passed, the draft resolution is updated to reflect the changes. Amendments are normally used to fine-tune draft resolutions in order to gain the support of more delegates, and may be proposed by anyone, even those who were not the original authors of the draft resolution;
- At any time, the committee may decide to stop debating the draft resolution and vote on whether to pass it. If the draft receives the support of a majority of the committee, it is passed and the simulation is complete. If it fails, then discussion moves to the next draft resolution and so on, until one is passed. If the committee cannot agree in time (which is very rare), the draft with the most support is usually declared passed.
The process is summarised by this flowchart: