Model UN Ultimate Guide – Everything you need to know

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Image showing the United Nations headquarters in Geneva

Welcome to the Model UN Ultimate Guide! Whether you’re a novice delegate or a MUN expert, we’ll teach you the essentials of committee preparation, time management, and negotiation that will get you ready for your next conference.

This is the Model UN guide that you’ve been looking for. By the end of this walkthrough, you’ll be motioning and caucusing like a pro.

With this guide, you’ll have everything you need to get started. Just remember that Model UN is best practiced through participation, so make sure you join a conference near you!

How to use this guide

This article contains a broad overview of all things MUN. But, if you’re a more experienced delegate it might be useful to skip straight to part 2 – this is where we start with our conference prep roadmap.

If you’re totally new to Model UN, there’s going to be a lot of new information here. For that reason, we’ve added a few section review questions so you can see how much you’ve learned. Of course, if you have any other comments, feel free to reach out and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

Skip ahead

Here’s the basic breakdown of what you can expect from this guide. If you’ve already gone through a few sections, feel free to jump back in easily!

The BasicsAn introduction to the world of Model UN and a review of some of the first things that every Delegate should know.Visit
Conference PreparationA summary of the most important aspects of Model UN Conference preparation.Visit
The Conference WeekendWe show you what to expect from a Model UN Conference and some important essentials.Visit
Your Next StepsWe give you some tools to assess your conference performance. Visit
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Part 1 – Basics of Model UN

Model UN is an activity where you hone skills in negotiation, public speaking, and writing while dealing with meaningful real-world problems. You step into the shoes of world leaders and professional diplomats and solve problems in ways that you see fit.

Why learn Model UN

It’s now more important than ever to have a basic understanding of the international system and learning Model UN can introduce you to this world. It can also equip you with the tools to approach any complex issue that you read about in the news.

Participating in a Model UN conference can also help delegates to work on their public speaking skills. Stepping in front of a committee to make that first speech might be daunting, but every person should have a voice and the ability to concisely and effectively express one’s ideas.

Do you have what it takes?

Here are a few key attributes that make up the perfect Model UN delegate:

In short, anyone can do it! You just have to be willing to learn something new and step out of your comfort zone.

5 things you should know about Model UN

  1. A Model UN committee can be about any topic imagineable. While some committees will strictly emulate their UN counterparts, others will cater to a diverse range of interests.
  2. The United Nations devised their own rules of procedure to get things done in committee. For Model UN delegates – we rely on a system based on Robert’s rules of Order.
  3. Model UN has a number of different committee styles. So if you’re worried about speaking to a large audience, there are committees that will be more suitable for you.
  4. Some professional Diplomats have started their careers by participating in Model UN conferences.
  5. Every weekend, thousands of delegates participate in conferences around the world.

Model UN vocab

Model UN has a few key terms that are important to understand. We put together a list so you can get familiar with them.

Model UN Conferences

So how exactly does a Model UN conference work?

In general, you’ll represent a country, business, or person and will be tasked with solving a particular problem. You share your ideas, make arguments, and write working papers.

A conference will usually run for an entire weekend and will have a number of committee sessions. Delegates can discuss a range of topics related to their committee and by the end, write a Resolution that hopefully accomplishes their committee objectives.

Students can get involved in Model UN from Middle school and it’s possible to participate in conferences all the way through University. While conferences tend to get more technical and more is expected as delegates get older, students can still start their Model UN journey at any level and catch up quite quickly.

Middle School Model UNThese conferences are focused on developing confidence with public speaking while also practicing the fundamentals of Model UN. This includes using Points and Motions properly and making speeches.
Highschool Model UNHighschool Model UN is focused on encouraging creative problem-solving approaches and developing an interest in International affairs.
University Model UNAt this level, teams may be more focused on rankings and winning awards. Delegates will generally have a strong understanding of the basics of Model UN and the problem-solving process.

Online Model UN conferences

Nowadays, teams can find a number of online Model UN conferences. These may be convenient and can make it easier for delegates to participate.

However, in other situations, a delegate may find them less appealing and less immersive – it’s hard to get as engaged when you’re not in an actual committee room. But, online conferences can still be a useful tool to develop an understanding of Model UN and can prepare delegates for an in-person experience!

One risk of online conferencing is Zoom fatigue – burnout associated with excessive use of digital platforms. If you’re going to participate in an online conference, make sure you take short breaks away from your screen.

Finding a Conference

Check out our page here and find some of our recommended Model UN for delegates at every level – (Coming soon!)

The United Nations

Let’s take a quick break from Model UN and look at how the actual UN works.

What does the UN do?

To start, the UN is a global organization that works with governments to bring about an overall societal benefit. There are two UN headquarters – one in Geneva and one in New York. From these offices, the organization works to prevent the spread of disease, fight famines, and reduce the impacts of war on marginalized communities.

The UN has developed a progressive version of conflict resolution through open dialogue that works to dissuade states from resorting to violent means.

Is the UN successful?

So far, most states have taken advantage of the platform that the UN provides and the organization has been successful in accomplishing a number of very important goals. However, the UN is also widely criticized – some people argue that the organization could be significantly more productive if it were not caught up in bureaucracy and politics.

Significant UN achievements:

To learn more about how the UN works and other Model UN basics – check out our article on MUN Fundamentals!

Section Review #1

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Part 2 – Model UN Conference preparation

Getting ready for a Model UN conference requires a great deal of preparation, but there are ways to make this process easier. In this section, we’ll go over the key aspects of Model UN conference preparation and give you a few tips to make sure that it’s as easy as it can be.

How does a Model UN conference work?

Your normal Model UN conference will take place over the course of a weekend – starting on Thursday night and ending Sunday morning. The goal is to have Resolutions submitted and passed by the end of the weekend. Ideally, your Bloc will be the one with the Resolution that passes.

A Model UN conference will feature a collection of committee sessions where Delegates hold discussions and progressively get closer to finding a solution to their problem. Delegates will advocate for solutions based on the research that they prepared before the conference.

Choosing your Model UN Committee

Picking the right committee is an important decision that will have a massive impact on your preparation process. It will affect the solutions you try and employ, the way you carry them out, and the subsequent research process.

Next, we will quickly go through the 3 different committee styles and highlight some of the important attributes of each. If you want to learn more about Model UN committees, check out our guide here.

Committee Styles

Because each committee style is different, it’s likely that you’ll find something that’s right for you. At MUNprep, we break them down into the following 3 categories:

Regular Committees – Are for delegates trying to learn about international politics and the UN problem-solving process. In these committees, you’ll be representing a State and will deal with real-world issues. You’ll also be participating in a committee with far more delegates.

Crisis Committees – These are more dynamic committees and you can discuss any topic imaginable. For example, you could be one of the Knights of the Round Table on a mission to save King Arthur; or in a futuristic committee trying to organize an expedition to another galaxy.

Crisis Committees also have a special feature – the personal directive, these are secret notes that you can write to a team (called a Crisis Staff) who will help facilitate your private schemes.

Fusion Committees – These committees include everything that isn’t a Regular or Crisis committee. If you’ve attended a few conferences, you might want to give these a try. This style of committee can include unusual concepts like an Ad-Hoc General Assembly.

Here’s a list of committees that you’ll see at conferences and the categories that they generally fall into:

General Assembly, UNHRC, DISEC, SOCHUM, SPECPOL, African Union, UN WomenRegular Committees
Board of Directors Committees (Apple Board of directors), Fantasy/Fictional Committees (Lord of the Rings, Ministry of Magic), War Committees (Trojan War, Russian Revolution)Crisis Committees
Security Council, AD HOC, Joint War CouncilsCrisis/Fusion Committee

Double Delegate Committees

In some committees, delegates will work with a partner. Double-delegate teams can prepare for their conference together and share ideas. It can also make it easier for you in-committee, your team can split up and accomplish more. For example, one delegate can be busy making speeches in-committee while their partner is outside working with other teams.

These committees require an extra level of teamwork that can be appealing for certain students.

Double delegate committees can occur with both the Crisis and Regular committee styles. It can totally change the dynamic of a Model UN conference as updates can happen more regularly and more comprehensive resolutions can be submitted.

If you want to learn more about Model UN Committees and Committee styles, check out our article here!

When should I start Conference prep?

Timing your Conference preparation really depends on three things:

  1. Conference deadlines
  2. Preferred learning style
  3. Your level of experience

Conference deadlines are important since a conference will normally require a Position paper to be submitted a few weeks before the conference. Since having a completed Position paper essentially means that you’ve completed your conference prep, you’ll have to be ready by then.

When preparing for your first conference you should make sure to give yourself even more prep time to make sure that you’re ready for a number of possibilities – things rarely go according to plan in Model UN! This might mean that you read your background guide and start thinking about solutions around 6 weeks before your conference.

There’s no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to Model UN. Everything you do will help you to better understand your topic and help you to exhibit that to your committee.

Model UN preparation timeline

Before you start your conference, there are 4 things that you always need to get done. This includes:

  1. Reading your background guide
  2. Researching your topic
  3. Writing a position paper
  4. Preparing your opening speech

Next, we’ll walk you through each of these steps and show you what you need to do:

1. The Background guide

Reading your Background guide should always come first. It’ll give you all the information you need to get your conference prep started off right. A Background guide gives you an overview of your topic, areas for research, and potential solutions to consider.

Your Background guide will give you your first introduction to the problem that you’re tasked with solving; with this information, you’ll want to start thinking about how this might impact your committee and what your role in it will be.

A Background guide can also be very useful since you can get a brief introduction to the members of your dais along with an idea of what they will expect from you.

To make sure that you get everything out of your Background guide, you need to do a few things first:

Model UN Background guide tips

We hope to make a guide on background guides soon! you’ll find it here when it’s ready. Sign up to our mailing list to get updated on when it’s ready!

2. Research/Building your binder

After you’ve figured out a strong starting point by going through your background guide, you’ll want to look into other sources and come up with a unique problem-solving approach. In building this picture, you’ll want to access as much relevant information as possible. This means that you should try to find:

1 – Key statistics

2 – Prominent individuals

3 – Past solutions that have been tried and succeeded/failed

4 – Other states positions – both similar and different to yours

Distinguishing between Opinion and Facts

Like with any research assignment, some of the research that you come across might not be factual, this means that you shouldn’t use it in your Position paper.

It’s always best to try and link anything you say in your Position paper to quality sources and authors. This can help you to be much more certain of its validity. Of course, if you find someone’s opinion to be insightful, you can try and adapt their interpretation, you can also try to find the sources that they used for their work.

If you’re ever uncertain about using any type of material, make sure that you speak with your team advisor and consult the sourcing manual for your conference.

A few sites to get you started

Each topic and committee will have different research requirements and so certain sites that will be more useful. But if you’re ever stuck and don’t where to start, these sites can be valuable to help you get some inspiration.

UN NewsFind the latest UN updates, see if there are any relevant developments for your topicVisit
CiaworldfactbookFind detailed country profilesVisit
Economist Intelligence UnitEconomic reports/Risk assessments and Country profilesVisit
ReutersTrusted news source covering a wide range of topicsVisit
Yale Avalon ProjectArchive of Historical and Legal documentsVisit
Links from your background guide Relevant links specific to your topic

What to include in your Research binder

In Model UN, you’re allowed to bring a binder of your research with you into the committee room. Here’s a few things that you should always have on hand:

3. Position Paper

After you’re done with your research, it’s time to start writing your Position paper.

Your Position paper gives you a chance to organize your thoughts and is the most important part of your conference prep experience.

The Position paper is an essay that covers the committee topic from your delegations perspective. You should discuss how the topic is relevant to your delegation, how past actions have affected you, and how you want to deal with the problem.

In general, you want to include

  1. State Position
  2. State Role
  3. Past Actions
  4. Solutions

Solving your Committee topic

When you’re making a solution for your conference, you want to keep a few things in mind – at MUNprep – we want to make your solutions GROOVY!

GROOVY Acronym

This helps you to make sure that you always attack the problem-solving stage in the right way and you have solutions for every eventuality in your Model UN conference.

To learn more about how to keep your Model UN solutions GROOVY, go here.

What makes a Great Position Paper?

The Best Position Papers:

1 – Show an Understanding of the matter at hand
2 – Are Carefully Researched
3 – Have the GROOVY-est solutions
4 – Concisely deal with the problem at hand.

To learn more on Conference prep and Position papers – check out our guide here!

4. Opening Speech

The opening speech should be your final step of the conference prep process. It’s your first chance to astound both the other delegates and your dais and is more or less a summary of the most important facts squeezed into a minute-long speech.

In this speech, you want to be clear to outline the main priorities for your delegation and show other delegates that you are open to working with them.

You know that you’ve written a strong opening speech when you start receiving a string of notes from other delegates asking to work with you.

What to include

To keep things simple – try and think about your opening speech like a summary of your Position Paper: Suggest your preferred topic, introduce your state and their position on the topic, bring in a few statistics to make your position seem stronger, and finally outline your problem-solving approach.

To make sure that your speech sticks – you can consider including:

  1. A Quote
  2. An anecdote
  3. A Call to action
  4. An Acronym

All of these techniques can help your speech stand out more and make the strong first impression that you want. Make sure you only add what’s appropriate and don’t try to fill your speeches with quotes and anecdotes. If it helps you to get your point across, then you can consider it as a worthwhile addition.

Adjusting your speech

The last thing that you should consider is that you never know how long your opening speech will need to be. Make sure you practice your opening speech and make a few different versions to account for the different possible speech times that may be required.

Sometimes, you might get unlucky and won’t get a chance to use your opening speech. This happens to everybody but you can still make use of it! You just have to be creative and find ways to use it in a moderated caucus and be proactive with the notes that you pass to other delegates.

Section Review #2


Part 3 – The Conference Weekend

Now it’s time to make the most of all your hard work – You’ve learned the Model UN essentials and gone through the Conference prep checklist.

Armed with your binder full of research notes, position papers, and opening speeches; You’re ready for action.

This section goes through a few things to keep in mind during your next Model UN conference, namely:

  1. What to Expect
  2. The Flow of Debate
  3. Rules of Procedure
  4. Model UN Discourse
  5. Resolutions & Amendments
  6. Voting

1. What to expect at a Model UN Conference

At a Model UN conference, you can expect to meet a number of delegates from around the world who have the same objectives as you – to represent their delegations and push for their solutions to be passed.

In general, you should expect your conference weekend to be full of informed discussion and debate. Everyone is there to learn and improve as a delegate, so don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to as many committee members as possible! The way to succeed in Model UN is through cooperation.

Staying healthy

Participating in a Model UN conference is hard work and can be quite mentally tiring – Nobody said that the life of a professional diplomat was easy!

Make sure that you do everything you can during the weekend to stay healthy. Bring food and water to the committee and try your best to get a good night’s sleep.

Having the energy to keep debating by Saturday is one of the most important things you can do.

Speeches

You should also be prepared to make a number of speeches. Speeches are important as they can help to show your involvement in-committee. It’s a useful way to quickly summarize your position on a topic to all the delegates and to your dais.

The dais will always try to give every delegate an equal amount of speaking time, but this is sometimes more difficult to manage in a larger committee. That said, always try to keep your placard up and take any opportunity to speak. If you don’t manage to speak during one Moderated Caucus, you’ll always have a chance in the next one!

If you don’t manage to get your point across when you want to, you can always bring it up with your Bloc during an Unmoderated Caucus.

Conference Priorities

You should remember that while Model UN conferences might have awards, your priority should always be to develop a diplomatic means of communicating and emulate discussions that would take place in the real UN.

For this reason, you should always make your decisions in-committee based on how it would impact your delegation and how you think a professional representative would react in that context.

Operating based on these principles can provide a structure that will help you better make choices over the course of your conference. You will be sure that you’re going to work in a bloc where you have the greatest chance for success and can make a significant impact.

Committee session itinerary

Here’s how the debate will progress each day in a typical Model UN committee:

2. The Flow of debate

The Flow of debate is the general outline for how everything in your committee is going to work. It breaks down the general progression through committee sessions and how the solution-making process functions.

This starts with delegates outlining their priorities through the speaker’s list, followed by deliberations, resolution writing, and a final vote. Once problems for a certain topic have been solved, delegates can start working on the next one. This process looks something like this:

Image that shows how the flow of debate in a MUN committee works

3. Rules of Procedure in Model UN

A structure is important in Model UN and so conferences rely on something called called ‘Rules of Procedure’ (RoPs). This is a system that helps to guide both delegates and the dais on how to progress through a Model UN committee. This framework is composed of a system of Points and Motions that work based on the Flow of Debate.

Points & Motions

The system of Points and Motions is used to communicate ideas with your committee, Points are used to communicate more personal aspects of a committee. For example, if the committee room is too warm or you can’t hear someone’s speech.

Motions are used to help keep debate moving. You can motion for moderated or unmoderated caucuses, introduce resolutions and suggest amendments.

Understanding how to use Points and Motions effectively is important, if you can use them to your advantage you can encourage discussion on certain topics and get yourself extra speaking time.

Robert’s Rules of Order

This system of Points and Motions works based on Robert’s Rules of Order – a system created in the 1800s to add more structure to committees and meetings.

You don’t need to learn too much about Robert’s Rules, as long as you understand when and where to use Points and Motions you should be able to confidently maneuver through your next committee session.

To learn about Points and Motions and see how the entire system works, check out our guide here!

4. Model UN Discourse

In Model UN there are 2 main ways to get your point across to the rest of the committee. This is done through Formal and Informal means.

A formal means of communication is one that operates through the main channels of discussion and is moderated by the Chair, delegates would also have a predetermined speaking time and a topic to discuss.

An informal means of communication is one that does adhere to the same restrictions and delegates can communicate more freely.

Here are a few examples of both types:

Formal

Moderated Caucus – A Moderated Caucus is a formal discussion on a specific aspect of the committee topic. It’s directed by the Committee Chair and can be a useful means of finding delegates to work with.

It’s useful to remember that the delegate who makes the motion for a Moderated Caucus is automatically able to speak on the topic and has the option of speaking first or last.

Speaker’s List – The speaker’s list is vital to any Model UN conference. In Regular committees, you will have two different Speaker’s lists. The Primary and Secondary Speaker’s lists.

The Primary Speakers list is used to set the agenda – i.e. determine which topic to discuss first. Delegates can make a speech to suggest the topic they’d like to discuss. This can also serve as an opportunity to make an opening speech.

Once the Primary Speakers list is closed and the topic has been selected, it’s time to start discussing solutions. This is when the Committee moves to the Secondary speaker’s list. The delegate who makes the motion to open a Speaker’s list is automatically added and may choose to speak first or last.

Informal

Unmoderated Caucus – The Unmoderated Caucus is a time when delegates can move around and speak informally with other delegates. It can also be an opportunity to assemble your bloc and work on Resolutions.

During an Unmoderated Caucus, delegates can more directly get their points across to other delegates and get things done quickly. It serves as an efficient way of progressing with debate once the formal discussion has stagnated.

Note-Passing – Passing notes is a permitted practice in Model UN committees. It allows you to communicate with delegates outside of the primary flow of debate.

You can write notes to other delegates to ask questions and discuss policy objectives. This can include asking a delegate to elaborate on a speech that they made or as their opinion on a certain development.

It is important to remember that notes passed in-committee should never include inappropriate messages. At a large conference, there will be Pages who are responsible for passing notes to delegates and are permitted to read their contents. If a note doesn’t adhere to conference guidelines, Delegates can be subject to repercussions.

Here’s a summarized list of all Model UN methods of discourse:

5. Resolutions

A Resolution is a legal document that expresses the general opinion of a committee. In Model UN, delegates will work over the course of a conference weekend in order to pass a resolution that includes their policy objectives and solves a problem in the way that they see fit.

Creating a Resolution

A Resolution takes time to make, and it goes through a few different stages before it becomes the final product.

Image that shows how a MUN Resolution progresses from being a Working Paper to a Draft Resolution to a proper Resolution

As you can see, a Resolution starts as a Working paper, which is then submitted to the Dais, becoming a Draft Resolution. At this point, the delegates who wrote the document need to Present it to the committee, go through a few waves of Amendments, and a final vote. If the vote passes, then it becomes an official Resolution and can be seen to reflect the opinions of the committee.

Resolution Structure

While your Resolution might be anywhere from 5 to 50 pages long, it’s always going to have a lot of the same core components. Specifically, you need an Introduction, Preambulatory Clauses, and Operative Clauses.

It should look something like this:

Image that Shows a Sample Resolution

Resolution Introduction – Sponsors/Signatories

Every Resolution will need a title, Committee topic, and a list of Sponsors and Signatories.

Sponsor – Someone who made a significant contribution to the resolution writing process.

Signatory – People who may be supportive of the document or believe that a Working paper is significant enough to submit to the dais for debate.

Preambulatory & Operative Clauses

Preambulatory Clause – a precursor to the rest of your Resolution, think of it as an acknowledgment of the problem that you are attempting to solve.

Image that shows a list of Preambulatory Clauses and how they can be used to improve a MUN Resolution

Operative Clause – You should spend most of your time writing Operative Clauses. An Operative Clause is your opportunity to showcase the solutions that you have created for your committee.

Image that shows a MUN Operative Clause and how it can be used to create a new initiative

Amendments

The Amendment process can have a few stages as delegates try to adjust their work to get other committee members to support it. There are 2 different types of amendments and they work as follows:

Friendly Amendment – a change that is supported by all sponsors of a Resolution. No vote is required to pass a friendly amendment.

Unfriendly Amendment – a change that is not supported by all Resolution sponsors. Requires a simple majority from the committee in order to pass.

Directives

Directives are a special type of Resolution that are exclusive to Crisis committees. They can be as short as a page long and may only require one Sponsor.

To learn more about Model UN Resolutions and how they work, check out our guide here:

6. Voting in Model UN/Quorum

Voting is a way of establishing a consensus in a Model UN committee. By the end of a conference, a Delegate is going to be very familiar with the voting process.

Delegates can vote on anything from a Moderated caucus to a Resolution.

The number of votes required to pass anything works according to a Quorum – this is the minimum number of delegates required to make decisions in a committee.

A Quorum varies depending on what a delegate is voting on, but in general, for motions to pass, 1/3 to 1/2 of the delegates present in a given committee have to vote for it. For Resolutions, this is generally closer to 1/2.

For smaller committees and Crisis committees, the Quorum generally works based on a simple majority.

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Part 4 – Post-conference work

A little bit of introspection is always useful at the end of a Model UN conference. You can evaluate how you did, think about ways to improve, and start planning for your next conference experience while all that Model UN knowledge is still fresh.

Try our Conference planning checklist (Coming soon!) and rate how your performance went.

Once you have all that information summarized, you can start planning for your next experience and move forward knowing that you made the most of your conference.

Where to go from here

By now, you should have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of Model UN and should be ready for your next conference!

If you want to learn even more, feel free to check out our articles here and look at our Conference Radar (Coming soon!) to find a conference near you so you can start practicing.

If you think this guide was helpful, feel free to tell a friend who could make use of it and sign up for our mailing list so you never miss an update on our newest articles!

Best of luck from the MUNprep team!

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#3

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