An Introduction to the Business of the Model United Nations and the Model League of Nations

Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Rwanda, Haiti, Lebanon, Cambodia, Korea, Iraq . . .

It is apparent from this roll call of trouble spots that--now more than ever--the United Nations sits squarely at the center of the most pressing issues in the international arena. Its troubles are windows on the world’s troubles; its debates and actions trace the currents of power, tension, and cooperation between nations. Now YOU can use your skills, knowledge, and experience to seek creative solutions to historical and modern global conflicts and establish a secure foundation for the future in the University School Model United Nations (SUNMUN).

But how does a Model United Nations work? First, a Model United Nations or League of Nations begins with the presentation of a set of issues to be discussed. Next, delegates select a country to represent at the conference. Each delegate then prepares a document presenting the position of the assigned country on the issues, and makes an oral presentation of those issues using the established rules of debate and procedure. The delegates then attempt to come to an agreement about the issue through debate and negotiation. Once an agreement is reached by a majority of the conference, a resolution is passed representing the policy statement of the body as a whole.

It’s simple if you follow the four ‘R’s: Role-playing, Research, Rules, and Resolutions.


The largest part of a Model United Nations conference is accurately playing the role called for by your country assignment, and the delegate who knows this will do well. You must always remember that you are not just an individual, but the acting representative of a sovereign nation. This means that there will be times when you will have to put your individual beliefs and values aside in order to argue for the fundamental national interests of the country you are representing. You should be able to set national priorities on the issues at hand, and be able to distinguish between a policy which can be negotiated for the sake of a greater good and a position which absolutely cannot be compromised. Delegates must therefore be familiar the geography, history, culture, politics, and alliances of the country they are representing, as well as that country’s general positions on the topics to be discussed.

Delegates must also learn to respect others who are  fulfilling their own duties as representatives of specific nations; the Model United Nations conference is, above all else, an exercise in patience, tolerance, and cooperation.  .

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A comprehensive outline of negotiation and mediation tactics


Researching your country in the library or over the internet is important so that you understand your country’s interests and concerns. This will allow you to represent your assigned nation intelligently, and to act “in character” even when specific information about a topic may not be available. However, researching your assigned country properly also involves some writing. A delegate would not be fully prepared for a conference without a solid position paper, or, in this case, a position paragraph. The purpose of the position paper is to give you an opportunity to assemble your research into an organized policy statement. A position paper should be concise, accurate, well-written, and clear. Each paper should be edited carefully; give the paper to a group of your peers to have it reviewed for content, grammar, and spelling before you take it with you to the conference. A good position paper will also provide some suggestions for resolving the problem at hand. This will give you an advantage when it comes to proposing Resolutions in the General Assembly.

France on the Issue of International Terrorism:

France defines a terrorist as anyone who is in any way involved in planning, implementing, sponsoring, or participating in a terrorist act. Furthermore, a terrorist act is one where a small group of people attempt to impose their political views on a large group, usually a government, by injuring innocent people. The French Republic feels that convening an international conference to define terrorism and to differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate desires of peoples to gain autonomy would only provide a false link between the two ideas. France was victimized by terrorism in the past and therefore believes it to be of utmost importance to establish an international tribunal to try, sentence, and punish terrorists for crimes against humanity. 

A More Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Position Paper


After the initial roll-call, the first order of business at any Model UN Conference is setting the agenda. The agenda is the order in which the Assembly will consider the topics placed before it. Delegates may begin making motions proposing an agenda, and the Chairman will call for volunteers to speak for and against the proposed order of business. The proposed agenda will then be put to an immediate vote. When a specific agenda is passed, substantive debate on the chosen issue will begin. Every parliamentary body has a set of rules that govern the procedures used to conduct business, and effective participation in the conference requires a familiarity with these rules. Some of the more common rules and motions which govern Model United Nations Conferences are given below. Normally, debate will begin in a very general way, with delegates making policy statements and suggesting broad solutions. After the main issues have been outlined and individual country positions established, there will be a motion for a caucus. A caucus is an informal meeting within the Assembly for the purpose of negotiation, persuasion, and compromise. Nations with common interests--usually referred to as a “bloc”--often meet during caucuses in order to write proposals, agree on diplomatic strategies, and exert their influence on undecided or uncommitted nations. 

an expanded list of the rules of parliamentary procedure


At some point, a group of delegates who have been working on a proposal will feel that they have enough support to formally bring a resolution to the floor for debate. A resolution must have the signatures of at least six supporting nations and the approval of the Chairman before it can be introduced for consideration by the Assembly. It may be a general statement or a specific directive; it can condemn the actions of specific states, call for some form of collective action, or require specific economic or military action be taken by the member nations. More than one proposal may be on the floor at any given time, but once a resolution has passed it becomes the official policy of the League of Nations, so it is necessary to keep in mind the specific capabilities of the governing body.
A resolution is generally one long sentence. It begins with the subject, then uses what are known as preambulatory clauses to describe the resolution’s intent and motivation before moving on to describe the specific action which is being taken by the Assembly in the operative clause. Diplomatic communication requires sensitivity, and the appropriate use of language and protocol is essential. A word or phrase can mean the difference between success and failure. Therefore, you must always be precise in the language you employ when writing a resolution, and it is generally required that specific phrases be used to introduce each separate clause in any resolution. These phrases are listed below.
As it becomes apparent that debate has reached some sort of conclusion, the Chair may allow a motion for Closure of Debate. This means that no further discussion on this topic is possible, and all resolutions before the Assembly will be brought to an immediate vote.

Topic: Status of Comic Strips in Sunday Newspapers

Deploring the precipitous drop in the quality of national comic strips in the past five years, a trend which threatens to ruin the Sunday mornings of millions of citizens all over the world,

Taking into account the retirement of Bill Waterson, which has accelerated this trend toward bad humor and worse artistic ability,

Realizing that Calvin and Hobbes was all that held the Sunday Comics Page against the forces of aesthetic barbarism,

1. Appeals to the newspaper editors around the world to take action to improve the sliding quality of comic strips in their publications;

2. Congratulates the author and creator of Calvin and Hobbes for his decade-long contribution to world humor;

3. Expresses its sincere hope that Mr. Waterson will return from retirement, and that all up-and-coming artists will learn from his work;

4. Urges the United Nations, in cooperation with the Secretary-General and all member governments, institute an international annual Calvin and Hobbes appreciation day, to be observed on a day which will best please all concerned;

5. Requests the Secretay-General to use his good offices to facilitate the implementation of this resolution as quickly as possible, and to submit to the General Assembly each year a report on the progress made toward this goal.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Resolutions


Robert A. Crawford.
Copyright 1998
[Pine Crest School]
All rights reserved.