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Delegate Preparation Guide
This guide is a step-by-step aid to becoming a delegate who can actively participate at a conference. The need to spend time learning all that you can about the UN, your country, and the issues will be most evident when you arrive at the conference. The more prepared you are, the more you are going to be able to participate and get the most from the experience.
- CLAIMING YOUR NATION-STATE AND YOUR COMMITTEE
Before you can claim a country, you must form a delegation. A delegation is a group of three to seven students who will represent one country at the Model United Nations Conference. Once you have your delegation assembled, speak to your advisor about which country you would like to represent. Claiming countries is largely first come first serve, so the sooner you gather a delegation and speak to your advisor, the more likely it is that you will be able to represent the country you request. It is never a bad idea to submit a secondary or tertiary choice along with your primary choice in case your primary choice has already been assigned.
Once you have received confirmation from your advisor about which country your delegation will be representing, decide among the delegation which members will represent your nation-state in which committees. This is an entirely internal decision within the delegation, and while you should notify your advisor, the conference organizers do not also have to be notified. The official committees present at each conference may change annually, so be sure to check the Model United Nations of Alaska website or with your advisor for a full list of committees present at that year’s conference.
Once a nation-state has been determined, the next step is to learn all about your nation-state. There are 192 recognized nation-states at the UN, so it’s possible you may not know much about your country. When setting out to research your country, start by learning the basics. For example, details like the kind of government, population, demographics, GDP, imports and exports, education, and healthcare are all basic pieces of information that everyone should know about their country. A basic understanding of your country's history does not hurt either.
Once you have the basics down, begin exploring your country's place in the world at large. Start asking questions like:
- What organizations does your country belong to (like NATO or the EU)?
- Who are your country's allies and enemies; who are your country's direct neighbors?
- What is your country’s influence in the UN?
- Are there any ongoing national or international events your country might be involved in?
Part of the Model UN experience is adopting the mindset of your country’s government, and role playing as an official of that government. Every bit of information that may help you immerse yourself in this role will be useful at the conference. The CIA World Factbook and the US Department of State websites provide much of the information you will need to represent your country appropriately. Each nation-state and UN agency or committee will also have their own website with valuable information and insight.
Once you know what your country is, what it does, what it is concerned about, how it operates, and what it believes in, the next step is taking this information and applying it to the topic for the conference.
- STUDYING THE ISSUES
Becoming familiar with the issues is the first step in researching. An excellent place to start is the UN Chronicle. Reading The Chronicle will help you understand the basics of international issues as they relate to the UN and the conference topic. Many other sources also exist because the UN posts most of their documents online, including old speeches, past resolutions, and voting records.
Additionally, almost every nation-state has a website in English where government policy papers and documents are available to read, speeches given by foreign leaders can be examined, and where legislation that has passed can be reviewed. Other resources include government news sites or general news sites such as, The BBC, The Economist, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
There are a couple of UN documents that all Model UN participants should know. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Students should also be familiar with recently passed resolutions, and other resolutions that have an impact on the current topic. Another excellent UN resource is the Economic and Social Development page, which provides access to an index of issues as well as UN agencies that deal with the issues.
- SO, WHAT DO WE KNOW NOW?
A lot, actually. You should have a thorough understanding of not only your nation-state, but also the inner workings of the United Nations. This includes the committee you will be participating in, the major issues you will discuss, the implications of those issues, the history of those issues, how they have (or have not) been addressed, and a basic understanding of what aspects of those issues are the major parts of the debate.
Most importantly, you should know how your nation-state operates within the UN. Some nation-states are supportive of world action, others against it, and some favor it in some areas and not in others. Some nation-states are very combative at the UN and give wild, angry speeches normally against the current world order. Others are highly supportive of the status quo. Some countries will say little on the official record that will get them into trouble, but make their intentions clear behind the scenes and use their influence to guide the debate in the direction they want. Some countries are deal-makers, who use their collective influence to drive compromises and resolutions that a large majority can agree upon. Others will try and defeat anything proposed, while others will go with the flow and see what their allies, military supporters, and major trade partners think before acting. How a nation-state acts is just as important as what it believes in when accurately representing what occurs at Model United Nations.
- NOW THAT YOU KNOW ALL THIS, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT?
Model United Nations of Alaska centers on resolutions. Resolutions (which will be discussed in further detail later) are proposed solutions to issues. They can be viewed somewhat like a bill in the US governmental system. Resolutions normally have two parts. The first part is explaining the problem, and the second part is detailing what the solution should be. It’s important to ensure your resolutions accurately represent your country’s position on the issues.
In addition to resolutions, position papers are a key aspect of Model United Nations. Position papers are, in effect, statements of policy that each delegation puts together to convey what their nation-state believes relative to the topic and what they wish to accomplish. Position papers are generally one page, but should be no longer than two pages.
At Model United Nations, each delegation will be allotted a two minute Opening Statement during the Opening Ceremonies. This is usually a summary of their position paper and a snapshot of what their nation-state wishes to accomplish. Model United Nations of Alaska also posts all position papers online so other delegations can read them.
Your research will also help you tremendously during debate. By becoming well- acquainted with your nation-state and the topic at hand, you may effectively participate in debates about proposed resolutions. Knowing the main issues will allow you to both defend and push for resolutions you support, as well as attack and try to defeat resolutions that go against your government’s policies. Also, having a wide range of knowledge will help you propose amendments that will improve resolutions.
- WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
Knowing who is going to be on the opposite side of the issues is very important. Through your research, your should know who your adversaries are. These include countries with different political ideologies (say Communism and Western Democratic Capitalism), different religious perspectives (Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan), ethnic disputes (the Balkans), border disputes, trade disputes, military conflict, historical problems, and countless other reasons. Being prepared for the counter-arguments is almost as important as making the original argument. Debate requires responses, and the delegation most prepared to respond will be in a better position to execute their plans at Model UN, and thus have a more enjoyable time.
- RIGHT BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
The world is not a static entity. Things change constantly and you should remain up to date, particularly in regards to your nation-state and the topic at hand. Governments can change overnight, policies can be adopted or scrapped, and events can completely change the world order. Students who do not keep up with world events may be shocked to discover that their government no longer exists when they show up to the conference.
- AT THE CONFERENCE
The conference is broken up over three days on the University of Alaska Campus. The first day of the conference consists of Opening Ceremonies and minginling, and is critical for delegates to become comfortable and familiar with the environment of Model United Nations. Here you will be discussing resolutions, recommendations, or ICC cases with other delegates. This is also a perfect opportunity for you to speak with the Directors of your committees if you have questions about your resolutions or your committee. NGOs and World Bank representatives will also be available if you need to secure funding in the form of pledges or loans.
During Opening Ceremony, each nation-state or indigenous delegation will be asked to present a 30 second to 1 minute opening statement on behalf of their country. The NGOs and World Bank will each give a presentation to the rest of the conference.
The Second day of the conference will mostly consist of committee time. Throughout the day you will be debating resolutions, recommendations, or ICC Cases depending on the committee you are in.
The Final day is the culmination of the conference with committee time in the morning, followed by General Assembly and closing ceremonies in the afternoon. Committees will either present a report on the events that took place or bring resolutions to the General Assembly for final debate. Closing Ceremony will consist of awards and the adjournment of the conference.
Delegates are expected to dress business formal befitting of a delegate attending the United Nations. Cultural dress for your corresponding nation or indigenous group is also encouraged provided it is done in a respectful and acceptable manor.
Finally, electronics are not allowed to be used while in committee. The conference provides a communication system of its own in the form of page notes. Here, you will be able to send messages via paper to almost any member of the conference; whether it is to another delegate in your delegation, an NGO representative, or your Director. Delegates may not abuse this system and must send appropriate messages which will be screened.