How to Write a Resolution
The centerpiece of the United Nations is the resolutions, and MUN is no exception. A resolution is a proposal that calls for action to be undertaken by the United Nations and its various entities. These include any UN organizations, member nations, members of the Secretariat, or any combination of the three. The resolutions are the culmination of all the research students have done on both the topic and their nation-state, and are, in effect, specific positions on the topic that demand action.
Resolutions must be typed and electronically submitted a few weeks in advance of the conference. This is for a couple reasons: First, Model UN is an electronically-based conference, so the resolutions need to be collected into a single database for easy access during the conference. Throughout the conference, all permanent or proposed changes made to a resolution will be completed on a screen in real time so all delegates can see what is being debated. Second, the Secretariat reviews each resolution and makes minor changes regarding punctuation, spelling, and grammar to ensure resolutions are presented properly. Last, there is a finite amount of time during the conference, and dozens of resolutions are presented. The average committee receives over 20 resolutions, while maybe 10 of them get debated, amended, and voted on. Even fewer make it to General Assembly. For this reason, the Secretariat arranges resolutions so that those with higher priority will be discussed first.
The heading serves as identification for each resolution and informs readers of three things: Who is proposing the resolution, to which committee the resolution is being directed, and what the topic of the resolution is.
All headings must include:
- The committee to which the resolution is being proposed
- The country or countries proposing the resolution
- Any countries who wish to endorse the resolution as signatories
- The topic of the resolution
The first line is self-explanatory and should just be the full name of whatever committee to which the resolution is being presented.
The second line is who wrote the resolution, referred to as the Sponsor. A resolution can be sponsored by as many countries as helped write it, however it is most common in MUN to have no more than two sponsors.
The third line is for signatories. Signatories are representatives of nation-states who did not write the resolution, but approve of it and would like to see it discussed. For a resolution to be discussed, 25% of all nation-states in a committee must endorse it as signatories.
The final line of the heading will be the title of the resolution.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council Signatories: France, United States of America
Signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
The subject is the committee that will be taking action and to which the resolution is being submitted. A comma always follows the subject.
The United Nations Security Council,
The preamble establishes and precedes the operative clauses. It defines why the action called for in the operative clauses should be adopted. The preamble, therefore, serves to define the purpose of the resolution. This is where the sponsors provide evidence to support their operative clauses, and where the bulk of their research will be applied. Since these are reasons, and reasoning is subjective, opinions can appear here. Preambulatory clauses can not be edited in committee, so if a resolution contains preambulatory clauses that are poorly written or reasoned, it may cause other nations to disregard the resolution outright.
A good preamble includes two items:
- Evidence: Evidence in resolutions can range from scientific analysis, government documents, policy speeches, or even previous United Nations resolutions. However, hearsay, rumor, innuendo, and other forms of “making things up” are not acceptable.
- Reasoning: A good preamble should have a logical progression of thought. It can not jump to conclusions or ramble, but rather must be organized to make a coherent argument for why a resolution is important. For instance, a resolution about global warming may proceed from rising temperatures to displaced communities and finally resource conflicts.
At the conference, you will discover not all members of your committee will have done the same level of research on your topic. Be prepared to defend your resolution with sufficient evidence, and be able to contextualize the importance of your issue on a global stage. Note, good preambulatory clauses can quickly garner support from other delegates and serve a strong strategic purpose in committee.
The first word in each perambulatory clause should establish the tone for the material which is to follow. This is your first opportunity to provide context and can affect the whole message of a resolution (e.g. Aware, Applauds, Cognizant, Appalled By, Condemning, etc.). Each clause in the preamble should be followed by a comma as well as the word ‘and.’ This connects clauses and provides structure. The last clause of the preamble is followed by a colon.
The operative clauses of a resolution tell the reader what action the committee should take.
The first word of each operative clause is a verb and should indicate what is to follow in the clause. Language and tone play an important part here in framing clauses similar to the preamble.
Operative clauses should be detailed and well thought out.
Operative clauses may have numerous sub points.
Since a resolution is asking for a change, the operative clauses must explain what those changes ought be and how they come about.
For example, a resolution providing aid to drought stricken areas would discuss who provides the aid, how it will be distributed, who will receive it, for how long, any oversight by international organizations, etc.
Operative Clauses make policy, rather than stating what purpose it serves.
Operative clauses usually go through several changes and proposed amendments at the conference, so be prepared for an entire committee to ‘fix’ any mistakes in the document. Also note, there is no such thing as a perfect resolution, so proposed changes are not an attack on writing ability.
The last operative clause should be followed by a period, thereby completing a very long, complicated sentence.
One final note: Preambulatory and operative clauses should begin with an approved phrase (a list of them can be found below). While a phrase must begin each clause, and it is recommended that approved clauses be used, it is not required. Thus ‘unofficial’ terms such as befuddled and bewildered are allowed when used in an appropriate manner.
From A Guide to Delegate Preparation by the United Nations Association of the United States of America. 2002.
Sample Resolution: Third Party Security and Peacekeeping in On-going Conflicts