What is MUN?
Model United Nations (MUN) is a simulation of the United Nations. At OxfordMUN, students assemble as delegates from various countries around the world to discuss some of the world’s most pressing issues. In most MUN committees, delegates are tasked with finding solutions to these issues and enacting these in the form of resolutions. In order to pass these resolutions, delegates must convince a majority of the committee to vote in favour of the resolution through formal and informal debate. In light of this, we believe that there are three main aspects to MUN: advocacy, diplomacy, and knowledge development.
Most committee sessions begin with formal debate, in the form of moderated caucuses. You can read more about these under the How To Debate section of this page as well as in our Rules of Procedure. To put it briefly, these caucuses allow for formal debate, moderated by the committee chair, in which delegates are able to outline the positions of their country on the topics concerned. Given the formal nature of this debate, we believe that moderated caucuses are superb training for delegates wishing to develop their public speaking abilities.
We consider diplomacy to be an important and often undervalued aspect of MUN. In order for delegates to pass resolutions in their committee, they must persuade a majority of their committee to vote in favour of a resolution. While formal advocacy does play an important part in that, informal diplomatic dealings are often more effective in ensuring that other delegates agree with the proposed resolution. Given this format, we believe that MUN is a great opportunity for delegates to develop the skills required for effective mediation, such as cooperation, compromise, and delegation. We also believe that these are some of the most vocational skills that delegates obtain through MUN experience.
In order for delegates to effectively engage in advocacy and diplomacy, they must have a solid understanding of the material being discussed in their committees. Committee topics will be released on the Committees page once finalised. Additionally, each committee will be provided with a background guide, put together by the committee director, outlining the topics to be discussed and providing further materials for delegates to develop their understanding of the issues in question. Nonetheless, we advise that delegates do research on their committee even prior to the release of the topics and background guides. Delegates should have an intimate understanding of the structure and function of their committee, and should have an understanding of public international law more generally.
How to write position papers
Position papers should be one page per topic and single spaced. If you believe there is too much vital information to fit into a single page, you are welcome to write up to one and a half pages per topic. For delegates in committees that only have one topic, you should write two pages on the single topic.
An award for the best position paper will be given in each committee based off of strength of ideas, clarity of presentation, and depth of research. Delegates who do not submit position papers will be ineligible for committee awards.
For all UN committees (DISEC, ECOFIN, Legal, WIPO, UNESCO, CSTD, CSW, UNSC, UNOOSA) please include for each topic:
1. Historical background/past UN actions
2. Country position
3. Proposed solutions
The third section should be the most significant in the paper and should be detailed. We recommend a focus on attempts past and present to address the issue as well as an outline of how your solutions will build off those already present.
For all specialised committees (OAS, OPEC, IOC) please include for each topic:
1. Issue background
2. Country position
3. Proposed solutions
For all double delegate committees (OPEC) we expect only one position paper per country. As such, we recommend that the delegates share the workload and write on one topic each.
For all crisis committees (Ad Hoc Future Crisis), please include:
1. Issue background
2. Representative’s position
3. Proposed solution or plan of action
Delegates in the European Court of Human Rights are to submit skeleton arguments instead of position papers. Delegates must submit a skeleton argument for each party in the moot. Skeleton arguments are outlines of the arguments that delegates intend to present during the moot. Skeleton arguments are to be no longer than one page in length each. An example of a University-level skeleton argument is available under Examples from Past Years (below).
Your paper should demonstrate a clear understanding of your country/representative and associated powers in committee and should be consistent with your proposed solutions.
We will check papers for plagiarism. You must include a Works Cited section (see the examples) at the end of each paper.
Several examples of position papers are available below, under the Examples from Past Years section. Please note that the sample position papers are for various different committees and hence may not exactly reflect what is required from you. Please refer back to the guidelines for your committee, as outlined above.
If you have any further questions about position papers, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO WRITE RESOLUTIONS
Resolutions are those legal instruments that are put forward by a committee to address the issues under scrutiny. Passing a resolution is the purpose of every committee. However, it is important not to lose sight of the amount of work that goes into publishing an innovative and effective resolution. Below is an outline of the steps usually required for the passing of a resolution.
Draft resolutions are often preceded by working papers. Working papers are rough drafts of how delegates would like to address the issues in question. They do not have to comply with the formalities or the specified degree of support that draft resolutions have to. As such, working papers are used to present to the rest of the committee a bloc’s ideas, helpful in lobbying for support. That said, it is not necessary for delegates wishing to propose a draft resolution to submit a working paper beforehand.
Writing a draft resolution
Draft resolutions should be written with a view towards the actions to be taken by the committee and its member states to resolve the issue at hand. In addition to outlining the effective measures to be taken by the committee, resolutions must also comply with certain formalities. More specifically, resolutions must have pre-ambulatory clauses and operative clauses.
These clauses outline the problem and the socio-historical context being considered. The importance of these clauses is often underestimated. Frequently, when faced with uncertainty regarding the precise meaning of the operative clauses of a resolution, reference will be had to the perambulatory clauses of the resolution. As such, in drawing on the problem that is being tackled, perambulatory clauses frequently provide the necessary information to assist in the interpretation of the resolution as a whole.
Preambulatory clauses must begin with perambulatory phrases. A list of these terms is provided here.
Preambulatory clauses are not numbered, and should not contain subparagraphs.
These clauses form the heart of any resolution. They outline the actions that the committee recommends be taken to address the issue in question. Operative clauses must begin with operative phrases, a list of which is provided here.
Unlike perambulatory clauses, operative clauses are numbered and may also have subparagraphs. Subparagraphs are lettered (a), (b), (c), etc. and begin with a capital letter. Sub-subparagraphs are numbered with roman numerals and follow the same structure as subparagraphs. Sub-sub-subparagraphs are not permitted.
Submitting draft resolutions
Draft resolutions may be submitted to the director of the committee when the draft resolution has a sufficient number of signatories as per the Rules of Procedure. Once a draft resolution is submitted and acknowledged by the committee director, any sponsor of the resolution may raise a motion to introduce the resolution. At the discretion of the committee director, a panel of authors may then be convened for between five to ten minutes. A panel of authors allows the sponsors to outline the provisions of their resolution and to explain the rationale behind their proposal. It also allows for sponsors to answer any questions that members of the committee may have.
how to debate
At OxfordMUN, we recognise that debating is often the most daunting part of any Model United Nations conference. However, we don’t think that it has to be; with the appropriate preparation and practice, debating should be just as easy and comfortable as having any other discussion you happen to have in your day to day life. The following framework should provide you with the relevant information to making debating and public speaking less daunting. It will also provide you with some helpful tips and tricks used by members of our own Secretariat to improve your public speaking skills.
Types of Debate
General Speaker’s List
The General Speaker’s List (GSL) offers a great opportunity for first-time delegates to have their first crack at public speaking and debate. The GSL is opened at the beginning of the debate on any topic and allows for delegates to outline their general position on a topic, including any reforms they are hoping to achieve throughout the Conference. Speeches normally last for around 90 seconds and should therefore be easy to prepare in advance.
If you don’t feel confident enough to engage in debate during moderated caucuses after your first speech on the GSL, you are always welcome to add your name to the GSL again and have another go at it. The great thing about the GSL is that your speech is not bound by any focus within the confines of the topic being debated, and so you are free to discuss whatever you would like!
We also think that good GSL speeches are an essential tool in any experienced MUN delegate’s repertoire. For experienced delegates, we see the value of GSL speeches as threefold. First, GSL speeches are a great opportunity for you to outline your position and initially advertise your proposed solutions. That way, you flag up to any other likeminded delegates that you are a potential future collaborator. Second, even when you are not delivering a GSL speech, we recommend that delegates listen closely to the GSL speeches given by other delegates; this often helps with the initial identification of blocs. Finally, seeing as delegates are allowed to yield the floor during GSL speeches, these speeches provide for a great opportunity to open the floor to any points of information (questions for the delegate). Answering these questions allows delegates to address any concerns the committee may have with the proposed solutions. Furthermore, being able to succinctly and effectively answer challenging questions is seen by many as one of the most coveted skills of a good debater, and therefore is something committee directors will also be looking out for.
Speeches during Moderated Caucuses (MCs) are normally focused on specific issues within the confines of the topic being debated. As such, delegates often do not have any significant amount of time to prepare speeches beforehand. This means that MCs are a good opportunity for delegates to demonstrate that they have effectively prepared for all aspects of the topic before the start of the Conference and are skilled at adapting that research to the peculiarities of the present discussion.
Although MC speeches may be a little more difficult to prepare for than GSL speeches, this does not mean that first-time delegates should not try their hands at them. MC speeches are often shorter than GSL speeches and are merely an opportunity for you to outline what you think on a given aspect of the topic being discussed, regardless of how long you happen to take. When it comes to MC speeches, what is most important is the substance being discussed, not the form. Therefore, if you think you have a good idea, we would encourage you to always volunteer to speak on that issue in an MC, even if you have not prepared a speech in advance. Don’t worry, committee directors recognise the difficulty of upholding proper form during MCs, and hence are more worried about the substance of what you are communicating.
Panel of Authors
Panels of Authors are convened when a resolution is introduced. This provides the sponsors of that resolution with an opportunity to outline the provisions of their resolution and answer any questions. When convening a panel of authors, it is important to succinctly and precisely deliver what your resolution is trying to achieve, and how it is going to achieve that. This is not of independent value, but rather, will provide the sponsors with more time to answer questions from the rest of the committee; a vital aspect of any successful lobbying attempt in a committee. As mentioned earlier, committee directors always have an eye out for delegates that are especially adept at effectively answering challenging questions.
Debating Strategies and Tips
Structuring your speeches
When delivering information orally in a limited amount of time, it is important that you put particular thought into the structure of your speech. Otherwise, those listening might struggle to follow you, resulting in them missing vital parts of your substantive argument. Ideally, you want to organise your speech in such a manner that those listening are able to visualise the structure of your argument without you ever having used any visual aids. You may find it helpful to draw out the structure of your argument yourself. The following is an example of an effectively structured speech from the delegate of the United Kingdom on a resolution suggesting intervention in the Syrian Arab Republic:
‘Delegates, the resolution put before this house cannot pass. This is because it suffers from three fundamental flaws. The resolution fails to consider the direct effects of such an intervention on the civilian population in Syria, the resolution fails to take into account the impact of such an intervention on the region more generally, and the resolution fails to create a sustainable long-term plan for involvement in the region. Therefore, voting in favour of this resolution would increase the harm done to the Syrian people in the short and long term, and risks spreading the tensions found in Syria to other regions in the Middle East. Given that this resolution suffers from these shortfalls, the delegate of the United Kingdom would urge all members of the house to vote against it. Instead, the delegate of the United Kingdom urges this house to vote in favour of the other resolution currently being discussed, which aims at decreasing tensions between the combatting groups, and develops a long-term, sustainable framework for peaceful governance in the region.’
Perhaps the most important characteristics of a structured speech are 1) the provision of a thesis statement at the outset, 2) the specification of your points (i.e. the delegate has three reasons for this, being), and 3) outlining the consequences of your argument and linking it back to your thesis statement. This structure should be appropriate for most speeches given.
Structuring answers to questions
Effective structuring is often even more important when responding to a question. This is because you have even less time to convince the committee that you are correct. Therefore, being succinct and precise is especially important. We would recommend that you adopt the same structure as outlined with respect to speeches in answering your questions.
It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with pausing for a moment after having received a question; it merely shows that you are giving the question the time it deserves. Take a moment, gather your thoughts, and create your internal structure. Then proceed to give your answer to the question asked. That way, your replies will always be thought through and will effectively address the question asked.
Practice, and practice some more
We appreciate that not all speeches can be scripted, and, in fact, we would urge you not to script your speeches. However, this should not stop you from preparing and practising your speeches. Once you have completed your research and are familiar with the issues at hand, you should regularly practice both the preparation of short speeches and their delivery, whether before friends and family, or alone. In fact, our Secretary-General, Jonas, frequently practises his speeches in front of the mirror, an exercise he has found to be very worthwhile in appearing before crowds and mock courts throughout the course of his degree.
Furthermore, this applies to entirely unprepared speeches. Just because you do not know the precise content you will be reciting before the committee, that does not mean that you cannot practise your form. Practising speaking about mundane topics, while upholding appropriate parliamentary language is of great value in preparing you for speeches before your committee. This is especially useful in working on the improvement of certain speech impediments that everyone suffers from, whether it be the use of ‘like’ or the repeated slip of an ‘uhm’ while speaking. An effective strategy used by many professional speakers is the replacement of all ‘uhm’s with a term that calls upon the members of the house, like ‘delegates’. This turns your ‘uhm, this means’, into the far more powerful ‘Delegates, this means’.