A Commitment to Realism and Education: Understanding AMUN’s approach to Model UN

Representatives take part in an AMUN simulation. photo by Aaron Jorbin, November 2016

The Model UN universe is a broad and diverse community. Even if we share an interest in international relations, simulations and gaming, collaboration, and diplomacy, the structures of Model UN organizations and conferences vary widely. Decisions about how to manage substantive questions—from simulation and topic selection, to the type and depth of substantive background guides, to the role of Secretariat members, and the work products developed in committees—shape the mood and feel of any Model UN conference. These are important considerations as you look for MUN conferences to attend.

At AMUN, four primary goals motivate our substantive decisions, and understanding them will give you significant insight into how our conference operates and how AMUN might fit into or expand your current Model UN program.

To enhance representatives’ educational experience. First and foremost, we view Model UN as an educational endeavor, primarily through experiential learning. Model UN offers a unique chance to learn by doing, to apply theoretical concepts outside of the classroom, and to embody the perspective and ideas of a new identity. This emphasis on education and learning is one reason, for example, that AMUN tends to de-emphasize awards. This commitment to education also means that our staff members are trained in the Socratic Method, to elicit information, opinions and options from representatives, rather than being heavy-handed or directive. Secretariat members will provide factual information to supplement representatives’ research but will not recommend a particular strategy or course of action.

To provide a realistic simulation of the United Nations. We are a Model UN organization committed to the simulation of the United Nations. So you’ll find a variety of simulations, both historical and contemporary, but they are always directly tied to the work and structure of the United Nations. We also want to simulate the way the United Nations functions in the real world: hence our commitment to consensus-building and collaboration, rules that are patterned on the United Nations rules of procedure, and a strict application of purview within committee simulations. At the same time, we recognize that the compressed nature of a four-day simulation requires some deviation from the norms of work at the United Nations, in order to replicate the work of diplomats that happens all year outside of formal sessions. This is why, for example, AMUN does not use opening speeches in the General Assembly or speakers’ lists, despite the fact that these tools are used at the United Nations.

To produce high-quality substantive work. This third point guides AMUN Secretariat members as we produce the Issues at AMUN handbook, the Model UN in a Box simulation guide, and other conference materials. We strive to provide accurate and helpful information for participants, from MUN novices to experienced representatives. Our topic background briefs and bibliographies should provide a launching point for further research while framing complex issues in productive ways for a Model UN simulation—perhaps by narrowing a topic’s focus or explaining some highly-technical aspects in plain language. To this end, we also commit to sound and rigorous sourcing of all substantive information provided to representatives.

This goal also informs the way our staff members interact with work produced by representatives in the form of resolutions, reports, opinions, presidential statements or executive summaries. AMUN staff members will assist in the editing and revision of such work, balancing the desire for quality with the time constraints and necessity of processing documents and the recognition of the hard work that goes into writing and debating draft documents.

To communicate substantive information effectively with representatives. We also believe that high-quality content information must be communicated effectively to and among representatives. To this end, we strive for clarity and precision in our written materials and in our verbal communication with representatives. Participants should expect clear, concise, accurate and consistent answers from AMUN staff about substantive questions. Ideally, representatives should be able to respond to substantive information or feedback without needing further clarification from a Secretariat member.

We have already explored how these goals relate to AMUN’s selection of simulations for 2017 and beyond, and we will discuss AMUN’s philosophy about topic selection and other substantive matters, such as the role of the AMUN Secretariat, in future blog posts. But these foundational points guide our thinking every step of the way.



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