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Return To: The 2020 AMUN Handbook

Research and Preparation

A holistic approach to research and preparation A holistic approach to research and preparation

AMUN recommends a systematic, holistic approach to research related to Conference preparation, broken into seven areas. Ensuring representatives are well versed in each of these areas will allow for their fullest participation in the Conference and will maximize the educational benefit of the experience. This approach is recommended for students participating in traditional Model UN simulations such as the General Assembly, Security Council or Historical Security Councils. Representatives participating in specialized simulations, such as the International Court of Justice or the Historical Commission of Inquiry may have different preparatory requirements.

The United Nations system The United Nations system

Representatives must understand the basics of the organization which they are simulating—the United Nations. Well-prepared representatives know not only the basic structure of the United Nations but also how their committee fits into the organization and how it accomplishes its work. Representatives who understand what their committee can or cannot do within the United Nations system can make better recommendations based on a clear knowledge of what they can reasonably act on and what issues are beyond the purview of the body they are simulating. This basic delineation of responsibilities is called purview, and this handbook includes a brief description of each committee’s purview.

The history and current affairs of the represented State The history and current affairs of the represented State

Representatives should have a good understanding of their state’s history and current affairs; this foundation is key to understanding what actions a State may prefer on specific issues. Research should include basic statistical data and general information such as population, demographics, government type, natural resources and trade data. Students should become familiar with the country’s traditional allies and adversaries. A country’s history can be crucial to understanding its contemporary actions, including the question of whether that country was previously colonized or was a colonial power when the country gained statehood and what means were used in gaining independence (e.g., civil war, violent struggle, peaceful protests, state dissolution).

The represented State’s viewpoints on the issues to be discussed at the Conference The represented State’s viewpoints on the issues to be discussed at the Conference

Preparing to represent the State’s interests on the issues on the conference agenda is the central point of most Model UN preparation. Research can come from a variety of sources, beginning with United Nations documents and information and moving to other articles, periodicals, books and internet resources. United Nations resolutions and reports on the topics under discussion are especially helpful because they provide a quick reference to what has already been accomplished by the United Nations and what still needs to be done. These documents frequently provide voting information, which allows representatives to quickly determine their country’s past positions on issues. A number of relevant sources are provided throughout each topic brief in this handbook. Contacting the delegation’s permanent mission to the United Nations can also be helpful, but the level of assistance provided varies with each country’s policies and available resources.

It will be very easy for some States to find specific information to determine a position on most or all topics, while for others this information will be difficult to come by or simply not available. When clear-cut information is not available, representatives should make the best possible inferences about what their country’s policy would be given the facts available. Representatives can form these inferences based on the country’s background, its historical voting record and the positions of its traditional allies or regional group, among other factors. Regardless of the facts available, knowing exactly what a country would do in a given situation is often not possible. Representatives should strive to know as much as they can about their country and its stance on each topic and to educate themselves enough to make reasonable policy assumptions on issues that are not totally clear.

The relationship between the current world situation and the represented State The relationship between the current world situation and the represented State

This third topic is a subset of the previous two areas of research, but it is important enough to be mentioned in its own right. The world situation is dynamic, as are the States that make up the international system, and States’ positions on some issues may hinge on their particular situation or perspective. For example, it may seem obvious that there are differences between the policies of a regional great power and a state with very little military might, but it is worth considering the extent to which States are engaged militarily beyond their own borders. States with different development profiles—for example, rich, industrialized countries v. poor, developing countries—may have vastly different concerns and policy positions. A country that is currently in the midst of civil war or a country under United Nations sanctions may have unique positions on some issues. Knowing where the State a student represents fits in the current world geopolitical context, as a complement to his or her country-specific research, can answer many questions that may arise during the simulation.

The perspectives of other states on the issues on the Conference agenda The perspectives of other states on the issues on the Conference agenda

This area is one of the more difficult areas of preparation. While it is reasonable to expect that a representative will know who his or her general allies and adversaries are on a given issue, it is very difficult to have detailed information about the policies of each country in the simulation. Limitations in preparation time necessarily require that representatives focus primarily on the policies of their own country, often learning about others through references in their own research. This is an area where complete knowledge will serve participants well, but it is much more likely that each Representative will be learning the formal policies of the other countries in the Committee when they give speeches from the floor and confer behind the scenes in caucus sessions. In roleplaying, flexibility is key: representatives must aggregate and assimilate new information they gain at the Conference with their pre-Conference research to reach consensus and compromise on complex issues.

AMUN Rules of Procedure AMUN Rules of Procedure

While substantive discussions of the topics form the basis of any good simulation of the United Nations, the rules of procedure are used to facilitate the substantive debate which occurs. In general, these rules are intended to provide an even playing field, allowing each State to accomplish its individual policy goals while also maximizing opportunities for the group to reach agreement, or even consensus, on the issues. Several levels of preparation are possible on the rules. For new Model United Nations participants, we recommend that each person have a working knowledge of the principal motions which can be made during the simulation. The dais staff of each Committee will assist representatives in using these rules and will work to create an even playing field for all representatives. For experienced representatives, but who have not attended AMUN in the past, we suggest reading AMUN’s rules in depth, to note differences from other conferences they have attended. AMUN veterans should re-read the rules as a refresher. Most Model United Nations conferences use different rules of procedure, and in some cases the contrasts are significant. In order to best facilitate everyone’s experience, it is incumbent on every participant to learn and use the rules established for this conference. Given the virtual environment of the 2020 AMUN Conference, it is imperative that representatives familiarize themselves with the AMUN rules, some of which have been modified slightly to accommodate the virtual environment.

Practicing using the AMUN rules of procedure in a mock session is one of the best ways to prepare for this aspect of the conference. AMUN provides the Model UN in a Box simulation guide to all registered schools, which can assist faculty advisors or club leaders in running practice simulations. Please email the AMUN Executive Office if you have any questions about the AMUN Rules of Procedure.

Resolution writing Resolution writing

At AMUN, the main substantive work of the body represented in written documents, namely resolutions. These documents are the work of all the representatives in the body. There are several ways to become familiar with the resolution writing process. To begin we suggest reading the UN Documents chapter of this handbook for guidelines about crafting resolutions. The UN Documents chapter also includes a sample resolution, which can be used as a guide when drafting these documents. Resolutions at the United Nations often have a distinct tone and style, and representatives can familiarize themselves with these conventions by reading and analyzing the language and content of many resolutions. Representatives can practice writing resolutions and clauses of resolutions, so they become familiar with the genre and are ready to translate their ideas into clear statements at the conference. Representatives should also familiarize themselves with the purview of each body, developing a good understanding of what their committee can and cannot do and how it fits into the larger United Nations system. More information about purview is included at the start of each simulation’s background briefs. As always each room has dais staff available to help with questions regarding documents and purview. Remember while writing resolutions ahead of time can be a great way to practice, the best documents are crafted by the body as a whole.

Preparing as a group Preparing as a group

All of these areas of preparation will require research and practice, and we recommend team preparation whenever possible, as delegations should represent their State’s positions consistently across simulations, and many of the preparatory categories cross committee boundaries. Representatives can work together by assigning various topics to individuals for research and then come back together as a group to hear each others’ reports and to discuss the implications for representing the country. Research about the United Nations system and the basic information about a country—its background, history, statistical data, contemporary situation—is easily accomplished by a collaborative effort. Research about specific committees and topics will be more individualized. Still, other team members on the delegation may benefit from having a briefing on each topic. These briefings can give the entire delegation a broader picture of the country’s policies and positions. Formal briefings—both about general information and topic-specific findings—also allow representatives to practice public speaking, answering questions, consolidating information, and presenting information persuasively.

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Developing a Conference strategy Developing a Conference strategy

As part of its preparation, each delegation should determine its strategy and goals for the Conference. All delegations should be involved in working toward solutions to the problems placed before the United Nations. This requires a great deal of negotiation and compromise, often at the expense of certain positions that may be of concern to an individual delegation. Each delegation’s representatives must therefore decide which items are of greatest importance to their country and set their strategies accordingly. Strategic areas to consider include the following:

  • What kind of role will your delegation play at the Conference (e.g., conciliatory, obstructive, aggressive, neutral or leading)?
  • Will your delegation seek informal leadership positions in each committee and in the Combined General Assembly Plenary?
  • How can your delegation achieve the goals and interests identified in your research and delegation strategy?
  • What other countries will your delegation attempt to work with? Note: these delegations may vary by committee or by topic.
  • Which countries may present adversarial positions to your delegation and how will your delegation respond?

Remember, passing resolutions is not the only or even truest measure of success at the Conference. While each delegation is encouraged to propose solutions on the various issues and to secure passage of resolutions that outline the agreed-upon solutions, representatives must stand ready to compromise to achieve any real solution to the problems being discussed.

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Conducting research Conducting research

General sources of information General sources of information

AMUN recommends the following general sources of information to use when researching a country and the issues for the Conference. Many of these sources are available on the internet, either publicly or through subscriptions held by school libraries.

United Nations sources United Nations sources

Most United Nations resolutions, documents, speeches and other resources can be accessed through the internet. Most United Nations agencies have a significant presence online, and there are also a number of databases with relevant information on various regions around the world.

The main United Nations website provides current information and continuous updates on the work of the United Nations, especially in the General Assembly, Security Council, and the Economic and Social Council. The website also includes historical information about these bodies, reports from the Secretary-General, and a host of other useful documents. The United Nations website is updated frequently and the navigation sometimes changes, but it remains a useful starting point for research.

Most United Nations Members now have websites for their permanent missions in New York and Geneva. When a website is available, it often includes details on the State’s policy and may include the text of speeches given by representatives at the United Nations.

The United Nations also provides public access to its Official Document System (ODS), which includes nearly all documents published by the United Nations, including many that are not available from the United Nations main website. Please note that the search engine available on ODS is not always easy to use. It is easiest to find files if you know the United Nations document number. Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top right of the document. Symbols include both letters and numbers, some of which have meanings while others do not. The bibliography section of each topic brief in this handbook contains references to several United Nations documents and can act as a starting place for your preparations. Using an internet search engine to find United Nations documents using this document number is also often successful. The United Nations Digital Library provides an advanced keyword search for a wide array of official United Nations documents, including final and draft resolutions, reports, and official correspondence.

AMUN materials AMUN materials

Most Model UN research is accomplished online, and there are a vast number of sources at representatives’ disposal. AMUN’s website offers a good starting point for your research, as it includes links to many United Nations-related sites. This website is updated with United Nations links as they become available and includes a great deal of background information to assist in your preparations for Conference. AMUN also publishes updates, UN-related content, and tips for preparation throughout the year on the conference blog, The AMUN Accords.

AMUN also provides each registered school with a complimentary copy of Model UN in a Box, which is a simulation guide meant for faculty advisors and student club leaders and will assist with in-depth conference preparation. In addition to significant background on teaching Model UN and Model UN research, it also includes a number of hands-on and practical exercises to help students prepare for resolution-writing, caucusing, speaking and consensus building. The guide also includes three simulations for practice sessions. These simulations include everything you need to run a simulation, including topic briefs, country background guides, placards and facilitator notes.

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Writing Position Papers Writing Position Papers

Why draft a Position Paper? Why draft a Position Paper?

Well-crafted position papers serve several functions for Model UN participants. Position papers are useful for a delegation’s internal preparation, for signaling a country’s public position on a topic and for gaining insight into other delegations’ positions before the Conference. AMUN strongly encourages all delegations to outline their country’s basic public policy on each issue to be discussed. This public statement is crucial for pre-Conference preparations and is the most important thing delegations can provide to each other in advance. AMUN therefore collects public position papers (submission details follow) and makes them publicly available to all delegations before the Conference. AMUN requests that all delegations submit public position papers and strongly suggests that each delegation prepare internal position papers that more clearly and completely define their country’s perspective and strategy on the topics under discussion.

Internal Position Papers Internal Position Papers

An internal position paper is primarily a preparatory tool for your individual preparation and for the delegation as a whole. While internal position papers are not required, AMUN believes these to be an excellent exercise for consolidating and communicating your country’s positions on various issues. Internal position papers, often called white papers, are a broad-based statement of a country’s policies on a specific issue. An internal position paper might include a country’s public position on an issue, knowledge of any behind-the-scenes or back-channel diplomatic efforts and agreements (e.g., a deal made informally with a close ally or partner), information about the position of allies and adversaries on each topic, the country’s negotiating position and strategy, a statement of the country’s objectives and a bottom-line negotiating position (e.g., what things the delegation will demand or concede in the course of negotiations or what language must be included—or must not be included—in a draft resolution).

Internal position papers force representatives to think about the full complexity of the issues they are confronting from their delegation’s perspective. Also, by asking representatives to put their ideas in writing, an internal position paper can force each representative to condense a large amount of research and ideas into a concise, more comprehensible argument. Internal position papers do not need to be more than one or two pages long and can take any form that seems appropriate. AMUN recommends that delegations share all internal position papers with the entire team, thus providing a well-rounded view of the country’s positions on all topics at the Conference.

Public Position Papers Public Position Papers

Public position papers offer public statements on a State’s position on a particular agenda item. At AMUN, delegations write a position paper for each topic on the Conference agenda. When they are published, the papers can be sorted by either country or topic, to aid in final preparations for the Conference. Each paper should include a brief statement about the State’s position on the topic and on its opinions about recent United Nations action on the topic. It should also include some indication as to the State’s public position about how the United Nations should respond moving forward, especially noting proposals that a delegation has (or intends to have) sponsored, supported or not supported and why. Public papers do not need to go into detail about the delegation’s negotiating positions or other behind-the-scenes issues, but they should be seen as something that a diplomat might say in a public speech on the topic.

While a delegation can include anything it deems relevant in its public position papers, AMUN recommends including some key elements in each one. First, each position paper should specifically state the one or two key points that the country believes are the most important on each topic. This exercise will help the delegation to prioritize and to find like-minded countries when it is time to caucus and negotiate. The paper should then offer specific details about why these topics are important and what the country proposes should be done by the United Nations or individual States to improve the situation.

Depending on the agenda item, the available information, and the country’s situation, there are a number of other elements that may be included in a public position paper. Representatives should consider incorporating some or all of these elements in their position papers:

  • References to past United Nations resolutions and international treaties, providing the specific number or name of the document and the year it passed
  • References to the United Nations Charter, as appropriate for the topic
  • Past statements by the Secretary-General, a senior United Nations Secretariat member or by a Representative of a United Nations agency on the topic
  • Reference to the work the United Nations has already done on the topic, whether by specialized agencies, regional bodies or working with non-governmental organizations
  • Past statements relevant to the topic by government representatives
  • Specific suggestions of actions that the representatives’ State will support in solving the issue in question

Finally, public position papers generally do not need to contain extensive background on a particular country or internal factors related to the topic; the public position paper is about how the state positions itself within the international debate on the issue, rather than its internal dynamics. Thus public position papers should generally not talk about the problems facing a specific country but rather the problems facing the international community. If a country is a clear example of a successful United Nations program in action, or if the country is a member of an affected group, representatives may want to include a brief reference to that in their paper; otherwise, there is usually no need to mention specifics about the country in a position paper.

Submission of Position Papers Submission of Position Papers

AMUN requests each delegation submit position papers to the conference, covering each committee on which it is seated, no later than 1 October 2020; this deadline has moved in 2020 to accommodate the new Conference dates. These papers should be no more than one-half page on each topic covered in the committee. All delegations should submit a paper covering both topics on the three General Assembly committees. Additionally, delegations should submit position papers for each topic on the agenda of a committee on which they are assigned a seat. For delegations with an assignment to the Historical Security Councils or Security Council, delegations should submit a position paper for each of the topics listed in the handbook. Delegations seated on the Commission of Inquiry should also include the two topics of discussion for the Commission.

One comprehensive position paper should be submitted online for each delegation, combining all of the papers for the committees on which that delegation is seated. A sample position paper, along with full submission instructions, is available at AMUN’s website.

The AMUN Secretariat will not judge the position papers other than to check for completeness and general germaneness. Position papers will be collected and organized by the AMUN Secretariat and posted on the AMUN website prior to conference. As public documents, position papers must conform to the standards laid out in AMUN’s policy on plagiarism (see below).

All position papers must be submitted via AMUN’s online web form. Additional submission information will be sent in the fall to all registered schools. AMUN reserves the right to reject any position paper that fails to address one of the topics as stated in this handbook, does not comport to basic standards of diplomatic courtesy or is determined to violate the policy on plagiarism.

Given the conference dates in 2020, AMUN is unable to offer a position paper extension this year.

Position Paper Awards Position Paper Awards

AMUN will provide a Position Paper Award for each delegation that submits an approved, complete position paper, including sections for each topic in all assigned simulations, by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on 1 October 2020. If a school is representing multiple countries, each delegation will be considered separately for Position Paper Award.

For answers to any questions about writing or submitting position papers or about Position Paper Awards, please email the AMUN Executive Office.

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