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Research and Preparation

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

AMUN recommends a systematic and holistic approach to research related to Conference preparation. This approach can be broken into eight components, represented by the subsequent subheadings. This approach ensures 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 their experience. This approach is recommended for students participating in traditional Model UN simulations such as the General Assembly Committees, Security Council or Historical Security Council. Representatives participating in specialized simulations, such as the International Court of Justice or the International Press Delegation, 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 not only know the basic structure of the United Nations, but also understand how their committee fits into the organization and how their committee accomplishes its work. This information allows representatives to make better decisions regarding what actions the body they are simulating can and cannot reasonably take. This basic delineation of responsibilities is called purview, and this handbook includes a brief description of each committee’s purview.

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

This is the first 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 State’s traditional allies and adversaries. A State’s history can be crucial to understanding its contemporary actions, including the question of whether that State was previously colonized or was a colonial power, when the State gained statehood and what means were used in gaining independence (e.g., civil or revolutionary war,, peaceful protests or state dissolution).

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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

This is the central point of most Model UN preparation: focused research on the issues being discussed in each committee and on your State’s position on those issues. Research can come from a variety of sources, beginning with United Nations documents and moving to other articles, periodicals, books and internet resources. United Nations resolutions and reports on relevant topics  are especially helpful because they provide a quick reference to what has already been accomplished in the past and what still needs to be done. These documents frequently provide voting information, which allows representatives to quickly determine their State’s past positions on issues. Relevant sources are provided throughout each topic brief in this handbook. Contacting the delegation’s permanent mission to the United Nations may 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 representatives to find specific information to determine their State’s position on most or all topics, while for others this information will be difficult to obtain or simply not exist. When clear-cut information is not available, representatives should make the best possible inferences about what their State’s policy would be given the facts available. Representatives can form these inferences based on the State’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 State would do in a given situation is often not possible. Representatives should strive to know as much as possible about their State’s stance on each topic and make reasonable policy assumptions on issues that are not totally clear.

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

This 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 also worth considering the extent to which States are engaged militarily beyond their own borders. States with different development profiles—for example, industrialized States and developing States may have vastly different concerns and policy positions. A State that is currently in the midst of civil war or a State under United Nations sanctions may have unique positions on some issues. Knowing where a represented State fits into the current world geopolitical context can complement country-specific research and answer many questions that may arise during the simulation.

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

Anticipating the positions of other delegations can be a challenging element of pre-Conference preparation.  While it is reasonable to expect that a representative will know who their general allies and adversaries are on a given issue, it is very difficult to have detailed information about the policies of each State in the simulation. Limitations in preparation time require that representatives focus primarily on the policies of their own country, often learning about other delegations’ positions in the context of researching their own States’ positions. It is much more likely, though, that each Representative will be learning the formal policies of the other States in the Committee when other representatives give speeches from the floor and when they confer with others behind the scenes in caucus sessions. In roleplaying, flexibility is key: representatives must aggregate new information they gain at the Conference and assimilate it with their pre-Conference research to best reach consensus and compromise on complex issues.

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AMUN rules of procedure AMUN rules of procedure

While substantive discussions of issues forms the basis of any good simulation of the United Nations, the rules of procedure facilitate this substantive debate. In general, these rules are intended to provide an even playing field, allowing each State to accomplish its individual policy goals, while maximizing opportunities for the group to reach agreement or consensus. We recommend that each representative has a working knowledge of the principal motions which can be made during the simulation, which can be found on the Rules Short Forms. 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 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 reread 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.

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.

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Resolution and report writing Resolution and report writing

At AMUN the main substantive work of the body takes the form of resolutions and reports. These documents are the work of all the representatives in the body. There are several ways to become familiar with the resolution and report writing process. To begin we suggest reading the UN Documents chapter of this handbook for guidelines about crafting resolutions and reports. The UN Documents chapter also includes a sample resolution, as well as a sample report table of contents. These can be used as a guide while drafting your own documents. Resolutions and reports 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 or reports. Representatives can practice writing resolutions and their clauses, and become familiar with the genre to better translate ideas into clear statements at Conference. Representatives should also familiarize themselves with the purview of each body, so they can develop an 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. The dais staff of each committee will answer  any questions regarding documents and purview. Remember that while writing resolutions and reports ahead of time can be a great way to practice, the best documents reflect the consensus of your simulation and are crafted by the body as a whole.

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Preparing as a group Preparing as a group

All of these areas of preparation will require research and practice. 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 State. Research about the United Nations system and the basic information about a country—its background, history, statistical data, contemporary situation, etc.—is best 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 State’s policies and positions. Formal briefings that include both general and topic-specific information also allow representatives to practice public speaking, answering questions, consolidating information and presenting information persuasively.

When representatives are working in pairs on a single committee, AMUN recommends against having one person become the expert in each topic. In simulations, the coverage of topics may be uneven and unpredictable, and teams function most effectively when both partners share expertise.

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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 State 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?
  • How can your delegation achieve the goals and interests identified in your research and delegation strategy?
  • What other delegations will your delegation attempt to work with? Note: these delegations may vary by committee or by topic.
  • Which delegations may present adversarial positions to your delegation and how will your delegation respond?

Remember, passing resolutions and reports 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 and reports that outline the 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

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General sources of information General sources of information

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

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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 maintain 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 UN, including many that are not available from the 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 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 UN 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 documents, including final and draft resolutions, reports and official correspondence.

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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, a simulation guide faculty advisors and club leaders can use to 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

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Why draft a position paper? Why draft a position paper?

Well-crafted position papers serve several functions for Conference participants. Position papers are useful for a delegation’s internal preparation, as well as for signaling the delegation’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 State’s basic public policy on each issue to be discussed at Conference. This public statement is crucial for pre-Conference preparations and is the most important thing delegations can provide to each other in advance. AMUN collects position papers and makes them publicly available to all delegations on our website 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.

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Internal position papers Internal position papers

An internal position paper is primarily a 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 delegation’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 State’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 State’s negotiating position and strategy, a statement of the State’s objectives, a bottom-line negotiating position (e.g., what things the delegation will demand or concede in the course of negotiations, what language must be included or excluded in a draft resolution or report) and any other useful information.

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

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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. AMUN publishes these position papers on our website, where they can be sorted by delegation and topic to aid in preparation for Conference. Each paper should include a brief statement about the State’s position on the topic and its opinions about recent United Nations action on the topic. It should also include some indication as to the State’s public position on 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 paper. First, each position paper should specifically state one or two key points that the delegation believes are most important on each topic. This exercise will help the delegation prioritize and find like-minded delegations when it is time to caucus and negotiate. The paper should then offer specific details about why these topics are important and what the delegation 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 State’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 State’s 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 State but rather the problems facing the international community. If a State offers  a clear example of a successful United Nations program in action, or if the State 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 specific States in a position paper.

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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 25 October. These papers should be no more than one-half page on each topic covered in the committee. All delegations should submit a paper covering the Concurrent General Assembly Plenary, each of the three General Assembly Committees and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), including both topics for each committee. Delegations represented on the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) should also include the two topics of discussion for the Commission. Delegations represented on the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) should also include the two topics of discussion for the Committee. Delegations represented on the Security Council or Historical Security Council should choose up to three topics they think are the most important for their respective Council to discuss and include these in their position paper. All delegations participating in the virtual simulation at AMUN should submit a position paper covering the two topics for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ECOSOC) Executive Board. If a delegation is participating both in-person and virtually, they should submit all of their topics together as one paper.

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 on 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 with basic standards of diplomatic courtesy or is determined to violate the policy on plagiarism.

Any school with a late fall start date (as may be common for schools on quarter or trimester systems) may request a one week extension to the official due dates listed above by emailing the AMUN Executive Office before 25 October.

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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 25 October. Note that this must include sections for the Concurrent General Assembly Plenary, all General Assembly Committees and any other simulation on which the delegation has a representative seated. Submission of a position paper for the Special Committee (our optional participation simulation) is not required for a Position Paper Award. If a school is representing multiple countries, each delegation will be considered separately for a 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 at mail@amun.org.

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