Previewing Purview: Stay in Your Lane

Purview: Stay in Your Lane
Think of purview like you might think about running a track event.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

~Helen Keller

What is purview?

Purview is the scope of each committee’s work. Each committee has specific tasks and goals to avoid duplication of work and to make sure that every problem gets examined from multiple angles. A committee’s purview is generally set out in its founding document. For instance, the purview of the General Assembly and its committees is outlined in the Charter.

At AMUN, when you hear someone talk about “purview,” it’s usually in the context of ensuring a body has the authority and scope to include a recommendation in a resolution or report or whether a topic is appropriate for discussion and debate in a specific committee (though AMUN allows a wider latitude in speeches on the floor than in written documents).

The first type is global purview, which encompasses actions that are generally not allowed within the United Nations system. If a staff member flags something as being out of purview for this reason, it is generally to ensure that AMUN reflects the actual practice of the United Nations as closely as possible. For example, Committees are not permitted to allocate resources from the United Nations budget. Similarly, the General Assembly cannot tell the Security Council what to do, or vice versa.  While they can inform or recommend, they cannot instruct.

The second type is committee purview, which describes the limitations of a particular body. Similar to global purview, this reflects actual practice and procedure at the United Nations. Some committee purview issues are obvious: only the Security Council can establish a Peacekeeping operation; a resolution-writing body cannot pass a report. Others are more subtle: generally, the General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) doesn’t address human rights issues, which are assigned to the General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural). Many bodies may address a common topic, though they would each focus on different aspects of an issue. For instance, The General Assembly Second Committee may focus on the economic aspects of agricultural development, while the Third Committee focuses on the human right to food.  

The third type is topic purview. A line of discussion can be within both the global purview and the committee purview, but it may still inappropriate to discuss because the representatives are limited to the topics as laid out in the Issues at AMUN handbook. Trying to move a conversation on hydro-electric power to include nuclear energy and solar energy, for instance, would be a topic purview problem. This is a diplomatic courtesy issue: representatives are all informed what issues to prepare to discuss, and stray outside those topics would be diplomatically discourteous because the other diplomats have not had the opportunity to prepare to discuss the topic.

Why is purview important?

Purview is one of the ways AMUN ensures that the simulation is realistic and true to the United Nations in New York, while still allowing rpresentatives to get all they can out of four days of Conference. Generally, respecting purview means respecting the work of the committee. At the UN in New York, each meeting has a set topic to discuss. To try to address matters outside of this topic would be considered extremely discourteous.

At the United Nations, delegations are typically careful to discuss only those aspects of a topic relevant to their own committees, councils and commissions, leaving other aspects to others in their delegation to address in the appropriate forum. This practice ensures clear lines of communication among a delegation and also ensures that each country’s experts and diplomats are best able to represent their country in negotiations.

Given the compressed nature of the simulation, AMUN also asks representatives to focus on the two specific topics outlined in the Issues Book, rather than the broad scope of what a committee might look at over the course of an entire year at the United Nations. Respecting purview also means that others are able to prepare on the same footing as you, which means everyone gets to have more fun and can participate to the greatest extent possible.

Why is that Rapporteur so excited about purview?

AMUN staff takes purview seriously. We want our simulations to be as realistic as possible, so we encourage you to great care in researching a topic, so your deliberations can focus on the piece of the problem that is within your simulation’s purview.

In the spirit of diplomatic courtesy, representatives must stay focused on the topics within the Issues at AMUN handbook. To help you meet this goal, the Rapporteur may suggest revisions to draft resolutions to make sure they closely align with the committee’s purview.

Where can I find more information?

The purview of each committee is outlined at the top of the committee in the Issues at AMUN handbook and in the AMUN guidebook. Additionally, the AMUN Staff has specialized training and can help you resolve any disagreements or concerns. The Rapporteurs in your committee room and the Home Government staff are ready to assist you.

More to read

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