Working in a Bloc
It’s a very common thing to hear: A suspension of the meeting is announced and a delegate walks up to the microphone and announces that the members of a certain caucus bloc are going to be meeting in the front of the room next to the Rapporteur dais.
So what just happened? What exactly is a bloc? And how do they work in a Model UN environment?
Simply put, a bloc is a group of delegates who are working together on one or more documents or amendments and also vote together. There are several common ways blocs are formed. First they can be comprised of geographically close Member States; for example the European Union, African Union, Post-Soviet nations, North American or Asian countries may choose to form a bloc, united by geography. Second, similarly minded delegates may choose to form a bloc; for example, if a group of fifteen delegates agree that they disagree with the ideas being discussed in speeches during formal debate they may choose to form a bloc. Third a bloc might be formed by signatories to a treaty or international agreement; for example the signatories to the Rome Statute may choose to form a bloc.
Having said that, there are no requirements defining what is and what is not a bloc. A group of three delegates from Member States on three different continents is just as legitimate as a bloc representing the European Union or signatories to the NAFTA trade agreement..
How exactly these blocs form can be mysterious at times, but there are a few general patterns. Sometimes they form from the conversations delegates have with the people around them. When this happens, common ground is identified, and should the delegates find that they can work together, a bloc is formed and grows naturally through conversations with ever more delegates.
Alternatively, when a meeting goes into suspension, a delegate might approach the microphone and invite all Member States of a given body (European Union, African Union, et cetera) to join them at a specific place. This happens quite commonly and can be a very effective way to build a bloc, especially during the early sessions of a conference.
Thirdly, a particularly charismatic speaker may make a speech and people who agree with what was said may join a group centered around that person.
Often blocs will interact with each other. There are many different reasons that this will happen; they may be working to find votes to either pass or fail a motion, a resolution, or even an amendment on the floor. They may represent opposite sides of an argument and meet to have a debate that could not be easily facilitated by addressing the body as a whole. They might also be meeting with the goal of combining resolutions.
When finding votes, a bloc may elect to send an individual delegate or a group of representatives to speak with members of other blocs about how they plan to vote. The goal is often to find a way to merge the work of the two blocs. Different blocs will vote different ways. Some blocs will be more open than others to a discussion on how they plan on voting. Regardless of what happens it is important to maintain diplomatic courtesy. Different blocs may or may not vote the way that you them to. However, by maintaining diplomatic courtesy you can ensure that you can return to that bloc at different points during debate and not be immediately turned away because you were diplomatically discourteous the first time you spoke to them.
Two or more blocs may interact when they are discussing opposing sides of a policy disagreement that may have arisen on the floor. When this happens, they blocs may convene to debate their differences outside the body’s chambers. This often happens outside formal debate due to the fact that meeting in person may be more conducive to debate then proposing ideas at the microphone. Again, diplomatic courtesy is extremely important. Disagreements need not be arguments. The ability to calmly discuss differences in opinion or opposing views on a given topic will allow for a robust on a topic and allow for the two or more blocs to calmly come to an agreement that all can work with.
Blocs can also work to combine draft resolutions. At AMUN, this most often happens at the request of a body’s Rapporteurs, who may notice that two or more resolutions are very similar to one another and recommend that groups combine them to avoid duplication.
So why work with a bloc? There are several different reasons that a representative may want to form a bloc, or want to work with an existing bloc during conference. In my experience the three most popular reasons (in no particular order) are as follows.
First, when you have a group of people working on a problem, you have access to many more minds. When a group of, for example, fifteen people are working on an issue you’ll have more points of view on an issue which can lead to a more balanced approach to solving problems.
Second, there is always a group to fall back on. In practice, this means that when a delegate makes a statement in formal debate that gets immediately, and in some cases vehemently, disagreed with, there is a group (in this case a voting bloc) to fall back on that will defend that work of the bloc.
Third, a bloc almost guarantees votes. When a bloc stakes a position on a topic or document, it will lobby internally for members to vote for or against said topic or idea. In practice, this can help to ensure that a resolution passes or not, depending on the will of a body. Quite often delegates from one bloc will lobby votes from another, either to pass something that is up for a vote (be it a motion or a resolution) or to prevent it from passing.
Ultimately, a bloc is a very powerful tool of multilateral diplomacy, and the most commonly used tool . They can be comprised of any number of delegates, united in a single view, albeit with different goals. They also allow for diplomacy to be acted out at a macro level, with different groups lobbying one another on myriad issues, from voting strategies to combination of resolutions.
As in all things, members of AMUN Secretariat are ready and willing to aid you when finding a bloc. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to approach us.
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