How do I prepare for my first conference?
Once you have signed up for a conference, you will receive your country assignment, your committee, and its topics. Most conferences provide a Background Guide or Topic Synopsis that introduces the topics — read that first.
There are typically three products to prepare before you walk into your first conference: the Position Paper (sometimes called a Policy Statement), your Opening Speech, and a Research Binder. Some novice conferences may also require a Country Profile. The other document to learn is how to write a Resolution since that is the primary goal of the committee sessions.
1. Position Paper (or Policy Statement)
The Position Paper is a one or two page document that is essentially a summary of your knowledge of the topic and the position your country plans to take when it enters committee. It typically contains three sections: Background of Topic, Past International Actions, and Country Policy & Possible Solutions. Position Papers are usually due before the conference.
The key starting points for researching each section are listed below. They will help you get started with participating in your first Model UN conference, but you will want to dig deeper as you develop more experience.
- Background of topic: Background guide of the topic provided by the conference, Google, the news, Wikipedia (to frame the topic)
- Past international actions: UN website, your committee’s website, key treaties or resolutions mentioned in your background guide, UN or NGO reports
- Country policy and possible solutions: CIA World Factbook, your country’s foreign ministry website, domestic programs within your country, your country’s voting record on key treaties or resolutions, NGO or think tank policy recommendations, and your own creativity!
2. Opening Speech
The Opening Speech typically lasts about 1 minute or 1 minute and 30 seconds and is the first speech you give to the committee. It is the best opportunity for you to explain your country policy and the key sub-issues you would like the committee to focus on. Opening Speeches is a main way for countries to determine who they want to work with, so it’s important to prepare a speech that conveys this. There are many tips and strategies on how to deliver an Opening Speech, but use your Position Paper as a guide when you are starting out. The most important action is to just be brave and make your first speech.
3. Research Binder
Research Binders are optional but highly recommended, especially since many conferences do not allow the use of technology in committee. An organized Research Binder will be your go-to resource during the conference as new terms and acronyms, previous resolutions and treaties, and possible solutions are mentioned. Here is a suggest list of 15 things every delegate should have for their Research Binder.
4. How to Write a Resolution
Delegates will be writing a document called a Resolution in committee along with other countries that they will be working with. It’s important to know the resolution format and phrases, but most conferences do not allow pre-written resolutions since they want countries to collaborate together during the committee.
5. Country Profile
The Country Profile is a worksheet to help you understand your country and may not necessarily be required by your conference. Most of the information needed to fill out a Country Profile can be found in the CIA World Factbook. If required, Country Profiles are usually due at the same time as the Position Paper.
What will a typical day in committee look like?
Note: There are no standards in Model UN and different conferences may run their flow of debate and rules of procedure differently. The two most commonly used rules of procedure are UNA-USA procedure and THIMUN procedure; most conferences’ rules of procedure are copied or modified from those two. Some crisis committees may operate with a customized set of rules and debate formats but you probably will not encounter this during your first conference. Almost all Model UN conferences use some form of parliamentary procedure which varies significantly from the consensus-building procedure used at the actual United Nations.
Nevertheless, there are similarities, and the goal of every committee (with the exception of crisis) is to produce and pass a document called a Resolution which outlines the problems that the countries want to solve within a topic and the proposed solutions to those problems.
Note that the descriptions above are for a typical day. They do not explain the whole flow of debate and rules of procedure, which will vary by conference. We also left out many of the Points and Motions used in committee. The most important thing as a new delegate is to actively participate. Ask a “Point of Inquiry” whenever you have a question, ask an experienced delegate to explain what’s going on, or to just go along with what everyone else is doing.