The key to a successful MUN delegation is thorough preparation
http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/ United Nations Library page
The first part in preparing for the Model U.N. experience is to conduct extensive research. There are four areas of research: conference, committee, topic, and country / position. It is important to remember that a delegates’ goal is to faithfully represent their country, be knowledgeable of the topic at hand, and know about the U.N. system. Most delegates use the Internet for 80% of their research. (UNA-USA has compiled a list of web resources for the Model U.N.er)
Using the “Google” advanced search capabilities – Go to http://www.google.com/ and then click on “Advanced Search.” In the top dialog box enter a broad topic such as disarmament, human rights, sustainable development, etc. Then in the fourth box down (“Without the words”) type in (Kazakhstan) said or (Turkmenistan) said. Next go to the domain line and click on “Only” and enter the domain www.un.org
Then click on search in the upper right. If you want broader examples of the countries position, you can leave the domain blank. Play with it and you will probably find additional uses. This should be a real help.
Research is usually broken down into five parts: conference, committee, country information, the topics at hand, and general U.N. information. Of course the general goal is to weave this information together and realistically portray the country that has been assigned to a specific delegate.
When gathering information delegates should research the following:
- Delegates need to learn enough about their country so they may respond to the issues raised at the conference just as a real delegate from that country would respond at the United Nations. Delegates must learn general information about the country they are representing: its political structure, history, culture(s), geography, people, infrastructure, economics, transnational issues and the country’s allies and enemies in the world and to what formal organizations it belongs, such as “OAS,” “OAU,” “EU,” “ASEAN,” “OECD,” “OPEC,” etc. Some sources to find out country information include:
- News and media sources particularly focusing on the specific country that is being represented and U.N. activities throughout the world.
- The country’s permanent mission at the U.N. MUN delegates can find information on the Internet at www.embassy.org. Delegates can also call the missions directly ask them to send them its position statements on the issues or even ask specific questions to find out how a particular country reacts to an issue.
- Delegates can look on the U.S. State department country reports or call the U.S. State department desk officer for the country and pick the secretary’s brain about the country’s relationships with the U.S. as well as pretty much anything else related to that country and the issues being discussed at the conference. Another great source of information is the CIA fact book. Here delegates can find a lot of general information such as statistics etc.
- The United Nations site has an abundance of information including actual speeches and country voting records.
- Use the “Global Issues on the UN Agenda” page of the UN site at http://www.unausa.org/modelun There is a wealth of information available by clicking on the broad topics including resolutions and voting records.
- The Global Policy Forum has an excellent dedicated to the Security Council. (see http://www.globalpolicy.org/security-council.html
- Next delegates should research the topic at hand. Many conferences send out background materials called background guides, or issue summaries, which are intended to jumpstart a delegate’s research. In many cases these materials come with bibliographies and questions to consider attached. These provide great starting points for research on the issues. Delegates should further research the general information on the topic, the country’s position about the topic, actions taken to combat the problem, stances of other countries, blocs, etc. Great areas to look for information include:
- News and Media sources. Delegates should consult their local libraries, or a university library to see if they can access Lexus Universe. Lexus is a system that searches thousands of periodicals. Delegates should use the internet to locate news and media sources. http://www.unausa.org/munresources
- The United Nations web site http://www.un.org/en The U.N. Economic and Social section has a great index to some of the most popular topics. In addition, through the United Nations Documentation Center you can find resolutions and voting records from the current and previous years.
- Delegates should not forget learning about the U.N. In many cases this is the area of research is overlooked. It is important for delegates to learn how the organ/agency that they are in operates, know the U.N. Charter, recent U.N. actions on the issue, conferences that have been held, statements by U.N. officials etc.. The U.N. website www.un.org is the best resource to find this information. The U.N. also publishes many books about the specific topics, and general U.N. information, which can be purchased via their web site.
The UN Committee: For the most part, this means understanding the committee mandate, history, and membership.
Understanding your committee may seem like a minor part of your research; however, we think it is the most woefully neglected. Have you ever wondered whether your committee can actually carry out the actions listed in its resolutions? Can 1st Committee: Disarmament place sanctions? Can the Commission on Women create a sub-commission? The answers to these questions depend on the power and authority of their respective committees.
Mandate is the most important aspect of researching your committee. If the very goal of the committee is to do something about topics A and B, then you need to know what your committee can actually do.
Understanding the committee’s powers and authority is particularly essential to writing resolutions. Operative clauses that take action, such as placing sanctions and establishing sub-commissions, must be based on the committee’s mandate.
Research the Conference
To go about researching the conference. The first is through impressions. Check out the conference website, topic paper, and conference guide. Is it professional or sloppy? Well-written? Arrogant?
In particular, look for an awards policy. Does the conference value idealism, i.e. diplomacy above all, or realism, i.e. being on policy no matter what? Is it strict on parliamentary procedure?
Just like in an interview, yes, you want to prove you have the skills and values the company is looking for, but if that means being fake or lying, then people will see right through you.
Same thing at an MUN conference. If the conference values aggression, and winning Best Delegate means backstabbing another delegate, then don’t do it. Winning is not worth changing who you are as a person.
Researching Your Agenda Topics
Here’s a quick and dirty 4-step guide to researching your topic:
1. Develop an overall understanding of the topic.
Start with the topic paper, but Wikipedia is a good source of information. It is generally comprehensive, fact-checked, and updated.
Break up the topic into smaller issues to make it easier to understand.
Also know the actors: who’s most affected by the topic and who has the most impact on the topic.
2. Know past actions.
Find the committee website and find the most important resolutions, typically those mentioned in the topic paper.
Realize that your committee is not the only body working on this topic; other committees and countries have probably taken action as well. Find out the most important actions taken with regard to your topic and who undertook them.
3. Understand the current situation.
Search Google News. Both websites search printed news, online news, and even blogs.
As with any piece of research, however, be mindful of your sources New York Times or Washington Post. It might just be better to go to the wires, or syndicated news sources, such as the Associated Press.
Sources of information
MUN background guides and websites
Country speeches on the subject
UN committee websites
Past important resolutions passed in your committee
Country voting records
When researching, try to answer the following basic questions”
What essential questions are being raised?
Why are these issues important?
Why have these issues remained unresolved?
What important documents are essential to your research?
What actions have various international bodies taken in the past regarding these issues?
What actions are these bodies currently taking?
What is the extent of the problem in your country?
What actions have your country taken to resolve the problem?
What help would your country desire the United Nations provide to assist in resolving the problem?