Frequently Asked Questions
Model UN Overview
A: Model United Nations is a simulation of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral bodies. In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student “delegates” make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN conference rules of procedure – all in the interest of mobilizing international cooperation to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.
Before playing out their ambassadorial roles in a Model UN simulation, students research the issue that their committee will address. Model UN participants learn how the international community acts on its concerns about topics including peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development and globalization. Model UN delegates also look closely at the needs, goals and foreign policies of the countries they will represent at the event. The insights they gain from their exploration of history, geography, culture, economics and science contribute to the authenticity of the simulation when the role playing gets under way. The delegates’ in-depth knowledge of their countries guarantees a lively and memorable experience.
Q: How did Model UN begin?
A: While there is no official record of how Model UN began, we do know that Model UN is the successor of a series of student-led Model League of Nations simulations. Some people believe that the first Model UN conference was held at Harvard University, although other colleges claim they held the first conference. Regardless, simulations of international organizations began even before the birth of the United Nations! For over sixty years, UNA-USA has served as a clearinghouse of Model UN information and organizer of conferences, now led by the Global Classrooms® program.
Q: What types of topics are discussed in Model UN conferences?
A: The agenda items discussed in committee vary at each conference. Most conferences tend to focus on current affairs issues that are being discussed in the United Nations. These issues can highlight political, financial and/or social concerns. However, the task of some committees might be to address hypothetical concerns or issues from the past or future. For example, many conferences have “crisis” committees, in which delegates must react to a hypothetical or actual crisis situation. Other conferences host historical or future Security Council simulations.
Q: What is a Model UN delegate?
A: A Model UN delegate is a student who assumes the role of an ambassador to the United Nations in a Model UN simulation. Prior to a conference or event, a Model UN delegate does not need extensive experience in international relations. Anyone can participate in Model UN, so long as they have the ambition to learn something new and to work with people to try and make a difference in the world. Model UN students tend to go on to become great leaders in politics, law, business, education and medicine, such as the people mentioned above.
Q: Why should I participate in Model UN?
A: Model UN promotes students’ and teachers’ interest in world around them and broadens a student’s knowledge in a variety of subjects. Model UN also teaches vital skills in negotiation, public speaking, problem solving, conflict resolution, research and communication. Model UN also gives students and teachers the opportunity to meet interesting new people and make new friends.
Q: What are some of the educational benefits of Model UN?
A: For over 60 years, teachers and students have benefited from and enjoyed this interactive learning experience. It not only involves young people in the study and discussion of global issues, but also encourages the development of skills useful throughout their lives, such as research, writing, public speaking, problem solving, consensus building, conflict resolution and compromise and cooperation.
Model UN Preparation
Q: How should I prepare for my Model UN conference?
A: Researching is the first and most important step in preparing for a conference. Not only is it necessary to have a grasp on information about the country you are representing and its position on the policies being discussed, it is also important to understand the UN body that your committee is representing. For an overview of research suggestions, as well as useful links, visit our Research Overview from the Model UN Preparation Guide.
Q: What is a position paper and how do I write one?
A: Before attending a conference, it is necessary to have a clear understanding about the workings of your country, as well as its position on the issues that are being discussed. Most conferences will even require a position paper in advance to ensure that delegates have properly researched their country. Position papers should contain your country’s relation to the topic, as well as its suggestions for how to solve the issues discussed. For more information about position paper form, as well as a sample position paper, visit the Position Paper section from the Model UN Preparation Guide.
Q: What should I wear to a Model UN conference?
A: Dressing professionally and appropriately is an important aspect of Model United Nations preparations. Just like being polite and having proper manners, dressing appropriately is an important way to show respect for the nation you are representing, for your fellow delegates and for the United Nations. At some conferences, delegates may wear their own national dress; however, most conferences require western business attire. Western business attire, or international standard business attire, serves as customary dress for workplaces. It includes wearing a suit, which is made up of pants, a matching jacket, a button-down dress shirt, and a tie. Conservative dress shoes and socks are also important. Skirts and dresses may also be worn as long as they fall to a respectable length and do not expose a lot of skin. The main thing to remember is to always insure that your appearance is tidy and put together, and that you are well covered.
Check out our Dressing for Success section of the Model UN Preparation Guide for more detailed information.
Q: What are the rules of procedure at a conference?
A: In order for a committee session to progress smoothly, it is important for delegates to follow the rules of procedure. These rules ensure that order is kept and delegates have equal opportunities to contribute to the discussion. Rules of procedure also provide the proper format to ask questions and make speeches. Conference organizers usually provide schools with their rules of procedure, sometimes posting them on their website. For a complete explanation or the rules of procedure, visit the Rules of Procedure section from the Model UN Preparation Guide.
Q: What is caucusing?
A: Caucusing is informal debate that occurs during a Model UN conference. It serves as an important method of discussion because it allows for greater participation and consensus building. Caucusing can be either “moderated” when speakers are called on by the chair after raising their placards or “un-moderated”, which is a designated time for delegates without the intervention of the chair to have discussion and work on resolutions. For more information on the different types of caucuses, as well as tips on how to use caucus time successfully, visit the Caucusing section from the Model UN Preparation Guide.
Q: How do I write a resolution?
A: During a committee session resolutions are essential to promote debate and create solutions to issues that are being discussed. Resolutions not only acknowledge the issues that are being debated, but they also present a series of steps that can be taken resolve the conflict. Writing resolutions can be challenging since they must appeal to a broad range of members with differing concerns if they are going to be successfully passed. For information on correct format and helpful tips, visit the Resolutions section from the Model UN Preparation Guide.
Q: How can I feel more confident speaking in public?
A: Public speaking is a big component of a Model UN conference and an essential skill to ensure that your nation’s concerns are represented. Speeches are made by individual nations throughout committee sessions from the speaker’s list and during moderated caucuses. Negotiation can also occur on an individual and informal level; however, it is important to present your nation’s views clearly and eloquently to the entire committee. For more help and information about public speaking, visit the Public Speaking section from the Model UN Preparation Guide.