Model UN is one of the most popular ways to learn about the workings of the United Nations. Conferences are organized by hundreds of educational institutions at all levels to engage young students in diplomatic debates and conversations that resemble those at the United Nations. It is often the first time that students are exposed to international affairs.
It has been noted, however, that due to a lack of knowledge of the procedural and substantive roles played by UN diplomats and UN staff, Model UN simulations don’t accurately reflect the true UN decision-making process.
As a first step to improve MUN simulations, the UN Department of Public Information (UNDPI) organized three Global Model UN (GMUN) conferences in Geneva (2009), Kuala Lumpur (2010) and Incheon (2011) to provide a model of best practices. Having learned from these successful events, UNDPI Outreach Division recognized that its role in supporting Model UN needed to evolve and decided to focus its efforts on organizing workshops and training sessions for student leaders and MUN advisors who organize MUN conferences around the world instead.
Starting in 2012, the Division launched a series of workshops with the aim of giving students and MUN advisors a basic understanding of: the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure; the discussion and action phases of General Assembly Committee meetings; how to draft and review resolutions; the duties and responsibilities of the General Assembly and UN Secretariat officials and how to capture the relationship between these two main organs in the leadership structure within MUN simulations; and, the role of consensus in making decisions and how this is achieved. The main motivation for organizing these workshops is to train those who are in charge of MUN programmes in a new approach that more accurately represents the way the UN functions and that deepens students’ knowledge of the art of diplomacy and the critical role it plays in the work of the UN.
As a companion to the workshops, this online guide details the structure, procedures, negotiation process and skills needed to conduct a simulation that accurately captures the essence of the decision-making process at the UN.
Educational Value of MUN simulations
Model UN helps students to develop public speaking, writing and research skills. In addition, they often provide the first entry point into international affairs and introduce students to the wide range of peace and security, human rights, development and rule of law issues that are on the UN agenda.
What is often overlooked is the important role that MUN simulations can play in teaching students about the UN as an institution, its role in world affairs, and the art of diplomacy that underlies the unique way in which it makes decisions that affect our lives.
Most MUN simulations are very competitive in nature and use rules of procedure that prevent students from acquiring a true picture and appreciation of how the UN actually functions. This document aims to provide a comprehensive guide to assist MU programmes in organizing simulations that are more accurate and provide students with an opportunity to learn about the role that diplomacy plays in the decision making process.
UNDPI is grateful to the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations for allowing content of the PGA Handbook: A Practical Guide to the United Nations General Assembly to be included in the Guide as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for allowing the inclusion in this Guide of content from the UNITAR publication Manual for UN Delegates – Conference Process, Procedure and Negotiation, developed by the Multilateral Diplomacy Programme.
It is our hope that you will find this guide a useful resource, and that you will share with us your questions, comments, or suggestions.