The first step should be to read the UN Charter.
Then, here are four important areas for delegates to research as part of their preparation for a conference:
- The UN system. Delegates should be aware of the 6 main organs of the UN plus the UN family and how it relates to the General Assembly (see overview in this guide). The history, culture, political structure, and current political affairs of the countries that have been assigned for a simulation. In addition to resources on these topics, it may be useful to read fiction and non-fiction books (e.g., biographies) written by authors who live in the country you have been assigned. They may offer insights into the culture of the country delegates will be representing.
- Government positions on the topics will be discussed at a MUN conference. In order to adequately represent a country during the conference, a delegate will need to interact with delegates representing other countries. Knowing the viewpoints and policies of "their" country as well as those positions of other countries that will be represented will help delegates predict what will be said during the debate phase of the conference. This will be very useful in helping delegates identify which countries will be in agreement with their position and which ones will be opposed. In addition, it will help them decide in advance where it might be useful to seek cooperation or compromise.
- Positions of the main political groups, such as the Group of 77 and China, Non-Aligned Movement, European Union, African Union, etc. (see list of Groups of Member States) are equally important since many negotiations at the UN often take place between political groups.
- Current statistical data on assigned countries and topics.
When preparing for a conference, it is useful for delegates to divide the research into four categories:
- General research on the assigned topic. A delegate should be well-versed on the topic they will be debating.
- General research on the background and culture of the country they have been assigned.
- Research on the policies of "their" country on the topics they will be debating.
- Research on the policies of other countries that will be represented at the conference so that they can anticipate the arguments that might be put forward by other delegates.
Researching country policies on an assigned topic
Delegates should look for books and websites that give a general overview of the topic as well as information on more specific aspects of your topic. It is important to get an idea of how complex the subject is and how many different aspects of the topic might be discussed during the conference.
When delegates use the Internet for their research they should make sure to carefully select their sources. The amount of materials available is likely to be far greater than what they can digest in the amount of time they have available to prepare for a conference.
It is also important for them to keep in mind that web resources must be selected carefully. Not all web sites are reliable sources and many of the sources may be biased. If possible, delegates should try to find independent confirmation of the information they have obtained from more than one source.
Secretary General listens to a MUN delegate during debate
Moreover, when gathering information it is important to distinguish between opinions and facts. Facts are used to support opinions. Whenever possible, delegates should use facts to support their arguments. Sometimes, however, there are instances when facts are not available. Ultimately, delegates will be presenting an opinion and must defend it against other opinions. Therefore, it is crucial for them to be familiar with different viewpoints and opinions on the topics they are assigned. Delegates should study arguments that are different from the one their assigned country is likely to take on a topic. Therefore, they need to analyse the facts that are used to support opposing arguments. Sometimes the same facts can be used to support two different positions on a topic. Delegates will need to decide which particular points they want to focus on in their arguments and this decision needs to be guided by their country's policies on the topic they are debating!
When searching the Internet for information it is usually a good idea to vary the keywords used to research an assigned topic. This will sometimes lead you to additional sources of information which you might not have found if the keyword search is too narrow.
Here are some common internet resources to help delegates get started:
- Permanent Missions to the United Nations Many Missions to the UN post statements and other information about their positions on issues of importance.
- Ministries of Foreign Affairs The foreign affairs websites often contain information about governmental policies on different issues.
- UNBISNET This UN library reference also provides voting records for all General Assembly resolutions adopted since 1946 as well as an index to speeches. This database allows users to search all speeches given by a country on a specific topic.
- UN Member States on the Record This official UN website provides information about the membership of each Member State, an index to their speeches in the General Assembly, Security Council and ECOSOC, draft resolutions they have sponsored, and periodic reports on human rights conventions they are parties to.
- UN Global Issues This official UN resources gives an overview of each issues on the UN agenda as well as useful links to other UN related bodies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), past summits and conferences and important documents on each issue. NGOs are a good source of information that should not be overlooked. In addition to performing a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bringing citizens' concerns to Governments, monitoring policies and encouraging political participation at the community level, they also provide analysis of issues, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. The UN works with thousands of NGOs all over the world: around 4,000 have a formal association with the UN, through the Department of Public Information and the ECOSOC. The main UN website contains an extensive list of NGOs organized alphabetically as well as by region and topic.
- Finally, delegates should read UN resolutions on their assigned topic to find out what issues tend to be discussed when their topic is debated. Resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Security Council, and ECOSOC can be found at the UN Documentation Centre.
Position Paper Guidelines
The position paper is a brief and concise description of a State's, international organisation’s or NGO's position and priorities for a given committee. The position paper allows delegations to plan their course of action before the meeting by taking into consideration each country’s positions on the topics to be discussed at the conference. Once the position paper is finalized it should be shared with the chairpersons of the committee, it will allow them to give delegates useful feedback on what they have written prior to the conference.
The position paper on an assigned topic should contain the following elements:
• A general sentence in the beginning clearly stating the country's position;
• A succinct policy statement for each topic representing the relevant views of the country that has been assigned;
• An elaboration of the position that includes one or more of the following: quotes from the UN Charter; agreements/resolutions your Member State has ratified; quotes from statements made by your Head of State, Head of Government, ministers, delegates to the UN, and any other relevant international documents including but not limited to
- Reports from the UN Secretary-General on the topic;
- Recommendations for actions to be taken by the committee; and
- A conclusion restating assigned country’s position on the topic.
Relevant statistics, quotes etc. should be cited in an accepted scholarly citation format.
Do NOT use the first person in a position paper. Instead simply use the delegation's name or alternatively expressions such as "our government", "our country", "our nation". Long essay-type position papers presenting a nation's history or background information on the topic are not useful. A simple and concise overview is best.