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Forms of Address

Addressing the Chair

GMUN delegate stating a point GMUN delegate stating a point

Naturally, it is important to address the Chairman by his/her correct title, as set out in the conference documents. In committees of large formal conferences, it is ‘Chairman’. It would be incorrect to address someone whose title is ‘Chairman’ as ‘Chairperson’.  Adding ‘Mr’ (or ‘Madam’) before ‘Chairman’ is to increase the formality by one step. The one variant on ‘(Mr or Madam) Chairman’ that is correct (but not widely used) is ‘Mr (or Madam) Chair’.

As the Chairman has ‘given’ you the floor, the first words most delegates utter are ‘Thank you (Mr or Madam) Chairman (for giving me the floor).’ Thereafter, in English, it is customary to start your first sentence with the appellation of the person you are addressing –in this case ‘(Mr or Madam) Chairman,…’ Thereafter, the word(s) ‘(Mr or Madam) Chairman’ can be sprinkled throughout a statement, to signify paragraphs or to emphasize particular points (e.g. ‘My delegation will never, Mr Chairman, abandon....’)

Addressing other interlocutors

As the Chairman is the personification of the Committee, it is normal and widely understood that the real interlocutor when you address the Chairman is usually the Committee as a whole.

But sometimes you wish to direct your remarks to another delegation or a limited number of delegations or conceivably some other party such as the secretariat. The convention that all your remarks should be addressed to the Chairman means that you can only do this indirectly.

In other words, in formal debate you speak of others only in the third person. However, they understand that you are speaking to them. This usage has a parallel in the tradition in many European languages of using the third person as the most formal and polite way of speaking to people (e.g. the Spanish ‘Usted’ and in English ‘your Majesty’). In the most formal conferences (e.g. the General Assembly or the Conference on Disarmament), the tradition is to refer to others exclusively as ‘the Distinguished Representative of [name of country]’. To omit the word ‘Distinguished’ would be a significant faux pas, and possibly a deliberate slight.

Your use of the ‘correct‘ forms of address is the most elementary way to show respect for the conference and the other delegates.