Encouraging students to sign up for Model United Nations or MUN, we are often asked: “Why MUN”? Since many of you may be wondering the same, this blog attempts to answer your question.
Model United Nations or MUN is a platform for high school students to build knowledge of international relations and diplomacy by understanding how the UN acts as a mediator for the peaceful co-existence of various countries with regard to changing times. We encourage our students to sign up for local and international MUNs to learn and develop key skills like critical thinking through writing, researching, speaking, and debating.
Students represent a country on a certain issue, as a ‘delegate’. They are allotted a topic to present when they sign up for an MUN. The topic assigned is a real-world issue which they need to solve by keeping in mind the policies and perspectives of the country assigned to them.
Let’s look at the core skills you will develop through participating in MUNs –
Researching for an MUN means understanding the issue/topic from multiple perspectives. Firstly, from the point of view of the person you are representing. Secondly, from the point of view of those who could contest you on your policy decisions.
Examples of people/countries you could represent are:
Venezuela in the Historic General Assembly to discuss the Suez Crisis
Sweden in WHO, with an agenda of black market healthcare
Senator Steven Douglas, head of the Democrats in the Historical Committee whose agenda is the American Civil War
Having specific designations assigned will help to keep your research focused, while also giving you the scope to explore decisions made on similar issues from the past.
Questions you need to ask:
Is my viewpoint in the best interest of my country?
What possible arguments could others make about my argument/policy?
Is a middle ground available? In what ways could I explore these?
Since you need to step into the shoes of another individual, it requires and challenges you to keep your own biases aside. Research is endless so it is important to stay focused on your goal. Expand your reading as far and wide and then bring it together through your position paper.
2. Writing Skills
You are expected to write and submit a position paper which is an essay explaining your country’s perspective on the topic assigned to you. This needs you to condense information into a summary explaining your position/stand in the upcoming debate.
A position paper consists of the following elements:
Stating the historical background of the issue along with the potential repercussions of ignoring the issue
Explore previous International actions by looking into how your country took efforts to participate in this endeavor. What could have been done better, and how? Is there room for improvement?
Put forth your country’s policy. What do you propose to the UN to do after considering the facts and figures you have presented? The key challenge here is that you run the risk of allowing your biases to blend with the position you’re taking on behalf of your country. Remember that you are a ‘delegate’ of a country and therefore your stance must be aligned with the policies of the person/country you are representing. While this can be challenging initially, that is the point of this activity! A good place to start would be to understand and analyze the speeches of the nation’s leaders. Fact-checking would be key here. Make sure these leaders are themselves abiding by the country’s law and policy while making claims. (This circles back to how thorough your research needs to be)
Dive into possible solutions to combat the issue you have posed. Consider making allies while doing this. Would another country/s agree to your viewpoint? Strengthen your case by doing this so that more countries are on board with your stance.
Find credible sources for everything you include as part of your paper.
Here are some of them:
CIA World Factbook Page: The go-to for MUNers, the CIA World Factbook is filled with information about your country. The CIA Factbook has information about your country’s geography, its economy, its government, its population, and many more facts and figures!
Speeches at the UN: Want to find out what your country has actually said about the UN on your topic? Using the UN Member States on the Record tool, you can find all the statements your country has made to the UN General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Security Council in the past few decades.
Official Government Website: As a Model UN delegate, you’re representing the government of the country you’re assigned. Check out their website to see what your government has to say about the issue.
UN Permanent Mission: Check out your country’s permanent mission to the UN to find out who your Permanent Representative to the UN is, find quotes, and search for your country’s position on the most important issues to your committee.
BBC Timeline: Find the most important events in your country’s history! This can help you figure out why your country has the policies it does, and what your history maybe with the other countries in your committee.
IMUNA Country Profile: The International Model United Nations Association has some quick facts and resources for MUNers on each country- check out yours!
A well-written position paper can actually help you win the Best Delegate award!
3. Speaking Skills
You are expected to present your position paper for 1-2 minutes during the committee meeting. Speaking effectively will ensure you have everyone’s attention. Understanding tonal inclinations can help you emphasize your argument without being loud/sounding rude. This needs practice. Saying your speech aloud in front of a mirror will help you understand both verbal and non-verbal communication skills, especially since the latter is an important part of every negotiation strategy. Your body language could make or break a deal. Also, remember to listen actively to others’ viewpoints since this will help you strategize your next argument. All of these are part of effective speaking strategies in an MUN, and otherwise.
4. Debating Skills
Debating is nowhere close to what you are likely to watch on Debate Hour on a news channel. Stay calm and composed, instead of getting personally invested in the issue. You will be challenged on your position. Look at it objectively and consider all points of view. Keep an open mind because you may actually find a better solution to solving your country’s issue.
I hope this post helps you see value in participating in MUNs. While this extra-curricular activity in itself is not enough to get you into highly selective colleges, it will certainly help you develop skill sets that are vital to other extra-curricular activities (such as writing a research paper or starting a club). Model UN will also toughen you up for the US classroom where you will be required to voice your opinions and listen deliberately to those offered by others.
We are sure you will enjoy being a MUNer!