Position Papers are like a hike in the bush; your lazy yet benevolent friend will introduce you to many tempting-looking shortcuts. These will more often than not lead you into a big, swampy mess which requires more work to get out of than your original course would have required. This is a quick guide to writing a good Position Paper.
A well-researched and well-written Position Paper is your best friend during debate – you will have moderated caucus topics at the ready; structured policy proposals at your fingertips; well thought-out rebuttals to opposing points and enough trivia knowledge to make those uni pub nights bearable. A badly written Position Paper, on the other hand, is going to make your life during debate a lot harder.
The following is a general structure for a comprehensive Position Paper. More often than not, your Directors will provide you with a template they would like you to use. You should, of course, use that one. In this case, you can use this to guide your responses to the sections in the template, if they are sufficiently similar.
Introduction to your country’s position on the topic.
To begin your Position Paper, you should provide a brief introduction to your country’s position on the topic in question. You should use this section to provide the other delegates with an insight into the general principles on which you will build your arguments: are you interventionist or not, do you support UN-driven policy actions or state-driven policy actions, and so on. I often use a modified version of this section as my Position Statement at the beginning of debate.
Introduction to your country’s role within your committee.
In this section, you can outline your country’s role within the committee you are debating in. In special committees, such as the United Nations Security Council or the International Monetary Fund, this discussion will primarily be in regard to voting rights. You will also be able to outline your country- or bloc-led initiatives undertaken for the committee in the past, including special investigations and Commissions.
Outline of previous actions committed by your country.
In this section you can provide a detailed listing of previous initiatives undertaken by your country in regard to the topic. You will need to be very specific here. These initiatives may have been unilateral, multilateral, organised within a bloc or organised by the UN. For each initiative, you should follow the STAR format:
S – Situation. Briefly outline the global or local situation which drove the policy action. Include statistics from reputable sources, such as the World Bank Database, or your country’s Bureau of Statistics. This should be one to two sentences.
T – Task. Now, provide a brief outline of the process through which you adopted the policy. Be specific about whether this was a unilateral policy or if your country cooperated with others to develop it. Keep this brief at around one to two sentences.
A – Action. You can use this part to outline the specific actions mandated by the policy. Include details of the action, the timeline and the actors involved in implementing it. This should be the longest and most detailed part of the paragraph.
R – Result. Finally, close with the result of this policy. Even if it is not yet completed, provide details of how it is tracking. Include statistics where you can.
This section is used to advertise the good work of your country on an issue. Remember that your Position Paper should be read by all other delegates. Therefore, do not include failed initiatives undertaken by your country unless you can defend their shortfalls and point to the lessons learned in your “Key Issues” section, which follows this one. If you cannot do this, you are just giving other countries details which they can use to undermine your arguments.
Also, if you have a very small country which has not been very active in the global debate thus far, you should concentrate on the policy actions undertaken by the bloc your country associates with. These include the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the African Union (AU). You can also highlight treaties that your country has signed which relate to the topic. Make sure your country has ratified these treaties before you rest your position on them.
Key issues identified by your country.
This section should be used to highlight the key issues your country would like to see discussed in debate. You should treat this section as preparation for Moderated Caucuses. Structure this section as follows: Firstly, provide a brief description of the issue – who, what, where, when, why. Include statistics where you can. Secondly, present your country’s position on the issue. You are highlighting these issues because action is not currently being taken to resolve them, or because the action currently being undertaken is inadequate or inappropriate in some way. Therefore, you are treading on new territory here so make sure you review your country’s position on the topic as outlined in the first section.
Potential solutions which will be presented by your country.
In this section you should clearly and concisely present the policies you will be working to include in the final draft resolution. These policies should be informed by the previous sections of your Position Paper, with special emphasis on the general principles outlined in your introduction and on your country or bloc’s previous actions. Be innovative here! – creativity is encouraged during Model UN debate. In saying that, it is important to be realistic; you need to work within your mandate and to refrain from proposing a policy your country would not, or could not, support.
In terms of structure, you should give each policy its own sub-section. Firstly, you should provide a brief outline of the policy; who, what, where, when, why. Secondly, outline the benefits of the policy. Thirdly, point out some of the more contentious points. This shows the Directors that you understand the complexity of solution-building and gives you an opportunity to think about how you will respond to opposing points during debate. Finally, end on a good note. Your final sentence should reiterate the general benefit of your policy.
Hopefully this guide will make your pre-conference research a little easier. The more you do beforehand, the less time you will need to spend buried in Wikipedia during debate. The initial pain will be gained when you are free to engage in incredible and well-informed debate.