Model UN Research: Taking on "Limbo Countries"
There’ll be times in MUN when you’ll be assigned a wonderful, powerful country, full of potential and opportunity to stand out… And there’ll also be times when you’ll be assigned countries you know (almost) nothing about, or countries the world in general knows nothing about.
How can you take on these countries and still do well?
Here we give you a simple guide: "Taking on “limbo countries".
What’s a limbo country?
A limbo country is a country whose policies, in general, or related to a particular topic, are not obvious, clear, defined, and/or well-known, and may also be difficult to find.
This can happen for a variety of reasons:
Because they have no apparent relation to the topic whatsoever (i.e. What does St Kitts and the Grenadines think about intervention in Syria? or, what’s Iceland’s position on coffee trade?)
Because the country’s policies, in general, are confusing or contradicting,
Because the country is politically unstable, or lacks a political structure altogether at the time of research (countries in transition, war, civil conflict, undergoing continuous coups, with co-existing governments…).
Because the country is of recent creation or has only recently joined the UN (a good example of this is South Sudan).
Regardless of the initial impression you may get when encountering one of these countries, you should always try traditional research steps and methods first. You may find more information than you expect by going the “ordinary” way, and using more typical databases and resources.
It is always useful, as with everything, to do your research on the country in general; read up as much as you can, on everything you can on that country, for history, geography, population and politics can give you an excellent overview of the state’s background and characteristics in general, and what you learn here can often be applied to other areas. However, if all fails…
Know where your country lies exactly. More often than not the state you’ve been assigned will belong to an international organization or body alike. Is it the Commonwealth of Nations? the Arab League? African Union, Organization of American States, G8, G20?
It is worth noting, and keeping track, of the multilateral bodies and corporations your state is present in, because this can be a first indication of the type of policies that are a priority (climate change? Trade?), as well as serving two purposes:
First, it will direct you to an entirely new platform of resources (the organization’s) that will provide you with more detailed, often country-specific facts and figures that may help you in your research,
Secondly, it will likely help direct your policy as a representative of that country. You will be able to check whether your country has followed the general position in the organization on different issues — were they a part of the resistance, or the for/against stance in different occasion? You may find that if your country has followed the position of the majority of states present in that organization, even if the specific topic you are encountering right now has not been discussed, it is likely your stance will be with the rest of the countries present in the body. When you find yourself in committee, know that if you follow their position and general stance, you will not be in the wrong — rather, you’ll be standing with your allies!
Know your position on similar issues. Even if your state doesn’t (apparently) have a position on the specific topic you’re facing in this conference, you’ll probably have some indication related to other similar issues. For example, your country may not have a specific policy regarding solar energy taxes, but it may have a stand in wind energy. Sometimes you may have to reach farther — relating, for example, your country’s lack of interest in implementing carbon dioxide emission taxes in a possible position against further climate change commitments. Their positions on other wars/interventions/summits… Even if you think you may be reaching far, know that your skills in deduction and logic play an important role when you have very little information available on the country or the issue!
Last but not least, there’s always a last resource — if resources are hardly available, you can always get creative and shape the position of your country as you see fit, always keeping in mind that MUN is diplomatic and as realistic as possible!