Let's start with the obvious. Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations. Therefore, this simulation should be accurate. If you're active in the Model UN Community, you must have encountered the question: What is UN4MUN? We're here to clarify that.
What is UN4MUN?
It is a program introduced by the United Nations Department of Global Communications in 2009 with an intention to bring Model UN simulations closer to how the real UN functions. The term symbolizes accurate simulations of the UN, ie: Rules of Procedure which accurately reflect the decision-making process of the real UN. In 2019, the name of the office interacting with Model UNs at the UN became "The United Nations Model UN Programme."
Figure 1: UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations, UN HQ New York 2018
History of development:
In 2009, the United Nations Department of Global Communications discovered discrepancies between the real UN, and how it is simulated worldwide in Model UN conferences. The UN DGC organized three Global Model UN (GMUN) conferences in Geneva (2009), Kuala Lumpur (2010) and Incheon (2011).
Since 2014, United Ambassadors has held numerous world-leading educational programs on accurate simulations of the UN in the Middle East, Europe and North America.
In 2015, the leadership of the UN4MUN program at the United Nations transitioned to new UN officials.
Between 2016-2019, United Ambassadors co-delivered 4 joint UN4MUN workshops in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Global Communications for educators and students worldwide.
Today, United Ambassadors is continuing to pioneer the development of the world’s most accurate simulations of the UN, as well as initiatives to engage youth in Model UN with the SDGs. They are being implemented at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva and New York.
Also read: The Evolution of UN4MUN and United Ambassadors and the Real UN.
Figure 2: UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations, UN HQ New York 2018
How are UN4MUN conferences different?
Since the nature of accurate simulations of the UN is existentially different from traditional simulations which follow Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, accurate simulations of the UN require an entirely different approach to Model UN. The basic differences between the Real UN and Traditional MUN can be categorized as follows:
1- The Rules of Procedure:
Traditional Model UN follows Parliamentary Rules of Procedure whereas the real UN applies General Assembly/ Security Council (or other UN organ) Rules of Procedure. This makes every part of the delegate experience different from beginning to end.
Formal speaking time: In the General Assembly, delegates have one opportunity to make an opening statement before starting informal consultations. This is an important opportunity to propose viable solutions to the issue and encourage other delegates to collaborate with them throughout the simulation. The majority of the conference afterwards is spent on collaborative problem solving and group negotiation. Other organs like the Security Council or ICJ are different.
Points and Motions are quite different in accurate simulations of the UN.
There is no "Point of Information to the Speaker," "Point of Parliamentary Inquiry" or "Point of Personal Privilege." There is only a Point of Order, and it is rarely used at the real UN, as most issues are handled in an informal setting. During the formal meeting (debate), delegates may request a "Right of Reply" if they decide that a statement by another delegate requires a response from the country they are representing. Again, this rarely occurs at the real UN.
Motions do not need to be seconded. At the real UN, a delegate represents an entire nation. A sovereign state may voice a concern or request that a vote be taken on any procedural matter at any time. If they wish to put a point or motion forward, they may do so unilaterally.
Resolution Drafting and Negotiation: When drafting a resolution in an accurate UN simulation, the purpose is for all Member States in the committee/ council to collaborate on its content, and ultimately approve its paragraphs. The image you would see in a traditional MUN where different blocs of delegates are working separately on different resolutions in silos, and then one resolution ends up being out forward and presented to the committee, cannot be found at the real UN. The ultimate purpose is to reach consensus on the resolution. Therefore, the negotiation process from beginning to end is structured to reach that goal, even if it is ultimately not achieved (ie: a vote is taken).
Blocs and caucuses do not exist at the real UN. In the General Assembly, political groups are clusters of countries that tend to work together on parts of the resolution in informal/ informal consultations. However, at the real UN, those political groups are not static. It is possible for an initiative like Pathfinders for Peaceful Inclusive Societies to be initiated by one Member State and supported by others from different regional or political groups.
Sponsors: At the UN, a draft resolution can have as little as one sponsor. Any Member State may add or remove their name from the list of sponsors at any time. Usually, before a resolution is adopted, multiple Member States will have chosen to join the list of sponsors.
Amendments take place during formal-informal consultations, in a process called "Line by Line Review." At this time, every paragraph in a draft resolution is read by the chair, and delegates may raise comments, reactions or objections to any paragraph. Reactions are recorded in what it called the "compilation text" and the draft resolution must be re-negotiated in an informal consultation before it is reviewed again and all paragraphs have been marked as "agreed ad ref" - accepted by all the members of the committee.
Figure 3: Nabila Elassar, UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations, UN HQ New York 2018
2- The Leadership Structure:
The UN Secretariat is one of the 6 main organs of the UN, and each one of the other organs (like the General Assembly) has its own leadership structure. General Assembly Chairs are elected by Member States (other delegates), and the Security Council Presidency rotates monthly among the 15 Member States. The Secretary-General leads the Secretariat, but not the General Assembly Officials.
Figure 4: The Secretariat Team of UA-MUNC New York 2018 .
3- The Negotiation Process:
Consensus is the main driver behind the negotiation process in the General Assembly and most other main UN organs. Consensus is the adoption of a resolution without a vote, and with general agreement of all Member States participating in the meeting, and no strong disagreement.
At the real UN, since resolutions are mainly recommendations and in most cases, non-binding, the agreement of Member States on their content becomes necessary for the implementation of the resolution. Therefore, collaboration, cooperation, and consensus are defining characteristics of an accurate simulation of the UN. However, this is implemented in different ways in organs like the International Court of Justice vs. the General Assembly.
Figure 5: Consensus and Informal Consultations at the UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations, UN HQ New York 2018
4- The Conference Phases
This is one of the biggest and most notable structural differences. The stages of the simulation differ in each main UN organ at the real UN. Below is a snapshot of the General Assembly:
Figure 6: General Assembly Simulation Stages - Flow of Debate by United Ambassadors.
1- Formal Meeting
Interactive Dialogue (Expert Briefing): UN experts deliver informative statements to delegates in the committee on the topic/ issue discussed and time is provided for Q&A.
Figure 7: UN Speakers and Expert Briefers at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva and New York 2018
General Debate: Delegates deliver statements on behalf of their country to the Member States of the committee. The content of this statement draws upon the position paper prepared by the delegate. Delegates are advised to propose practical solutions to the issue at hand in this statement, and use it as an opportunity to encourage all other delegates to collaborate with them throughout the conference. A good speech includes a hook, point, and call action. (Refer to our public speaking article here).
Figure 8: Public Speaking: Delegates at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference, UN HQ New York 2018
2- Informal Meetings
Informal Informal Consultations: Rules of Procedure are suspended, and the committee is in an informal session. Delegates meet in their political groups and begin discussing solutions to the topic and drafting paragraphs in their groups. (These groups are usually assigned by the conference secretariat, but they are not static at the real UN).
Once political groups have developed sufficient draft paragraphs (preamble and operative paragraphs), each group elects a leader to negotiate on behalf of the group with other group leaders as the draft resolution is created to incorporate all political groups ideas.
Figure 8: Group Leaders at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva, 2018.
Note: This stage is critical in General Assembly simulations and accurate Models of the UN. At United Ambassadors, we designed a system that fosters transparency, inclusion and effective collaboration at this stage of the conference.
1- All groups work on their draft paragraphs in a joint committee online document.
2- Group leaders sit in a visible and audible space (preferably with microphones) so that all other delegates can hear them as they merge the paragraphs
3- Political group members can intervene and make a comment during the paragraph merging process with the permission of the group leader.
Figure 9: Group Leaders at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in New York, 2018.
Fun fact: At the real UN, there is such a thing as "informal informal informal - informal" consultations. This refers to the times diplomats/ representatives of UN Member States/ diplomatic missions meet to chat informally outside of the UN building, on the phone, or in the UN delegates lounge, a popular destination for diplomats, even if they are discussing work, which in their case, is a real draft resolution.
After group leaders have merged the paragraphs, the document is presented to the committee chairs. At this point, it is "tabled" as a draft resolution and presented to the committee for the first line by line review.
Figure 10: Informal Consultations at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva, 2018.
Formal Informal Consultations (Line by Line Review): This is an opportunity for each delegate in the committee to carefully review each part of the draft resolution and voice any comment or concern for the committee to consider. The chair reads out each paragraph in the resolution and asks "Are there any comments, reactions or objections" after each paragraph. Delegates have the option to: Add, Delete, or Replace a word or paragraph. There is a protocol for this process. That is why it is referred to as formal-informal.
After the first line by line review (formal/ informal), delegates return to informal-informal consultation to negotiate any paragraph on which comments were raised, come to an agreement, and go back to formal-informal. They repeat line by line review until the whole resolution has been marked as "Agreed Ad Ref," ie: no more comments were raised. That is when the action phase begins.
Figure 11: Formal Informal Consultations, United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva * New York 2018.
3- Formal Meeting
Action Phase: Delegates return to a formal meeting. Rules of Procedure are in effect. Delegates are invited to add their name to the list of sponsors. The sponsors of the resolution present it to the committee.
If a Member State (delegate) wishes to raise a concern about the resolution or one of its paragraphs, they are invited to go on record with a public statement to the committee at this time, instead if requesting that a vote be taken. Most of the time, this is sufficient to enable the committee to adopt the resolution, while allowing a dissenting Member State to explain its reasons for disagreeing with parts of the resolution.
Adopting the Resolution: The chair asks if the committee accepts the adoption of the resolution without a vote, and in case of no disagreements, it is so decided.
As this process shows, it is likely that by this stage, the resolution may be adopted by consensus. The entire process was set up to facilitate this end result. However, consensus is not always reached at the real UN GA, only 80% of the time.
That being said, consensus is never reached at the International Court of Justice, as judges always vote on judgments, and in many cases, votes are 7-8. On the other hand, consensus is mandatory at the High-Level Political Forum, it is reached 100% of the time, due to the nature of its work and the significance of the Ministerial Declaration. And at the real UN Security Council, all resolutions are voted on, however, most votes are unanimous (vote by acclamation), but as expected, not all.
Figure 12: UA-MUNC end of committee celebrations post resolution adoption - consensus has been reached.
Below is a visual snapshot of the flow of debate in the UN Security Council, ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum, and International Court of Justice. These are to be discussed in depth in future articles, and are delivered at the UA-MUN Training Workshop in Geneva and New York.
Figure 13: Security Council, High Level Political Forum and International Court of Justice Flow of Debate
5- Learning Goals and Pedagogy:
Model UN is first and foremost, an educational activity. The learning goals of Model UN in general are to gain an understanding of international politics and develop skills like debate and public speaking. However, the learning goals of an accurate simulation of the UN are both broader and deeper than a traditional Model UN.
This brings us to the last point.
What are the benefits of joining UA-MUNC, an accurate simulation of the UN?
The learning goals of the United Ambassadors MUN Conference are to:
Provide delegates with a working knowledge of the decision making process of the real UN and an deep understanding of how multi-lateral diplomacy plays out real life
Develop skills like negotiation, debate, public speaking, research, writing and leadership qualities like empathy and diplomacy
Develop enduring understanding of collaborative problem solving and consensus based group decision making
Empower delegates with practical life skills needed for successful leadership in college, career and beyond.
Aside from gaining an understanding of how the real United Nations functions, at UA-MUNC, you would engage in an invaluable experience of diplomatic group dialogue to address complex problems while working with delegates from all around the world.
Figure 14: UA-MUNC Geneva 2018 Security Council: Explanation of award criteria.
The skills required for success:
At UA-MUNC and accurate simulations of the UN, the skills you develop are closer to what is normally required for success in the practical world, at work, school, or any project. Regardless of the industry, in the professional world, those most likely to succeed are the ones who are able to influence or lead, without formal authority. The ones who can convince others to work with them, and build a group collaboration dynamic towards a common goal. While public speaking is an important skill that may be needed when delivering a presentation at work, the truly valuable skills are more subtle. Skills like teamwork, communication, consensus building, group-think, problem solving and effective collaboration. These are skills you would learn at UA-MUNC and they are the basis of our conference award criteria.
The mission of United Ambassadors is to create future leaders and global citizens through Model UN education. UA-MUNC is designed to actualize that mission.
Read also: The Leadership Difference at UA-MUNC.
Join us today. www.unitedambassadors.com.
Nabila Elassar, Founder & Academic Director, United Ambassadors,
Stanford University Graduation Ceremony, June 2019.