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Which Role to Play? How to Select a Country to Represent in Model UN.

The flags of the 193 member states of the United Nations, stand side by side and flutter in the wind, making up the global organization par excellence. When the time comes to apply for a certain country for a Model UN there are dozens of things to take into account: availability of information, openness of the country in question, interest… However, these have already been examined in other articles, so I will focus on the three things you must keep in mind to choose a country that goes in accordance to the role you want to play during the model: the topic that is to be discussed, the organ, committee or specialized agency you are applying to and last but most importantly, your disposition.

In this article I will share my thoughts on selecting a country as a preference when applying to a Model UN conference. Before proceeding, it's important to note that more often than not, a delegate does not choose the country or committee they are assigned at a Model UN conference. However, most conferences do offer the opportunity to list 5 top preferences.

At the UN, the clout exercised by each of the 193 member states varies greatly depending on geopolitical significance & role of each country. This also affects the particular UN organ that they contribute (debate) in the most: from the General Assembly, the plenary organ wherein one country equals one vote, to the Security Council which till today remains greatly influenced by the five permanent members.

Regardless of how much you like a country, or how interesting you might find the organization in question, you should always keep in mind first and foremost the topic you are going to discuss. As a delegate with a deep aversion for economics that had to debate for four days ways of stimulating global trade, let me emphasize that when your topic doesn’t appeal to you at all, a model UN can seem to drag on forever. This does not mean you should only choose topics you are passionate about, or topics that fall within your area of expertise; after all models are the ideal environment to expand your interests and become more knowledgeable about issues that otherwise might not have piqued your curiosity. Still, if a topic seems dull the first time you read it on the program, wait until you have been going over it in circles for hours.

The temptation to be a part of the Security Council might overshadow the fact that you will be representing a third-tier country, but regardless of how much you might enjoy the debate there it might get frustrating for you to be relegated to little more than an observer. Thus, when choosing a country to apply for, keep in mind which topic you will be debating. Being a country as important as India might be great, but it won’t be that great if it means spending four days of debate arguing for higher standards in the fabrication of bulb lights -some committees just have horrible topics and nobody is sure of why.

Which takes us to our next point to take into account: there is a reason most models offer several committees in varying degrees of difficulty. Picking up last paragraph’s argument, I understand that the Security Council can be more appealing than the Economic & Social Committee, or the reenactment of the Roman Senate more fun, but if you are a first-timer or have little experience and these are categorized as High Level Committees, it is probably irresponsible to apply for these. Usually, the Applications Team of the model will defer you to a committee more suited to your experience, in which case you will have just made everyone lose their time and you won’t get the chance to choose which committee you are deferred to, but if your application slips by Applications -country adjudication gets hectic in bigger models- and you are assigned to a committee that far exceeds your experience, it will just be worse for everyone. More difficult committees are often characterized by their smaller size and thus everyone is expected to play a role. Don’t get me wrong -first timers can do a great job and it’s natural to aim high. However, this must mean you are willing to run the extra mile and give it an extra effort so as not to lower the level of the committee or obstruct the debate.

Beyond the difficulty, you should also keep in mind the role the country you want to represent should play in that committee. If you want to be mostly an observer, representing Haiti in the General Assembly is probably a safe choice. However, whoever represents Haiti in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) might find him or herself under an unwanted spotlight. This depends mostly on the third point to take into account: your disposition, meaning the mindset with which you approach a model.

Ultimately, everything hinges on what you are willing to do. I’ve seen the delegation of the Holy See leading the debate about nuclear non-proliferation -and they couldn’t even vote nor sponsor the resolution that was their brainchild. Similarly, I have seen a Security Council in which the debate kept hitting dead ends because the delegate of the United States refused to engage, alleging that it was his first model and that he was there to learn more than to lead.

This is legitimate to a point. There are thousands of different ways of enjoy models and often it is more productive to sit back and listen than to be on your feet all the time giving endless harangues. Nevertheless, you have to be consequential with your choice of country: if you apply for Saudi Arabia on LGBTQ rights, prepare to rally the traditionalist Muslim countries behind you; if you are the Holy See on reproductive rights, try to use your leverage on countries with Catholic majorities; if you are the United States on targeted killings and drone strikes, be prepared to take some criticism.

Sadly enough, there are dozens of countries in real life that don’t get enough attention in the United Nations for one reason or another. This means that when it comes to apply for a country for a model, there are many safe choices you can pick if you don’t want to put much effort into it. Do you want to spend hours researching UN resolutions and national legislation, and then hours sparring with other countries to push your resolution through? Great! That’s what models are for, apply for whichever country you want. Are you coming to the model only half-convinced this is your thing, just to have a look?

That’s ok too, it’s another way of enjoying MUN, but make sure that your choice will not impact others negatively, and that it will allow you to enjoy it without everyone else in the committee continuously pestering you to take action, as had happened to the United States delegate I mentioned before.

And whatever you choose to do in the end, remember that MUN are first and foremost opportunities to learn, to enjoy and to connect with other people - so by all means, do!

Credits: Alvaro Gomez Del Valle, Content Associate.

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