Five Steps to Success in a Special Committee at a Model UN Conference
Preparing for special committees and concepts like crisis (especially joint-committee crisis) or the recently newly tested “Presidential Summit” (look up Heidelberg Model United Nations!) can be tricky and sometimes even scary, since the regular topic-research and position paper writing will only be enough for about the first ten minutes of the very first session of the conference. After that, events will start to rain down on you and it is so easy to lose ground in-crisis! Still, in every such committee, there are those few amazing delegates that look and sound like they’ve been preparing for this all their lives, and respond to every single event and comment with a flawless diplomatic elegance and background knowledge. Even worse, their confidence and solid performance can destabilize you so much you actually forget what you were about to say! So what is their secret?
Here are five steps to guide you on your first encounter with a Special MUN Committee.
Photo Source: United Ambassadors MUN4UN Youth Assembly, UN Headquarters, NYC, 2016.
Reka Varga (the writer) served as panelist.
Step 1: Research.
Dig deep into your country’s history. Researching the most you can on your country’s history will not only help you identify and build strategic alliances during the conference, but even more importantly, teach you the principles and limits it has been governed by throughout the years. What was its role in this or that war? Who were its most charismatic or devastating leaders? How did political views change and evolve with time, government changes or particular events? How did its geographical situation influence its development and evolution? Are there particular steps the country has systematically refused to take throughout history?
More and more conferences partially adopt a no-device policy in committees, which implies that you will not have the opportunity to do research during formal debate and will therefore not have the chance to quickly look up the information you need in order to respond to a particular point raised by a fellow delegate during moderated caucuses! This is to prevent the delegates from focusing too much on emergency research and encourage them to get involved with the events completely. Knowing how far your country has been willing to go with regards to a specific issue (be it nuclear weapons, national sovereignty, human rights or other) in history, will instantly help you with deciding on your actions and reactions inside the committee, more spontaneously, and yet in an intelligent and policy-true way.
Pro tip: Try to go after important or surprising landmarks in your country’s relations with the other countries that will be represented in the committee (sudden alliances, visits, assassinations…)! More than anywhere else, unusual things happen in crisis… You never know how the past can help you deal with the future!
Always keep track of current events … especially during the weeks before the conference! You need to have a solid idea of the current situation in order to notice and understand problems and think about what has to be done in the future! Start your work on the official website of your country’s Ministry of foreign affairs and watch out for updates. Regularly go through the country’s new agencies’ websites and follow them on Twitter in order to be directly in touch with what you are about to represent! But very importantly, compare different sources, question everything and never settle for single sided information! Always question the objective value of a given piece of information, and as a Government’s representative, remember to remain as neutral and true to your policy as possible, but take advantage of the resources that Internet provides you. Besides your own position, always consider that of your fellow delegates’, and do global research with consideration for the United Nations’ point of view. The UN News Centre is of course a great focal point where you can also find specialized magazines, thematic publications and useful links you can browse through.
Pro tip: Raise current issues when talking to friends and don’t be afraid to defend your opinion! Talking about current and serious topics in a familiar environment will strengthen your speaking skills effortlessly and equip you to express your ideas freely without even peeking into a pre-written speech! Step 2: Represent - Get into character!
Whether you represent a whole country or embody one particular person, making the character your own is a crucial step towards delivering outstanding speeches and interacting in the committee. Not only will you need to know your historical background and policy, you will also have to believe it and do your very best to make your fellow delegates believe you too. Going into every session with the right mindset will propel you from being a “good” delegate toward being a remarkable one!
Never think of an MUN as “just a simulation” you shouldn’t take too seriously! Take every conference as an opportunity to progressively grow into the role of an actual UN diplomat, and seize every moment of it! Not only will you contribute to the purpose and quality of the sessions, but it will also be so much more fun (for you and your fellow delegates).
Pro tip: Watch interesting speeches on YouTube and think about what makes you find them compelling. Try to identify elements in the speeches’ content as well as the speakers’ personalities that make it easy and pleasant for you to listen to them, and adopt those features when you speak! If you embody a specific character, try to imitate some of his/her key traits in order to make your presence in the committee even more interesting.
Step 3: Learn to be Spontaneous.
Don’t waste your time preparing your speeches word for word! Write down key points you can look at in the matter of seconds while talking, and look around the room instead! Maintaining contact with the people you are talking to will solidify your presence in the committee, and give an additional weight to your words. Others will take you a lot more seriously if you put yourself out there with confidence (even if that confidence is slightly fake in the beginning), and brings you many steps closer to obtain that vote or that compromise you have been fighting for since the beginning! What is more, you will be able to capture the reactions your speech generates, and strengthen the bond with your alliances inside the committee.
Step 4: Practice impromptu speaking.
If you want to know more about how to deal with being a non-native English speaker in MUN, watch out for next month’s content on United Ambassadors MUN skills! Try to practice impromptu speaking as much as possible both before and during the conference. If you aren’t a native speaker, seize every opportunity to improve and practice your English by watching movies and TV shows, and by talking to friends from abroad! It will boost your vocabulary, your fluency, and your confidence at the same time! Take some time to practice in front of a mirror! As ridiculous as you may feel, watching yourself while you talk will help you imagine someone else is listening to you and trick you into feeling like you are under pressure! Plus, it will help you control your expressions and upgrade your ultimate diplomatic poker face!
Step 5: Expect the unexpected - Think Ahead. ALWAYS have a plan B (and C, and D)! Obvious “pro” tip. There is no need to explain why! As much as being spontaneous is absolutely indispensable (not only, but especially in special committees of course), thinking ahead is always a good idea. But don’t let your anticipation kill your ability to react to unexpected events! You never know what happens next : the ground might easily crumble under your perfectly elaborated action plan in the matter of seconds and you might be left with nothing but a major crisis and no idea how to deal with it. Brainstorm and create different itineraries and possible scenarios! Think about the different ways a specific country could react to your actions and work from there. Writing things down will also make you think your strategy through and help you imagine the impact of your decisions following different hypotheses. Once again, it is important to keep a healthy balance between anticipation and improvisation, but it is always a great advantage to be prepared!
Pro tip: Print out maps of the areas related to the crisis! Very few conferences are able to provide a second projector or pinned maps in order for you to follow along the developments. Printed maps will enable you to overlook and analyze the situation and anticipate more easily!
Credits: Reka Varga, United Ambassadors Content Associate