MODEL UN FAQs
1. What is Model UN?
A Model United Nations conference is a simulation of a session of the United Nations. Model UN programs prepare groups of students to participate at Model UN conferences. Programs vary widely regarding the number and frequency of conferences they attend.
2. What happens at a Model UN Conference?
In Model UN, students play the roles of ambassadors, representing states in a simulated UN session. Students are grouped into delegations representing states in the UN, sitting on UN committees debating major global issues and advocating for their states’ positions on those issues. For example, at the BUMUN High School Conference in 2018, the simulation will take place in four committee sessions plus a Security Council simulation. State delegations will consist of 4-5 students each (depending on whether the state sits on Security Council), with one delegate of each state sitting on each committee.
Each committee has an agenda of topics drawn from the UN agenda. The students' job is to represent their state's positions on those topics, in those committees, negotiating with the other delegates representing other states, in trying to craft solutions to those global problems.
3. What do students gain from participating?
Students learn about pressing global issues, and about different approaches to those problems that may be quite different than their own or than our country's views. They learn the art of diplomacy and negotiation. They learn about the UN. They gain skills in public speaking and policy research and writing.
The committees simulate the procedures and atmosphere of those in the UN; this gives the opportunity for students to be exposed to putting themselves in a position of other states, and come up with acts and resolutions to these problems by negotiating and piecing together these solutions, and trying to persuade those representing other states to adopt their own positions. For example, if a student is representing China in the General Assembly committee, and one of the topics is internet privacy for citizens, this student delegate will speak as if he is a representative of China, not of his or her own beliefs. Playing the role of your assigned delegation is the fun part in Model UN. Model United Nations also exposes students to peers from neighboring schools, and is helpful with networking, speech, and negotiating skills for young adults.
4. What do the students do and how do the students prepare?
The students will attend this conference as delegates of their assigned state, spending the duration of the conference defending the stance of their state, while convincing other states to sign on to their desired solutions for the problems. The students prepare by reviewing background guides (provided by the conference coordinators, after notification of state representation assignments), which contain information about the topics and provisional information about where to go to research information on those topics and on their state's positions in regard to the agenda items. The guides will also contain examples of position papers, resolutions, and information about the rules of procedure and how the committee environment will work.
Prior to the conference, each student will submit a Position Paper to his or her committee, which expresses that state's positions on the topics before that committee. There is a formatted guide to Position Papers that will be described in detail in the background guide. This paper is the main result of the pre-conference work students will do to prepare them to then advocate for those positions during the simulation.
5. What do I (faculty) need to do?
Your most important role would be ensuring that the students stay on track to get prepared for the conference. Most students we are anticipating are first-time or less tenure participants of Model UN, so it is important that everyone gets the full benefit of attending this conference. You may assign some basic readings about the UN, make sure students get and read their background guides, help with finding resources, and familiarize students with United Nations procedures (also in the guides).
Some things to practice that may be helpful would be coaching on delivering speeches in front of peers, designing exercises compelling them to work in small groups, with different roles assigned, to arrive at solutions to hypothetical (or real) political problems, etc. You will want to monitor their progress in learning their state's positions on the conference topics, and assist with the writing of the position papers.
6. How much work is this?
In the end, students get out of Model UN what they put into it. No matter what, they gain exposure to major global problems, and to why they are so difficult to resolve. They learn that different perspectives lead to quite legitimate differences in priorities and opinions. Faculty may be as hands-on or hands-off as they choose. Indeed, groups of students may participate informally, without school sponsorship, should they so desire and be so motivated.
7. Where can I get more information?
For detailed information on Model UN see http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/getting-started/frequently-asked-questions#start.
For information on starting a club see http://www.unausa.org/global-classrooms-model-un/how-to-participate/getting-started/start-a-model-un-club.