Beginning Your Research and Conference Preparations
The key to being a successful delegation is thorough preparation. There are six steps that should be taken before the Conference:
- Research the structure and history of the United Nations. There are plenty of online resources to look at. These two (1, 2) are a good first step!
- Research your assigned Member State or Observer Entity. Most countries have a website, a Wikipedia page, and a place in the CIA fact-book, which are all good places to start, but don’t discount other methods as well. Often, the best way to learn about a country is to talk to someone from there – so introduce yourself around the school, and get some first hand information!
- Research your committee. More information about your committee may be found here and here. Of course, Google is also magical – use it.
- Research your delegation’s role in the committee. The best place to start here is looking at past resolutions. You never know, your topic might actually have come to a vote in some way already! How long has your country been on the committee? What is their voting record? What motions and issues have they raised or abstained from?
- Research the committee topics beyond what is written in the background guides. This may seem daunting at first, but don’t be afraid! The important thing here is to be vigilant, and cite your sources – try to take information from “trusted” sources. Wikipedia, while it shouldn’t be your only source of information, is often a good place to get a general overview about your topic, and the citations at the bottom of articles are often very helpful. Lastly, don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. Talk to your teacher or your librarian, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Prepare a position paper outlining your Member State’s or Observer Entity’s policies towards the agenda topics. When you walk into that committee room on the day of the conference, and see your name in BIG PROJECTED LETTERS on the speakers’ list, you’re going to be thankful that you wrote a position paper, and that you know your country’s position on the issue. Trust us: if you take time with the position paper, it will pay off. If you know your position paper inside-out, committee debates will feel 100 times easier.
It can be daunting to even begin getting an idea of what your country thinks about an issue. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1 – Try your country’s government website. This will provide most information you need about your country’s policies. For instance, if you go to Canada’s website, you can find all sorts of stuff.
2 – For less developed countries, you may need to get creative. A good idea is to go to their site anyways, find what you can and extrapolate. For instance, Somalia’s site has a whole page on UN Failures. From the mere existence of that page, you can guess that Somalia may take UN resolutions with a grain of salt and may not be the first in line to volunteer resources to the UN. In the absence of formal policy statements, you can learn a TON about foreign policy by doing some detective work to discover what your country’s general beliefs attitudes are about certain organizations and issues.
3 – If you know an official language of your country: Take advantage of it! The website is probably much better in an official language than in English. For example, try to find some Spanish or Portuguese-speaking friends to help translate if you are representing South American country’s delegation.
4 – The news is a great place to get information about what’s happening now, both around the issue and around your country. For instance, BBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, New York Times and CNN are all great sources for general information related to a topic. To find out more about what your country actually thinks, see if you can find the national news network.