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. It is our suggestion that the six main areas of study be addressed in the following order, as each area is progressively more in-depth than the one listed before:
- Research the structure and history of the United Nations. You can start here on our website. Also check out the UN’s website (or its children’s info page). This page gives a cool (and brief) overview of the UN’s missions.
- 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, here, or here. Of course, Google is also magical – use it.
- Research your 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 agenda topics beyond what is written in the background guides. This is where you might decide to brave the big bad world of academia, and take a look at some published papers. Don’t be afraid! Your library has a ton of databases that give you access to all kinds of information (my personal favourites are Academic Search Complete, and JSTOR) – just plug in your search words and you’re off to the races. The important thing here is to be vigilant, and cite your sources – try to take information from “trusted” sources (think peer reviewed journals, not Wikipedia). Speaking of Wikipedia, while it itself isn’t the greatest source of information (after all, anyone can edit it) 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 background paper, and that you know your country’s position on the issue. Trust us: if you take time with the background paper, it will pay off. But remember – we have expectations about what the background papers will look like, proper citation among them! We even put up a whole other page to help you with this, so don’t let us down please.
(The following guide has been taken from the website of the National Model United Nations)
HSMUN provides two principal resources through the course of your preparation: the committee background guide (including annotated bibliographies) and the committee blog. All items will be posted on the HSMUN Web site.
Both the background guide and the blog posts should be only viewed as a stepping-stone to begin research. Individual research is indispensable. We recommend extensive use of academic books, scholarly journals, newspaper articles, and official documents or other literature provided by bodies associated with the United Nations. Access to many UN documents and resolutions is available on the UN treaty database via college or law school libraries or on the following websites:
United Nations. The Web site of the United Nations, which will allow delegates to access individual committee sites, links to specific issues on the UN’s agenda and related information and data, links to missions of Member States to the UN, etc.
United Nations Bibliographic Information System. This source is one of the most basic and useful sources delegates should be using when preparing for the conference. It includes landmark UN documents, resolutions of UN bodies, meeting and voting records, and press releases. It provides a research guide to get acquainted with the UN documentation system; it allows delegates to research by organ or by main issues; in short, this is an excellent gateway to explore the work of the United Nations, the agenda items and individual Member States role in committee.
Researching Your State or Non-Governmental Organization
Begin doing this immediately after receiving your assignment. If you have been assigned a country, you may wish to begin by researching its political structure, economic condition, religion(s), history, and culture. Since all of these factors shape a state’s foreign policy, familiarity with these areas will assist you in forming a consistent foreign policy. Research the problems within your state regarding ethnic and religious minorities, suppression of dissent, division of wealth, freedom of the press, development, health care, education, poverty, the environment, human rights, etc. Also, do not overlook the more subtle aspects of your state’s domestic and foreign policies.
Researching a non-governmental organization (NGO) is very similar to researching a state. If you have been assigned an NGO, you may wish to begin by researching its history, mission, structure, funding, values, purposes, and goals. Since all of these factors shape the way an NGO will interact with Member States, familiarity with these areas will assist you in forming a consistent approach to the issues in hand and a consistent style of interaction. Based on your research, you will decide how your assigned NGO will approach each topic, and the recommendations you will make for potential solutions. This includes identifying blocs of countries and other NGOs that may share the same perspectives and priorities and therefore may collaborate with you in committee sessions.
You may choose to establish contact with the permanent mission to the UN of your assigned country or with your NGO. Obtaining information directly from these sources will often prove very useful in forming a cohesive policy and diplomatic style. Experience has shown that these offices are often very eager to assist you, however please bear in mind that many of these offices run on very limited budgets and have a limited number of staff members. Before contacting any permanent mission, you should have a prepared list of any documents you might need or the specific areas in which you are interested, and you should be prepared to offer to pay for any necessary photocopies and postage.
As a representative of the NGO or State to which you have been assigned, you will be expected to work within the historical confines of your NGO or country’s foreign policy at the UN.
Researching Your Committee
Each delegate should have a thorough understanding of his or her committee. Although the committee background guide provides a good introduction to your particular committee and its history, it represents only the basis for the rest of your research. Please also consult the Rules of Procedure under ‘Students’ in the above menu bar for a description of the working methods of the committees.
Be sure that you understand your committee thoroughly prior to arriving at HSMUN, including its history, mandate and purpose, jurisdiction, goals for the future, function within the UN system, and voting procedures. Most of the committees simulated at HSMUN operate their own Web sites that are regularly updated. Depending on your committee, you may find books or scholarly articles that describe its history in considerable depth. Important past decisions or resolutions of your committee often shed important light on its powers, the types of actions it takes, and the methods by which it acts.
Member States: Each committee, aside from judicial or expert bodies, is made up of a number of Member States. These are the full members of the organization. All Member States may sponsor working papers and have full voting rights within the organization. Member States act through their representatives within a body’s meetings in order to discuss the matters on the agenda and make progress toward solving them on a cooperative international level. The majority of delegates will be serving as representatives of their State’s government. These delegates are expected to understand the foreign policies of their individual governments and to act within those policies during the Conference. The most critical part of having a successful delegate experience at the HSMUN Conference is active participation in committee sessions. This includes conforming to the rules of procedure, speaking in formal debate, and most importantly, contributing during caucus sessions.
Observers: Most committees within the UN system maintain observers. Observers are states or international bodies that participate in the negotiations but may not propose or vote on substantive organization matters, such as the approval of reports or resolutions. Observers are afforded public speaking time and caucus participation, and may serve as signatories on working papers but may not sponsor them. Observers often provide valuable insight from organizations that are not political in nature or from states in other areas of the world and often prove vital to the final work of the organization. Observers are expected to fully contribute to the committee’s development and are eligible for awards on the same basis as Member States.
Non-Governmental Organizations: HSMUN has occasionally integrated the presence of NGOs into committees at the Conference. It is an ongoing project that improves the educational quality of the simulation and mirrors developments in the UN itself, where NGOs are gaining both visibility and respect as a resource for program design and implementation. NGO delegations maintain all of the privileges accorded to traditional observer delegations, and are required to exhibit the same level of preparedness. NGO representatives are also required to submit position papers reflecting the perspectives and priorities of their assigned NGO on the agenda topics at hand.
State delegates are fully expected to work with NGO delegates in the spirit of collaboration upon which the UN was founded. The recommendations of NGO delegates maintain the same validity as those of Member States, and it is incumbent upon country delegates to ensure that those perspectives are recognized. The exclusion of NGOs from committee work simply because they do not have substantive voting rights is both unrealistic and unprofessional. In almost all cases, actions denigrating the participation of NGOs will be considered extraordinarily out of character.
Researching Your Agenda Topics
The majority of your preparation time for the Conference will be spent researching your actual committee topics.
Each delegate should understand the topics on his or her committee’s agenda. The first resource to consult is the committee background guide (including the footnotes and bibliography); however, this guide should not be the sole source of research. Search for speeches made by your country on the topic and also important resolutions discussed and passed in your committee. Also, you may contact the headquarters of your committee and request information on your specific topics.
While reading the background guide, develop answers to the following basic questions:
• When considering each topic, what essential questions are being raised?
• In your opinion as a diplomat, why are these issues important?
• Give specific reasons why you believe these issues remain unresolved.
• What important documents are essential to your research?
• What actions have various international bodies taken in the past regarding these issues?
• What actions are they currently taking, or what committees exist to address them?
• What should be done from the perspective of your State to resolve the issues?
Researching a topic is a complex process which calls for determining what various bodies within and related to the UN system have done previously to address the matter, what is currently in place, and what is planned for the future. It is also important to examine the successes and the failures, and to attempt to determine why those approaches have succeeded or failed.
Preparing for committee session at the NMUN also includes identifying blocs of States that may share the same perspectives and priorities and collaborate with you in committee sessions (this is also an important task for NGOs). You should try to answer the following questions:
• Are there other States or other organizations that share your view?
• What States or other organizations are opposed to your view?
• Which Member States are in the same voting bloc as your assigned State?
• Is your assigned State affiliated with any regional organizations?
Learning the Rules of Procedure
Familiarizing yourself with the NMUN Rules of Procedure is another vital part of your preparation. NMUN has developed a set of comprehensive rules for committee proceedings, which resemble those used by the United Nations or other appropriate international bodies as closely as possible in the context of a simulation. Please be aware that the NMUN rules of procedure may differ drastically from the rules used by other conferences, and NMUN rules vary between committees within the same conference. The NMUN Rules of Procedure are discussed in a narrative fashion and short guide later in this manual. The official NMUN Rules of Procedure for your committee are presented in the background guide for your committee.
Please make sure to carefully read both the rules of procedure in the background guide as well as the committee information in the background guide update as rules between committees do vary substantially.
Practicing Public Speaking
You should practice public speaking and presentation of policy statements prior to your arrival at the conference. Your school should organize several practice simulations to improve speaking ability and to practice the rules of procedure. Please consult the rules of procedure section of this manual for a simulation script, which has been designed to provide an introduction to the rules of procedure and the rhetoric of committee proceedings.
Delegates to the United Nations and other international bodies treat one another with the utmost objectivity and respect. While two States may have political difficulties with one another at any given time, the meeting of your HSMUN committee is not a time to carry these out unless that conflict is specifically relevant to the topic at hand. Even then, delegates are expected to act with decorum and in a professional manner befitting their status as a diplomat. You may not wish to work with delegations with whom you have conflicts while in committee, but you must maintain the proper level respect for your fellow diplomats. Be sure that you understand this distinction prior to arriving at the Conference.