Resolution Writing

The following guide has been taken from the website of the National Model United Nations, and can be found online.

Resolution and Report Writing at HSMUN

The substantive work of committees at the HSMUN Conferences generally takes the form of either resolutions or reports. Please see Committees/Topics in the above menu bar to learn more about your committee and the topics you will be discussing.

Resolutions Overview

A resolution is the most appropriate means of applying political pressure on Member States, expressing an opinion on an important issue, or recommending action to be taken by the United Nations or some other agency. Most UN resolutions are not binding “law;” the only body that may produce resolutions that are binding upon the Member States of the United Nations is the Security Council. Under UN rules of procedure, unlike other more generalized rules of procedure, the topic on the floor is debated in its entirety. This means that during debate, delegates should discuss the whole issue and all of the resolutions regarding that issue. When debate is exhausted, or is ended, the body then votes on each resolution and amendment and the issues are considered closed.

The goal of formal debate and caucusing is to persuade enough countries in the committee to support a particular solution to the topic under discussion. Resolutions formally state the agreed-upon solution by outlining the relevant precedents and describing the proposed actions. The committee is not limited to one resolution per topic; often the committee will pass multiple resolutions dealing with different aspects of a topic.

Life of a Resolution

As a given agenda topic is debated in both formal and informal debate, blocs of delegations will begin to work together on writing resolutions. During the initial writing and revision stages, these documents are referred to as Working Papers. Working Papers are drafted and are then discussed with a larger number of delegations and revised or merged as needed according to their input. In order to be formally introduced to the floor, working papers must garner a certain number of supporting Member States and then be approved by the Vice-Chair for printing and distribution as draft resolutions. There are two ways to support a working paper to be brought to the floor.

• The Sponsors of a working paper are often the ones who created the content of it and who will be most responsible for seeing it through until it is voted on as a resolution. Sponsors of a working paper have the right to allow friendly amendments or to force a committee vote on an amendment. Sponsorship has no other advantages at the HSMUN and is not an awards criterion. Member States acting as sponsors of a working paper should be prepared to be available to defend the draft resolution and answer questions regarding it during session hours.

Signatories are Member States, observers, or NGOs who are interested in bringing the working paper forward for consideration by the committee. They often support the content of the paper but were not necessarily instrumental in creating it and may ultimately disagree with its content.

The required number of signatures for a paper to be submitted usually totals 20% of the membership in attendance. The Vice-Chair will announce the required number of delegates during the second committee meeting. When the sponsors feel that the Working Paper is complete, in the correct format, and ready to be distributed to the entire body, they must submit it to the committee Vice-Chair. In order to ensure correct formatting, delegates are required to use the templates provided by HSMUN. Vice-Chairs will not accept documents using a different template. The Vice-Chair will examine the Working Paper and may require changes before it can be distributed to the committee at large. The committee Vice-Chair is the final authority on all resolutions. A Working Paper or Draft Resolution may not be sent for printing or be distributed to the committee without the approval of the Vice-Chair. The Vice-Chair will often require revisions to a Working Paper, including changes in format and/or content. The Vice-Chair may also, at his or her discretion, require two or more groups to combine or merge similar working papers before approval.

After approval, the Working Paper is assigned a number and is to be considered a Draft Resolution. At this time, the names of all sponsors and signatories are removed from the document. The distribution of a Draft Resolution is considered to be its formal introduction to the committee – no procedural motion or reading of the Draft Resolution by a sponsor is necessary. Once a resolution has been introduced, it is formally debated as part of the topic area, and amendments may be proposed.

A Draft Resolution only becomes a resolution if it is approved by the committee in voting procedure. Delegates should be aware during the process, that the committee should not pass contradicting resolutions but speak with a coherent voice. For more information, see the section of this manual that discusses voting procedure.

Structure of a Resolution

UN resolutions follow a common format. Each resolution has three parts: the heading, the preambular clauses, and the operative clauses. The entire resolution consists of one long sentence, with commas and semi-colons throughout, and only one period at the very end. Working papers should be single-spaced. The first word in each clause should be italicized.

Preambular Clauses

The purpose of the preambular clause is to supply historical background for the issue as well as justify the action. Preambular clauses usually begin with a participle and cite appropriate sections of the UN Charter, past UN resolutions, and precedents of international law relevant to the topic. The preamble should also specifically refer to factual situations or incidents. Finally, the preamble may include altruistic appeals to the common sense or humanitarian instincts of members with references to the CharterUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, etc. The preamble is still critical because it provides the framework through which the problem is viewed. Remember that preambular clauses begin with participles, are in italics, and are always followed by a comma. Some common preambular clauses begin with:

Operative Clauses

The solution in a resolution is presented through a logical progression of sequentially numbered operative clauses. These clauses may recommend, urge, condemn, encourage, request certain actions, or state an opinion regarding an existing situation.

Each operative clause calls for a specific action. The action may be as vague as denunciation of a certain situation or a call for negotiations, or as specific as a call for a cease-fire or a monetary commitment for a particular project. It is important to bear in mind that only Security Council resolutions are binding upon the international community; the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council can only make recommendations. The scope, power, and authority of a committee determine what may be included in the operative clause.

Resolutions are rarely complete solutions to a problem; they are usually only one step in the process of developing a solution. Prior research should have revealed alternatives that failed. Operative clauses begin with an active, present tense verb and are followed by a semicolon, with a period placed after the final clause.

Some common operative clause beginnings include the following:

Introducing International Instruments

UN resolutions are not adopted in a vacuum, but in the context established by prior international instruments, such as the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and various international treaties or other agreements. These instruments establish the political and legal foundations upon which deliberations can begin. As such, delegates are fully expected to integrate the relevant documents in position papers and in draft resolutions and reports. The committee history and topic sections of each background guide indicate instruments of particular relevance to each committee. Below is a sample resolution.

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