Amendments are among the most overlooked aspects of parliamentary procedure in Model UN. Picture this: it is the last committee session of the night, and the committee room is full of sleep-deprived, caffeine-crashed, hungry, aggravated, mentally-exhausted delegates who want nothing more than to return to the comfort of their hotel rooms and escape the confines of their dreaded business attire in exchange for some sweatpants. In the final 30 or so minutes of committee, delegate participation will hit an all-time low for the conference weekend, because the vast majority of the committee is slumped back in their seats, desperately checking the time every 2 minutes awaiting the suspension of debate.
In moments like these, you are presented with an invaluable opportunity to distinguish yourself from the rest of the committee and demonstrate the depth of your interest in the topic, your stamina, and your dedication to continuing engagement with no limits.
The best way to accomplish that in a highly-visible way to the chair is to submit amendments when nobody else will. Luckily enough, there are three different types of amendments that can effectively edit a working paper before it moves on to voting procedure.
Amendments that do not need authorization from the sponsors of the draft resolution are unfriendly amendments. You do not have to be a member of the bloc to propose an unfriendly amendment; in fact, you don’t even have to be in support of the paper at all. Unfriendly amendments make substantive changes to the paper, which can come in the form of deleting clauses, altering an existing clause, or supplementing additional clauses. Unfriendly amendments require two-thirds of the committee to vote in favor, which can include–but certainly does not need to–the sponsors and signatories of the draft resolution.
Friendly amendments are amendments that require approval from every sponsor of the draft resolution. A more formal chair will require that the amendment be submitted on a separate piece of paper along with the signatories of each sponsor, whereas a more informal chair may just request verbal confirmation of approval from each sponsor. No other voting procedure is required beyond the approval from each sponsor but remember: the sponsors must agree unanimously. If even one sponsor does not support the amendment, it cannot pass. As such, passing friendly amendments typically requires some lobbying skills in order to garner the support of every sponsor.
Non-substantial amendments are exactly as they sound: they entail edits that have no impact on the meaning of the resolution as a whole. This type of amendment can include things like the correction of spelling errors, punctuation errors, poor grammatical structure, capitalization errors, or the omittance of any incomplete sentences from the paper. Non-substantial amendments require no voting whatsoever and are simply accepted or rejected by the dias. Tiny edits can make a big difference in legitimizing a draft resolution; however, submitting non-substantial amendments to draft resolutions in which you are not an advocate for maybe an ill use of committee time.
Substantial amendments–friendly or unfriendly, that is–accomplish much more in terms of improving your reputation in the eyes of the chair because they require substance, opinion advocacy, and in-depth research.
Substantial amendments demonstrate more about you as a delegate than the correction of a mere spelling error.
Keep in mind that no amendments can be made to preambulatory clauses, so be sure to proofread those before submitting working papers to ensure they are entirely rid of any spelling, grammatical, structural, or factual errors. As for the other 3 types of amendments, the procedure is that they will be introduced–either by the chair or read out loud by the author–and then will move directly into voting procedure, though that procedure differs depending on the type of amendment. At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is that amendments are a tool that can be leveraged to heighten the quality of all draft resolutions and bolster your performance in committee towards greater success.
Want more great articles?
Sign up to get all the latest news and articles from All-American Model UN. Never more than 3 emails per month.