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Guide to the Back-Room in Model UN Crisis Committees

Crisis Committees in Model UN

Crisis is another type of committee commonly found on the Model UN circuit. Different from General Assembly (GA) committees, crisis committees involve two elements, called front-room and back-room. 

To learn more about the structure of a crisis committee and the front-room aspect of crisis committees, check out our MUN 101 guide to the crisis front-room.

How to Prepare for the Back-Room in a Model UN Crisis Committee

Just like you would in a GA, you must also research and prepare for a crisis committee to ensure you’re ready for all of the unexpected elements that may arise during committee. Being the most researched in the room is very important because it can make your speeches grounded in facts and understanding as opposed to complete emotion rhetoric or simple anecdotal information. Being well-researched can also help make your directives clear, on-topic, and substantive in nature. Research can also guide you to the development of a strong crisis arc, or overall storyline/goals for your position.

Some things to look into when preparing for a Model UN crisis committee include:

  • Committee powers: Understanding what power or resources your committee has as well as the other members of the committee are valuable pieces of information to leverage when considering how to solve a crisis and produce well-thought-out directives.
  • Portfolio powers: Portfolio powers are the public powers and resources your position has. Make sure to research the scope of your powers as well as what you have control over. There are also covert powers you may have access to such as connections, money, secretive roles or positions that can be used throughout committee without other delegates knowing.
  • Subject matter: This would simply be the topics that will be the focal point of debate, at least for the first few committee sessions. Crisis is very plastic, meaning it’s impossible to prepare for every single circumstance that can arise, but being prepared for the topics and pieces you will expect so you can spend more committee time addressing the special cases. 

Crisis Arc Planning and Development in Model UN

Crisis arcs are essentially the storyline for your character in Model UN crisis committees. They should detail most importantly, a large end goal for your character, as well as various methods and steps you will take to get there. Strong crisis arcs will take the topics of committee, time period, and character’s persona as well as portfolio powers into consideration. Crisis arcs should also have a strong impact on committee, and don’t necessarily have to be in the best interests of committee as a whole (and they’re usually not!)

The most important part of having a good crisis arc is fluidity. Crisis staffers who will be responding to your notes to develop your arc love to stonewall and block certain actions to see how well you adapt. Because of this, having one straight linear crisis arc will almost surely end in failure. Another tip for making a unique crisis arc is to try to use aspects of crisis updates to enhance your own personal arc. However because it can be hard to predict the direction committee will go in, you have to be prepared to do this on the fly while committee is going on. 

Different delegates will have different ways and styles for how they plan out their crisis arcs. One popular way is to organize your plans into separate subsections called ‘missions’. This planning technique requires you to have your large end goal in mind, and develop several different missions you can use to get you a few steps closer to that goal. That way, if one mission fails, you can simply try another. These missions should be used in conjunction with one another in order to fully cover your bases and secure your arc. There are also a few ‘failsafe’ minor arcs you can include in your primary arc that have been tried and true in Model UN: creating a cult, underground drug ring, or spy ring, etc. If your committee involves futuristic technology or characters with magical powers, make sure to use those in your arc or even try to push the boundaries (within reason). Crisis staff will let you know once you’ve crossed a line in terms of what you can and cannot do.

Crisis arcs are very flexible and for that reason, can change a lot from delegate to delegate, as everyone has a different personal style. Some delegates like to build on their arc in secret as much as possible until they need to go public with their final objective while others like to start off by wreaking as much public havoc as possible. The possibilities are nearly endless.

The two largest pieces of arc development that delegates often forget about are: 

  • Protection: Within one of your first few correspondences with crisis staff, you should always establish protection for yourself. This can include hiring bodyguards, creating secure safes and passcode encrypted software on your computer. Protection requests may seem small, but are almost always granted and can be incredibly important down the line if another delegate tries to spy on you or even kill you. Protection requests should also be modified to fit the time period and universe your crisis committee is set in. For example, don’t ask for a retina scanner in your private office if your committee is set in medieval Europe. Another form of protection that is important is establishing that all of your notes are written in a way where others can’t read them. The easiest way for crisis staff to foil your plans is by leaking a note you wrote. Avoid this by clearly establishing that notes are written in a cipher, encrypted (if on a computer) or that they should be burned after reading.
  • Money: Money is one of the most important resources in crisis committees, and unless your character is a famous billionaire, you’ll have to incorporate money-making plans into your crisis arc. Once you make your money, you’ll also have to protect it. Many delegates like to create shell companies to hold money and not draw suspicion or create an off-shore relatively untraceable account in a fake name. Do this in a crisis note by asking your secretary to ‘do the paperwork’ to establish these things. Then make sure to instruct them to move your funds over gradually instead of all at once in order to not rouse suspicion from other delegates.


Crisis Notes in Model UN

Now that your crisis arc has been developed, it’s time to bring it to fruition. You can accomplish this by writing crisis notes, which are done all throughout the course of committee. Crisis notes are the tools used to actually carry out action ‘behind the scenes’ during committee. 

Instead of writing these with a formal structure as you would with a GA resolution or a directive, crisis notes are written as letters to a real or fictional character we imagine to be outside of the committee in the setting of the committee’s universe. For example, this can be a real or made-up spouse, secretary, friend, coworker, etc. Through these notes you will build and develop relationships with these out of committee characters and instruct them to do things for you. When writing crisis notes, it is also referred to as ‘writing to the back-room’ since notes (for the most part) are kept secret. 

Crisis notes must address who, what, where, when, why, and how of each action you plan on taking. Make your notes clear and easily understood so crisis staff knows what to do and has no room to mess up your plans or reveal them to the rest of committee. Also try to get a good read of your chair and crisis director at the beginning of committee. If they seem more serious, keep your notes serious. If they seem more light-hearted, try to inject some humor into your notes to help build rapport with them. Funny crisis notes are almost always more interesting than serious ones and can help make you stand out as a delegate. 

When writing crisis notes, make sure you’re working with the backroom instead of against it. Crisis staffers will then be responding to your notes as the character you’re writing to with a response, and usually confirming or denying that the action was completed. Most staffers will include why an action was denied with a follow up on what you need to do to get it granted. If crisis staff is continually denying a particular action, it means it won’t fit in with the larger direction of committee and you should stop asking about it and try something else. 

Here is an example of this:

Model UN sample crisis note for a crisis committee

Model UN Sample Crisis Note for Crisis Committee

Joint Personal Directives (Joint Crisis Notes) in Model UN

Joint personal directives (JPDs), also known as joint crisis notes are essentially crisis notes sent to back-room from two or more delegates. JPDs differ from directives as they are not voted upon by the committee and instead are simply sent directly to the crisis staff. They can be extremely effective because they combine the portfolio powers of you as well as other delegates. Working with others can also help make you appear more diplomatic and identifies you as a leader, especially if you work with multiple people.

JPDs can be done as one-offs where you an another delegate (or more) collaborate for one or a few instances. They can also be done as more in-depth work with someone else, which can be more difficult. When working in-depth with someone else, you must make sure you’re being identified as the leader amongst the group and that you’re doing enough ‘solo’ work to separate yourself from the rest of the members of the JPD group. This can also be difficult to navigate as JPDs may require you to expose some elements of your crisis arc to make the JPD relevant to what you are doing. When sourcing a partner for a potential JPD be strategic in what you to choose to reveal and what you choose to keep concealed. 

Choose your JPD partner(s) wisely. Weaker delegates generally will not try to backstab you, and will rely on you for direction in the JPD. Stronger delegates may use your partnership as a way to uncover your arc or backstab you. For the latter, invest in additional protection measures to secure yourself against any sort of attack or breach. 

JPD Example: 

Sample Joint Personal Directive for a Model UN Crisis Committee

Final Remarks

Because of the flexibility and fluidity of crisis committees, different delegates have different styles. The biggest piece of advice would be to find your personal style and what works best for you. Good luck!

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