The Question-and-Answer (Q and A) Panel is an often under-appreciated feature of the general assembly that can sometimes make or break a delegate’s chances of walking away with a gavel. Not only is it another opportunity for a delegate to explain the complexities of their solution in a less-formal setting, but it also demonstrates to the chair just how well you are leading your bloc. The Q and A period very clearly distinguishes the weak delegates from the robust ones.
The motion for a Q and A period, like any other motion in parliamentary procedure, is strategically beneficial when used correctly. When a delegate motions to introduce the working papers to the floor, the delegate should always seek a Q and A, and they often will. Committee members outside of the bloc presenting often appreciate Q and A sessions equally, recognizing it as a critical period to better understand other delegates’ perspectives. As a side note, when motioning for a Q and A, don’t just motion for the Q and A itself; also motion for a separate presentation period. The times for the presentation and for the Q and A should be independent of one another. For instance, a delegate may motion for a three-minute presentation of the working paper followed by five minutes for questions. The chair will then be responsible for the timing of the two periods.
Having a separate presentation and Q and A period allows more members of the bloc to feel involved in the communication of the resolution to the larger committee.
Deciding Who Goes Up for Q and A
Perhaps one of the most purely political points in a general assembly is deciding who does (and who doesn’t) present the resolution. If not handled correctly, blocs can crumble and networks sever. Often, only three or four delegates may participate in a Q and A. This is why motioning for a separate presentation of the paper is crucial. With a presentation period, this number doubles (usually; sometimes chairs made idiosyncratic rules). The delegates sent up for the presentation generally had little to do with the actual creation of the paper. Maybe they wrote a clause or two, maybe they have just been especially vocal in support of the solutions outlined in the paper. These speaking opportunities created by the presentation of the working paper help to keep peace within the bloc by allowing more delegates the opportunity to participate. The spots for the Q and A then usually go to the individuals that actually wrote the paper and can best speak to it and defend it in a dynamic setting. Of course, in a MUN committee, events rarely play out ideally.
A delegate’s goal is to get a spot on the Q and A, and this is most easily done if the delegate has spent most of the conference establishing themselves as the clear leader of the bloc. Often, though, there is not just one leader of a bloc, there can be often two or three individuals vying for bloc leadership. Rather than advocating for your own position on Q and A, an effective strategy is to suggest that the less power-hungry delegates in your bloc receive a couple of the Q and A positions. These delegates, in turn, will advocate for you. It is important that delegates don’t come across as abrasive when deciding who will participate in the Q and A. As voting approaches, unity is vital. Ideally, this strategy will separate you from your competitors as the leader of the bloc.
The Q and A itself
The Q and A can be a stressful and frustrating experience if the bloc doesn’t go into it with a plan. For each question, only one person should be giving an answer. If multiple people jump in with answers, or the speakers attempt to correct one another, both the bloc and the working paper seem disorganized and contradictory. One effective strategy for organizing the Q and A is giving each speaker a section or topic to answer sections on. For instance, one delegate answers all questions about the education clauses, while another focuses on the questions regarding infrastructure and development.
A delegate attempting to distinguish themselves as the bloc leader should be answering the questions regarding the heart of the working paper.
If the issue of the committee is combating poverty, and the paper addresses poverty through job creation, the bloc leader then should be answering questions regarding job creation, rather than the peripheral clauses regarding topics like specific farming technology that will be used as part of employment initiatives. The chair, along with the committee as a whole, will associate the delegate with the clauses they spoke about during the Q and A.
The Q and A is a vital aspect of the competition in a committee. It’s most critical aspects are two-fold: first, to validate who the main competitors for awards are. Simply put, those who are selected to speak have derived merit from their ideas and leadership. Second, this session can be a vital tool to promote a public image of you (and others from your bloc) to the committee, including the chairs..Because of this, the Q and A should not be written off as necessary parliamentary function before returning to debate, but rather as an opportunity for an individual to demonstrate why they are truly the best delegate in the room.
Related Article: How to Navigate Q&A Sessions in Model UN
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