Introduction to Resolution Writing
Before we jump into the ins and outs and writing resolution in Model United Nations conferences, let’s begin by defining the type of Model UN that we’re talking about. For some of you, this may be new information. Model UN is not a homogenous activity. In fact, different styles of Model UN are practices around the world. In the United States, we tend to participate in a more competitive, debate-driven style of Model UN, often called UNA-USA or Harvard style. In the US, prewritten resolutions are not allowed; instead, students begin writing resolutions once they arrive at the conference. On the other hand, many international styles, sometimes called THIMUN style, require students to come to conferences with fully constructed resolutions. In this style, students spend the first several hours lobbying other committee members and begin the merger process.
In this article, we’ll use the traditional UNA-USA style of Model UN as our point of reference. More specifically, we’ll be discussing how to research, understand, write, format, lobby, and manage a draft resolution in a traditional General Assembly or Economic and Social Council committee simulation. Almost every student begins their Model UN journies in these types of traditional committees.
It’s important to note that different conferences will have different rules and procedures regarding resolutions. For example, at Harvard-run conferences, only one resolution is permitted to pass per committee on any one topic. At other conferences, a committee may pass multiple resolutions. Regardless, passing a draft resolution is the overarching goal of traditional committees like GAs at UNA-USA style Model UN conferences. As much as you may enjoy the debate aspect of Model UN, the resolution always should remain the goal.
- There are different types of Model UN styles. This article deals primarily with UNA-USA styled Model UN.
- Regardless of specific conference policies, the goal of a traditional Model UN simulation, such as the General Assembly, is to pass a resolution.
Goals of Model UN Resolutions
Model UN resolutions are modeled off of resolutions written and accepted by the General Assembly in the United Nations. While there are differences between these documents, we won’t deal with them at this moment.
The goals of resolutions in Model UN mirror that of the United Nations General Assembly. So what can a resolution passed by the General Assembly do?
There are three main operations of a UN and Model UN resolution. The first and primary goal of a resolution is to build consensus in the international community. Unlike most UNA-USA style Model UN conferences, the United Nations General Assembly typically accepts resolutions entirely by consensus. Rarely does a resolution ever face a vote by member states. As you may know from your own experience, Model UN committees don’t typically mirror this reality; however, that doesn’t make the goal of consensus building any less important.
The second aspect that a resolution can address concerns policy recommendations. If you’ve ever participated in a General Assembly Model UN committee, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the principle of national sovereignty, which concludes that state governments have complete control over the laws and policies within their borders, provided those laws don’t infringe or interfere with other sovereign states or human rights conventions. With that said, a Model UN resolution may propose policy recommendations for states to implement. For example, a resolution may encourage member states to adopt a progressive corporate tax rate to support educational development.
Third, resolutions may call upon or instruct other bodies within the United Nations system. The UN system of bodies, programmes, funds, and organizations is vast. Many of these subsidiary bodies directly report to the General Assembly. Explore the UN System to see how your resolution can best utilize the systems that are in place. Alternatively, your resolution may also reform bodies that already exist or charge an organization to conduct a review. Make sure when instructing other UN agencies that you do not abdicate your role in developing a comprehensive solution– don’t write a resolution that put the onus on another committee!
- Resolutions form a consensus between member states in the international system.
- Resolutions can provide policy recommendations for member states to implement.
- Resolutions may instruct parts of the UN system to address specific parts of the topic or issue area.
Preparing and Researching before Writing a Resolution
The first step of a strong performance at a Model UN conference rests in coming prepared. This means doing your research and strategically analyzing past approaches to your issue area. Even though resolutions aren’t written until the conference begins in UNA-USA style Model UN, this doesn’t exempt you from preparing for the conferences.
Most delegates make the mistake of focusing their research solely on their country. While it’s nifty that you know the top 15 imports and exports for the country that you’re representing, don’t lose sight of the primary goal: write, lobby, and pass a draft resolution.
Here’s a quick overview of how to use a solutions-oriented research approach:
Research and analyze past solutions.
Your first priority when researching for your next Model Un committee should be to analyze past solutions from the international and state level. Once you have a grasp over your national priority, spend the majority of your time analyzing the history of the topic or issue area that you’ve been assigned. Here are some of the questions you should find answers to:
- What is the history of the topic? How did the issue become a matter of international importance?
- What are the main drivers of negative effects? What are the interconnected elements of the topic?
- Who is directly affected by the issue? Who is indirectly affected? Is there any correlation between the two?
- Who stands to win or lose is the current situation changes?
- What efforts have been made to address this specific issue by the international community in the past? What were the results?
- Has my country been directly affected by this issue? If yes, what has my country done to address the issue? If no, is there a comparative issue my state has experience with?
Find current working papers, white papers, and scholarly articles.
After you’ve analyzed past solutions, begin your research on current solutions and analysis by experts and scholars. Solutions and analysis can be offered from a number of different sources including individual experts, government agencies, think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, corporations, governments, and international organizations.
Focus your research on finding working papers, white papers, and scholarly articles from these sources. Use Google Scholar or another academic article directory to find professional opinions and analysis. Sometimes simply searching for the topic area and the terms “white paper” or “working paper” will yield great results.
Once you find solutions authored by others, make sure to always cite and give credit!
Develop novel approaches.
Before you step into the committee room, you need to have developed your solution set for your resolution. The best delegates will come into a committee prepared with a plan to build consensus around their core ideas. This doesn’t imply others will not be included into the process– quite the opposite. By providing a strong architecture, you allow others to contribute their ideas. This is how blocs form and consensus is built.
After you’ve analyzed past solutions and read about new ideas, it’s time to put all of your research together to develop your solution set. Read our article about how to construct a solution set for a more complete review. In essence, your solution set will be made up of multiple strategies to address the problem.
In your preparation, construct a matrix with six boxes. On the top, write “Immediate Solutions” and “System Solutions,” and on the side of your matrix, write the labels “Economic,” “Political,” and “Social.” Using your research, come up with new solutions that address each of their boxes. Once your solution set it developed, you need to start thinking about how to present your ideas. We’ll get to this is sections below.
- The best delegates will thoroughly research solutions to the topic area, not just national policies.
- Pay attention to past attempts to address the issue area from the state and international levels.
- Find current solutions being offered by a number of different sources.
- Put your research together to form a solution set.
Differences between Working Papers and Draft Resolutions
Again, it’s important to point out that different Model UN conferences will follow slightly different procedure, even if they’re all considered to be UNA-USA style. Some conferences treat working papers and draft resolutions as the same type of document. Others won’t allow working papers and only make mention and use of draft resolutions. Still, others will consider these papers are two very different types of documents.
For our purposes, let’s define what we mean by a ‘working paper’ and ‘draft resolution’:
Working Paper- a document containing the written ideas of at least one committee member with no particular formatting that has been formally introduced to the committee for debate.
Draft Resolution- a formal document with proper formatting that has been formally introduced to the committee for debate.
Goals of a Working Paper
Working papers outline a specific idea or set of ideas so that a committee can formally debate them. Technically, a committee cannot begin to make reference to a particular paper until the committee has voted to introduce it to formal debate. To expedite the discussion of specific ideas, conferences may allow working papers to be introduced. Working papers may take on the formal formatting of a draft resolution, but do not have to follow this formatting. A working paper could be a graph, paragraphs of text, or take any other format. The objective of a working paper is to formally introduce a concept and debate it in committee.
Goals of a Draft Resolution
Draft resolutions must be submitted in proper formatting, which we will discuss in a further section. Unlike working papers, draft resolutions must be introduced by a bloc of countries. Conferences, again, will vary as to the introduction requirements. Some conferences will require at least 1/5 of the committee to be signatories or sponsors. Some conferences do not differentiate between signatories or sponsors. After a paper meets the minimum requirements for introduction, the committee vote by majority to introduce a draft resolution into debate. At this point, the chair or director will give the document an official number, such as Draft Resolution 1.1. The objective of a draft resolution is to introduce a develop set of clauses, build consensus, allow amendments, and ultimately, be adopted by the committee.
- There are differences between working papers and draft resolutions, but conferences will often use the terms interchangeably.
How to Format a Model UN Draft Resolution
Understanding how to format a Model UN draft resolution gives you many advantages in a committee. Formatting knowledge allows you to lead the writing process in your bloc, increases the chance you’re bloc can submit the first paper, and demonstrates experience to the chair and director of your committee.
Model UN Draft Resolution Heading
The heading of a Model UN draft resolutions contains all of the information pertaining to authorship and committee details. Once your draft resolution has been accepted by the dais, it will receive a number, and from thereafter it will be referenced with that number. The first number corresponds to the topic in the agenda order (1 for the first topic, 2 for the second topic, and so on), and the second number will refer to order in which the document was accepted. Therefore, Draft Resolution 1.1 means the draft resolution pertains to the first topic and was the first paper accepted for debate.
Before we move on, let’s discuss the difference between sponsors and signatories in Model UN. In a draft resolution, sponsors refer to the primary authors and advocates of a paper. Some conferences will limit the number of sponsors a paper may have. Signatories are those countries that wish to see a draft resolution formally introduced for debate. Signatories do not necessarily have to agree with every point of a draft resolution and are not obliged to vote in favor of it. Again, some conferences may not differentiate between sponsors and signatories, so make sure to read the rules of procedure for every conference you attend.
Example Draft Resolution Heading
Preambulatory clauses immediately follow the draft resolution heading. Preambulatory clauses give context and justification to Model UN draft resolutions. They often cite international doctrine, prior resolutions from the General Assembly or Security Council, or other international documents. Preambulatory clauses, often called preambs, explain why a body is taking action. In many regards, they set the scene for the rest of the resolution.
Preambulatory clauses are always written starting with a gerund verb or present participle– verbs ending with “ing.” Preambulatory phrases are often italicized, but be sure to check with your conference. Preambulatory clauses typically are not numbered, and they end with a comma.
Example Preambulatory Clauses
Operative clauses, also know as substantive clauses, contain the instructions and conclusions of the committee. They affect change, take action, create new bodies, call upon member state and other inter-governmental organizations, and set forth what a committee wants to happen and how they want it to happen.
Operative Clauses begin with an operative, present tense verb– verbs that end with “s.” Operative clauses are numbered, they are usually underlined– though again, consult your conference rule set–and end with a semi-colon. Operative clauses may also contain subclauses. The final operative clause of a draft resolution ends with a period.