The last twelve months have been a wild ride, taking All-American teams across four continents and five countries to compete at five conferences– WEMUN Expo (Beijing, China), Harvard Model UN India (Hyderabad, India), Yale Model Government Europe (Budapest, Hungary), North American Invitational Model UN- NAIMUN (Washington, D.C.), and HACIA Summit of the America (San Jose, Costa Rica). By far, this has been the most exciting period in our four year history.
Regardless of the conference we attended and despite the changing faces on our teams, the result was the same: Best Delegation awards.
Start with Working Knowledge
There is no secret recipe to building a strong team. Nor is there a secret binder of instructions and pre-written resolutions. Each team, each student is different, and as a coach and teacher, I’m forced to vary my techniques and lessons based on the strengths of each team and student.
Yet, the basic flow of training remains the same.
The first step to training a team is to make sure every member has a baseline knowledge of the body they are simulating. As three of the five conferences we attended are United Nations simulations (WEMUN Expo, HMUN India, and NAIMUN), ensuring that each student understands how the UN works is critical.
Concentrating on inappropriate solutions and getting lost in funding debate wastes a lot of time at Model UN conferences. The General Assembly of the United Nations largely focuses on suggestions for States to implement. By focusing your solutions on creating guidelines and templates for member states to implement will narrow your research and give you a solid starting point.
Here are some of the common knowledge questions I make sure students can answer:
- What are the organs of the United Nations and how do they work with one another?
- How does the General Assembly operate? What does the concept of “one state, one vote” mean?
- What parts of the UN are involved in field work and implementation?
- What role does the Security Council have in the UN System?
- How is the UN financed?
- What role do Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have in the UN System?
The same concept applies to simulations of the European Union, World Bank System, Organization of America States, and so on. You must have a baseline knowledge to build realistic solutions.
Focus Research on Developing Solutions
Many of my alumni dread hearing the (made-up) word “PRECON.” My PRECON, or Pre-Conference Research Document, forces my students to identify past solutions, find criticisms of their successes or failures, analyze those past actions, and develop new solutions dealing specifically with economic, political, and social measures.
While position papers may seem like a waste of time– especially when some conferences do not return papers with notes to students– they can be an incredible effective tool to demonstrate your research. The PRECON that I’ve developed helps students organize their research so that the act of writing a paper is worthwhile.
Keep your research focused on the task of developing new solutions or reforms for current solutions.
Map Out an In-Committee Strategy
Developing a strategy to be used in committee can be painstaking because it requires a lot of individual attention, and delegates may have to completely abandon it after the first session.
After you have your solution set, mapping out an in-committee strategy is critical because it gives you a game plan for your first session. Model UN is all about momentum and the earlier you establish yourself as an expert in committee, the more fun you will have and the better you will debate.
Some questions to consider:
- If working in a double delegation: what role will each person have? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How will your character in committee act? Does the simulation call for an even-keeled, conservative diplomat or a hawkish, stubborn, and hyper-critical military commander?
- What other countries will be in your bloc? Which countries should you avoid working with?
- What are your ‘red lines,’ positions that you cannot negotiate one?
Make Adjustments during the Conference
Most people fail to win awards or higher awards at Model UN conferences because they lose their focus. Debate starts turning, the chair “isn’t calling on you,” someone supposed stole a clause.
Model United Nations is a marathon– one of the most important lessons to come out of participating. You have to stay focused and when your original strategy is not working, you have to make “game time” adjustments. Switch up your bloc. Change your character profile.
Above all, keep writing and don’t give up! If you are authoring a draft resolution, directives, or amendments, the dais and the committee has to eventually pay attention to you.
The Importance of Team
One of the reasons that I am so strongly in favor of conferences giving delegation awards is that it gives teams a collective goal that each has to work towards and contribute to. A team that works together and supports each other lends important lessons to Model UN conferences.
Throughout the research process to the weekend of a conference, my team members are responsible for one another.
I ardently believe that the main reason we all spend so much time doing Model UN is because of the camaraderie and teamwork. My teams become family and despite only spending a little as 6 days together, we continue to support each other for years to come.
Seats Still Available this Summer
We still have seats available on our WEMUN Expo (Beijing) team, HMUN India (Hyderabad) team, and in our Diplomacy Academy. For more information, visit each program page of email [email protected]. We’re looking for students committed to improving their Model UN skills, not just those who have won high number of awards.