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MUN 101: Specialized Committees

What is a Specialized Committee?

In Model United Nations, most committees will be listed as either General Assembly or crisis, but there is another category that is a bit more ambiguous in nature. 

The term ‘specialized’ is used to represent a whole plethora of different committees with different settings and backgrounds. The one commonality between them is that either procedural differences and/or committee type prevent them from being classified in the common General Assembly/crisis binary.

Some examples of specialized committees could include a regional intergovernmental organization such as ASEAN or the European Union, state legislatures such as the British House of Commons or United States Senate, or Directorate Boards such as the Tesla or Apple Board of Directors.

Why Don’t We Just Group These Committees with Crisis or GA?

These committees cannot be classified as General Assembly committees simply because they are not a part of the United Nations. General Assembly committees must be a part of the United Nations, most often as a body of the General Assembly or a plenary. For more on General Assembly committees, please visit our MUN 101 tutorial on General Assembly: Speaking and Debate.

As for crisis, the answer is also simple. Specialized committees are categorized as such because they do not require the writing of crisis notes or communiques. However, because specialized committees are generally a bit more fast-paced than General Assemblies, they often include crisis updates. Specialized committees may also require the writing of directives instead of resolution papers in order to allow delegates to respond quicker and more efficiently to a situation as it develops throughout the course of a conference. For more information on the structure and procedures of crisis committees, please visit our MUN 101 tutorials on the crisis front room and the crisis back room.

So What Should I Expect from a Specialized Committee?

The short answer is that it depends. Different conferences and even different specialized committees within the same conference can operate very differently with things like procedure, paper writing, and crisis updates. 

How to Prepare for a Specialized Committee

The best way to prepare yourself before a conference begins is to read the background guide. More often than not, specifics about the committee’s procedures and if there are any special rules to expect will be listed somewhere near the beginning or the end of the background guide. If you read the background guide and cannot find this information, then there are a couple of options.

Firstly, if your committee is something outrageous, fictional, or difficult to find information on, you should email the dais or secretariat to inquire about procedure. In the background guide, look out for a letter from the dais with their email listed. If you cannot find that, you will almost certainly be able to find the email for someone on the secretariat, the group of people who set up and run the conference. If you have access to the emails of all of the secretariat members, the best person to contact would be the Undersecretary General of Specialized Committees, as they would have the most knowledge about how the specialized committees will be run.

When emailing the dais or secretariat member, make sure to be incredibly professional and polite. Explain that you will be attending the conference as a delegate in the particular committee you are inquiring about. Do not ask for a blanket answer to all of the procedure that will happen in committee, as this will make you sound unconfident and inexperienced. Instead, make sure to ask specific questions about the committee’s procedure and explain that you wanted to ask because you have seen different specialized committees run differently and wanted to clarify how this one would be. Good questions to ask could be, “Will we be writing directives, resolutions, or something else?”, “Will there be crisis updates?”, or “Are there any special rules that we will use during the course of the conference?”. These questions can be tailored to particular things that come up about your committee or that you are curious about. It is always best to end the email with a statement that you are excited for the conference and can’t wait to meet them! 

Another option is to do some research first. For example, the United States Senate uses very different rules than parliamentary procedure, so you can most likely expect for those rules to go into effect if you are in a United States Senate committee. Research can include the rules of your committee in real life and how policy is written–in the case of the United States Senate, you would most likely be writing bills instead of resolutions or directives. Then based on your research, you can decide if you want to email your dais to confirm the information you found. Remember that just because something is done a certain way in real life, does not mean that it will also work exactly that way in committee, mostly due to time constraints. For example, the United States Senate allows for the filibuster, where senators can speak on a bill for as long as they want. Filibuster speeches can go on for several hours, and some may be longer than your entire time spent in committee during a conference weekend. Because of this, it is unlikely that extended filibusters would be allowed, even in a US Senate committee, simply for the sake of time.

Pre-Conference Preparation

So you exhausted all of your options and still have no idea how committee works. Do not worry, as you can still effectively prepare for your upcoming conference!

The best way to not go in blind is to anticipate the most possible outcomes and prepare for all of them. Before participating in a specialized committee you should know how to write both resolution papers and directives. If you are in a committee that uses a different policy-writing format in real life, learn how to write that way too. You should also have at the very least, a basic working knowledge of how to write a crisis note and how to respond to crisis updates. It will be very useful to know how to adapt to a developing situation through crisis updates as well. Do as much research as possible on your committee and the circumstances outlined in the background guide to feel as secure as possible in the aspects of committee that are confirmed, so you can focus on learning potentially nuanced procedure once you arrive at the conference.

For more detailed information on preparing for conferences, check out our MUN 101 tutorial on Pre-Conference Prep.

Good luck and get that gavel!

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