Wednesday, February 16, 2011

United Nations Association of the USA

In the meeting for the Model UN program this week, we have been going into detail with the preparation guidelines from the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNAUSA). I had been looking mostly at the official background guides, which are more specific with each committee. However, UNAUSA offers concise guidelines regarding every single aspect of the program.The website ( is a great source for participants. I believe preparation is the key to success, and I think being prepared is the only way to really enjoy this experience. Ever since I enrolled the program, I've had difficulties trying to explain what it is to other people who have never heard of it. Now that I have explored this site in detail, I think it's the perfect reference for those students who wonder about the program and are afraid of participating because of a lack of information. Just check it out!

"Saving the world in 96 hours or lessIn Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization's agenda. Students make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the conference rules of procedure - all in the interest of mobilizing "international cooperation" to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world." (UNAUSA)
There is also a video about the event that talks about the program in full detail. Check it out if you have 7 spare minutes! 

The most useful part of the site is the preparation guide. It's divided into the different aspects we need to work on to become good participants. They're just the same aspects that Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Bedi want us to work on. Let's see them one by one, I'll try to make clear the fact that participating in the Model UN is not impossible even if you have no idea about how it works.
  • Research Overview: I think this is one of the most difficult things. You receive your country and then what? Where do you start looking? How do you know the position your country has for each issue? In this section of the site, there are clear and helpful instructions on how to do a research for the Model UN program.
  • Country Assignments: once everyone in the team knows about the country and the different topics that will be treated on each committee, the next step is to distribute the students into the different committees. We actually didn't have a hard time with that and reached an agreement quite quickly. However, in this section there is some help on how to distribute the committees.
  • Position Papers: this is the part we are at now. It's just a paper we have to send (one per each committee) stating our position on each topic. It's just a short paper, but it is very helpful. If we make a good research, and write a good position paper, we will already know what our country has to say regarding every issue in the real debate. The only way to do it correctly is collecting as much information as possible, so that we have arguments for every single word we say.
  • Flow of the Debate: extremely helpful! One of the biggest doubts when I started this whole thing was "will I know what's going on?" well, I can't say "yes" yet, but this section helps a lot understanding how a debate works. It explains all the parts of each session, starting from the roll call to the final vote.
  • Public Speaking: it is obvious that we need strong public speaking skills. There are many participants and we will have a few seconds to speak. We need to be confident and be able to say everything we want to say in that short period of time. This section of the site has tips and guidelines for different types of speeches. I'd say it's a must!
  • Rules of Procedure: here we can find out how we are expected to behave in each situation. I think it's very important that we all have it clear, because all of us are coming from different countries and sometimes what we think it's polite turns out to be rude in a different place. This section has all the rules we need to know and it even includes class activities with the vocabulary we need to use, the procedures we need to know etc.
  • Caucusing: it is the informal debates that take place during the event. They are very important because countries need to get together to be stronger. In this section there are tips on how to set a good strategy in caucusing, which is known to be one of the most important parts of the UN simulation!
  • Writing Resolutions: it was one of the most difficult things to understand for me. I have never studied any subject related to this topic and I found myself a bit lost with it. Who are the sponsors and signatories? What kind of clauses do we need to include in a resolution? This is where I think I need to put more effort in. This section is really concise and there are tips and steps to follow when writing a resolution.
  • Dressing for Success: finally, even if it might sound silly after talking about writing resolutions, participants need to know how to dress for the event. You don't want to be noticed because of the way you've dressed but because of what you have to say. That is why it is important that everyone knows the dressing rules, even though they are quite logical and reasonable. In this section of the site there is a chart divided into females and males with the guidelines.

Wow, now that I have gone through each aspect one by one it seems to be a lot of work! However, we have already covered many of these aspects and we are learning so much from it. I'm glad that we still have a lot of time to get prepared. I also wanted to encourage students from other schools to participate in the program. In the website I've been talking about in this post, there is a section called "How to Start a Model UN Club" that will help you organize it if your school isn't participating yet! Have a great week!

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