Overview of this Guide

Who is the guide for?

The United Nations Guide for MUN is written prinicipally for those (i.e., student leaders and MUN advisors) who organize Model UN simulations. The aim of the guide is to provide information about the structure of the UN as well as the procedures and processes used for reaching decisions so that the leaders of MUN programmes will be able to organize simulations of meetings that accurately represent how the UN actually functions.  At the same time, much of the material in the Appendices (e.g., UN at a Glance, UN Structure, etc.) are also useful for students looking for guidance on how to prepare for a conference. If you are new to the UN, the appendices will provide a good foundation for understanding the work of the Organization.

While no one knows for sure when the first Model UN simulation took place, MUN conferences are an outgrowth of simulations of the League of Nations that date back to the 1920‘s. Today, the popularity of Model UN continues to grow. It is estimated that more than 400,000 students worldwide participate every year at all educational levels from primary school to university. Many of today’s leaders in law, government, business and the arts participated in Model UN as students – including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

How is the guide different from other MUN guides?

Secretary-General Addresses GMUN Conference in Incheon

Secretary-General Addresses GMUN Conference in Incheon

Model UN, which was preceded by simulations of the League of Nations, started several years after the UN was created but was never monitored by it. The first time that a Model UN conference was co-sponsored by the UN was in August 2000 at UN Headquarters in New York. Almost a decade later,  the UN Department of Public Information organized three Global Model UN (GMUN) conferences in Geneva, Kuala Lumpur and Incheon from 2009-2011 respectively. It is in the context of these three conferences that new rules of procedure and a new approach to doing MUN simulations of the General Assembly were introduced. This guide builds on the pioneering approach that developed as a result of these conferences.

The UN4MUN Guide to simulation GA meetings differs from other MUN guides in three important ways. First, it introduces a leadership structure and responsibilities that more accurately mirrors the relationship between the General Assembly and UN Secretariat. As a result, the student leaders play a more substantive role in the conference than they do in typical MUN simulations which adds to the appeal of their participation.  Second, it uses Rules of Procedure that are much closer to those used at the UN. While there is some variety in the rules of procedure used by Model UN programmes around the world, they are largely based on parliamentary rules of procedure which are different than those used at the UN. The General Assembly Rules of Procedure do not have many of the points and motions used during MUN simulations such as Points of Information, Points of Personal Privilege or Points of Inquiry.  In some instances, parliamentary procedures violate the sovereign rights of Member States and are therefore not appropriate to be used in simulations of the General Assembly or Security Council.  Even the terminology that has evolved over time is different than what is used at the UN. For example, the distinction between friendly and unfriendly amendments does not exist and the terms moderated and unmoderated caucuses are not used either.

Third, most decisions adopted by the General Assembly and even by the Security Council are made by consensus. The leadership structure and rules of procedure should support a working environment that encourages delegates to build consensus. This guide introduces new ideas of how MUN simulations can encourage consensus building.

How to use this guide

The Official UN Guide to MUN is comprised of three main sections. It focuses on structure, procedures and processes. All three sections are interrelated.

The section on Structure focuses on two main Organs of the UN, the General Assembly, and the Security Council. The information is designed to help organizers of MUN programmes decide on the appropriate leadership structure balancing the constraints of the programme with the need to mirror the power structure as it exists at the United Nations.

Model UN Conference Opens in General Assembly Hall

Model UN Conference Opens in General Assembly Hall

The section on Procedures focuses on how to adapt the Rules of Procedures used in actual General Assembly meetings to a Model UN simulation where the time frames for making decisions are much shorter. It also highlights the many differences between the parliamentary rules used in most MUN programmes and those used at the UN. Examples of rules in action taken from actual meetings at the UN are integrated into the content as well.

The section on Processes focuses on a wide range of topics including the importance of building consensus, how to chair a committee meeting, how to write and table resolutions and amendments, writing scripts for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) and Committee Chairs, and the art of negotiation. The content aims to give an overview of the skills needed to run an engaging and successful simulation.