Research is essential to preparing for conference and ensures that it will be a rewarding experience. Background guides are the starting point, setting you off in the right direction, but to adequately prepare yourself for conference, you must research:
- Your Country
- The Topic
- The Committee
As a delegate, remember that your primary goal is to represent your country as realistically as possible. For this reason, gathering information about your country is of utmost importance in accurately representing your country’s position on any topic. Helpful information ranges from basic facts about your country’s politics and economics, to more complex issues regarding its foreign policy and membership in international organizations.
To represent your country accurately, start by trying to answer the following questions:
- What sort of government does your country have?
- What types of ideological leanings influence your country’s government?
- Which domestic issues in your country might influence your country’s foreign policy?
- What are some major events in your country’s history?
- Which ethnicities, religions and languages can be found in your country?
- Where is your country located and how does its geography affect its political relationships?
Answering these questions will help you learn about your country so that you can address the issues raised at the conference just as a real delegate from that country would at the United Nations.
Blocs and Alliances
One of the most important things to know before walking into a committee session is what bloc a delegate’s country will be participating in. Blocs are typically regional groups of countries that work together on resolutions as they have similar goals. Strategically, it is advantageous to know ahead of time which countries these might be, and to know what other blocs might be working against it. The following questions will help delegates begin to think in terms of their strategy:
- Which countries share a border with your country?
- Which countries are considered allies of your country?
- Which countries are considered enemies of your country?
- What are the characteristics of your country’s economy?
- What is your country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?
- When did your country become a member of the UN?
- Does your country belong to any intergovernmental organizations outside the UN system (e.g., North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),etc.)?
- Does your country belong to any regional organizations (e.g., European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Organization of American States (OAS), etc.)?
- Does your country belong to any trade organizations or agreements (e.g., North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), etc.)?
Your next task in preparing for your committee will be to research your topic. The topic is the main substance of any Model UN conference. All delegates in a committee will be looking at the same topics, so it is important to make sure that you are familiar with the ins and outs of the issue before entering the opening session. Make sure to read the Background Guide to make sure you understand the topic and get started off in the right direction. Take note of the sources that the guide cited as well as the Questions to Consider.
In addition to the questions in your guide, here are some additional questions to help focus your research of the topic:
- What is the problem? How does it affect your country?
- What has your country done to combat the problem?
- What are the various “sides” in the debate?
- How has the problem been handled by other countries?
- How has the problem been handled internationally?
- What have UN officials said about your issue?
- What conferences and meetings have been held with regard to your issue?
- Has there been any UN action in response to the problem?
- What recent events and developments, domestically and internationally, have there been involving the problem? Have there been any attempted solutions?
- What are the most recent UN actions taken in regards to the topic?
- Why did any past actions succeed or fail?
- Which aspects of the issue are most important to your country?
- If you country is not active with the issue, in what other aspects can they be involved?
- How will your country shape the debate at the conference?
- What arguments will other countries make?
- How do the positions of other countries affect your country’s position?
- Are there any statements, statistics or other evidence that support your country’s position?
An understanding of your country, will naturally guide your research of the topic and further your understanding of you country’s position on the issue.
Understanding the UN system, and more specifically your committee, will be very important in helping you to play your role realistically at conference. It is important to understand which bodies and actors comprise the UN system, what the UN can and cannot do, and how international issues are addressed by the UN. Understanding the basics of the committee will be crucial for any delegate to be successful at conference. Furthermore, you should be familiar with what the committee can and cannot do and how they operate within the United Nations. Here are some questions that will help get you started:
- What are the important elements of the UN Charter?
- What are the main bodies of the UN?
- How are the UN’s bodies and agencies organized?
In regards to your specific Committee, keep these questions in mind:
- When and why was the committee created?
- Which countries serve on the body or agency you are simulating?
- How does the body or agency you are simulating operate?
- What kind of action can this committee take?
In your research and throughout the committee session, it is important to keep in mind the committee’s history and jurisdiction so that your proposed solutions are realistic and not redundant with past action.