The Guru’s Guide to Model United Nations

By DoHa Nguyen (Lead Reporter)

CATS Senior DoHa Nguyen shares some tips for Model United Nations (MUN) beginner delegates. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Delegate Award at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 12th annual MUN Conference (MIT MUNC XII) and served as the Chairman of the Danang Youth Model United Nations 2019 Conference (DYMUN’19), one of Indochina’s largest MUN conferences.

At an MUN conference, you may find yourself acting as a diplomat from an exotic nation, one that you may have never heard of before. Arguing with fellow “delegates” about large-scale problems – be it space colonization, women’s empowerment, or cryptocurrency – using parliamentary procedure. Whoops! That must be intimidating for most MUN first-timers. 

Don’t worry! As a “veteran” MUNer, I am here to provide you, beginners, with some must-know tips and tricks to master a MUN conference.

1. Know who “you” are

Remember, at a MUN conference, you are not really “you” but instead a delegate from a country. You don’t want to look utterly clueless.  Avoid being in the awkward position of having another delegate point out you are literally “shooting yourself in the foot,” that is when you advocate for the exact opposite of your country’s foreign policy or vote against your allies. Do extensive research – whether it is through the UN’s archive of member state votes or the state media agency of the country you represent – to have an in-depth understanding of your country’s stance on the given topics is a key to success. In many cases, the agenda you are advocating for may be contradictory to your own in real life, but you must be a voice for the best interest for the country you represent.

2. Listen, it is better, and harder, than Saying

The best delegate is – as counterintuitive as you may think – not the one who talks the most, but who makes the most effective speeches and drives the agenda of the meeting. You can keep talking, but if you don’t have a clear idea of what your opponents are saying, your communications are basically void. Instead of meticulously drafting your speech and waiting for your turn to present it, keep track of everything being said in the committee, take notes and even better, use it for your advantage.

3. Other delegates’ speech is your weapon

Look for and find contradictions and fallacies in your opponent’s claims when they speak.  Then “turn the table”which is a more than a great intimidating technique. By establishing yourself as a reliable fact-driven party, you can “steal the spotlight” of the committee and effectively promote your country’s agenda.

4. Make use of unmoderated caucuses

As you may know, the ultimate goal of a committee is to come up with draft resolutions that can be agreed upon by a majority of delegates. Formal discussions under moderated caucuses can make it difficult for different blocs to compromise or leverage on certain issues. The unmoderated caucus, therefore, is a chance for delegates to bypass parliamentary procedures and informally negotiate to break the session’s bottleneck.

So next time, during an unmod, instead of asking for the Instagram of the guy/girl behind you, just really focus on the business under discussion!

5. Accuracy is ‘cooler’ than Fluency

Yes, there might be someone in your committee that keeps making up facts and speaking like a real expert! Don’t fall into the temptation of doing that. The Chairs and other passionate delegates are effective and active fact-checkers that will constantly scrutinize most, if not all, false claims. After all, Model United Nations is, thankfully, not like our Presidential Debates.

6. Small countries can be powerful

Many MUNers tend to believe that if you are not a P5 or G20 country, your opinion would be irrelevant, and your impact would be minimal. That is 100% inaccurate! Representing a small country can actually give you more “wiggle room” and sometimes you even serve as the ‘dealmaker.’ AT MITMUNC XII, I served as the Delegate of the Dominican Republic, a small country in Central America that has nothing to do with what happened in Yemen. Yet, I was instrumental in engendering a resolution that could be agreed upon by most sides of the conflicts in the Yemen Civil War.

7. It’s alright to mess up!

Don’t feel bad about yourself if you make a mistake or cannot participate much in the flow of the committee. Remember, you are also here to enjoy a lively and intellectual debate about major issues facing our world today. Just by simply being here, you have already challenged yourself to engage in global affairs and become a conscientious global citizen.