In Model UN, a Conference is a simulation of a committee, agency or body of the United Nations. It is the heart of Model UN and something many students will participate in many times throughout their MUN career.
What Happens in a Conference?
In a conference, students each represent a country or non-governmental organization (NGO). In the UN there are currently over 193 countries (called Member States) and over 3,900 registered NGOs which means that the array of opinions is immense at the UN. Despite this, students are tasked with addressing a topic relevant to the committee they are simulating and working together to create solutions or give recommendations on the issues of the topic. Topics can include these, in addition to many others: agriculture and food security; armed conflict; climate change; economic and financial issues; environmental pollution; human rights; indigenous issues; international law; multinational corporations; science and technology; sustainability; women and disarmament.
In this process, splitting up into working groups is usually common for each country to achieve its goals – whether the group is their regional bloc or not. In their groups, students create working papers, which are all the recommendations their group has developed so far to address the topic, and negotiate with other students and groups to produce the best possible paper. Towards the conclusion of the conference, the papers are accepted by a Chair/Dais as a draft resolution which means it can be voted on during voting session. If the papers pass by gaining a majority vote, they become resolutions – the committee’s official recommendations on the topic.
What are the Rules of Procedure?
The conference is governed by a set of rules, the Rules of Procedure, which allow delegates to suspend the meeting for informal discussion (a caucus), set the speaking time for all delegates, and move the committee into voting session, or voting bloc. Students do this by making motions. Each committee can have a different set of Rules so be sure to review what they are before heading to conference.
What are Directors, Chairs, Dias, and Rapporteur?
Committees in conference are run by a Director or Directors who are in charge of the committee and assessing the working papers the committee create. The committee is presided over by a Chair or Dais whom takes delegates’ motions and manages the flow of conference. Lastly, the Rapporteur takes roll call (marks down the status of each country), and assists the Chair in their functions. They are all well versed in the Rules, knowledgeable, and there to help students. For some conferences which have all three (Directors, Chair, and Rapporteur), they are collectively referred to as the Dais.
How does a Committee do its work?
Typically, committees start with a decision on setting the agenda, or the topic order (usually there are 2 or more topics up for discussion). Students can give speeches recommending a specific topic order. Then, students vote on the topic order and set the committee to that order. Afterwards, the committee moves into caucus, informal session, where delegates discuss with each other what to do about the 1st topic chosen, after which they return to formal session to hear speeches from other delegates. Groups are formed in following caucuses and then they start working on working papers which they must submit to the Chair/Dais. After some time they receive feedback and they improve the paper and resubmit. Once the Chair/Dais is satisfied with the paper and it meets any requirements they set, it becomes a draft resolution. In the final phase, delegates promote their paper to other groups and try to gain support for it in voting session. Once the committee enters voting session, all the papers which were accepted by the Chair/Dais are voted on and if they receive a majority of votes they pass and become resolutions.
What kinds of Committees are there?
There are many different types of committees in Model UN. The General Assembly is the most common, and one of the largest, and its subsidiary committees are: the 1st Committee which discusses disarmament and security issues; the 2nd Committee which discusses economic, financial and development issues; the 3rd Committee which discusses social, cultural and humanitarian issues; the 4th Committee which discusses special political issues; and a 5th and 6th Committee which discuss administrative and budgetary issues, and legal issues respectively. The second most common, and the smallest, is the Security Council which discusses peace and security issues. There are also different UN agencies and bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which serve as committees in Model UN. You may be able to simulate any of these and any country which has membership in these committees.
Local, Regional, National, and International Conferences
There are several different types of conferences. Local conferences are held locally, or in our case within the Southern California area. This includes the conferences our neighboring and partner schools host, such as Riverside City College, Irvine Valley College and the University of La Verne, among others. Regional conferences are held within our region such as the Northwest Model United Nations Conference held in Portland, which many West-Coast schools attend. National conferences are those held by the National Model United Nations (NMUN) organization in Washington D.C. and New York. These are tough conferences which require months of preparation and training in order to be successful. Lastly, international conferences are conferences which are held outside the US, by NMUN or another organization/school. This includes the conferences NMUN has held in China, Ecuador, France and Japan.