Fundamentally, Model UN is what the name suggests – a debating format which aims to simulate the workings of the United Nations. In doing this, then, those who participate debate not on a ‘motion’, as might be typical in parliamentary-style debate, but on a ‘resolution’, a substantive document produced to address a specific issue or cover a certain topic area.
Those debating on the merits and the demerits of such a ‘resolution’ in doing so act as members of or observers in the UN – one might speak for or against a resolution concerning Internally Displaced People as ‘the delegate of the People’s Republic of China’ for instance. At the end of a session, or at the end of a conference, the resolution is then put to a vote, where individuals acting as representatives of countries and Intergovernmental Organisations as well as Non-governmental Organisations then vote on whether to ‘adopt’ the resolution or not.
The challenge of MUN, and its unique appeal, lies in the balance that has to be struck between the often-competing aims of each participant: to represent ‘their’ group’s opinion (e.g. the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China) and to end up with a workable document at the end of the session or conference (e.g. the resolution on IDPs). What makes MUN so special, then, is that as opposed to what might be referred to as more ‘adversarial’ styles of debating, the individual has to focus on the seemingly paradoxical aims of conflict and compromise. In order to truly succeed in MUN, it’s necessary to be adept at both.