FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is Model United Nations?
A: Model United Nations is an authentic simulation of the U.N. General Assembly and other multilateral bodies.
Q: How did Model U.N. begin?
A: Simulating international organizations began even before the birth of the United Nations, when students held a series of Model League of Nations in the 1920s. The Model U.N. Program is a successor to a student-directed simulation of what preceded the U.N. itself, but it is not documented exactly how the Model U.N. began.
Q: Who participates in Model United Nations?
A: The popularity of Model U.N. continues to grow, and today more than 400,000 middle school, high school and college/university students worldwide participate every year. Many of today’s leaders in law, government, business and the arts participated in Model U.N. during their academic careers – from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and former World Court Justice Stephen M. Schwebel to actor Samuel L. Jackson. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is a Model U.N. veteran as well.
Q: What is a Model United Nations conference?
A: Some Model U.N. exercises take place in the classroom and others are school wide. Still others are regional, national, or even international. These are called conferences, and the events are much larger, with participants from all over the United States and the world. More than 1,000,000 people have participated in MUN conferences around the world since the conferences became popular over 50 years ago. Today there are more than 400 conferences that take place in 35 countries. Depending on the location, the average conference can have as few as 30 students or as many as 2,000.
Q: Where and when are Model United Nations conferences held?
A: There are an estimated 400 Model U.N. conferences held annually worldwide. These conferences take place virtually every month throughout the school year, but there are few events in the summer and even fewer around standardized testing such as the SAT.
Q: What is a Model United Nations delegate?
A: A Model U.N. delegate is a student who assumes the role of an ambassador to the United Nations at a Model U.N. event. A Model U.N. delegate does not have to have experience in international relations. Anyone can participate in Model U.N., so long as they have the ambition to learn something new, and to work with people to try and make a difference in the world. Model U.N. students tend to go on to become great leaders in politics, law, business, education and even medicine.
Q: Why should I participate in Model United Nations?
A: You should participate in Model U.N. because it promotes student and teacher interest in international relations and related subjects, increases the capacity for students to engage in problem solving, teaches aspects of conflict resolution, research skills, and communication skills, and creates the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
Q: What are some of the educational benefits of Model United Nations?
A: For over 50 years now, teachers and students have benefited from and enjoyed this interactive learning experience. It not only involves young people in the study and discussion of global issues, but also encourages the development of skills useful throughout their lives, such as research, writing, public speaking, problem solving, consensus building, conflict resolution and compromise and cooperation.
Q: How do I start a Model United Nations program at my school?
A: You can start a Model UN at your school with a few simple steps. First, you should find a faculty advisor by asking teachers if they would be interested in helping you start a Model UN You also can ask your principal or Social Studies chairperson to see if they know of any teachers that would be interested. Next, you need to recruit members and pick a day and time to meet. After you recruit members, you should decide which conferences your group would like to attend. Once you pick your conferences, you should hold meetings once a week. At the meetings you can choose other conferences to attend, organize fundraising ideas, and talk about any new information you may have received. For more information on starting a club, read our section on getting started.
Q: Where can my organization get the funds to attend a Model United Nations conference?
A: Funds can be obtained through a variety of means. Since many Model U.N. conferences are held at colleges and hotels, fees can range from $15 to $165 per delegate. This fee usually does not include transportation, meals, or lodging. In some cases, however, meals and lodging are covered. Some conferences offer early registration discounts, while others have late fees. Many model U.N. groups can try to request funds through their school’s administration to cover transportation and conference costs. Other groups can apply for scholarships, but these are usually limited to groups traveling abroad. Model U.N. clubs can attempt to request funds through their local UNA-USA chapters . Additionally, groups can try local organizations such as Rotary and Lions Clubs for support. Other ways to raise funds include monthly group activities, dance-a-thons, bake sales, car washes, and sporting events. Finally, check AMUN’s guide to fundraising for other ideas.
Q: Should we have a Model United Nations class or a Model UN club?
A: On the issue of class vs. club, you should do whatever fits your needs best. In order to have a class, you need a teacher who is fully knowledgeable about the Model United Nations program. In addition, the teacher would have to get your school’s administration to approve adding the course into its curriculum, which can be difficult for a new program. If you want to start a club instead, you would need a faculty advisor. Talk to your teachers or school principal to see which option would work best for you.
Q: What is the role of a Model United Nations faculty advisor?
A: The faculty advisor is usually a teacher responsible for all of the students when attending a Model UN conference. Usually the faculty advisor is fully committed to Model UN, but he or she does not need prior Model UN experience. This person should be able to assist students with their research. Also, the advisor oversees students when they make travel arrangements to conferences. Lastly, the faculty advisor will help students pick out the Model UN conference they would like to attend.
Q: How do I recruit members for my Model United Nations team?
A: You can recruit new members by posting flyers all around your school, putting flyers in teachers’ mailboxes and setting up a special meeting, either after school or during an activity period. Additionally, you should discuss the conferences you may want to attend, and discuss what happens at a Model UN conference in general. Aside from setting up a meeting, you can go around to different classes or have teachers announce it in their classes.
The United Nations System
Having a good understanding of the purpose, history and structure of the United Nations will enhance your capacity to fully participate in a Model UN. The information provided here is only a cursory overview of what is a very large and complex organisation, so be sure to do your own research.
Background to the United Nations
What are the origins of the United Nations?
The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the UN Charter had been ratified by a majority of the original 51 Member States. The day is now celebrated each year around the world as United Nations Day. The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people. It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems.
There are currently 192 Members of the United Nations. They meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing to a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has a single vote; however, none of the decisions taken by the Assembly are binding. Nevertheless, the Assembly’s decisions become resolutions that carry the weight of world governmental opinion.
The United Nations Headquarters is in New York City but the land and buildings are international territory. The United Nations has its own flag, its own post office and its own postage stamps. Six official languages are used at the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The senior officer of the United Nations Secretariat is the Secretary-General.
What is the United Nations Charter?
The UN Charter is the foundational treaty of the organisation and was drawn up by the representatives of fifty countries at the San Francisco Conference on International Organisation in 1945. All members of the UN are bound by the Charter. The preamble of the UN Charter is perhaps one of the most well-recognised phrases in the world and commits the UN to the protection of fundamental human rights, human dignity, gender equality and to the pursuit of justice and respect based on international law. The UN Charter is like a constitution in that it details membership procedures and the structure of UN agencies, but also sets out the enforcement powers of UN bodies.
The UN Charter recognises the sovereign equality of all nations, whether large or small, and encourages all nations to participate in debates and decisions that affect the globe. The UN provides a multilateral forum in which nation states seek to resolve differences and maintain international peace through dialogue, not arms.
Read the entire UN Charter.
What is the UN System?
Decision-making within the UN is not as easy as in many organisations. The UN is not an independent, homogenous organisation; it is made up of states, so actions by the UN depend on the will of member states to accept, fund or carry them out. Especially in matters of peace-keeping and international politics, it requires a complex, often slow, process of consensus-building that must take into account national sovereignty as well as global needs.
The Main Organs of the UN
The UN has six main organs:
- The General Assembly
- The Secretariat
- The Security Council
- The International Court of Justice
- The Trusteeship Council and,
- The Economic and Social Council
The General Assembly
The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations. It is composed of representatives of all member states, each of which has one vote. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority. Decisions on other questions are by simple majority.
Most questions are then discussed in its six main committees:
First Committee – Disarmament and International Security
Second Committee – Economic and Financial
Third Committee – Social, Humanitarian and Cultural
Fourth Committee – Special Political and Decolonization
Fifth Committee – Administrative and Budgetary
Sixth Committee – Legal
All issues are voted on through resolutions passed in plenary meetings, usually towards the end of the regular session, after the committees have completed their consideration of them and submitted draft resolutions to the plenary Assembly.
While the decisions of the Assembly have no legally binding force for governments, they carry the weight of world opinion, as well as the moral authority of the world community.
The work of the United Nations year-round derives largely from the decisions of the General Assembly – that is to say, the will of the majority of the members as expressed in resolutions adopted by the Assembly. That work is carried out: by committees and other bodies established by the Assembly to study and report on specific issues, such as disarmament, peacekeeping, development and human rights; in international conferences called for by the Assembly; and by the Secretariat of the United Nations – the Secretary-General and his staff of international civil servants.
Visit the UN General Assembly website.
The Secretariat, an international staff working in duty stations around the world, carries out the diverse day-to-day work of the organisation. It services the other principal organs of the United Nations and administers the programmes and policies laid down by them. At its head is the Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five- year, renewable term.
Visit the UN Secretariat website.
UN Security Council
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is so organised as to be able to function continuously, and a representative of each of its members must be present at all times at the United Nations Headquarters.
When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council’s first action is usually to recommend that the parties try to reach agreement by peaceful means. In some cases, the Council itself undertakes investigation and mediation.
When a dispute leads to fighting, the Council’s first concern is to bring it to an end as soon as possible. On many occasions, the Council has issued cease-fire directives which have been instrumental in preventing wider hostilities. It also sends United Nations peace-keeping forces to help reduce tensions in troubled areas, keep opposing forces apart and create conditions of calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought. The Council may decide on enforcement measures, economic sanctions (such as trade embargoes) or collective military action.
A member state against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. A member state which has persistently violated the principles of the Charter may be expelled from the United Nations by the Assembly on the Council’s recommendation.
Visit the UN Security Council website.
International Court of Justice (ICJ)
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). It began work in 1946. The Court has a dual role: to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorised international organs and agencies.
Visit the ICJ website.
UN Trusteeship Council
The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994, with the independence of Palau, the last remaining United Nations trust territory, on 1 October 1994. Major goals of the Council were to promote the advancement of the inhabitants of Trust Territories and their progressive development towards self-government or independence.
Visit the UN Trusteeship Council website.
UN Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOC)
The Charter established the Economic and Social Council as the principal organ to coordinate the economic, social, and related work. The Council serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the United Nations system. It is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems; facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation; and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Visit the ECOSOC website.
The UN Specialised Agencies
The Specialised Agencies, while part of the UN system, are separate, autonomous intergovernmental organisations which work with the UN and with each other. The agencies carry out work relating to specific fields such as trade, communications, air and maritime transport, agriculture and development. Although they have more autonomy, their work within a country or between countries is always carried out in partnership with those countries. They also depend on funds from Member States to achieve their goals. There are many different specialised programmes and commissions and some of the main ones are listed below.
Visit the UN Specialised Agencies website.
Below are some of the most common UN Specialised Agencies you will find at a Model UN.
UN Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council is a very new UN body, set up in 2006, and replacing the Commission on Human Rights. It is one of the primary subsidiary bodies of the United Nations, and is “responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.” It is based in Geneva.
Visit the UN Human Rights Council website.
UN Disarmament Commission
The current Disarmament Commission is a crucial United Nations body, established in 1978. Its focus is both conventional and nuclear disarmament through deliberative and diplomatic means. It reports annually to the General Assembly.
Visit the UN Disarmament Commission website.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
The Environment Programme was founded in 1972, after the Stockholm Conference and is now based in Nairobi. It is the principal UN body for the discussion and protection of the global environment. In 1988, along with the World Meteorological Organisation, it established the International Panel on Climate Change.
Visit the UNEP website.
UN Development Programme (UNDP)
The Development Programme was founded in 1965, and is now the largest multilateral source of development assistance in the world. It is based in New York and funded entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. Its primary functions are facilitating social and economic development and encouraging democratic governance.
Visit the UNDP website.
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