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Explained: The differing styles of Model United Nations



Ever since the initiation of Model United Nations (MUN), its popularity has grown immensely worldwide. A variety of styles has sprung as a result, each with its own merits and adopters. The crossovers between the styles when joining different conferences can be dizzying, especially if you have been rooted in a specific style, and this guide will aim to set apart these differences.


UNA-USA


This is the elder of MUN styles, being the originating style first practiced in the United States upon its founding. Many North American schools and the majority of college MUN conferences still adhere to this style. Compared to THIMUN, UNA-USA procedure tends to be the more flexible and dynamic style, as it allows for freer movement between the debate phases.


In UNA-USA, the agenda is set by a vote in the house after roll-call, upon which the house moves into formal debate in the General Speaker’s List (GSL). During this phase, speeches from delegates, around 60-90 seconds, take place in order of the list as recognized by the Chair. After the GSL has been exhausted, or passed for a certain number of speeches, delegates may motion to change the mode of debate -- either to a moderated or unmoderated caucus.


In a moderated caucus, the committee decides to focus on a sub-issue and initiate general debate related to the issue for a period of time allocated by the chair. In contrast, in an unmoderated caucus, delegates are free to move and collaborate with others to discuss the issues at hand. Unmoderated caucuses are usually devoted to lobbying, where delegates find allies with similar ideals, before being devoted to crafting resolutions.


After the decision-making made in the caucuses, delegates may also choose to move time back into formal debate in the GSL, or propose new caucuses. Committees proceed to switch between these three modes of debate, until draft resolutions are complete, merged, and ready to be presented, upon which the whole resolution is subject to a vote.



THIMUN procedure


Originating from the THIMUN Conference in The Hague, this has become the prevalent form of MUN procedure in many international middle school and high school conferences around the world.


The key difference between THIMUN and UNA-USA procedure lies in the comparatively more rigid agenda, as topics are allocated roughly equal amounts of time, predetermined by the chairs, and are presented in sequence, rather than discussed upon through delegate motions, like in UNA-USA.


The focus of THIMUN debate compared to UNA-USA is the amending of resolutions, since the resolutions are already created in the first day amongst the respective blocs. In fact, under this procedure, the first session, or even the first day, is dedicated to lobbying sessions akin to unmoderated caucuses in the UNA-USA format where resolutions are crafted. Amendments are submitted by the delegates, with a certain amount of time also allotted to present and debate the amendment. Voting takes place at the end of amendments and decisions on resolutions, and forms the majority Compared to UNA-USA, conferences also tend to be perceived as more formal, or at least, in terms of adherence to procedures.


THIMUN tends to be preferred in middle school and high school conferences amongst due to the clarity of the procedures, compared to the at-times chaotic nature of UNA-USA discussions. However, both THIMUN and UNA-USA procedures are based upon parliamentary procedure and vote-based mechanisms, which in fact, are far from how the United Nations actually works and makes decisions. This hole is now filled by...


WIMUN/UN4MUN Procedure


The UN4MUN procedure is a relative newcomer in the MUN scene. In response to the two prevalent procedures in the MUN scene being largely based upon parliamentary procedures far from simulating the UN, the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) introduced their own set of procedures in 2009. This new procedure aimed to simulate the processes undertaken in the UN accurately, relying on adopting consensus to make decisions rather than voting, out of views of ensuring that minority opinions are not ignored, as they would be if resolutions were primarily adopted through vote. The flagship conference for this approach is the WFUNA International Model United Nations (WIMUN) conference, and UN4MUN procedure has become synonymous with WIMUN.


In the WIMUN/UN4MUN procedure, chairs facilitate the flow of the debate like in other procedures– however, unlike other styles they are elected by delegates before the conference, rather than being appointed and pre-designated in advance by the secretariat. This designated chair is then who is then trained and aided throughout the conference by a Secretary, part of the conference secretariat. Simulating debate in the actual United Nations, the WIMUN/UN4MUN format replaces the Speaker’s List with a single speech from delegates addressing the house, much like the actual UN General Assembly, where world leaders begin sessions with addresses to the whole of the house representing their country.


The writing of the resolution follows. However, unlike THIMUN and UNA-USA procedure, change takes place not through formal debate protocols, but instead through informal consultations, where delegates roam around the committee to collaborate and create the versions similar to unmoderated caucuses in the two styles. Compared to unmoderated caucuses, where lobbying usually dominates, the process of consultation and subsequent bloc formation in WIMUN/UN4MUN procedure adheres to real life dynamics rather than at random, as the groups for these informal consultations coalesce around already defined political groupings.


These groups include, for example:

  • Organisation of American States (OAS, collection of North and South American states, as the name suggests)

  • Asia-Pacific Group (Most of the Asian and Southern Pacific countries)

  • Group of 7 (A group of seven of the largest advanced economies in the world)

  • Group of 77 (a large coalition of developing nations)


These individual political groups create their versions of resolutions which best serve their own needs, which is then brought to the other political groups for negotiation, where delegates seek to create one resolution that seeks the best consensus for all groups. This is where lobbying mainly occurs, now between the differing interests of the political groups rather than delegate influence. This results in a more intense, and accurate simulation of international relations as now there is a greater emphasis on compromise when merging resolutions, so as to achieve a responsible consensus.


Following the writing of the resolution, a review meeting will be held by the chair where consensus is ensured between all delegates. This is done through a paragraph by paragraph review of the resolution, and amendments are made depending on the responses of delegates upon review. After the review is completed, delegates enter an action phase, and choose to adopt the resolution either by consensus (which is preferred) or vote (less preferred). At the end of the conferences, plenary sessions are held to ceremoniously adopt the agenda and passing of resolutions. This emphasis on consensus therefore means that UN4MUN procedure tends to favor diplomacy rather than ruthless competition, as typically seen in UNA-USA or THIMUN conferences.


Each style provides its unique set of quirks that help illuminate the different facets of MUN that make it so enriching, and together, they make you a more well-rounded delegate, flexible and fast to adapt. By attending a variety of conferences in different styles, you will not only become more confident in expressing yourself in constantly changing situations, but also come to gain a greater understanding on what diplomacy means.


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