The Background Paper (aka. The Backgrounder)
In preparation for the conference, your first step to researching should be to review your committee’s backgrounder. The backgrounder is a document prepared for you by the committee dias and it is meant to serve as a guide to the topic being discussed. Your backgrounder can be found under your committee page on the ConnectMUN website (www.connectmun.ca). Please note, the backgrounder is an important tool that you should always be referring back to both throughout your research and during the conference debate.
Initially, the background paper may seem like an overwhelming clump of information. However, try to read through it once and get a basic familiarity with each section. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will understand and retain everything in one sitting. Rather, during your first read-through, try to gain a general sense of the topic issue at hand. You may later choose to revisit specific sections in order to help direct your research. For instance, in your backgrounder, the section on ‘Bloc Positions’ is a useful tool to gain a sense of your country’s position with regards to the topic issue. Furthermore, it might be helpful to print off a copy of the backgrounder and annotate it for use during the committee session. The backgrounder, when fully taken advantage of, is invaluable to gaining a firm intro to the topic.
Once familiarized with the backgrounder, you should begin to move onto more in-depth research. The first step would be to research your assigned country. General information to look out for includes your country’s economy, culture, demography, and geography. More specific information, such as imports and exports, as well as energy consumption, might also be useful. A great internet source for finding such information on your country is in the ‘CIA World Factbook’.
Next, begin researching your country’s position on the topic issue. Some things to look out for are your country’s foreign policy, as well as any past actions that your country may have taken. In some instances, you may not be able to find a defined position for your country. In this case, try to infer what your position might be based on information gathered from your research. How does your country’s foreign policy relate to the topic? What is your country’s position on similar topics? Does information such as your country’s economy or culture influence what your position might be?
Ensure that you have a firm understanding of the topic, search up any topic terms you may or may not fully understand. It is important to research the history of the topic, its global significance, and the countries most relevant to it. From here, research can be quite broad. It is up to you to decide which pieces of information to gather and keep. You may want to take into consideration how the topic has affected, and continues to affect your country. What would be some of the benefits and consequences of a certain action taken?
Your final step should be to research possible solutions that would be beneficial for both your country and the committee as a whole. Try to be creative and either expand upon the possible solutions already mentioned in the backgrounder or if you are confident, come up with a unique solution. Remember, the ultimate goal of any committee session is for delegates to push debate forward in order to create a resolution that the majority can agree upon.
The Position Paper
Once you have researched all that you need to know, it is time to sort and organize your information together into one place. This is where a one to two page document, known as a position paper, will come into play. Position papers act as a way to combine your research into a concise and accurate portrayal of your country’s position and your proposed solutions. Please note that the position paper is to be submitted several weeks prior to the conference. This paper is the first mode of evaluation from your committee dais so make it count.
In brief, the position paper is useful to prepare you for the debate. Position papers are written in paragraph form and should include your topic, country and committee at the top of your paper. If you are stuck on what to write or need inspiration, a good place to start is by reviewing the ‘Guiding Questions’ found in your committee’s backgrounder. With that said, it is important to include certain features in your position paper. You should first begin with a general outline of the topic issue. This should expand upon the topic and discuss details surrounding it. You may refer back to the questions posed in the backgrounder, or address other concerns.
Next, start with a brief introduction to your country, then follow up by explaining how the topic relates to your country. How does this topic affect your country? Has there been any past involvement in this topic? How has your country been previously involved in this committee? Be sure to include your country’s current position on the topic, its policies, and any justification your country has for these policies. Also, backup your position with examples from your research. These examples can include actions taken by your government; conventions and resolutions that your country has signed or ratified, UN actions that your country supported or opposed, statistics, quotes from your country’s previous leaders, or any other primary sources that support your position.
The final part of a position paper can be used to discuss proposed solutions, and what your country would like to accomplish in the committee’s resolution. This may include solutions that your country is currently trying to implement, or solutions you have thought of based on your country’s stance. If you are stuck, don’t worry – refer to the ‘Possible Solutions’ section in your backgrounder. Possible solutions brought up in the position paper can prove to be excellent discussion topics for speaking during the committee session and may also be useful when drafting resolution papers. If you are confident, any original and logical solutions not previously mentioned in the backgrounder could help to provoke debate. Sources used for writing the position paper should be cited at the end of the document.
On a last note, there is an award given in each committee at the end of the conference for the best position paper called “Best Researched.” A good position paper will demonstrate thought, understanding, and level of research in the topic. If you are aiming for this award, please take the time and effort to be thorough in your work.
Apply your Preparation
Now comes the day of the conference. This is the point in time where your preparation and the aspects of speech, debate, and collaboration will all come into play. As your country’s representative, it is your priority to advocate for its position while still keeping in mind collaboration and compromise. Straying from your country’s viewpoint or directly threatening other countries will only complicate things. As you advocate for your country’s position, be sure to always search for a compromise that can direct the committee towards a mutual agreement.
Be Engaged, Advocate, Collaborate
An important thing to keep in mind is to always remain engaged in discussion during debate. This is one of the things that the dias will look for with regards to awards. Try to take notes on points made by other delegates. By keeping track of country stances this may help you to support or argue against them later on. As well, this can help in finding potential allies for the drafting of a resolution paper. The term “working paper” is used to describe draft resolution papers that have not yet been approved by the dias.
Leadership in collaboration can be demonstrated during the debate and discussion. Try to take initiative; introduce new mod topics that sway others in debate. When speaking, aim to build upon the points raised by other delegates, and give credit whenever necessary. Such actions demonstrate a willingness to collaborate, and that you are respectful and paying attention to the speeches made by other delegates.
The outcome of having a debate between bodies with varying stances is that conflicting points and arguments are sure to arise. Thus, it is always important to remember that Model UN is all about conflict resolution and collaboration. There are many ways to contribute to a constructive debate environment. Keep your arguments clear and close to what you have prepared. Most of all, be confident. When disagreeing with other delegates, respond to their points by explaining how your country’s position on the topic is different and support your points with counter-arguments.