This guest article was contributed by Nabila Elassar
It is the moment of truth. You have just walked into the conference hall, and laid a quick glance on the 100+ other delegates eagerly preparing for their opening speeches. After weeks of expecting this day, it’s still a bit intimidating. At moments like these, you don’t just need the tools to be a good delegate, but to set a mark and clearly differentiate yourself from all these other great delegates around you.
Although every crisis, every chair, and every group of delegates is different, there are still a few strategies you can employ, that will show everyone you are best delegate material in any given circumstances. This article aims to show you, from my experience as delegate and chair, what will either make you a very good delegate, or that one in a million Best Delegate, and how these differences can be highlighted at every stage of the conference.
Here’s the deal. Anyone can be the best delegate. Success in Models of the UN is essentially determined by two things: 1. Theoretical Guidelines/ tasks in every phase of the conference, 2. Your passion, character and spirit, while handling these tasks. I will first show you how the best delegate handles every stage of MUN conferences theoretically, but truth of the matter is: Models of United Nations are not mastered solely through steps and guidelines. That’s why, in the end of this article, I will also differentiate the good from the best delegate, by spirit and character.
Stage 1. Pre Conference – Planning Ahead
Even before the conference has started, your biggest job awaits. During the 4 days of the conference, things tend to get hectic, and it is likely your time will be cramped. The preparation you make beforehand, will make miles of difference in your delegate experience.
The moment you get a hold of that case, read it like there is no tomorrow. The case is designed for you to extract as many tools as possible, your go-to source. Treat it as such. The best method is to try and highlight the main issues the case covers (basic and secondary), as well as the main and secondary conflicts. Every case has more than one conflict, you can be sure of that. The different conflicts will help you determine the key players, who are the main countries the case topic involves, as well as the other countries involved. And that in turn, will help you determine: The Blocs.
What are blocs? Quite simply, the most significant characteristic of the conference. Blocs are countries that group up (ally) in conference proceedings. They vote together during resolutions and support each other on proposals or stances in the formal debate. Usually, it is due to shared interests regarding the case at hand, but most of the time, it is not that rigid. “Shared interests” are actually a subjective matter. Meaning: You can manipulate the way blocs form. How? That’s a long story. I will try to highlight it in this article as well as others.
But before anything, you cannot plan to manipulate bloc formation if you do not have an idea of what they may be in the first place.
From this step, you can now decide where your delegation stands within these blocs, or better yet, where you would like it to stand. This is the step leading to: anticipating possible conference scenarios.
Conference scenarios are the sequence of events, or progression of the case and evolution of proceedings from conference beginning to end. For instance, the preliminary stances of delegations, the following direction of debate, how the resolutions are proposed, what they contain, and what the final passed resolution looks like. If you have different possibilities mapped out, you will more clearly imagine your delegations possible role, and how you can sway everything in the conference to your country’s advantage. That is called a plan of action. See how everything looks better once you have as much as possible pre-planned and pre-analyzed?
Again, here are the differences in a nutshell:
| A Good Delegate– Reads the case fully,
-Formulates his country’s stance,
-Prepares an opening speech.
| To Be The Best Delegate
Stage 2. Pre & During Conference: Research
There is no doubt about it. Research is your most ardent companion before, during, and sometimes even after the conference. That being said, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The best researchers are not the ones that spend the most time digging around in all directions, or those that take on the responsibility to turn themselves into a walking human encyclopedia. The best research is in fact, the most efficient research. And that is the key differentiator between a very good, hardworking delegate, and that one of a kind, best delegate.
So, what is efficient research? It is research with a specific problem that needs solving in mind. Don’t get me wrong. General research, or wide-ranging knowledge about your country’s background, history, the case’s basic history, etc is absolutely wonderful. It is actually quite essential as a solid base to understand your delegation and represent it with depth. However, what makes the best delegate stand out, sway the blocs to his favor, give killer speeches, or even come out with a winning resolution is: targeted research. This step becomes possible after you visualize the possible blocs (your allies and adversaries) and the possible conference scenarios.
If you are able to master targeted research, you will be able to work miracles in that conference. Example? If you know your county’s strengths, and positive actions regarding the case, you will counter-argue any accusations. If you already know any weaknesses violations your country has had, you will be prepared with a rebuttal. Knowing what your country is good at may also help you leverage its strengths. For instance, Estonia in N.A.T.O has little sway, but in a case like cyber security, it can have great impact, due to their technological advancement.
Then comes the biggest power research can give you: Bloc influence. My personal advice is to Study every other delegation very carefully. Know their foreign policies, their relationship with your country as well as others, and file away anything you find. You never know when it can prove useful. You can use a previous conflict between two other delegations to weaken their alliance (indirectly). You can highlight previous violations by other countries, and weaken their stance.
The crowning jewel of effective research however is: influence in resolution writing. Having a clear idea of the different parameters of the case can only come with targeted research. And only with that clear idea can you start proposing the most realistic, practical solutions. This is what will catch the eye of your chair the very most. A delegate who has truly grasped the case, and is now qualified to come up with considerable solutions worthy of negotiation in a real UN setting.
In summary, here are the differences again:
| A Good Delegate-Spends hours researching:
– Basic facts
– Background of the case
– Attempts to stay ahead in terms of general knowledge
| To Be The Best Delegate– Make research your armor (Defend delegation against accusations if you know your positive actions or strengths)
– Make research your weapon (know every violation, every mistake, every weakness of the other countries)
– Use research to:
Note: More clarification on targeted effective research coming up in future article
Stage 3. First Phase of Conference: Speeches and Debates
And the game begins! The conference has started, countries have voiced their stances and the debate is heating up. What to do? Well, simply said, this is your time to shine. This used to be my absolute favorite part in MUN. The strategic significance of this stage however, truly cannot be overstated. It is when the best delegate is spotted, and weaved into the very character of the conference. Meaning, every time another delegation speaks or prepares a speech, they will start having your reaction in mind. When they think of solutions, they will consider your delegations stance & reaction. When you speak, they will listen, and when you leave, they will notice. These are the #1 tell tell signs that this delegate is headed for a best delegate nomination. Do everything you can to assert your presence in the room, and to make your speeches resonate. Make every effort to be that person. How so? Well, it’s a combination of things really. I’d rather explain them through clarifying the differences between the good and best delegate in this area.
| A Good Delegate– Gives a sound opening speech
-Follows the flow of debate and reacts to it.
-Tries to contribute regularly.
– Is well aware of the Rules of Procedure of his council.
– Has diplomatic debating skills
– Is a good debater.
| To be The Best Delegate
And that is why, I have dedicated a whole article to this subject, titled: “Tips & Tricks to MASTER DEBATES in MUN conferences”.
Stage 4. Second Phase of Conference: Caucus.
Here comes the detour. Now is when all the attacks, rebuttals and head on disagreements of the first stage, must come to an end. What makes you shine as best delegate here is actually a set of skills opposite to those of the previous phase. This is when your ability to be influential in conflict resolution is tested. That and much more.
So, what does it take to master this stage? Most people, unfortunately go for: if they yell, yell harder. If they put up a fight, fight harder. Truth is, the caucus is needs listening, as well as taking lead in presenting your ideas and having them heard amidst some very eager, angry and sometimes downright scary delegates. What it really takes is understanding others. As a chair, after seeing the whole picture, I realized there are different types of personalities that arise in this stage. You have the:
1. Aggressive/ over-eager (Thinks by talking/ yelling the most, others will step back and let him have his way).
2. Quiet retreater (Result of the aggressive delegate – Can’t blame him really).
3. Sneaky influencer (Usually speaks to one person at a time, trying to add flame to the disagreement to sway the debate in his favor)
4. Researcher (Turns away and researches information, facts, or previous resolutions in similar situations to sway the debate in his favor)
5. Conflict mediator (The balanced one. Point him out with words like: Everyone has to speak. Everyone has a good point. We must reach an agreement that caters to all interests)
So, which one should you be to be the best delegate? Here’s the secret: You have to be a little bit of all five! Always act like the mediator. Always seem wise. But, when things get a little too unfavorable, don’t be afraid to show genuine disagreement, and be aggressive only if you have to. When there is too much tension, let it sink in and step away. That will flame the need for someone to swoop in and act like the mediator later on. Never underestimate the power of side talks if you need to convince an ally not to settle for these terms. And of course, always go prepared with information on previous UN actions in similar situations, and pretty much all the research you can lay your eyes on. That is the secret to always presenting solutions when appropriate, controlling the debate the right way, at the right moments, and truly being spotted as a leader by your chair.
That being said, I must highlight a KEY factor in this stage, probably more important than all the above. Personal connections. As I said before, MUN in not just tasks and guidelines. MUN is about personal communication and human relationships. The caucus especially all comes down to how well you deal with people one on one, and whether or not you are a leader by encouragement and support, or by dominance.
That is why, in the end of this article, I will highlight the personality differences between a good, and The Best delegate.
For now, the differences between the good and Best delegate in the caucus:
| A Good Delegate – Assumes one of the five caucus personalities (mentioned above)
– Tries to take lead.
– Tries to be nice to the other delegates
– Is good friends with the allies in his bloc.
– Prepares the points he wants to see in the draft resolution to benefit his delegation.
| While The Best Delegate:
Stage 5. Final Phase of Conference: Resolutions & Voting.
With the final stage comes the biggest challenge. The resolution writing, and voting are mainly the whole end goal of the conference. It is here, that the truly skilled politician will emerge. Most people unfortunately, resort to stubbornness when trying to get their demands into the resolutions operative clauses. My personal definition for this unfortunate state is the “You let go! No, You let go!” phenomenon. Clearly however, that’s not the way to go. Secret is, that when debating the clauses of the resolution, you must be a master in the art of manipulation.
In this paragraph, I will not aim to highlight the academic guidelines for resolution writing, rather the tricks you can use to manipulate your way into a more favorable resolution. And that is the cherry on top of the best delegate’s agenda.
First things first. What is a resolution? It is an agreement expressed in a combination of words, which can be phrased in a way that has countless loopholes: (Loopholes are the possibility of different interpretations of articles in a legal contract).
Therefore, when debating on and amending clauses in the resolution, don’t attempt the “my way or highway” strategy. Rather, try to compromise, in the right way. The better you are than others in manipulating words, the better you will be at finding a resolution that wins the most votes.
Example: Iran & nuclear strategy:
A clause to avoid “Calling upon Iran to re-consider their nuclear proliferation strategy in open dialogue with other states”
(Why is still a bit good? No direct sanctions, “re-consider” does not imply immediate action).
The best delegate however, would certainly improve, and propose the amendment: “Stressing upon the right of all states to peacefully pursue nuclear energy, the delegation of Iran recognizes the possibility of open dialogue between all states”
(Why is this a better clause? Because it essentially doesn’t bind Iran to anything. “All states” is also very smart, since it implies they may not be the only ones “allegedly non-peacefully” perusing nuclear energy. Note: It is still far from the rigid stance Iran has actually had in the past concerning forgoing nuclear research, but it is certainly better than the original clause).
So, what sets a good vs. the best delegate apart in resolution writing and voting?
|A Good Delegate- Knows what his delegation needs in the resolution- Tries to manipulate words
– Rallies up sponsors to his resolution from his bloc.
-Tries to convince others to vote in favor of his resolution.
|To Be The Best Delegate
The topic of “loopholes” and word manipulation in MUN resolutions is so important, and so deep that I have dedicated a separate article for it, coming soon.
Well, that brings us to the end of the best delegates agenda in conference stages and proceedings. What remains now is in my opinion, more important than all we discussed above. The differences in the person, the passion, the personality, and in the human being who will either be The best delegate, or just another really good delegate. So, here it goes:
The Personal Differentiators between The Best Delegate, and a good delegate in MUN conferences
|A Good delegate– Enjoys Model United nations- Wants to be the best delegate
– Acts like his delegation
– Knows politics is an elusive game.
– May help others if he has time
– Tries to take the lead.
– Wants to learn and grow.
– Sees the other delegates essentially as competition, maybe as friends.
– Generally doesn’t like ridiculing others, unless they’re really annoying.
|The Best Delegate
Sees it as his platform to discover his potential, his new family and friends.
“Political Manipulation” does not mean doing something unjust, unfair or against ethical regulations.
By the end of this article, you’re now probably an expert on what the best delegate looks like. I however, have a confession to make. In my personal opinion, whether or not you are the best delegate is not really for other people to decide. Meaning, in conferences of 100+ people, chances are, your chair will have more than 3 great final contenders to chose from, with a very close decision to make (nerve wracking experience) . In many Middle East MUNs, the delegates are the ones who nominate the best delegate. Fact is, the nomination of one “Best delegate” is not usually up to rocket science standards. So, if you do win best delegate, then a million congratulations. But, if you don’t, please do not take that as an implication that you were not one of the most amazing delegates in that conference.
You know who is the best decider of whether or not you are the BEST DELEGATE in the world? You are. Because in the end, MUN is not about winning. It’s about being proud of something you have achieved. It can be self discovery, new friends, or simply a view of yourself in a different light. I am saying this out of personal experience. There are conferences I came out of feeling more proud of my efforts while not winning best delegate, than others when I actually had. If you really have done everything in this article, then you are the best delegate. In the end, you will know. You will always know. And that, honorable delegate, is the best prize in the world.