Going Abroad? 11 Differences Between THIMUN and the Typical MUN in North America

by KFC on February 9, 2012

THIMUN takes place in The Hague

The Best Delegate team visited THIMUN and THIMUN Singapore earlier this year and we learned a lot from those conferences that we’ll surely share in future posts and as we speak with other teachers around the world. However, we do get questions from North American schools that are curious to attend THIMUN-affiliated conferences or are looking for conferences abroad in general, so we wanted to point out ten key differences between the THIMUN model and the typical MUN conference in North America.

1. THIMUN is run by the THIMUN Foundation. The THIMUN Foundation is a non-profit that is led by educators and helps organize the conferences every year plus provide support and affiliation status to other conferences. THIMUN conferences therefore are standardized, focus on education, and of very high quality because feedback on the conferences doesn’t get lost.

2. There are THIMUN-affiliated conferences. Besides THIMUN, THIMUN Singapore, and THIMUN Qatar, there are many THIMUN-affiliated conferences (see the list below). All these conferences have met the requirements for affiliation and will offer the standardized rules of procedure, debate style, professionalism, and culture of the THIMUN conference. This standard makes it easy to prepare for all THIMUN-affiliated conferences whereas in North America, every conference has slightly different rules and different cultures and emphases.

3. There are no awards. THIMUN is meant to be purely educational and there are no awards. Students enjoy Model UN for the experience. Although the conference does not have awards, delegates are still on policy and the quality of debate is very high. Many participants consider being named the main submitter (sponsor) to be the highest honor at a conference, and many main submitters go on to be rewarded with positions as staffers at these conferences. Students should leave the competitive mindset of American conferences behind when they go to THIMUN.

4. The conferences are much more international. The vast majority of schools that attend THIMUN-affiliated conferences are international schools, and it takes international schools from multiple countries in order to reach to the size beyond a small conference. These factors inherently make the conference much more international in terms of participant background. Oftentimes, there is no country that sends a majority of the delegates, and sometimes it’s even hard to tell which country sent a plurality of delegates. Students will be able to make friends from around the world at THIMUN conferences.

5. Conferences are staffed by high school students. All the THIMUN conferences are staffed by high school students. This is a huge contrast to North American conferences where college students staff all the conferences besides the ones hosted by high schools. These high school students are very experienced though — they’ve typically been main submitters and see staffing as part of their Model UN career — and North American teachers may be surprised at how well these students can maintain decorum better than many college staffers can.

6. There are Youth Assemblies. Youth Assemblies are essentially committees where students represent themselves and discuss how to create and implement real solutions to real problems that they can bring back to their local communities. There are often projects and presentations; they are not meant to be a simulation like Model UN. This gives students a chance to take action now.

7. Conferences are much more strict and formal. THIMUN conferences are much more formal in proceeding and much more strict on proper rules of procedure. Students are very disciplined and very respectful of the speakers during the Opening/Closing ceremonies and General Assembly Plenary sessions. Delegates also tend to be much more professionally dressed than their North American counterparts.

8. The first session is a full day of lobbying. Essentially, the first day of committee is a full day of unmoderated caucus. Delegates work together to draft their resolutions. This allows delegates to focus on writing the resolution (as opposed to competitively piecing it together during brief 10-20 minute unmoderated caucuses intermittently throughout the conference) and to go more in-depth in discussion and solutions.

9. The focus of the debate is on amending resolutions. Since resolutions are already written during the first day of lobbying sessions, the rest of the committee sessions will focus on amending the resolutions. The main submitter (sponsor) will read off the draft resolution and then delegates will make speeches in favor or against the resolution and submit amendments to it. The focus is much more on debating the merits of the resolution. North American delegates should also note that this process may feel more dragged out because there are no unmoderated caucuses in between to switch up the debate format.

10. Teachers can get involved in the Approval Panel. Draft resolutions have to go through an approval panel for editing on grammar and spelling before it is presented to the committee. Committee chairs do this type of editing in North American conferences but at THIMUN conferences there’s a special room staffed by teachers that take care of this; the THIMUN chairs focus on the substantive aspects of the draft resolution.

11. There’s a General Assembly Plenary session. This is actually not THIMUN-specific; conferences hosted by non-profit organizations such as NHSMUN and GCIMUN in the United States also feature GA Plenary sessions (both of the latter two conferences do this in the actual General Assembly Hall at the UN Headquarters). This is where delegates from all the GA committees get together on one of the days to present, discuss, and vote on the resolutions after several days of debate in their own committees. It’s a more realistic simulation of the real United Nations.

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The flagship THIMUN conferences are:

Here is the list of THIMUN-affiliated conferences:

  • Anonymous

    I’d also add to #10 that teachers (called “Advisors” in North America but “Directors” at THIMUN) get to work with the main submitter as they both check for spelling and grammar. It’s a cool opportunity for teachers and students — from different schools and different countries — to work together directly at a Model UN conference — this kind of opportunity doesn’t really exist in North American Model UN conferences.

    Also related to #10, the Approval Panel features a “Resolution Management System,” which is a program developed by THIMUN to facilitate communication between the Presidents of each committee, the Approval Panel, and the administrative staff who prints the resolutions.

  • Arthur Shin

    There are a few more different things about THIMUN and American based MUN programs/conferences. It lacks an ‘Advisory Panel’ or also known as APQ (the Q is added in order to be able to distinguish it from the Approval Panel). The Advisory Panel is the same thing as a normal committee, except that instead of delegates, we are experts, and therefore are merely ‘experts’ on certain nations and organizations. Also, we are not part of the UN but rather a temporary committee comprised of ‘experts’, in order to provide a new aspect to a topic, and hopefully propose different solution compared to those of representatives of nations and organizations (delegates). In addition to that, the debate style is different from normal committees and more similar to the Security Council in the sense that it moves clause-by-clause and there are only around 30 people maximum per panel. However, there is no veto power and even the NGOs may vote for and against. Another interesting thing is that the APQ splits into two sub-committees, called Humanitarian and Political (humanitarian being the NGOs, political being official nations). The panel only receives one broad topic (such as: Nile River, Mediterranean region, Indochinese Peninsula) and there are sub-topics which are more narrow. In addition to the very unique debate procedures, it also has very different lobbying procedures. Lobbying occurs before each sub-topic is debated, so lobbying is split into four different lobbying periods across the conference in the appropriate sub-committees. Instead of having one main-submitter on a resolution, experts submit clauses instead. These clauses are then debate by the sub-committee and then there is a plenary which debates clauses passed by each of the sub-committees. After that finishes, lobbying on the next topic resumes. After all four sub-topics are discussed, the resolution (called a proposal in APQ) is discussed as a whole in plenary. If there is time, the APQ will submit their final proposal to the Security Council, who will then vote on it and decide its fate.

  • Mary Brickle

    Hello! I was just skimming your website and came across this list of THIMUN affiliated European conferences and noticed that you are missing one – Anatolia College Model United Nations Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece. I work at Anatolia High School here in Greece and we just hosed our 9th annual ACMUN in March. It was a fantastic conference, with around 500 participants from over a dozen different countries. We’d love to be added to your list! Thanks.

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