How to Debate Resolutions

by Ryan on December 7, 2007

Someone from the Netherlands e-mailed me in the middle of an MUN conference asking how to speak about committee resolutions and whether to take points of information. I tried e-mailing back but the return address would not work, so I’m just posting my response here. I also think other people might find it useful. And don’t hesitate to e-mail me yourself, either to ask a question or just let me know your thoughts about my website or MUN in general.

“Thank you for e-mailing me. What is your committee? And what does the resolution say? How long is it? Who are the sponsors? And are you speaking in favor or against it? Also, I believe that MUN in Europe is different than MUN in America, so I am not familiar with your rules of procedure.

Regardless, here are some basic tips for talking about your resolution:

1. State whether you are in favor or against the resolution.
2. In 1 sentence or 1 word, explain why you do or do not favor the resolution.
3. Pick 3 operative clauses to support your argument.
4. Encourage the committee to vote in favor or against the resolution.

For example: “The Netherlands favors this resolution because it is comprehensive. Look at clauses x, y, and z. [Explain what x, y, and z does] The resolution addresses all of the major points that were brought up in debate. We encourage the committee to vote in favor of the resolution.”

Another example: “The Netherlands is against this resolution because it is vague. Look at clauses x, y, and z. [Explain what x, y, and z fail to do] The resolution does nothing. We urge the committee to vote against the resolution.”

I am assuming that you don’t have a lot of time to talk about the resolution, so you need to focus your speech. Using 1 sentence and 3 operative clauses to describe the resolution makes it easier for the audience to remember what you’re saying.

If you have time remaining, I think it is a good idea to yield to points of information unless you have a very good reason not to; for example, you said something unpopular so delegates will use their questions to attack you. But if you wrote the resolution or are one of its primary sponsors, then you need to answer questions from the delegates. If you won’t defend your resolution, no one else will.

I am assuming you wrote the resolution or are one of its sponsors. In that case, I suggest answering as many points of resolution as you can until you run out of speaking time. If the chair allows you to select delegates, and if you are very confident in your resolution and your debating skills, then pick delegates who are sponsors on the opposing resolution. Expect them to attack your resolution, but use it to your advantage by arguing back. Sponsors on the opposing resolution will make criticisms in their own speeches and you will not have an opportunity to respond. So use your speaking time as an opportunity to address any concerns people might have.

But if you do think there are some weaknesses in your resolution, or if you are unsure of your debating skills, then select delegates who are not on either resolution, or could go either way. You want to convince the delegate that it is in their country’s policy to vote in favor of your resolution. You also want to convince them that none of your operative clauses are against their country’s policy. At the end, thank them for their question.

Regardless of who is asking the question, answer completely and politely; do not get defensive because that makes you look bad. And keep your responses short. You want to answer questions completely, but you also want to answer as many as possible.

I know that’s a lot of information, but I hope some of it helps. Please feel free to e-mail me in the future.

Good luck!”

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  • Aima malik

    you made my upcoming first ever MUN a lot less scary. thanks!

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      Glad to help! Good luck!

      • Madhurima Kasireddy

        Seriously…this information made me feel comfortable for the first ever MUN i’m going to attend…thanx for ur suggestions…wish me gud luk!!

        • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

          Thanks! Good luck! — Best, Ryan

          • Madhurima Kasireddy

            yaar…u know wat…won BEST DELEGATE award…thanx for ur help..made my first MUN a grand success :D

          • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

            Wow! Congratulations! — Best, Ryan

  • Fatimah AJ

    Tomorrow, we’re debating the resolutions in our mun and I think this technique is going to help a lot. It’s already helped write my speech. Thank you!

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      I’m glad this article helped! Feel free to share it with your MUN club. Good luck!

  • Avi

    Hey thanks! I was really scared for the debating for! But this really helps! Wish me luck for my MUN debate next week!

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent article.
    I attend to model UN in my country (Colombia, South America) since last year, this helped me a lot in my last model.
    Thank you very much.
    P.S.: How do I email you with my questions?

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for reading Best Delegate! I’m glad you found this article helpful. Feel free to email me at ryan@nullbestdelegate.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408895426 Tafari Duncan

    One question. You said the chair allows you to select delegates to debate your resolution? What do you mean and how would one do this?

    • http://bestdelegate.com Best Delegate

      Usually the sponsors of a resolution are required to go up together to read the operative clauses and then they can take questions from the rest of the committee. The chair still decides who to speak — the chair selects delegates who will debate your resolution by asking questions and the sponsors have to address those questions.

  • http://twitter.com/Chuppy7410 Yousef Hassan

    What do we say to the Chairs, when we finish debating the resolution?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.perfect.7 Ellen Perfect

      Whether you are in formal caucus or making a speech, the simplest way to end your speech is “I yield my time to the chair”
      If you would like to close debate on the resolution, then a motion to move into voting block is in order.

  • Muskaan

    I have a question what should our opening speeches contain i am representing Qatar

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Ryan Villanueva

      The purpose of an opening speech is to explain your country policy.

      Assuming 1-2 minute speech on just 1 topic:

      1) Open with a hook to grab the audience’s attention

      2) State your country policy in one sentence, then offer 2-3 reasons why your government has adopted this policy

      3) End with a call to action, offering 1 possible solution/action that committee can take to address your topic

      • Molly Marie

        How do you know your countries policy?

        • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

          1) Find news articles and websites about what your country’s government has done on that topic. Make sure you’re identifying the right government, not just other political parties or others.

          2) Find speeches, statements, and papers by your government’s leaders, e.g. President, Prime Minister, Ambassador to the UN. Try searching your government’s websites as well as UN Member States on the Record.

          3) Countries are part of political group or regional groups, which have common policies on various topics. For example, members of the European Union will share similar policies on a topic. For your topic, identify the different political groups and determine which group your country is part of.

          #3 is especially helpful if your country seemingly has little to do with the topic. They may have little impact on the topic, but they may be allied with other countries or a specific political/regional group, in which case they will support a common policy.

          Best,

          Ryan Villanueva
          Co-Founder & Director
          Best Delegate | Model United Nations Institute
          bestdelegate.com | muninstitute.com

  • Muskaan

    i guess we say “thank you” or “i acknowledge your prescence”

  • Aye Myat

    how long is a for or against speech?

  • Arjun Rajshekar

    All the info from this page helped me in understanding MUN better..Thank you.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      Glad it helped!!

  • Tasneem Allybocus

    should i write operative clauses with other facts than that in my resolution?

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      Not sure exactly what you mean, but operatives should relate to each other and work together, and they should also “solve” or take the “next step” on the issue being described in the preambulatory clauses.

      Another way to look at it: why would you write an operative clause that is not related to any other clause in the resolution?

      Best,
      Ryan

      • Tasneem Allybocus

        But we have 6 mins to debate and using 3 operative clauses to describe the resolution won’t be enough to make up 6 mins. And what kind of argument should be added? Moreover what kind of question should be asked in point of information???????

        • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

          Focus on one idea — the operative clauses you describe should support that idea — and the goal is not to describe, but persuade: http://bestdelegate.com/how-to-make-a-speech-3-public-speaking-tips-on-what-to-say/

          When asking POIs, focus on one major operative clause. If you’re in favor of the resolution, ask POIs that cast the resolution is a positive light. If you’re against, then ask a critical question, typically how the operative clause fails to address Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How.

          All of these lessons we teach at our London program, focused on preparing delegates for THIMUN conferences: http://mun.bestdelegate.com/london-program/

          • Tasneem Allybocus

            Thx
            But if i favor the resolutions, should i state in my debate that my country like this solution?

          • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

            You can say you support it — but if the goal is get it passed, then it’s not enough to say that you support it — you have to persuade the others that don’t support it, or better, those who have not decided yet

          • Tasneem Allybocus

            Ok thx
            But when i am debating against a resolution how do i make the chair understand that the point is irrelevant if my argument is not strong? Could u plz suggest an argument against a resolution of sports?

          • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

            Then you need to work on improving your argument! And that will depend on the quality of your research, and the quality of the resolution.

  • Fanny

    Hello Ryan, I’m from Dominican Republic and I have a few questions about my committee and my strategy, can I contact you?

  • Fanny

    Ryan, hi. I’m from Dominican Republic and I have a few questions about my committee, can I contact you?

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      Hi Fanny! Could you please leave your question here in the comments? — Best, Ryan

      • Fanny

        Sure! This is the first time I participate in MUN and my committee is UNICEF, for the country and themes I have, EVERYONE will attack me, and I need to know what would you do if you were in the same situation. Btw I don’t know the diferences between debating in the Security C. and UNICEF.
        Gracias!

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