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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