Strategy Number One for delegates chasing awards at any Model UN conference is to sponsor a draft resolution.
The general idea itself is noble. Being a sponsor to a draft resolution means you’ve actually put some thought to solving the issue at hand. It also means you’ve taken on the task of trying to put these ideas down on paper for others to challenge and build on.
In practice though, the focus of competitive delegates on sponsoring draft resolutions has weakened its usefulness as a way to pick a Best Delegate. See: Goodhart’s Law. When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. When people know what the measure of anything is, they inevitably leverage that information to give themselves an edge in that measure. If test scores were the measure of a school’s success (which might, say, mean more funding for them) then it is perhaps inevitable that schools will inflate test scores.
The side effect of this trend is that otherwise well-meaning delegates, or less experienced delegates, can find it hard to be heard in a bloc when discussing an issue or draft resolution or working paper. When go-getting delegates try so hard to be the ones writing the resolution and getting their names on the sponsor list, others get shut out. And when being on a Panel of Authors is what gets you the focus needed to lead committees, how is the aspiring delegate to get his points across when he isn’t loud enough, or well-spoken enough? How about delegates who just aren’t great at lobbying?
Exploit Working Papers Well
I wrote about this recently. Working papers are a great way to stick out, especially if you’re not as naturally inclined to writing collaboratively or charismatic enough to rally a flock of people orally. Write a short working paper, with just one or two well-written clauses that deal very specifically with one or two ideas. When done right, it gets everyone’s attention – especially from the would-be sponsors of your committee’s draft resolutions, who may then ask you to come on board their bloc or steal your clause for their draft. Either way, you get the credit.
It also helps that it’s much easier to introduce a working paper than a draft resolution. You don’t need sponsors, and sometimes you won’t even need signatories – so feel free to write it by yourself! This has the added benefit of making you faster than the other delegates because you aren’t writing it with anyone else – and we know how essential time is when it comes to introducing things in MUN.
Beware, though: collaboration and compromise is a big part of Model UN. Don’t mistake the advantages a working paper can give you as licence to ignore ideas from other delegates or fly solo for the duration of the conference. Think of it only as a tool that lets you get a head start on your own – after that, it’s essential that you convert this head start into a platform for consensus-building and constructive debate, or else you’ll have defeated the point of the committee (as well as made the same mistake as other hyper-competitive delegates).
Rip Apart Resolutions…
This one’s controversial, but there isn’t a doubt that it can be effective. Proposals and ideas can easily get lost in the shuffle of speeches, especially where the committee is large and the speakers’ list long. But a one-man, clause-by-clause takedown of a two-page draft resolution? That catches the eye.
Again, this is something you can do on your own (although tag-team critical speeches against a draft resolution in a moderated caucus are also effective). You cannot just launch into a rant, however; your criticisms have to actually be valid and meaningful! It helps nobody when you attempt to tear down a well-constructed, agreeable resolution.
When you are meant to enter debate in the spirit of collaboration, ripping something apart should be a tactic used sparingly, and only when necessary – not for the sake of being critical and standing out. Also, how critical you are should obviously be proportional to how much the document deserves it. A mostly-good draft with one or two glaring flaws should have its merits acknowledged.
Sometimes, however, blocs are in such a hurry to introduce their draft resolutions first, and that means a sloppily-researched, clunkily-written, bloated resolution ripe for criticism. Look out for common mistakes – draft resolutions that suggest actions beyond a committee’s powers, clauses which don’t square with international law, ideas which add bureaucracy and pointless spending, the creation of redundant new bodies, etc. When the chance arises, grab it – and watch in awe as delegates send you notes asking you to vet their resolution or help with amendments.
You can’t stop at that, however.
…Then Save Them
Taking a resolution apart means nothing if you don’t try to help building it up again. Once you’ve grabbed your fellow delegates’ attention, it’s time to actually lead committee and show them how to salvage or save their weekend’s worth of hard work. Point out how clauses should be amended to keep within the confines of international law. Point them towards already-existing organisations that can help fill in regulatory gaps. Send in plenty of helpful amendments. Or propose a new draft resolution that incorporates the strong clauses from the old one and axes (or modifies) the problematic bits.
Remember, collaboration is key, and these tactics are the ones you use because you’re finding it difficult to break into the committee’s collaborating, without sponsoring a draft resolution. You might also have noticed that these points are still centered around resolutions – because ultimately, that is the product the committee works towards. There’s no avoiding them, and there isn’t a meaningful way to lead committee without also engaging with resolutions and ideas.
The delegate that knows the topic inside-out is also one well-poised to lead committee, for example – sponsor or not. But without converting that into a platform for pitching solid ideas and building consensus, that delegate won’t have achieved much. Likewise, the delegate who is obsessively familiar with the Rules of Procedure and who raises plenty of Points of Order will stand out, but without adding something more to the debate, there isn’t much leading being done either.
When done right, these tips let you work around committees where writing as a bloc is difficult, or where overly-competitive delegates are skewing the discussion. But don’t take it as an excuse to stay out of bloc discussions or to skip out on sponsoring resolutions when you can!