Standing Alone: How an Unpopular Policy Can Win You the Gavel

by Ellen on March 1, 2013

We all know how winning a gavel is supposed to go. We make great speeches, people agree with us, and we lead our committee to victory over global issues. With this script in place, a delegate who represents a radical nation may, at first glance, appear to be at an inherent disadvantage. No delegate wants to be that nation who is isolated by their own policy, writing a resolution that is doomed to fail. However, when given this situation, a delegate only has to rise to the occasion, and they might just get the gavel. Here’s how:
stand your ground—The bad news is that your nation’s beliefs aren’t exactly popular on the international stage. The good news? If you’re a nation who stands alone in your beliefs, odds are you also feel very strongly about the issue. Use this to bring passion to your debate and show dedication to representing your policy.

At the Stanford MUN conference this year, a delegate I knew represented the United Arab Emirates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Almost the entire committee formed a pact, led by the Western nations, to stand in solidarity with Israel and remain steadfastly opposed to Palestinian statehood. In the midst of such a pro-Israel sentiment, the United Arab Emirates stood up in front of the committee and began, “Israel is not a nation. The United Arab Emirates only recognizes Palestine, and remains in full support of its justified bid for statehood.”

In this instance, the UAE’s speech was forceful, unapologetic, and fully consistent with his nation’s policy. But more so than that, notice how I remembered two groups in the committee: a pact led by the Western Nations, and the United Arab Emirates. In this committee, the UAE used his policy to stand out and be a memorable delegate.
As we can see from the example above, nothing makes a delegate more memorable than holding an opinion that is unique within the committee, so use this to your advantage. As long as you are representing your policy, you will never get sucked into a large bloc in which your ideas will be the same as every other delegate. Because in MUN, it isn’t always about having the most popular resolution, but rather representing the interests of your nation effectively.

The delegation of Russia got into character during the Historical Security Council explaining the aid the committee received from an “anonymous” missile. They later went on to win the committee.

Get into character— In Model United Nations, one of the most commonly overlooked things that can take your performance from good to great is simple role playing. There is something to be said for a bit of acting and embellishment thrown into an otherwise dry debate, and nations with unpopular policies give you the best opportunities. Nobody is more passionate about an issue than a nation who gets attacked for their policy, so no nation is better for making dramatic, passionate, and memorable speeches than a radical one. The trick is to use this to your advantage by reflecting your nation’s personality in your speech. If your nation is known for being uncooperative and hostile, then nothing can fit your role better than a strong, forceful speech. If your nation would be angered by the prevalence of Western ideals in the resolutions, then reflect it in your speech. Not only are these especially effective in large, slow-moving committees, but they are, in my opinion, the most fun sort of speech to give.

Unmoderated caucuses are more personal than formal speeches, and so call for much less assertive attitudes than a formal speech.

Recognize the difference between formal and informal debate–While it can benefit you to give a strong, passionate formal speech, it is vital that you differentiate between your speech and a caucus. A formal speech is inherently impersonal. It is a performance, a time for you to showcase your public speaking abilities and highlight your policy. At that point, you are your nation, and what you say reflects more on your national policy than on you as a person. In contrast, an unmoderated caucus is more personal–delegates interact with one another as people in a collaborative atmosphere. So while it may be beneficial to you to be an aggressive speechmaker, it is also important to let other delegates know they can work with you by taking a more gentle stance in unmod. (To help with this, see this article on being powerful, yet approachable.) Just remember: you may be a hostile nation, but you are not a hostile person.

Stimulate, don’t stagnate, debate–When your policy is unpopular, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply making speeches about why you cannot support other nations’ solutions, but there is one glaring problem with this strategy: eventually, the committee will come to think of you and your policy as more of a nuisance than a source of important input. Instead of stagnating debate by tearing down other resolutions, stimulate debate by presenting your own solutions that are consistent with your national policy. Even if your resolution does not pass, putting in the effort to create a resolution and convince other nations to support it will make you a valuable part of the committee. By turning your focus to presenting logical arguments to your nation’s point of view, you can become a positive source of input in the committee through your contribution of ideas, rather than a negative source of reasons other resolutions should fail.

Being given a nation with a radical policy can at first appear to be a major hindrance to you, but by changing your strategy a bit, you can make this work to your advantage. Stand your ground and get into your nation’s personality to let the committee know that you intend to uphold your policy. Sticking to your nation amidst a committee full of dissent can also make your speeches memorable. Drive home your point with strength and passion in your speeches, but be approachable in in unmod. The trick is to maintain your position as a radical nation, but remain a likable person so others are more inclined to join you. Finally, remember to keep debate positive by presenting logical benefits of your point of view rather than focusing on the negatives of other resolutions.


Have you ever represented a more radical nation in committee? Let us know how it went in the comments below!


  • Max

    Iran in the IAEA is a great example of this! If you keep digging chances are you’ll find some other countries who respect national sovereignty just enough to ally with you.

    • Ellen Perfect

      Thanks for the example! I can’t say I’ve ever been Iran in the IAEA, but I’ve been Russia on the Crimean wars (that awkward moment when you start World War I 50 years early)

  • Dylan Silva

    Usually it’s the crazy radicals that do best, because they have a policy to fall on without the need to help create a solution. This article really doesn’t make sense. The hardest countries to excel with are the ones with no policy to fall back on. (Czech Rep on nuclear non-proliferation, Mongolia on human trafficking, St Lucia on Middle-East Relations, etc.)

    • Ryan Villanueva

      You’re right that it’s difficult to succeed with a topic for which you have no policy or position — but as a delegate, you have to develop a position on the topic. All the countries you mentioned have positions on the issues you cited.

    • Ellen Perfect

      You make a very good point. While I would have to disagree that radical nations can get away with not bringing viable solutions to the floor, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Perhaps working with a weak national policy will be one of our next articles. Thanks for bringing this point up!

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