Making the Most of Working Papers in Model UN

by nicholas on November 12, 2014

Working Papers, commonly precursors to Draft Resolutions, aren’t really given the attention they should be in committee. At most conferences I’ve been to they are simply a convenient way to introduce draft resolutions without worrying about sponsors or resolution formatting – and that’s a shame.

The flexibility you are allowed in introducing working papers, and the fact that it’s easier to introduce than a draft resolution, make these some very potent tools. Here’s a list of ways to really get the best bang for your buck:

1. Depth, not length

Everyone loves introducing long working papers, but when you have multiple blocs trying to introduce papers that run up to two or three pages, nobody is honestly going to read (and remember) all of it.

10804543_10152781007174194_1372695223_oTo stand out, don’t think length – think quality. Many of the working papers that come out fast are either cobbled together quickly to try and cover as much of the topic as possible, or were pre-written (which isn’t ideal).

So rather than have a long list of short, scrambled clauses, why not put more time and effort into just two or three really standout ones? Flesh out the nuances and words just right, get your terminology correct, throw in some appropriate technical terms and jargon and you’ll have a well-developed working paper that people can actually take the time to read and pay attention to!

That’s when the other delegates in the room start approaching you; by looking like you know how to draft really competent clauses, people will want you working with them – or at the very least they’ll want to steal your clauses for their own. But no matter. The credit belongs to you, and everyone saw you write it first.

2. Play around with the format

The other thing most delegates don’t seem to notice or care about with position papers is that they can be almost anything – they don’t have to be anything like draft resolutions!

In most cases, you can submit plenty of other things as working papers – like reports, graphs and images. The point is that it enables delegates to introduce media for the committee to consider, and which will aid them in discussion. It is much easier to move debate forward when everyone knows exactly what the report you referenced in your speech contains.

Be cautious with this, however. Remember that your chairs still have to approve your working paper, so this isn’t to be used as a gimmick – what you introduce should legitimately get delegates to think. It could be an infographic cataloguing state contributions to climate change. Or it could be an innovative think-tank proposal. Either way, if it’s something useful which wasn’t in the study guide, you’ll stand out for having done something different and something useful. First-time delegates in particular will be grateful.

3. Time them well

Once the draft resolutions begin rolling out, everyone forgets about working papers. But it doesn’t mean you cannot introduce them any more.

The amendments-dominated phase of MUN committees are perhaps the most hectic – everyone is trying to get their ideas in and shape the draft resolution before time runs out. Substantial clauses are sometimes voted on without a great deal of debate, and it can be difficult to properly defend (or criticise) some clauses with just one stab at speaking.

Working papers, when deployed correctly here, can do a lot to help. By being illustrative it gets a point across in a way that might otherwise be lost when delegates rely on short speeches alone.

Of course, this is something to be used very sparingly – time is limited, after all, and chairs will prioritise amendments over working papers. But if you can introduce something truly pertinent and helpful, then you come out ahead.

Timing is important in the early stages of committee, too. The working paper that gets submitted first gets vetted first, and in all likelihood introduced first. By being the first one out of the gate you get everyone’s attention – and if yours is a compelling one, the next unmoderated caucus will begin to centre around you. If on the other hand you take too much time writing a long working paper, you may find yourself in line behind four or five others.


These are just a few of the ways working papers can be an effective tool for debate in committee. They are vastly underrated, and any delegate looking for fresh ways to distinguish themselves ought to plan ahead and use these to their advantage.

Of course, none of this will make up for weak content and tired ideas. Remember that at the end of the day this isn’t a shortcut to success – it is a tool that bolsters a good idea and helps the committee.

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