Welcome to Moderated Caucus, a series examining the questions that keep delegates, chairs and secretariats up at night. Should closing ceremonies have guest speakers? Does crisis actually count as MUN? How do you explain to your non-MUN friends what you’re doing in a suit on a Saturday?
This week we’re discussing the “Best Delegate” award. Delegates will go to extraordinary lengths to win these coveted prizes but are they making MUN too competitive? If so, should we get rid of the Best Delegate award altogether?
Sam Povey: It’s time to scrap the best delegate award
Sam Povey is a member of Best Delegate’s Media Team and a former student of the London School of Economics. He is 21, from Aberdeen, and has been participating in MUN since 2010.
Butterflies, sweaty palms, nervous fidgeting: every delegate knows the feeling of sitting in a closing ceremony, waiting for their committee’s awards to be announced. The tension crescendos with the announcement of the “Best Delegate”. With a short speech, the chair opens up a chasm: one delegate ecstatic, the others disappointed.
But change is afoot. Conferences are increasingly moving away from “tiered awards” with a “Best Delegate” and towards systems with multiple awards on each tier (multiple “Outstanding Delegates” and Honourable mentions) or a single tier of “Diplomacy Awards”.
This is good news for Model UN. The Best Delegate award creates incentives for delegates to wreak havoc in committee and goes against the spirit of the UN. The UN runs on the belief that global affairs are a series non-zero-sum games and that through cooperation all nations and peoples will be better off. The Best Delegate award flies in the face of this belief. The fight for Best Delegate encourages backstabbing and distracts delegates from finding common-sense compromise. Blocs are torn apart by power delegates jockeying for positions which will best place them to win awards. Similarly, delegates refuse to merge with other resolutions or submit constructive amendments for fear of helping rivals. All of this takes away from the ultimate purpose of committee: collaborating to find solutions to global issues while representing your country’s interests.
But why not scrap awards altogether? Some conferences do just this and promote MUN as an educational, rather than competitive activity. There is great value in competition, however. In the absence of direct, real-world consequences, MUN committees lack the profundity of proceedings in the actual UN. Competition encourages delegates to work late into the night on thoughtful resolutions and turn up early to committee the following day. The desire for an award, therefore, drives the committee forward, improving the experience for all delegates.
Of course, on the downside, we’d have to think of another name for the website…
Joey Moore: keep the Best Delegate award to reward hard work
Joey Moore is a member of Best Delegate’s Media Team and a junior in high school. He is 16, from Virginia, and has been participating in MUN for 2 years.
Model United Nations has an inherently competitive atmosphere. Delegates strive to be the best they can be through strong research and diplomatic strategies. What is the one thing delegates can look forward to after a strong performance? A chance at receiving the distinguished “Best Delegate” award. Having a multi-tiered system of awards allows for Model UN to continue to grow and encourage delegates to give every conference their all.
Not only does a multi-tier award system allow delegates to truly be rewarded for their efforts, but also it allows them to gauge their performance against their peers. After multiple long days of committee sessions it is nice to see that your hard work was noticed by seeing that you did better than others. Taking away a multi-tiered award system ultimately takes away the participation and competitive nature of Model UN.
Imagine that you participate in a conference that you researched for hours for, spoke extremely well in, and controlled your resolution; the one problem was that your diplomacy slipped for a split second. If we switch to a single-tier award system focusing on diplomacy, you could be excluded from receiving an award just for not being as diplomatic as another delegate that did less than you. Not only is a single-tier award system not fair to the delegates, but it is less encompassing than a multi-tier award system.
Changing systems also makes awards lose their significance and would greatly decrease participation in Model UN. Many delegates do Model UN because it allows them to compete and see how they did based on the award they receive. If we don’t award excellence and only award diplomacy, I don’t see how delegates will continue to be motivated to compete. If we wish to expand the Model UN community and motivate delegates to give every conference their all, then it is important that we maintain a multi-tiered award system.