Melissa Miller is a Media Associate at Best Delegate.
Now a junior at the George Washington University, I have travelled across the pond to Edinburgh, Scotland for a year abroad. Of course, as I find it impossible to live without Model United Nations, I joined EdMUN, the University of Edinburgh’s top ranked MUN team this fall and was lucky enough to participate in their fall training conference and compete for them at Oxford International Model United Nations conference earlier this month.
In high school, I had attended a European conference and became familiar with THIMUN procedure, which is what I expected from British MUN. I could not be further from the mark. For Americans interested in competing in the U.K. while abroad or vice versa, Americans competing at British conference or vice versa, or just enjoy learning about MUN, take a look at the biggest surprises I had encountered this semester:
1. Parliamentary procedure is almost exactly the same
The bare bones of parliamentary procedure are the same as in America, but many of you will notice that American procedure is not standardized anyway. As I’ve competed for nearly seven years now, I will cite differences in reference to the most common rules I have encountered on the East Coast.
The British actually have a standardized way of introducing resolutions and discussing them afterwards. Many Americans will be familiar with the idea of an authors’ panel, but that concept does not exist in British MUN. The process for introducing and discussing working papers and resolutions starts with a motion to introduce. The committee votes to introduce, which means delegates can now formally reference clauses. Introduction entails the delegates sponsoring the paper reading out clauses. The delegates sponsoring do not speak or answer questions on the resolution. For the former, delegates can motion for a moderated caucus to discuss that specific resolution, and for the latter, the chairs have no qualms returning to the speakers list to facilitate questions.
The amendment process works similarly except after voting to introduce, two delegates speak for and two against the amendment. The committee votes immediately on them. Unlike the U.S., amendments are much more likely to be friendly rather than unfriendly. Chairs believe that if the clause is substantively changed, that the entire committee must vote on that change, regardless of whether the sponsors agree.
2. While Americans focus on realistic solutions, the British and Europeans focus on more idealistic solutions
In my committee at OxIMUN, I was baffled with some of the coalitions formed and the clauses produced and passed in resolutions. With American MUN’s competitive nature, American delegates cannot help but produce more realistic solutions. With the P5 and other powerful countries always vying for power, it’s a wonder solutions are watered down. Although there is a sense of competition in the U.K., it is not nearly as strong, which causes delegates to be more willing to make concessions and compromise to produce solutions more effective in solving the problem but less realistic.
3. Working papers are much less formal
Technically, most U.S. rules stipulate that working papers do not have to have complete clauses, but most delegates disregard this and run straight for the perambulatory and operative clauses. The British and Europeans don’t disregard the rule and list their ideas with bullets and numbers. Because they don’t create actual clauses, I think that this rushes the merging process later in the weekend. Because Americans have full clauses when introducing a working paper, this makes it easier to merge before submitting draft resolutions.
4. Militant about Personal Pronouns
Again, technically, delegates should not use personal pronouns like “I” no matter what conference you attend, but American delegates are less likely to follow this rule and American chairs are less likely to enforce it than British delegates or chairs. At one point, our chairs at OxIMUN started a tally on the chalkboard for every personal pronoun used to discourage their use. I’m not sure which I prefer, but my advice would be to refrain from use at either type of conference, and if you slip up not to stress
5. We do work on Sundays
Most U.K. conferences run Friday to Sunday instead of Thursday through Sunday. The Thursday night makes a tremendous difference, allowing delegates to get a jump start on working papers and coalition formation. Most American conferences vote on draft resolutions either late on Saturday or early Sunday, leaving delegates time to recover from the delegate dance on Saturday night and the long weekend of debate by the time Sunday committee rolls around. My advice is to simply mentally prepare yourself that you will finish debating and voting for most of Sunday session to avoid disappointment.
Bonus: One of the smallest, yet weirdest parts of British chairing is that they are fond of saying “Thank you, delegate. That was perfectly timed.” If the delegate finishes his or her 30 second speech in exactly the time frame allotted, the chair will usually comment on its timeliness. There is nothing wrong with this, but when I asked why for curiosity’s sake, a few friends of mine said it was a combination of habit and positive reinforcement.