The Crisis Crisis: Thoughts from a General Assembly Model UN Delegate

by Conna Walsh on June 15, 2017

This guest article was written by Ben Monticello, who was the Head Delegate for Michigan State University for the ‘16-‘17 season and was nominated to the Best Delegate All Star First Team in May.

Crisis, it’s time we had a talk.

Let me be upfront – I’ve never considered myself to be a “crisis delegate.” While I’ve competed in, enjoyed, and won awards in crisis before, they’ve never quite jelled with me as a delegate. The improvisation that all of the great crisis delegates have mastered is something that did not come naturally to me. It’s also important to point out that running a committee, especially a crisis committee, is not easy. We’re lucky that there are so many great staffers that are willing to sacrifice their time and energy to host a weekend of debate.

model united nations conference boston college

Crisis delegates working tirelessly in committee at EagleMUNC V in March 2017.

That being said, in my opinion, there are deep, serious problems with many crisis committees today. These problems won’t be easy to fix, but Crisis Directors and delegates alike can work to solve them by taking some pages from General Assembly, ECOSOC, and Specialized committees. I know what you want to say – “But Ben, they’re totally different styles of MUN!” You’re definitely not wrong, and it’s ok if you disagree with the points I make. This piece is simply based off my experiences and those of other delegates I reached out to. Regardless, I encourage you to keep an open mind and listen to what this GA delegate has to say.

In my opinion, many crisis committees have become contests to see who can most creatively disrupt the committee. In fact, usually it’s not even the most creative, it’s the way which the Crisis Director thinks would be the most fun. As a delegate, I understand the desire to make a plan that goes directly against the committee. It’s really, really fun to be the person who sends the entire room reeling after a crisis drop because you bombed the capital or framed the CEO or started a secession movement. And to be frank, going against the committee is often a good way to be noticed by the staff and win an award. The problem is, everyone does it. In one committee I was in, there were 5 separate secession movements and upwards of a dozen ‘false flag’ attacks, all fully allowed by the back room. Something needs to change.

So, what can be learned from General Assemblies, ECOSOC, and Specialized committees to help fix this issue?

1. Delegates need to stay in character.

For staffers, this will likely require offering more in-depth character backgrounds. For delegates, it means crafting crisis plans that actually make sense for their character’s background, motivations, and likely goals. In GAs and especially ECOSOC/Specialized, staying in character is an absolute must. The bulk of research before a GA committee is trying to figure out which exact positions your country would support. If you go off character, a good delegate will call you out in a second and all but obliterate your credibility. This is a good thing for Model UN. After all, we’re supposed to be mimicking real life.

If a committee is a Presidential campaign, it doesn’t make sense for half of the room to try to get someone else (especially themselves) elected.  In the effort to make exciting committees, the focus on a character’s motivations often disappears. Character bios now exist mostly to tell delegates what resources they have to start out with – little to any thought is given to whether or not that character would even like the results of a crisis plan. For their part, crisis staffers could make things more difficult or require detailed explanation when delegates try to go directly against what their character might do in real life. Most significantly, they could put more emphasis on how well a delegate represented their character as a part of awards determination.

2. There needs to be greater collaboration.

In GA or Specialized committees, “power delegates” that don’t care about collaboration whatsoever and just try to win awards are infamous. These delegates are incredibly common in crisis, but don’t receive the same criticism. Now obviously, crisis committees are much more individually driven. I firmly believe, however, that there is room to work together more in crisis notes and directives than what I’ve seen. I’m not saying that delegates should tell each other their crisis plans, I’m simply saying that there’s a balance that can be struck. Everyone has good ideas, and reaching out to work with other delegates is a fantastic way to create better solutions and a more engaging committee. Admittedly, some committees are great with this already, and in others, collaboration may not be feasible. But chairs and delegates alike should always remember that Model UN is first and foremost about diplomacy and collaboration. There is always something that two delegates can agree on and work together to accomplish.

3. Delegates should work to advance the body forward, and be rewarded for doing so.

In a crisis committee, the best delegate should be the one who most improves the standing of both their character and the committee itself. This should happen through directives and notes. If a delegate’s plan goes against the body, they should have a very good reason (outside of “this is how I can win an award”). In a GA, even if a country is completely against solving the issue being debated, it’s unacceptable for them to just write a resolution saying, “let’s do nothing”. There should be a similarly high standard for crisis delegates. In my opinion, there’s ample room for creativity and fun with crisis plans that advance the committee forward.

Overall…

It’s not going to be easy to change the culture of crisis committees; it will take a concentrated effort from both delegates and staffers. For delegates, it will mean not taking the easy route when making crisis plans. Staffers may need to completely revamp the way they create a committee. But I truly believe that a balance can be made between cultivating creativity and maintaining originality, realism, and fun. And at the end of the day, crisis committees and Model UN as a whole are about having fun. A well-run crisis committee with creative delegates can be an incredible thing. There’s nothing else like it in Model UN. It’s my hope that by embracing the lessons learned from GA’s, Specialized, and ECOSOC committees, everyone on the circuit will be able to experience the best that crisis can offer.

  • Li Xie

    The 2017 BL Education Invitational is the flagship conference associated with both the BL Education Model United Nations (BLEMUN) school and the BL Education Debate school. Developed by an organizational team with internationally renowned coaches, the BL Education Invitational aims to provide students with both Model United Nations and debate experience that will prepare them for later competitive collegiate-level debate. The conference will be comprised of two separate tournaments, with the Canadian Parliamentary Debate Tournament taking place on Saturday, September 30, 2017, and the Model United Nations Conference taking place on Sunday, October 1, 2017. The Invitational is geared towards Model UN-ers and debaters of all experience levels. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.bl-invitational.com. The organizing team can also be reached by sending an email to BLInvitational@nullgmail.com

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