Attending a Model UN conference or a simulation for the first time might be a challenge for most due to the complexity of the procedures and the precise terminology.
Here bellow is the list of terms that every MUNer should know.
NOTE: Terminology changes from conference to conferenceMany. Many MUNs divert and use different terms and rules of procedure from how they are used in the UN and other international governmental bodies. It is strongly recommended to check the rules of procedure and terminologies of every conference beforehand.
Abstain: During substantive votes, delegates may opt for an abstention rather than voting in favor or against. Abstentions signify a country does not support the resolution or the substantive motion, however is does not oppose. Abstentions are another manner of opposing a resolution or motion initiated by an allied or a friendly country (Note: abstentions might not always be an option, every conference has different rules of procedures).
Adjourn: Most international conferences (UN and others) terminate their sessions with a vote to adjourn. Adjourning a session can be for a short time (e.g., coffee break and overnight) or for a long time (until next the meeting, being in a couple of weeks, months or years).
Agenda: The order in which session topics will the debated. It is used for committees that address more than one issue and it is created after the roll call attendance.
Amendment: Once a draft resolution is officially on the floor, its content may be changed by any member of the committee (with the exception of observers). Any change to the tabled draft resolution that is not supported by all the sponsors of the draft resolution, is considered an amendment.
Some MUN conferences distinguish two types of amendments: Friendly Amendments are supported by the original draft resolution's sponsors, and thus passed automatically. Unfriendly Amendments are not supported by the sponsors and must be voted upon by the committee.
Binding: Passed resolutions that nations are legally forced abide. At the UN, only the Security Council resolutions are binding, while the rest of the UN bodies are not. Binding or partially binding resolution/agreements may also exist in other non-UN international bodies.
Caucus: A disruption form the formal debate in which states may effectively discuss topics in a less formal manner (NOTE: Some conferences have two types of causes: moderated caucus and unmoderated caucus – definitions available below).
Crisis Committee: A committee/cabinet addressing an urgent matter of delicate nature with crisis events taking place during the committee, some requiring immediate attention from the delegate. Crisis committees usually reserved for experienced MUNers.
Chair: A moderator or chairperson for the debate who rules of points and motions, keeps time, and enforces the rules of procedure. Chairs may be a member of the committee, a member of the dais or simply a neutral third party moderator.
Decorum: Order and respect that delegates must abide to. The chair calls for decorum whenever he/she feels the committee is being disrespectful.
Delegation: A group of people who travel and attend a conference together. Members of a delegation are usually from the same MUN club or organization.
Delegate Pack: A conference guide provided by the conference that usually contains the rules of procedures, conference background information, letter of the Secretary General, secretariat and chair background, committee room numbers, city information, and other additional information.
Division of the Question: A motion that proceeds to a vote on all clauses of the resolution separately. Therefore, only the clauses that are passed will constitute the draft resolution.
Draft resolution: A document drafted by one or more delegates that aims address the topic of the debate. If passed, it becomes a resolution (NOTE: Many conferences use different meanings to the terminologies of the resolution passing process).
Formal Debate: The customary and prevalent debate procedure at the UN. Speakers are called to the floor in order based on the committee’s speaker’s list.
Gavel: The tool, shaped like a small wooden hammer, which the Chair uses to keep order within a Model UN committee.
Head of Delegation: The student leader of a Model UN club or team.
Interconnected Committees or Interconnectivity: A set of realistically interconnected committees/cabinets addressing a general broad topic with a set of predetermined crises events. Each committee is represented by states with their assigned domestic positions and hierarchy (e.g ministers, head of governments, representative to the UN and etc.), who are in constant contact with their counterparts and allies in other committees/cabinets, and must interact with or against each for the purpose to maximize gains. A press committee is crucial to simulate interconnectivity. Interconnected Committees are usually reserved for experienced MUNers.
Joint Crisis Committees: A set of interconnected committees/cabinets addressing numerous crises events and interacting with or against each for the purpose to maximize gains. Joint Crisis Committees are usually reserved for experienced MUNers.
Member State: A state that has signed and ratified a treaty of an international organization, such as the Charter to the UN, the Maastricht Treaty (and others) to the EU, and others.
Moderated Caucus: One of two caucus which delegates motion for and vote upon. To speak, states have to raise their placards, be chosen by the chair and only address the committee on the topic of the caucus for a brief amount of time (NOTE: Not all conferences have moderated caucus, and how they work can be different depending on the conference rules of procedure and the chairs).
Motion: An official request made by a delegate which impacts the whole committee. Motions are made for different topics, such as a caucus, introduce a draft resolution, move into voting procedure, to adjourn and etc.
MUNer: An individual who participates or participated in Model United Nations conferences and/or simulations.
Observer: A delegate that is not a natural member of the committee is invited to the debate. Observers can be a state, an international organization, NGO, national organization or an individual and they are only allowed to vote in procedural matters (NOTE: Depends on the committee and topic).
On the floor: Once a draft resolution/working paper is ready to be presented to the chair and the committee for discussion and eventually voting, the draft is put “on the floor” and may be discussed.
Operative Clause: The second part of a resolution, which describes how the committee/nations will address the issue being discussed. Each clause begins with an action verb (e.g., urges, recommends, calls upon, affirms and etc).
Placard: The sign with the country name tagged on. Placards are used to identify the delegate and to sign the chair that the delegates wishes to address the floor if raised.
Points: A request raised by a delegate for information or for an action relating to that delegate. Examples include a point of order, a point of inquiry, and a point of personal privilege.
Position paper: A summary of a country’s position and intentions and plan of action on a given topic. The position paper should be presented to the chairs before the conference.
Preambulatory Clause: The first part of a resolution that names and describes previous action taken by the committee, recognizes facts and identifies motives for the resolution. Each clause begins with an adjective or participle (e.g., fully aware, deeply regretting, declaring, guided by, concerned, welcoming and etc).
Procedural: Matters dealing with the way that the committee proceeds, as opposed to the topic being discussed. Procedural matters are voted by all delegates present (including observers) and no abstention will be entertained.
Quorum: The minimum number of delegates needed to be present for the debate to take place. Each committee has a minimum number, however many Model UN conferences change the Quorum number or do not have one at all (keep in mind some committees do have a minimum number of votes needed for a resolution to pass, so often that is the Quorum number).
Resolution: A document that has been drafted and passed by an international organization or a body that addresses a particular issue.
Right of Reply: The right for a delegate to reply to the previous speaker’s comment. The right can only be invoked if the integrity of a nation is infringed by the previous speaker and if the Chair sees sufficient grounds for such right.
Roll Call: Usually the first order of business of a committee. The chairs take the attendance by naming all states’ name in alphabetical order. Member states answer with “present” or “present and voting.” Delegates responding with “present and voting” are not allowed to abstain on substantive votes, this presence status is usually used by states who are deeply engaged in the topic at hand (NOTE: Not all conference and committees entertain “present and voting” and only “present”).
Rules of Procedure: The rules by which a Model UN committee is run.
Second: The action of a state to agree with a previous motion, often seconds are mandatory for a motion to be recognized by the chair (NOTE: Seconds are not applicable for all conference and committees).
Secretariat: The team/staff of a Model UN conference.
Secretary-General: The head of a Model UN conference. Directs the conference on the Macro and sometimes Micro level. Responsible for the whole organization and the recruitment of the secretariat.
Signatory: A support of a member state that wishes a draft resolution be put on the floor. A signatory does not back the draft, it only wishes to have it on the floor so it can be discussed by the whole committee (NOTE: Number of signatories needed to put a draft on the floor may vary from conference to conference).
Simple majority: A vote that requires at least 50% plus one vote to pass. Most votes require a simple majority (NOTE: Passing margins may depend on the simulated committee).
Speakers' List: A list of nations wishing to speak during formal debate. When a new topic is open, the Chair will call for states wishing to be put on the speaker’s list. Once formal debates starts, delegates must send a note to the Chairs requesting to their country to be put on the speaker’s list (NOTE: Process of putting a state into the list may vary on the committee and the Chair).
Sponsor: A state that has drafted a resolution and has authority on any clause addition.
Study Guide: A Background Guide with contextual information for the delegates created by the Chairs and the secretariat of the conference. The guide is given before the conference starts and it is crucial for the preparation for the committee, especially for crisis committees, JCCs and interconnectivity.
Substantive: Matters dealing with the topic of debate, for example voting on resolutions. Only member states are allowed to vote on substantive matters.
Superlative Awards: Unofficial satirical awards created by the chairs and voted by the delegates, usually voted upon after resolutions have been passed in the last committee session. Popular superlative awards are: Most likely to become a dictator, best accent, funniest delegate, cutest couple, and etc.
Unmoderated Caucus: One of two caucus which delegates motion for and vote upon. Unmoderated caucus allows delegates to stand up and move around and informally and freely discuss with their counterparts.
Veto: The ability to block a resolution from passing by a simple no. Few committees have states with veto rights. In the UN Security Council, the ability is held by China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States to prevent any draft resolution from passing by voting no.
Vote: A formal time period at which delegates must state if they do or do not support a proposed action. Keep in mind there are two types of votes: substantive and procedural.
Voting procedure: A formal voting time which delegates must vote. Due to the importance, doors are usually closed and no delegate is allowed to come in or out.
Working Paper: A document with ideas and points that one or more countries would like to put in an eventual draft resolution (NOTE: Many conferences use different meanings to the terminologies of the resolution passing process).
Yield: To relinquish the remainder of one’s speaking time to someone. The yield may be given to another delegation, to questions (if one is willing to answer) or the Chair (if the delegate is finished stating his/her points).
Related posts:What are some common MUN words that are rarely used in daily conversation?
AIIB – Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
AL – Arab League
AU – African Union
ADB – Asian Development Bank
ASEAN – Association of Southeastern Asian Nations
BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research
CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States
CTBTO – Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
DSG – Deputy Secretary General
DICEC – Disarmament and International Security Committee (UNGA First Committee)
ECOFIN – Economic and Financial Committee (UNGA Second Committee)
ECOSOC - UN Economic and Social Council
EU – European Union
FAO - UN Food and Agriculture Organization
FIFA -Fédération Internationale de Football Association
G7 – Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States)
G8 – Group of Eight (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States)
G20 – Group of Twenty (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States)
GA – General Assembly (UNGA)
GDP – Gross Domestic Product
HRC – Human Rights Council
IADB – Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency
ICC – International Criminal Court
ICJ – International Court of Justice
IGO – Inter-Governmental Organization
IMF – International Monetary Fund
Interpol – International Criminal Police Organization
JCC – Joint Crisis Committee
MICJ – Model International Court of Justice
MUN – Model United Nations
NAFTA – North Atlantic Free Trade Agency
NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization
OPEC – Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
OSCE – Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
P5 – The permanent five member of the UNSC (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States)
PGA – President of the General Assembly
PHRC – President of the Human Rights Council
PICJ – President of the International Court of Justice
PSC – President of the Security Council
SC – UN Security Council (UNSC)
SG – Secretary General
SOCHUM – Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian Committee (UNGA Third Committee)
SPECPOL – Special Political and Decolonization (UNGA Fourth Committee)
UN – The United NationsUNESCO – UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
UNFCCC – UN Framework on Climate Change
UNIDO – UN Industrial Development Organization
WBG – World Bank Group (WB)
WTO – World Trade Organization