Diplomatic etiquette and good negotiation skills are the two things a multilateral diplomat at the United Nations cannot go without.
For a diplomat, etiquette means following and using good manners and culture in diplomatic practice. It is a result of a centuries-long practice of extending hospitality to incoming guests and it means both respect for ceremonies and regular communication. These rules of good behaviour and politeness apply to MUNs in many ways: from wearing a formal suit and observing to addressing the chairperson and your fellow delegates by using third person to respecting the authority of your committee. It constitutes a set of accepted professional and social rules of behaviour that are a prerequisite for every MUNer, and can be found in books and online.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) lists the following segments of negotiation process:
1) International decision making: includes multilateral diplomacy and external interactions. Each diplomat shall be paying attention to people, problems and processes.
2) Preparation of the mandate and negotiation process:
- what is being negotiated, and other factors such as motivations and solutions on and off the table
- who are the subjects of negotiation? E.g. knowing the relationships, and positions of all stakeholders included in the process
- how is the negotiation conducted? E.g. organization of the meeting, communication
3) Complex negotiations (which often include managing the crisis in a multilateral setting)
Imagine a complex situation where UN diplomats serve as mediators and offer their good services to the hostile sides, and after a while multilateral diplomacy is put in the function of a peacekeeping or peacebuilding.
Applied to MUNs, Point 2 (preparation of the mandate and negotiation process) belongs to the pre-conference period. Every delegate usually goes through his/her individual preparations and does a comprehensive research: studying the topic and writing position paper as well as investigating the positions of other delegations. These steps make the negotiation process more effective.
Points 1 and 3 (international decision making and complex negotiations) cover the negotiation process during the conference (formal and informal negotiations). You get to know your fellow delegates and their negotiation positions, start to understand their psychology and dive into the complexity of interests and policy goals on the table. Try to listen to what other delegates have to say, build alliances with like minded delegations and try not to openly impose your position over other delegations. If you are doing the Security Council, an emerging crisis could easily move the session in a completely different direction, which requires from delegates to possess a high-level adaptability and all-round knowledge.
Basically, you always have to strive for building alliances and be open for constructive negotiations and compromise. That is the key of effective multilateralism in UN practice.
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Cover Image: Hajat Avdovic, Webpublicapress