Flow of Debate
It is sometimes helpful to think of a Model UN conference as if it were a play in which delegates are the actors and Secretariat members are the directors. The storyline of a stage show is similar to what Model UNers call the “flow of debate” – the order in which events proceed during a Model UN conference. Just like scenes in a theatrical performance, debate unfolds in several different parts. The chart below shows the various stages of debate that take place during a Model UN simulation. Being familiar with how the action will proceed, from the first “scene” to the last, is an important way to prepare yourself for a Model UN conference.
The Chairperson will announce each country’s name. After delegates hear their country, they should answer “present.”
Setting the Agenda
When Model UN committees have more than one topic they can discuss, the body must set the agenda to begin working on one of these issues first. At this time, a delegate typically makes a motion, stating “The country of [country name] moves to place [topic area A] first on the agenda.” Some conferences will simply take a vote on this measure, but others will request delegates to speak in favor of and against the motion. The list of these speakers is called a “provisional speakers list.” Once all delegates on this list have addressed the committee, a vote is taken. Setting the agenda usually requires a simple majority vote.
Formal debate revolves around the speakers list. The Chair begins by asking all delegates who would like to speak to raise their placards. The Chair then chooses delegates to be placed on the speakers list. A country can only be on the speakers list once, but delegates may add their country again after they have addressed the committee.
Informal debate is divided into moderated and unmoderated caucuses. During moderated caucuses, the Chair calls on delegates one-by-one so that each can address the committee in short speeches. During unmoderated caucuses, the committee breaks for a temporary recess so that delegates can meet with each other and discuss ideas.
1a. When the session begins, speeches focus on stating country positions and offering recommendations for action.
1b. After several countries state their positions, the committee breaks for caucuses (often in blocs for now) to develop regional or group positions.
2a. After blocs have met, speeches focus on describing bloc positions to the entire body
2b. Writing begins as countries work together to compose draft resolutions.
3a. Delegates now make statements describing their ideas to the committee.
3b. Countries and groups meet to gather support for specific ideas.
4a. Delegates try to garner more support through formal speeches and invite others to offer their ideas.
4b. Delegates finalize draft resolutions.
5a. Delegates make statements supporting or disagreeing with specific draft resolutions.
5b. Draft-resolution sponsors build greater support for their resolution and look to incorporate others’ ideas through friendly amendments.
6a. Delegates declare any amendments they have created.
Close of Debate
Once the speakers list is exhausted, the committee automatically moves to voting. Also, once a delegate feels that his or her country’s position is clear to others and that there are enough draft resolutions on the floor, he or she may make a motion to proceed into voting procedure by moving for the closure of debate.
Once a motion to close debate has been approved, the committee moves into voting procedure. Amendments are voted on first, then resolutions. Once all of the resolutions are voted on, the committee moves to the next topic on the agenda.