For many delegates, especially those attending large international conferences, an email from the conference organisers giving Member State allocations will result in a scramble for an Atlas or the Internet in ignorance that the State or NGO even existed. There is a temptation to feel dispirited if you are not representing a powerful country.
However, it really does not matter what Member State you represent – a delegate’s level of preparation and ability to form personal relationships with other delegates often counts for more than the diplomatic prestige that the name of their Member State is supposed to represent.
The ‘floating votes’ of those States undecided on an issue are likely to attract for more attention from those wishing to build consensus than countries whose policy is clearly known to be at an extreme. Member States hold equal voting and speaking rights in most committees, so, for a resolution to pass, a country with a particular interest in an issue cannot afford to ignore the vast majority of delegates with no direct interest.
Furthermore, representing a Member State that perhaps lacks either the ‘headline grabbing’ power or instability to feature regularly in the media gives the advantage that very few will be able to spot if there is slight deviation from the country’s stated policy. Those representing diplomatic powerhouses have to be far better prepared.
The opportunity to explore the alternative worldview of another country is one of the great attractions of MUN. There are countless sources providing information of relevance to MUN research. However, there are a number of easily accessible Internet-based sources of information that any MUN research project must include.
1. Study Guides
These are summaries prepared by the committee chairs of the topics on the committee agenda. They provide an excellent introduction to the issues and the major areas of contention. Most study guides also give policy positions according to regional blocs and suggest approaches that a resolution might adopt.
2. CIA World Fact Book
The World Fact Book is maintained by the US Central Intelligence Agency and contains factual summaries on every country in the world, listing details of population, government, economy, language, religion and so on (access it at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/). Check facts like land area, population and GDP against a State you are familiar with such as the UK to provide a comparison.
3. BBC News
The BBC News web site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ ) maintains a search function which can be checked for stories relating to your Member State or topic area.
4. Homepages of the Permanent Missions to the UN
Most missions to the UN have their own web sites containing policy statements and the text of speeches to UN bodies made by diplomats (go to http://www.un.int/index-en/webs.html for lists). They normally provide excellent summaries of that State’s policy towards most items on the UN’s agenda. Similar speeches and statements can also be found on the web sites of many national foreign affairs ministries.
5. United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBIS)
The text of speeches made to the UN can also be accessed through the database on the UNBIS web site (http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/unbisnet/index.htm). Other important tools on the UNBIS site are searchable databases of Member States’ voting records and resolution sponsorship.
6. UN Document Centre
Provides access to all UN resolutions since 1946 (http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/index.html).