Model United Nations (MUN) simulations are popular exercises for those interested in learning more about the UN. It is estimated that more than 400,000 students worldwide participate every year in MUN at all educational levels – from primary school to university. Many of today’s leaders in law, government, business and the arts participated in MUN as students. But did you know that many MUNs do not follow the actual rules and practices used at the UN? That is why the UN Department of Public Information decided to launch UN4MUN, an initiative to teach MUN teams how to bring their simulations more in line with the way the UN actually works.
"At Model UN, you broaden your horizons. By learning and networking, you can be part of the UN’s efforts to establish peace, secure human rights and enable all people to live in dignity."
– United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres,
24 January 2017
Model United Nations (MUN) has existed for more than 70 years. But it was never monitored by the UN. The first time that a MUN conference was co-sponsored by the UN was in August 2000 at UN Headquarters in New York. Almost a decade later, the UN Department of Public Information organized three Global Model UN (GMUN) conferences in Geneva, Kuala Lumpur and Incheon, from 2009 to 2011 respectively. It was in the context of these three conferences that new rules of procedure and a new approach to conducting MUN simulations of the General Assembly were introduced. Today, the UN has developed guidelines for conducting a MUN simulation. It does not conduct its own MUN simulations but provides advice on how students can organize them following the proper procedures and processes.
The United Nations Guide for MUN was written principally for student leaders, MUN advisors and anyone else who organizes MUN simulations. The aim of the guide is to provide information about the structure of the UN and the procedures and processes used for reaching decisions, as well as guidance on how to prepare for MUN conferences. The ultimate goal is for MUN leaders to be able to organize simulations that accurately represent how the UN actually functions.
The UN4MUN Guide is unique in three important ways. First, it introduces a leadership structure and responsibilities that more accurately mirror the relationship between the General Assembly and UN Secretariat. As a result, student leaders play a more substantive role in the conference than they do in typical MUN simulations. Second, it uses Rules of Procedure that are much closer to those used at the UN. While there is some variety in the rules of procedure used by MUN programmes around the world, they are largely based on parliamentary rules of procedure, which differ from those used at the UN. In some instances, parliamentary procedures violate the sovereign rights of Member States and are therefore not appropriate for simulations of the General Assembly or Security Council. Even the terminology that has evolved over time is different than what is used at the UN. For example, the distinction between “friendly” and “unfriendly” amendments does not exist, and the terms “moderated” and “unmoderated caucuses” are not used either. Third, most decisions adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council are made by consensus. The leadership structure and rules of procedure should therefore support a working environment that encourages delegates to build consensus. This guide introduces new ideas on how MUN simulations can encourage such consensus building.
UN DPI Yerevan Office has started to organize Model UN Conferences in Armenia since 2000. A whole new generation has passed through this and gained skills and capacities in public speaking, negotiating, debating, consensus reaching, caucusing and as the most important part has learned more about the UN, its structure and rules of procedure. From 2005 to 2016 several other Model UN Conferences were held both in Yerevan and in the provinces of Armenia in partnership with the Armenian UN Association and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, on which unfortunately we do not have visual evidence in our archives. Here is a timeline of the 17 years of MUN Armenia in pictures and videos.