Model United Nations, also known as model UN or MUN, is an educational simulation in which students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. At an MUN conference, students work as the representative of a country, organization, or person, and must solve a problem with other delegates from around the world. MUN teaches participants research, speaking, debating, and writing skills, in addition to critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities. Usually an extracurricular activity, some schools also offer model UN as a class. It is meant to engage students and allow them to develop deeper understanding into current world issues.
Delegates conduct research before conferences: they must formulate position papers and create policy proposals that they will debate with other delegates in their committee. At the end of a conference, delegates will vote on written policies, called draft resolutions, with the goal of passing them with a majority vote. The best-performing delegates in each committee, as well as delegations, are sometimes recognized with awards.
Model UN participants include students at the middle school, high school, and college/university levels, with most conferences catering to just one of these three levels (high school and college conferences being most common). Delegates usually attend conferences together as delegations sent by their respective schools' or universities' model UN clubs, though some delegates attend conferences independently.
Model UN began as a series of student-led model League of Nations simulations. The first simulations were called "international assemblies", the first of which was held at Oxford University in November 1921, with the potential first ever simulation being on the 12th of November 1921. Following several simulations in Oxford, the president of the first Oxford International Assembly, Mir Mahmood, traveled to Harvard in 1922 to help spread this idea further. During his trip he urged support for the League of Nations, and, seemingly inspired the Harvard Liberal Club to create the first American International Assembly held at Harvard University in 1923. Whilst the Oxford International Assembly ceased to exist in the following years, the Harvard International Assembly remained strong and since started the rebirth of these simulations worldwide. The international assemblies were similar to MUN, as participants represented countries, debated to find resolutions, and supported the idea of dealing with international disputes around a negotiating table; still an uncommon idea at the time.
After the Second World War, model League of Nations transitioned to model United Nations after the formation of the League's successor organization, the United Nations, in 1945. Today, some model United Nations conferences include simulations of the League of Nations among their committee offerings.
The first recorded instance of a model United Nations conference was at Swarthmore College on April 5, 1947. Over 150 students from over 41 colleges were reported as participating. The delegates simulated a General Assembly and recommended that member states "establish an international control and development of atomic energy", "conclude a treaty on disarmament", that the UN adopt "a uniform system for citizenship of refugees", that the UN amend the charter to adopt a definition of aggression, and that nations "promote the reconstruction of devastated areas through economic assistance through the U.N."
Another historic model United Nations was held at St. Lawrence University from 11–13 February 1949. It was initiated by Dr. Harry Reiff, Head of the History and Government Department, with the assistance of departmental colleague Otto L. George. Dr. Reiff was a technical advisor on the United States delegation to the 1945 San Francisco Conference (where the UN Charter was written) and the UN Organizational Conference in London in 1945-46 (where the UN was established). The 1949 St. Lawrence University Model UN conference included delegates from regional conferences and universities, including Adelphi, Alfred, Champlain, Clarkson, McGill, Middlebury, Potsdam, St. Michael's, and Vermont. The conference continued annually for many years at St. Lawrence  and has recently been revived on the campus.
The four oldest conferences in the world that are still active today were established in the early 1950s. Berkeley Model United Nations (BMUN) at Berkeley (1952) and Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) at Harvard (1953) featured high school students as delegates, whereas Harvard National Model United Nations has been running college-level conferences since 1954. Model United Nations of the Far West (MUNFW) has held college-level conferences since 1951 with the first at Stanford University where Ralph Bunche was the honored speaker.
In the early 1990s, model UN spread to Europe, East and South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Participation in model UN is meant to foster negotiation, speaking and communication skills. In addition, crisis committees, which deal with crisis scenarios which can be contemporary or historical, can develop leadership skills and the ability to adapt and deal with unexpected situations. Material issues of diplomacy and policy are also approached through a quasi-academic process. In preparation for a conference, topics are chosen for each committee, and typically, research and background guides (called Study Guides) are made available by the organizers of a conference for each committee. Delegates of each committee are often expected to pre-formulate the position of the country or group they represent, based on these background guides, and submit the result of this preparation to their committee in the form of a Position Paper. The purpose of writing a position paper is to familiarize delegates with the substantial topics of debate, encourage academic research and writing, and to enable substantial preparation for conferences. Several guides on the techniques of writing Position Papers, including templates and examples, are available,
In order to maintain decorum, most model UN committees use parliamentary procedures derived from Robert's Rules of Order. However, most crisis committees forgo the formality of parliamentary procedure so as to ensure smoother operation. In addition, recently the United Nations has spearheaded efforts to introduce new model UN rules of procedure that are more closely aligned with those used by the actual UN. Since there is no governing body for MUNs, each conference differs in the rules of procedure.
The following rules of procedure apply to general MUNs but may not apply to every MUN:
Most MUN committees follow a general flow of debate, this starts with a speakers list, followed by formal/informal debate and then voting procedure. Formal/Informal debate includes both moderated and unmoderated caucuses. Caucus is an opportunity to discuss policy ideas. A Moderated Caucus is more formal and is run by the committee Chair, an Unmoderated caucus is a time where delegates move around the room and have a more informal discussion on the topic. A Dais will maintain a list of speakers and the delegates follow the order written on the 'speaker list'. Delegates may be added to the speaker list by raising their placards or sending a note to the chair. During this time, delegates talk to the entire committee. They make speeches, answer questions, and debate on resolutions and amendments. If there are no other motions, the committee goes back to formal debate by default. There is usually a time limit. In a moderated caucus, or unmoderated caucus, the committee goes into a recess and the rules of procedure are suspended. Anyone may speak if recognized by the chair. A vote on a motion is necessary to go into a moderated caucus. There is a comparatively shorter time limit per speech. In an unmoderated caucus, the delegates informally meet with other delegates and the staff for discussions.
A delegate may request the committee as a whole to perform a particular action; this is known as a motion. Documents aiming to address the issue of the committee are known as resolutions and are voted upon when deemed acceptable by the dais of the committee.
Resolutions are the written compilation of the ideas discussed during debate. They are considered the final results of conversations, writings, and negotiations. Resolutions must go through a draft, approval by the dais, and consequent debate and modification.
Crisis is a specialized form of model UN where participants can emulate a variety of entities, from a board of directors to historical figures. Crisis committees tend to be much smaller in size than their classic counterparts, and revolve around a quickly-developing series of events known as a "crisis." Delegates are assigned positions, and must create directives consisting purely of operative actions this means that rather than solving problems with Resolutions, delegates pass Directives. While delegates are working to solve the crisis at hand through directives, they are also often tasked with individual objectives, these objectives will be accomplished through the submission of crisis notes. Delegates may sometimes find out what other committee members have been doing through crisis updates.
Unlike regular committees, crisis committees have two distinct forums: the in-room and the out-room (also known as the front-room and the back-room, respectively). The in-room consists of delegate activity in the committee, including the usual speaking, while out-room refers to directives sent to staffers (also known as directors), communication with other crisis committees. Directives can either be written by an individual, several individuals working together, or the whole committee.
Staffers can update crisis events based partly on a preset direction and partly on interaction from delegates and committees. Crisis committees are also subject to more variation in rules and experimentation than regular committees. One relatively common variant is in timing, with late-night "midnight sessions". There may be just one crisis committee, or there may be more than one that interact with each other.
MUNs are run by a group of administrators known as the secretariat. A secretariat is headed by a Secretary-General. Other members of the secretariat include the Director-General, Under-Secretaries-General and President of General Assembly among other roles. An Under-Secretary-General carries out their duties under specific categories, but many conferences across the globe tend to determine their own categories rather than stick to the norm. Each committee usually has a chair (also known as moderator or director), a member of the academics department of the secretariat that enforces the rules of procedure and oversees the progression of debate within a committee.
Traditionally, English has been the official and working language of most conferences, but, as model UN has become more popular around the world, and as conferences in countries such as the United States have sought to appeal to underrepresented minorities (such as the Spanish-speaking community), committees using languages other than English, or which are bilingual, have become common. However, this is still not a mainstream phenomenon, especially in the United States, where most bilingual or Spanish language committees are found only at conferences hosted in Puerto Rico or the South West.
Nearly all model United Nations conferences require delegates to wear Western business attire, as dressing professionally is an important way to show respect for the nation, organization, or individual one is representing, as well as for the rest of one's committee.
Model United Nations conferences regularly simulate the bodies of the United Nations, the European Union, government cabinets, regional bodies such as ASEAN, as well as corporate boards, NGOs or so-called Press Corps. Idiosyncrasies and fictional Committees also exist. An example for such a special committee that does not have a parallel in the actual United Nations which deals with a crisis is known as a 'Crisis Committee.' In this committee, a crisis is given to a team of students and the teams must come up with solutions. The Crisis Committee traditionally focuses on a single historical event, but recently current and future events have been used as well. The event may be fictional or non-fictional.
Although model United Nations originated in the United States, MUN clubs and conferences are not isolated to that country. Rather, like the actual UN, model UN is found in countries around the globe. Because model UN is decentralized and has grown autonomously around the world, there are significant differences in how MUN is done between regions.
MUN is relatively popular in Denmark, with conferences at both high-school and university level. It was first introduced in 2003, it has since spread with 3 major conferences at high-school level, with at least 400 participants at each conference, with BIGMUN being the largest conference in Scandinavia.
The largest MUN in the Netherlands is The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) conference, which includes over 3500 participants coming from around 200 schools and 100 different countries.[better source needed] Although it is not located near the United Nations Headquarters in New York, it is one of the pioneer model United Nations conferences in the world, since it has been founded in 1968 and located in the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) world city of the Hague. A whole network of conferences is marked by its THIMUN affiliation, a label which basically describes the universality of the procedures that rule the conference and make it part of the UN recognized foundation.[clarification needed] In 1995 the THIMUN Foundation was accredited as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.[better source needed] Also, THIMUN has established its own conferences' network throughout time: THIMUN Qatar, THIMUN Singapore, THIMUN Online MUN (O-MUN) and THIMUN Latin America conferences have been set up from 2005. The second and third biggest MUN-conferences of the Netherlands are MUNISH (Model United Nations at the International School of the Hague) and HMUN (Haarlem Model United Nations). There is also The European International Model UN TEIMUN which was founded in 1987 and is the oldest university Model UN in Europe.
The Iberian Model United Nations (IMUN), held in Lisbon, is the largest MUN in Portugal and one of the largest high school MUN conferences in Europe. IMUN's keynote speakers have included prominent politicians, diplomats, United Nations officials, and rights activists, such as internationally awarded author Richard Zimler, U.S. Ambassador Robert A. Sherman, and President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
There are numerous other conferences throughout the country, including the Oporto Model United Nations.
MUN first arrived in Spain in 2006 with the organization of the Catalonia Model United Nations (C'MUN) in Barcelona. In 2019 Madrid hosted the Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN), and among the 2,300 participants were 500 Spanish students belonging to 20 different universities. Madrid's bid for WorldMUN was led by the Spanish Alliance for Model United Nations (SAMUN), which reunited the students of the four public universities of Madrid: Complutense University of Madrid, Autonomous University of Madrid, Charles III University of Madrid and King Juan Carlos University.
The first model UN conference in Turkey, the Turkish International Model United Nations (TIMUN), was held in 1995 at the Üsküdar American Academy. In addition to TIMUN, which continues to be held annually, other regular conferences also take place in the country, including the Istanbul-based and THIMUN-affiliated MUNDP organized by the Koç School.
The First International Model United Nations Conference in Turkey, held at a Venue other than a University, the Future Leaders Model United Nations (FLMUN), first took place in 2020 at DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi and hosted Government Representative such as the Consul General of Brazil at Istanbul, the President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, the official Spokesperson of UNHCR Turkey and the Advocate General of Balochistan. The Conference continues to be held Bi-Annually and brings Youth from across the world under one roof.
The Kabul Model United Nations was established in Kabul in 2014. The objectives are to bring young female and male individuals together to discuss global issues and promote diplomacy, human rights, peace building, and social welfare. Participants include university students up to the age of 30. They come from four or five Afghanistan provinces to develop critical thinking and public speaking skills. Pamir International Model United Nations (PIMUN) was established in October 2016.
Model United Nations conferences in Australia are typically separated into tertiary and high school levels. At the high school level, the large majority of model United Nations events are organised by the various state and territory branches of UN Youth Australia through the Evatt competition or UN Youth various conferences and summits, or by the many branches of Rotary Australia. Tertiary events, typically running for three to four days, occur within several Australian states, and are timed to coincide with holiday periods in tertiary semesters, with the largest three typically being NCMUN, VicMUN and SydMUN.
Model United Nations is practiced in Bangladesh since 2002, when the Model United Nations on Combating Terrorism – Bangladesh Model United Nations first took place. Since then, plenty of Model United Nations conferences have been held in the country. But the concept of MUN became a popular one in Bangladesh from 2013.
United Nations Youth and Students Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB) established MUN in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Model United Nations conferences include: Bangladesh International Model United Nations 2012; Dhaka+20, Brainwiz MUN 2013 and UNYSAB MUN 2014, organized by UNYSAB. Conferences of much larger numbers were organized by UNYSAB when they organized Bangladesh Model United Nations (BANMUN) Session VII in June 2015 with more than 560 delegates and Bangladesh International Model United Nations (BIMUN) Session II in November 2015, with over 850 delegates, the largest number in Bangladesh's history.
MUN in Bangladesh grew rapidly after the formation of the first university based MUN club of the country Dhaka University Model United Nations Association in 2011. Dhaka University National Model United Nations (DUNMUN) started from 2012.
Model United Nations first came to China in 1995, when the China Foreign Affairs University held the country's first collegiate model United Nations conferences. Arriving in Chinese high schools in 2005, model UN expanded rapidly. Peking University (PKU) students, after attending Harvard's HMUN, organized the first national model UN conference for high school students in China. PKU's conference was initially backed by UNA-USA, however support was curtailed in 2010 due to the Great Recession.
Between 2005 and 2010, national model United Nations conferences such as those organized by PKU and the rivaling Fudan University in Shanghai drew the best high school students from around the country, who competed for limited spaces. Over time, lesser-known national conferences, as well as regional and even local conferences for high school students, began to develop and gradually spread to cities beyond Beijing and Shanghai.
One major conference is the Annual NEOMUN conference, also known as SCAMUN by internal members.
Most model United Nations conferences in China are organized through private or academic enterprises, however some government-affiliated MUNs have also flourished, and recently, unofficial student-run grassroots conferences have begun to dominate the Chinese MUN scene.
The Doon School Model United Nations is one of the largest inter-school conferences in the country, with delegates coming from all across the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Harvard MUN India, in which over 1600 students participated in 2018, TechFest World MUN organized by IIT Bombay, AURO Model United Nations (AURO MUN), Strawberry Fields High School MUN, The Heritage School MUN and Ivy League MUN are other notable inter-school MUN conferences.
A high number of New Zealand high schools operate their own MUN events, with UN Youth New Zealand functioning as a managing organisation. UN Youth NZ also organises regional and national events, along with Aotearoa Youth Declaration, the Pacific Project, and New Zealand's THIMUN delegation.
The idea of model United Nations is relatively new among Vietnamese youth. There has been an increasing number of such conferences, including invitational ones such as UNISMUN, SAIMUN and many other non-invitational ones. These conferences are often organised by schools or student-led organizations with varying scale and exclusivity. One of the most inclusive model United Nations conferences in the country is Vietnam National Model United Nations (VNMUN), open to not only Vietnamese in all parts of the country but also international students studying around the world.
Lagos Model United Nations is one of Africa's pioneer MUN Conferences. Set in Lagos, it is the largest MUN Conference in West Africa, and attracts over 400 delegates each year. The Conference is hosted by the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos and simulates up to 10 committees of the United Nations annually. The Conference began in 2016, due to the desire of the founders to organize a conference in Nigeria, after participating in several Model United Nations conferences worldwide including National Model United Nations and Rome Model United Nations.
Beyond the simulation of committees, the Conference offers other activities for delegates such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Workshop and the Idea Fair. The SDG Workshop is a platform for SDG experts to share their experiences with the delegates, while the Idea Fair is an opportunity for young innovators working on different SDGs to win a cash grant.
Conferences in Tunisia are mostly found in Tunis and they are usually sponsored by the Tunisian International Model United Nations (TIMUN). The most famous conference in Tunisia is the "Grande Simulation annuelle du TIMUN" in Tunis, which host more than 300 delegates. These conferences are usually hosted by the biggest national universities. Since the 6th edition, the "Grande Simulation annuelle" is under the patronage of the Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs and welcomes Tunisian ministers and diplomats.
The other conferences in Africa include NIAMUN in Marrakech. Established in August 2012 by a coalition of North African youths, NAIMUN is the largest student-run model United Nations conference in Africa and the Middle East, with 4 sub-branches in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. It trains and encourages young people to address pressing global issues and engages them in resolving global problems. NAIMUN is a non-profit organization which provides an equal opportunity for all youth to actively participate in an open debate. JoMUN in Johannesburg, and IMIRAMUN in Windhoek took place in Benin, in Cotonou. The first edition of Algeria Model United Nations was held in December 2014.
The Americas Model United Nations (AMUN ) was the first MUN Conference to be held in Latin America, accomplishing 21 years of history in 2018 with the edition Bring Walls Down, Build Up Connections. The event official language of the conference is English, which has enabled AMUN to receive students from various countries worldwide. The committees vary with each edition of the project, as well as its themes addressed, among which are international security, cooperation, human rights, democracy and transnational crimes. Among the cultural activities, there is a tour around Brasília, the city hosting the event, and the Nations Fair, in which the peculiarities and customs of each country are shown by the participants representing them on the Conference.
At university level, model United Nations started in Peru in 2006 with the United Nations Studies Circle (CENU), a college team from the University of Lima founded to compete at Harvard National Model United Nations. This team would evolution into a full-scale organization, the Peruvian Association for the Study of the United Nations (AENU Peru for its Spanish acronym), a non-for-profit NGO charged with task of promoting MUN in Peru and creating Peru's first "National Delegation", thus creating the Peruvian Universities Debate Team (PU). Starting their new trademark since 2011, PU's has garnered the Best Large Delegation award at Harvard World Model United Nations 2014 held in Brussels, Belgium, and the Best Large Delegation award at Harvard National Model United Nations - Latin America 2017, held in Lima, Peru.
At high school level, MUN has been a popular extracurricular activity since 2012, with the first high school conference Lima Model United Nations (LiMUN) 2012, followed by Villa Maria Model United Nations (VMMUN) 2015, Newton Model United Nations (NewMUN) 2015, and Carmelitas Model United Nations 2015, being the latter school the host for the first Ivy League Model United Nations Conference Peru (ILMUNC 2016). Each school delegation hosts its own conference, including Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and Piura.