Model United Nations (also Model UN or MUN) is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about civics, current events, effective communication, globalization and multilateral diplomacy. In standard Model UN, students take on roles as diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization (IGO). Participants research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems. More recently, simulation of other deliberative bodies, such as the United States National Security Council, has been included in Model United Nations, even if they are completely unrelated to the UN or international affairs as a whole.
During a conference, participants must employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to represent the policies of their country. These skills include public speaking, group communication, research, policy analysis, active listening, negotiating, conflict resolution, note taking, and technical writing. However, school delegation formats vary from region to region.
Most Model UNs are simulations of a body in the United Nations system, such as:
- The General Assembly in both plenary form and within its functional committees
- Economic and Social Council and its specialized councils and agencies
- Security Council
- International Court of Justice
- United Nations Children’s Fund
- United Nations Environment Programme
- United Nations Development Programme
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO
- Human Rights Council
- Disarmament Committee
- United Nations High Commission for Refugees
- World Food Program
- World Health Organization
- World Trade Organization
- The Advisory Panel
Many conferences simulate other IGOs including:
- European Union
- African Union
- Organization of American States
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO
- Arab League
- Organisation of the Islamic Conference
- South Asian Association For Regional Co-Operation
- Association of South East Asian Nations
- International Atomic Energy Agency
In addition, solely national organizations such as the United States National Security Council are often simulated, with delegates role-playing specific people (e.g. the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense) rather than representing countries. This may be taken one step further, having the delegate represent merely the interests of his or her office, or role-play a specific holder of the office (e.g. Hillary Clinton). Such committees are typically “crisis committees;” that is to say, they do not begin with a fixed topic but rather are forced to deal with issues as they come up. A team of conference organizers (known as a crisis staff) develops a simulated event which acts as a catalyst for a crisis. The staff continually inform the committees of changing events on the ground, to which the committee must respond; in addition, individual delegates are typically allowed to take certain actions on their own, without committee approval, subject to the interpretation and agreement of the crisis staff. However, the correspondence between single-country and crisis committees are not perfect; for instance, the UN Security Council and some NATO bodies are typically run as crisis committees, and some national cabinets are fixed-topic committees.
More unusual committees abound at the collegiate level; for instance, a college conference may simulate the Greco-Persian Wars via a committee of the Greek poleis, have a committee simulating the National Football League‘s annual owners meeting, as held at George Mason University MUN in 2009, or even have a committee simulating President David Palmer‘s cabinet from the TV show 24, simulated by the University of Pennsylvania Model UN Conference in 2007.
Many conferences also run crisis simulations in which hypothetical real world factors are included in the simulation, including representatives from various groups such as member states that are not members of the simulated committee. These can take the place of rapidly-changing Security Council simulations, historical simulations, hypothetical simulations set in the future, and war games (typically conducted by War Cabinets, either standing alone or with two Cabinets running in parallel). Some conferences substitute research topics for a crisis which can span all the committees of the conference.
Model UNs are often run using basic parliamentary procedure. This allows all delegates to be active participants. Common activities in MUN involve giving speeches to the committee and writing resolutions concerning a given topic. Additionally, at the end of longer conferences, awards are commonly given to either individual delegates, delegations, or both. The judging of this varies. For example, American conferences on the West Coast, such as BMUN, give delegates points for every action they perform, which are added. At the end of the conference, awards are given to the highest point scorer. On the other hand, conferences on the East Coast such as the Harvard National Model United Nations, delegates are judged in a more holistic manner, but perhaps to the detriment of objectivity and transparency. Giving awards is less common at smaller conferences. In addition, many larger conferences do not give awards at all, feeling that competition detracts from the simulation experience.
Model United Nations groups are usually organized as either a club, conference, or class. A class can be a full semester class called “Model United Nations” or just one class period devoted to a short simulation; secondary schools may often incorporate the club of Model United Nations with the class of AP Comparative Government and Politics. Meanwhile, a conference is a school-wide, local, regional or international gathering of Model United Nations students who come together over a period between one and five days.
In the early days of Model United Nations, participants were mostly students at select colleges in the United States of America. Today, Model United Nations has greatly matured and expanded. It is now practiced all over the world in classes, clubs, and conferences. Model United Nation participants are elementary, secondary, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. Recently even university alumni and professionals have taken part. Participants come from public and private schools and universities, and they live in city, suburban and rural areas.
Over 90,000 students take part in Model United Nations Conferences in the United States. The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) has the most comprehensive calendar of Model United Nations conferences: the 2003-2004 edition lists 400+ conferences in 48 countries.
Some simulations are small, including members of only a single class. For example, 20 students can do a one-hour simulation of the (15-member) United Nations Security Council in their classroom. Other simulations can be very large, involving many committees and taking place over the span of several days. The majority of conferences generally involve anywhere from 50 to several hundred delegates, with most students living around that one region. The largest conferences can have thousands of participants from many different countries. Each simulation and conference varies greatly in number of participants and their involvement.
The concept of Model United Nations has grown substantially all across the world, with various third-world and traditionally non-English speaking nations joining in. One example of this is Pakistan where a number of universities have a Model UN program.
The Dominican Republic is the only country to have incorporated the concept of Model UN into its official high-school curriculum. This is in large part due to the efforts of the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic, which has harbored substantial support from the government despite being completely apolitical.
 Position papers
A position paper is an essay that is written by participants of some models. It describes the detailed position of a certain country on a topic or issue that the writer will debate in his or her committee. Position papers are not always required, but certain conferences mandate that each delegate send his own before the opening. It is also known as the (Foreign) Policy Statement or (F)PS.
Conferences have different format and styles for position papers. Nevertheless, UNA-USA established a format that has been adopted widely throughout the Model UN community. However, in Latin America the alternative TINK format, developed by Ilsa Tinkelman of Argentina, is used. in Either way, most position papers consist of a heading with committee, topic, country and delegate information and body which explains in detail the position of the author’s country. The position paper usually includes several pages outlining:
- Background of the Topic
- UN Involvement
- Your Country’s Positions
- Possible Solution
Position papers should explain an issue from their country’s point of view. It is also good practice that they include statistics about the issue that would support the cause they defend. The paper would also try to convince the other countries of the committee to their view of the issue. It would have ways to solve the situation.
Many conferences require delegates to submit a copy of their position paper, as a means to ensure that the delegates research important topics and construct strong and well-informed positions on those subjects, yet presentation is still a valuable component.
Model and civic simulation education are older than the United Nations. Records indicate that as early as the 1920s students in the United States of America were participating in collegiate simulations of the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. The modern day National Model United Nations in New York City and Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) both began as simulations of the League of Nations in the 1920s. Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) is the world’s oldest continuous College Model UN conference, founded in 1955. The world’s oldest continuous High School Model UN conferences are the Indianapolis Model United Nations and the Berkeley Model United Nations, both founded in 1952. The National Model United Nations is one of the world’s largest conferences with over 5,000 participants and is most unique with a part of the conference held at the United Nations in New York City. As the League of Nations was dismantled and the United Nations was born in 1945, simulations of the League of Nations were transformed into Model United Nations. Some conferences still perform historical simulations, however, including League of Nations crisis situations. These simulations now have grown to over 3000 and 2000 annual participants.
While simulations conducted in many languages, including the six official languages of the UN, generally, a simulation is conducted the most spoken language or languages in the area in which it is being held. Because MUN was created in and the majority still take place in the USA, most simulations are in English. Some conferences, however, are conducted in two or three languages. For example, in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and the Southwestern United States, many conferences are run in both Spanish and English. In Canada, both French and English are used. Some conferences, like those in the Dominican Republic, offer up to three languages. In Brazil, in spite of Portuguese being the country’s official language, the oldest conference, AMUN, is held in English. Brazil is also known for its conferences and delegates high academic level, being the unique country to have more than one student in GMUN chairing. In Germany, the majority of national conferences are held in English, yet arising numbers of conferences are held in German. In the Arab world, especially Egypt, Lebanon and the Maghrib states, most MUN conferences are allowed to be conducted in Arabic, and English and French, since French and English are widely spoken and understood. In Russia, most of the conferences are held with an equal number of committees in Russian and English. In 2008, the RSUH MUN held in the Russian State University for the Humanities was the first one in the country to offer committees in Russian, English and French. In Asia, conferences are also generally held in English, although WEMUN Expo in China holds some Chinese language committees.
Model UN is supported by many organizations, private groups, non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations and national governments. United Nations Associations around the world and its international organization the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) have supported MUNs for decades. WFUNA organized the first collegiate MUN in China and works with MUNs all over the world. In the USA the main support is given by UNA-USA‘s Global Classrooms program. Global Classrooms offers professional development workshops for educators and four curricula on peacekeeping, human rights, sustainable development, and the Economics of Globalization. UNA-Dominican Republic introduced MUN to the DR and now it is a part of the national education curriculum. In Europe the main support is from THIMUN, which has affiliate conferences through out Europe and around the world. MUN International has just created a new global membership association to help “expand and increase MUN activities” , the MUN International Network and has aided conferences in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and the US. Rotary International chapters around the world support many MUNs, e.g. the first international MUN in Hong Kong was organized and funded by three local Rotary Chapters.
Many intergovernmental organizations also support MUN activities. The EU published a policy paper just for MUN participants. The OAS actually oversaw the earliest Model OAS conferences. NATO often provides speakers and experts to Model NATO conferences. The United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) supports Model United Nations in four key ways:
- the Model United Nations Discussion Area on the United Nations Cyber School Bus
- the Public Inquiries Section in New York
- the United Nations of the United Nations conferences to use its rooms for committee space.
The CyberSchoolBus is the on-line education program created by the United Nations. It features a Model United Nations Discussion Area and a list of Model United Nations Experts who answer inquiries as well as excellent research tools for country research. UNA-USA offers an online guide to the UN CyberSchoolBus.
The Public Inquiries Section at UNHQ assists by helping Model United Nations groups to find speakers and it arranges briefings in its New York offices. UNICs in Argentina, Mexico, Panama, and the UK have been extremely involved in Model United Nations activities helping with research, Model United Nations support, and sometimes with facilities. United Nations offices in The Hague, Netherlands; Nairobi, Kenya; Istanbul, Turkey; Vienna, Austria, and Geneva, Switzerland, also support Model United Nations and serve as hosts for at least one conference each year.
The Organization of American States has been involved from the very beginning in the support to international civic simulations. North Atlantic Treaty Organization annually supports the Model NATO conference in Washington, DC, USA, with speakers, consultations and advisers. Other IGOs provide research assistance to simulations, conferences and students. Additionally, many UN Missions and Embassies support Model United Nations activities. Many mission and embassy websites have recently added sections created specifically for Model United Nations. Embassies and Consulates will often invite groups to discuss country positions or send a speaker out to speak to Model United Nations clubs, classes, or conferences. The overall support of simulation education activities by the international community is increasing rapidly every year.
Additionally, national governments support or sponsor MUN programs. The US Department of State has been working in Washington, DC public schools for over 15 years as well as providing speakers to MUN conferences around the world. In the Dominican Republic MUN is part of the national education curriculum. Embassies and UN Missions around the world have been providing consultation, speakers, research documents for over 40 years. Many have even reviewed student’s MUN resolutions for policy accuracy.
 Notable conferences
|Munga (Model United Nations General Assembly)||Oxford, UK||March 1990||Meeting of students from Oxford and Abroad. To discuss important threats facing the world like Terrorism.|
|American Model United Nations International||Chicago, IL||1990||Major international collegiate level conference in Chicago, IL each fall, with over 1,400 participants from 100+ schools over four days. AMUN is an official NGO affiliated with the UN Department of Public Information and provides a variety of MUN resources for all levels.|
|Berkeley Model United Nations||University of California, Berkeley||1952||One of the first two high-school-level conferences to simulate the United Nations in the United States. Run by UC Berkeley undergraduate students.|
|De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Philippine Model United Nations (PhilMUN) (formerly De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Model United Nations Assembly)||De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila||1997||One of the few tertiary level institutions in the Philippines that conducts a United Nations simulation. Participants are undergraduate students who are taking up Consular and Diplomatic Affairs and International Studies.|
|Geneva International Model United Nations||Geneva, Switzerland||1998||Held annually at the Palais des Nations. Guaranteed access to all UN offices and allowed to report to the UN Economic and Social Council upon being granted Special Consultative Status.|
|Global Model United Nations (GMUN)||New International City Each Year (Kuala Lumpur in 2010)||2009||GMUN is the only Model United Nations conference run by the United Nations itself. The 2009 inaugural conference, held at the UN European Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland included over 600 university students selected from across the globe. Conference sessions often have translators so students can debate in their native languages. GMUN offers some of the most access to the UN diplomatic corps.|
|Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN)||Boston, MA||1954||Sponsored by the Harvard International Relations Council and run entirely by Harvard undergraduates, HMUN is held annually in January at the Sheraton Boston. The conference draws over 2600 high school students from across the United States and around the world. HMUN is known for its realistic simulations of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council and for its complex and innovative crisis committees.|
|Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN)||Boston, MA||1955||
Sponsored by the Harvard International Relations Council and run entirely by Harvard undergraduate students, HNMUN is the largest, oldest, and most prestigious conference of its kind. Held annually in February at the historic Boston Park Plaza Hotel and drawing over 3000 university students from nearly 40 different nations, HNMUN is the most internationally diverse university-level conference in the United States. HNMUN hosts 27 substantively rich and engaging committees within the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Specialized Agencies.
|World Model United Nations (WorldMUN)||New International City Each Year (Singapore in 2011)||1991||Sponsored by the Harvard & A Local Host Team (National University of Singapore in 2011). Hosted at a convention center at a new host city each year. The conference traditionally hosts 2,000 college and graduate students from around the world, and has been dubbed the “Olympics of Model United Nations” for its international diversity, high emphasis on social & cultural activities for delegates, and itinerant location.|
|Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC)||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||1984||Attracts around 2,000 delegates gathering for four days in the heart of Philadelphia. Run by University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students. Continuing its Franklin Legacy program, ILMUNC XXV is partnering with the World Food Programme‘s Fill the Cup Initiative to provide meals to hungry children. Hosted by the International Affairs Association.|
|McGill Model United Nations Assembly||Montreal, Canada||1989||A 1,500 university student strong conference, McMUN is North America’s largest collegiate conference and the largest model UN conference in Canada. Well known for its entertainment, McMUN is characterized by its highly international host team. Run by the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University, a non-profit NGO run by McGill University undergraduates.|
|Model United Nations of the University of Chicago||Chicago, Illinois||1988||Attracts around 2,400 students annually. Run by University of Chicago undergraduate students.|
|Montessori Model UN (MMUN)||New York, New York||2005||Attracts more than 1000 student delegates, teachers and parents from around the world at its annual conference which is held at the United Nations. Plus Regional and International Conferences; partnership conferences not limited to Montessori students. exclusively and includes social action projects. Based on a collaboration model as opposed to the standard competition model. Attracts more than 1,000 student delegates, teachers and parents from around the world at its annual conference held at the United Nations Headquarters with UN Ambassadors participating.|
|National High School Model United Nations||New York, New York||1973||Attracts over 2,600 participants. Run by a staff of 80-100 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world, this conference hosts its opening and closing ceremonies in United Nations Headquarters. Its sponsoring entity, the International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA) is an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO).|
|Regional High School Model United Nations||San Francisco, CA||1998||Started in 1998 as the sister conference of NHSMUN, run by the International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA). Run by a staff of 30-40 undergraduate students from around the world. This conference used to be held in Salt Lake City, and will be moving to San Francisco, CA in December 2011.|
|National Model United Nations||New York, New York||1923||Founded as a simulation of the League of Nations; adopted current form in 1946 after the founding of the United Nations. Opening Ceremony and Closing Session take place in the United Nations Headquarters.|
|North American Invitational Model United Nations||Washington DC, Washington DC||1963||NAIMUN attracts over 2800 high school participants. Traditionally held at the Hilton hotel in Washington DC in the month of February. Sponsored by the Georgetown International Relations Association (GIRA). Run by students from Georgetown University.|
|Students’ League of Nations (SLN)||Geneva, Switzerland||1953||SLN a Model General Assembly and the only such conference to take place entirely within the premises of the United Nations. It is held annually at the Palais des Nations in Geneva|
|The Hague International Model United Nations||The Hague, Netherlands||1968||Attracts around 4,500 delegates. Held annually at the World Forum in The Hague; holds roster consultative status with UN ECOSOC. THIMUN is the largest MUN conference in the world.|
|UNA-USA Middle School Model UN||New York, New York||2005||Sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States of America. Hosted at the United Nations Headquarters, with opening and closing ceremonies in the United Nations General Assembly Hall. UNA-USA Middle School Model UN Conference is the largest and most diverse Model UN conference dedicated solely to Middle School students.|
|UNA-USA Model UN||New York, New York||1999||Sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States of America. Hosted at the United Nations Headquarters, with opening and closing ceremonies in the United Nations General Assembly Hall, as well as Saturday committee sessions in the UNHQ’s various meeting rooms. The conference traditionally hosts 2,400 students from New York City public high schools, various High Schools in the Northeastern US, and numerous schools from around the world.|
|National Law School Model UN||Bangalore, India||2009||Conducted by the Model UN Board of the National Law School of India University. It is often considered to be India’s most academically exhaustive MUN with special focus on Executive Board Training and a rigorous academic nature. The NLS MUN is also one of the fastest growing Model UN Conferences in South Asia and is solely dedicated to collegiate students.|
|UNIS-UN||New York, New York||1976||Sponsored by the United Nations International School. Held annually in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations Headquarters.|