The Winnipeg MUNA provides an accurate simulation of the General Assembly of the United Nations and how it drafts and adopts resolutions.
Resolutions adopted by the actual UN General Assembly are not legally binding on the Member States (the countries), instead, they are considered to be recommendations (the exception being for Security Council resolutions).
The Winnipeg Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) is a learning simulation of the United Nations General Assembly in its structure and proceedings. Therefore, debates in MUNA, the committee structure, rules of procedure, and the general decorum of delegates, are designed to approximate the UN General Assembly, conditioned, of course, by local limitations and time constraints.
All of the leadership roles of the Winnipeg MUNA (over two dozen) are performed by selected students, including the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, among others.
Countries are randomly assigned to teams and in the order in which they register.
The rules and procedures for the simulations generally follow the UN Model UN Assembly Guidelines.
All discussions between delegates must adhere to proper respectful conduct. Under a zero-tolerance policy, a student found in breach of conduct will be expelled from MUNA by the organizers.
Preparing for the Winnipeg MUNA requires researching global issues and knowing the rules and procedures of the Model UN Assembly.
As described in the United Nations Model UN Guide, the annual ‘session’ of the UN General Assembly (GA) opens every year in September and runs for one year. At the beginning of each new session, the GA Plenary and its six Main Committees are allocated ‘agenda items’ to ‘consider’. To access the agenda items for the current session of the UN General Assembly visit http://www.un.org/en/ga/documents/index.shtml.
‘Considering’ an agenda item involves drafting a resolution on the item, discussing the item, reviewing and negotiating the text of the resolution and then taking action to adopt the resolution either by consensus or by conducting a vote. Importantly, resolutions adopted by the GA are not legally binding on the Member States (the countries), but rather, they are considered to be recommendations. The only resolutions that have the potential to be legally binding are those that are adopted by the Security Council.
Experience has shown that the best way for recommendations expressed in a resolution to be implemented by the most Member States is for all to agree on the same text, that is, achieving a consensus on the text through a negotiation process that seeks input from every Member State. The consequence of adopting a resolution by vote is that only a simple majority needs to agree on the text of a resolution. The majority doesn’t need to understand the perspectives of the minority who disagree, nor even care about these perspectives. Such a process can be divisive and does not encourage negotiation to find common ground.
When adopting resolutions by consensus, one needs to be concerned about the viewpoint of every country and engage in negotiations that often result in compromises so that different points of view are taken into consideration. This process is both inclusive and collaborative.
“When the UN was created in 1945, there were only 51 Member States and resolutions were adopted [mostly] by a vote. Today, in contrast, there are 193 Member States and roughly 80% of the General Assembly resolutions are adopted by consensus, that is, without taking a vote.”
The United Nations Model UN Guide describes that at the beginning of each regular session, the GA holds a General Debate when many Heads of State come to express their views on the most pressing international issues. Following the General Debate, most agenda items are discussed in one of the GA’s six Main Committees. Every UN Member State is represented on each Committee. The six Main Committees include (see http://www.un.org/):
Some items that are not discussed in any of the Main Committees are discussed directly in meetings of the GA Plenary.
Most draft resolutions are initially written by a Member State or group of Member States (e.g., Group of 77 and China). If there is more than one sponsor of a draft resolution, the resolution is tabled by the “main sponsor” (or by a group’s Chair) by formally submitting it to the UN Secretariat for consideration by a Committee or the Plenary on behalf of the other co-sponsors or group.
For more information on how decisions are made at the UN visit the United Nations Model UN Guide.
DAY 1 MUNA OPENING CEREMONIES
During the Winnipeg MUNA opening ceremonies, welcome remarks are delivered by federal, provincial, local and Indigenous governments. As well as by the Rotary Club of Winnipeg.
DAY 1 OPENING PLENARY SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The President of the General Assembly (PGA) formally opens the proceedings and introduces the Assembly’s Vice-president, Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General. After making a statement to the Plenary, the PGA will give the floor to the Secretary-General to make some remarks. This plenary session is conducted under the GA’s formal rules and procedures as simulated by MUNA. See: https://www.un.org/en/model-united-nations/rules-procedure
Each delegation will submit a written formal statement addressing the overall theme of MUNA. A limited number of delegations will be randomly selected to present their statement in this Opening Session of the General Assembly (2 minutes each).
DAY 1 COMMITTEE MEETINGS
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) will consider one resolution. In a separate room, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) & Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will consider the second resolution.
Each resolution has two main parts: (i) the preambular section, which includes contextual statements on past actions and summarizes the concerns of Member States; and (ii) the operative section, which includes recommendations on actions that need to be taken.
Each Committee has a ‘Bureau’ to support its deliberations. The Bureau is made up of the Chair, Vice-chair, Secretary and Rapporteur who act on behalf of all delegates to ensure that the Committee completes its work in a timely manner. These roles are all performed by students at MUNA. The Secretary assists the Chair in various ways such as by conducting votes, keeping track of speakers, and tracking amendments on-screen in the draft resolution for the delegates to debate. For more information on the UN’s Main Committees visit: http://www.un.org/en/ga/maincommittees/index.shtml
The Informal Consultations are divided into two parts: Part I – Breakout groups to draft operative paragraphs; and Part II – Review of operative paragraphs and debate of amendments.
In Part I, delegates will work in one of five smaller groups (up to 15 persons each). These smaller groups represent regional or political groups that are actively involved in the resolution topics (for examples of groups see https://www.un.org/dgacm/en/content/regional-groups .Given the time limitations of MUNA, each group is assigned a specific sub-topic for which to draft up to two operative statements (and revise the preamble if they desire). Two country delegates are designated as co-facilitators for each small breakout group.
Once the paragraphs have been drafted, they are sent by email (or via Google docs) to the Secretary who will compile and format the different paragraphs into one document for review. The compiled draft resolution is then made available to the delegates on screen so that they can read the entire text in order to decide if they want to sponsor the resolution (i.e., support it). Once the list of sponsors has been decided, the resolution is tabled by the main sponsor for consideration by the Committee.
In Part II of the Informal Consultations, the Informal Consultations Facilitator will conduct the line-by-line review of each operative paragraph to give the non-sponsors an opportunity to propose amendments to the text. When the line-by-line review has been completed the sponsors and non-sponsors will debate the amendments with the aim of reaching a consensus on how the text of the operative paragraphs should be written. If an agreement is reached during this process on all the operative paragraphs, then consensus has been achieved and there is no need to take a vote.
The purpose of the consensus-building process is to give the delegates an opportunity to work together to find common ground to ensure that most, if not all, of the Member States will implement the recommendations put forth in a resolution. If consensus cannot be reached, one of the non-sponsors can request that the resolution be put to a vote in the final formal Committee meeting.
DAY 2 COMMITTEE MEETINGS
The Formal Committees reconvene in the morning of Day 2 under the leadership of the Committee Chairs and under the rules of procedures to take action on the Resolutions developed during the Informal Consultations. The main sponsor of Resolution will introduce it, and then the Committee Chair will give the floor to non-sponsors who wish to explain their position (if the resolution will be adopted by consensus). Before formally adopting the resolution without a vote) the Chair will ask if any delegations wish to be added to the list of sponsors (i.e., for the record, not to speak).
If consensus is not reached, non-sponsors can propose amendments that were rejected by the sponsors during informal consultations or new amendments, if they so wish, and put them to a vote. After all the amendments have been voted on, the Committee Chair will give the floor to non-sponsors who wish to explain their vote. Before the resolution is adopted, the Chair will ask if any delegations wish to be added to the list of sponsors (for the record, not to speak). Then the resolution will be adopted by a vote. If a simple majority votes in favour of the resolution, it is adopted and sent on to the closing plenary of the GA to be formally adopted by all of the delegates participating in the simulation.
DAY 2 CLOSING PLENARY SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The closing plenary session of the General Assembly on Day 2 is simulated in three main parts.
Taking Action on the Resolutions
The Rapporteurs of the Committees will deliver their reports on each of the two resolutions. Following each report, non-sponsors and sponsors of the resolutions can make statements to the President of the General Assembly to explain their position (if a resolution is adopted without a vote) or explain their vote (if adopted by a vote) on the resolution adopted during the formal Committee meetings.
If a resolution was voted on in Committee, the President of the General Assembly will take action by conducting a vote in the Closing Plenary of the GA. If a resolution was adopted by consensus, the President will adopt the resolution in the GA without a vote.
Introducing New ‘Serious’ Resolutions
The Winnipeg MUNA sets aside time during the Closing Plenary Session of the General Assembly for country delegates to sponsor/introduce a new resolution on a serious topic.
Note that it is not the practice of the real UN General Assembly to table new resolutions in the Closing Plenary. The tabling of new resolutions in the Closing Plenary at the Winnipeg MUNA is to provide students with an additional opportunity to cover issues of interest and to engage in informal consultation with delegates throughout MUNA.
At the Winnipeg MUNA, the President of the General Assembly will select which new ‘serious’ resolutions to consider within time limits.
Introducing New ‘Fun’ Resolutions
After consideration of new ‘serious’ resolutions, the President of the General Assembly will table new ‘fun’ resolutions submitted by delegates. Fun resolutions have become a tradition at the Winnipeg MUNA and have proven a nice way to conclude the deliberations before the closing ceremonies.
At the Winnipeg MUNA, the President of the General Assembly will select which new ‘fun’ resolutions to consider within the time limits.
DAY 2 MUNA CLOSING CEREMONIES
During the Winnipeg MUNA closing ceremonies, the organizers present a series of awards to the student delegates for outstanding performance.
President of the General Assembly (PGA)
This role is played by a student. The President of the General Assembly (PGA) shall declare the opening and closing of each plenary meeting of the session, direct the discussions in plenary meeting, ensure observance of these rules, accord the right to speak, put questions and announce decisions. The PGA shall rule on points of order and, subject to these rules, shall have complete control of the proceedings at any meeting and over the maintenance of order throughout.
The PGA may, in the course of the discussion of an item, propose to the General Assembly the limitation of the time to be allowed to speakers, the limitation of the number of times each representative may speak, the closure of the list of speakers or the closure of the debate. The PGA may also propose the suspension or the adjournment of the meeting or the adjournment of the debate on the item under discussion.
The President, or a Vice-President acting as President, shall not vote.
Vice-President of the General Assembly
This role is played by a student. A Vice-President acting as President shall have the same powers and duties as the President of the General Assembly. The Vice-President replaces the president of the General Assembly, when he/she is absent.
This role is played by student. The Secretary-General shall deliver an opening statement in the opening session of the General Assembly regarding the overall theme of that year's MUNA. For more information on the Secretary-General visit: https://www.un.org/en/model-united-nations/leadership-positions-secretariat
This role is played by a secondary student. The main duty of the Deputy-Secretary-General is to support the Secretary-General. The Deputy Secretary-General shall deliver a statement in the closing session of the General Assembly summarizing the work of the Assembly during that year's MUNA. For more information on the Deputy Secretary-General visit: https://www.un.org/en/model-united-nations/leadership-positions-secretariat
This role is played by a student at the Winnipeg MUNA. As described in the United Nations Model UN Guide (https://www.un.org/en/model-united-nations/procedural-roles-chairman-step-step) the Chair, or Chairperson as it is often referred, declares the opening and closing of meetings of the committee. In these meetings the Chairperson directs the discussions, makes sure that the rules are observed, accords the right to speak, puts forward questions, and announces decisions. The Chairperson has complete control of the proceedings at any meeting and has the responsibility of maintaining order at all times. Because the Chairperson represents the whole Committee, he/she cannot simultaneously represent one of the participating delegations.
Chairpersons are expected to cease operating as a member of their national delegation as long as they are acting as Chairperson and do not vote. The Chair should speak and act impartially on behalf of the Committee as a whole and not seek to promote any national or personal views. During the informal consultations, the Chairperson will serve as the back-up facilitator for the informal consultations in the event that the Vice-Chair is absent (see Vice-chair role below)
Committee Vice-Chair and Moderator of Informal Consultations
This role is played by a student at the Winnipeg MUNA. In the event that the Chairperson is not available for a meeting or any part of the meeting, the Vice-Chairperson shall take his/her place. While acting as Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson shall have the same powers and duties as the Chairperson.
Importantly, the Committee Vice-Chair moderates the discussions during the informal consultations. The text of the resolutions are developed, debated, and revised during the informal consultations, and so, the role of the Vice-Chair is one of the most important, and demanding roles in the Winnipeg MUNA. A detailed script is provided to help guide the Vice-Chair, but even so, the Vice-Chair must have the ability to listen to delegates, interpret points of view, seek clarification when needed, and ideally, steer discussion towards a consensus decision on the text of the resolution. The Winnipeg MUNA holds two training webinars with the Vice-Chair to help prepare for their role.
This role is played by a student at the Winnipeg MUNA. The Secretary is responsible for keeping track of amendments during formal meetings and during the informal consultations, and therefore, works closely with the Committee Chair and Vice-Chair. The Secretary is also responsible for compiling the operative statements prepared by the breakout groups and tracking changes made during the line-by-line review and negotiation of amendments. The Secretary supports the work of the Rapporteur in preparing the report of the Formal Committee and assists the Chair in properly applying the rules of procedure during the Formal Committee.
This role is played by a student at the Winnipeg MUNA. Rapporteurs at the Winnipeg MUNA take responsibility for preparing the report on the Committee’s work relating to a particular resolution and present it at the closing Plenary meeting of the General Assembly. The Rapporteur may seek the support of the Secretary in preparing the report. When the Rapporteur prepares and presents his/her report, he/she does not represent their assigned country, but rather is a member of the Committee Bureau and so represents all delegates.
Informal Consultations Breakout Group Facilitators
At the Winnipeg MUNA this role is played by two students. There are five informal breakout groups under each Committee at the Winnipeg MUNA, each with two Group Co-Facilitators. The Group Co-Facilitators work together to guide the discussion of their group (approximately 15 delegates) in drafting up to two operative statements for the sub-topic assigned to their group. Rules of procedure are suspended during these group discussions, however rules of proper conduct at MUNA remain in place.
It is important to note that the United Nations is not a parliament. As such, the General Assembly rules of procedure are simpler than parliamentary rules. For one, General Assembly rules only have one point: a Point of Order.
Point of Order
A Point of Order can be raised by Member States at any point in the meeting. If a delegate believes that the Chair is not following the Rules of Procedure, he/she may raise a point of order. The Rules of Procedure require the Chair to interrupt proceedings to hear the point of order and to rule immediately on it (where ‘rule’ means to declare either that the point of order has no merit or to accept it and direct any delegate who is out of order to conform to the Rules).
Use the 'Raise Your Hand' option in Zoom to signal a point of order with the Chairperson.
During the opening and closing plenary sessions of the General Assembly and during the formal committee sessions the PGA or Committee Chair keeps a list of delegations wishing to address the conference. This is known as a Speakers list. This list is pre-assigned by the organizers several months before MUNA. All teams are on the speakers list for the Opening Plenary while the speakers list for the Closing Plenary and the Committee sessions will be based on requests made by teams during the event to give explanations of position or vote.
Right of Reply (Opening and Closing Plenary only)
During MUNA’s Opening and Closing Plenary Sessions, rules of procedure (or in some cases tradition) also allow a delegation a ‘Right of Reply’. This right of reply is only granted if there is a remark made by a delegation that is clearly offensive to another delegation. If a delegation simply disagrees with a statement made but the statement was not explicitly directed at another Member State, the President or Chair can deny the request.
This Right of Reply statement is subject to a time limit (1 minute at MUNA) than the General Debate statement and typically can only be made at the end of the General Debate when all delegations on the speakers list have had their opportunity to speak. In addition, the Rules of Procedure for the Winnipeg MUNA permit only one statement in reply per delegation. Given the time limitations at the Winnipeg MUNA, the ability to grant the Right of Reply will be at the discretion of the President/Chair.
A delegate may request their Right of Reply by sending a message. The number of Replies granted will be at the discretion of the Chair given the time available and will be honoured in the order received.
Explanation of Position or Vote (Committee Meeting and Closing Plenary of GA)
Whether a resolution is to be adopted with or without a vote, a non-sponsor is given the opportunity to make a statement about any reservations they may have about particular paragraphs that are included in the draft resolution.
If a resolution is adopted by consensus (i.e., without a vote), It is possible to agree to adopt a resolution without a vote and still have elements of a resolution that the non-sponsor is not entirely pleased with. Or it may be to express their disappointment that something important to the non-sponsor was left out of the resolution.
During the Formal Committee meetings and Closing Plenary, any delegation that is a non-sponsor of a resolution may ask the Committee Chair or Secretary to give an explanation of vote or position before the resolution is adopted in Committee. A delegate may do so by sending a message. The number of explanations granted will be at the discretion of the Chair given the time available and will be honoured in the order received.
Adopting a Resolution when Consensus is Reached
When a resolution will be adopted by consensus, amendments during the final formal Committee meeting are not allowed. A resolution adopted by consensus in Committee is also adopted by consensus in the Closing Plenary of the GA.
Adopting a Resolution by Vote when Consensus is Not Reached
A resolution adopted by vote in Committee is also adopted by a vote in the Closing Plenary of the GA.
Submitting an Amendment to resolutions
Amendments to resolutions are made by delegates through interaction during the informal consultation process and formal sessions of the Committees.
Withdrawal of Amendment:
A Member State may withdraw their amendment at any time before action is taken.
Motion to Divide the Draft Resolution (currently not used at the Winnipeg MUNA)
If consensus is not reached on a resolution during informal consultations, a delegate can request to divide a resolution into separate votes before the adoption of the whole text. This means that delegates can request to put one or more paragraphs to a vote. If no one objects to the motion, the Chair will proceed immediately to a vote. If one or more delegates object to the motion, the request for the motion will be put to an immediate vote, carried by a simple majority, after a maximum of two delegations have spoken in favour of and two against the request. If the motion to divide the resolution into separate votes passes and there is more than one paragraph to vote on, each paragraph will be voted on separately.
No-action Motion on an Amendment or Motion for Adjournment of Debate (currently not used at the Winnipeg MUNA)
The sponsors of a resolution can try to kill an amendment during a formal meeting by making a No-action Motion or a Motion for Adjournment of Debate (both motions are just different names for the same thing) after an amendment has been introduced but before it is voted on. When this motion is proposed, the Chair will give the floor to a maximum of two delegations who wish to speak in favour of and two who wish to speak against the motion. If a No-Action Motion is passed by a simple majority of Member States present and voting, discussion of the amendment ceases and is never put to a vote.
Motion to Close Debate (currently not used at the Winnipeg MUNA)
Delegates can make a Motion to Close Debate. The Chair will give the floor to a maximum of two speakers opposing the closure, after which the motion shall be immediately put to the vote. If a Motion to Close Debate is passed by a simple majority of Member States present and voting, discussion of the agenda item ends.
The Spoken Word
No one may intervene in the debate (i.e. speak so as to be heard by the conference) without having been given the floor by the Chair. Delegates must address their remarks to the President of the GA or Chair of a Committee, although everyone understands that what they say is meant for the whole conference.
The purpose of these rules is to ensure that only one person speaks at any given time and allow the President/Chair to steer the debate. They also tend to dampen any tendency towards quarrels between delegates, at least in the formal setting. This is extremely important as quarrelsome behaviour is not conducive to the efficient management of meetings.
Other rules of debate are not spelt out in the written Rules of Procedure but are enshrined in practice. For example, normally it is the tradition for each Member State to make one statement during the General Debate and if they request to speak a second time, it is the tradition for them to start by apologizing. This is not articulated in any Rule of Procedure but is a long-standing tradition.
PROPER CONDUCT WHEN ENGAGING YOUR FELLOW COUNTRY DELEGATES AT MUNA
All discussions between delegates must adhere to proper respectful conduct. This applies to discussions during the formal MUNA sessions either in person or via messages and during breaks and off-hours. Disrespectful, hurtful and hateful communication with your fellow student delegates is not tolerated at MUNA. Complaints should be directed to your counsellor, who will then direct it to one of the MUNA organizers (the chair and vice-chair of the MUNA Organizing committee will be on hand at all times during MUNA). Under a zero-tolerance policy, a student found in breach of conduct will be expelled from MUNA by the organizer
The Model United Nations Assembly is a learning simulation designed to approximate the UN General Assembly in its structure and proceedings, conditioned, of course, by local limitations. It is, if you will, a production in which delegates, counsellors, and table officers (Assembly President, Secretary General, deputies, committee chairs) are actors.
The success of a production depends entirely on how closely the actors follow the script and act out what it says. The MUNA script is rooted in the assumption that delegates and counsellors are not what their names and addresses suggest; they are ambassadors of the countries they represent. Like real life ambassadors, they are sworn to represent their country, its government, and its policies. They are required to act, while participating in the proceedings of the assembly and /or committees, with dignity, decorum, and within the written and un-written UN protocols of behavior and conduct.
To conform to the above scenario, and to provide a meaningful MUNA experience, the script prescribes the following: