WINNIPEG MUNA STRUCTURE
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.
HOW DECISIONS ARE MADE AT THE UN
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 real 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 try 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 Winnipeg MUNA simulation provides student delegates with experience in both voting and consensus building.
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/):
- First Committee – Disarmament and International Security;
- Second Committee – Economic and Financial;
- Third Committee – Social, Humanitarian and Cultural;
- Fourth Committee – Special Political and Decolonization;
- Fifth Committee – Administrative and Budgetary; and the
- Sixth Committee – Legal.
Some items that are not discussed in any of the Main Committees are discussed directly in meetings of the GA Plenary.
Given time constraints, the Winnipeg MUNA operates with only the first three committees. The First Committee meets in one room and in parallel, the Second & Third Committee meet together in a separate room (note that in the real GA, these two committees would not meet together as one).
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.
The Winnipeg MUNA simulates debate on four resolutions. Two of the resolutions are pre-drafted by the MUNA organizers (Resolutions #1 and #3). Delegates will be able to modify the text of these resolutions by submitting a series of amendments, engaging in debate on the resolutions and voting in a Formal Committee setting guided by the MUNA rules of procedure. For the other two resolutions (Resolutions #2 and #4) only the preambular sections have been pre-drafted by the MUNA organizers. The operative section of the resolutions will be drafted by the delegates in an Informal Committee meeting where rules of procedure are suspended. Once the resolutions are submitted for consideration by each Committee, delegates will remain in an Informal meeting to submit, debate and negotiate amendments with the aim of reaching consensus on the text so that the resolutions can be adopted without voting during the final Formal meeting of Committees.
For more information on how decisions are made at the UN visit the United Nations Model UN Guide.
THE WINNIPEG MUNA SIMULATION AT A GLANCE
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 as the organizers of MUNA. Prior to the beginning of the Opening Ceremonies, delegates may participate in an Indigenous ‘Smudge’ ceremony. For more information on Smudging see https://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/aed/publications/pdf/smudging_guidelines.pdf.
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://winnipegmuna.ca/how-muna-operates/muna-rules/).
Four agenda items, dealing with four separate topics researched by the MUNA organizers, are introduced in the opening session of the Assembly. Two of the agenda items are allocated to the First Committee, and two agenda items are allocated to the Second & Third Committee. Six Member States are designated to speak for up to 3 minutes on each of the four topics. These speaking roles are pre-assigned by the MUNA organizers and represent countries that have actually engaged on the topic in the current or past sessions of the UN General Assembly.
DAY 1 – COMMITTEE MEETINGS
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) will consider two resolutions. In a separate room, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) & Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will consider two other resolutions.
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, and Rapporteur (students at MUNA) who act on behalf of all delegates to ensure that the Committee completes its work in a timely manner. The Bureau is also supported by a committee Secretary, which is filled by a UN staff person (served by a school counsellor at MUNA) and assists the Chair in various ways such as by conducting votes, keeping track of speakers, and inserting amendments 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
Two processes will be simulated by each Committee on Day 1 to provide student delegates with experience in voting and consensus-building approaches.
- Introduction of Amendments, debate and voting during Formal Committee:
Amendments for Resolutions #1 and #3 will be tabled, discussed, and voted on during the formal Committee meeting under the GA’s formal rules and procedures as simulated by MUNA (https://winnipegmuna.ca/how-muna-operates/muna-rules/). Amendments can be submitted during MUNA by email to the Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org up until 12:30pm on Day 1 using the Amendment form (forms will be available beginning in April at http://tinyurl.com/munawinnipeg). During MUNA, amendments can be viewed online at http://tinyurl.com/munawinnipeg.
Each amendment submitted must have a sponsor and a co-sponsor (note that while this is not an actual committee practice in the real GA, it helps ensure a greater degree of interaction among delegates during the short time-frame of the MUNA simulation). Amendments will then be considered by the Committee Chair in the order that they are received and within time limitations.
Following the consideration of amendments, the Committee will vote on the resolution.
- Debate during Informal Consultations:
After the Formal Committee meeting adjourns on Resolutions #1 and #3, delegates will transition to Informal Consultations where they will draft and debate the operative section for Resolutions #2 and #4. The Informal Consultations are divided in 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 14 persons each). These smaller groups represent regional or political groups that are actively involved on the resolution topics (for examples of groups see https://outreach.un.org/mun/content/groups-member-states). Given the time limitations of MUNA, each group is assigned a specific sub-topic for which to draft up to two operative statements (note that in longer simulations, groups would work on the full resolution text including the preambular section). One country delegate is designated as a facilitator for each small breakout group.
Once the paragraphs have been drafted, they are sent by email to the Secretary who will compile and format the different paragraphs into one document for review.
The compiled draft resolution will be 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 Committee Vice-chair will facilitate a 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 is completed the sponsors and non-sponsors will debate the amendments with the aim of reaching consensus on how the text of the operative paragraphs should be written. If 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 Resolutions #2 and #4 developed during the Informal Consultations. The main sponsor of Resolution #2 and #4 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 favor 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 Four Resolutions
The Rapporteurs of the Committees will deliver their reports on each of the four resolutions. Following each report, sponsors and non-sponsors of the resolutions will 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 (note that in the real GA, only non-sponsors are allowed to make statements at this point if they did not already explain their position or vote in the Committee.). These are 2-minute speaking roles and are pre-assigned by the MUNA organizers.
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 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.