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Terms and Definitions

Here are the terms you might run into while doing Model UN simulations. We’ve also included some that do not exsist in our version of the Rules of Procedure, so you could use this as a resource no matter what Model UN conference you’re in.

Formal Session – The session of the committee starting from the Roll Call until the meeting is suspended. In the real UN, Formal Session will only take place at the committee’s place of residence.

Formal Debate – A form of debate with an order of speakers, each delivering a speech in front of the whole committee. A formal debate will have a Speaker’s List which will determine the order of speakers in advance.

Informal Debate – Any debate conducted outside of the formal debate. Informal debates do not have a predetermined order of speakers or a Speaker’s List. Moderated Caucus and Unmoderated Caucus are considered as informal debates.

Chair – The person running the session. The chair’s duties include maintaining the order of speakers during the formal debate, reading a roll call at the beginning of each session, moderating caucuses, and giving rulings based on the rules of procedure. The chair does not take part in the debate, nor does he/she votes.

Member Delegate (also: delegate) – A representative of a State who is a legal member of the committee. Delegates must notify the chairs of their presence (by roll call or by sending a note to the chair) in order to participate in formal sessions.

Observer – Observers are not members of the committee, but do have the riht to speak on certain occasions, and to interact with the delegate during unmoderated caucus. Observers are usually representatives of a State who is not a legal member of the committee, representatives of non-government organizations that work in the fields the committee covers or members of the press corps.

Quorum – The minimum number of member delegates who must be present for the committee to conduct business. Usually a Formal Session is permitted only when 1/3 of the members are present, and over half of the committee’s members must be present for substantive votes. The numbers may change from Model UN to Model UN.

Agenda – The full list of topics that will be discussed by the committee. The topics and their order are determined during the Agenda Setting stage. Most Model UNs do not allow the agenda to be altered once it’s set.

Roll Call – The process of reading the member countries name to indicate which are present and are part of the quorum

Present – A state that’s present is a state that’s given the chairs indication of its presence, and may take part in formal debate and votes.

Present and Voting – A state that’s present and voting has given its obligation to vote on the topic at hand. States that are present and voting may not abstain during substantive votes. Some RoPs require all states present and voting be in the room for voting procedure to start.

Session and Voting Procedure Definitions

Yield – Whenever a delegate has remaining time during his speech on the General Speakers List, must Model UNs require that he/she yield it. You may yield your remaining time to another member delegate, giving them time to speak, or yield to the chair, meaning the remaining time is forfeited. Yields can be used by design, such as by asking another delegate a question, then yielding the remaining time to them to answer in front of the whole committee.

Substantive vote – Votes that have the potential for action outside the debate, such as a vote on draft resolutions, amendments or motions that modify resolution content. Only member delegates are allowed to vote on substantive votes.

Procedural Vote – any vote concerning the committee's workflow, such as a vote to extend speaker’s time or suspend debate. Any vote that is not substantive vote is considered as a procedural vote. Observers may vote on procedural votes. Abstentions are not allowed on procedural vote.

Vote by Roll Call – procedure of voting in which members are summoned to vote one by one. Alphabetical order or in seating plan order applies. Voting by roll call can only be used in substantive votes.

Moderated Caucus – form of informal debate moderated by the chair with limited speaker's time. Members are given the floor after recognized. Only one speaker is allowed to speak at a time. Observers are often allowed to participate and address the committee, though the committee may chose not to allow that.

Unmoderated Caucus – form of informal debate that allows the people present in the committee (both member delegates and observers) to move freely and speak directly with one another.

Point of Personal Privilege – A request by a delegate regarding matters that affect them and them alone, for example the need to use the restrooms or not being able to hear the speaker. The Chairs then addresses the problem and give a solution. Some Model UNs have abolished this as an archaic custom, allowing delegates to simply take matters to their own hands when needed (for example simply going to the bathroom or moving closer to the speaker).

Point of Parliamentary Inquiry – A request by a delegate to the chairs for an explanation or clarification regarding the Rules of Procedure. This may not interrupt a Speaker.

Point of Order – A point raised by a delegate whenever the Rules of Procedure are not properly observed by a Delegate or by Chairs. The Chair then rules on the validity of the point This point may not interrupt a Speaker.

Right of Reply – Whenever a delegate feels their personal or national integrity has been called into question by another delegate’s comments, they may request a to a Right of Reply. This can be used only in the General Speakers List. The chair may recognize a Right of Reply at his/her discretion. Should it be accepted, the requesting delegate may be given time to speak and reply to the other delegate’s statements. Disagreement with the content of a Delegate's speech is not grounds for a Right of Reply. No delegate may call for a Right of Reply on a Right of Reply.

Moment of Silence – Some Model UNs allow the delegates to make a motion for a moment of silence. During moment of silence, all present, including delegates, chairs, and observers must stand in silence for 60 seconds. Any delegate may motion for a moment of silence after a roll call, but before opening statements, and after a debate has closed, but before voting procedure. The delegate making the motion may state the reason for the moment of silence. The motion passes without a vote.

Resolutions related definitions

Resolution – an official document adopted by the committee, stating its position on specific topic of an agenda, as well as recommendations for action. A resolution is the final product of committee's formal debate on a topic.

Draft Resolution – an official document containing draft of a resolution which is still being debated on the committee's floor. Each draft resolution is referred by a number assigned by the chairs. Once voted upon during at the end of the debate, a draft resolution may become a resolution.

Sponsor – a member State which expresses full support for the draft resolution or amendment. Sponsors are often the coauthors of the draft resolution and are required to vote in favor of it. However, if unfriendly amendments were adopted, and the Chair may approve that the alterations changed the resolution significantly, the sponsors are not required to vote for the resolution any more. A sponsor of an amendment is always required to vote in favor of the amendment.

Signatory – a member state which supports to enter a discussion regarding the draft resolution or amendment, but may not support the resolution or amendment itself. Signatories are not bound to vote in favor of the resolution.

Presenting Quorum – the minimum number of sponsors and signatories required for introduction of a draft resolution. Each required signatory may be substituted by an additional sponsor. Presenting quorum for draft resolutions is usually one fifth (20%) of the members as sponsors and tenth (10%) as signatories. Presenting quorum for amendments is usually one eighth (12.5%) of the members as sponsors only. Chair may impose different size of presenting quorum.

Amendment – formal text which is presented as alteration to a draft resolution.

Friendly Amendment – Any amendment that has the support of all draft resolution's sponsors. Friendly amendment becomes a part of the draft resolution automatically upon its introduction, without a debate or a vote.

Unfriendly Amendment – Any amendment that at least one of the draft resolution's sponsors disagrees with its content. It may becomes part of a draft resolution only after a vote. Adopting unfriendly amendments may lead to the sponsors abandoning the raft resolution.

Pre-ambulatory Clauses (also preamble) – an introductory part of the resolution's content indicating the reasons behind the decision and the general framework. The preamble cannot be amended. If the resolution was voted clause by clause, preamble is adopted automatically without a vote.

Operative Clauses – The primary part of a resolution text, indicating the actions taken or recommended by the committee.