The Rules of Procedure
No discussion can ever happen if everybody is talking at once, especially in an organization the size of the UN. Even in the committees, with 20 people in one room, nothing can get done unless there is some order. The Rules of Procedure (RoP) provide this much-needed order and govern the debate. The RoP make sure that everyone can get their say, and that the discussion is maintained honorably.
Rules of Procedure might change from Model UN to Model UN, but there are always two main rules that are at the core of any UN discussion:
Only one person may speak at a time.
The Chair’s decisions are law – whatever they say, that’s how things will work.
If you keep those two rules in mind throughout the discussion, you already have the basics of UN debate.
Opening the Debate
Every great discussion concerning the future of our world must start somewhere. At the UN, the starting point is the Roll Call. One by one, each country’s name is read and the delegates must state their intention to join the debate. In Model UN, the Roll Call is used primarily to check attendance and calculate required majority for procedural and substantial votes (what are those? Wait and see).
A delegate can reply with “Present” or “Present and Voting”. A delegate who declares himself as “Present and Voting” cannot abstain during substantive votes.
Once this stage is completed, the session can move on to the next step.
Setting the Agenda:
Sometimes you will be given the subject of the debate before going to the session. In other times you will have the opportunity to choose between two or three topics before the discussion actually starts. Which topic will in fact be discussed depends on you and your fellow delegates. Whenever there is more than one topic on the table, your country should have a preference of what you would like to discuss first. You need to make sure that your choice of discussion topic is the first on the agenda.
Setting the agenda requires making a motion. Making the motion simply requires you raising your hand/placard and saying “[COUNTRY’S NAME] moves to place [TOPIC A] first on the agenda”.
Once the motion is made, it would require another delegate to second it (by saying “[COUNTRY NAME] seconds”). Other countries might try to put their topics on the agenda first, and the first topic is decided by a vote. Before each vote, the Chair might decide to have a brief discussion on the motion, with two people speaking for and two against the topic proposed. A simple majority is required for a topic to be chosen for discussion. As this is a procedural vote, delegated may not abstain and must vote for or against the motion.
Once the votes are cast, and the topic of the discussion has been chosen, the substantive debate can begin. From this moment on, it is your time to shape opinions, offer solutions, and promote your country’s agenda to get the best possible outcome. This is where the “real” Model UN begins for many participants.
A debate on a topic customarily starts with opening statements:
Opening statements are delivered by each state’s delegate according to alphabetical order. The Chair may choose to set a time limit, and any member may move to suggest a different time limit. Changing the time limit set by the Chair requires a motion followed by procedural vote with a simple majority.
During each country’s address, no other country may interrupt, and motions cannot be made until all statements are read. It is considered good manners to open by recognizing the Chair and other delegates before reading your statement.
Once opening statements are completed, the discussion moves the General Speaker’s List.
The General Speaker’s List – Baseline to the Discussion:
The General Speakers List (GSL) is the default section of the discussion and the part in which the majority of discussion occurs. Initially, the Chair establishes a time limit for each speaker. Countries then ask to be added to the list, and then take turns speaking according to the order by which they have been added to the list.
A delegate can amend the speaker’s time using a motion, which requires a procedural vote with a simple majority.
Each country must conclude its statement within its allotted time. No other delegate may speak while another is talking, but note-passing is allowed.
If a delegate has finished his speech before the allotted time has elapsed, they can yield their time either to the Chair, another delegate, or to questions. If the latter is chosen, the Chair will pause the time and open the floor to questions; once a question is asked, the remainder of the time is given to the speaker to answer it, and this process repeats itself until the time has fully elapsed. To join the GSL, delegates can pass a note to the Chair or wait until the Chair asks “who would like to be added to the speakers list at this time?” (This usually takes place every 3-4 speeches or whenever the list is empty). Should the speakers list remain empty with no speakers willing to be listed, the debate will be automatically closed and the session will move to the voting procedure (if applicable).
Right of Reply:
If a country is mentioned by name or is singled out during another delegate’s speech, and the mention can be perceived negatively by that country, they may ask the Chair for a Right of Reply. If granted, a Right of Reply allows a country to speak immediately after the “accusing” country has finished, regardless of the replying country’s place in line. The Chair can use his/her discretion to regulate the use of this motion for the sake of good decorum.
Every MUN delegate has to start somewhere. In many cases, delegates need to ask clarification questions concerning both procedure and content, as well as comment on the behavior of other delegates. Points are a useful and appropriate tool that delegates can apply in order to increase their understanding of the debate and get their bearings. There are three major points in Model UN:
Point of Order
If a delegate does not follow the rules of discussion, or if they use inappropriate language or deviate from the topic of the discussion, any other delegate may raise a Point of Order against them once the floor is open. If the Point of Order is accepted, the Chair will reprimand the “offending” country, and may choose a penalty if the transgression is repeated.
Point of Parliamentary Inquiry and Point of Personal Privilege
Delegates may ask the Chair for clarification of the Rules of Procedure between speakers by making a Point of Parliamentary Inquiry. This could be used to understand the procedures applied in any given point in time, and must be phrased as a question. Likewise, any delegate who wishes to make a Point of Personal Privilege, such as permission to go to the bathroom or opening a window, may do so between speakers, in a quick manner, disturbing the discussion as little as possible.
Moving from the General Speaker’s List:
After a few speakers have spoken, the Chair may open the floor to motions. Countries may make motions to have the time limit changed, move the discussion to a moderated or unmoderated caucus, take a break, or close the discussion and move to voting. The Chair may choose not to accept a motion if there are too many at a certain time, if the same motion was already voted down recently, or if the motion is deemed detrimental for a constructive debate.
If there is more than one motion, they would be voted on by the order of precedence, where the rule of thumb is to first deal with the motion most disruptive to the GSL debate. This means that motions that change the form of the debate, such as for a caucus, would come first by order of longest caucus first, and motions to change the speaking time would come last. Voting to change the time limit or to move to a caucus requires a simple majority, while a motion to close the debate (always highest in precedence) requires a two-thirds majority to pass. As these are procedural votes, no delegate may abstain.
Like its name suggests, the GSL is usually suitable for general discussion, while the effort to come up with specific solutions is more often done in the form of a focused debate – a caucus. A moderated caucus has a specific topic, and each speaker must speak only in relation to that topic. The caucus requires a set amount of overall time and time per speaker, both of which are determined by the delegate who made the motion for the caucus. The speaking time cannot be changed, yet the length of a caucus may be extended by a motion from any delegate once the allocated time has lapsed, and it requires a simple majority.
A A motion for a moderated caucus usually goes as such: “[COUNTRY NAME] moves for a moderated caucus on the topic of [TOPIC], for X minutes, allowing Y seconds for each speaker.” This is then voted on (if more than one motion exists, precedence is taken into consideration; see above).
Should the motion pass, the country who made the motion speaks first. The Chair decides the next speaker out of countries raising their flags/placards to indicate their wish to speak. There is no right of reply in a moderated caucus. The caucus ends when the time has lapsed, or when no country wishes to speak. Once the caucus is over, the debate returns to the GSL.
An An unmoderated caucus is a free-form debate, with no turns, points or speaking time. Delegates are allowed to move around the room during an unmoderated caucus, and it is a good platform for writing and negotiating draft resolutions.
A motion for an unmoderated caucus usually goes as follows: “[COUNTRY NAME] moves for an unmoderated caucus of X minutes”. A motion for an unmoderated caucus has precedence over motions for moderated caucuses, and it is put to a procedural vote.
During an unmoderated caucus, anyone may speak at any time, with no particular order, and cooperation is encouraged for the purpose of reaching agreement and writing a draft resolution.
An unmoderated caucus lasts for as long as the allotted time has not expired. A motion may be made to extend the time further, and be accepted by the Chair without a vote. Once the caucus is over, the debate returns to the GSL.
Overruling a Chair’s decision
If a country feels a Chair decision is wrong, they may make a motion to overrule the Chair’s decision. Seconds and a two-thirds majority are required for this motion to pass, and the Chair will have the opportunity to explain their judgment.
Draft resolutions are the foundation of the decision-making process of Model UN. They state the proposed solution for the problem at hand that represents the viewpoint and agenda to the proposing countries. Once written, a draft resolution must be given to the Chair for approval of language and format. For a draft resolution to be considered it must have a minimum number of sponsors who support it and will vote in favor of it at the end of the debate. The necessary number of sponsors should be set by the Chair before the first draft resolution is introduced, and it varies according to the size of the Committee / Council.
Once a draft resolution has been approved by the Chair, a motion may be made to introduce it to the committee. A sponsor will introduce the resolution and read over the operative clauses, one by one. The draft resolution will then be given a serial number by the Chair for future reference.
Amending Draft Resolutions
Once a draft resolution has been introduced, amendments to operative clauses may be suggested and voted upon. The amendment may be introduced, and then the Chair will ask the sponsors of the draft resolution if they accept it as a friendly amendment. Sponsors objecting to the amendment will be noted, and a vote will follow. Should the amendment pass, it will be incorporated into the draft resolution and the objecting sponsors can remove their sponsorship.
An amended operative clause cannot be re-amended.
Closing the Debate
A motion to close debate may occur during the GSL. The Chair may accept up to two speakers for and two against closing the debate. For the debate to close, a two-thirds majority must vote in favor of closing the debate.
If the motion passes, the debate is closed thereafter. If there are draft resolutions on the table, the committee moves to vote on these draft resolutions according to their serial number (see below). Otherwise, the discussion on the topic is adjourned, and the committee moves to the next item on the agenda.
During voting procedure, it is customary that no one is allowed to leave the room. The members vote on draft resolutions by the order in which they have been accepted, as represented by their serial numbers. All votes on the content of resolutions are considered substantive votes, which means delegates can vote “Yes”, “No”, or “Abstain” (abstentions are allowed only for non-sponsors AND countries who stated they are “Present” during Roll Call).
During the voting procedure, there are several motions that have the ability to influence the voting procedure. These are used to manipulate the vote on certain resolutions which cannot be further amended.
A motion to vote clause by clause may be made by any delegate right before voting procedure on a given draft resolution commences, and requires no vote. Once any delegate makes this motion, the delegates vote on each operative clause by order. Any clause that has more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes will remain in the resolution, while clauses that fail will be removed.
A motion for division of the question separates the resolution into two or more documents. The initiator of the motion chooses how the operative clauses are divided, and thus splits the draft resolution into two or more pieces. This motion requires a simple majority to pass. Once passed, the resolution is now split, and the committee continues to vote on each part separately as though it was a draft resolution on its own, with a different serial number.
Roll Call Vote:
Any delegate may make a motion for a roll call vote for a specific resolution. Once made, this motion requires no voting, and the voting procedure immediately changes to a roll call vote.
A roll call vote is quite similar to the roll call at the beginning of each session. The Chair will read out all countries’ names in alphabetical order. Upon hearing one’s country’s name, the delegate may answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Pass’ or ‘Abstain’.
A second round of voting will then be conducted, consisting only of delegates who answered ‘Pass’ during the first round. The delegates will then have to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. A delegate may neither answer ‘Pass’ a second time nor abstain during the second round of voting.
Once voting is completed for the first draft resolution and the proposal has passed, it becomes the Resolution of the committee, which moves to discuss the next topic on the agenda. However, if the draft resolution under vote fails, voting continues for the next draft resolution (should there be any). Once all draft resolution has been voted upon, the discussion is now closed, and the committee moves on to the next item on the agenda.