For your consideration, we have compiled a list of useful links and information sources that you can use for your research.
Congressional Research Service Reports
The Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress in Washington, supplies non-partisan information on a wide-range of topics, including foreign policy and U.N. issues. As far as your chosen countries are concerned, the reports concentrate on American relations with these countries, but they will frequently include an outline of issues likely to arise at Model UN.
Most of their reports are not published, but the State Department does make some of them which are relevant to foreign policy issues freely available at this page:
Sometimes you will find reports directly about your countries: at other times you should look for reports which involve your country without putting it in the headline. For example, reports on the Eurozone economic crisis will almost certainly have a section on Greece, while a report on conflict minerals in Central Africa has frequent mentions of Rwanda it is here, by the way:
Permanent Missions to the United Nations
You should check to see whether your country has a mission to the UN which has an online website. This site is often a tremendous resource of speeches, policy papers and so on which sets out their stances and positions in great detail. Not all countries have this, unfortunately, and some put out material only in their language, Arabic or French (those of you who know these languages are in luck.)
There is a general list of missions at this link:
Click on your country to see if there is a link to a website. Even if there isn’t, try a Google search formulated “Permanent Mission of xxxx to the United Nations” and see if that works.
NB: Many countries have missions to other UN bodies (disarmament, UNESCO and so on) in Geneva, Vienna etc. The home pages of these bodies ought to have links to the relevant missions: if not, Google will probably assist.
Foreign Ministries and other government bodies
Some countries have a lot of useful material on the website of their foreign ministries. This will often include speeches and position papers relevant to U.N. issues, from defense through to environmental and refugee issues. Again, some countries are better than others at this. Be creative: if you are tackling environmental issues, see if your country has an Environmental Ministry on the web. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
These sites should be available through Google: a simple search will do.
International state bodies
Occasionally one can work out the policies of your state by checking out the sites of international bodies to which your country belongs. American States have the OAS here:
European states have the European Union and other associated bodies (European Parliament, etc.)
http://europa.eu/index_en.htm (English version)
The African Union is here:
And the Arab League is here:
The United Nations
You cannot do without them, but a warning: I find their web presence in general user-unfriendly, though better than it used to be. Do not hesitate to ask the academic staff for help in this if you have problems extracting information from their depths.
A few points, though.
Firstly, at the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, all countries (usually represented by a prime minister or foreign minister) have their say on what they regard as the most important issues: it is also called the ‘General Debate.’ For some countries, this is the most important resource you will have.
For these and other formal statements, there is now a new link:
This links to an alphabetical index of countries. Click on your country and you get a list of their recent contributions to debates, etc., at the UN, including the Security Council. However in at least one case I tried, their statement at the opening session of the UN this September was missing. In the case of the United Nations, for example, the most recent entries were for February this year.
For the 2012 contributions to the General Debate this September, go to:
You may have to adjust by checking other dates, but your countries’ speeches should be there.
Secondly, the UN has some country data, though usually on the websites of their subsidiary agencies. For example, UNESCO carries useful educational and other data about member countries here:
Thirdly, if the topic under discussion involves a treaty or convention, check that your country has signed and / or ratified the treaty. Most treaty websites have listings of countries which have signed or ratified the treaty: look at the URL below for links to such listings in the case of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: also included are reservations made at the time of signing
NB: The difference between signing and ratifying a treaty or convention is as follows:
Signature constitutes a preliminary endorsement of the Convention or Protocol. Signing the instrument does not create a binding legal obligation but does demonstrate the State’s intent to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a State to ratification, it does oblige the State to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.
Ratification or accession signifies an agreement to be legally bound by the terms of the Convention. Though accession has the same legal effect as ratification, the procedures differ. In the case of ratification, the State first signs and then ratifies the treaty. The procedure for accession has only one step-it is not preceded by an act of signature
See: http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30207.html for more details.
Google and Wikipedia
They have their uses, but the coverage it provides is not comprehensive. It does not discriminate in terms of sources, and therefore provides solutions which are occasionally out-of date or biased. Using Google News will at least give you more up-to-date stories, but again the sources are not of the best (some newspapers have now retreated behind a pay wall and so do not show up in the results). It is also difficult to craft a Google search to get exactly what you want. One can find things through Google, but it often requires some time spent in getting the right words into the search box, and the answer may be buried in the seventh page of the results or even later: some of the most reliable sites are not necessarily optimized for search, and are therefore crowded out by sites better designed to catch traffic but not necessarily the sites you are looking for.
One useful tip, though, if you are using Google, is to find the name of your country’s ambassador or other representative at the U.N., and insert his or her name in the search terms. This occasionally gives you good, focused results.