HEYmun Conference January 8TH, 2020
d Hayder Tawrat Sikder
Diplomacy and international communication in english from Howard Burns English language trainer and coach
How to Write a Winning Position Paper
Most Model UN conferences require delegates to submit a position paper, an essay covering a country’s perspective on the assigned topics of a conference. Crafting a thorough position paper not only allows you to gain a better understanding of your country and the intricacies of its foreign policy but also to position you to earn awards, be it a best position paper recognition or by supplementing your knowledge to become best delegate. An effective position paper can be broken into five simple parts:
- Topic background
Here, you need to establish that you are aware of what your topic is. The topic background typically defines any key terms and buzz words related to the issue at hand and provides a brief summary of the history of the issue and potential consequences of ignoring the issue.
For example, a topic background on the issue of human trafficking might provide the official definition of human trafficking (“the illegal abuse of individuals through coercion, deception, and other recruitment and harboring for sexual and labor exploitation”), general statistics from reliable sources that broadly encompass the issue (“According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), since 2012, 20.9 million victims presently suffer from this modern-day slavery”), and explore broader implications (“This crime not only impedes human rights but also poses global health risks and influences development”).
- Past International Actions
This portion of the essay addresses efforts the UN has previously made and endeavors your country specifically has taken on to combat the issue at hand. Consider what UN programs, events, resolutions, and agreements your country has participated in. Take note of the other participants in these efforts, too—they could serve as important allies in committee.
As you write about these previous actions, start brainstorming your own ideas. How effective were these endeavors? What went right, and what could you improve upon?
- Country policy
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: your country’s own policy. This section ought to summarize your country’s own unique stance on the issue and what they believe the international community should do to resolve the issue. Here, delegates must remember that this area consists of their country’s policy, rather than their own opinion on an issue. If your country does not completely condemn human trafficking, for example, because of their own stakes in the practice, then your policy must reflect that, in spite of your disagreement. Finding speeches from your country’s leaders, scoping out their government’s website, and evaluating their actions in the UN are some ways to develop an understanding of your country’s policy.
- Possible solutions
Using the information you’ve gathered in previous sections of the paper, brainstorm your own solutions to the issue based on your country’s perspective. Could you create a new program, or further develop another one? Could you provide aid to an area, and at what cost? Will you involve NGOs or peacekeepers? How can you collaborate with other countries?
Throughout your research, ensuring that your information comes from reliable sources is paramount. Having solid, UN-based sources increases your credibility and again can help develop a thorough understanding of your issue. Consider using credible websites like un.org and seeking university studies. Government and NGO websites can be credible but possess bias, and similarly, news websites and blogs can provide information not as credible as un.org. Need some help? Best Delegate actually has a helpful research map that links you to different, reliable sources about your country.
Tackle your writing in these five sections to create a position paper that packs a punch.
POSITION PAPER GUIDE
The position paper is literally your bible throughout the conference.
Essentially, the paper forces you to write out you country’s viewpoints in paragraph form. It’s also the first important mode of evaluation for the committee chair; all papers must be submitted some weeks or months in advance to the Conference Secretariat.
Naturally, given its significance to the MUN experience, the position paper is something you want to excel at, and to do this, several criteria must be met.
At the onset of this discussion on the position paper it is particularly significant to stress that it must be written from your country’s perspective. Again, as this document will be your guideline for action throughout the entire conference, it’s in your best interests to give an accurate portrayal of your country’s stance on the issues at hand.
Simply put, the position paper is meant to give delegates an opportunity to organize their research into an organized policy statement.
Before You Begin
Before you start writing, it’s important to look at the questions that were outlined in your background research packet (the documents sent to you by the committee chair). Suggesting a comprehensive course of action that answers these queries is the ultimate goal of your write-up. A good position paper should make clear reference to these guidelines and demonstrate that the students clearly comprehend the creative and compositional depth required for an MUN simulation.
If one were looking for some sort of rubric as to what the ideal position paper should consist of, there would be a number of clearly identifiable elements. The position paper has a definite general structure to it: three sections (totalling one page in length) each of which serves a clear purpose within the general context of the paper.
With reference to Sample Position paper A (bottom of the post), we can analyze these different parts and comment on the relative successes of specific techniques used to elucidate points.
1. Outline the Topic in General
The first section (labelled ‘A’) serves the purpose of outlining the topic in general and providing insight into the root of the conflict.
As the subject of the paper is Free Trade, the write-up begins by first stating the areas of concern, discussing some of the positive and negative aspects of globalization, as well as emphasizing the controversial nature of the topic at hand. Your opening paragraph should, as this paper attests to, be a brief summary of the current perception held towards the status quo. It should state the problem and express why it is significant.
2. Identify and Describe Your Country – How Has Your State Been Affected?
The second section (labelled ‘B’) is where your background research on your country pays off.
Firstly, you should identify and describe your country. Be sure to state how your nation relates to the topic for discussion, specifically citing how your state has been affected (B1). It is imperative to emphasize the extent to which change has taken place. Hold off any normative judgments in this section, the purpose of this paragraph is not to evaluate the institution or development in reference to your country, but rather, to merely discuss how it has altered domestic dynamics.
3. Your Country’s Policies and Proposed Solutions
The third section (labelled ‘C’) is where you outline your country’s policies and what factors contributed to those policies being established in the first place.
At this point, you are to address the relative benefits (if any) and detriments of the development, specifically relating to your nation and the actions you have taken to maximize or minimize these effects. You are to explain why your country has acted in a certain fashion historically (C1), and why it will continue to follow this course of action.
Outline your state’s particular interest in the issue being discussed, and begin to discuss what needs to be changed about the current interpretation of the situation. Cite the areas needing reform (C2) and provide suggestions as to how this revision process should be accomplished. Following this, you may want to focus on one area of particular concern for your country (C3). Depending on your topic area, this could be anything from the affect of a war on a nation’s health care infrastructure to how creating new national boundaries may affect resource deposits running along the potential borders.
In this particular paper, attention is brought to Regional Trade Alliances (C4) and their associated problems, something that, as been noted, holds special significance to Oman.
By approaching a problematic scenario in greater detail, you are demonstrating to the chair and to fellow delegates that you have the capacity to think critically and can identify the issues with which your country has the greatest concern. This being said, choose this area carefully: given the issue’s prominence in your position paper (and correspondingly the problem’s significance to your country as a whole), you will have to stress its importance during committee session. Be sure to select an area of concern that could potentially form the basis of a resolution, or at least one that can stimulate prolonged debate.
4. Tie Together Loose Ends
Finally, a conclusion should be written to restate your country’s position and sum up what you hope to achieve throughout the duration of the conference (D).
The position paper leaves the committee chair with a first impression of your delegation. Naturally, it’s important to make that impression as strong as possible. The staff looks for original and critical thinking, a true understanding of the nature of your nation and both a function and applied knowledge of your topic.
Be sure to demonstrate this through presenting a concise yet effective paper. As expressed before, be sure to dedicate equivalent energy to position papers for both topic areas. They are equally important in the eyes of the committee and the directors (the people who will be evaluating your write-ups).
The Waiting Game
After submitting your position paper to the conference secretariat, there usually is a two week to one month stretch where you play “the waiting game”. As you will no doubt be busy with schoolwork, don’t worry excessively about preparation. On weekends, however, you may find it helpful to review material and do more researching so as to keep up to date with the latest happenings. Other than that, get ready for Showtime!
Sample Position Paper
Topic: Free Trade
Committee: Economic and Financial (ECOFIN)
(A) The tumultuous conflict surrounding the issue of free trade and its variegated ramifications has been a moot point ever since the creation of the modern state. While exponents of free trade argue that comparative advantage and the development of economies of scale outweigh the associated detriments of a free market economy, their adversaries purport that smaller, national economies that are inundated with cheaper international goods from free trade begins to flounder and lose elf‐sustainability. Those in opposition to free trade, also make reference to the exponentially rising human rights and environmental violations that are a direct consequence of burgeoning global market.
(B) Oman is perched in the putatively lofty position of an oil‐exporting nation. However, this appraisal is a mere simulacrum of our actual situation. (B1) Oman relies on entities such as the World Trade Organization to help facilitate the purchasing and exchange of good across the global market, thus enabling essential goods to disseminate across our land. Prior to the admission of the Sultanate of Oman into the WTO, the country was involved at an economic level with the nations of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), although Oman was never a member. In spite of this, Oman generally adheres to their collective mandate in order to Eix oil prices and protect the special interests of this conglomerate.
(C) Oman joined the WTO in order to voice its support for the continuing liberalization of world markets. (C1) Furthermore, Oman believes that this unique amalgamation acts as a vehicle for increased prosperity by raising the amount of Foreign Direct Investment and domestic stimulation. Oman, due to its new position in the WTO, has now broadened trade with Western nations, and hopes for this trend to continue. (C2) However, Oman also recognizes that in order for the economic infrastructure of not only Oman, but also other developing countries to remain stable, the steps of tariff reduction, and all encompassing globalization must be gradual, lest there be recurrences of strife, as initially seen in the Former Yugoslavia and the Russian Federation. The WTO must also take further steps to impose a universal human rights and environmental standards operating code, which must be enforced uniformly. With the need for international cooperation has come the desire for regional association. This chain of motivation for many a nation has manifested itself in the formation of Regional Trading Associations. (C3) Although this arrangement ostensibly accommodates both desires, it actually results in alliances whose members are common enough in geographic similarity to have some consensus, but diverse enough to yield almost unremitting disapprobation from some of the parties on any given issue. Therefore, these theoretical constructs when applied in reality are far from seamless and are not the definitive solutions to conflicting national agenda.
(C4) In Oman’s specific scenario, the aforementioned generalization holds true. Consequently, Oman is not a member of OPEC. In addition, not only do there exist the problems inherent to RTA’s, but also the members of OPEC lack significant economic diversity in various industrial and resource sectors to make such a pact mutually pragmatic. Rather, this specific concern is ignored in light of the prodigious matter of oil, which takes the forefront in any discussions of world trade. (D) Oman believes that the benefits of comparative advantage, economies of scale, and specialization outweigh the problems associated with a world abiding by principles of increasing economic globalization and free trade. This being said, Oman pushes for the continued expansion of such policies while urging organizations such as the WTO to refine specific clauses so that the exploitation of labour and the environment does not go unchecked.
THE MUN MANIFESTO. Your Guide to Model United Nations