Most of the time, delegates going to a Model UN (MUN) conference need to submit a position paper. These are essays that cover your assigned country’s stance on the conference’s topics. By completing the paper, you get a clear understanding of your country and its foreign policies. The best papers can also receive awards based on their quality, consistency with geopolitics, consistency with the UN’s constraints, and analysis of the issues. How do you write a position paper that helps you understand your country and sets you up for the most success? Here’s what to do:
#1 Study your background research packet
The committee chair will send you a background research packet complete with questions. It’s important to know what these questions are because you want to make sure your position paper addresses them all. This shows that you thoroughly understand the packet’s guidelines and requirements. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the packet, you can move on to writing the paper.
#2 Create an outline
All papers benefit from having an outline. It helps you organize everything you need to include in your paper and it saves you time later on when you start filling things in. Now is the time to look at your conference’s guidelines. They’ll be clear about the structure they want. Usually, position papers are three paragraphs total. You’ll also see guidelines on formatting (font, font size, paper length, etc) based on what committee you’re in – traditional or crisis. Following these guidelines to the letter ensures you have the best chance at awards or other recognitions.
#3 The first paragraph: background
The first paragraph introduces the topic from your country’s point of view. Answer questions like “What is the history of the issue from (your country’s) perspective?” and “Why does this issue matter?” This is typically the shortest paragraph in the paper, so you’ll want to keep the history brief. As an example, let’s say your topic was about access to birth control. You would include information about where birth control access stands in your country compared to other countries, challenges to access, and why it’s so important. Relevant data should be included.
#4 The second paragraph: analysis
This is when you get into a more detailed analysis. This paragraph thoroughly explains your country’s position and shows off all the research you’ve done. Identify and describe your country. Explain (using hard data) how the topic affects your country. By the end of the paragraph, any reader should be able to answer questions like, “Where does this nation stand on the topic? What policies have worked and haven’t worked?” You’ll want to include any relevant statements made by the leaders of your country, as well as any aspects of the UN Charter, agreements, treaties, or resolutions that have involved your country. The second paragraph takes up the bulk of the position paper, so include lots of information gleaned from your research. That said, make sure that the information is relevant. If you research well, you’ll have lots of facts in your mind, but not all will fit.
Only choose data that supports the topic.
What if your country doesn’t have a strong position on the assigned topic? That can happen. Build your argument based on what else you know about the country and how it tends to lean on related issues. Look up countries with similarities to yours and see if they have a stance. Your argument should make sense based on the information you find, but because your country lacks a hard stance, it’s more difficult for other delegates to challenge you.
#5 The third paragraph: solutions
Your last paragraph explores solutions. You want to show how your country will address the issue, why they work, who is involved, and how you’ll address challenges that pop up. The goal is to get your proposals included in the passed resolution, so be sure you aren’t presenting anything you’ll later contradict in the actual session. To inform this section of the paper, look at reports from the UN and recommendations already brought up in your committee. Your proposals should be limited to what your particular committee has the power to do. Your policy ideas should also follow the SMART MUN strategy, which stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely.
#6 Works cited page
You need to cite your sources in a bibliography or works cited page. As you research, be sure your information is coming from reliable places. If you’re getting information from a specific source and it’s not considered “general knowledge,” you’ll need to use footnotes throughout your paper. As an example, you’ll need to cite where you got statistics and quotes.
#7 Tips to remember
Positions papers are short. We mentioned that your second paragraph is your longest, but it’s still only one paragraph in a one-page paper. Because you have so little space, choose your words carefully. If you have information that doesn’t quite fit but you feel it’s important, you can save it for later. A position paper’s goal is to show you did the research and understand your country’s stance; it isn’t a comprehensive analysis. Our last tip: don’t worry too much about a conclusion. Other types of papers can summarize everything in a concluding paragraph, but for MUN position papers, there’s no space. A single, strong statement is all you need.