5.3 Representing Positions or States You Find Morally Objectionable

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Back to Unit 5: Advanced Skills.

In representing states and positions you find morally objectionable can be a difficult experience. You will have to see, read, write, and speak through the lens of the particular state/organization that you are representing. This requires much discipline to prevent your own beliefs interfering with the position of the state/organization you are representing. This also requires a thorough understanding of this particular states’ foreign policy, so be prepared to do a lot of research.

Before Conference

  1. Try to mentally separate yourself from the state/organization you are representing. Realize that this position does not represent your own opinion and that you will not be defined by it.
  2. Second, assume the position as a ‘role’ you will be simulating for the duration of your writing processes and during the conference. Think of it as playing a character that helps make the simulation work: Lady Macbeth is an unpleasant character, but without her the play of Macbeth makes little sense.
  3. Refer to speeches and quotes from state/organization officials to give you an idea of the common vocabulary used by officials and concerns they have.
  4. While writing for each topic, be cognizant of the words you use and the type of position you are taking.

During Conference

  1. Before reaching committee, do an intense review of the position of your state/organization by reviewing its allies, beliefs, culture, common speaking patterns, etc.
  2. Acknowledge the fact that most states will not agree with the position of the state/organization you are representing. Stick to your allies and/or other states that share the same position or views on the topic at hand. Remember that the conference is only a week and to listen to yourself if it is getting too stressful or difficult to do.
  3. Take yourself seriously and others will do the same. If you are properly representing the position of your state/organization, then people will commend you for your dedication to the simulation. Do not say anything outlandish or do anything that your state/organization would never do. Remember that you must remain professional during conference and by simulating this position you represent the diversity of the United Nations. Also, You might not know where someone in your committee is from and falsely representing a state can be offensive to people in the room.
  4. Figure out what your preferred agenda setting is based on your positions and information gathered. If you know that the state/organization you are representing has rarely/never shown concern for a particular topic, then assume that is your last choice and try to persuade others why they should follow your position. It may be difficult to argue your position in agenda setting because you will be briefly discussing 2-3 topics in order to get your point across. Do not worry, once agenda setting is over, you will be able to focus on only one topic for the duration of conference.
  5. When proceeding to working papers, make sure you are in a group with states that have similar positions and make sure you are an active participant in the writing process. Read the working paper thoroughly and if you find anything that goes against the position of your state/organization then do not be afraid to speak up.

Reflecting on your experience

  1. After conference, reflect on your experience and commend yourself for your perseverance. What did you learn? What were your biggest challenges? Did you properly represent this state/organization? Was assuming this role really as difficult as you thought it would be? You may feel that you understand the deeper meaning behind a certain position of a state/organization and that you hold a deeper respect for it. Perhaps this experience reaffirmed and strengthened your own values and beliefs.
  2. Realize that sometimes we are required to assume the role of others in order to better understand them-not just for the sake of Model United Nations, but also for the sake of understanding people in general. Now that you have seen through the lens of another state/organization, you may use this exercise during a conflict to help you understand others, their concerns, and where they are coming from.
  3. At the end of a play, the house lights come on, the actors take a bow before the audience, people playing antagonists may hug or shake hands. All this lets the audience no that the spell is now broken and the actors are now back to “being themselves”. Remember at the end of the simulation you return to being you. Think of ways to mark the transition back into ordinary life and avoid uncritically reproducing the patterns of autocratic behavior or objectionable rhetoric you used in the conference.

For further reflections on the experience of representing morally objectionable states, read former Pace Head Delegate Katie James’ reflections on representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Jacqueline Kelleher and Matthew Bolton for Pace University, 2014. Version 3.0 BETA. For information, permissions or corrections, contact Dr. Matthew Bolton, mbolton@pace.edu