Introduction to Model United Nations Q: What is the United Nations?

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Introduction to Model United Nations
Q: What is the United Nations?
A: The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization created in 1945 to advance international peace and prosperity. The General Assembly of the U.N. is comprised of most of the countries in the world, and the many agencies within deal with a variety of international issues. There is also a Security Council, which deals with international crises.
Q: What is Model United Nations?
A: Model United Nations (MUN) is an authentic simulation of the U.N. General Assembly and other multilateral bodies. The issues in a Model U.N conference are very diverse and vary by committee. Delegates use creativity, public speaking and debating skills when coming up with innovative solutions.
Q: How did MUN begin?
A: Simulating international organizations began even before the birth of the United Nations, when students held a series of Model League of Nations in the 1920s. The Model U.N. Program is a successor to a student-directed simulation of what preceded the U.N. itself, but it is not documented exactly how the MUN began.
Q: Who participates in MUN?
A: The popularity of MUN continues to grow, and today more than 400,000 middle school, high school and college/university students worldwide participate every year. Many of today's leaders in law, government, business and the arts participated in MUN during their academic careers – from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to actor Samuel L. Jackson.
Q: What is a MUN conference?
A: Some MUN exercises take place in the classroom and others are school wide. Still others are regional, national, or even international. Larger inter-scholastic MUN assemblies are called conferences. More than 1,000,000 people have participated in MUN conferences around the world since the conferences became popular over 50 years ago. Today there are more than 400 conferences that take place in 35 countries. Depending on the location, the typical conference can have as few as 30 students or as many as 2,000.
Q: Where and when are MUN conferences held?
A: There are an estimated 400 MUN conferences held annually worldwide. These conferences take place virtually every month throughout the school year.

Q: Who is a MUN delegate?

A: A MUN delegate is a student who assumes the role of an ambassador to the United Nations at a MUN event. A MUN delegate does not have to have experience with international relations. Anyone can participate in MUN, so long as they have the ambition to learn something new, appreciate different points of view, and work with individuals who want to make a difference in the world.
Q: Why should I participate in MUN?
A: You should participate in MUN because it promotes a high level of student interest in international relations and related subjects, increases the capacity of students to engage in problem solving, teaches aspects of conflict resolution, respect for rule of law, research skills, and communication skills, and creates the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
Q: What are some of the educational benefits of MUN?
A: For over 50 years now, teachers and students have benefited from and enjoyed this interactive learning experience. It not only involves young people in the study and discussion of global issues, but also encourages the development of skills useful throughout their lives, such as research, writing, public speaking, problem solving, conflict resolution and compromise and cooperation.

Welcome Delegates,

Welcome to “My First MUN XIII”! My First MUN is a training conference that introduces students to Model United Nations, an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate delegates about current events, topics in international relations, diplomacy, and the United Nations agenda. As “My First MUN XIII” is a non-competitive training conference and time is limited, there is only one topic up for discussion—Women’s Rights to Self-Sufficiency. As Model UN delegates, you will role-play as a Diplomat representing one of the UN’s 193 member countries. At “My First MUN XIII,” you will represent your country in a simulated UN committee session of the General Assembly. To prepare for this conference, we ask that you do three things: (1) with the links provided in the Resource Guide, general sources to consider and your own internet searches, research your assigned country (country assignments are provided to your school) and prepare a one-minute statement of your Country’s position on the topic. We recommend you bring this statement with you to the conference and use it as the basis of your debates in the simulation; (2) dress the part— which means western business attire (shirt and tie for men and skirt and blouse/dress/pants suit for women) - is appropriate for this simulation and other MUN competitions; (3) come prepared to learn and practice essential MUN skills of internet research, writing position papers and resolutions, and public speaking. We will provide everything else – a conference packet that includes all materials and of course a great lunch!

This conference consists of two main parts. The morning session consists of large group instruction on the essential knowledge and skills needed to do well at future MUN conferences. These morning sessions are presented by veterans of MUN, history and government teachers at George C. Marshall High School, and experts in the field of foreign policy. The afternoon committee sessions will simulate the experience delegates can expect to encounter at competitive MUN conferences. Students from the University of Virginia’s International Relations Organization who have experience chairing MUN conferences will chair these small group sessions. These sessions will operate under procedural rules developed for the IRO‘s annual VAMUN high school conference. Led by Secretary-General Emeline Walker, the Steering Committee and its faculty advisors began work on this conference last May in hopes that it would encourage your successful participation in future MUN conferences. We have included in this Background Guide a Glossary and a set of general and country-specific websites to aid in your research. We hope your active participation in the afternoon simulations will bear out our confidence that this topic is a timely and interesting one. And finally, if we have inspired in you an excitement and enthusiasm for MUN, then we will judge this conference a success.


Rohan Shah, Class of 2019; Katie DeLong, Class of 2017; Sam Hassett, Class of 2017

Under Secretaries-General for Policy

  1. Important Terminology

Absolute Poverty: a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.
Discrimination: Prejudice against someone for a particular trait that excludes that person from the full enjoyment of his or her political, civic, economic, social or cultural rights and freedoms.
Fatwa: a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.
Gender: The social and constructed differences in men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities. These are learned, vary from culture to culture, and change over time (Adapted from UNESCO, 2009)
Gender Equality: Provision of equal conditions, treatments, and opportunities for both men and women to realize their full potential, human rights, and dignity, as well as opportunities to contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural, and political development (Adapted from Status of Women Canada, 2007)
Gender Parity: A numerical concept concerned with the relative equality in terms of numbers and proportions of women, men, girls, and boys. In education, this means that the same number of boys and girls receive educational services at different levels (Adapted from UNESCO, 2009; UNICEF, 2012)
Non-Secular: The role of religion in government.
Patrilineality: A term describing the descent of capital and land through the male side of the family
Patrilocality: A term referring to the traditional practice in which a wife moves to live with her husband with or near the husband’s family.
Sex: Biological differences between men and women (Adapted from UNESCO, 2009)
Secular: Separation of religion from government.
Self-Sufficiency: The ability to supply one’s own needs without external assistance.


  1. Systematic Barriers to Self-Sufficiency

One of the fundamental principles of the U.N. charter is the “equal rights of men and women.” The UN Charter explicitly defines equal rights as the ability for an individual to pursue opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Despite this, millions of women are discriminated against daily in the workplace, in their homes, and from economic and political opportunities.1 Countries such as Yemen and Iran have laws put in place that restrict all aspects of a woman’s life ranging from choosing her clothing to opening a bank account.2 Other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan enforce laws that punish women for speaking out against rape, domestic violence, and corruption. In Nigeria and Pakistan it is legal for a man to beat and rape his wife.3 Domestic Violence and other abuses significantly limit a woman’s ability to be self-sufficient. The implementation of gender biased laws and beliefs are often derived from ideals, which were accepted long ago. In 1995, 189 countries adopted the Fourth World Conference on Women.4 The main outcome of this historic conference was the unanimous adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). The BPFA outlined and identified 12 issues that hinder the advancement of women’s rights. The 12 obstacles are poverty of women, unequal access to education, lack and unequal access to healthcare systems, inequities in power and decision-making, violence against women, the vulnerabilities of women in war, inequities in economic structures, institutionalize bias, inadequate protection in human rights, under-representation of women in the media, inequities in resource management, and discrimination of the girl child. Those countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Mali have adopted the BPFA, but still continue to enforce gender discriminatory policies. Countries such as India and China still struggle with eliminating female infanticide.   

  1. Economic Freedom

According to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Women are more likely than men to be poor at every age.5 This is a consequence of the lack of economic freedom for women internationally. A recent study by the World Bank found that a woman will earn $79 dollars compared to a man’s $100 for the same work.6 This may contribute to the fact that 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion poor are women.7 To combat this issue, many less economic developed countries (LEDC) have been exploring the idea of equal pay for equal work. More economic developed countries (MEDC) such as Iceland and Norway, possess and enforce an Equal Opportunities Act in which they require companies to pay women the same rate as men for the same work.8 These countries also surpass the international standard by requiring mid-sized businesses to have at least 40% of the workforce to be women. However, another study by the World Bank found that 155 countries have at least one law that limits a woman’s economic prosperity, while 100 countries place limits on what jobs a women can hold.9 This demonstrates that although women's rights have improved dramatically over the last century, many nations around the world still limit women’s rights to property, work, and job choice.

    1. Right to Property

According to Human Rights Watch, a women's right of property and inheritance is unequal to those of men in many regions of the world such as the Middle East and East Asia. For example, Kenyan women are often excluded from collecting their husband's inheritance. It begins by the widow's in-laws evicting the widow off of her husband's land. They then claim and distribute the property within the family. In some cases discrimination is based off of policy rather than formal law. The difference between a policy and a law is that a law is enforced by an institution where as a policy is a principle that guides decision making, usually relying on precedent.  Due to international pressure to address women's rights, Kenya provided the framework for a new women’s rights program to address inequality. In a similar case in South Africa, there is a policy in which a family must, “register [their] house in the name of the breadwinner, usually the husband, depriving women of security of tenure.”10 This policy does not take into consideration that women who have children and have to take time off work would not be the “breadwinner” in a family and therefore in a divorce, they would lose their home.

    1. Right to Work

Without means to garner an income, the quality of life for a woman and her family is lower. U.N. Women reports, “More women than men work in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued job11s.” As of 2013, “49.1% of the world’s working women are in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labor legislation, compared to 46.9 percent of men.”12 However, there has been a steady growth of women in the workplace.  Some women's rights organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) are calling for solutions and recognition of a “glass ceiling,” where women face discrimination in the workplace and therefore are unable to acquire higher professional positions. There are only 14 countries with a female Head Of State and only 22 Fortune 500 companies that have a female Chief-Executive Officer.13  As reported by the World Bank, 18 countries allow women to work if and only if their husbands grant them permission.14 This restriction on women can economically injure a nation:  In a recent report, the IMF found that in countries where a majority of women work, the nation experiences a period of rapid economic growth.15

c. Job Restriction

Figure (a): US Percent of Professional Women by Occupation

Even if women are allowed to work, a recent report by the World Bank found that women face job restrictions in 100 of the 173 economies monitored.16 Job Restrictions include not being able to work at night to not being able to work in a factory, where as in some countries women cannot work without permission. In the past 2 years, regions have been adopting new reforms to give women greater freedom when it comes to job choice. 19 reforms were implemented in Europe and Central Asia, 18 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 16 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 in the Middle East and Northern Africa, 11 in East Asia and the Pacific, and South Asia adopting the fewest reforms with 3. By limiting the jobs available to women, countries are removing the opportunities found in different careers. Data from figure 1 display that more women in the United States are in jobs of healthcare than science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs. Women with a STEM degree earn 33% more than women in a non-STEM occupation.

      1. Discriminatory Laws

Women are protected under international law, but some countries make it difficult for women to live their everyday lives under the same basic protections as men. In Yemen and Pakistan judicial systems, a woman’s word is only worth half a man’s, and must be corroborated with a male relative’s word. This disregards Goal 5 of the U.N Sustainable Development, which states: “Achieve [worldwide] gender equality and women and girl empowerment”. Although 193 countries have adopted this Sustainable Development goal, there are still regions of the world where women are prohibited from participating in ordinary activities, such as driving, filing an insurance form, or even leaving their home.17 In many Sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern countries, a woman cannot go out of the house without the permission of her husband or father.18 If she does leave the house a male relative must accompany her. In Saudi Arabia, a fatwa restricts women from receiving a driver's license or driving any automobile.

D.  Religious Role
44 countries currently have a non-secular government.19 Even so, religion is ingrained in the roots of these Non-Secular nations and the effects are still lingering today. In the United Kingdom, the Monarchy promises to uphold Christianity and the leaders of the Church of England can vote in Parliament.20 The way women are portrayed in religion is just a small facet of the overall denomination; the greater majority of the religion supports peace and devotion to god. Some countries such as the Vatican and Afghanistan have a theocratic government, in which they use religion as a basis for politics and law. Theocratic governments don’t have principles set up on the demand of the people, but rather on the principles of the religion. King Salman of Saudi Arabia promised to abolish male guardianship of women, but currently there are no reforms addressing this issue. The attempt to abolish male guardianship is unlikely, due to the religious aspect of the country.

E. Global Commitments Regarding Women’s Rights

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. (CEDAW) This document is often defined as the International Bill of Rights for Women. Key Passages: Article 11, “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights”, “(a) The right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings; (b) The right to the same employment opportunities, including the application of the same criteria for selection in matters of employment; (c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;”  

  • Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was the world’s time bound goals for eliminating extreme poverty. Key Passage: Target 3, “Promote gender equality and empower women”         

  • Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action This document clarified that women’s rights are human rights. Key Passages: (Para 18), “the human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights”. (Para 38), “the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism”

  • United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development In this document states reaffirmed their commitment to advancing women’s position in the economy and in leadership positions. Key Passages: Target 5.5, women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy, society and political decision-making”

  • Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) Outlined 12 obstacles impeding the advancement of women’s rights. Key Passage: “discriminatory legislation as well as harmful traditional and customary practices and negative stereotyping of women and men still persist”  

    1. Questions to Guide Research

      • Does your country have laws or policies that support or restrict women?

      • Are labor laws in your country favorable towards women?

      • What are some goals your country has towards advancing women's rights?

      • Does your country have gender-based prohibitions? If so what are they?

      • What is the wage gap between genders in your country?


  1. Access to Education

Empowering women and girls’ participation in economic, social, and political life within their societies requires equal access to all levels of education.21 Education unlocks potential and is accompanied by improvements in health, nutrition, and well being of women and their families.22 However, despite widespread agreement that all people have the fundamental human right to education, 100 million children, at least 60% of them girls, do not have access to primary education.23 960 million adults in the world are illiterate, and more than two-thirds of them are women. In developing countries, adolescent girls are more likely to drop out of secondary school than boys, particularly in rural areas.24 Many women that receive an education have no support system to help them lead into a career. Women and girls continue to face discrimination at all levels of education, a fact that poses tremendous obstacles to their advancement. There are many institutions that support the education of women such as The Malala Fund, He for She, and the Crespo Foundation. Although many countries have voiced their support for a woman’s right to education and a resultant career, societal and political structures do not reflect said concerns.

    1. Outline of Human Rights Involved

The United Nations outlines educational rights as: free and compulsory elementary education and readily available forms of secondary and higher education; freedom from discrimination based on sex or any other status in all areas and levels of education (including equal access to scholarships, fellowships, and career development, continuing education and vocational training); and free and open information about health, nutrition, reproduction, and family planning.25 These rights are fundamentally linked to other “universal, indivisible, interconnected, and interdependent” human rights such as: equality between men and women and equal partnership in the family and society, which depends on eliminating gender-based stereotypes in education; work and wages that contribute to an adequate standard of living; freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief; and participation in shaping decisions and policies affecting one's community, at the local, national, and international levels.26

There are numerous declarations and covenants that outline the moral commitments of nations worldwide:27

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