MUN Glossary

Don’t get left behind because of fancy wording.

Abstain: Vote neither yes or no, meaning the delegation does not support the resolution enough to vote for it while it also does not oppose it enough to against it. Can only be used during a vote on a substantive matter. Abstaining may, in some conferences, have the same effect as voting against a resolution. It is important to understand at the beginning of debate, how the dias will consider abstentions.

Adjourn (Motion to): This motion suspends the debate until the next meeting or committee session, so it is usually the last motion of any session prior to the last one; that is, any sessions which have a subsequent session in the conference.

Agenda: The order in which topics and other matters of debate will be discussed.

Amendment: A proposed change to the draft resolution being debated. Normally these are entertained during time against a resolution. There are two types: “friendly”, which is supported unanimously by the draft resolution’s sponsors, or main submitters, and is normally passed automatically, and “unfriendly”, which is not supported by the submitters and must be voted. Procedure for discussing amendments is usually similar to that of discussing resolutions.

Binding: Something that has legal force with member nations. Examples of this are Security Council resolutions and decisions by the International Court of Justice. Please note that most committees such as the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and the Human Rights Council cannot pass binding resolutions.

Bloc: A group of nations with similarities; be them geographical or in opinions and political dispositions. These can be formal, such as the BRICS, or informal, such as an agreement in committee between nations to pass a specific resolution.

Caucus: Normally less formal than normal debate procedure. There are two types: moderated, which involves a topic to be discussed and a maximum speaking time per speech, and unmoderated, where delegates can leave their seats and engage in informal conversation with others, normally to merge draft resolutions. Both moderated and unmoderated caucuses require a total length.

Chair: The member of the dais that controls most of the debate; they keep time, enforce the procedures, and rule on points and motions.

Dais: The group of people leading the committee. Depending on the size of the committee it may consist of one chair, one chair and one vice-chair or one chair and two vice-chairs. Many other combinations are also possible and conferences adopt different dais structures.

Decorum: Order and respect. If you hear a chair telling his committee that it requires decorum, chances are parliamentary procedure was broken and things are getting a bit out of hand.

Delegate: The student representing a country or non-governmental organization.

Delegation: A country, such as a member nation or observer, or a non-governmental organization. Depending on the size of the country or NGO and its representation in the United Nations, a delegation may have many delegates in various different committees.

Division of the Question (Motion to Divide the Question): When a motion for the division of the question passes, clauses of draft resolutions or amendments are split in the way proposed by the delegate who made the motion, discussed, and voted on based on this split.

Division of the House (Motion to Divide the House): When passed, this motion prohibits abstentions. In this sense, the house is divided: delegates must vote either in favor or against the document being discussed. Normally a motion to divide the house is proposed if the results of the normal voting procedure are very close or if there is a chance that not everyone voted. In some conferences, such a motion will also result in voting being carried out by roll-call, that is, each delegations will announce their vote individually and out loud.

Draft Resolution: A proposed resolution that is still being debated. If passed, the draft resolution becomes a resolution.

Gavel: A small, wooden hammer-like tool which is used by the members of the dais to keep order during committee session. Depending on the conference, the best delegate may receive a gavel with his or her award.

Head Delegate: The student leader of a MUN group.

Member State: A country that is a member of the UN or the organ the committee is simulating.

Motion: A request made by a delegate for the committee to carry out some sort of action. Examples are: motion to move into voting procedure, motion for a moderated caucus, and motion to move into amendments (see “MUN Procedure” for more information).

Observer: A country, national, regional or non-governmental organization that is not a member of the UN or of the organ being simulated. Observers usually cannot vote on substantive matters. In a committee within the General Assembly, for example, the delegations of the Palestinian Authority, the Holy See, and the International Monetary Fund are observers.

Operative clause: The part of a resolution that describes the action the body will take regarding the topic that is being discussed. Normally, the operative clauses are read when a resolution is first introduced. The operative clauses follow the pre-ambulatory clauses, and different conferences have different procedures regarding how operative clauses should be structured and presented (see “Resolutions” for more information).

Page: A delegate that has volunteered to assist in passing notes for a portion of the committee session.

Placard: Cardstock that contains a delegation’s name. It is used to vote or to signal that the delegate wants to speak.

Point: A request raised by a delegate. These range from questions, informing the dais that a delegation is unable to hear the current speaker, or even asking if the air conditioner can turned on. Examples of points include point of order, point of personal privilege, and point of information (see “MUN Procedure” for more information).

Position Paper: A short essay that summarizes a country’s position on a topic. These tend to be submitted prior to the beginning of a conference, as they serve to give the dais an idea of how debate may progress. Position papers are usually a page long and divided into three paragraphs (see “Writing a Position Paper” for more information).

 Pre-ambulatory Clauses: The part after the heading of the resolution. These clauses summarize previous actions taken by the UN on the topic at hand (see “Resolutions” for more information).

Procedural matters: Matters that have to do with how the committee is run, such as those involving motions or points. All delegates must vote on procedural matters and abstentions usually are not in order.

Resolution: The document contain solutions to the topic at hand which has been passed by the committee (see “Resolutions” for more information)..

Right of Reply: The right to speak if a delegate feels that another delegate insulted his or her delegation or their individual. Usually, a request for a right of reply must be submitted in writing.

Roll Call: Similar to taking attendance in a classroom, roll call enables the dais to calculate the quorum and see which delegations are present at the beginning of the session. Although rules vary based on conferences, delegations must usually send a note to the dais declaring they are absent if they missed roll call.

Second: Agreeing with a motion that has been proposed. Most motions requires seconds in order for them to be voted.

Secretariat: The administrative staff of the conference. This includes the Secretary General and other organizers of the conference.

Signatory: A delegation that wants to see the draft resolution debated, but does not necessarily support it. There is usually a minimum number of signatories required for a draft resolution to be discussed.

Simple majority: One more than fifty percent of the number of delegates in a committee. Most motions and resolutions require a simple majority to pass.

Speakers List: The order of speakers. These lists will usually be opened when committee is shifting debate to a new topic. These list are often the default method of debate; that is, when no motions are on the floor, the dais may revert to the Speakers List.

Sponsor (Main Submitter): The delegates that wrote the resolution and tend to advocate for it in committee session.

Substantive matters: Matters regarding the topics being discussed. For example, a draft resolution is a substantive matter. It is important to note that observers may not vote on substantive matters.

Working Paper:  A document with ideas on how to solve the issue. These tend not to have specific formatting guidelines but instead are used to organizing a bloc’s thought and  usually serve as a precursor to a draft resolution.

Veto: The ability to prevent any draft resolution from passing. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the permanent members of the Security Council, have this ability in the council.

*Please note that because different conferences may have different procedures, not all terms and definitions may apply for all conferences.*


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