You’ve just signed up for a conference, and one of the first things you’ve been required (or perhaps, told) to do is to write a position paper. Here, you wonder...
In short, the position paper is your bible during the conference. The position paper is a document that outlines the perspective of a delegate’s country upon a specific issue, in paragraph form. It usually provides a coherent and organized policy stance that delegates use as the foundation of their debate, and establishes a direction in which you, as the delegate will steer your clauses and proposed solutions.
Most conferences usually require position papers to be submitted (at least a few weeks) ahead of the conference, and they form the first step of evaluation where chairs judge the quality of delegates. Given that position papers are quite literally the key to success, it becomes important that every delegate masters the art of crafting a quality paper -- and this article will aim to show you how!
First things first, figure out the gist of the issue that you have been given. Ask yourself the following few questions about it:
How much do you already know about the issue? If you already are familiar with the issue at hand, how will your country be
How long has this issue been going on?
Who are the key stakeholders in the issue?
Is it still a developing issue? If so, what are the most recent events that have transpired, and how will they affect your country, the key stakeholders of the issue, and the global community?
What has already been done to remedy or deal with the issue?
Put down your findings in note form, while noting down the sources of information that you are using, as well as the purposes and the provenance of the source. While conducting your research, make sure to organize the sources that you find into categories (for example: general information, past UN resolutions, government policy documents...), highlighting key sections and compiling them into a MUN research folder on the way. In general, the more extensive your research, the more comprehensive and effective your position paper will be.
Some good resources to use are:
The CIA World Factbook (For an introductory overview into your country)
General Assembly Statements made by your country, easily found on the UN website
Government policy documents for actions pledged or made by your nation
If you’re feeling ambitious, academic articles on databases such as JSTOR
The position paper should open with a brief summary of the status quo. Of the issues on the agenda of your committee, pick the issue that is most relevant, and orient your research to be focused on that specific issue. Provide insight into why the issue is important, what its root causes are, and its current ramifications on the regional and global situation. Define any key terms and potential “buzzwords” that will be relevant to your topic, and most importantly, identify the controversy of the issue. This should be the area of the issue that holds the most weight to your country, spearheading the angle of your argument as well as leading into your opening speech.
Then, identify and describe your country’s stake in the issue, mentioning how your state has been affected, emphasizing to what extent this is important. At this point, you are still providing an objective statement, and should avoid giving judgements, instead aiming to give an overview on the quantified effect of the issue on your country. A normative statement, based on what you think should be solutions moving forward, should be incorporated in the next section, however in this you should aim to demonstrate to the chairs your understanding of where your country lies in its investment.
This is where the normative statements start. Here, considering the position of your country with its presiding interests, address the pros and cons of the issue at hand to your country, and describe the existing actions your country has undertook to address it. In this process, you should first aim to explain:
What are the advantages and disadvantages that this issue delivers to your country?
Why has your country acted on this issue this way, historically?
Why will it continue on this current path of action (or not)?
Next, assess the current international situation and response in the context of your country. Address:
What area of this issue is your country most invested in?
What should be changed about the current situation?
In what direction does your country want to see the issue move in?
How will this facet of the issue be reformed (ideally)?
When coming up with your solution, be sure to focus on an area of concern that, as your country, can form the basis of continued debate. By creating a strong foundation when writing your position papers, you will be able to tackle debate more confidently, knowing that you are grounded well in your country’s policy. Your solutions can be adapted from already proposed policy statements put forward by your country, or perhaps, if you’re feeling creative, self-devised (as long its reasonable and in line with your country’s policy!)
Finding the right sources
This can be overlooked, but assessing the sources that you receive can also aid you in crafting a more focused policy stance for your country. Using official UN sources, such as citing General Assembly statements or reports, can help increase the weight and legitimacy of your position paper. However, perhaps more important is the fact that the position paper, over anything, reflects your country’s own goals, which may potentially be at odds with your own personal beliefs, or the wide-reaching consensus. Remember that when writing the overview, factual accuracy should be imperative, but sources with inherent biases, such as government sources with underlying political agendas may also be useful when crafting a position paper that reflects these national objectives. By constant cross-checking between such sources, you will not only be able to create more accurate solutions that mirror realistic choices your country would take, but also have a more comprehensive view on the world’s attitudes towards your given issue.
To create innovative solutions, delegates in MUN are expected to exercise creativity in creating solutions to their problems, and it therefore follows that you should not resort to plagiarism or mere paraphrasing when creating your paper. After all, MUN is still an academic activity, and it follows that when writing your position paper, you should make sure that it adheres to good academic and bibliographic standards. Even if you are basing the majority of your position paper on an existing program, it is still important that sources are all properly cited, and you do not resort. If you are having trouble with citations, websites such as citationmachine.net or EasyBib can often help you create quality citations in proper MLA, APA, or Harvard formatting. If you are still in doubt, ask your advisor or school librarian!
Finally, be sure to submit your position paper on time. Good position papers and timely submitting your position papers can give a great first impression of you to chairs, as well-prepared delegate. This already gives you an edge, even before the conference starts!
Does your position paper have a professional looking format?
Have you clearly stated your country’s position and concerns on the issue?
Have you clearly outlined any potential solutions, or improvements to existing
Have you established and mentioned past UN or international solutions to the problem
Is everything clearly cited?
Once you’re done, all that’s left to do is to play the waiting game. Send in your position paper, start thinking about your clauses, and wait for showtime!