With global strife as ubiquitous and intractable as ever, it is
vital that young people consider the problems of international
conflict and develop a conceptual framework and skills for understanding
these difficult problems. A simulation developed by the United Nations
involves students in playing the roles of U.N. delegates. Acting in these
roles, they experience the dynamics of international conflict and negotiation.
Participants in the Model U.N. consistently report that the experience is not
only enjoyable but also expands their view of the world.
At the Salk School of Science in New York City, sixth and seventh graders
practice conflict resolution skills through a model U.N. program -- a simulation
of a U.N. Security Council meeting in which country delegates deal with a dispute
between Guyana and Venezuela. Students, in their roles as delegates, resolve the
conflict through discourse, negotiation, and compromise. In the process, they develop
valuable skills and expand their consciousness of global issues.
The Model U.N. program is a simulation designed to help students learn through
experience about international conflict and diplomacy. Students participate in a
mock meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, assuming the roles of delegates
from various countries who must grapple with the issues on the agenda. (The agendas
vary; there are a number of different scenarios that can be used.)
Schools structure the Model U.N. program in many different ways. The program can
involve one class, one grade, the whole school, or several schools. Some regional
Model U.N. programs draw hundreds of students from a large geographic area. The
duration can run anywhere from a weekend (with advance preparation) to a number of
weeks. The scale and the scope of the program can be tailored to fit the goals and
resources of the organizers.
The Model U.N. process consists of three basic steps:
(Adapted from the pamphlet "Introduction to the Model U.N.," published by
the United Nations Association of the United States of America. )
Step 1: Preparation. Students learn about the U.N. and how it works, and they
research the country they represent and the issues on the agenda. Research is done
as a group effort by teams of delegates from the various countries, and it can take
Step 2: Participation. Students apply the information and knowledge they gained
in the research stage as they become diplomats within the actual simulation. Their
goals are to address the issues on the agenda and develop a workable resolution that a
large number of nations can support. Delegates, in their cooperative teams, make speeches,
caucus with delegates of other countries, produce draft resolutions, and work towards reaching
an agreement among delegate groups. The process culminates in the adoption by vote of one or
Step 3: Evaluation. Participants reflect on what they learned from their experience. They
- What did the session accomplish, from the point of view of the country that you represented?
- How closely did the Model U.N. simulate the real U.N.?
- In what ways do you see world affairs and the U.N. differently than before?
- What impressed you most about the experience?
- What skills did you develop?
- What skills did you identify that you need to work on?
- What questions did the Model U.N. raise that you might want to explore in greater depth?