3.4 Diplomatic Language, Conduct and Decorum

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Back to Unit 3: Foundational Skills.

Model United Nations is a simulation of diplomatic process. To succeed in this setting you will need to learn how to conduct yourself with “diplomatic decorum”, behaving and speaking in ways designed to convey respect, deescalate conflict and project a calm sense of confidence and dignity in your interactions with others. In this section you will learn how to address the committee and chair, how to conduct yourself during formal and informal sessions and how to act during the conference. Being diplomatic is not is not only about being polite — though this is important — it is about conducting yourself in a way that eases communication between people who may not get along. Even though Model UN is a simulation, please be aware that the individuals representing countries have feelings (and may have a personal connection to the topic of discussion) and may be hurt by things you say or do. So comport yourself with grace, aplomb and care.

Addressing the Committee and the Chair

When addressing your committee and chair, during formal debate, always make sure to use “parliamentary procedure” — the rules that govern your interactions in the committee room. Even though it can seem frustrating, parliamentary procedure is a way of keeping things in order and maintaining mutual respect when the topics you are discussing may become heated. No matter what country a person represents, within the United Nations, they are afforded basic diplomatic respect. As a result, when speaking to your chair, always refer to him/her as “Honorable Chair”. The other delegates in your committee should be referred to as “Fellow Delegates” or “Distinguished Delegates.”

During Formal Debate

  • During formal committee sessions always pay attention to what other countries are stating in their speeches. Sometimes you might find formal committee session boring, but it helps to pay attention to make sure you do not miss important points. Never talk to anyone else during formal committee because it is rude and disrespectful (no side conversations). You would not want to see people speaking during your speeches, so extend that courtesy to others
  • Avoid using points of order or personal privilege because they can be seen as disrespectful to the chair
  • Send notes to other nations during formal committee, especially if your policy aligns with something they presented before the committee
  • If your chair is not calling on you,  let one of the head delegates or your faculty advisor know. Do not complain to other delegates or call out the chair .

Informal Caucusing

Even though unmoderated caucuses have a more informal style, it is still important for you to work with other delegates in a diplomatic manner.

  • Do not shun people from working with you because your ideas do not align. Be nice and recommend that they work with another group that has a different focus. For working papers and resolutions do not cut clauses or remove people from the sponsors list without their permission.
  • Be classy! Don’t badmouth other delegates or gossip about them behind their back. If another delegate is not following their country’s policy, do not confront them about this; rather, speak to one of your head delegates or the faculty advisor. If you are approached by another delegate who corrects you on your country’s position, react in a calm and cool manner, providing evidence for your position.
  • Never be the bully, nor do you have to accept bullying. Do not boss around other delegates and manipulate them to do work for you. Other delegates are not your employees. For that matter, we also do not tolerate anyone being bullied by other delegates. If a delegate is rude or undiplomatic to you, please let one of the head delegates or your faculty advisor know
  • Build consensus. Make an effort to exchange ideas and respect the ideas of others when working on working papers and resolutions.

Diplomatic Language

When speaking in your committee or writing resolutions, you must use formal, diplomatic language. Read this blog post from an English professor on diplomatic language or this list of essentials for diplomatic speech to learn more.

  • Avoid stereotyping other states or peoples and use caution when using broad categories like “The West”, “The East”, or “Poor Countries”.
  • Know the difference between a State and a nation.  A State is a self-governing political entity (with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states). A Member-State is a member of the United Nations. A nation is tightly knit group of people which share a common culture, while a Nation-State is a State that is dominated by one nation. Not all nations have States. Country is not a technical term; it refers to a geographic area so don’t use it in formal speeches/writings or diplomatic settings.
  • Know the difference between “Global” and “International.” “Global” refers to the whole world, worldwide, entire earth as a planet. “international” refers to  institutions and relations between between two or more nations (or States).
  • Avoid Slang and Acronyms. In formal speeches, don’t say “the UK”, “the USA”, or “the UN” or “the EU”. Use the full name.
  • Avoid personifying States. Avoid using language that would suggest States have emotions, bodies or human qualities. They are institutions made up of people, not people in themselves.
  • Always treat the topics of discussion with the respect they deserve. Think twice about cracking jokes about committee topics as they are often dealing with grave matters like poverty, war and disease. Be tasteful — you never know who may be in your committee and might be personally affected by your topic of discussion.
  • Use language that creates a safe space. You should not harass or intimidate anyone. Nor should you accept harassment of any kind from anyone. If you feel uncomfortable, please let a head delegate, conference organizer or the faculty advisor know as soon as possible. For more information on Pace University New York City’s commitment to Model UN as a safe space, click here.

Katie James, Elena Marmo, Michael Zona and Matthew Bolton for Pace University, 2013. Version 3.0 BETA. For information, permissions or corrections, contact Dr. Matthew Bolton, mbolton@pace.edu

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