Model United Nations Research
The following are some excellent guides to help you through the process:
For Model UN projects, there are three basic things you will need to research:
- Country information: background information and country policy statements/positions
- Information on issues to be debated
- The UN system
Step 1: Learn About Your Country
Basic Country Information
According to the Model UN Preparation Guide, you should at minimum be able to answer these questions about your country:
- What sort of government does your country have?
- What types of ideologies (political, religious or other) influence your country’s government?
- Which domestic issues might influence your country’s foreign policy?
- What are some major events in your country’s history? Why are they important?
- Which ethnicities, religions and languages can be found in your country?
- Where is your country located and how does its geography affect its political relationships?
- Which countries share a border with your country?
- Which countries are considered allies of your country?
- Which countries are considered enemies of your country?
- What are the characteristics of your country’s economy?
- What is your country’s gross domestic product (GDP)? How does this compare to other countries in the world?
- When did your country become a member of the UN?
- Does your country belong to any intergovernmental organizations outside the UN system such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)?
- Does your country belong to any regional organizations such as the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU) or the Organization of American States (OAS)? Does your country belong to any trade organizations or agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)?
Use the sources below to find good country profiles which will help you answer the above questions:
Start with the Country Guides page. Find your country in the alphabetical drop-down box. Start with the Country Profile link.
- Find the CIA World Factbook. Brief overview and summary statistics. NOTE: The Factbook is also available in print: PREX 3.15: Latest in GovInfo Reference, earlier in GovInfo US stacks.
- Find the Background Notes from the US Department of State. Once you are in the country’s background notes, click on the Official Name of the country for further information and links to reports.
- The BBC and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office profiles are also helpful.
- Look for a link to a Library of Congress Country Study. These are extensive, book length essays but are not available for every country. NOTE: Country studies/Area handbook series are also available in print: D 101.22:550-#. Located in the GovInfo US stacks.
TIP: If looking for profiles in response to specific issues, you can look at profiles from international organizations. For example, if you are interested in environmental issues look at the profiles from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Try some of these sources as well:
- Department of State Country Pages. These pages link out to the background notes, USAID reports and annual reports required from the Department of State.
- Statesman’s Yearbook. Print version: JA51 .S7 Latest in Norlin Library Reference stacks & GovInfo Reference, earlier PASCAL
- Europa World Yearbook. Print version: JN1 .E85 Latest in Norlin Library Reference stacks & GovInfo Reference
- Factiva provides access to numerous international news sources. To find sources from your country, choose the region box from the lower half of the screen and find your country and add it to your search. Choose a subject or type a keyword in the free text box. Under More Options, switch the drop-down box at the bottom of the page to read "Search for Full-text terms in full article."
- Lexis Nexis Academic provides access to numerous international news sources. To search for resources from a particular country, type the country name in the Research Countries box. Use the pulldown to change sources to Recent news stories and restrict by date. You can limit your results by Newspaper or Geography.
TIP: Not all the news sources will be in English.
Step 2: Identifying the Issues What are the important international issues being addressed by the UN?
- Global Issues on the UN Agenda
- UN Yearbook Comprehensive coverage of UN activities. Provides references to UN documents, texts of adopted resolutions and some voting histories. Print version: ST/DPI(05)/ Y3 Located in GovInfo Reference
- Annual Review of United Nations Affairs Print version: JX1977.A1 A5 Latest in Norlin Library Reference stacks and GovInfo Reference
- UN Chronicle or http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/chronicle/home This quarterly magazine provides current information on UN activities. Includes important resolutions, votes and speeches. Print version: ST/OPI(05)/ C3 Located in GovInfo UN stacks
- UN News Centre Daily news stories.
- UN Meeting Coverage and Press Releases Daily updates of meetings and briefings.
- For very current information, also try news sources such as the New York Times. Click here, to connect to current news databases.
Step 3: Background Information on the United Nations Learn about the UN structure and rules of procedure
- Basic Facts about the United Nations. Print version: ST/DPI(05)/ B27 Latest GovInfo Reference, earlier GovInfo UN stacks
- Everyone's United Nations: A Handbook on the Work of the United Nations. Print version: ST/DPI(05)/ E8 Located in GovInfo UN stacks
- United Nations Handbook. Print version: 941-F26 7 Latest GovPubs Reference, earlier GovPubs Norbase
- A Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations. Print version: KZ4968 .L4913 2002 Norlin Library stacks
- United Nations System: A Reference Handbook. Print version: JZ4986 .A44 2006 GovInfo Reference
- UN At A Glance and UN Structure and Organization Click on the name of the UN Body (e.g. General Assembly) to find its rules of procedure.
- UN system organization chart
- Model UN Rules of Procedure Guide to procedures and vocabulary from the United Nations Association of the USA.
Step 4: Finding country policy statements and positions Sources for in depth country research
To find information on country policy and positions, you will need to examine the following kinds of materials: speeches before UN bodies by your country’s delegates, the texts of resolutions sponsored by your country, your country’s voting patterns on specific issues and policy statements issued by the country’s government officials.
Speeches on the floor of the General Assembly or other major UN organs are key sources of information on country positions on issues. Speeches can be found in UNBISnet. Here are step-by-step instruction on using this resource:
- Go to UNBISnet
- Put your country name in the "Country/Organization" box
- Put your topic in the "topic" box.
- Click on the red arrow.
- Click on the desired language to read the speech.
TIP: You may not find a speech on your topic, remember to try alternative words. You may need to broaden or narrow your terms as well.
Another important indicator of issue positions can be found in the content of resolutions and draft resolutions a country has participated in sponsoring. To find resolutions use the UN ODS database. Here are step-by-step instructions:
- Go to UN ODS
- Choose Welcome (for the English version of the database)
- Choose advanced search
- Type your country name and "draft resolution" in Words of the title box.
- Switch the drop-down box "Type of full-text search" to "Use Boolean Operators."
- Click search.
- Click on the document symbol (it should start with an A/ or S/)
- Choose the language you want and you can read the resolution and also see who else was a sponsor.
TIP: The ODS search defaults to resolutions from 1993 to the present. To search 1946-1993, change the date range on the pull-down menu on the left.
The voting patterns of a country on a specific issue can also provide insight on that country’s positions. The voting records from 1983 to the present are available in UNBISnet. Here are step-by-step instructions for finding this information:
- Go to UNBISnet.
· In the keyword box type your topic, such as Palestine. You can also search by date and resolution number.
· The resolutions on this topic will appear, click on the title to access the roll call vote by country. (Note: if you click on the language link at the bottom you can see the full-text of the resolution.)
- UN Yearbook has selected voting records.
- Voting Practices in the UN is an annual report required by Congress from the Department of State. It “assesses for the preceding calendar year, with respect to each foreign country member of the United Nations, the voting practices of the governments of such countries at the United Nations, and which evaluates General Assembly and Security Council actions and the responsiveness of those governments to United States policy on issues of special importance to the United States” – Introduction to the 2010 report.
It is possible to find official policy statements issued by foreign government.
Start by searching for Letters from the country’s delegation to the UN.
Model UN Research Sites:
- United Nations
- United Nations Research Guide (Northwestern University)
- United Nations Scholars' Workstation (Yale University)
Model UN Sites
- Model United Nations Headquarters
- National High School Model United Nations
- National Model United Nations
- United Nations International Model United Nations