RULES OF PROCEDURE &
FLOW OF DEBATE

Like real UN bodies, Model UN committees have lengthy agendas and many delegates who want to convey their country’s positions. To help maintain order, Model UN conferences adopt rules of procedure to establish when a delegate may speak and what he or she may address. Some conferences adopt a few simple rules, while others use lengthy and complex rules of procedure. Because each conference is independent – there is no governing body for Model UN – rules of procedure vary. A few conferences adapt their rules of procedure directly from the United Nations rules while most use variations of the Roberts Rules of Order. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the rules of each specific conference you plan to attend.

 

At a Model UN conference, there is formal debate as well as informal debate, called caucusing.

Formal Debate

During formal debate, the staff maintains a speakers list and delegates speak in the order they are listed. At this time, delegates have an opportunity to share their views with the entire committee. Delegates make speeches, answer questions, and introduce and debate resolutions and amendments. Formal debate is important to the committee’s work. By not knowing the rules of procedure, delegates slow down the debate and hold back their committee’s progress.
 
Formal debate included a system of yields, which delegates need to use if they finish speaking before they run out of time. There are several types of yields. A yield to the chair means that remaining time is absorbed by the dais and goes away. A yield to another delegate means that the speaker may share their remaining time by passing it off to someone else. Finally, a yield to questions or points of information allows other delegates to ask the speaker about the speech.

Moderated Caucus
 
During a caucus, which is a temporary recess, the rules of procedure are suspended. To go to a moderated caucus, a delegate makes a motion to suspend debate and the committee votes. Caucusing helps to facilitate discussion, especially when there is a long speakers list. A moderated caucus is a mixture of both formal and informal debate. Anyone may speak if they raise their placard and are called on by the Chair.
 

Unmoderated Caucus
 
In an unmoderated caucus, delegates meet informally with one another and the committee staff to discuss and negotiate draft resolutions, amendments and other issues.
 
In order for debate to change style from formal to informal debate, delegates need to make points and motions. Some of the important points and motions for a Model UN conference include:
 

Points
 

  • Point of Inquiry: Addresses procedural matters, and can be used by the delegate to get help from the chair in clarifying how debate procedures work.

  • Point of Information: Concerns the topic at hand, and can address either the chair or another delegate. This can only be used at specific times during the conference, such as when a delegate yields to questions.

  • Point of Personal Privilege: Concerns personal comfort of the delegate, such as being cold or unable to hear, and can be made at any time including in the middle of another delegates speech.

 

Motions
 

  • To open/close/reopen the speakers’ list

    • ​Allows people to add their names or stops this allowal

  • To suspend debate

    • ​For a moderated caucus – need to specify speaking time, time, purpose

    • For an unmoderated caucus – need to specify time, can specify purpose

  • To close debate

    • ​Moves to voting procedures

    • Happens automatically when the speakers’ list runs out

  • To adjourn the meeting

    • ​Ends the simulation entirely

 


Lesson Plans

 

Lesson Plan - Understanding Points and Motions

 

Lesson Plan - Introducing Debate

 

Other Resources

 

Handout - Points and Motions

 

Handout -  Flow of Debate

 

Handout - Debate Vocabulary