How to Write a Position Paper

Position papers are an important part of Model UN preparation. The goal of a position paper is to show your chairs, your fellow delegates (and yourself!) that you have researched your committee topics well. If done right, your position paper will show that you have a good understanding of the world, your country's experience with the issue and how your country intends to handle the various dilemmas that will be touched on in your committee sessions.

Purpose of a Position Paper

  • For you to sort you thoughts
  • To show chairs you've researched, are serious and not only learned facts but built them into a strong country specific cases and arguments
  • To read and study what other delegates wrote to best strategize what courses of action will get the best majority to pass your resolutions

Goals of a Position Paper

  • Show your country's unique understanding of the problem at hand.
  • Show your countries previous relationship to the topic (preferably with relevant examples).
  • Show policies and ideas that you, as a delegate representing the interests of your country, would ideally like to see in the resolution.

As most position papers are limited to one page, a minimum of one paragraph should be devoted to each of the aforementioned goals, and there should be clear transitions from paragraph to paragraph. The following position paper outline is universal, with options to expand in specific sections if warranted.

What’s in a Good Position Paper?

A position paper is the result of proper preparation and research for your Model UN conference. Once you complete the research, follow the conferences specific position paper guidelines. With the formatting instructions in mind, follow the instructions below to produce a position paper of quality, which will help you organize your information and prepare you well in the process.

Model UN Position Paper Structure

  • How you / your country sees the situation / problem in general
  • Your country's relation to the topic
  • What you want to pass in a resolution

1) How you / your country sees the situation / problem in general

Begin with a brief history of the situation / problem we are discussing (How you see the situation / problem in general).
Define what you see as the burden of the round
(Keep in mind that your goal is to meet this burden by the end of the paper)Just like setting the problem so your call to action solve can solve it

2) Your country's relation to the topic

A presentation of the policies your country has used to deal with the topic, or a similar one, in the past, along with describing the successes or failures of those policies (Your country's previous relation to the topic and precedents set).
The second paragraph is your place to introduce yourself in relation to the round

3) What you want to pass in a resolution

Give an outline of possible / likely solutions that your country would advocate for during the Model UN simulation.
Do this specifically for and within the limits of what the particular committee can do (What you would want to pass a resolution about).
Here you can either commit to one strong call to action or a range to work within

The Position Papers Magic Formula

In paragraph 3 you solve the problem in paragraph 1 with the tools and relevance you set up in paragraph 2. (The examples of self used in paragraph 2 should, preferably, also show the policy margins of your country)
In the cases where your country has a strong link to the topic, the examples in the 2nd paragraph should be about your country's connection to the specific topic. If your country does not have a strong link to the topic, the examples can be about your connections to related relevant topics or about countries similar to your countries relations to the topic with a few lines explaining why your country is just as relevant, and even possibly moreso, to argue this case. (More on this in our article about ‘Making your country relevant’) Furthermore, while you do not need to fully commit yourself to what you write in your position papers, it is important that you show the margins within which you will be operating at the conference. It is thus strongly advisable that you not write something that you will directly contradict through your actions in committee sessions.

Choose what is most important

Part of the challenge of a model UN position paper is showing your most important ideas in the limited space you have been allocated. With the right use of information and allocation of material, the reader of your position paper will feel that you had much more to write and what they are reading, while centrally important, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your knowledge.

For this reason, try to avoid writing the obvious in your position paper and avoid being off clash. The position paper is your first introduction with your chair, and sometimes the other delegates, and this is a chance to brings facts and ideas into the discussion before the committees even starts!

Types of position papers

  • MUN Position paper required to get an award
  • Only the chairs read your position paper
  • Everyone can read your position paper

While not all Model United Nations conferences require position papers, many of them do and knowing your audience will help you craft the right paper for the right occasion.

Position papers for the sake of submitting them

Some position papers will not be read by the chairs and you simply need to send them in to qualify for a diplomacy award. Some conferences will admit this but others will not. A few hints that your position papers likely won’t be read are when chairs are not required to send you feedback on the position paper or the deadline is the day before the conference. In such cases the writing of the position paper is more to organize one's own thoughts and case, but a poor document can be just as easily submitted to qualify.

Only the chairs will read them

When the chair is required to send feedback, this usually means they will have read the position paper. This is an excellent opportunity to go all out, regarding the reasons for your country has the position that it is taking and why you chose the policies that you did. (See our article on ‘How do I find what policies make sense for my country?’) This is also a place to describe your call to action / the policies you want to implement in detail.

In such cases, the position paper is an excellent opportunity to bring facts and ideas that you wants known to the chair but don’t have time to fit into your first speech or two. It also flags the ideas with the chair, so that they will more likely both hear them in your speech and understand what you are trying to do as the round progresses. While not bluntly giving away your country's real motivation, you have a lot more liberty to flag things you’re afraid might get missing once the committee session starts with this paper

Everyone can read them

These types of position papers, where all the delegates can access them, are the most complex and devide into two categories. The first if where the delegates and the chairs read them and the second is where the chairs will likely not read them in depth (for example a room with 200 delegates and the position paper deadline is the day before the conference).

For when only the delegates read them and the chairs probably do not, you still want to use the platform to show why the discussion should focus where you want it to focus. For this reason, the position paper should be written more to frame the issue than give concrete detailed policies. Delegates who did not research to the same extent, or have no position can be introduced to your interpretation of the topic, and might adopt it or at least be familiar with it when they hear it in a speech.

When the chair will read the position papers, and the delegates can access them as well, as the most complex to write. In these cases the ideal would be to write a paper where the chair will see what you would want them to see if only they were reading it while the delegates would see the same. This is a hard balance to find but if erring to one side, better to build for the delegates and hope the chair has the experience to read between the lines.​

​One more variable to take into consideration is when position papers are written for a gigantic committee (100 or more delegates).In gigantic rooms, the position paper should have at least the basics of the policy because one might not speak in the first few hours and this might be the only way to get it onto the floor.

Position Paper Strategy

Credit is given by good chairs to delegates who properly predict the room and are able to guide their policies from the position paper to the final resolution. An idea from the position paper reaching the resolution is to the delegate credit. This is because it means either that the delegates accurately predicted which direction the discussion would go it, or better still were able to direct the room in that direction.

This does not mean that the best delegate must have an excellent position paper, or perfectly stick to it. Aside from the best position paper award, the actions that take place in the committee are almost completely what chairs will consider for awards. However, the position paper has many times been used as a tiebreaker.

To show a good understanding of the issue, your country and the strategy of Model UN and position papers, the following should be kept in mind.

The policy outlined in the final section of the position paper should show the ideas as to how to solve the problem associated with the committee topic (as should have been specified in the first paragraph), and should be justified by the country’s past history and relation to the topic (the second paragraph). Each of these paragraphs should try to have as much unique information as possible that can’t be found in the committee study guide, as everyone in the committee theoretically knows that information. For those who don’t, while regrettable that they didn’t read the study guide, your position paper is not the pace to introduce them to it. Obviously the main issues of the topic needs to be there but aside from that it should be information that supports your case.

Other supporting material, covering additional angles, can fill further paragraphs but the key is to show clear thinking and support of the policy, or policies, that are being advocated for. Collectively, all of the sections of the position paper should show how the delegates unique and country specific research furthers the understanding of what was originally read in the committee study guide.

Position Paper Format

The format of each Positions Paper, or position paper template, varies from conference to conference. Sometimes the conference will give you a blank position paper template, with the logo and headings for you to fill in. Other conferences will send you position paper instructions about how they want the paper formatted.

​Each position paper should be measured by its content, to properly inform and influence the respective chairs, or delegate. However, the position paper will not reach that point if it is not accepted. It is a pity that your work will not be read, or forwarded on, because you got font wrong, exceeded the margins or sent the paper in late. For this reason, whether strict or lax, read and follow the position paper formatting instructions so that the hard work you put into the document can achieve its strategic objective.

Position Paper Example Instructions #1:
Write the Position Paper for ExampleMUN 2018 using the standards below

  • Length must not exceed two pages.
  • Margins must be 2.54 cm or 1 inch for the entire paper.
  • Font must be Times New Roman size 12.
  • Justify the paragraphs. The left and right margins must both have straight edges.
  • Country name, institution committee name must be clearly labeled on the top of the 1st page.
  • Agenda topics must be clearly labeled as the title.
  • National symbols, such as flags, logos, etc. are deemed inappropriate for ExampleMUN position papers.
  • Convert your document to PDF format.

Position Paper Example Instructions #2:
We ask delegates of ExampleMUN to each produce a position paper before the conference.

It must outline their country's position, main objectives and issues they are seeking to address during the conference. Your chairs will return the position papers to you with feedback a fortnight before the conference. This will give you time to ascertain which countries would be considered natural allies for you and for you to read which issues the other delegates may deem important.A position paper the length of one side of A4 should be sufficient to state your position

For Chairs: How chairs read position papers

Like position paper format instructions are given to delegates, chairs are also given instructions by the Model UN conference secretariat on how to evaluate position papers. Chairing, from when you write the study guide until the closure of debate is a sacred responsibility and, often, a chair need to fill in their own gaps between the secretariats instructions and doing the job in real time.While the secretariat may sometimes give very detailed instructions, something it is up to each chair to decide how to give their feedback. To better understand the considerations regarding position papers, read the following instructions were given by an Under-secretary General of Chairing to their staff.

Dear Chairs,

As of this weekend all second round allocations should have their study guides. While some delegates will still be getting allocations over the next week, most of them will received guidelines for how and when to send position papers. The delegates are required to send the Position Papers to the committee email from the 20th – 26th of February. Any Position Paper received by the 26th before midnight should receive feedback from one of the chairs. You are not obligated to give feedback to papers received from the 27th onwards. Hopefully, you should get most or all of the papers before the deadline. Papers received after the 28th are not eligible for a best position paper award, as you may not have time to check them. Position Papers that are received after March 1st, or not at all, will make the delegate ineligible for an award.

In the position papers, we want to see that delegates show they understand (a) the topic (b) their countries positions and history and (c) the policies they propose to solve it / perpetuate it (if they are evil).

The Position Papers which arrive on time should get feedback. This does not need to be more than a few lines per topic. However, we do require you to tell the delegates if they did a good job or if they are lacking in one of the three sections mentioned above. You should also tell them what you want them to improve. In the feedback, where possible, please use examples from their text. To do this most effectively, divide the position papers amongst yourselves and return them when you can. You are not required to send feedback if the delegate sends you an improved position paper. Our main goal is for you to have prepared delegates in your committee, and a rewritten position paper generally indicates better preparation.

If anyone one would like more information on giving feedback or other questions relating to Position Papers, please let me know in a reply to this email.

Good Luck
USG Chairing

It is true that not all conferences have this level of instruction to chairs. Some have more, some give online workshops about position papers and some give no instruction at all. However, in many cases, the feedback is left to a chair's discretion, which means that the methodology of position paper feedback is up to each respective chair.
In such cases, giving feedback on the basics, according the the guidelines at the beginning of this article, are a good start. You can also giving topic specific feedback, which uses examples of what to improve, based on what you wrote in your study guide.

Guiding Questions For A Chair When Writing Position Paper Feedback

Question for the Quality Position Paper

- Did the delegate reframe the topic to make the problem more relevant to them?
- Did they show their countries relation to the topic?
- Did they offer policies that can be passed in the resolution?
- Do these policies relate to their country's position?
- Did they use examples?
- Did the examples use information from your study guide?
- Does any of the paper show research outside the study guide?

Questions you hope don’t cross your mind

- Does the study guide look like it was copied off of wikipedia, or some other online source?
- Is the paper so vague that I change the name of the country and it remain as “valid”?
- Was this delegate inebriated / intoxicated when they wrote this?
- Does the writer know what Model UN is?

Using these questions, and others, you can give the delegate relevant to position paper examples, and instructions, for how to improve. Feel free to copy and paste sections of the study guide to help the delegates understand what to improve upon. A few good questions can result in a complete makeover of a position paper, and possibly a much improved delegate as well.

In a nutshell

Position papers are important. Knowing if the position paper will be read only by the chair or by the delegates should be taken into account when choosing what to write and focus on. Position paper format should be taken into account but not at the expense of quality.

A position paper should accomplish three goals:

  1. ​Show your country's unique understanding of the problem at hand
  2. Show your countries previous relationship to the topic (preferably with relevant examples)
  3. Show policies and ideas that (1) represent the interests of your country and (2) you would ideally like to see in the resolution.

The policy outlined in the final section of your position paper should show your ideas as to how to solve the problem associated with the committee topic (as you should have specified in your first paragraph), and should be justified by your country’s past history and relation to the topic.

When you’re a chair, give instructive feedback with pointed examples. Your comments could be there difference between lost and on point delegating or a good conference and a great one.

Remember don’t forget the magic formula:

In paragraph 3 you solve the problem in paragraph 1 with the tools and relevance you set up in paragraph 2.
Good luck!

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