A GUIDE TO RAISING POINTS (THIMUN/UNA-USA)
If we liken the discussions in a Model United Nations conference to bread, then points and motions are its butter. Not only are they integral in ensuring that discussions run smoothly, but they also serve as the decisive flavour and tipping points of debate. To ease yourself into the flow of a typical MUN session, this article will not only try to clear up the jargon behind points and motions, so that you will learn not only how they work -- but also gain a little insight into the art of using points to your advantage, whether it be to move closer to a friendlier consensus, or just gain a little edge over your fellow delegates.
Points can serve two roles – a functional one and a tactical one. As high achieving as
anyone may be, we are all still human. This is where points can come useful. First is
the point of personal privilege -- the common joke regarding this point is using it to go to the bathroom. However, it is more commonly used for other personal discomforts that impede debate, such as audibility, for when the speech cannot be heard clearly due to volume. Unlike the other points, this is the only point that can disrupt debate, so be sure to use this only when necessary.
Points of order are, on the other hand, where delegates are certain that the chair is
violating protocol. When all of the points get too confusing, there is always the safety net – the point of parliamentary inquiry, where delegates can clarify doubts regarding debate procedure to the chair. The key — just be sure not to interrupt the debate!
POINTS OF INFORMATION
Points of Information (POIs) can often be the game-changer in the debate, and indeed the proving ground of the best delegates. Points of Information are questions that delegates ask in response to the speech just delivered, in order to either clarify
statements, give support, or more importantly raise doubts regarding the speech's
claims. This is where your research and preparation can come in handy, Often,
delegates can be caught off guard by country-specific details, especially when giving
support speeches regarding topics they are unfamiliar with!
USING POINTS OF INFORMATION
Points of Information can be used in various capacities – most commonly in an
offensive setting, where you seek to expose flaws in opposing speeches. During speeches, listen carefully and take note of the key arguments that opposing delegates present, especially prioritising vagueness or factual inaccuracies you can target. You should have notes prepared beforehand, and in the process of taking notes, cross-check with your information to see if they match up.
Formulate a key concern that you want to target, and make sure that your question is
phrased clearly and concisely, specifically focused on the speeches’ content. Most
importantly, be sure to use third person throughout, and follow diplomatic protocol –
rather than “He said in his speech”, opt for “The delegate of Germany mentioned”.
Finally, if the delegate’s answer was unsatisfactory, feel free to seek permission from
the chair to ask follow-up questions, or even state that your question has not been answered. Doing so can be useful to consolidate your own position—most importantly, do not allow them to waffle your great question away!
Additionally, when a resolution is being introduced (in THIMUN procedure), there
will also be time set aside for points of clarification, where the main submitter
clarifies the intentions behind the resolution’s clauses under doubts presented by other delegates in the house. Points of clarification should not be confused for POIs, as using points of clarification to attack delegates with masked POIs is considered bad form.
A SIDE NOTE: OPENING UP YOURSELF TO AND
DEFENDING POINTS OF INFORMATION
Similarly, there are many ways to tackle answers to POIs – and it depends on the
situation one is in. The overarching rule is to present yourself as confident and well-
informed. Upon concluding a speech, delegates open themselves up to Points of
Information from other delegates -- although to a degree of their choice. This is where
careful consideration on how many questions you allow can play a critical role in
presenting your own image. If it is on a topic you are comfortable in answering, gun away! Make yourself open to any and all. If it is something that you feel like supporting but don’t necessarily know everything about, be fearless and open yourself up to at least three questions (even though there might only be time for one). Almost never choose to open yourself up to no questions as this merely makes you seem unconfident and eager to run away, instead of being in control.
As a last resort, delegates can also attempt to escape the question through replying
"this delegate will reply in note form"—however, unless previous replies have been extremely confident, this should be avoided. At first, this may seem intimidating,
but with more times you speak, the conference slows down, and you will find wonderful possibilities to express yourself through replies. So be fearless and approach the podium!
Motions, in contrast to points, are requests to essentially do something to change the current flow of the debate. An example of this would be the motion to move to the previous question, where delegates request to close debate and move directly to voting procedures. Although motions seem to merely serve practical functions, they can also be used beyond a functional context. Motions can call for unmoderated or moderated caucuses, which forces additional deliberation between delegates so support blocs can be reformed before further debate.
A motion to divide the house removes abstentions, and forces delegates on the fence to pick a side to force a more decisive result. This forces substantive voting, and is useful when helping to pass resolutions on more controversial issues. The skilful use of motions, paired with consistent Points of Information can often not only determine the outcome of the resolution, but also establish your image as an assertive delegate. A motion to divide the question also exists, which separates the clauses within the draft resolution, which are then individually voted upon – usually reserved for more divisive resolutions.
RIGHT TO TRPLY
Passion can sometimes go overboard, and reach into territory that breaches diplomatic protocol. This isn't anything new – choice soundbites have always been part of international dynamics. Former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez once called
American president George Bush the devil and complained that he stank of sulfur
at the United Nations General Assembly! However, in the conference room, diplomacy is the rule of law, and delegates are allowed to reply if they believe their personal pride or national sovereignty has been insulted -- this is what we call the right to reply.
Right to replies have no time for delay. Delegates immediately raise their placard
after the offending statement to request for a right to reply—and upon approval from
the chair, can fire back instantly in response to a certain insulting statement. This is
particularly useful if you've done your research and you negate a false statement
about your country in a speech -- there is almost no better way to delegitimise an
In conclusion, this is but just a mere introduction to points and motions – compared to words. However, the best way to familiarise yourself is just to go with the flow at
a conference, listening and observing closely. Just make sure to put in the work and
research, and they will come to be great tools for you. Be enthusiastic and give it