Writing Position Papers Created by Joanna Clark Macalester College Model United Nations, 2009 NMUN Expectations Position papers should provide a concise review of each delegation’s policy regarding the topic areas under discussion and establish precise policies and recommendations in regard to the topics before the committee. International and regional conventions, treaties, declarations, resolutions, and programs of action of relevance to the policy of your State should be identified and addressed. Discussing recommendations for action to be taken by your committee is another portion of the position paper that should be considered. Position papers also serve as a blueprint for individual delegates to remember their country’s position throughout the course of the Conference. NMUN Expectations The NMUN Conference will not tolerate the occurrence of plagiarism. Although United Nations documentation is considered within the public domain, the Conference does not allow the verbatim re-creation of these documents. This plagiarism policy also extends to the written work of the Secretariat contained within the Committee Background Guides. Don’t worry about citations; they take up room and won’t be necessary if you refer in-text to specific documents. Background Information The first portion of a position paper will give a brief overview of the issues facing the committee (AKA your topics) and The Gambia’s general position within the committee and in the world relating to these issues. Essentially, reaffirm your country’s support for whatever the committee has done so far and reiterate the need for certain changes. This is the perfect place for a three-item list. “The Gambia believes that in order to combat poverty in developing nations, the most important considerations are assistance from NGOs, infrastructural development and transparency of local government.” These are random suggestions that may just be applicable in any committee. The point being, you can make anything sound like it already exists or is a legitimate recommendation. Keep it Brief You may be tempted to use every piece of research you’ve found over the course of the semester. First, AVOID THIS TEMPTATION. Second, pare your research down to the most vital points you’d like to make regarding your country’s stance on an issue. Third, make sure you’ve included recommendations that can be adapted to working papers in committee. Lastly, if your position paper seems to be lacking length or substance, add in those facts which you may have discarded before. Finding a Balance The ideal position paper has a balance of: General historical and background information, Statistics related to the topic or your country, Recommendations for the committee/other countries. Although it will be much easier to write a position paper based solely on The Gambia’s history or all of the awesome statistical tidbits you’ve found, you must include recommendations. The Dias is more interested in your ability to create new solutions or adapt old ones than it is in your ability to spout general facts. Keep it Distant Be careful about tone throughout the paper. Position papers don’t need to read like professional legal documents, but avoid personal pronouns and slang. Passive voice is OK. Because you will be passing non-binding resolutions in committee, it’s appropriate to let your recommendations and therefore language be passive. Grammar & Punctuation Unsurprisingly, grammar and punctuation play an important role in the grading process. This doesn’t mean you can hide poor research behind pretty words. BS is often more transparent when it’s written, so get rid of it. It is better to write a slightly shorter paper that is factual, well-written and based on research than a longer paper full of nice-sound garbage. Tricks of the Trade When you’ve typed everything relevant and still feel that something is missing – namely length – from your position paper, there are a few tricks to be used. Type the full name of any NGO, institution, resolution or official document and put its acronym in parentheses the first time you use it. From then on, use the acronym only. Write out the name of the numbers one through twelve. (Actually, do this anyway. It’s grammatically correct.) Change the line space. Your lines don’t have to be single, double or 1.5 spaced. Get creative. When it makes sense, change active sentences to passive. All those extra helping verbs start to make a difference. If your paper is lacking substance, none of these can hide that fact. Again, it is better to have a substantive paper that is less than two full pages than to simply use all of these “tricks”. Make it Effective Using past precedents is good. Setting them is better. Refer to past resolutions, acts or organizations that you think are relevant to the issue at hand, but when you do so you need to: Express support, Express opposition, Rethink them in terms of new strategies, changing economies and/or globalization. Don’t just cite a resolution to fill space. Make it serve a purpose in your paper. Feasible is Your Friend There are lots of fun words that show up pretty frequently in good position papers. Don’t be afraid to harness the power of formal, political writing. It makes you look smarter than other people. Be careful about word misuse. What is “infrastructure”? You can get away with more in committee than in your position paper in terms of mistakes and misuses, so proofread and don’t BS. Evaluation What vocabulary is prevalent in position papers? What language never should have been used in the first place? Take a look at the sample position papers and analyze the tone, vocabulary, etc. What are some strengths in each one? What are some weaknesses?
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