What is a position paper?
If you have only attended our weekly sessions so far, it can very well be that the term has not crossed your path yet. They are, however, vital to hold well-reseachred, constructive and dare I say fruitful debates at any big conference. They are short, concise outlines of your country´s position on the topic(s) at hand.
Usually, delegates get access to the position papers written by their co-delegates before the conference. A well prepared delegate will thus read over the papers of potential allies before, giving them a solid idea of the political landscape in the comittee before the chairs can ask for the first roll call. Position papers are also often taken into consideration by the chairs when it comes to giving out awards.
A position paper thus must serve three main purposes.
First, show that you understand the topic by showing its main challenges, why it is important and how it relates to your country.
Second, what experience does your country have with the topic at hand? What policies has it pursued, what challenges has it faced? Here you can show off your research skills and quote treaties, resolutions, all that jazz.
Finally, deduced from the first two, lay out your goal in the comuttee. What plans/ideas do you have? Do you want to doublle down on past approaches or choose a new angle? Or are you against the popular position, presenting a different view altogether? Here, others can see what they can expect from you.
The structure of a position paper
A typical position paper measures about 1-2 pages per topic, depending on complexity. After stating your name, committee and country, you´ll start with the first part, which should not be more than one nice paragrapgh. Don´t give a whole presentation of the issue here: we have all read the stuy guide and the Wikipedia page, no need for a third telling. Just mention the aspects of the topic that are most important to your country.
This leads to the next part: What is your history with the topic? Sometimes it seems hard to connect a specific country to a quite specific topic. What does the United Kingdom have to do with illegal poaching? In these cases, it is often a good idea to look at your allies and what they have done. Chances are your country is part of a voting bloc in some organisation or has some law passed relating to the issue. This way you will find that while the UK has no problem with poaching directly, they have conducted training missions for south African rangers to combat poaching in the past. You can go into a bit more detail here, but again, not too much. Try to keep it at one ore two paragraphs. Focus on two ore three important things that others schould know to understand your action in comittee.
Lastly explain your desired outcome in two steps: First, what you want to achieve and second, how you want to do that. Both are equally important. We all want peace; but by intervention or dialogue? You can always create a vague new-sub-organization to pass the buck along; but what should that new body do and in what direction should they work? Both questions need to be answered here, of course in line with your countries policy. Sometimes this just means reading your foreign ministry´s twitter account, sometimes it means extrapolating a general policy form, in other cases it means to find out how your government would act if they were to cover the topic. This should be again about a paragraph long, but make no mistake; it is the most vital part of your position paper.
Now, some things regarding the general form: Of course the working language is English (duh) and you write from the first-person plural. Remember: you act as if you were a representative withut agency from your country! Like debate, position papers are no space for personal opinion, You write as if you are the country.
These points should give you a general idea of how to structure your position paper. If you have the time (we know you do) and want to improve your MUN-skills (we know you want to), why not write up a quick position paper on a current topic of your choosing? If you want feedback for your paper you can send it to us. Just pick a country and start writing!
Have fun writing and until the next time!