Position Paper Guide
This document will be a brief introduction to the position paper and how to write well-researched, relevant, and appropriate position papers for the Diplomacy Competition.
In essence, a position paper is a kind of essay that will present your assigned country’s opinion on a particular topic or issue. Types of position papers can range from a simple letter to the editor to a complicated academic thesis.
The position papers that you’ll write for the Diplomacy Competition will be more focused on the resolution at hand than the topic in general. The bulk of the discussion should be about the topics identified in the resolution.
Writing position papers will help you develop skills in research, analysis, critical thinking, and argumentation. These are not only useful life skills, but extremely useful assets at in-person Model UN conferences as well!
Resolutions are the basic decisions or statements made by the various departments and organs of the United Nations. The most common resolutions are ones from the General Assembly, which includes all 193 member states of the UN, or the Security Council. Once adopted, a resolution declares the official policy of that organ of the UN. While General Assembly resolutions may hold a great deal of political and moral weight, they are not typically binding.
Resolutions may contain general statements or directions for specific organisations, bodies, or states. They may denounce the actions of a state or group, call for collective action, or, as in the case of the Security Council, authorise economic and military sanctions. Resolutions are divided into two main sections – Preambulatory clauses and Operative clauses.
Preambulatory clauses are the un-numbered clauses at the beginning of a resolution and provide some background to the resolution. They usually refer to previous resolutions on the topic, highlight actions that some organisations or groups have taken in addressing or aggravating the problem, and outline important issues relating to the topic. Preambulatory clauses cannot be amended.
Operative clauses are the numbered clauses. They contain the policy statements of the resolution and represent an action plan. Each of these clauses starts with an Operative phrase, which is essentially a glorified verb. These clauses deal with the topic thoroughly with ideas arranged in a logical progression. Your position paper should focus on these clauses.
You can only amend the operative clauses of a resolution. There are three types of amendments:
- Amend: an edit to a pre-existing clause in the resolution
- Add clause: adding a new operative clause to the resolution
- Strike: removing a particular clause from the resolution
Below are some examples of common operative phrases:Accepts Considers Expresses its appreciation Regrets Affirms Declares Expresses its hope Reminds Approves Deplores Invites Requests Asks Designates Notes Supports Calls upon Emphasises Proclaims Takes note of Confirms Encourages Reaffirms Urges Congratulates Endorses Recommends Welcomes
Below are a few points to consider as you do your research. Remember that you will be provided with a resolution and briefing paper to discuss.
- Get a good grasp of your country’s general stance on the topic at hand and look for evidence of this stance from actions your country has taken, statistics, and authoritative quotes
- Focus on the issues identified in the resolution, then look at other issues that could be considered
- Generate ideas for amendments to the resolution
Here is a sample position paper structure to give you something to refer to as you write.
- Introduction – This could include, but is not limited to:
- Why this issue is important and how it affects your country in particular
- Quotes from your country’s leaders and statistics to support your country’s stance
- Body – This should include paragraphs that outline:
- Analysis for each of the operative clauses of the resolution:
- Whether your country believes the clause is a good idea and why
- Discussion on the extent which your country has implemented or has not implemented each clause and why
- Relevant amendments and how they have affected your stance / final vote on the resolution
- Analysis for each of the operative clauses of the resolution:
- Outline the most important aspects of the issue in your country’s view
- State your country’s stance on the resolution as it now stands
Ex. 1 – Calls upon all member states to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty
- Initially state whether your country has ratified the agreement
- If they have, discuss why they decided to support the agreement and to what extent have they implemented its provisions
- If they haven’t, discuss why they haven’t and what changes are acceptable / unacceptable in terms of passed amendments
Ex. 2 – Urges all member states to enact or strengthen legislation for the control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) within their jurisdiction
- Discuss the laws that your country has enacted with regard to SALW control
- Discuss potential laws that your country is willing or not willing to enact and why
- Explore relevant amendments that have made the resolution more / less favourable to your country
Remember that the purpose behind writing your position paper is to discuss your nation’s perspectives on the issues at hand and remember why you have come to your current conclusions, specifically relating to any of the amendments which have altered the resolution and your stance. Each position paper should have a systematic analysis of the operative clauses of the resolution as it now stands
Example Position Paper
The following document provides some further examples regarding the attributes (shown in green) that a good position paper exhibits, and the flaws (shown in red) that they avoid)
Team: Team Rocket
Country: New Zealand
New Zealand supports the resolution with the amendments and will vote “for” this resolution. We have always been a country with strong engagement and currently have 93% (statistical / outside evidence) of the population with internet access in their home. The New Zealand government has always thought that internet access is important and sees it as a modern day tool which opens up many opportunities, including education, and social engagement. New Zealand also supports the development of information technology services overseas (wider, current evidence) and believes that as globalisation continues on an upwards trend, the importance of having access to the internet will become more imperative to people around the world.
New Zealand proposed the modification of an amendment (relating to specific amendment examples) to lower the amount of GDP the UN General Assembly was recommending member states spend on information technology each year. This is because (explaining reasons behind specific position on clause) spending 5% of a country's’ GDP on development of information technology is practically far too much and would be difficult for almost every country as 5% of a country's GDP is a significant portion. With the support of the USA and Great Britain, we lowered this amount to more accurately match how much money would need to be spent to continue to improve and maintain services in many different economies.
Germany proposed a modification to a clause which had the effect of requesting member states send a representative to the next meeting of the Internet Governance Forum. New Zealand was a strong supporter of this amendment as it encourages all member states to engage with some of the technology issues facing the globe today. The New Zealand delegation did express some concern for feasibility and cost, (it is unclear whether or not these concerns are related to the member state - New Zealand itself, or the other nations present. Both aspects should be discussed and considered with clear distinctions between the two) but unfortunately other delegations didn’t engage with this concern.
New Zealand also supported a clause proposed by Singapore, that wanted to make an amendment to request member states get 90% internet access by 2020. This is simply impossible, even for countries with excellent information technology infrastructure. There will be at least part of the population who do not want to engage with these services. 90% is far more realistic and is still considered to be excellent accessibility. The New Zealand delegation wishes to express their disappointment this clause failed.
New Zealand did not support the proposed amendment from the United Arab Emirates to delete a clause which encouraged equal access for men and women. Gender equality is a global issue that is still prevalent in almost every country. (Could have discussed specific New Zealand policy relating to gender equality, which would show evidence of this belief) New Zealand believes that all genders should be allowed the same access to a tool such as the internet. Strong internet engagement allows the spread of ideas and theories which encourages social change. (Relate back to why this is specifically important to your member state. What has your nation done to tangibly show these values or positions?) Preventing a large portion of the population from having access to such resources is inexcusable. The New Zealand delegation was very pleased this clause failed. The New Zealand delegation would like to note they would have supported an amendment to encourage access to all genders so as to acknowledge the existence of more than two genders. (No clear conclusion relating to the overall position of this member state on the resolution as it now stands)
The word limit is 500. This is quite brief so make sure your introduction and conclusions are concise as the body is where you will be earning most of your marks. A good position paper will evenly distribute the word allocation between each operative clause and other issue being discussed.
The simplest way of incorporating amendments or recommendations into your position paper is through a 1-2 sentence suggestion at the end of your analysis for a clause or issue.
You should also reference any resources you have used by way of footnotes. There is no preferred method of referencing. For online sources just note the web address and for books just note the title and author(s). Footnotes won’t count towards your total word count for the position paper.
Vocabulary and Language
Avoid colloquialisms and informal language. Also remember to refer to your country by using either its name, “we”, or “the government of ...”.