Survive and Thrive in Technical Committees
For many MUNers technical is a dirty word, a euphemism for the unfathomable, and synonymous with a dull and tedious weekend. As a result most MUNers who hail from a non-science background (i.e. 95% of you) tend to shy away from any committees discussing technical topics, such as the IAEA, the UN’s Ad Hoc Energy Committee, or the Food and Agriculture Organisation discussing the likes of fertiliser leakage. In the event such delegates do end up on these committees they will arm themselves with all-sorts of tangentially relevant jargon on finance, securitisation, etc. all in an effort to avoid discussing the technical topic at hand.
But fact of the matter is that much like the tale of Green Eggs & Ham, while off-putting before you try them, these committees and their technicality can make for some of the most constructive MUN experiences you’ll ever have, and can be great stomping grounds for beginners and veterans alike. The lukewarm consensus at the start of debate is an opportunity to seize, not a punishment to endure. The key to such committees, in which wide-ranging consensus is the norm, is not to be the most bullish but rather to strive to lead and build the consensus. How, you ask? Well by embracing the technicality of the topic, of course.
Being an Engineering undergraduate I am often told that it’s easy for me to get to grips with the science of the topic, seeing as I’ve probably learnt about it in a course of mine anyway… and it’s true! But I don’t think science has to be confusing, it’s all about having the right approach, and behind every competently knowledgeable, two-faced delegate is a successful marathon of good preparation.
Do your homework
The key to good preparation is to emulate the advantage a science student has. While you can’t put in the same amount of time studying, you can focus on trying to understand the science first before looking into the ethics, politics and your country’s stance on it. Search it on Wikipedia, high school science websites, National Geographic, watch a documentary, whatever. Just make sure that you get a balanced understanding of the science before you look into the bias surrounding.
Learn a little about everything
All too often delegates find out about their country’s position and only become familiar with the details of some technologies, dismissing the others as ‘unethical’, ‘too expensive’, or ‘impractical’ without actually understanding why such technologies have earned that label. Do this and you run the danger of becoming sidelined and out of touch if the debate ends up discussing these topics. Be sure to equip yourself with some key points on technologies related to the topic, and find a couple of key current and future technologies which you can use as ‘buzzwords’ to get people talking about your ideas.
Don’t be afraid to be the expert
Once debate has opened don’t be afraid to bring up the underlying science, be it in your speech, or while lobbying; because if you can talk shop about the science of the topic, delegates will flock to you regardless of whether or not you fully understand what you’re talking about. Being the technical expert is a niche often unfilled, which makes whoever does fill it invaluable to fellow delegates. This can give you the platform you need to be heard and noticed.
Keep Implementation Optional
Finally, one of the biggest roadblocks in technical committees comes when developing countries object to a resolution because it calls for everyone to adopt some cutting edge technology. Very quickly the coalition of the willing that you’d worked so hard to assemble can fracture at the mention of implementation. But fear not! There is a simple way to avoid this crisis, and it comes back to how you lay out your policies. By building your working papers / draft resolutions around the idea of an “optional roadmap” member states can vote for your resolution without being obliged to implement if they can’t or don’t immediately want to. Include short, medium, and long term goals that member states can follow to adopt a strategy or technology no matter what level of development they are starting at.
In summary, next time you’re faced with a technical committee, step up to the challenge, and fill that technical expert niche by sticking to these simple rules. If you are well prepared, and have a good strategy to tackle a technical committee, who knows! You may even enjoy it…