A Model UN Crisis: How Khalil won Best Delegate at Georgetown NAIMUN — in a position that didn’t exist

Here’s a Model UN crisis: how do you win an award in a historical crisis committee — when your assigned position didn’t historically exist?

This guest post was written by Khalil Mair, who won the Best Delegate award at Georgetown’s North American Invitational Model United Nations Conference (NAIMUN) last month.

Khalil was in a historical crisis committee on 1941 Yugoslavia representing the Director of Intelligence. This was an “invented” position — there was no Yugoslav Director of Intelligence in 1941.

How do you research and prepare for a historical crisis committee when there’s no research or history on your position?

Here’s how Khalil did it — which earned him the award of Best Delegate at one of America’s top Model UN conferences.

Enter Khalil.


I was thrilled when I received my assignment for Georgetown NAIMUN 2015: Director of Intelligence on the Yugoslav Partisans 1941 Historical Joint Crisis. This position had the potential to be a lot of fun!

What I didn’t realize was that my position was “invented.” Historically, there was no Director of Intelligence.

This meant going into the conference without any real information on my position. This would make the simulation far more challenging than I first thought.

And yet, at the end of the conference, I walked away with the award of Best Delegate.

How do you win Best Delegate in a crisis committee — while representing a position that didn’t actually exist?

Here are the steps I took to prepare for NAIMUN, what I did well during the conference, and the big lessons about crisis that I’ve taken away.

Read, read, read everything you can find about your topic.

Khalil served as the Minister of Finance in the Pakistani Cabinet during the Summer 2014 MUN Institute.

Khalil served as the Minister of Finance in the Pakistani Cabinet during the Summer 2014 MUN Institute.

My mantra for research before NAIMUN was “Read, Read, Read.”

Reading my background guide and its multiple pages of sources, I could tell that my chair and crisis director were well-versed in the background. I knew that I would have to be, too.

In crisis, I like to be able to react as though I were actually in the situation, and that means having a deeper understanding not just of the facts, but of the forces at play under the surface.

I read as much as I could find about Yugoslavia, in Wikipedia, military analysis websites, historical books, and then I made sure I understood what was going on in the rest of the world.

Even if I didn’t print everything I had read, or use it all in committee, it allowed me to understand the events of the committee in a bigger picture than crisis may have presented.

Prepare ‘crisis arcs’ — long-term stories, plans, and goals — to give you an advantage in committee.

Khalil at the MUN Institute during Summer 2014.

Khalil at the MUN Institute during Summer 2014.

At first, creating a plan and position for an invented character seemed impossible — that’s why I turned to Best Delegate.

I read the Basic Crisis Arcs article on the Best Delegate blog, but I had never considered using developed arcs until I attended Best Delegate’s MUN Institute last summer.

The crisis program included lecture sessions and discussions about crisis strategies. It helped me understand that doing crisis well means not just imagination, but imagination applied to detailed plans.

During the program, we simulated both prepared for daily crisis committees and an ad hoc midnight crisis. I learned that no matter how much you know about a situation, having long-term plans is the best way to come out on top.

In crisis committees, long-term stories and plans which you put into place through a number of smaller actions are called crisis arcs, and they should be the center of any great delegate’s strategy in committee.

To develop mine, I took advantage of the huge amount of experience shared by MUN Institute alumni. I asked for help on how I could do well in committee. There’s nothing better than second opinions to develop a solid plan!

Even with all that help, it wasn’t easy to prepare for a character who doesn’t exist. So I built crisis arcs based on the position and my research: building grassroots peasant support for my cause, ensuring the support of the Allies, gaining an intelligence advantage over the enemy in committee.

One thing to remember was not to over-develop in-depth plans because the situation in crisis committees changes so quickly. What’s more important is having long-term goals.

I made sure to find the details which I knew would be important no matter what happened: my crisis binder included the names of world leaders, lists of alliances, military base locations, and equipment lists.

Finally, I was really grateful for the section of my binder on different types of maps: political, geographic, and military.

It’s a huge advantage to be the person everyone crowds around in unmod to look at a map, or to be the one delegate whose notes always have specific locations.

In my preparation, I learned that great crisis arcs are based on realistic goals executed using real-life information.

Always write crisis notes and push debate forward — that’s how you stand out from the crowd.

With my research in hand and crisis arcs in mind, I came to the first committee session still unaware of how my character would fit into the group dynamic.

My committee was surprisingly cohesive, with no traitors and little disagreement about major substantive issues. I would need to find a way to stand out.

I knew I needed to gain trust and demonstrate to my chair that I was serious. So I started to put my crisis plans in place to the benefit of the committee.

By always writing notes to crisis and to other delegates, I managed to participate in committee actions and going beyond debate to push the committee forward.

A key part of why I was able to succeed is because my crisis arcs and notes were significantly improved after attending the MUN Institute.

I learned to remember that crisis staff and the dais are human, and that respecting them makes them far more receptive to your plans.

But don’t be afraid to have some fun — everyone needs a smile after 6 hours of committee!

Also, by keeping my crisis arcs in mind, I was able avoid sending notes which were irrelevant and likely to be rejected.

Finally, I was able to use my research to make detailed crisis notes. The most credible note isn’t just creative — it includes details that the real character would include!

Winning at NAIMUN as an invented character was definitely one of the highlights of my MUN career. But I’m even happier because it showed me how preparation, long-term planning, humanity, and a little good-hearted fun can pay off.


{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Max Mellott March 11, 2015, 1:03 am

    I was in this same committee at NAIMUN as the Director of Propaganda, and won the Outstanding Delegation award in the committee and I am 100% certain the only reason I did not get best was because Khalil has a much better crisis arc then me-and one that I did not even suspect was happening until far too late into the committee. I spent the majority of my time focusing on writing committee directives-not unsuccessfully-but that alone did not set me apart from the multiple other delegate pursuing the same strategy. Khalil was a unique feature in the committee because of his crisis notes-he created an entire section of the crisis that we had to deal with by inciting pro-democracy protests, and culminating in a trial against him. In the mean time, my own crisis notes did not have a substantial impact on committee, and in the face of their failure, by the last two committee sessions, I had almost given up on writing them-most of what I could think of was just the same as before.

    That is what set Khalil apart and allowed him to win Best Delegate. Sometimes just being a major force in bringing committee to pass directives is not enough-not if you do not also bring a unique perspective and a developed and consistent character (if fictional) to the table. Congratulations to Khalil for managing to do so-I may have been able to get the best of delegates focused only on the technical aspects of committee and debate, but he was able to bring an interesting an unique character to the table, and thus a well deserved gavel! I look forward to hopefully encountering you again in the MUN world (and this time, I intend tonot be taken at unawares by your crisis plans!)

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