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How to research your country
The emphasis of a Model UN event is on delegates finding out about their country themselves. One of the skills that you will gain is spotting bias in your sources – always bear in mind the origin and purpose of your source.
Some sources may give accurate information, but only about their narrow area of focus. For example, websites from human rights campaigners are useful for understanding civil and political rights, but less useful for understanding economic development.
A Model UN event is an opportunity to see what cooperation between states could achieve, and also to see why the international community has not solved all the world’s problems. This is why you should be ready to reflect the real views of the country you represent, even if you disagree with them. Only then can you understand the complex reasons why the world is the way it is and what has to change to make it better.
For some questions to help you to think about your country, click here. Not all the questions will apply to all countries or be equally important to all countries.
The following are suggestions for how to research your country:
- The BBC website produces country profiles which are useful as a starting point.
- The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (‘FCO’) produces more detailed country briefings.
- The UN Cyberschoolbus site produces basic and advanced information on all the member states of the UN, enabling you to compare different countries.
- See the website of your country’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.
- Search the UN website for information regarding your country and the issue to be debated.
- Look at the website of your country’s Embassy or High Commission (if they are a member of the Commonwealth) in the UK. If you cannot find the information you want, email or write to one of the diplomats at the Embassy or High Commission and ask for their country’s position on the topic to be debated. The FCO has a list of foreign Embassies in the UK, together with website and contact details.
- Search for the website of your country’s central government ministry which deals with the topic to be debated. Be aware that ministries may have a different name to that which you expected. For example, the US equivalent of the FCO is the Department of State. Also, a single Model UN issue may straddle many ministries. For example, internal water issues in the UK may fall under the Home Office or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; external water issues may fall under the FCO or the Department for International Development.
- Every year since 1990, the UN Development Programme has produced a Human Development Report, detailing all aspects of every country’s state of development. You can search by country and by theme.
- Freedom House produces audits of a country’s political rights and civil liberties, together with other useful information.
- Human Rights Watch produces country guides on states’ human rights records.
- Infoplease gives brief historical and other information on every UN state.
- Transparency International gives information about corruption worldwide.
- Find out which international organisations, apart from the UN, that your country is a member of. The aims of these organisations will give you an indication of the type of country that you have been assigned.
- Get a feel for the type of country that you have been assigned by searching for programmes or books about ordinary life in that country.