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Harvard Rules of Procedure by Meltem Eser


This guide has been prepared for Please keep in mind that the following Rules of Procedure is the official procedure used by national and international Model UN conferences, however, some aspects may vary depending on the procedures different conferences decide to follow. These rules can sometimes be implemented in a slightly different way depending on the academic level of the conference (JMUN, High School MUN or University Level MUN).

Origin and History

The first Model United Nations conference was held at St. Lawrence University in 11-13 February 1949, a couple of years after World War II. This conference included delegates from regional schools. After this, other Model United Nations conferences also started to be developed at Berkeley, Harvard and National Model United Nations (NMUN NY), along with other colleges and universities. These conferences also brought along the Rules Of Procedure which many conferences use today. On the other hand, THIMUN, The Hague International Model United Nations, had been developed by some American exchange students in The Hague, The Netherlands in 1987.

Rules of Procedure


Every conference will publish its agenda item(s) before the conference and all delegates are obliged to do research according to the agenda item(s). Conferences also publish unique “Study Guide”s or “Chair Report”s in accordance with the agenda items of the committees. As a result of research and understanding, delegates are (in most conferences) obliged to prepare an original position paper and send this to the secretariat of the conference. The position paper aims to clearly set the country’s position on the topic(s).

Delegates are obliged to present their country in a formal status during all official sessions. This includes dressing according to the official dress code, being courteous and respectful to the committee staff and to other delegates, and being physically confident and representative with good posture and professional appearance.

Delegates should be listening actively to fellow delegates and to the chair(s). They should also bear in mind that they have to speak in the name of their country when they are making a speech or commenting on the work of the committee. All delegates must read the Rules of Procedure published by the conference that they are attending. The general rules of procedure of Harvard MUN conferences will be explained in the next chapter.

Official Meeting
The basic feature of every big conference, along with MUN conferences, is that each conference starts with a registration period followed by an opening ceremony.


ROLL CALL: Each session will start with a roll call in order to see how many delegates are present, and to see if the Quorum has been reached. Quorum denotes the minimum number of delegates who need to be present in order to open debate. When at least one-quarter of the members of the Committee (as declared at the beginning of the first session) are present, the quorum is met, and the chair declares a Committee open to proceed with debate.

OPENING SPEECHES: All delegates are obliged to write an opening speech in the Harvard procedure to be read in the first session in accordance with the alphabetical order of the countries’ names.

SETTING THE AGENDA: The Agenda decides the order in which the topics will be discussed in the committee. Therefore the first matter the Committee decides on will be setting the agenda. A motion to set the agenda shall be introduced by the delegates.
A motion to put a Topic Area on the agenda shall be made first. This motion requires a second.
Delegates may only propose the Topic Areas listed in the preparation materials. The Chair has the right to change or modify these Topic Areas at his or her discretion.
A committee with only one Topic Area will be considered to have automatically adopted that Topic Area without debate.
A Speakers List will be established ‘for’ and ‘against’ the motion; speakers ‘for’ will speak in support of the Topic Area suggested, speakers ‘against’ will speak in favor of the other Topic Area.

GENERAL SPEAKERS’ LIST: A motion to set the General Speakers’ List shall be introduced and delegates wishing to be added to the list shall inform their chair by raising their placards, or by sending a message paper. Once a delegate has the floor in the General Speakers’ List, they will have a certain amount of time to make their speech. If they have any remaining time, delegates have to Yield the floor in the following ways:
Yield the time back to the Chair: “…yield our time back to the Chair.”
Yield the time to Points of Information: “…yield our time to Points of Information.”
Yield the time to another delegate: “…yield our time to the delegate of XXX”

MOTIONS: Setting the agenda is followed by a motion to open debate. Once the floor is open for motions, a motion to open debate or to open a speaker’s list may be introduced as “delegate of AAA motions to BBB”.

MODERATED CAUCUS: Caucus type where the purpose is to facilitate substantive debate at critical junctures in the discussion. In a moderated caucus, the Chair will temporarily depart from the General Speakers’ List and call on delegates to speak at his or her discretion. A motion for a moderated caucus is in order at any time when the floor is open, prior to closure of debate.

The delegate making the motion must briefly explain its purpose and specify a time limit for the caucus, not to exceed twenty minutes, a time limit for the individual speeches, and a short explanation of the issue to be discussed. “Motion for a moderated caucus with a total time of 15 minutes and 1 minute individual speaking time, in order to discuss XXX”

Delegates are not allowed to yield their remaining speaking time during moderated caucuses. No motions are in order between speeches during a moderated caucus. A delegate who has been recognized to speak during a moderated caucus will be ruled out of order by the Chair if the delegate’s speech does not address the topic of the current moderated caucus. If there are no delegates wishing to speak during a moderated caucus, the caucus shall immediately end. A moderated caucus may be extended only once, but only after the caucus has ended, and the total length of a moderated caucus and its extension may not be longer than 20 minutes.

UNMODERATED CAUCUS: A delegate may motion for an unmoderated caucus at any time when the floor is open, prior to closure of debate. The delegate making the motion must specify a time limit for the caucus, not to exceed twenty minutes. The motion will immediately be voted upon and will pass given a simple majority. An unmoderated caucus can not be motioned as the first caucus of the session. Unmoderated caucuses also get a priority in the voting procedure.

CLOSURE OF DEBATE: When the floor is open, a delegate may motion to close debate on the substantive or procedural topic that is being discussed. Delegates may move to close debate on the general topic, debate on the agenda, or debate on an amendment. When the closure of debate is moved, the Chair may choose up to two speakers against this motion. Speakers in favour of this motion will not be recognized. Closure of debate requires the support of two-thirds of the members present and voting. If there are no speakers against the closing of debate, the chair will ask the delegates if there are any objections, according to voting by acclamation. If there are no objections, the motion to close debate will automatically be adopted and the committee will move immediately to substantive voting procedure.

POINTS: Whenever a delegate has a concern about the procedure, about personal issues, etc. they may raise a point according to the following types of points.
Point of Parliamentary Inquiry: Point to be raised when a delegate has questions regarding the rules of procedure. This point may not be raised when another person is speaking.
Point of Personal Privilege: Point to be raised when a delegate has a personal issue such as temperature, not being able to hear another delegate, needing to leave the meeting room for personal issues, etc. Only a point about the audibility of another delegate may be raised during the debate.
Point of Order: Point to be raised when the Chair makes a mistake regarding the rules of procedure. This point may not be raised when others are speaking.
Right of Reply: May be used when the national integrity of a delegate is infringed upon and shall be sent to the Chair by notepaper. The Chair may use its discretion to overrule the right of reply.

SUSPENSION OR ADJOURNMENT OF THE MEETING: The suspension of the meeting means the postponement of all committee functions until the next meeting. The adjournment of the meeting means the postponement of all committee functions for the duration of the Conference. Whenever the floor is open, a delegate may motion for the suspension of the meeting or adjournment of the meeting. The Chair may rule such motions out of order in accordance with the meeting schedule. When in order, such motions will not be debatable but will be immediately voted upon, barring any motions taking precedence, and will require a simple majority to pass.

Path to a Resolution

WORKING PAPERS: Delegates may introduce working papers for the committee’s consideration. Working papers are not official documents and they do not need to be written in resolution format to be approved by the chair. These papers do not need to be voted upon and only the approval of the chair is sufficient. Working papers do not need sponsors or signatures and they often serve as foundations to the draft resolution.

DRAFT RESOLUTION: A draft resolution may be introduced when it receives the approval of the chair and is signed by 20 members in the General Assembly, 10 members in the Economic and Social Council and Regional Bodies, or 5 members in Crisis Committees. Signing a draft resolution only indicates a desire for the draft resolution to be discussed in the committee. There are no official sponsors of draft resolutions. A draft resolution requires a simple majority of members present to pass. Only one draft resolution may be passed per topic area.
Once the draft resolution has been approved, a delegate shall move to introduce the draft resolution. The Chair may ask for only the operative clauses to be read in order to save time for further debates.

AMENDMENTS: Delegates may amend any draft resolution that has been introduced by adding to, deleting from, or revising parts of it. Only one amendment may be introduced at any given time. A motion to introduce an approved amendment may be introduced when the floor is open. After this motion, the Chair may read the amendment out loud. The motion will pass by a simple majority. General debate will be suspended and a Speakers’ List will be established for and against the amendment.

VOTING PROCEDURE: Documents shall be voted upon in accordance with the following procedures.
SUBSTANTIVE VOTING: Substantive voting includes voting on draft resolutions and amendments. Once the committee closes debate on the general topic area, it will move into substantive voting procedures. At this time, the chambers are sealed, and no interruptions will be allowed. The only motions that will be in order are “Motion to Divide the Question, Motion to Reorder Draft Resolutions, Motion to Vote by Acclamation, and Motion for a Roll Call Vote”.

If these motions are not introduced, the Committee will vote on all draft resolutions in the order in which they were introduced. For substantive voting, each member will have one vote. Each vote may be a ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Abstain.’ Abstaining members are not considered to be voting, and are subtracted from quorum for the purposes of calculating a simple majority. All matters will be voted upon by raising placards unless a motion for a roll call vote is accepted. A simple majority requires more “Yes” votes than “No” votes. Once any resolution has been passed, the voting procedure is closed, as only one resolution may be passed per topic area.

In the Security Council, the five permanent members have the power to veto any substantive vote. A “No” vote by one of the five permanent members in the Security Council is considered a veto, and the draft resolution will not pass if it receives a veto. (WorldMUN ROP 2017)

PROCEDURAL VOTING: Voting on any matter other than draft resolutions and amendments is considered procedural. Each and every member of the committee, including representatives of Accredited Observers and NGOs present in the room must vote on all procedural motions, and no abstentions will be allowed. A simple majority shall be considered achieved when there are more “Yes” votes than “No” votes. A two-thirds vote will require at least twice as many “Yes” votes than “No” votes.

VOTING BY ACCLAMATION: Before the beginning of voting on a particular motion, draft resolution or amendment, the chair has the right to ask his or her members if there are any objections to a vote by acclamation. If no committee member expresses an objection, then the motion will automatically be adopted without the committee going into the voting procedure. In case of any objections, the house shall move on with the procedural voting. (WorldMUN ROP 2017)

ROLL CALL VOTING: A delegate has the right to request a roll call vote after debate on a draft resolution is closed.
In a roll call vote, the chair will call members in alphabetical order starting with a randomly selected member.
In the first roll call, delegates may vote “Yes,” “Yes with Rights”, “No,” “No with Rights”, “Abstain,” or “Pass”. Delegates who vote either “Yes with Rights” or “No with Rights” reserve the right to explain his/her vote only when the delegate is voting against the policy of his/her country. The delegate will only be allowed to explain an affirmative or negative vote, not an abstention from voting.
A delegate who voted “Pass” during the first sequence of the roll call must vote (may not abstain or pass) during the second sequence. The same delegate may not request the right to explain his/her vote.
The Chair shall then call for changes of votes; no delegate may request a right of explanation if he or she did not request on in the previous two sequences. All delegates who had requested the right of explanation will be granted time to explain their votes. The speaking time will be set at the discretion of the Chair, not to exceed thirty seconds.
The Chair will then announce the outcome of the vote. (WorldMUN ROP 2017)

Point of Personal Privilege
Point of Order
Point of Parliamentary Inquiry
Adjournment of the Meeting
Suspension of the Meeting
Unmoderated Caucusing
Moderated Caucusing
Introduction of Draft Resolution
Introduction of an Amendment
Postponement of Debate
Resumption of Debate
Closure of Debate
Things That Should And Shouldn’t Be Done
It is out of order for delegates to present themselves with personal pronouns. Delegates must keep in mind that they are representing a country and therefore shall use “We” while making statements.
Undermining the chair is out of order. The chair may use their authority to take the necessary steps if there is a case of disrespect by a delegate. In case of a mistake made by the chair, delegates have the right to raise a point of order to clarify the mistake within the framework of mutual respect.
Writing clauses for the draft resolution before the conference is out of order. This can also be seen as a difference from THIMUN procedures. All documents regarding the resolution shall be written within meeting times in the Harvard procedure.

WorldMUN Montreal, Delegate Resources: Rules of Procedure, 2017
Leiden Model United Nations, Rules of Procedure Presentation, 2015
History of MUN, , 14 January 2019


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