In this activity, students will conduct a "model United Nations General Assembly" session. The activity is designed to acquaint students with issues in international relations and the structure, aims and procedures used by the United Nations to resolve disputes between nations. Students will learn about the early history of the United Nations by examining the contributions made by Ralph Bunche to the organization during the first 25 years of its existence.

Subject areas addressed: American History, World History, Communications (Speech), Civics (Government).

Relevant National Standards
Teaching Procedure
Student Handouts


Students will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about current and past problems and situations affecting the United Nations

  • Learn about the life, career, and philosophy of Ralph Bunche, American diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner

  • Develop cooperative learning skills and develop the ability to reach fair compromises

  • Develop critical thinking skills about historical issues as well as current issues in international relations

  • Information for Teachers:
    Approximate time for lesson: 6-8 class periods.Students will have the opportunity to:


    - Copy of the video Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey

    - TV and VCR (for showing video)

    - Computer(s) with Internet access

    (Optional: Letter cutters to make signs and flags for UN member states, video equipment to tape the session, microphones and podium for speeches).

    Relevant National Standards:

    This lesson addresses the following national technology standards established by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning.

    Understands influences on international relations after World War II and the effectiveness of the United Nations in reducing international tensions and conflict

    Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up

    Understands the shift in political and economic conditions after World War II (e.g., why and how the United Nations was established, where it has been actively involved, and how successful it has been as a peacekeeper; and the United States' international leadership post-World War I and post-World War II).

    Teaching procedure:

    The teacher should open the lesson with a "warm-up question". This might take the form of asking students what approach they think should be used to satisfactorily resolve a current classroom (or schoolwide) dispute. Suggestions may include allowing an administrator or outside counselor to decide how the dispute should be settled. Choosing a "peer mediator" whom both sides feel can be trusted, and recommendations that the students "hash it out" between themselves.

    The teacher may mention that disputes between nations are often settled the same way, that this was the principal reason that the United Nations was set up after World War II, and that, often, the methods used by the UN aren’t much different than those they recommended to resolve school disputes: mediation, compromise, and conciliation.

    The teacher should introduce the "Model UN Project" explaining that the class will be set up as a UN General Assembly, and that the students (in most cases groups of students) will represent member states. First, however, they will look at a video about someone who played a key role in setting up the United Nations and who had an impact on the policies and procedures that are still in use today.

    The teacher then shows the video Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey to the class, noting that the students should pay special attention to Bunche’s role as a UN mediator and official.

    It should also be noted that Bunche was an international civil servant, not a delegate or representative of the US. However, Bunche could and did work effectively "behind the scenes" to promote peace and justice throughout the world (More information on this can be found on the Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey website pages, Mr. UN. and The Peacemaker. Bunche also directly lobbied the US delegation for policies that would strengthen the UN’s position on human rights (More information on this can be found on the Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey website page, The Scholar-Activist.

    (If time is limited, the teacher may omit the formative experiences and academic career sequences in the video. Sequences dealing specifically with the UN include the one beginning at the 43 minute 30 second point, with Bunche being part of the conference which created the United Nations, working with Harold Stassen to write the section of the UN Charter dealing with the status of the colonies and trust territories (53 min.), continuing through the segment of Bunche being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in solving the Middle East crisis of 1948 (77 min 44 sec.). Also, of particular relevance is the sequence on the first UN Peacekeeping operation (87 min. 10 sec. to 91 min.) and the section on East-West relations within the UN and the operations of the Secretariat (85 min 29 sec. to 87 min. 10 sec.)

    After viewing the video, the teacher should propose that the class research the history and purpose of the United Nations. Using the United Nations web site (web address below) or a comparable site, the students will learn about the UN Charter and the various organs and departments of the organization.

    The teacher should then explain to the students that in conducting a "model UN General Assembly", in which they will cooperate to solve major world problems, they have to keep in mind that each nation is also trying to solve its own national problems and promote its own interests. The teacher may wish to ask the class what world problems are currently in the news. Answers may include the Palestinian problem, issues involving the former nation of Yugoslavia, instability in former colonial areas of the world, such as Africa. The teacher may note that many of the problems the United Nations must deal with in the early part of the 21st Century are related to issues the world was attempting to deal with in the middle of the 20th Century. For example, as they have seen in the video, the UN was involved in mediation of disputes in the Middle East, dealing with emerging nations on the African sub-continent, and human and civil rights. The class can compare these issues with those that are of concern today, for example, including the Palestinian question, the conflicts in Africa, and human rights issues in various parts of the world.

    The next step would be to assign students to represent various "member states". This can be done by allowing students to form their own groups (the size of each group will depend on the number of students in a class, but it is recommended that no more than six students make up any one group) or by assigning students to a particular group. Care should be taken to ensure that the ratio of "developed" to "developing" nations in the model UN parallels that in the UN today. One way to do this might be to have each group draw cards with the number "1", "2", or "3". If a group draws a "1" card, they can assume the role of a developed nation, such as the United States. If they draw a "2", then they should become a Communist nation, such as Cuba or Vietnam. If they select a "3" card, then they would be a developing nation, such as Bangladesh or the Philippines.

    Once this step is completed, the students can choose the nation they wish to represent, using the list of member states on the web page, or the teacher may wish to arbitrarily assign student groups to specific member states.

    It is recommended that the teacher supply each group with a "portfolio" (a manila folder will do) in which the group can keep copies of all information it collects, resolutions adopted, etc. This file will serve as verification that the group did the research and developed appropriate positions or resolutions. (A suggested national delegate portfolio statement is included below.)

    The students will develop a profile of the nation they will represent by researching, either online or through conventional sources, the background, economic system, and political system of the specific nation they will represent. The profile should include the following information: geographic location, physical features, climate, a description of the political system, form of government, demographic information, economic system and statistics, issues of domestic concern, regional or local conflicts, membership in major alliances and organizations, and global issues that may have a direct impact on that nation. (Students can use the attached national profile worksheet, or develop their own.

    Based on the information the group has collected, it can draft "resolutions" to be presented during the Model UN session. Teachers should take care to ensure that the resolutions developed are related to an actual conflict or problem, and that it is intended to be of benefit to the nation that is presenting it. The attached UN resolution Sheet Format will give students some guidance on how to draft a resolution.

    When each group has finished preparing its portfolio, the class is ready to focus on setting up the Model UN session


    Questions to be considered include:

    - Where the session will be held (in the classroom, school cafeteria, auditorium)

    - Who (student or teacher) should act as the moderator ("Secretary General") of the model United Nations session

    - What procedures to follow to allow nations to introduce, debate, and vote on resolutions

    - What the time frame will be (How long should the session run. One day? Several days?)

    - How the resolutions, student participation, and other work will be evaluated

    - Whether the session should be videotaped

    - Should microphones, podium, and other accessories be used

    The answers to each of these questions will depend on the individual classroom and teacher, but they are questions that should be considered prior to the session.

    The teacher should either appoint (or the class can elect) a student to serve as "Secretary General" and moderate the session. Teachers and the class may wish to refer to the website Parliamentary Procedure by John A. Cagle for further information .

    On the first day of the session, the teacher might wish to remind students of basic rules of order, how to submit a resolution, voting procedure etc. The session can be called to the order by the "Secretary General". It is recommended however, that the teacher act as "UN Control" throughout, assisting the delegates with whatever questions or issues arise, and generally helping to keep the meeting running smoothly, so that one group or resolution does not unfairly dominate the meeting. It might be advisable to remind students that delegates of member states function within certain strictures at the UN. They must consider both their national interest, their obligations to other nations with whom they have signed treaties and their obligations as members of the United Nations.

    An assessment rubric should be used to determine student achievement. It is recommended that the group be graded rather than individual students. A sample rubric is provided.


    Student Handouts
    Click here to download these Documents as a PDF file (32K)             

    Model United Nations Online Resources

    Wuzzardo's Model United Nations Help Page contains various links, including starting a model UN, as well as links to other model UN sessions.

    American Model United Nations International

    Yahoo Government search page with several links to Model United Nations sites

    United Nations Cyber School Bus site on model United Nations

    Links and e-mail addresses to various model United Nations conferences across the US

    University of California at San Diego Model United Nations

    Florida High School Model United Nations contains various links and ideas from Florida model UN sessions that can be adapted for other schools

    Various model United Nations sites as found by the "Go Network"

    "Electronic Model United Nations" site provides an opportunity for schools and students to join an "online" Model UN.


    Online resources for Ralph Bunche, his life and work

    Web-based biography for Ralph Bunche on ""

    Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center (Howard University)

    Ralph Bunche quotations

    History Channel biography of Ralph Bunche

    History Channel information page regarding An American Dilemma

    Ralph Bunche section at the Schomburg Legacy Exhibition

    "Britannica Guide to the Nobel Prizes" featuring Ralph Bunche. Includes a QuickTime movie clip of Bunch speaking which can be downloaded. (Note: downloading the clip may take several minutes on a slow Internet connection.)

    Philadelphia Daily News story recounting Bunche's role in settling the Mid East crisis in the late 1940's

    American Heritage story on Bunche

    American Heritage story on Bunche's role in helping to mediate the Mid East crisis



    Related sites to assist in developing policy statements or finding information about UN member nations

    - United Nations Home page

    - Central Intelligence Agency

    - CIA World Fact Book (includes government, economic, and social information regarding more than 250 nations)

    - List of UN member states

    - Index of home pages of member UN delegations

    - CNN Home page

    - CBS News

    - ABC News

    - NBC News

    - FOX News

    - PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

    National Delegate Portfolio

    Groups should keep all materials relating to the Model United Nations in this portfolio. All information collected will be used to develop national policy statements and philosophy of ruse in our Model General Assembly session.

    Materials to be included in portfolios include:

    o Any files downloaded from online sources regarding national profiles and research on the nation the group has selected to represent in the Model United Nations

    o Any files downloaded regarding United Nations history and/or policies used by the group. This would include files from the United Nations, or other news sources, such as CNN.

    o Any other sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.) that the group used to develop their portfolios or resolutions. These may be the actual stories or may be Xeroxed copies of the stories.

    o Text of any statements or policies the group develops for distribution for the Assembly as a whole, or for any other group or organization.

    These materials should be brought daily to class by the group.

    This portfolio will be submitted for evaluation after the conclusion of the Model United Nations session, or whenever UN Control (the teacher) asks for a "hard copy briefing" of group activities.

    All members of the group should do their best to contribute to this project, just as actual nations find that it takes cooperation between a nation’s citizens as well as cooperation between nations to make a peaceful world community.

    Signatures of the nation’s delegates below indicate that they understand their roles in the simulation and in successful completion of the portfolio and all aspects of the Model United Nations.

    Name of nation: _______________________________________________________

    National Delegates:

    ______________________________________          ______________________________________

    ______________________________________          ______________________________________

    ______________________________________          ______________________________________

    ______________________________________          ______________________________________


    National Profile Worksheet

    Directions: Use this sheet to find information about the nation you have chosen to represent in the Model United Nations. Look for information in the web resources or through conventional resources to answer these questions.

    1. Description of political system and form of government: (who is the nation’s current leader? What kind of government is in place? What are the government’s goals, aims, successes, and method of operation?







    2. Demographic information: List data about the population of your country, its ethnic/religious background, literacy rate, infant mortality rate, and so on.







    3. Economy: Include information about the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, inflation, unemployment, etc., and any other relevant or revealing economic data.







    4. Major domestic issues of concern to the nation:






    5. Recent conflicts involving your nation (Be sure to list both national and international conflicts):






    6. Membership in major alliances and organization: (Note influence these memberships might have on your nation.)






    7. Major global issues that could have a direct impact on your nation:






    8. Date of UN Membership: ______________________________________________


    United Nations Resolution
    Format Sheet

    Following is a framework of how a resolution should be constructed in order to have the General Assembly consider it.
    While resolutions do not have to strictly adhere to these guidelines, it is suggested that they should be similar.

    Submitting Nation: __________________________________________________________________

    Submitting Delegate(s) (Principle author’s name first): __________________________________________________________________________________






    Submitted on (date): _________________________________________________________________

    Action taken (pass, fail, tabled); ________________________________________________________

    Vote totals: ________________________________________________________________________

    Signature of the Secretary General of the United Nations:

    Submitting delegate(s) should add attachments (such as downloaded information files, etc.) to the back of this resolution before consideration.

    Model United Nations Rubric

    This grade sheet will determine your group's grade for the Model United Nations. All members of the group are given the same grade



    1. Research (25 points): How did this group conduct its research? Are copies of all web based and conventional based research included in the portfolio? (________________ Points awarded).


    2. Resolution (25 points): How did the group develop their resolution for submission to the General Assembly? Did it meet the criteria set by UN Control? (________________ Points awarded).


    3. Cooperation (25 points): Did all the members of the group act in a helpful and understanding manner during the session? Were they argumentative or keep the session from reaching its goal? (________________ Points awarded).


    4. Speaking ability/negotiation skills (25 points): Were the members of this delegation skilled in being persuasive and being able to negotiate to reach a consensus among the General Assembly? (________________ Points awarded).

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