When you effectively represent your country's position, and interests, you will sometimes find yourself without a majority. The can happen for a variety of reasons. Some topics are skewed against certain countries, such as nuclear proliferation against the DPRK. Other topics can start balanced and with one side eventually gaining a significant majority.
MUN debates can only exist if there are two sides but the two sides are often not equal in size. In these cases passing a resolution might be impossible but that does not mean there isn't an opportunity. For example, sometimes the bloc with smaller numbers can get more speaking time hear from both sides of the debate. However, more speaking time is not enough to remain relevant. In the cases where you will not get a majority to stay relevant you need something beyond strong speeches. This extra element is moral high ground.
In most cases, chairs will recognize a bloc leader who is well researched, clear and principled to be among the leading delegates even if they are not on the resolution that passes. In those cases, a delegate who "loses gloriously" will often get recognized and sometimes even be the best delegate, if this process is done correctly. The following guide will explain how moral high ground works, how to get it and use it in effectively.
What is moral high ground?
To hold moral high ground is to be respected for remaining moral, adhering to, and upholding, a universally recognized standard of justice or goodness.
Being on the side of good is important to most Model UN delegates, and most people in the world in general. We want to be able to looks ourselves in the mirror and feel good about the choices we make and the beliefs we hold.
This self justification could be why people recycle a plastic bottle, while not going to protest against ozone destroying plastic factories.
Governments also attempt to find moral justification for their actions. This legitimacy being validated is something governments strive for, both nationally and internationally
(Whether suppressing riots, raising taxes or going to war, Governments try to show they are making the best or most right choice)
Recognize your position in the room
Before taking the steps to create moral high ground as Moral Opposition, be sure that is that position you are in. Some delegates become less active during the resolution writing and amendment stage of the simulation, with those who remain active almost always one of the following:
- Moral opposition
Accepting the Minority Role
It is usually a few sessions before the vote that a delegate will know if they won’t have a majority. Sometimes it is earlier and sometimes later but the moment does come when we realize that our resolution will not pass. At that point we need to begin losing gloriously.
To lose gloriously is accepting that you will not get a majority for your policies. Ideally, this is from the position of minority bloc leader but does not have to be. In either case, losing gloriously is trying to make the best of your situation.
Why Won't We Have A Majority?
It can be because:
- Our states policy cannot support the main ideas
- Our ideas aren't sticking
- The other bloc won't let us in
- None of the ideas we supported, strongly and vocally, made the resolution meaning we can't pivot without looking inconsistent
In these cases our relevance is in speeches and echoing our bloc, so our ideas stay relevant even if our resolution won’t pass.
Reasons to vote against a resolution
- Resolution is against national policy / mandate
- To stand out (every good story needs a strong villain)
- To not mess up a current alliance
- To build future relations
- To co-sign the resolution could hurt future arguments
- To avoid the credibility ruin of switching sides
- The resolution led by the other side doesn’t let you in
Moral opposition is
Having a stronger principled case gives us the moral high ground.
This means you should always have a principled argument, especially if you’re in the opposition.
- Always have a right on your side
- Do your best to have the higher moral ground
- If not higher, the moral level should be at least equal
How to build a principled case
Example 1: The Execution of Connor
In the video above Charles Lee gives the following reasons for hanging Conner.
Brother / patriots
Vile Scheme (to Murder George Washington)
We have begged
Won’t explain / confess
What other option
Send us into hands of enemy
Compelled by justice
With this list he makes it seem like he has no choice but to execute Conner.
Does more reasons = action more justified?
It depends. In a smaller room where a delegate can speak more time it is possible to bring multiple justifications. In a larger room sometimes one strong reason, followed up in lobbying time, is enough.
2nd Example: The Deceleration of Independence, 1776
Looking at this document, we see a number of reasons to justify a course of action.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
…The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have
(1) Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.
(2) We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
(3) We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.
(4) We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and
(5) We have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.
(6) They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.
(7) We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
When building a moral case, show there is no way in a fair and just world that I can join with the other side
Remember that all delegates want their policy to be “right”. If you can show that morality is on your side, and the rest are following for reasons that are less justified, you are representing your country well, even if a resolution does not pass.
Legitimacy is a necessary part of the political game and holding the moral high ground gives us external legitimacy. Having a strong case also it makes us feel stronger about our case. Moral opposition can keep you speaking and relevant all the way through voting and might even start you in a strong position for the second topic, if and when you reach it.