BLOC POLITICS – Caucusing at PAMUN
Students in their committees as well as in the GA will be encouraged to caucus in their “Blocs”, before they cross lines to enlist support of other countries belonging to different blocs. Chairs will be mindful of the existence of such blocs, and will allocate time for such caucusing to occur, as necessitated by issues on the agenda and the development of the debate in the committee. Research Reports will likewise endeavor to highlight such bloc positions.
In their preparation for the conference, students are strongly urged to make themselves aware not only of their own country policies and positions, but also of the bloc to which it belongs. Delegates willing to do so may discover that the leverage they acquire on the debates and on their outcomes is multiplied when buttressed by other countries from their bloc. Students who do not get the floor as often as they wish may also find satisfaction in their active participation in their bloc unmoderated caucus.
“The system of “bloc politics” in the UN is one in which nations have organized themselves into groups based on areas of mutual interest. These blocs tend to be made up of nations with similar political, historical or cultural backgrounds. They are often formed on a geographic basis, but this is not exclusively the case. By organizing themselves with other nations that hold similar interests, bloc members hope to increase their influence above the level that they would have as a single nation in the General Assembly
Bloc politics in the UN today is a misunderstood and rapidly changing phenomena. The necessity of blocs in the UN was formally established in 1957, when four regional groups were endorsed by the General Assembly: the Latin American, the Asian and African, the Eastern European and the Western European and Others. Since that time, the bloc system has grown to encompass many of the political, economic and military organizations of the world. Examples of the major blocs include the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the European Union (EU).
Blocs are often thought of as “Voting Blocs”, but this is a definite misnomer. They can be more realistically seen as “Caucusing Blocs“; groups which discuss issues together based on areas of mutual interest, but that often do not reach full agreement on all issues. A key consideration is that every country in a bloc will have different priorities based on their own national interests. Countries will often discount bloc considerations and vote in their own best interest in these priority areas.
Blocs usually attempt to form a consensus among their members which will allow them to act as a cohesive group. The effectiveness of any given bloc in exerting its positions in the General Assembly and its commissions will often depend upon its ability to form a consensus among its own members. These acts of compromise form the basis of UN politics, and often must occur within the various caucusing groups before they can begin to apply to the UN as a whole.
Bloc politics have changed considerably in the last few years. Their viability as a political tool is diminishing; blocs are falling out of use. The most historically cohesive bloc, the Warsaw Pact, has ceased to exist as a military and political unit. Several other blocs, including the Western, are undergoing structural changes that will have a profound effect on the future of UN politics. The more organized blocs at present are the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States, and the European Union (which even has its own designated Foreign Minister”).
One of the consequences of clause-by-clause debate at PAMUN is that delegates tend to fail clauses because they feel that many important points are not covered by the clause … though they will most likely be covered subsequently in other clauses. In order to solve this problem, the Research Reports will clearly state which specialized sub-topics are expected to be covered by the debate and the resolution, and delegates will be reminded of these specialized sub-topics at the beginning of the debate by the expert chair. Clauses submitted for debate will have to focus on one of those specialized sub-topics, and the debate in committee will be clearly steered in such a way that there will be time for all different sub-topics to be addressed. However, it goes without saying that such specialized sun-topics as mentioned in the Research Reports, may not exhaust all possible topics, and if a delegate comes-up with a clause that does not correspond to a specific “official” sub-topic, it may still be entertained, and the chairs’ discretion. Therefore, sub-topics mentioned in the Research Report are merely indicative and not prescriptive, and don’t aim to restrict the scope of debate.
Strict Participation Tally
The difficulty experienced by some delegates to three obtain the floor or even ask points of information is often mentioned as one of the “issues” which delegates have to wrestle with, especially in bigger committees. Up to now, even though the complaint is recurrent, it is based-off impressions and has little factual basis. Yet it would be so easy to obtain precise accurate information.
This is the goal of implementing a strict participation tally, which will be kept by the Chairs. This tally will, on the one hand, eventually allow for some redirection between day 1 and day 2, and on the other will provide us with invaluable information on the basis of which important decisions may be made to tackle this challenging issue.
In the last years, the results of this tally were conclusive: in both big committees involved, a third of students had a lot of action, another third had “some action” but not as much as the first group, and the last third had no action at all – and we don’t know if this is because they didn’t raise their placards, or if they did but were ignored by the chairs. We will share this result at the Chairs’ Workshop, and seek ways to improve the percentages of active participation.