Procedures and Protocol

SRE-YMAC gives an opportunity to the delegates in which you play the role as diplomats. In order to function effectively, you have to understand the protocol and procedures that underpin and create an effective environment for robust discussion, presentation of views, and consensus-building.

WHY DO WE HAVE DEBATE RULES?

Debate provides a platform for an exchange of opinions; simultaneously, the resolution at the end of a debate is a reflection of the diverse views and efforts of the participants involved.

Without effective employment of debate rules and procedures, exchanges can turn into shouting contests. The skills and knowledge you gain from understanding the basics of debate procedures will help you as delegates develop your potential as a speaker and debater. You would also capitalise important opportunities for effectual communication during the conference.

Listening skills are also important. At times, progress is stunted, not because of irreconcilable ideological differences, but failure on the part of assembled delegates to actively listen to and comprehend one another during the debate.

IMPORTANCE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE & PROCEDURES *

Committee Sessions are governed by established norms; namely the rules of parliamentary procedure. During debates, student-delegates share their country’s perspectives and views with the entire committee (often revolving around the resolution-at-hand), by making speeches, and taking questions and comments from their fellow committee mates. At the same time, rules of procedure are also in force when amendments to the draft resolutions are being discussed.

Debate allows the parties involved to discuss substantive issues on the agenda. Thereafter, decisions are reached after a democratic vote is conducted with all the members involved.

Formal debate can be a good way to heighten dialogue, but its efficiency and quality may be compromised if participants do not have a good understanding of the rules involved. Hence, knowledge of these rules is crucial to the success of the conference.

Formal parliamentary procedures and rules are important as they ensure that the speakers and presenters are treated with due respect at all times, without the fear of being shouted down unfairly or having their opinions disregarded.

An impartial Chairperson must facilitate a fair and democratic debate, with a vote conducted at the end of debate for participants to cast a vote independently, and without intimidation.

WHAT IS THE FLOW OF DEBATE?

How the conference protocol is acted out within committee sessions is described as the "flow of debate"– which refers to the order in which events proceed during a S Rajaratnam Endowment-Youth Model ASEAN Conference. Just like scenes in a performance, debate unfolds in several different parts. The section below describes the various stages of debate that take place during a conference simulation. Being familiar with how the action will proceed, from the first "scene" to the last, is an important way to prepare yourself for a Youth Model ASEAN conference.

1. ROLL CALL

The Chairperson will announce each country's name at the start of each session. After the delegates hear their country’s name, they should answer "present and voting". This indicates to the Chairperson the official representatives of the country delegation are prepared to commence debate, and helps the Chairperson to keep track of quorum numbers for each session.

2. SETTING THE AGENDA

While rare, when SRE-YMAC committees have more than one topic available, the body must set the agenda to propose beginning working on one of these issues.

At this time a delegate typically makes a motion, stating "The country of [name] moves to place [topic A] first on the agenda, followed by [topic B] and then [topic C]." Once the motion has been made, three delegations must speak in favour of the motion, and three other delegations will speak against it. These speeches should alternate between those in favour and those opposed. Once these six speeches have been given, a vote is taken. Setting the agenda requires a simple majority vote.

3. DEBATE

Debate is the main activity of the committee, and most of the committee’s time will be spent in this section. See the table below for two forms of debate. Delegates will propose actions called motions that change and alter the flow of debate.

Motions that govern the operations and conduct of the committee are called procedural motions, while those that concern the issue on the agenda are called substantive motions. Motions usually require certain proportions of the committee (“quorum”) to vote in favour for them to be passed as a policy.

Procedural motions, for example, can be those that move debate into either a moderated or unmoderated caucus. They usually include a time limit for both the length of the session, as well as a time limit for each speaker.

Substantive motions, for example, are those that call the committee to take a vote on an amendment, or the final resolution.

Debate will usually follow parliamentary procedures, except when a motion to move into unmoderated caucus is passed by the committee, and only for the specified time period.

Formal Debate

Informal Debate

Formal debate revolves around a speakers list.

The Chair begins by asking all delegates interested in addressing the other members to raise their placards.

The Chair then chooses delegates to be placed on the speakers list. A country may only be on the speakers list once (i.e. no consecutive speeches), but delegates may add their country to the end of the list after their speech.

1a. When the session begins, speeches may focus on stating country positions and offering recommendations for action.

2a. After blocs have met, speeches may focus on describing bloc positions to the entire body.

3a. After drafts resolutions are written, delegates may now make statements describing the clauses in their draft resolutions to the committee.

4a. Delegates may also try to garner more support through formal speeches and invite others to offer their ideas.

5a. Delegates may make statements supporting or disagreeing with specific draft resolutions.

6a. Delegates present any amendments they have created.

Informal debate involves discussion outside of the speakers list. These sessions are always passed with a specific time limit, after which the session moves back into the speakers list.

During moderated caucuses, the Chair calls on delegates one-by-one so that each can address the committee in short speeches on a specific topic related to the agenda or resolution at hand. Formal parliamentary procedure is still used.

During unmoderated caucuses, the committee breaks for a temporary recess where parliamentary procedure is set aside, so that delegates may meet with each other and discuss ideas, or lobby for support for their bloc positions.

1b. After several countries state their positions, the committee breaks for caucuses (often in blocs i.e. groups of countries with aligned interests) to develop bloc or regional positions.

2b. Writing begins as countries work together to compose draft resolutions.

3b. Countries and groups meet to gather support for specific draft resolutions.

4b. Delegates finalize draft resolutions.

5b. Draft-resolution sponsors build greater support for their resolution and look to incorporate others’ ideas through friendly amendments.

4. CLOSE OF DEBATE

Once the speakers list is exhausted, the committee automatically moves to voting. Also, once a delegate feels that his or her country's position is clear to others and that there are enough draft resolutions on the floor, he or she may make a motion to proceed into voting procedure by moving for the closure of debate.

5. VOTING PROCEDURES

Once a motion to close debate has been approved, the committee moves into voting procedure. Amendments are voted on first, then resolutions. Once all of the resolutions are voted on, the committee moves to the next topic on the agenda. In a model ASEAN conference, to reflect the spirit of ASEAN, substantive votes on the issue only pass by consensus (i.e. with no votes against, but with abstentions allowed).

A GLOSSARY OF COMMON DEBATE TERMS **

THE CHAIR (or Chairman, Chairperson)

The Chair's role is very important. It is his job to conduct the debate and to maintain order while remaining totally impartial (especially with regard to substantive issues).

THE HOUSE

All participants (for example, the members of the committee) except the Chair.

THE PROPOSER (or SUBMITTER)

The person who is proposing the motion, amendment, or resolution for debate.

THE SECONDER

The person(s) who indicates support for the motion, amendment, or resolution for debate, usually by raising their placard when called upon. They may also be called to speak by the Chair to present reasons for support.

THE MOTION

The proposal for debate which will eventually be voted upon. They can be either substantive (relating to the issue on the agenda) or procedural (relating to the debate process) in nature.

THE RESOLUTION

In its draft form, a resolution is a long, complex motion, or series of motions, for debate. Once it has been voted on and adopted, it becomes the decision and policy of the forum which has debated it.

A POINT OF INFORMATION

A question directed either to the speaker who has the floor, or to the Chair by a member of the House who has been duly recognised by the Chair.

A POINT OF ORDER / PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY

A question directed to the Chair by a member of the House who feels that a mistake has been made in the order of debate (point of order), or who requires clarifications of the rules of procedure (point of parliamentary enquiry).

TO HAVE THE FLOOR

To have been given the right to speak in debate.

TO YIELD THE FLOOR

To give up one's right to the floor, either finally, or temporarily for a point of information to be asked, or to another delegate to speak, keeping within the time remaining.

* This section is adapted from the United Nations Association of Singapore’s training materials for delegates.

** Adapted from Uniting The Nations Through Model United Nations By David L. Williams and Irwin Stein

Do watch the videos below to find out more about various aspects of Conference Protocol and Procedures