Rules of procedures in formal debate

Delegates should be aware that the rules are intended to facilitate debate and to afford to all members their democratic right to voice an opinion. The Presidents and Chairs of the various assemblies will apply the rules to this end. They will not tolerate the misuse of the rules for obstructive or restrictive purposes.

Duties of delegates

Each delegate has the duty to:

  • Respect the decisions of the Chair at all times; obtain the floor before speaking; stand when speaking;
  • Yield the floor when required to do so by the Chair
  • Be courteous at all times
  • Avoid the use of insulting or abusive language

United Nations Charter

All delegations should, at all times, act in accordance with the articles and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Parliamentary Procedure

Except where otherwise adapted or limited by the following, Robert’s Rules of parliamentary procedure will be used at all times. In general, the Chairs will know the proper procedure, how to apply the rules and whom to recognise. They are available to give help and information. Delegates should not be afraid to ask for clarification or explanation. This can easily be done by rising to a point of order, a point of information to the Chair or a point of parliamentary enquiry. Such points may not interrupt a speech, however.

Written communication between delegations

All written communication transmitted through the Administrative Staff must be written, on identifiable notepaper, with a distinctive heading. Messages must bear clear FROM and TO designations at the top of the paper. Messages not fulfilling the above mentioned requirements will not be transmitted. Delegations are expected to provide their own notepaper.

Opening Speeches in General Assembly (Ambassador Speeches)

Opening policy statements given at the first session of the General Assembly shall not exceed ONE minute and are not to be interrupted. After the drawing by lot of the first country to speak, the speaking order will follow alphabetically. Non-member delegations will be afforded the right to speak only when all country delegations have spoken. The designated speaker for each successive country must be in position at the podium as that nation responds to the roll call, otherwise the right to speak will be forfeited.

Right of Reply to Opening Speeches

No more than two applications for the right of reply to an opening speech every 5 people will be entertained after a specified number of opening speeches. Such replies may not exceed thirty seconds and must refer to one of the preceding opening speeches.


A majority of the total membership of each forum shall constitute a quorum.

Amendments to the Agenda

Proposed amendments to the agenda may be submitted in each forum at the start of business. Only amendments which propose to add an issue to the agenda will be in order. If such an amendment passes, the new issue will normally be debated after the previously published issues, provided that a resolution on the issue has been approved. Amendments to the agenda must be proposed in the form of a motion to be debated and should be submitted in writing to the President or Chair on an Amendment Sheet.

Powers of the President/Chair in Limiting, Extending or Suspending Debate

The President/Chair will propose the limitation of debate time for each motion. This will normally be:

Main motions Р20 minutes open debate or 10 minutes for and 10 minutes against
(or 10 minutes against followed by 10 minutes for)

Amendments Р10 minutes open debate or 5 minutes for and 5 minutes against
(or 5 minutes against followed by 5 minutes for)

When debate time has been concluded, the Chair will propose either the extension of debate time (e.g. by 10 minutes open debate or 5 minutes for, 5 minutes against) or the closure of debate and subsequent vote on the question being considered (the Previous Question).

Open debate will be the norm for the Special Conference, the Councils and the Commissions, where a high degree of consensus is aimed at. In the Committees of the General Assembly and in the General Assembly itself, where the more contentious issues are likely to be discussed, the norm will be closed debate.

In any case, the President/Chair will be unlikely to grant a motion for, or move, the Previous Question if there has been no opportunity to hear more than one side of the argument.

The President/Chair may, in the interest of debate or in order to work towards consensus, call upon a particular delegation to speak, even if they have not requested the floor. The President/Chair may also, for the same purposes, restrict the speaking time of an individual delegate.

The limitations of debate time will include the time taken for replies to points of information but will not include the time taken for questions put to the speaker or for other interruptions.

There will be an absolute maximum debate time for one resolution of two hours in the Special Conference, the Councils and Commissions, ninety minutes in the GA Committees and thirty minutes in General Assembly (including all interruptions). At the end of this time a resolution must either be voted on or tabled.

Only the President, Chair or the Secretary General is empowered to call recesses or adjournments or to suspend the rules. Appeals from the decision of the Chair are not debatable. Such appeals will be put directly to the vote. A two-thirds vote against the Chairs decision is required for such an appeal to be upheld.

Objections to the Main Motion

Only in exceptional circumstances will Presidents or Chairs entertain Objections to the Consideration of a Motion.

A delegate objecting to the consideration of a proposed resolution will be required to explain, in an uninterrupted speech not exceeding one minute, the reason for his objection.

The submitter of the motion will then be afforded a right of reply of equal length, after which a vote will be taken on the objection.

Once a main motion has lost to an objection to its consideration, it cannot be reconsidered at any time.

An objection to the consideration of a main motion, which requires a two-thirds majority, will not be in order in the General Assembly.

There can be no objection to the consideration of an amendment.

The President or Chair may refuse to sustain an objection to the consideration if he perceives it to be entirely destructive or merely being used for tactical purposes not connected with the substance of the resolution.

The objection will not then be put to the vote and the decision of the President/Chair is final.


Only a speaker who has the floor can submit amendments.

The intention of proposed amendments to resolutions should normally be to improve the resolution with the object of achieving a wider consensus and, thus, helping the resolution to pass.

In closed debate, amendments will normally be moved in debate time against the resolution.

However, the intention should still be constructive and not destructive.

If the amendment fails, the speaker who proposed it will retain the floor on the main motion.

Reconsideration and Tabling

Once a proposal has been formally adopted or rejected by a vote of the assembly concerned, it may only be reconsidered after all business on the agenda has been dealt with, and then only by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting.

The motion to lay a resolution on the table is not debatable and, when carried, temporarily disposes of the main motion and pending subsidiary motions.

A two-thirds majority is needed to take matters from the table, although tabling itself needs only a simple majority.

Yielding the Floor to other delegations

The floor may be yielded by one delegation to another only once consecutively.
Where delegations consist of more than one member, delegates from the same delegation may not yield the floor to each other.

Interruption of Speeches and Raising to Points

A speech may not be interrupted by any point except a point of personal privilege referring to audibility. A Point of Personal Privilege must refer to the comfort and well being of the delegate, not to the content of any speech.

All other points, e.g. order, parliamentary enquiry and information to the Chair or speaker, will be dealt with only when the speaker yields the floor either to points of information to another delegate or to the President/Chair.

A Point of Order may relate to procedural matters only.

A Point of Information may be directed to the Chair or to the speaker who has the floor if he has indicated that he is willing to yield to points of information. A point of information must be formulated as a question, e.g. “Is the speaker aware that…” or “Does the speaker (not) realise that…” etc. A short introductory statement or reference may precede the question, e.g. ‘The speaker stated in his speech that … Is he not aware…?” A series of questions from the same questioner will not be in order.

A Point of Parliamentary Enquiryis a point of information directed to the Chair concerning the rules of procedure.

A call for the Orders of the Day is a call for the return to the main agenda of the committee, council or assembly. It may not interrupt a speech and must not refer to the content of a speech.

Withdrawing a Motion

A motion may be withdrawn by a decision of all the submitting countries before debate has started, by unanimous consensus of the whole assembly, or by the passing (majority vote) of a motion to permit withdrawal. This is in order at any time before the motion is put to the vote.

Referring a Resolution or Question

A resolution or question may be referred to another Council, Commission or Committee (e.g. to the Security Council. The desirability of referral is debatable. It requires a majority vote. )

The Previous Question

Moving the Previous Question calls for the closure of debate and for a vote to be taken on the motion pending. The President/Chair or a speaker who has the floor may move it.


Only member states of the United Nations may vote. A delegation votes by raising its placard. In the event of a close result, the President/Chair may institute a roll-call vote, in which each member’s name is called in turn and its vote recorded.

Amendments – when an amendment is moved to a proposal, the amendment shall be voted on first. Should a second amendment be moved to a proposal, this will be voted on before the vote is taken on the first amendment. Where, however, the adoption of one amendment necessarily implies the rejection of the other, the first amendment shall not be put to the vote.

Conduct during Voting – after the President/Chair has announced the start of voting procedures, no interruptions will be allowed except for points of order connected with the actual conduct of the voting.

Explanation of vote – after the completion of voting, one speaker of each side will be allowed one minute to explain his vote.

Abstentions – the number of delegations actively abstaining (as opposed to simply failing to vote) will be recorded and the right to explain its vote may be afforded to a delegation that abstains. However, abstentions will not count either for or against the adoption of a motion, i.e. a resolution will pass if the number for exceeds the number against regardless of the number of abstentions.

Veto Rights – the Security Council will apply the special provisions concerning voting as stated in the UN Charter.

* Excerpt from THIMUN International Guide

Submitting Amendments

All amendments must be submitted to the chair, at the appropriate time during formal debate, on an Amendment Sheet of the approved format (see Amendment Sheet).

A separate Amendment Sheet must be used for each amendment or amendment to an amendment.

All amendments must clearly state.

The line or lines in which the amendment is to be made.

The clauses which are affected by the amendment.

The kind of amendment, e.g. strike, insert, strike and insert, add.


Rules of Debate in the Security Council

The Security Council follows the most flexible system of debating. It works slightly differently from GA rules.

  1. At home, delegates taking part in the Security Council should prepare a policy statement per topic to get a clearer idea of the position of the country they represent and to eventually review it during debate if necessary; and
  2. Write no more than four operative clauses on each topic as clauses and not resolutions are expected to be written because the debate will discuss clause by clause and its aim will be to create a resolution together and afterwards discuss it;
  3. At the beginning of lobbying, delegates will be asked to exchange their views on a topic to substitute the “Open agenda” via a motion, and they should reach a compromise in an informal debate set by the Chairs;
  4. During lobbying or informal debate, they should exchange opinions with others and find a co-submitter per clause as this is a premise to presenting their clause to the committee during formal debate; when the co-submitter is found, they should send their clause to the chairs via notes;
  5. At the beginning of the debate, a speakers’ list will be drawn up by the chairs. If a delegate wishes to speak first, he/she should raise his/her placard high as soon as the chairs ask for it. If a delegate wishes to speak last, he/she should not raise his/her placard. In the latter case the chairs will put his delegation with the last ones who will take the floor. Every delegation will appear on the speakers’ list and will have the right and the duty to take the floor.
  6. When they have the floor, delegates can either propose their clause or simply talk about the problem or the resolution created proper to their speech; if they propose a clause, the chairs will read it out and type it so as to let the House be fully aware of the clause in its entirety. Being among the first to talk basically implies the proposal of a clause. Amendments to the clause are in order while it is being debated. The debate will follow GA’s normal procedures, except on voting and on granting the right to follow up; the same delegate who has just made a point of information has the right to ask the speaker another question. When the clause passes, in order to amend it delegates must wait for the debate on the resolution as a whole. Abstentions are not in order in a vote on a single clause.
  7. When the speakers’ list is through, the created resolution as a whole will be debated. The debate will follow GA’s debate procedures. Abstentions when voting on a resolution are in order.
  8. Security Council is composed of fifteen members; five of them are permanent members who have veto power. Voting against the resolution by a permanent member constitutes a veto. If a permanent member uses it, the resolution automatically fails. If a permanent member wants to veto a single clause or the entire resolution, he/she should indicate this intention as soon as possible. The purpose of the debate is to reach consensus, so it is considered improper to constitute a veto without indicating so in advance.
  9. For any further doubt, interact with your Chairs