The Position Paper

The job of the position paper is to present the ideas of your delegation to your committee before the conference.  It is a chance to introduce your delegation, explain the history of the issue from your delegation’s perspective, and to propose ideas and solutions to address the issue.  While the resolution drafted by the committee may include aspects of a given position paper, these documents tend to be the starting point of the conversation rather than the end-point.  Indeed, many delegates use their position papers as their opening speech.

What Does it Look Like?

Position papers come in all shapes and sizes.  IDIA conferences do not mandate a length for position papers, other than to say that they should be as long as they need to be to accomplish their purpose.  At any given conference, you will see papers ranging from a long paragraph to 6 or 7 pages.  While a single paragraph is not likely to be complete, it is also not necessary or expected to draft a long document.

Generally speaking the position paper can be broken into three sections:

  1. Your delegation’s interpretation of the issue
  2. Your delegations history in dealing with the issue
  3. Your delegation’s proposals to remedy the issue

While each of these sections could have subsections, this is the basic structure of the typical position paper.  Regardless the length, all position papers are required to cite their sources in the style with which you are most comfortable.  In addition, as this is an official policy statement, it should be drafted in a formal or professional style.

Your Delegation’s Interpretation of the Issue

The first thing to do is to express your delegation’s perspective of the issue.  For an issue like Riparian Rights, delegations whose borders are along waterways will have a different interpretation of the issue than those who do not.  A state that is located downstream from a significant water source might think that the waterway should be open to all states that border it, and that the water should be for the benefit of each of those states, whereas a state located upstream might think it appropriate to be able to construct a dam to capture the water for its own citizens.  It is in this section that the position paper should lay out the issue from your perspective, and also highlight what aspects of the topic are most important.

Your Delegation’s History in Dealing with the Issue

States along the Nile River have long disputed who has the right to control or alter the flow of the water in the river.  Bordered by 11 countries, and the primary water source for Egypt and the Sudan, access to the water can be critical to economic and humanitarian survival.  Traveling some 4200 miles from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea, what happens at the source of the river can have a significant impact on the way countries further downstream can use the river.  A dam in Tanzania, for example, can dramatically alter the availability of water at certain times of the year, while the introduction of pollution in Lake Victoria can damage the river for each state it passes through.

This section should detail any resolved disputes, but should also highlight any unresolved issues while providing your state’s perspective.

Your Delegations Proposals to Remedy the Issue

Here is the chance to be creative and innovative.  One of the primary goals at the conference is to work together to develop innovative solutions to the topics under discussion.  Rather than relying on efforts that were previously undertaken, delegations are strongly encouraged to develop creative, sustainable, and practical solutions.  Draw upon failed solutions of the past or previous proposals that did not receive enough traction, but work to develop a solution that your delegation would consider workable.