United Nations forum
The United Nations forum is the section of the Jolt forums devoted to the discussion of the NSUN, mainly debating resolutions and proposals, but not Gameplay, which involves UN membership. The forum is somewhat unique in being semi-IC, semi-OOC. Notable features of the forum include the commonly-used 'ping-pong' debating style, the Strangers' Bar, and a multitude of running jokes.
- It should be noted that the following is not an official, or even necessarily regular pattern for the process of legislation; it is merely one that many UN forum regulars encourage.
So, you have an idea for a resolution, but aren't sure what to do next? The UN forum is the place to go. The following is a basic summary of the typical path of an idea from first conception into a completed resolution.
Many players have ideas for resolutions. However, most of these never make it past the drafting stage, either because they are rejected as being poorly written, unimportant, illegal, or just a bad idea, or because the player fails to follow through. However, those who do wish to get their idea accepted into resolution should consider the following starting points:
- is it legal?
- is it original?
- is it worthwhile?
All resolutions must conform to the Rules For UN Proposals (sometimes referred to as 'the Hackian Laws' or 'the Most Glorious Protocols', after their author, The Most Glorious Hack). These range from the fairly obvious - for example, 'Grossly Offensive' proposals (usually along the lines of 'KILL $MINORITY!!!11') are illegal, and usually punishable by immediate ejection, or even deletion - to the more subtle, such as the rules on committees. The most obvious consideration when starting a new proposal is whether the UN has already legislated on that subject: legalising prostitution, for example, would be illegal as it duplicates the Sex Industry Worker Act, whilst banning it without first repealing that resolution would also be illegal. Some of the rules refer to finer distinctions, such as 'branding' (listing many co-authors, or UN ministers, for example), which are more to do with format, and generally ironed out in the drafting stage.
As mentioned in the legality section, proposals cannot duplicate or contradict previous resolutions. Proposals commonly fall foul of this, and are deleted by moderators: the most frequently contradicted/duplicated resolutions are probably Legalise Euthanasia, Abortion Rights, and Definition of Marriage.
Further considerations with regard to originality are that in some areas, it is felt the UN has 'agreed to disagree', and that consensus - in the form of a successful resolution - will never be achieved. A commonly cited example is proposals to legalise Cannabis. As such, proposals based on hackneyed ideas, or on those which the UN has already voted 'no' in the form of a failed resolution (such as ICJ-type proposals) are generally given less warm receptions than those coming from original thoughts. This is by no means always true, however; many felt the UN would never rule on abortion. Then it did.
One of the recurring themes of the UN forum is arguments over national sovereignty. Some nations feel the UN should be extremely limited in what it legislates on (notably members of the National Sovereignty Organization or of the Texas region) whilst others believe the UN should legislate in affairs such as education, taxation and sex. However, most agree that there is a limit to the effectiveness of the UN. As such, some proposals, however well-written, are rejected as being too specific. It is commonly held in the UN forum that three of the Proposal Categories, Gun Control, Recreational Drug Use, and Gambling, none of which have yet been legislated on, are unlikely to see resolutions pass, as they constitute unnecessary micromanagement.
Essentially, the balance lies with where the UN can legislate more effectively (or as effectively as) national and regional governments.
If the idea is a good one, then the author might go on to present a draft for discussion. Some early resolutions essentially take the form of short essays; however, increasingly proposals adopt more formal legislative language, splitting preambulary clauses and declaratory clauses (sometimes referred to as indicative and operative). The first set out the intentions and principles of the proposal; the latter lay out what the proposal will do.
Some examples of words used at the beginning of clauses,
- Alarmed by
- Deeply disturbed
- Deeply regretting
- Fully aware
- Guided by
- Having adopted
- Having considered
- Having examined
- Keeping in mind
- Noting with regret
- Noting with satisfaction
- Noting further
- Taking into account
- Taking note
- Calls upon
- Declares accordingly
- Further invites
- Further reminds
- Further requests
- Solemnly affirms
- Takes note of
During the drafting stage, the proposal will be debated, with amendments and additions, varying from simple spelling and grammar concerns to substantive issues. Also, of course, particular interest groups will try to have their views incorporated into the proposal. Off-site forums, such as those of particular organizations or regions, are often used at the beginning of the drafting process; some are drafted entirely off-site. The length of the process varies, and the number of different drafts can range from one basically amended version to several new ones. By the end, a legality check might be considered if it is felt the proposal could be illegal: in this case, moderator review is requested in the Moderation forum.
When a final draft is ready, the author will submit their proposal. To do so, 2 endorsements are required. This is to prevent excessive submissions, and also to ensure a slight degree of support for the proposal is present (although few authors check with all of their endorsers before submitting). In a reasonably-sized region, this is usually no problem; however, in smaller regions, those with few UN members, or those who frown on endorsement swapping, authors can find themselves without enough endorsements. In this case, they would typically move region briefly, or have someone submit on their behalf. Some authors have removed their nation from the UN for IC concerns, and use UN puppets to submit their proposal for them.
Proposals are collected in a queue, chronologically ordered, and have around four days, depending on the time of submission, to reach quorum. Quorum is obtained when 6% of all UN delegates - usually in the 120-140 region - approve their proposal. Delegates can approve as many proposals as they like, and are not punished for approving illegal or contradictory ones. Some have a policy of approving every proposal; others approve only repeals; others approve only proposals written by members of their region. Some regions decide approval democratically, but largely, the success of a proposal depends on the delegates alone.
If a proposal does not reach quorum, it is deleted. There are no limits on resubmission, and most proposals do not 'make it' first time round: the record for most resubmissions before reaching quorum is currently held by Enn, founder of the United Nations Old Guard, who resubmitted Habeas Corpus fifteen times.
If a proposal obtains quorum within the time slot allowed, it is protected from deletion by time. Moderators can still delete a proposal at this stage if it is illegal, however, as in the case of the IT Education Initiative. The proposal remains in queue until the vote on the current resolution has finished; there is then a one-update gap, and then the proposal moves to voting.
All UN members are allowed to vote; however, only a minority regularly do so. Reasons for this include the use of UN membership for gameplay purposes, UN members having become inactive, and the lack of an abstain function, meaning that some who appear not to vote are in fact voting as an abstention. The voting is divided between members, on a one nation, one vote stage, and delegates, whose voting power is proportional to the number of endorsements they possess. A delegate with 10 endorsements casts a vote of 11 - one for them, and one for each endorser. It should be noted the delegate cannot split their votes up, and that their endorsers vote separately. Thus in the above example, seven members, plus the delegate, might vote for, and three against, meaning the total vote would be 18 for, 3 against. Some regions decide delegate voting democratically; some give the delegate authority to vote on their own.
A vote lasts four days, and a simple majority is required. The majority of UN resolutions have passed; however, a substantial minority have failed. Examples can be found here. During this time, the resolution is debated in the UN forum. The thread on the subject will be stickied. Debates vary in length and depth: in some cases, support is reached during the drafting stage, and there are few dissenters; others are hotly contested. Some have criticised the level of involvement in UN debates, or lack thereof; others point out that not all players use the Jolt forums, but that substantial off-site discussion may take place. In any case, forum polls have tended to bear some, but by no means a full relationship to the outcome of the evential vote.
If a resolution passes, it is adopted into UN law, and the Compliance Ministry sends out telegrams to UN members, informing them of the result. Member nations' stats are also affected: for example, after a Human Rights resolution passes, personal freedoms will rise. No action is taken if a resolution fails.
The UN forum is distinct, in that it is neither fully IC, nor fully OOC. Although some discussion of technology or criticism of roleplays might occur in the RP forums, and a small amount of RPing in the General Forum, they are essentially consigned to a single mode of operation. However, debates in the UN forum take on both character. In general, OOC discussions are less common, and the use of OOC examples is discouraged, as RL references in proposals are illegal. However, discussion of the morality or practicality of certain issues inevitably turns to OOC debate at times.
When discussing ICly, some choose simply to lend a name to their ambassador, who then acts a mouthpiece for that player's views. Others allocate more than one, or whole teams, so that particular aspects of discussion can be dealt with by 'experts'.
- United Nations
- UN Timeline
- Index of UN Resolutions
- List of Ambassadors to the United Nations
- Debating Religious Topics
- Failed Resolutions
- The UN forum - the scene of crime
- The Great Big Consolidated UN Sticky - a collection of very useful articles on the NSUN
- Rules For UN Proposals - 'the Most Glorious Protocols'
- The UN Strangers' Bar - one of NationStates' oldest and most successful RPs
- Silly Proposals: THE RETURN - a humorous look at illegal proposals