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What is a Crisis Committee?

Crisis committees are like General Assembly committees in the sense that they both follow Parliamentary Procedure, focus on solving a problem, and (if you’re in a good room) incite lively debate. That’s about where the similarities end. 

Basic Structure

Crisis committees are based around a central situation, the “crisis,” which delegates are pushed to solve over the course of the committee. For example, a common crisis committee topic is the American Revolutionary War. For a committee like this, delegates may be starting debate in the middle of a battle and have to come up with battle plans, or they may be at the tail end of the war and have to start building a government. In crisis committees, delegates are typically given people, characters, or specific positions (e.g. Russian Embassy Official, Senior VP of Marketing) to represent rather than acting as a country representative. 

In-Room vs. Out-of-Room

In the committee room, debate will often focus on the bigger problems at hand. Oftentimes solving these problems in only a few committee sessions is a lofty goal. How do you stop human trafficking globally while also trying to crack down on the black market sale of illegal weapons used by traffickers? I’d go so far as to say that the point of committee is rarely to completely solve a problem, but rather to make some sort of progress towards solving a small part of the problem. Sure, it would be nice to find a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I doubt that a room full of high school or college delegates can do that over the course of a weekend (but if you can, you’d probably receive some sort of Nobel Prize). Delegates in the room will likely try to be cooperative – this is often because they are doing something shady outside of the committee room through the crisis team.

The Crisis Room

There are two rooms in crisis committees – the debate room and the crisis room. The crisis room is where staffers from the conference answer notes from delegates regarding the committee and their personal plan for how they want their position to affect committee. This plan is called an “arc.” A crisis arc is used by a delegate to influence actions in the debate room and also affect the outcome of committee through actions not taken in the debate room.

For example, if a delegate’s position in a committee structured like a political cabinet was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the goal of the committee was to solve some sort of environmental crisis, the delegate could use their individual powers (called “portfolio powers”) as the Sec. of HUD to start research into more sustainable construction practices. Since this isn’t an issue that the whole committee might be interested in, that delegate could send a note to crisis saying something along the lines of “please reach out to scientists in my department and tell them to look into more sustainable ways to build housing.” We’ll break down crisis arcs and how to do them properly in a separate article. What you should know for now is that every delegate in the room could potentially be working on a secret plan to impact committee, and that plan isn’t always positive.

Crisis Notes

Crisis notes are how delegates in the debate room communicate plans for their personal arc to staffers in the crisis room. They can be anywhere from one sentence to a full page long – different conferences prefer different styles of notes and it’s often a game of trial-and-error to see what the crisis staff responds to best. One thing to note with crisis notes is specificity. The more specific your notes (try to answer who, what, when, where, and sometimes why in your notes) the better your response is going to be. Also try and make sure that there are no errors in your spelling in the notes – instead of sending 50 planes to rescue people, you could send 50 plans because you simply forgot an “e.”

Tips and Tricks (without getting too in-depth)

  • Be specific in and out of room! Specificity in your speaking, directives, and crisis notes will let other delegates and staff know that you know what you’re talking about and may increase your chances of awarding.
  • Creativity is big, especially when it comes to crisis notes. The more interesting a note or arc is, the better your responses from crisis are likely to be. This doesn’t mean you should go off-position though – if your position wouldn’t do something in real life, it’s very likely crisis won’t let you do it in committee. 

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