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Adapted from United Nations Association - UK (UNA-UK)

What is the United Nations?

The UN is an international organisation of sovereign states, containing nearly every country in the world. Only independent states may become members of the UN. It was created in the wake of World War II – in 1945, 51 states (including the UK) signed the UN Charter, and became the founding members of the UN. Because of the end of colonialism and the break- up of countries such as the USSR and Yugoslavia, the number of independent countries grew. Currently, the UN has 193 member states.

The UN provides an opportunity for the independent states of the world to discuss global issues which affect them both individually and collectively. The UN aims to seek solutions to issues, conflicts and crises in a peaceful manner. The UN Charter is a set of guidelines which explains the rights and responsibilities of member states.

The UN has four purposes, which are contained in Article 1 of the UN Charter:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Curriculum and A-level requirements

Model UN events can be used to meet many of the requirements of the National Curriculum for pupils aged up to 16 and of the A Level specifications for pupils aged 16-18.

General requirements of the National Curriculum

Participating in Model UN events reflect the general teaching requirements regarding inclusion and use of language, as well as the values, aims and purposes which underpin the National Curriculum.

  • Aim 1 requires pupils to develop knowledge and understanding of “the local, national, European, Commonwealth and global dimensions of their lives. [The National Curriculum] should encourage pupils to appreciate human aspirations and achievements in aesthetic, scientific, technological and social fields, and prompt a personal response to a range of experiences and ideas. By providing rich and varied contexts for pupils to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills, the curriculum should enable pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better. It should give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership to equip them for their future lives as workers and citizens ”.

  • Aim 2 states: “The school curriculum should promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, in particular, develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong. It should develop their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their own and different beliefs and cultures, and how these influence individuals and societies. 

  • "The school curriculum should pass on enduring values, develop pupils' integrity and autonomy and help them to be responsible and caring citizens capable of contributing to the development of a just society. It should promote equal opportunities and enable pupils to challenge discrimination and stereotyping. 

  • "It should develop their awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, local, national and global level ”. 

  • Promoting pupils’ cultural development’ requires pupils to acquire “an understanding of cultural traditions and an ability to appreciate and respond to a variety of aesthetic experiences. They acquire a respect for their own culture and that of others, an interest in others' ways of doing things and curiosity about differences. They develop the knowledge, skills, understanding, qualities and attitudes they need to understand, appreciate and contribute to culture”. 

  • Model UN events contribute to the development of the key skills and thinking skills which are embedded at Key Stages 3 and 4 in all subjects of the National Curriculum.

  • Under the National Curriculum, pupils must undertake education about sustainable development, requiring them to “develop the knowledge, skills, understanding and values to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.” This can be integrated into the subject matter of many Model UN events.

National Curriculum programmes of study and A Level specifications

Model UN can be used to cover aspects of the programmes of study and specifications for many subjects under the National Curriculum and at A Level.​


  • Model UN events are directly relevant to the National Curriculum Citizenship programmes of study – a Model UN event can provide a term’s work for Citizenship where it is taught as a discrete timetabled subject.

  • A defining feature of the Citizenship curriculum is the concept of ‘active global citizenship’, enabling pupils to become “actively involved in the life of their school, neighbourhood and wider communities and learn to become more effective in public life”. This makes it distinct to most of the other approaches to civic education elsewhere in Europe and presents a real challenge to teachers.

  • However, the simulation involved in Model UN work provides opportunities for active citizenship. It involves research, debate, problem- solving, team-work, leadership, negotiation, patience and much more. Groups of students can be deployed to act as press corps, researchers and the UN Secretariat, as well as delegates.

  • International networks exist for students to collaborate worldwide, further reinforcing the notion of active global citizenship. Provided students have the time to reflect on their participation, Model UN work can make a unique and important contribution to successful Citizenship teaching.

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