NationStates Jolt Archive

Policy Analysis and Construction in the NSUN

Texan Hotrodders
18-06-2005, 12:56
Policy Analysis
in the
NationStates United Nations

Since the primary focus of the NSUN is legislation, it’s no surprise that much of the work that goes on within the NSUN is related to policy. In order to facilitate the ability of players to deal with policy (in the form of resolutions, repeals, and proposals), I have written a guide that lays out the tools one needs to effectively and thoroughly address policy matters in the NSUN.


The first thing that most of us do as members of the NSUN is to analyze policy. We do it when a resolution comes up for vote, when proposals are posted on this forum or offsite forum, and when we see a repeal in the proposals list. There are a number of factors to be considered when analyzing policy, and each will be addressed in turn. After we have analyzed the policy that comes out of the NSUN for a while, most of us give thought to writing a proposal/resolution of our own. All of the same considerations that apply to policy analysis are things you’ll want to take into account when constructing your own policy, so the below information is useful whether you are trying to write policy or critique it.


One of the most significant aspects of policies is their mechanical quality. What I am referring to is the relation of a particular piece of policy to the mechanics and rules of the NSUN. There are several questions to ask when considering the mechanical quality of a policy.


One of the most important questions is related to legality. Is the policy legal by the rules ( laid out by the Moderation staff? If you are writing a proposal and are unsure of its legality, you may want to do a quick scan of the rules to be sure so that you don’t get an official warning for a rules violation. One item to keep in mind when analyzing passed resolution (especially early ones) is that the rules have changed over time, and what might be illegal under the current rules was quite legal at the time of the resolution’s passage. On the other hand, some of the resolutions were in violation of the rules in place at the time, and the violation was not caught in time to prevent its passage. (Some passed resolutions have been later deleted from the list because of these situations.)


Overlapping with the question of legality is one of category. Specifically, does the text of the policy match its category and strength/other variables. If it claims to repeal something, is it even in the repeal “category”? If it is an Environmental resolution that claims to deal with automotive pollution, does the effect read “All Businesses” when it should read “Automobile Manufacturing”? If you choose to write a Human Rights proposal that outlaws all forms of harm to sentient beings, should the Strength really be listed as Mild? These are the sorts of questions commonly asked with regard to the issue of category.


Another aspect of policies is their rhetorical quality. What I am referring to is the content of a particular piece of policy; what it says and how it says it. There are a few important questions to ask when considering the rhetorical quality of a policy.


One of the most important questions to ask is related to the meaning of the statements and/or clauses present in a particular policy, because the meaning determines the practical effect of the policy (in roleplay) to a large extent. If a policy states that the NSUN “urges people to wear funny hats,” then does that mean that everyone is required to wear funny hats or does it mean that the NSUN would really like everyone to wear funny hats? If you write a policy that states that our nations can’t outlaw abortions, does that mean that only laws specifically making abortion illegal are out of the question, or does it also mean that effectively outlawing abortion through impossibly high fees required by law in your nation for performing an abortion is out of the question? Keep in mind that interpreting the meaning of the text is vital to making claims about its practical effect.

Technical Matters

Something that can affect the meaning are technical matters, by which I mean grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and other concerns related to the conventions of language. You will probably want to be very careful of punctuation and grammar because incorrect instances of either can change the meaning of the text significantly. You can eliminate most errors by copy/pasting the text in a word-processing program and fixing whatever the program says you should fix. However, there are some errors that the program may not catch and the program may call certain items errors when they are not. Fortunately, such cases can easily be fixed by solid proofreading or are extremely rare. If you are not sure about a rule, you can check out a reference book on these matters at a local library or send me an e-mail at [] or take a look at an online Dictionary ( for spelling questions.


Another aspect of policies is their ideological affiliation. What I am referring to is the expression of a particular political or economic framework in the policy. There are some questions to ask when considering the ideological affiliation of a policy which are very serious because often the policy will receive many votes based solely on its apparent ideological affiliation.

Explicit Ideology

The first question, and the easiest to answer, is whether or not the policy has an explicit ideological affiliation. An example of an explicit ideological affiliation would be a resolution in which “increasing capitalism in the world today” is mentioned. Or perhaps a proposal that suggests “promoting the liberal agenda”. A repeal of a Free Trade resolution “in the name of environmentalism” would be another good example.

Implicit Ideology

The second question is whether the policy has an implicit ideological affiliation. More common examples of ideological affiliation in NSUN policy are implicit rather than explicit. You might find that instead of coming out and saying what the ideology that they are operating from actually is, policymakers will often use substitute terms and phrases that have a somewhat less controversial meaning. In the case of a repeal of a resolution for reasons related to capitalism, the phrase “economic freedom” might be used to give a more positive and appealing air to the policy. Slogans such as “workers of the world unite” are another excellent example of implicit ideological affiliation that can be used in policy.


A fourth aspect of policies is their practical effect. What I am referring to is the consequences (intended or unintended) that come out of a particular piece of policy. There are a couple of questions to ask when considering the practical effect of a policy, which are spelled out below. These are very important considerations that are the cause for swinging many votes over the years.

Intended Consequences

The first question we have to ask is what the intended consequences of the policy are. Does it try to promote peace and justice and succeed in doing so? Does it try to get us to slaughter all our firstborn children on live television by making a law that says we have to? Will the law actually cause what it intends to cause? In the case of a repeal that tries to repeal a resolution, the intended consequence will actually occur. In many other cases that might not happen.

Unintended Consequences

The second question we have to ask ourselves is what the unintended consequences of the policy will be. Does it have side-effects that are not intended? Will loopholes in the policy allow easy exploitation by member states? Does the policy actually have an effect opposed to its intended effect? What will really happen if you ban all guns in the NSUN? Will there suddenly be less violence in NSUN member states, or will violence increase as non-UN nations increasingly take advantage of their weakened defensive capability and conquer UN members. Will outlawing abortions truly help save lives, or will underground clinics and mass immigrations by women seeking abortions cause more trouble than the policy is worth?

Policy Construction
in the
NationStates United Nations


After we have an understanding of how to analyze policy in the NSUN, we can begin to apply that knowledge to making our own policy. Remember to keep in mind the considerations we used during the analysis of policy, but there are also additional concerns with constructing policy that need to be taken into account and/or clarified.

Defining the Purpose

When attempting to write any legislation, one of the primary considerations is one of purpose. We have to ask ourselves what we intent to do with the legislation and how we will write the legislation such that our purpose will be accomplished.

Limiting Scope

One possible purpose in writing legislation is to limit the scope of the NSUN’s legal domain. In most cases, the purpose of the legislator is to keep the NSUN within the bounds of truly international concerns. Some might do this by attempting to repeal resolutions that they believe intrude into the proper scope of national authority. Another possibility is to write legislation that implicitly limits the power of the NSUN to further intrude into matters they see as properly in the scope of national authority.

Effecting Action

Another possible specific purpose in writing legislation is to effect an action on the part of a member state. This can be done by writing a resolution that specifically requires member states to take an action. The action could be making and/or enforcing a law that the legislation specifies or setting up a committee to handle a problem. Both are common approaches to NSUN legislation.

Promoting Principles

Yet another possible purpose in writing legislation is to promote a concept or principle within the NSUN. This can be done by using the legislation to gain explicit recognition of a concept in international law or by writing legislation that allows and/or encourages member nations to uphold a specified principle.

Considering the Problems

There are several problems with writing legislation in the NSUN. Some of those problems are unique to the NSUN, and some are not.

Opposing Ideologies

One of those problems for any legislator is the opposition of those who hold to ideologies that make them disinclined to support our position (whatever that happens to be) and make them inclined to make significant efforts to defeat the legislation. This is not to be unexpected. Every ideology in the UN has an opposition that will do those things or attempt to do them.

Game Mechanics

Another problem facing legislators lies in the area of game mechanics, specifically the limited set of categories available in which to propose legislation, the inability to target a specific nation for human rights violations or international aid, and several others mentioned in the Rules at the top of the UN forum.

Membership Demographics

Yet another problem is the general demographics of the UN membership. The majority of NSers and UN members are young people from North America, Europe, and Australia who are politically aware. These young people are very likely to be socially liberal and fairly socialistic in terms of their political beliefs. Most of the members of the NSUN are very young and are just playing NS idly and joining the UN because it seemed like a fun thing. Keeping the characteristics of the average voter in mind can really help you make your policy more likely to be voted for and implemented.

Extreme Diversity

Another problem that faces all legislators in the NSUN (whether they’re aware of it or not) is the amazing diversity we have on NationStates. There are nations composed of sentient penguins, nations with advanced spacefaring technology, nations with magical properties, nations composed entirely of sentient robots, and so on. This diversity, combined with the fact that we cannot write resolutions to target specific nations or nation types, make writing legislation for the entire NSUN a real challenge.

Utilizing the Tools

There are a variety of tools we can use to write policy, and I’ll try to go over each in turn. For more specific tips to writing legislation, see the original United Nations Resolution Writing Guide ( written by Sophista.


Rhetoric is the portion of the legislation that attempts to convince the voting members of the UN that the legislation is "a good idea." When writing any policy, the effective use of rhetoric is vital to getting the legislation passed by the membership of the NSUN. The legislation should express a laudable sentiment and state reasons for the legislation that the majority of voters will find compelling.


The clauses of a resolution are the portion of the legislation that express action on the part of the UN. These clauses are the most important part of legislation. They define what the UN does. The effective use of clauses is vital to policymaking as they are the vehicle by which legislators ensure that the UN is taking action in a particular area or will take future action.