Essay - Regional Delegates and General Assembly Canon


Primarily a Lurker
TNP Nation
Regional Delegates and General Assembly Canon
By Maowi

Maowi is a five-time General Assembly author, with an additional co-authorship under their belt. Typically passing essential legislation on Human Rights, Maowi has passed incredibly detailed resolutions that, since their passage, have increased the average quality of life of a citizen residing in a World Assembly nation. Their opinion is highly valued by General Assembly regulars, and they are one of the most prevalent voices within the Assembly.

There should be little doubt in anybody’s mind that the General Assembly (GA) is a firmly in-character NationStates institution. In-character member nations cast votes on resolutions and send in-character ambassadors to snarkily debate proposals in the GA forums. Regions and regional delegates don't exist in the GA; referring to them in a proposal would be a Meta-Gaming rule violation and prevent the proposal reaching vote or passing. But ironically, regional delegates in most cases make or break a resolution; NationStates' ten most powerful delegates control an enormous total of over 5,600 votes, and a big delegate stomp is the stuff of nightmares for GA authors. Any region with over 200 endorsements on their delegate can pack a mean punch on more controversial or divisive resolutions; evidently, determining the delegate’s vote is a matter of significance. Whether by citizen vote, World Assembly (WA) ministry recommendation, the delegate’s own prerogative, or some other means, how do we - or should we - work out how to vote in this weird mash-up of different levels of "in-character-ness," for want of a better (or ideally real) word?

Most regions have slightly different systems for choosing the delegate’s vote; even those whose decision is in the hands of their citizens may vary in the role given to the ministry, or equivalent body, in charge of WA matters, regarding such tasks as the production of Information For Voters (IFVs). Either way, someone is making a judgment on behalf of a region of a resolution that cannot acknowledge its existence.

A region such as The West Pacific (TWP) will not generally encounter any struggle in this regard. They have a clear policy - vote in favour of repeals only, and against all others - which can be applied to all resolutions regardless of content, author, or anything else, and is justified by the assertion that GA resolutions violate member nations’ sovereignty. While this argument could, in theory, be made in-character (and often is), doing so and applying it to all resolutions makes it extraordinarily weak, as the only aspect of the WA that exists for the GA ... is the GA. The solution to such a complaint is simple - leave. TWP’s policy is a lot more understandable from an out-of-character perspective, holding in consideration the numerous benefits and even necessities WA membership brings, including the ability to endorse other nations. The corresponding “violation of national sovereignty” in this framework is the statistical effect of a passed resolution, only somewhat reversible via repeal.

Absent any overarching protocol of that sort, there are a number of clear considerations to make when deciding which way a delegate should vote. Perhaps most obvious is the quality of the resolution - that is, does it actually fulfill its stated aim without leaving major loopholes or causing unreasonable complications for WA member nations as a result of compliance? Regardless of your opinion of the resolution's objective, if that objective is not met, or is botched, the resolution is not worth supporting. Major flaws are not always immediately obvious, and may not be spotted for weeks, months, or years; these can form a compelling basis for a repeal, again whether or not you support the target’s underlying policy goal. This line of reasoning makes sense both as a fully in-character member nation and as a delegate representing a region in the WA. As such, if it is available, it is always an effective argument to make in an IFV or voting thread, or wherever applicable.

A more controversial and in most cases less important factor is authorship and the opinion of regional allies. For example, membership in the World Assembly Legislative League (WALL) entails collaboration on the promotion or opposition of a proposal or resolution with some frequency. Unless there are objective problems with the execution of the resolution, it may in some cases simply be good foreign policy to vote in favour of resolutions authored by members of closely allied regions, especially when there is some shared philosophy regarding the GA between the two regions. Moreover, a region’s use of its vote in the WA as a deterrent for unfavourable behaviour, or as retribution for offences against allies, can be powerful, as in the case of the region Confederation of Corrupt Dictators (CCD) when, in January this year, their attempts at espionage in The North Pacific (TNP) received interregional condemnation. CCD’s delegate and viceroy at the time, Jocospor, and other members of CCD authority had been trying to pass GA resolutions for years in an attempt to nullify accusations of both in- and out-of-character fascism, and the opposition of prominent GA authors based on authorship did draw critique. However, CCD's efforts in TNP were almost universally denounced and countered in cases by blanket opposition to proposals by Jocospor, alongside other measures. This kind of justification for a vote against a resolution is necessarily out-of-character in GA terms and does not come with an automatic in-character explanation; however, an artificial in-character explanation can easily be generated and can even lead to a little roleplaying beyond the scope of what is usually seen in the GA forum.

But what if the resolution has a solid execution and regional allies have little vested interest in it? What then? On one level of "in-character-ness," the region as a whole - as a group of individuals functioning under one government - may have a fairly strong collective set of values, such as a belief in equality, or hostility towards government interference. The problem, however, is that the GA does not acknowledge the existence of this aspect of a region, and that its community of individuals - even in-character holding governmental roles - exists on a completely different dimension to the residents of the GA's member nations. Players’ nations in a purely NationStates-based sense, including how we theme them, how we fill in their fields, what factbooks we make for them, and how we roleplay them if we do, are much more intrinsically linked to the GA's in-character nature. Many vote not with the values they as a real person hold, but to fit with their nation's statistics and in-character outlook, and this is surely an entirely valid way of voting, if not the single most valid way. For example, five-time GA author Tinfect is the subject of a Security Council resolution to Condemn their nation, because they roleplay it as an authoritarian, dystopian hell-hole. This is reflected in their nation's GA persona; as the Condemnation notes, Tinfect roleplays non-compliance and its consequences with a number of civil rights resolutions, but this doesn't make them - the player - any less meritable.

So does it make sense to issue IFVs, to vote as citizens or as delegates, using reasoning that reflects regional principles, principles held by a community often based on a forum or Discord server so remote from the basic NationStates game? And in the relevant regions, is it a bad thing if citizens vote as their nation would? The GA makes this a difficult decision because of the way it inseparably ties together interregional and intraregional relationships with affairs within each specific nation. A key part of the GA's value is this in-character aspect, but how that translates to a delegate's vote, representing the region as a whole, is difficult to say. Some regions, e.g. The Rejected Realms, have tried methods such as producing IFVs for their citizens’ viewing exploring the effects of the resolution in question without giving a final recommended vote; others, e.g. TNP and The South Pacific, seek to encourage discussion in voting areas and only produce IFVs for wider consumption after the citizenry has reached a decision. These are all ways of giving individual voters more of a say as to whether they want their delegate’s vote to represent their voice as a member nation of the WA or as a citizen of their region. The former is not even necessarily incoherent in-character - a region can be effectively roleplayed in a multitude of ways, for example as an international alliance. In regions whose WA vote is determined by the citizenry, this type of voting mechanism is, therefore, an optimal way of maintaining consistency for those participating anywhere in this strange fog of degrees of roleplay. Of course, there is no rule or custom to say that a regional delegate must care about their citizens’ in-character nations. But if they do - there are ways for them to have their cake, and eat it too.

This is a broader, extended version of an article originally written for the Europeian Broadcasting Corporation.