by Max Barry

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by The Diplomatic Immunity of Bears Armed Mission. . 1,228 reads.

So, ‘You say you want a Resolution’ : A beginners’ guide to writing GA proposals

(This is only a “quick” guide, but I’m willing to give people more advice later on as well. My credentials for this work centre on the fact that I’ve already created seven successful resolutions as Bears Armed Mission, plus one that was authored under a different name instead and that was actually submitted by somebody else who wanted to try their paw at that side of things.)

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Maybeso feeling that a resolution on some particular subject is “needed” (perhaps a subject that matters to you in RL, one that should matter to your nation’s people IC, one that you’ve seen feature in RP, one from current RL news headlines, or even one from a daily issue) is why you’ve decided to write a proposal on the first paw, or maybeso you’ve actually made this decision because you want to change the WA member nations’ stats (which passing a GA resolution will do, with the precise effects depending on that resolution’s Category and its Strength [or, in some categories, its ‘Area of Effect’], or maybeso you’ve actually made this decision because you want to experience another aspect of Nationstates — or even just for the associated trophy, and any prestige that you might gain — instead. In any case, choosing a subject is obviously the first thing to do.
You simply turning up in the GA forum and asking for suggested topics is unlikely to be received well unless you’ve already put significant effort into building up your credibility there.

Remember that the WA is a voluntary association of sovereign states, and not the federal government of one single nation. In this context, are you sure that your chosen subject is one that really qualifies to be the topic of international legislation? If you decide that it is, then be prepared to have to justify that opinion. “All other nations need to be forced to do things in the same way that my own nation does” tends not to receive wide acceptance, and nor does “All nations should follow [RELIGION]’s morality” neither…
If your argument isn’t convincing enough then you are very likely to face opposition by some nations on general principles even if (as might well be the case for some of them) they already have similar laws in place as a matter of national policy themselves.
This is a major reason why the ‘Gambling’, ‘Gun Control’, and ‘Recreational Drugs’ categories contain so few passed resolutions. Trying to create a successful proposal for any of that trio would probably be a waste of time until you've got more experience under your belt.

Read the rules to check that you legally can write proposals on that subject and so that you know what makes a proposal ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’. If you’re not sure now whether the idea is ‘legally’ viable, but think that it might be, you can try asking for opinions in the GA Q&A thread. Also, the GA forum includes a thread collecting together relevant rulings.
Submitting too many ‘illegal’ proposals can get your nation expelled from the WA, with the usual rule being “Three strikes and you’re out” although the Secretariat (OOC: i.e. the Mods) have occasionally been more generous (for example if a newcomer posts several illegal proposals straight after each other in a burst of misplaced enthusiasm then they might choose to count this as only one single offence…), and I think that getting two or three nations of your nations sequentially kicked out in this way might result in you losing proposal-submitting rights altogether although admittedly I can’t remember having seen a player invite that fate for quite a few years now…
One very important rule is that new proposals aren’t allowed to amend, contradict or duplicate any existing resolution that hasn’t already been repealed. The official list of passed GA resolutions isn’t searchable, but there’s also a searchable list that Omigodtheykilledkenny maintains in the GA forum. Check for potential problems in this respect through Kenny’s list first, using as many relevant keywords as you can think of, and then scroll through the end of the official list as well in case there are any new resolutions there that the searchable list doesn’t yet include.
Another very important rule is the one against Plagiarism, which is actually a One strike and you’re out!” offence… and the WA’s definition of ‘plagiarism’ is even stricter than the usual RL definition. Citing your sources doesn’t legitimise direct quotes, you actually need to be able to show the Secretariat verifiable proof that you have permission to use the other writer’s work… and that even applies to passed WA Resolutions, except for (1) quotes necessary in attempts to repeal the resolutions concerned, or (2) using the names of existing committees and agencies in order to give those additional duties (which doesn’t count as illegal under the “No amendments” rule, neither).

Using the GA Forum isn’t legally required, but it’s highly recommended. Admittedly some of the regulars there can be a bit sharp with newcomers, which is at least partly due to their having already seen so many newbies making so many of the same mistakes, but if you make sure that you’ve got a basic understanding of the rules (and maybeso “lurk” for a while, to see how things are done there, too: The ‘Silly and/or Illegal Proposals’ thread can be particularly useful reading, to help you avoid at least the more common mistakes) before you start to post then some of them can be quite friendly… and if you show that you know what you’re doing, by commenting sensibly in other peoples’ drafting threads, then that will gain you some credibility for when you post your own drafts. This might delay your own project for a little while, but will probably be a worthwhile investment of time.

Every proposal has to fit into one or another of the legal ‘Categories’. You might be able to stretch the official definitions a bit (for example, witness the Bears’ own ‘Meteorological Cooperation’ resolution, which managed to define improving weather forecasts as a matter of ‘Free Trade’… ^_^ ) but if your choice isn’t obviously appropriate then you’ll need to have a good justification ready… and on this aspect, as on everything else, the collective voice of the Secretariat is final.
‘Human Rights’ proposals tend to be more popular than ‘Moral Decency’ ones with the voters, ‘Furtherment of Democracy’ more popular than ‘Political Stability’… and ‘International Security’ more popular than ‘Global Disarmament’.

So, hokay, now create a first draft for your proposal working, either alone or in your region (or in a suitable think-tank’s forum, if you can find one that’s still active…), bearing in mind the points that I’ve made above.
Using the same general format that pretty well all of the recent resolutions do isn’t “legally required” but is highly recommended: That format is used so much because it works… and some of the GA forum regulars, and some regional delegates, might actually be a little bit be prejudiced against proposals that don’t use it.
The system for submitting proposals automatically limits them in length: It simply doesn’t allow you to submit a ‘Description’ (or, in the case of ‘Repeal’ proposals, an ‘Argument’ instead) that exceeds 3’500 characters in total, including punctuation and spaces… and if you’re using the counter that comes with Microsoft Office then the effective maximum according to that is usually closer to 3’450 instead. Oh, and for titles there’s an upper limit of only 30 characters, all-in, as well.
A passed resolution automatically becomes law in all member nations, whose governments & legal systems are then responsible for enforcement, so you don’t need to include enforcement mechanisms in your text although in some cases giving a WA committee or agency the right & duty to judge disputed cases might be appropriate. However there is an established convention, generally supported by the Secretariat, that “The law does what the law says”: Nations are supposed to follow a ‘good faith’ interpretation of resolutions, but they only have to consider the actual wording and not whatever the authors’ intentions might have been, so try to make absolutely sure that your wording accurately expresses your intentions.
WA committees & agencies are all automatically presumed to be honest, impartial, and efficient, so that proposals including them don’t need to use up part of the limited length available setting up ways to make them work properly. (This also means that Repeal attempts can’t legally suggest potential problems with a WA committee or agency’s actions as an argument for getting rid of the resolution which introduced that committee or agency…) You can assign new duties to an existing WA committee or agency, which would then remain in existence to carry out those new duties (despite losing its original role) if the resolution that established it gets repealed. They can interpret policy but can’t really be assigned to make it, because (apart from anything else) as no players are actually involved in running those bodies no players would have any genuine way of knowing what their decisions actually were…
You aren’t actually “required” to take the existence of nations with non-human populations or with non-[‘Modern-tech’] settings into account, and in fact the ‘No Meta-gaming’ rule means that a proposal can’t explicitly say that they exist anyhows, but wording the text to take account of the fact that they’re RPed as existing — for example, by using the species-neutral term “people” rather than “humans” — is appreciated by those of us whose nations do fall into those categories… some of whom might happen to be delegates who have LOTS of votes.

Re-check that your proposal, as currently drafted, fits within the rules. Spell-check your text (bearing in mind that the spellchecker from Microsoft Office ignores words in ALL-CAPS), proof-read it carefully, and maybeso get a friend to do so as well. Then it might be ready for submission, but I honestly recommend posting it in the GA forum — or somewhere else that has a reasonable number of people present who understand how these things work, anyhows — for feedback first. Rare indeed is the proposal (even from among my own work ^_^ ) that can’t be improved from its first draft: This stage might take longer than you’d hoped would be the case, but as folks say in those parts “Writing a successful proposal is a marathon, not a sprint.” Repeals of recently-passed resolutions, pointing out obvious flaws in those that were somehow overlooked until it was too late, are probably the easiest type of proposal to get right first time around.
If one person tells you that your proposal would be illegal then they might be right or they might be wrong (or maybeso, occasionally, they might deliberately be lying in order to deter a proposal that they dislike…) but if several established "GA regulars" agree about this then they’re probably right. Remember the Q&A and 'Rulings Repository' threads that I mentioned earlier, and if discussion in the GA forum can’t reach a consensus that you are willing to accept then you can request a ruling by posting in the Moderation forum. The Mods prefer to see things sorted out in the GA forum instead, and don’t respond to blanket “Is this proposal legal?” questions, but if you explain the specified points under dispute and give your [coherent] arguments for why you think your work as it currently stands is legal in those particular respects then they’ll normally give a ruling on the matter sooner-or-later.

Actually getting a drafted proposal to quorum, and passed?
Discussing that is a topic for some other time…

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