After consideration, we continue freely to reach agreement on what needs to be done. The vote also gives powerless states an important tool to fight the wishes of powerful states. This is especially true when voting is conducted by secret ballot, as is the case with many decisions taken at the CITES Conference of Parties. While this may put an end to “progress,” it also ensures that a decision is taken, but that it is truly supported by a large majority and is not only accepted. At the same time, a handful of states cannot rule out an agreement, as is the case with consensus. At the beginning of this guide, we said that “based on consensus on respectful dialogue between equals.” But even with the best intentions in the world, consensual groups often repeat the inequalities of society at large. None of us enter a meeting with a clean slate – we bring all kinds of expectations and aspirations for life in space that have an impact on the likelihood that we can get away with our needs. Implementing consensual decisions is not always easy! It takes time to unlearn the behaviours we have educated, to accept them as a norm, like “winning” competition for an argument. Perhaps the most important thing is to take the time to think about how your consensus process is going, to give feedback on each other and to constantly look for ways to improve. Radical Routes is a national mutual assistance network in the UK with around 40 member organisations. Decisions are made by consensus using a structure of the delegate meeting. The network meets four times a year in business meetings to make a large number of decisions, including the processing of proposals from co-operators of the Radical Roads Credit Fund. Each group sends a delegate (or “spokesperson”) to the Spokespersons` Council meeting, where all delegates present the range of ideas and concerns of their political groups.
The spokespersons then propose proposals which they believe are acceptable to all and refer them to political groups for further discussions and amendments. This process is repeated until an agreement is reached. Decision-making power remains the responsibility of all members. The fusion of different ideas and the attempt to find a proposal acceptable to all are at the heart of the consensus. We call this synthesis of processes: finding links between seemingly competing ideas and weaving them into suggestions. What is the benefit of using the consensual process? The second example clearly shows what you want, but it also recognizes that Angus also has a choice on the merits! “Agreement between experimental observations and theory” On 28 March, negotiators at the last UN Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty did not adopt the Arms Trade Treaty by mutual agreement (see BBC report here). A few days later, the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly (154 votes in, 3 against and 23 abstentions – for a really useful presentation of the negotiations, see the right-wing blog on the Arms Trade Treaty). At the diplomatic conference, the regulation requires that the treaty be adopted by consensus.
At the end of the conference, however, Syria, Iran and North Korea contradicted the text. According to bloggers at the TCA Legal Blog, a debate took place on whether the objection of these three states could prevent the adoption of the treaty by mutual agreement, with some states believing that the adoption of the text by an overwhelming majority of states was sufficient to reach consensus despite the opposition expressed by three states. However, the conference chair decided that there was no consensus and that the treaty could not be adopted. To increase participation in a plenary session, you may prefer people who have not yet spoken and ask more confident people to hold back.