Chairship System and Decision Making by Consensus in International Agreements: The Case of ASEAN

Discussion Papers


by SUZUKI Sanae

July 2014


How are different positions reconciled under decision making by consensus in international agreements? This article aims to answer this question. Consensus rule provides each participant a veto, which risks resulting in non-agreement. Taking ASEAN as a case study of international organizations that have adopted consensus rule as the main decision-making procedure, this article presents the chairship system as an analytical scheme to examine how different positions are or are not reconciled under consensus rule. The system is based on conventional knowledge regarding the chair in international conference, which can be defined as an institution where the role of the chair is taken by one member state in an international organization and plays a role in agenda-setting. The agenda-setting power given to the chair varies across organizations. This article assumes that the chair in ASEAN is given a relatively strong agenda-setting power to enable the chair to reach agreements and bias such agreements in its own favor.

Keywords: chair, agenda-setting, ASEAN

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