The Purpose of Consultations

Delegates confer in lounge area near GA Hall Delegates confer in lounge area near General Assembly Hall

The reasons why you, as a delegate, will want to consult informally with other delegations include the following:
  • to find out what they know
  • to tell them what you want them to know (e.g. to forewarn them of an initiative planned by you or by others)
  • to ask their opinion (e.g. by ‘floating’ a proposal)
  • to learn their intentions
  • to get their agreement to what you want
  • to plan together, to develop a proposal or to advance an argument and
  • to take decisions about how you will both act
Doing this will enable you:
  • to demonstrate that your country is represented and participating in the conference
  • to monitor the conference so as to gauge how it is progressing through its work programme and what agreements are emerging
  • to gather information relevant to your delegation’s objectives at the conference (e.g. the attitude of other delegations to particular proposals, their intentions etc)
  • to influence the thinking and actions of others
  • to negotiate
  • to develop and maintain relations with other delegations, and
  • to equip you to report on what happened to other members of your delegation
The specific tasks undertaken through informal consultation include the following:
  • Developing relationships with other delegates
  • Making your positions known to other delegations
  • Gathering general information about attitudes, intentions, and positions of other delegations
  • Assessing who is in agreement with your positions, who opposes them and who agrees with certain components of your position but not all
  • Persuading others to go along with your position
  • Negotiating with others to reach a compromise when positions differ
Whom to consult

Consultation MUN delegates consult with one another

This means that you will want to talk to:
  • anybody who holds useful information
  • anybody whom you want to inform
  • anybody you want to influence
  • anybody who is potentially helpful
  • anybody who is potential trouble
  • anybody who will become a problem if you don’t consult them, and
  • those with whom you want to maintain close relations
This in turn means that the people you should discuss Security Council business with are not primarily –and certainly not only – your friends or the people you find it easiest to talk to, but include:
  • other delegates who fall into the categories set out above
  • the President of the Council
  • members of the Secretariat
Where to consult

Traditionally, informal consultations are said to take place in the corridors. These words are used to differentiate informal consultation from the formal exchanges that take place in the conference room(s) when the conference is in formal session. In fact such consultations can be conducted anywhere and in many cases you will want them to be where you are unlikely to be overheard.

Lebanese delegates conversing in the delegates lounge Lebanese delegates conversing in the Delegates' Lounge at UN Headquarters

The most readily available and widely-used venues are the corridors, lobbies, stairways, coffee shops and cafeterias of the conference building. It is also easy to consult in the conference room, before, after and during a session. And when appropriate, presiding officer of a meeting or a delegate can request that the meeting be suspended for a certain amount of time to allow delegations to talk informally if they feel this might help achieve consensus on an issue.

If you want a more private conversation, many conference venues have terraces or gardens and sometimes it is possible to find an unoccupied conference room or office that you can use for a short while.  You can invite other delegates to join you at a range of venues (e.g. restaurants) away from the conference.

Informal consultations, be they in small groups of two or three or in larger groups, are essentially private. Also, there is no official record of what is said and the conversation can be tentative or exploratory in nature. This means that delegates may speak much more freely in such conversations than they might in formal sessions of the conference where their words are often recorded.

In some instances, delegates choose to move to the Informal Consultations Room or another location for informal meetings. When this occurs the Rules of Procedure are suspended as well during the entire time the informal meeting is in session.

Consultation2 MUN delegates in a consultation

The essentially private nature of informal consultations means that you can adjust your manner and what you say to your particular audience. You may wish to say privately some things you would not wish to say publicly. It will quickly backfire on you if you convey different information to different interlocutors and often if you try to hide from them something they are likely to learn from other sources.

The other consequence of the informal nature of corridor conversations is that agreements reached in the course of these talks only engage the participants and then only informally. Agreements formally engaging the Council can only be reached in a formal session that meets in the Council chamber.