Problem

Consensus trap

Other Names:
Consensus as an unreasonable pre-condition for action
Cyclic disassociation from collective commitment
Dissent as an excuse for inaction
Unrealizable multilateral consensus as a justification of inaction
Irresponsible insistence on unanimity
Nature:

By focusing on points of agreement through the process of consensus, anything controversial is omitted from final agreements or plans of action. Thus consensus produces mediocrity and stagnation.

Incidence:

In 1995, just prior to the IV World Conference on Women (Beijing), it was argued by women's groups that a number of proposals arising from agreements reached at the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), World Population and Development Conference (Cairo 1994) and Social Summit (Copenhagen, 1994), and which are backed by the majority of governments, are at risk of exclusion from the international agenda because they lack universal consensus. Countries blocking such agreements using religious concepts (e.g. Honduras, Guatemala and the Vatican) were particularly singled out as treating the "women question" as secondary.

Claim:

During the course of the evolution of the crisis in Yugoslavia, each country appears to have taken it in turn to make creative proposals (appreciated domestically) which other countries then rejected. And on other occasions, when consensus on an initiative was achieved by its allies, that country would then veto the initiative, taking its turn to appear uncreative. This cycle of political inactivity provided a guarantee that each government would achieve public relations successes and failures with little risk of any consensus on action emerging. Thus whenever it looked remotely as if Europeans might agree to a USA proposal to intervene, the USA backed off. Similarly a country such as the USA can claim to want decisive action on an issue, provided that action is multilateral and a proper international mandate is given. If these conditions are not fulfilled, then that country is able regretfully to decline from any initiative. All countries involved in such inaction cycles are free to deplore the lack of consensus and the inability to respond to the issue.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
02.11.2017 – 18:12 CET