Superficial consensus in intergovernmental bodies
Intergovernmental institutions are incredibly resistant to reality and to change because they usually operate by consensus. Lack of realism is not confined to the texts of Charters and Constitutions of international bodies. The pursuit of verbal consensus replaces real discussion of problems and the give-and-take of vested interests, thus concealing the fact that no agreement has been reached, possibly because there were no real negotiations. This tendency is facilitated by the paragraphs of resolutions that set forth basic principles or truisms to which it all the easier to subscribe in that there is no follow-up on their implementation.
Declarations of principles and and declarations enjoining Member States to observe them represent one quarter of the number of paragraphs of the sum total of United Nations resolutions. The degree of unreality varies with the programmes. Some render precise service. But in a general way, the world-wide scale of these undertakings; the gulf between the ambitions and the means; the lack of a transmission belt between the offices at headquarters and the responsible national services within each country; the inability to define modest objectives accessible within stated time-limits, raise doubts whether in the long run most of the actions have any connection with reality. Description by organization or sector of activity give an appearance of rationality to the division of labour as if the types of activity to be undertaken were the same in every sector. They also give the false impression that the degree of of effectiveness possible in the different fields (peace, education, transport, food, etc) is comparable, thus concealing real differences in the nature of the problems and types of activity.
The use of broad terms and blurred distinctions make political agreement possible since such "constructive ambiguity" allows each country to read into proposals whatever they choose. Such techniques also mask real disagreements that have hampered the translation of programmes into meaningful activities. Thus programmes negotiated by government representatives suffer from the inherent limitations of the political process. Skill in the art of compromise is not sufficient when those who hold the resources and understand the conditions to which the programmes must apply are unable to ensure that practical issues are taken into account.
A certain amount of idealistic wording is necessary to the extent that a certain vagueness facilitates meetings between the representatives of opposing regimes or ideologies.