chapter  1
11 Pages

Introduction

Our interest in the chairmanship offi ce originates from our previous work in a UN context, which brought up the importance of Chairs and how they managed multilateral negotiations not only procedurally but also substantially. However, to our surprise, only scarce references could be traced in the literature regarding their actual role and involvement in the negotiation process. As we discuss in detail in the section of the literature review that follows, Chairs featured more prominently in descriptive accounts of institutional provisions, giving more emphasis on their statutory rather than their substantive political role; or en passant in treatises of signifi cant negotiations, but always as background noise in their conduct. In addition to that, for a long time, existing accounts originated mainly from diplomats and offi cials alike, suggesting a practitioner’s point of view, very useful as such but lacking analytical insights and capacity for generalization. In the UN context, such accounts were limited mainly to the Security Council, largely ignoring other signifi cant UN bodies and institutions, such as the ad hoc working groups and several conferences set up for specifi c international issues. This lack of interest may be attributed for some time past to the Cold War and the conditions deriving from it of enmity and friction in international politics that led most deliberation and negotiation processes to stalemate. More generally, the neutrality and impartiality assumptions that have long been associated with the offi ce may have masked the Chair’s potential in molding negotiation outcomes, thus leading it to the fringes of scholarly research. However, there is a growing realization of the signifi cant role of the Chair in negotiations, and much more attention has recently been paid to the offi ce, with substantial analytical and empirical insights that we review in the next section.