Opening and Closing of Plenary
The first session of each conference starts with some necessary formalities, followed by a few formal decisions about the way in which the conference will work. These questions have already been the subject of extensive preparatory work and discussion, including agreements being reached among many governments or their delegations some time before the conference. However all of this has taken place at an informal level. It is only when the conference has assembled and been declared open that it is in a position to take decisions that actually engage the conference as a whole. This pattern will continue throughout the conference: informal discussion, often including informal negotiation and agreements among the more active delegations, which pave the way to formal decisions by the conference.
In most cases the Chairman has not yet been elected and the formal work of the conference cannot start without someone in the Chair. This means that someone else has to be in the Chair when the conference opens and until the conference gives itself a chairman.
Typically this interim Chairman will be one of the following, depending on the circumstances (e.g. whether the conference is one of a series) and unless the Rules of Procedure or statutory provisions dictate otherwise:
- a representative of the convener of the conference (the host country or international organization) or
- the outgoing Chairman, i.e. the Chairman of the previous session of the same conference, whose term of office often extends until his/her successor is elected or
- the conference secretary
The interim Chairman will tap his/her gavel and call the meeting to order. He/she will then ‘declare the conference open’.
The conference is then in its first Plenary session.
Finally there is a closing session of Plenary.
It has received all the reports before it and taken all the decisions it was capable of taking.
All that remains are the closing speeches by delegates, expressing their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the course of discussions. Observers are often allowed to make a brief statement.
However, the principal and the final part of the closing process is the concluding statement by the Chairman. He/she will always attempt to put as positive a light as possible on what has transpired, drawing attention to the real achievements of the conference and to the possibilities that it has opened for the future.