An international conference is an interaction between States (primarily a cooperative interaction), but that interaction takes place between delegates as representatives of States. The principal way in which the delegates interact is by communicating with each other and most of that communication takes the form of face-to-face conversations.
Delegates talk to each other from the moment they arrive at the UN until they leave. Some of their exchanges are social and some of them reflect the pursuit of extraneous objectives. Overwhelmingly, however, the conversations are about the business of the conference. These are called informal consultations.
This section is composed of the following areas:
It is through these conversations that most of the business of the UN takes place. They are the principal means whereby delegates keep themselves and each other informed about all aspects of the work on the agenda items included in the Programme of Work, whereby they clarify their own thinking about the issues that are being discussed either in the General Assembly or Security Council and through which they seek to influence each other’s thinking. It is in these conversations that most of the negotiation takes place and most of the agreements are reached.
Formal processes can be decisively important but often their main function is to formalize agreements previously reached informally and to provide the context for informal exchanges. Most delegations spend a large amount of their time in informal consultations, and the reason that many governments send sizable delegations is to increase the delegation’s ability to participate in informal consultations.