Consensus decision-making at NATO
All NATO decisions are made by consensus, after discussion and consultation among member countries.
- A decision reached by consensus is an agreement reached by common consent.
- When a “NATO decision” is announced, it is therefore the expression of the collective will of all the sovereign states that are members of the Alliance.
- This principle of consensus is applied at every committee level, which means that all NATO decisions are collective decisions made by its member countries.
Consensus decision-making is a fundamental principle. It has been accepted as the sole basis for decision-making in NATO since the creation of the Alliance in 1949.
Consensus decision-making means that there is no voting at NATO. Consultations take place until a decision that is acceptable to all is reached. Sometimes member countries agree to disagree on an issue. In general, this negotiation process is rapid, since members consult each other on a regular basis and therefore often know and understand each other's positions in advance.
Facilitating the process of consultation and consensus decision-making is one of the NATO Secretary General's main tasks.
The principle of consensus decision-making applies throughout NATO – from the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal political decision-making body, all the way down through its subordinate committees and structures.