Consensus Decision-Making:
Bahá'í Perspective

By Vargha Taefi

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #89
Center for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
June 28 – July 1, 2009
(see list of papers from #89)

    This paper reviews the historical development of multilateral diplomacy and highlights the main systems of group decision—making employed by major international players among organizations and corporations. It then analyses different parameters, advantages and disadvantages of each of these prominent decision—making methods from voting systems such as unanimity, simple and absolute majority, weighted voting, etc. to consensus decision—making as an alternative to voting.

    Voting techniques are divisive by nature and work toward polarizing and marginalizing the dissent, whereas consensus decision—making is a process which replaces the traditional win—lose competition caused by voting with unity through compromise and negotiation. While consensus decision—making enhances the process of decision—making by encouraging collaboration and unifying differing opinions, puts an end to coalition-building and tyranny of majority, and increases the commitment of the individuals to the adopted decision, it has serious limitations at times stalling the process of decision—making.

    Bahá'í mode of consensus—based decision—making, known as the Bahá'í consultation, is introduced and explored as the next generation of multilateral decision—making systems, which is distinct from consensus decision—making in both purpose and process. Striving to achieve the correct decision besides the unity of the participants in the decision—making, Bahá'í consultation adds a strong element of spiritual training and sincere desire to serve to the process of decision—making, and abolishes the ownership of suggested opinions, compromise and trade—off, and formation of subgroups, oppositions and minority groups, with the help of spiritual virtues as well as the actual decision—making processes.

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