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Secrecy and transparancy towards third-parties in negotiation: contribution to a historical study of international negotiation

Colson, Aurelien (2007) Secrecy and transparancy towards third-parties in negotiation: contribution to a historical study of international negotiation. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86453) (KAR id:86453)

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This research studies the historical and political move from secrecy to transparency in international negotiation, and investigates to what extent the latter constitutes a political progress. Exploring century-old texts on diplomatic practice, Chapter 1 shows how secrecy was constructed as the norm of international negotiations (from the Renaissance to the apex of absolute monarchy): both the negotiation process and outcome could be veiled. Secrecy has then been contested by the principle of publicity, the philosophical roots of which are examined (from the Enlightenment to Wilson): negotiation process could remain secret, but it became generally agreed that its outcome should be made public (Chapter 2). Chapter 3 introduces the concept of injunction of transparency: in contemporary times, secrecy is contested by a powerful demand for exposure, which gradually expands into negotiation arenas. Consequently, the negotiation process itself is under an increasing pressure to be made public. Simmel' s works on secret societies help analyse this evolution. It is then demonstrated, from the viewpoint of negotiation theories and techniques, that secrecy and transparency towards third-parties constitute a dilemma - or a tension, as the literature puts it - between efficiency of the process and legitimacy of the outcome. Chapter 4 builds two ideal-types of negotiations - totally secret or totally transparent towards third parties - to highlight their key characteristics. Extreme transparency dissolves the boundary between the negotiation table and "the rest of the world", enabling stakeholders to interfere. The original concepts of quasi-negotiator and quasi-multilateral negotiations are constructed. Chapter 5 examines how the dilemma is handled in practice. Consideration is given to the "closed door diplomacy" model, followed by a discussion of partial secrecy, and temporal secrecy. The issue of asymmetry is addressed, in relation with the sustainability of secrecy over time. In order to verify the previous findings, Chapter 6 provides a case study of the international negotiations on air services agreements, based on the 1944 Chicago Convention, and which feature the interplay between secrecy and transparency.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86453
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 13:53 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 11:45 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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