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Qualifiers Used in Summings Up of Executive Board Meetings

Last Updated: July 28, 2017

Summings up are an essential element of the decision-making process at the IMF. They are a helpful vehicle for recording consensus views, while simultaneously taking account of any significant nuances in those views—possibly including even dissent by some chairs—that would be difficult to reflect in a formal decision of the Executive Board. As such, a summing up enhances the record of the Board’s agreement, and in some circumstances, the summing up may itself constitute an Executive Board decision.1 For example, meetings of the Executive Board related to Article IV consultations are concluded by a summing up, while meetings on general Fund policies are frequently concluded by a summing up particularly when Board views give direction to future staff work.

Since the Fund’s inception, the Executive Board has emphasized the importance of seeking consensus rather than formal voting. As an alternative to formal votes, the Board decided in 1946 to task the Chairman with the responsibility for identifying the “sense of the meeting,” which would be the basis for decision making. Rule C-10 of the IMF’s Rules and Regulations reflects this approach and provides that the Chair shall ordinarily ascertain the sense of the meeting in lieu of taking a formal vote. The “sense of the meeting” is understood as a position supported by Executive Directors having sufficient votes to carry the question if a vote were taken. In summing up, the Chairman reflects the Board discussion in wording that is precise enough for operational purposes, yet broad and subtle enough to capture significant nuances of Executive Directors’ views. Individual views, however, are generally not incorporated into a summing up, but are recorded in the Board minutes which are a comprehensive and complete record of Board meetings.

As part of the consensual decision-making process described above, a long-standing practice has emerged to use qualifiers to record the extent of support on issues where differences of view exist. Although the enumeration of Executive Directors’ views in qualifiers is based on the count, in summing up a discussion the Chair will also need to give consideration to the necessary voting majorities to carry the question if a vote were taken (especially for decisions requiring special majorities) given the weighted distribution of voting power on the Executive Board.2 Also, when summings up note differences of view, they do not attribute views to particular Directors. On the other hand, the term “Directors” (without qualifier) does not necessarily imply unanimous agreement or full consensus. As noted above, the minutes of Board meetings are the appropriate formal vehicle to reflect all views in a comprehensive and complete manner.

The table below describes the qualifiers most commonly used in summings up.

Qualifiers Commonly Used in Executive Board Summings Up

Qualifier Number of Executive Directors
A few 2-4
Some 5-6
A number of 6-9
Many 10-15
Most 15 or more
Significant minority of the Board or, in exceptional cases, required majority or a majority of the Board Indication of necessary voting strength, particularly useful in cases of special majorities
Directors Required voting majority would be very comfortably satisfied if there were to be a vote; and all, or almost all, Directors can go along with the majority view.

1 By contrast, the Executive Board may record its decision by adopting specifically proposed text, which is typically the case where a Board decision involves the use of Fund resources, administrative or budgetary items, and some policy matters.

2 For more information on decision making in the IMF, see Leo Van Houtven, 2002, Governance of the IMF: Decision Making, Institutional Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability (IMF, Washington, D.C.) and Joseph Gold, 1977, Voting Majorities in the Fund: Effects of Second Amendment of the Articles, Pamphlet Series No. 20 (IMF, Washington, D.C.). For the voting power currently exercised by Executive Board chairs, see