There is growing recognition in the literature of the important roles played by Chairpersons and secretariats in global environmental negotiations. Less frequently recognized, however, is the interdependence of those roles. Using the example of the climate change negotiations, this paper argues that Chairpersons and the secretariat are locked into a mutually-dependent relationship. Whereas the Chairperson has the political authority needed to exert leadership in the negotiations, the secretariat possesses intellectual resources that can maximize the effectiveness of that leadership. The secretariat's input to the negotiations, however, must be shielded by a “veil of legitimacy,” whereby the Chairperson takes responsibility for that input. The paper explores how Chairpersons and the secretariat work together, along with the dysfunctionalities that can emerge in this very personal relationship. In doing so, the paper expands our understanding of exactly how these two actors exert influence in global environmental negotiations.

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