As they seek agreement among many nations on a single text, diplomats look for words that are as positively assertive as the multilateral consensus permits.  In a joint communiqué, “we will” or “we shall” is an indication of a strong commitment to action.  Weaker language, on the other hand, may have a variety of meanings.  In an effort to be helpful, The Centre for International Governance Innovation offers a glossary of communiqué phrases and their possible nuances.

Communiqué                                                            May mean

We anticipate                                                            We hope

Should                                                                        Might not

With the aim of                                                     Possibly falling short of

Progress is being made toward                        We may not get to

Greater efforts are required                                     We are disappointed so far

We are exploring                                                We are not ready to act on

Subject to respective budget processes            Some of us might not pay

Voluntary criteria for                                                No firm requirement for

Focus on country-led initiatives                         Countries doing their own thing

We share the goal of                                          We are not individually accountable for

We expect                                                             We wish

Primary outcome                                                 Biggest wish

Other tips for reading a communiqué: 

  • Beware reading too much into the document. A cautious reading is often the fairest.
  • Read the document carefully – including appendices. A skim may overlook important details.
  • Spot the gaps. What is omitted from the text may be hard to notice, yet significant.

CIGI is an independent, nonpartisan think tank on international governance challenges. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. For more information, visit


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