This was how a negotiation room in COP21 looked like

This was how a negotiation room in COP21 looked like

Have you ever wonder how does a United Nation meeting looks like? You might have watched them at YouTube before but I bet you did not even have the patience to finish a session of it because it might be boring if you are not tracking it live.

Much thanks to the Minister of the Natural Resources and Energy (NRE), the Malaysian Youth Delegation was able to gain the opportunity to enter negotiation rooms of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) as “Party Overflow” badges (national delegate badges).

I would like to share some of my experience of observing the negotiation processes:

What kind of meetings that have in COP21?

  1. Informal informals – Negotiators come together to discuss about ideas and stand, not as Parties. It usually happened with the delegates of the same bloc or regional group. The outcome of the discussion will not be take into formal text but might be raised in a spin-off group. It is more like a strategy discussion meeting to understand the opinions of the Parties.
  2. Spin-off Group – Parties will discuss and negotiate about clauses in a particular article of the draft agreement text. The co-chair or co-facilitator will go paragraph by paragraph. If there is any Parties do not agree with the paragraph, other Parties will gives their opinion on the suggestions of the former. There will be several spin-off groups going on simultaneously. Hence the delegations have to split and focus on different articles in order to join the negotiation for topics that they are concerned on.
  3. Bilateral – Different blocs or regional groups will meet up and build understandings among each other or discuss on certain topics that they disagree on in order to increase the efficiency of the whole process.
  4. Contact Group  All of the spin-off groups outcome will be brought up in the contact group. It is sort of like a concluding meeting that gather all the small negotiations together. Parties may give an intervention or negotiate upon issues that have not reach any consensus. This is like a finale and it usually only allow Parties with special secondary badges to enter the meeting room but is televised in overflow room(s) that everyone, including observers, can access and watch.

Which one I enjoyed the most?

I enjoy Spin-off groups the most because it is more specific, easier to follow and Party Overflow delegates usually is allowed to be in the room. It is more open and less sensitive than a bloc meeting as there will not be any discussion on strategy in the spin-offs. In some Spin-offs, I got the chance to learn from the Head of Malaysian Delegation, Dr. Gary Theseira. He will be evaluating the situation and explaining the stand of the main players in the negotiations. I do not have to opportunity to do so during the Contact Group meeting.

The best part of following the negotiations is that you get to learn a lot more about the stand of the Parties and to observe how the members of similar bloc work together and back up each other. The repetition of certain hot topics will arouse your curiosity to read up more about it. Besides, you will push yourself to read through the text properly, word by word. It might be very daunting to read the whole draft text (which went up to nearly 50 pages). But if you follow the negotiation, you will have to read the text during the negotiation in order to keep track. You will get to know which are the important/controversial paragraphs too.

The worst part of following the negotiations is that you will have to battle your sleepiness very hard while jotting down your notes at times. Have you ever had the feeling which you know you are awake and listening every word other people said but at the same time you know you are dozing and you can’t comprehend a single word that you heard? You’ll have to struggle in this almost everyday when you are tracking negotiations! Even negotiators faced the same problems. That’s why the cafes in COP21 always have long queue!

All in all, it is definitely an awesome experience to observe and to understand more about the UNFCCC processes. Hopefully in the future I am able to comprehend more about the interventions and the big pictures of the meetings.

Written by Elaine See