As I was entering the closed meeting I was supposed to go, I noticed that several observers were blocked outside. After the parties were ready, the co-facilitators asked them if they would like to allow observers to enter the room. Although none of the sessions I went banned the entrance for observers, it was still astonishing to witness the limited access civil service organization conference, which had a vision to be inclusive.
On 10 November 2017, the APA Co-chair had a dialogue with the observer organizations. The dialogue was supposed to allow representatives from different constituencies to bring up their concerns pertaining to the negotiations that have been going on for the past week. The co-chair started the session by reiterating the need of observers being in the negotiation room as they were experts in their respective field. The co-chair then stresses that all meetings of the APA continue to be open to all observers, which from my experience so far, was true. I have never been blocked access or seen anyone with a yellow badge and ticket being blocked. However, I do believe that the ticketing process was a buffer system that limited the participation of the observers.
For the same reason, during the session, a representative from TWYCC brought up the problem of ticketing system on behalf of YOUNGO (representatives from RINGO and the Women and Gender Group also brought up similar issues). Currently, the observers will be blocked outside until parties have been seated and the session started. To that, the co-chairs responded by saying that they want to ensure that there is sufficient space for the parties while also allowing space for experts. Although I understand where they are coming from, I don’t see how this was a sufficient reason to make the observers wait until the delegates who were late (since they need to run in from other meetings) to enter the room.
Also, the ticketing system limits the number of representatives that could be sent to a certain meeting. For example, YOUNGO only has two tickets for each agenda items (those that are open for observers only). These arrangements often create disagreement within the constituencies when there are more than two people who are interested in the same topic. YOUNGO tries to give everyone a chance to attend by diversifying the people who get the ticket. But this only creates another issue of the lack of specialization in the negotiation tracking process. The co-chairs also acknowledged that this is an issue, but no concrete solution was provided during the session. I was rather disappointed by that because it is a contradiction of what they were stressing in the beginning of the session.
The co-chairs did reassure the importance of an observer’s role by stating “You may not be negotiating the words but you are the interface between the negotiators and the rest of the world,”. But beautiful words itself is inadequate, decisions need to be made to increase the accessibility of observers. And as of today, observers still face a lot of systemic barriers in the negotiation room.
Written by Xiandi
Edited by Varun