Training developing country delegates to engage in climate negotiations

Article, 31 July 2020

Through regional workshops, IIED and partners build capacity to engage in international climate decision-making processes, so delegates are better equipped to negotiate.

People pose on stairs for a group photo

Junior negotiators stand alongside ecbi staff and senior negotiators during a successful workshop in Nepal in 2019 (Photo: copyright Prakriti Resources Centre)

Every year, a training workshop is held under the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) Training and Support Programme before the Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations plus three regional workshops – for Francophone Africa, Anglophone Africa, and Asia and the Pacific. The aim of these events is to improve participants’ knowledge of the international climate decision-making process, so that they can engage in it effectively once they reach the United Nations.

Over five years and 17 workshops, more than 300 participants have attended our training and put the knowledge and skills gained into practice. With experience, we identified three best practices for achieving this aim:

  • Participants benefit by learning from regional experts – peers who’ve become lead United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators themselves
  • Participants should have the opportunity to practice their negotiating skills in as real-life an environment as possible, and
  • Participants can cement their learning through continued participation.

Regional expertise

Officials trained by ecbi have risen to become senior negotiators in the UNFCCC process, as well as leaders of regional groups and of UNFCCC bodies and committees. Some have become ministers and envoys in their home countries.

These ecbi alumni are now capacity builders themselves, aiding the initiative's efforts to train the next generation of negotiators

One example is Mamadou Honadia, who has more than 20 years' experience of international climate negotiations and is the former head of Burkina Faso's delegation.

During the 2016 UN climate talks in Marrakech, he still valued the opportunity to share his experiences. At the time, he worked in the Prime Minister's office in Burkina Faso, dealing with the Green Climate Fund. He said: "I think it's very important because other people are still vulnerable to climate change. We are poor countries. We still need some strong young fellows to continue the fight we have started."

Mamadou Honadia speaks about the importance of training young LDC negotiators

At the training workshops, junior negotiators and national policymakers enhance their understanding of the UNFCCC’s key topics, as presented by these regional experts – senior government officials, experienced climate negotiators and their advisors. 

In addition, the annual pre-COP training workshops are opened by the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group and focus on issues important to countries particularly vulnerable to climate change. 

Mock negotiations

In response to positive feedback from participants, the training workshops have grown to incorporate several practical negotiating skills sessions. These include a practical skills session where an experienced negotiator describes ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’, and mock negotiations that allow participants to practice negotiating together with experienced LDC negotiators. 

A mock negotiation session run by ecbi in 2017

Mock negotiation sessions allow participants to take the floor and try their hand at representing their country. Most delegates have not yet spoken at the UN climate talks. The simulation gives them the chance to practice their skills in English in a UNFCCC-like environment. 

Participants say that these mock negotiation sessions give them tangible insights into what to expect at the negotiations.

[The training] made me confident in raising the flag of Rwanda, able to support the African Group positions. Training made me understand it’s not enough to make a statement and make your position; you have to speak up and raise your position, otherwise, other people will make position. It made me able to address the big countries — Canada, USA — and say no, I support the African Group. – female training participant  

To present your argument clearly to convince your colleagues to follow your idea or follow you. Soften up: you don’t have to say I only want this; no – it’s a give and take process. You need to be flexible enough. – male training participant 

[Without the training] I wouldn’t be much aware of the negotiations groupings, the sensitivity. When it comes to the negotiations there are not just skills, but so many sensitive issues. You are dealing with sovereign nations – these skills are not really written, but you can learn them through the training workshop with experienced negotiators. – female training participant

Continued participation 

Over time, it also became clear that capacity strengthening must be an iterative process. One-off attempts to train delegates were less successful, and participants described them as awareness-raising rather than capacity-building exercises. 

Participant interviews and feedback told us that our efforts could be improved by continued participation – so that negotiators could keep building up their knowledge and experience and plan ahead. 

As a result, since the 2017 workshops we have invited participants to attend a second time. The returning participants were better prepared to engage in the mock negotiations, share lessons with their peers and delve into the subject matter.   

Contact

Brianna Craft (brianna.craft@iied.org), senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group

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