Workshops that build climate negotiators' capacity: European Capacity Building Initiative training and support programme

As part of efforts to create a more level playing field for government delegations taking part in global climate negotiations, IIED led a training and support programme that focused on building the capacity of UNFCCC negotiators from vulnerable developing countries, including the least developed countries.

November 2014 - September 2020
Brianna Craft

Brianna Craft was a senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group until February 2024

Stepping up global ambition for climate action and justice
A programme of work showing how IIED is supporting the most vulnerable countries to increase global ambition to stay below 1.5°C
Group of men and women pose for a photo on stairs

Participants of the 2019 ecbi Regional Training Workshop for Asia and the Pacific, Kathmandu (Photo: IIED)

The European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi), launched in 2005, supported the international climate change negotiations by building and sustaining capacity among developing country negotiators, and by fostering trust between both developed and developing country negotiators. IIED was a lead partner in the ecbi, along with Oxford Climate Policy and Legal Response International.  

This programme helped negotiators and national policymakers from vulnerable developing countries more broadly, and improved their knowledge of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decision-making process so they could engage in it effectively and translate its outcomes into national level implementation.

Officials trained by ecbi rose 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.

What did IIED do?

Regional workshops

Through regional workshops, IIED and partners built capacity to engage in international climate decision-making processes, so delegates were better equipped to negotiate. Regional workshops fostered collaboration in targeted regions and helped ensure climate change issues become part of mainstream thinking across government ministries

Every year, a training workshop was held under the ecbi 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 was to improve participants’ knowledge of the international climate decision-making process so that they could engage in it effectively once they reached the United Nations.

We held workshops for Francophone Africa in Senegal (201620172018 and 2019), hosted by ENDA energie (French site), and for Anglophone Africa in Tanzania (2016), hosted by EPMS, in Senegal (20172018) and in Ethiopia (2019), hosted by ENDA energie.

Our Asia Pacific workshops were held in Bangladesh (2016), hosted by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD); in Sri Lanka (2017 and 2018), hosted by Janathakshan; and in Nepal (2019), hosted by Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC).

Our regional partners actively contributed to shaping the programme's strategy, and we worked together to train participants from the region, with the oversight of the appropriate government ministries.

By facilitating discussions between the participants representing 15-plus countries at the regional training workshops, we guided an exchange of experiences on national implementation. Over five years and 17 workshops, more than 300 participants attended our training sessions and put the knowledge and skills gained into practice.

Mock negotiations

In response to positive feedback from participants, the training workshops grew to incorporate several practical negotiating skills sessions. These included a practical skills session where an experienced negotiator described ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’, and mock negotiations that allow participants to practice negotiating together with experienced negotiators from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group.

mock negotiation session run by ecbi in 2017 (Video: IIED)

Pre-Conference of the Parties (pre-COP) workshops

The training and support programme organised pre-COP workshops to support negotiators from vulnerable developing countries to come together a day or so before the UNFCCC sessions.

We had better communication between the LDC Group and other groups, and better understanding of the LDC Group's key messages by its members as a result of the support from ecbi

Feedback on the training and support programme

The negotiators identified key issues for their countries and groups that would be discussed at the session, and discussed how they could help the rest of their group influence negotiating outcomes. To expand the expertise available, key representatives from other important ministries had participated in the regional workshops were also invited to these pre-COP workshops.

Tailored publications

Since there was limited time in the training workshops to go into detail on each negotiation topic, we developed a series of pocket guides. These easily accessible reference documents aimed to inform primarily new negotiators from developing countries, and participants of the ecbi training workshops in particular, but were also used by delegations from developed countries.

The series was developed from 2017 to cover most of the topics negotiated in the UNFCCC, as well as its major agreements. They include the:

The full list of pocket guides and other ecbi publications can be found below. We learned that a lot of our workshop participants struggled with internet connections, hindering their ability to access information and learn.So we prioritised printing publications and distributing USB sticks at workshops containing all the presentations and publications,

All publications under the training and support programme are available and free for download on ecbi and IIED’s websites, as well as other partners’ websites, such as the Climate Ambition Support Alliance (CASA).

What does the #ParisAgreement and #rulebook say about #transparency? Read our 2019 updated #ClimatePocketGuide on Transparency, now including the outcomes of #COP24, to know your ICAs from your BTRs, and FSVs from FMCPs: @harrovanasselt @RomainWeikmans

— European Capacity Building Initiative (@ecbioxford) June 10, 2019


The training and support programme also offered bursaries that supported junior negotiators in becoming subject specialists. These bursaries helped selected junior negotiators from countries such as Sudan, Tanzania, Mali, Lesotho, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Malawi and Nepal attend the UNFCCC negotiations and become experts in the negotiating process.

Bursary recipients were chosen based on recommendations from senior negotiators and a letter from the bursary applicant explaining their motivations to engage in the UNFCCC process. After each meeting they attended, the junior negotiators wrote a report that was sent to the other fellow negotiators.

Bursary recipients were instrumental in making developing countries more effective in the UNFCCC negotiations. For example, most of the ecbi bursary holders became members of the core team of the LDC Group. There, they advise the LDC Group chair and group members in their chosen negotiating themes.

In 2012, Sumaya Zakieldeen, an ecbi bursary recipient, was nominated for the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee as the only representative of the LDC Group. Gebru Jember Endalew, another bursary recipient and a LDC core team member, became the LDC chair for 2017-18.

A series of videos were created showing the workshops and featuring interviews with LDC Group members and bursary recipients. These can be watched below or on IIED's YouTube channel.

A playlist of videos building the capacity of UNFCCC negotiators from vulnerable developing countries (Videos: IIED)

Targeting support to women

One of the aims of the training and support programme was to see women negotiators become more active in the UNFCCC process. We provided logistical support to allow women who had participated in relatively few UNFCCC sessions to attend the climate negotiations.

These ‘junior negotiators’ joined their peers for daily check-ins, where they learned from IIED staff and each other about the complex UNFCCC process and how to integrate into the appropriate negotiating blocs.

Bursary recipients such as Xaysomphone Souvannavong and Fatima Athoumani were also encouraged to document their experiences and the lessons they had learned by writing blogs that charted the sharp learning curve of an LDC negotiator and how they learned to make their voice count at the UN climate negotiations. Danise Love Dennis, from Liberia, wrote a diary about her year-long learning journey – from the ecbi training to negotiating for her country at COP25, which was hosted by Chile in Madrid, Spain.

We also regularly evaluated our work, starting with the percentage of women who attended our training sessions (48% over five years, compared to 37% in the UNFCCC negotiations process). We scoured UNFCCC attendance lists and found that around half of those we had trained, and equal numbers of women and men, went on to join their country delegations. 

We also tracked who participated in multiple sessions of the climate negotiations. Of those we trained, the number chosen to continually participate was relatively equal: 19 of the women we trained (24%) attended two or more negotiating sessions, compared to the 31 men we trained (30%) who attended more than twice. Notably, the three participants who attended all seven UNFCCC negotiations from 2016-18 were men.

I think I have a better understanding now of how to go to negotiations and I know how to prepare. For example, it takes a certain type of language. Clear, consistent, coherent

Female training participant, bursary holder

In 2019, Brianna Craft and Samantha McCraine looked at how well women are represented in spaces where international decisions on climate change are made, and in 2020, the duo detailed further efforts to bring more women to the UN climate change negotiations.

Mentoring women to become climate leaders

Achieving equal numbers in the climate negotiations isn’t enough, though. Women negotiators had to also be supported so they could influence decisions at these high-level meetings.

At the UN climate negotiations in Madrid, Spain, in 2019 (COP25), we piloted a mentoring scheme that paired junior women negotiators with experienced delegates from developed and developing countries – furthering our efforts to train effective UNFCCC negotiators and climate leaders – alongside the COP presidency's climate negotiators’ mentoring initiative.

I think launching the ecbi mentorship programme for junior negotiators has set a foundation for empowerment; an action that needs applause. I see this will challenge every young negotiator to press for action in their home country. I look forward to mentors maintaining relationships with their mentees and sharing opportunities that will expose mentees to things outside of COP as well

Junior negotiator Danise Love Dennis, December 2019

Mentorship provided contextualised and individualised skills-building, learning and support that endures beyond scheduled training sessions, and improved the abilities, confidence and network of junior negotiators.