“There’s no point in listening to negotiations because they argue for hours on one word”

by Thishya Weragoda

“Nice, you’ve got a Pink Badge… so you can go and follow all the negotiations” she said.

He replied, “What’s the point … they spend hours talking about the same stuff.. sometimes they spend days talking about changing one word”.

This being my first time at a Conference of this magnitude, I was rather confused. Being a lawyer, I know how much one word means. I have realised how important the difference between the words “shall” and “may” could be. Here I was thinking, what sort of a fool is he and why was he given the ‘Pink’ badge which is exclusively reserved for State Parties.

And then, I went in for an informal negotiation which was open to the Non-Government delegates. Not sure what to do there, seated next to Vositha, I helped her take down notes of what was being discussed. It was on two amendments that were proposed by Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

The Article that was discussed was Article 18 of the Convention, which at present reads as;

Article 18: Right to Vote

  1. Each Party to the Convention shall have the right to vote, except as provided in paragraph 2 below.
  2. Regional Economic Integration Organizations, in matters of their competence, shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their member States that are Parties to the Convention…….

The Amendment proposed was by way of an addition which read as;

3. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 3 of Article 15, the Parties shall make every effort to reach an         agreement by consensus. If such efforts to reach consensus have been exhausted and no consensus and no agreement has been reached, a decisions shall, as last resort, be adopted by a three-fourths majority of Parties present and voting, except: ….

4. For the purposes of this Article, ‘Parties present and voting’ means Parties present and voting casting an affirmative or negative vote.

So, began the informal Negotiation on this amendment. The Ambassador of Mexico, the  proponent of the Amendment to Article 18 of the Convention,  opened the discussion saying “Several delegations were not aware that this proposal has been developed prior to Copenhagen. It was discussed at  COP16 and now here again at COP17. I think it is an important aspect and it is about the evolution of the negotiations, and then we need to speed up this discussion. Our intention is not to undertake process against the intention of the Parties or against general consensus, our proposal is to allow the process to move further when there is non-consensus on procedural matters.”

Costa Rica, Guyana, and Suriname expressed their overwhelming and unreserved support for the Proposal. The European Union supported the proposal but had their set of reservations. He stressed the importance of consensus amongst parties and also expressed that there is a need to have a mechanism in case of non-consensus.

“I think we sit in our decision… We are of the view that we still cannot support this proposal” claimed Saudi Arabia. “the option of right to reservation is not available in UNFCCC ..the delegation not cannot support this amendment because there is no right to reservation available,” he added.

“We want to express our deep concern in this matter. We will not agree to this proposal. We want to emphasise that climate change is a global issue. In this case, all of us have the sovereignty to say that we have to save our planet, therefore we believe that  consensus (amongst parties) is the best way forward. We believe that in terms of Climate Change we need an inclusive process. By this proposal we see that there is discrimination.”

How? I wondered. Here is Mexico suggesting that as a last resort, in case of non-consensus, a 3/4 majority voting in favour as a decision being made. This, as I see would leave behind one or few nations blocking an entire process. It would only discriminate against States that are against progress. It would actually mean that each Country’s sovereign right to decide on how to react on climate change is recognized and no self-motivated Nation State could block progress. I thought to myself, maybe the worry of some nations was that 3/4 majority could be achieved and progress would be made to the detriment of their national interests. This was sort of echoed by the EU when they proposed the increase of the percentage from 75% to a higher value. I still think it is a good idea because it would mean that some nations that have blocked the entire process perpetually would be left behind from the process to become “fossils”.

Interestingly, Chilli was of the view that ‘small minorities’ should not be allowed to dictate terms on the intention of the ‘larger majority’ of Nation States to progress and address the Climate Change issue.

And so, the negotiation went on for a while longer. I walked out happy to understand how stupid some negotiators are and how stupid some of the so called ‘concerns’ of nation States are. Sitting there, it also confirmed that the going to negotiations and observing is very important in understanding the process and why it has failed to deliver so far. It’s sad that the guy from the conversation I overheard didn’t understand it, and didn’t take this life time of an opportunity to learn international law, negotiations and processes.

Source: http://slycancop17delegation.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/theres-no-point-in-listning-to-negotiations-cos-they-argue-for-hours-on-one-word/