Negotiations are an elaborate dance. Negotiators must coordinate the actions of many partners. Make a misstep and the coordination is lost. What could be an elaborate dance degrades into a chaotic scramble.
On Friday afternoon, the COP21 negotiations demonstrated how difficult they can be to coordinate. After a week of work in spin-off groups and informal informals, the negotiation focus returned to the ADP contact group. What resulted was a classic example of what happens without a coordination plan.
The Co-Chair Ahmed Djoghlaf started the afternoon session by jumping into the process and asking Parties in they had any issues with Article 2 and Article 2bis. Without waiting for the negotiators to catch up, he quickly accepted the Articles as presented and moved onto Article 3.
What erupted next was a 2 hour long discussion of the process of negotiating. Over and over again, Parties voiced their opposition to the plan and the Co-Chair’s tactics. Over and over again, Parties used the precious remaining negotiation time to debate how to proceed with a review of the negotiating text.
The Co-Chair saw the end goal that he wanted. To get a slimmed down text to the COP. His choice of process was not the right choice. His steps were out of order. UNFCCC negotiations are a party-driven process where consensus decides the pathway. The Co-Chair chose to lead instead of coordinate.
The Parties took a break, regrouped, and returned with a new proposal for coordinating Party input. Malaysia, the European Union, the United States, and Norway, brought forward a Party-driven sequence for commenting on the proposed negotiating text. A pattern emerged. The Co-Chair reverted back to managing the order and sequence of Party comments. The Parties focused on identifying the key elements that they wanted in the text and making suggestions on what text could be inserted or should be deleted. Each Party suggestion was to be recorded but not debated.
While the first two hours of the negotiation bogged down with discussions of procedure, the second two hours took on a pattern of Party submissions detailing desired key elements. Party after Party presented their key elements. Some Parties submitted no proposals; some Parties made multiple proposals; some Parties made minor proposals; some Parties made extensive proposals. At the end of the meeting, all of the proposals were recorded to be assembled into a reflective note.
The day started off as a chaotic scramble before evolving into a coordinated pattern of Party submissions. What looked like a lost day ended up with the ADP taking a few more steps towards completing its work.