Few things are as complex as the myriad relationships that exist between the countries of the world. Like unruly children, they’ve fought, made peace, gotten bored, and hit each other again when mom wasn’t looking. Putting them in a room together, even when they’re negotiating for something mutually beneficial, can be a hotbed of tension. The Talanoa Dialogue ensures each is heard, preventing conflict with one simple rule: no blaming others, and no criticisms.
“Talanoa” is a Fijian word used to describe an inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue that focuses on sharing experiences through story-telling in order to build empathy among participants. During the process, parties build trust and advance knowledge in a way that fosters stability. The dialogue was undertaken pursuant to decision 1/CP.21 and slated for 2018; its goal was to take stock of progress towards the long term goals of the Paris Agreement and inform the preparation on nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
The dialogue focuses the parties on three questions: “Where are we? Where do we go? How do we get there?” To answer these questions, there was a Preparatory Phase and a Political Phase. The Preparatory Phase began in January, 2018 and will conclude at the COP. Its primary goal is to build a strong scientific base for the Political Phase, which, in turn, will take stock of the collective efforts of the Parties to reach their commitments under the Paris Agreement.
Once in the Political Phase, Parties engage in Ministerial Talanoas of 12-13 participants. Each is facilitated by Ministers from the Pacific Region or from Poland. These break-out sessions revolve around storytelling and discussion based on guiding questions. These sessions gave delegates the chance to speak unabashedly about their country’s unique circumstances and about their goals for the future. They promise an opportunity to be honest with partner states about what the climate regime and the goals of the Paris Agreement mean for your people.
If the Parties are warring siblings, the Talanoas are the peace that comes with age and understanding. Once removed from their adversarial positions at the negotiation table, the only realization left to them is that we’re stuck with each other, for better or worse.