Host-secretariat partnershipUnity of international organisationUnity of host facilitation team

  • General outline

    Placeholder Text

    Partnership refers to cooperation and good working relationships between the host facilitation team and the relevant international secretariat. While the facilitation team has final responsibility for the process, the two teams depend on each other for their optimal functioning and effective management of the negotiation process. 



    Host facilitation teams typically occupy the role for a limited period of time, while simultaneously holding parallel positions in their home country. The secretariat’s permanent nature endows them with expertise and experience in the negotiation process that can fill the knowledge gap and provide valuable input for a facilitation team. A close and effective working relationship between the two teams adds to a positive dynamic that is more conducive to the reaching of agreement. Secretariats can provide host facilitation teams with support and advice on both procedural organisation (for example, planning and logistics and how to wield the rules of procedure) and substantive input (for example, drafting text and suggesting compromise proposals).



    When the two teams are not aligned, neither will be able to perform their role to its fullest potential and the overall effectiveness of the process will be compromised. Clashes between individuals or between the two teams can sour the negotiation dynamics, making agreement less likely.



    Barriers that prevent an effective partnership include:

    Disagreements and rivalry: the two teams may disagree over the correct way forwards. Clashes or rivalries may result from differences between individual personalities, or out of competition for the considerable publicity that comes with the negotiations.

    Communication channels: poor communication between the host facilitation team and the international secretariat or a lack of effective procedures can inhibit a successful working relationship and the flow of important information.

    Role confusion: the secretariat may overstep its advisory role and take over the facilitation team’s leadership role.


  • Best practices

    • Each team has something to offer the other. A facilitation team is typically elected from amongst the parties and wields political authority that allows it to proactively manage the negotiation process, yet it lacks the experience and expertise of the secretariat. The secretariat possesses intellectual capital that can be used to guide the negotiation process, yet it is subservient to the will of the parties and unable to take proactive action. The secretariat carries the load of the facilitation team’s work, and by assuming responsibility for the secretariat’s work, the facilitation team ensures legitimacy in the eyes of the negotiating parties.

      Successful cooperation depends first and foremost on mutual trust, which is created when each side demonstrates respect. The secretariat must respect the political leadership of the facilitation team, and the facilitation team benefits from recognizing  the experience and institutional expertise of the secretariat. Each side should understand their respective role and place in the negotiation process.

    • The secretariat serves the facilitation team, who take the final decisions on how to manage the process. The secretariat should therefore keep a low profile and stay out of the spotlight in order to give the facilitation team a clear and uncontested political lead.

      Although clashes between individual personalities can be impossible to avoid, previous research suggests that more positive working relationships can blossom when the leaders of the facilitation team and the international secretariat come from similar cultural backgrounds.

    • Establish communication channels and procedures to ensure regular consultation between the two teams and effective information flows. These could include regular coordination meetings or designating a specific point of contact to liaise between the two teams.

      Clearly mark out procedures for managing the division of labour between the two teams, to make the most efficient use of available resources and avoid duplication of efforts.

  • Examples

    Respect each other’s roles, abilities and mutual dependency

    Chairman Raul Estrada enjoyed a positive working relationship with the head of the UNFCCC Secretariat Michael Zammit-Cutajar during the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol that played to their mutual strengths. The two communicated regularly and supported each other. The Secretariat provided expert knowledge on parties’ positions  and suggested figures that appeared in draft texts. Estrada claimed responsibility for the Secretariat’s draft texts and ensured their legitimacy in the eyes of the parties when the Secretariat was accused of overstepping its mandate.  


    Avoid rivalry and personal clashes

    Research indicates that personal clashes took place between the Danish Presidency of the 2010 climate negotiations and the UNFCCC Secretariat. Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer was outspoken in his opinions and attempted to influence the process, and COP President Rasmussen sidelined the Secretariat and its advice. The two competed for control and publicity. The lack of communication between the two teams restricted the flow of valuable information to the Presidency . The Danish Presidency may have fared better had they heeded the advice given by the Secretariat. 

    President Patricia Espinosa of the 2011 climate negotiations and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres benefitted from a close cultural understanding as Latin Americans. Figueres remained out of the spotlight and gave a clear lead to Espinosa. The absence of tensions both saved time and improved the flow of information and expertise. The instructions provided by the Secretariat to Espinosa before the final plenary were critical in ensuring a positive outcome. 


    Establish procedures for effective cooperation and division of labour 

    The French presidency of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement put in place a number of procedures to ensure an effective cooperation between themselves and the UNFCCC Secretariat. They followed the best practice (for example, by the Mexican presidency of the 2010 climate negotiations) of appointing a liaison officer from their team with a desk at the Secretariat. During the six months leading up to the summit the liaison officer ensured a steady flow of information and a stable point of contact between the two teams. During the Paris summit itself, the liaison officer contributed to a close collaboration between the presidency’s and the Secretariat’s drafting teams to leverage their combined abilities in crafting the wording of the Paris Agreement. After Paris, presidencies including the Moroccan presidency in 2016 have continued to implement this practice.  



    Depledge (2005) The Organization of Global Negotiations – Constructing the Climate Change Regime

    Depledge (2007) A Special Relationship: Chairpersons and the Secretariat in the Climate Change Negotiations

    Monheim (2015) How Effective Negotiation Management Promotes Multilateral Cooperation – The power of process in climate, trade and biosafety negotiations

    The Centre for Multilateral Negotiations (2016) Negotiation Management Report – Policy Recommendations on Negotiation Management for 2016