Preparing the ground
Key organisers and facilitators
Informal dialogues
Non-party stakeholders
Convergence strategies
Host-secretariat partnershipUnity of international organisation & secretariatUnity of host team

  • General outline

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    A host team (sometimes known as a “presidency”) is responsible for hosting and facilitating the negotiations. The lead individual at the head of the host facilitation team is sometimes known as a “president”. Unity refers to a common understanding of goals and strategies, aligned communication, and a clear distribution of roles. 



    A host team working as one with clearly defined positions and responsibilities is a key driver of process management that delivers a number of benefits:

    • Effectiveness: Individuals and ministries can work more effectively when they have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

    • Confidence: A unified and stable host government gives confidence to the negotiating parties that the process is in good hands. 

    • Efficiency: When the entire team is pulling in the same direction and not distracted by internal problems, they are able to focus all their resources on the negotiation process.

    • Team spirit: A unified team boosts morale and offers much-needed support during the challenging times as the intense and demanding process reaches its climax.



    A lack of unity severely undermines the host team’s capacity to perform their functions in various ways:

    • Loss of time and energy: Resolving internal issues takes precious time and energy away from the host government’s core task of managing negotiations. Unclear or contested roles and responsibilities can lead to a duplication of labour.

    • Poor flows of information: If the team is not working “as one”, valuable information might not be communicated to the relevant individuals or ministries, which affects their decision-making capacity and authority.

    • Power struggles: When roles and responsibilities are not clearly assigned from the beginning, power struggles can erupt, which are damaging for the host government’s effectiveness and credibility.

    • Exploitation of divisions: Negotiating parties can detect division and may seek to exploit it for their own gain, playing one individual or ministry in the host government off against another.

    • Low morale: Internal division can lower team members’ energy and motivation.



    There can be several barriers to the unity of a host facilitation team:

    • Divergent interests: Facilitation teams are typically made up of officials from various ministries working together. Each ministry brings with it its own set of interests and objectives, which may result in competition or conflict.

    • Disputes: Different individuals or groups within the host facilitation team may be subject to clashes of ideas, personalities or working styles.

    • Misunderstandings: Long working hours, intense pressure and/or lack of effective communication can all lead to misunderstandings.

    • Competition: The stakes in multilateral negotiations are often high, and with this comes considerable publicity, even fame, for key organisers. Competition for publicity can cause tension and disunity within a host facilitation team.


  • Best practices

    • Utilise the best expertise and experience from across all relevant ministries and institutions. Consider combining a ministry that has content expertise (i.e. the Ministry of Environment or Climate for climate negotiations, the Ministry of Trade for trade negotiations, etc.) with the multilateral process and diplomatic expertise of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    • The Danish Presidency failed to create a single, unified team. Instead, two distinct teams emerged: one centred around the Climate Ministry, and another around the Prime Minister’s office, each with a competing approach on how best to manage the process. The considerable experience and expertise in the Climate Ministry was sidelined and the most experienced climate negotiator resigned just a few weeks before the summit. Various sources indicate that the Prime Minister’s team’s ability to effectively manage the process and retain the confidence of the parties was compromised by their lack of experience and expertise. The “runaway” summit ended in disarray and without the global agreement it was supposed to deliver. Many negotiators, observers and researchers agree that the failure to create a single, unified team and retain expertise was a factor that contributed to the unravelling of the negotiation process. 

    •  The Mexican Presidency decided to prioritise diplomatic expertise over content expertise and put the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the lead. The extensive multilateral experience that Mexican diplomats brought to the presidency proved critical in navigating the highly sensitive process and bringing the negotiations to an agreement.


    • The French Presidency that successfully oversaw the adoption of the Paris Agreement created an inter-ministerial ˝French climate team” in September 2013, almost two years before the summit. This single team brought together officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment under the same roof. This allowed the French Presidency to benefit from the combined expertise of both ministries. The French Presidency was widely praised for the high level of expertise they brought to the process; both content expertise on climate change and diplomatic expertise on the multilateral process. In particular, France’s global diplomatic network was a major asset. Given the high level of politicisation, the decision to put the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the lead was considered judicious.

    • Best practice indicates that the same individuals should remain in the same positions for the duration of the mandate.  Trusting relationships are built over time and are often tied to ‘familiar faces’. If a key official leaves the team, this not only results in a loss of expertise but can also have negative repercussions on negotiating parties’ perceptions of the facilitation team.

    • The Danish Presidency suffered a major setback just a few weeks before the start of the summit when their lead negotiator and most experienced member of staff, Thomas Becker, resigned. Becker’s departure had significant implications for both the presidency’s level of capacity and expertise, for their internal morale and for their relationships with many negotiating parties. In particular, developing countries had a trusting relationship with Becker that had been build up over the course of many years. Research indicates that the loss of their main point of contact within the Danish Presidency undermined developing countries’ trust. This, in turn, had ramifications for the Danes’ ability to effectively manage the process.

    • The French Presidency that oversaw the adoption of the Paris Agreement retained all key members of their team. Laurence Tubiana, whose role as Special Ambassador for Climate Change saw her overseeing the Presidency team and acting as lead advisor to COP President Laurent Fabius, enjoyed the confidence of all parties thanks to her many years of working in the negotiations and her commitment to the cause. Her personal contribution to the success of the summit is widely acknowledged. Would the outcome have been the same had the French Presidency lost Tubiana from the team?

    • The stakes in multilateral negotiations are often high, and with this comes considerable publicity, even fame, for key organisers. To avoid competition and rivalry, it is important to “get one’s house in order” by clearly defining and delineating at an early stage the roles and responsibilities of key individuals, and the roles and responsibilities of key ministries.   

    • Within the Danish Presidency various sources indicate that a lack of clarity regarding the different roles and responsibilities led to competition and rivalry between individuals and ministries. Some speculate that the internal rivalry and hostility led to the departure of the Danes’ lead negotiator, Thomas Becker, just weeks before the start of the summit. Such distractions from the task at hand cost valuable time and allowed parties to exploit the divisions within the Danish Presidency and “play games” with them, further undermining their effectiveness. 

    • President Calderon of the Mexican Presidency resolved internal power struggles early on, putting the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the lead instead of the Environment Ministry, before stepping back from the limelight so as not to compromise  Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa’s leadership role. Calderon restricted his role in the summit to internal functions, intervening only behind-the-scenes to resolve key outstanding issues.

    • The French Presidency that oversaw the adoption of the Paris Agreement clearly defined the roles and responsibilities far in advance: Foreign Minister Fabius was appointed COP President and given overall responsibility for the multilateral negotiations, while Environment Minister Ségolène Royale was appointed Head of the French Delegation and given responsibility for engaging civil society. Royale took over the position of COP President after the summit. Such an arrangement both played to the respective strengths of the two ministers and minimised the negative effects of a long-standing political rivalry. 

    • Establish procedures to ensure smooth flows of information inside the team, before, during and after the summit, for example coordination meetings. Attention should be paid to both the frequency of meetings and the composition of meetings – who takes part? Who chairs? 

    • Due to internal divisions and tensions, the Danish Presidency suffered from a lack of coordination between the Prime Minister’s office and the Climate Ministry, led by Connie Hedegaard. Prime Minister Rasmussen made a number of key announcements in the lead-up to the summit without Hedegaard’s awareness, and at a certain point relations became so strained that the two teams were reportedly not even on speaking terms. This phenomenon of “two presidencies” was confusing for negotiators, according to research conducted on the case.

    • To ensure the smooth flow of information and an effective division of labour, the French Presidency that oversaw the adoption of the Paris Agreement put in place a number of coordination mechanisms. Four teams – a diplomatic team, a negotiation team, an action team and a finance team – oversaw activities and their heads met once a week with Climate Ambassador Tubiana during the run-up to the summit to coordinate and exchange information. In addition, monthly coordination meetings were held at the ministerial level and jointly chaired by Fabius and Royale. During the summit itself, the facilitation team held daily coordination meetings, chaired by Royale.

    • The summit is intense and demands a lot from the officials in the host government. Maintain a positive team spirit and avoid unnecessary tension by optimising the team’s working conditions and comforts. Ensure that their accommodation is comfortable and close to the venue and that they are well catered for so they are able to perform to the best of their abilities.

    • In light of the intense and demanding working conditions during the summit, the French Presidency that oversaw the adoption of the Paris Agreement made efforts to avoid unnecessary conflict between team members. They invested in good coffee and catering and they created an area with beds near the French delegation’s offices where individuals from the Presidency team could go and sleep when necessary.