A host facilitation team: (sometimes known as a “presidency”) is typically composed of diplomats and experts from various national ministries or agencies, that together are responsible for hosting and facilitating the negotiations. The lead facilitator 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.
When a host facilitation team works as one with clearly defined positions and responsibilities they are able to focus all their resources on the negotiation process and avoid duplication of efforts. When roles and responsibilities are uncontested and clearly communicated to the negotiating parties then all actors know that they can count on a team member’s word.
A lack of unity can lead to poor flows of information, power struggles, exploitation of divisions by negotiating parties to achieve their own objectives and a loss of time and energy, all of which undermine the team’s ability to foster the reaching of agreement. Disputes and misunderstandings may also lower the facilitation team’s morale, motivation and effectiveness.
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.
The Danish presidency of the 2009 climate negotiations 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 French presidency of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement took a different approach. To prepare for the summit, an interministerial ˝French climate team” was created in September 2013. 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 had brought to the process; both technical 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.
The approach of the French presidency was inspired by that taken by the Mexican presidency of the 2010 climate negotiations, who decided to prioritise diplomatic expertise over technical 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 Danish presidency of the 2009 climate negotiations 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 of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement retained all key members of their team. One notable example is 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. Tubiana 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?
Within the Danish presidency of the 2009 climate negotiations 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 of the 2010 climate negotiations 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 of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to 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.
Due to internal divisions and tensions, the Danish presidency of the 2009 climate negotiations 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 of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement put in place a number of coordination mechanisms. Four interministerial 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.
In light of the intense and demanding working conditions during the summit, the French Presidency of the 2015 climate negotiations that led to 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.
Monheim (2015) “How Effective Negotiation Management Promotes Multilateral Cooperation: The power of process in climate, trade and biosafety negotiations” Routledge.
Meilstrup (2010) “The runaway summit: the background story of the Danish presidency of COP15, the UN Climate Change Conference” Danish foreign policy yearbook 2010, 113-135.
Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (2017) Analyse Rétrospective de la COP21 et de l’Accord de Paris: Un exemple de diplomatie multilatérale exportable?
Dimitrov, Radoslav S. “Inside UN climate change negotiations: The Copenhagen conference.” Review of policy research 27.6 (2010): 795-821.