Unity refers to a common understanding of goals and strategies, aligned communication, and a clear distribution of roles. Multilateral negotiations take place under the auspices of an international organisation, often the United Nations (UN). As the UN deals with multiple issue areas, sub-organisations are sometimes created to house a secretariat that supports the negotiation process. In the case of climate change, responsibility for supporting the negotiations is delegated to the UNFCCC Secretariat.
The international organisation and secretariat support the host government in managing the negotiation process.
- Effectiveness: When the international organisation and secretariat work as one with clearly defined positions and responsibilities, they are able to allocate time, staff, political leverage and expertise most effectively to the negotiations.
- Complementarity of roles: Activities of the international organisation and secretariat can play to their respective strengths and complement each other when roles are clearly distributed and uncontested.
A lack of unity between the international organisation and the secretariat can undermine the team’s ability to support the host facilitation team and the negotiation process:
- Loss of time and energy: Resolving issues between the international organisation and the secretariat wastes time and energy that could be better spent supporting the negotiations. Unclear or contested roles and responsibilities can lead to a duplication of labour.
- Poor flows of information: If the international organisation and secretariat are not cooperating effectively, valuable information might not be communicated.
- Power struggles: When roles and responsibilities are not clearly assigned from the beginning, power struggles can erupt, which are damaging for both organisations’ effectiveness and credibility.
- Confusion: When roles are not clearly distributed, it can create confusion and mixed messages.
The main barriers to the unity of an international organisation are:
- Role confusion: When an international organisation is split into different sub-organisations (for example the UN headquarters and the UNFCCC Secretariat) there is a risk that their respective roles and decision-making responsibilities are not clearly defined or aligned, particularly when the sub-organisations are geographically remote. In turn, this can lead to duplication of efforts or conflicting approaches.
- Organisational culture: A working culture within an international organisation that promotes competition over cooperation can stand in the way of a unified international organisation that assumes a coherent approach to supporting the negotiations.
- High stakes: The stakes in multilateral negotiations are often high, and with this comes considerable publicity for key organisers. Rivalry for publicity can cause tension and disunity within an international organisation, particularly when there is role confusion and/or a competitive working culture.
- Clashes of personality: As with any kind of organisation, friction can arise between different individuals or groups within an international organisation. Personality clashes, especially between senior management, can threaten the unity of an international organisation.
Preparing the ground
Key organisers and facilitators