Gearing Up for COP 26 : ASEAN Joint Negotiating Training

Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are actively advocating for the climate change mitigation and adaptation measures that can most benefit the health, safety, and economic security of their populations. At the international level, ASEAN Member States work together to represent their nations, the region, and other Party groupings as Parties to the United Nations Frameworks Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As preparation for the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, 28 government representatives from 10 ASEAN Member States and nominated through the ASEAN Negotiating Group for Agriculture (ANGA) and the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) participated in a joint negotiation training, held virtually on 14 and 15 September 2021.

This training was hosted by Cambodia, as the Chair of ANGA, and Vietnam, representing the AWGCC. In their opening remarks, Dr. Suon Sothoeun, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia and Mr Pham Van Tan, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam, both welcomed this opportunity to not only learn from a seasoned UNFCCC negotiator, but also for ASEAN focal points to learn from the experience of their peers. Recognizing the complexities of the UNFCCC, both speakers underlined the importance of institutional capacity building and speaking with a regional voice.

Throughout the two-day virtual training, participants were taken through a history of the UNFCCC process, starting with the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and discussing key moments like the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC is a Party-driven process with a complex institutional structure. Describing the role of a negotiator, therefore, requires a nuanced understanding of the institutional structure and how negotiators interact with each other.

Beyond the UNFCCC basics, this training focused on the COP experience. This included the topics that will be the focus of the upcoming COP, an overview of the types of meetings happening during the conference and the tasks of a negotiator. In order to get the most out of the conference, negotiators should come well prepared, having done the proper background research and be ready to use all opportunities given to coordinate with their fellow negotiators. Another focus of the training was on the techniques for improving one’s negotiation skills. Not only do negotiators need strong technical expertise on the issues at hand and understand UNFCCC processes, they also need a number of soft skills. For example, active listening is key to understanding the positions of other Parties and finding where there is room for compromise.

Towards the end of the training participants were given the space to practice writing and reviewing mock submissions and statements. After exchanging about the results of the exercise, the trainer also pointed to key information sources that should be consulted before, during and after the COP.

While participants in this training ultimately came away with a better understanding of what life at COP26 might be like and how they can most effectively engage, an important aspect of the event was providing an opportunity for cross-sectoral and regional collaboration.

Negotiating is a social process, requiring active listening, empathy, and trust. By practicing with colleagues outside of their usual networks, negotiators were able to utilize these skills and create a broader network among ASEAN negotiators to engage with at the COP itself. This could ultimately contribute to enhancing the voice of ASEAN nations in this context.

The training was supported the Climate-Smart Land Use (CSLU) in ASEAN project, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Event documentation, please download:

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