OPINION: Orientating Nepal’s Core UNFCCC Negotiation Team
Dr. Tara Nidhi Bhattarai, Programme Facilitator for IDS-Nepal, reports from an Orientation Programme on Climate Negotiation held by the Government of Nepal.
While Nepal’s political leaders were discussing the issue of a general election in the capital city of Kathmandu, a dozen bureaucrats and members of civil society were enthusiastically participating in the “Orientation Programme on Climate Negotiation” organised by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MoEST) in the nearby village of Nagarkot.
The main objective of the three-day long orientation programme was to provide the Government’s recently formed Core Negotiating Team (CNT) with the necessary detailed knowledge on the UNFCCC process along with some basic negotiating skills.
In addition to the high ranking government officials from the MoEST, the participants included government officials from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture Development, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Energy, as well as experts and professionals working in the field of climate change risk management. As Mr. Krishna Gyawali, Secretary at MoEST explained, the orientation programme was a ‘curtain raiser’ to what will be expected of the CNT at the UNFCCC COP18 in Doha in December and beyond.
Dr. Keshab Man Shakya, Hon. Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, set the scene in the opening session by urging participants to enhance their tactical negotiating skills and use them in the way that football players share responsibility to win the game. Each member of the CNT will have a specialism and area of expertise, but the session was also intended to build the sense of the CNT as a team with collective ownership over the process.
The orientation programme covered the basics of the UNFCCC negotiation process, the key principles and commitments that have emerged, and how the negotiating groups have been formed and operate. Some members of the CNT are experts in these issues, and well versed in the international negotiations. However, everyone stressed that to play an active role you need to regularly update yourself on the details. Issues such as what are fair Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) rules for technology transfer, and what is an appropriate baseline for emission targets, etc, require a highly skilled and informed negotiator representing the country. As S.K. Rimal, Under Secretary, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation explained: “The orientation has provided us with enormously useful information on the state of the UNFCCC negotiations. But it is just the beginning. We still need consistent support in the form of orientation on various technical issues, and adequate international exposure to make Nepal’s position visible in the climate negotiation”
The ultimate purpose of this initiative is to strengthen Nepal’s engagement with the UNFCCC, and get issues of interest to the country highlighted. During the session these were discussed, and opportunities identified for when Nepal can play an important role. Secretary Gyawali also stressed that Nepal has to also look beyond national interests, and take forward the agenda of mountain regions more broadly. Following the ‘International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change’ held earlier in the year, all Governments who participated must look for opportunities to press for the Kathmandu Call of Action to be integrated within the negotiations.
The programme was supported by Ian Fry as an international expert, who focused on the practical aspects of the climate negotiations, and how negotiating tactics can be used to get success. He facilitated a simulation exercise to test some of these tactics, which also raised the confidence level of the participants. As the Hon’ Minister himself said, negotiations are just like mathematical models that are used to find the most appropriate solution for two competing and contradictory objectives.
The key success of the initiative was to have the active involvement of officials and experts from across Government ministries and sectors. As Dr. D.C. Devkota, former Vice-Chair, National Planning Commission, said: “The orientation has provided an important opportunity to the participating officials to realise the need of climate diplomacy in their respective ministries, and be prepared accordingly”.
The feedback from those not usually invited to climate change events and workshops indicates how much this is appreciated. “For me, the orientation was a good opportunity to enhance my knowledge of the key negotiating issues under the Bali Action Plan, Copenhagen Accord, Cancun Agreements and, Durban Outcomes”, says L. Mainali, Joint Secretary, Nepal Law Commission. Mr. H.P. Pandey, Under Secretary, Ministry of Finance, added that “The orientation has enriched my outlook towards the art of international negotiation. I am deeply impressed by the experiences shared by Nepalese former diplomats during the orientation“.
Increasing Nepal’s negotiating capacity and understanding of the process and politics of the UNFCCC is even more critical following the Government’s election as chair of the LDC Group for 2013-2014. However, as Ian Fry explained, this role goes beyond getting Nepal’s interests represented: “Being the Chair of LDCs does not mean to do everything by Nepal but to facilitate other countries to come up with more effective instruments and ideas for the benefit of underdeveloped countries”. However, increasing the confidence and awareness of those who will now be working for the benefit of all LDC negotiators is vital.
The success of the orientation will depend on whether the negotiating team put to use what they have learnt at COP 18 in Doha and beyond. We will be monitoring this closely. However, on the concluding day, each participant certainly had a new found confidence, and excitement in contributing significantly to the negotiations. As they shook hands to say goodbye, they were also saying “see you in Doha” with a smile on their face!
This orientation programme, held in September 2012, was part of a CDKN supported project which is strengthening the capacity of the Government of Nepal to engage effectively with the UNFCCC. IDS-Nepal is the partner providing the technical assistance to the Government for this project.
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