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WORKING PAPER: Building Consensus in the UNFCCC

This Working Paper is part of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)’s on-going work on consensus building, in which negotiators under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) share their experience of working toward consensus among the Parties. It is intended to prompt further discussion around the negotiation and consensus-building process, and is part of CDKN’s work to amplify the voices of poor and most climate-vulnerable countries within the international negotiations.

This paper provides an introduction to the UNFCCC negotiation process and suggests how consensus may be achieved. It is aimed particularly at negotiators who have just joined the process, but should also be of interest to facilitators and more experienced negotiators, by provoking reflection or presenting new perspectives to be explored.

The lessons discussed in this paper are based on almost twenty years’ experience in climate change work and the UNFCCC process. It must be borne in mind, however, that this perspective – as with that of every negotiator or facilitator – is filtered through a lens of personal circumstances and beliefs.

Key observations:

– Negotiators must know their country’s limits or ‘red lines’, but also where they can afford to compromise.
– In-depth knowledge of the issues and of previous discussions is crucial. Knowledge of the process itself 
is best acquired through experience.
– Building trust and ensuring transparency is vital for consensus.
– Negotiators should aim for the maximum outcome, but be patient and, in some circumstances, accept 
incremental steps forward.
– The broader context – and influence – of states’ interactions outside the UNFCCC process must also 
be considered.

Download the CDKN Working Paper Building Consensus in the UNFCCC.

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