Friday, October 21, 2011

Negotiating at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD

21 October 2011, Changwon Korea - One of the issues followed closely by the Pacific at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 10) has been that of the Global Mechanism. 

This is a specialised institution dedicated to mobilising resources to support developing countries to increase investments into Sustainable Land Management in order to help reverse, control and prevent land degradation and desertification.

Negotiations at the UNCCD COP 10 have revolved around the operation of the Global Mechanism as well as the location.  The headquarters of the GM is currently hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, based in Rome.  The Secretariat of the UNCCD is based in Bonn, Germany.

We interviewed Louisa Karika of the Cook Islands Delegation who has closely followed this thread of negotiations over the past few years.

L - R Louisa Karika Cook Islands, Maria Elder Fiji

Q.  Tell us about the negotiations process on this particular issue, how has it been?
“For me this whole process started at the last Conference of the Parties in Argentina in 2009, it was there that an agreement was not reached so I took this up again during these negotiations in Korea.  Negotiations can last all day and night, and go on like this all week, and you often end up cold, hungry and frustrated by the lack of progress! 
It has been nice to see a lot of familiar faces and renewing friendships with negotiators for other regions and groups, we spend so much time in one room together during negotiations that we end up friends, even if we are opposite sides of an issue, and we always find a way to have a laugh.”

Q.  How have the negotiations been this time?
“This year we actually started on the second day of the conference and I think it was good as it allowed for discussions over what the issues and viewpoints were before we actually went into text negotiations.  I think this helped as we were able to agree in principle on what kind of outcome we wanted to see from our negotiations earlier on.  We then started negotiating text after that and since then we have been working pretty much day and night, that’s a lot of hours!”

Q. So for someone who doesn’t know about negotiations, what happens inside the negotiating room?  What happened with this particular issue?
“We negotiate text and concentrate on the language of a decision to make sure it says what we mean. We will work this way until it is agreeable to everyone and we reach consensus on different parts of the text.  You can come across what we call ‘sticky points’ which are those that we can’t agree on but you can’t move forward we have to overcome these sticky points.   For example during the last two days we were really stuck on an issue and we basically spent one full day negotiating on one paragraph.  In order to make progress through the text, especially since we had already spent so long trying to find a compromise, the Chair of our contact group called a smaller informal group made up of representatives from each party and we basically sat in a small group on chairs and talked about our issue.  By doing this we were able to negotiate in one hour what we could have spent a whole day trying to achieve – and that was an agreed text.”

Q.  So you finally reached a consensus on this issue?
“We agreed on a number of governance and institutional issues of the Global Mechanism which includes  a revision of the Memorandum of Understanding between the host of the GM – the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD.  We have agreed to a process for implementing these changes and tabled the decision on the location of the GM until the next Conference of the Parties. 
We also agreed that during the intercessional period (the two years in between each COP) the Executive Secretary in consultation with the COP Bureau will review proposals for housing the GM based on costs, synergies, operational modalities, governance efficiency etc so that come the next COP we are recommending that a decision on this issue be made as all the information will be before us.”

The draft decision prepared was approved by the Committee of the Whole to go before the Conference of the Parties for a final outcome on Friday evening.  It was expected that the final meeting of the 10th Conference of the  for the UNCCD was to start on friday night.  This interview story was completed early Friday evening.

For more on the final outcome of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD please visit:

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