14 June 2009

Divide and rule: the politics of climate negotiations

Want to know how global treaties get stitched up? You could do far worse than read this new briefing by Oilwatch International. It outlines the following tactics to force a treat in the interest of the developed countries at the expense of a just climate deal:
  • Controlling the discourse. Shape the narrative and expectations of negotiators and the public about what constitutes success and failure – including misleading the media.
  • Ambush and push. Seeking a sudden deal before developing countries have time to assess the implications.

  • Mischaracterizing policy as science. This is a way to depoliticise the claims of the powerful – for example, by arguing that IPCC reports make recommendations about the north/south balance of action to tackle climate change.

  • Obscuring the details. Setting goals and expectations in different statistical terms, making the implications difficult to evaluate and compare

  • Building a Trojan Horse. The inclusion of developed country officials or consultants in developing country delegations, who then mischaracterise their positions.

  • Carving out special deals. Splitting up developing countries by offering special deals to sub-groups – for example, in relation to market access in trade negotiations, or in relation to aid provisions.

  • Establishing new groupings of countries. Breaking the ties between developing country groupings by championing new groupings – normally, by developed countries defining that sub-grouping in relation to “favourable treatment” offered in the form of a special deal

  • Setting up the blame game. Characterising larger developing countries as “reluctant” while championing the unambitious efforts of developed country governments.

  • Divide and rule narratives. For example, seeking to juxtapose a “right to survival” narrative of some developing countries with a “right to development” narrative of others – shifting attention from developed country obligations.

  • Forum shopping. Larger developed countries and country groupings – such as the European Union – coordinate actions across a number of different forums – eg. in negotiations outside the climate arena, where officials who do not know the issues are encouraged to ratify positions that circumvent negotiating stances in the climate talks.

  • Establishing other forums. New forums are also created to circumvent the UNFCCC process – the Major Economies Forum being a notable example. This is also part of agenda-setting and media messaging for the formal negotiations

  • Inappropriate chairing and biased texts. Circumventing the proper channels to advance biased negotiating texts, which are ordered to reflect industrialised country interests – for example, by using developed country proposals as the basic structure, while lumping developing country submissions together in a single block.

  • Green rooms. “In the context of the WTO, small group settings – or “green rooms – have been used to cut deals between small groups of powerful countries, with participation (often largely symbolic) by “representatives” of other countries. Green rooms have provided a means for isolating “problematic” countries, advancing negotiations with relatively inexperienced ministers, or excluding key negotiators (on the basis of insufficient seniority). ”

  • Green men. Another WTO trick, through which Chairs appoint individuals to “facilitate” consensus on specific issues the development of consensus on specific issues.... forcing the agenda to a biased conclusion.

  • Moving up the ladder. Ministerial-level meetings and Summits are sometimes used to marginalizes and overturn the positions of developing country negotiators who “know too much” and are therefore seen as obstacles by developed countries to achieving their interests.

  • Use of non-governmental organizations. NGOs cane be useful, but can also be used to do the dirty work of gathering intelligence and lobbying of the developed country governments who fund them

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