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<xTITLE>20 Ways to Improve UNFCCC Meetings and Climate Change Negotiations</xTITLE>

20 Ways to Improve UNFCCC Meetings and Climate Change Negotiations

by Kenneth Cloke
April 2021 Kenneth Cloke

In preparation for the next international meeting on climate change in Glasgow in November 2021, it is important to begin thinking together, not only about outcomes, but ways of improving the process of meeting, discussing, and negotiating agreements on climate change.

Mediators, facilitators, ombudsmen, and other conflict resolution professionals have had considerable experience designing effective problem solving, communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution processes over several decades, and based on my experience as a mediator and observer at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties, it is possible for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), without significant financial investment, to significantly improve the quality of its meetings and negotiations in Glasgow and beyond, in at least the following 20 ways: 

  1. Conduct in-depth, broadly inclusive, collaborative evaluations of the process used in Copenhagen, Paris, and other climate change meetings to identify what worked and what can be improved
  2. Consult widely with diverse public and private sector organizations and individuals who have experience designing negotiation/dispute resolution systems and can provide ways of improving the entire negotiation process
  3. Develop a comprehensive set of process recommendations for future talks, secure agreement to implement them prior to the session, and brief delegates on them before they arrive
  4. Create international negotiation and conflict resolution protocols, model mediation language, and annexes to existing agreements that encourage a broad range of collaborative interest-based dispute resolution processes, including mediation, ombudsmen, facilitated dialogue, and other methods
  5. Ask each delegation to future talks to include among their members one or more trained mediators, collaborative negotiators, ombudsmen, or small group facilitators who can assist in bridging differences as they occur
  6. Assign one or more UN mediators or ombudsmen to every delegation, and to each small group and problem solving meeting
  7. Appoint facilitators, ombudsmen, and mediators in advance for every meeting and asking them to recommend ways of improving the next one
  8. Send experienced negotiators, facilitators, ombudsmen, and mediators to meet with the parties in advance of conferences and negotiating sessions to help set targets and timetables, and encourage compromises that could lead to better and quicker agreements
  9. Drastically simplify and reduce the rigidity and formality of protocols, rules and official processes, especially as they effect the negotiation and agreement writing process
  10. Shorten large meetings and break participants up into small, diverse, informal teams to brainstorm alternatives, agree on common goals or shared values, and reach consensus recommendations on specific problems, led by facilitators and mediators
  11. Offer free trainings throughout the process for individuals, delegations and teams in collaborative negotiation, facilitation, and conflict resolution
  12. Reach agreement on a variety of next steps that can be taken when consensus is not reached, including dialogue, informal problem solving, collaborative negotiation, and mediation
  13. Appoint fast-forming, diverse problem solving teams with experts from all nations, regions, groups, types of alternatives and ranges of opinion, with professional facilitators and recorders to aid them in their work
  14. Periodically conduct process checks to make sure everything is on track and make improvements as needed
  15. Facilitate meetings of climate change experts and scientists to develop consensus-based recommendations, include them on problem solving teams, and convene meetings of diverse specialists to advise delegates on specific topics
  16. Conduct frequent open dialogue sessions on critical topics without at first attempting to reach agreement, provide multiple opportunities for free-ranging small group discussions, and repeatedly elicit recommendations for better ways of reaching consensus
  17. Focus not only on reaching a single comprehensive agreement, but also on reaching smaller, specialized, limited, tentative, provisional, national, regional and bloc agreements, then work to accumulate and amalgamate them into a single comprehensive draft
  18. Allow facilitators to stop the process if it isn’t working, discuss what isn’t working openly, invite suggestions, and propose ways of improving it
  19. Consider the entire multi-year agreement drafting process as a conflict system, and use conflict resolution systems design principles to develop better ways of responding to obstacles, impasses and conflicts as they occur 
  20. Continue to search for ongoing, diverse preventative measures that can be adopted by all parties and UN organizations, that will help reduce the severity of future problems


Kenneth Cloke is Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution and a mediator, arbitrator, consultant and trainer, specializing in resolving complex multi-party conflicts internationally and in designing conflict resolution systems for organizations. Ken is a nationally recognized speaker and leader in the field of conflict resolution, and a published author of many books and journal articles. He was a co-founder of Mediators Beyond Borders.

Ken is a nationally recognized speaker and leader in the field of conflict resolution, and a published author of many journal articles and several books, including Mediation: Revenge and the Magic of Forgiveness, The Crossroads of Conflict, The Dance of Opposites, and Mediating Dangerously: The Fontiers of Conflict Resolution.  His consulting and training practice includes organizational change, leadership, team building and strategic planning. He is a co-author with Joan Goldsmith of Thank God It's Monday! 14 Values We Need to Humanize The Way We Work, Resolving Conflicts at Work: A Complete Guide for Everyone on the Job, Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation and Forgiveness; The End of Management and the Rise of Organizational Democracy, and The Art of Waking People Up: Cultivating Awareness and Authenticity at Work. His latest book, Journeys into the Heart of Conflict was be published in 2015.

Ken received a B.A. from the University of California; a J.D. from U.C.'s Boalt Law School; a Ph.D. from UCLA; an LLM from UCLA Law School; and has done post-doctoral work at Yale Law School. He is a graduate of the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. His university teaching includes law, mediation, history and other social sciences at a number of colleges and universities including Southwestern University School of Law, Southern Methodist University, Pepperdine University School of Law, Antioch University, Occidental College, USC and UCLA.

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