Sunday, December 5, 2010

Multilateralism and the UN: the Ghost of Copenhagen

Normally, today would be considered the one day during the two week period of negotiations where no formal business is conducted.  Normally, this would be an intermission where all parties involved would gather their collective breath for the final push expected to come next week for an agreement - whatever that agreement will look like.  So it was unusual and unexpected to wake up this morning and find a formal COP plenary scheduled for 11am. 

Repeating one of the themes of the discussions yesterday, one of the main issues the President of the negotiations addressed was the fact that there are to be no secret negotiations taking place in private that would bypass all the current discussions being held.  As she stated for at least the fourth time in 24 hours, "there is no hidden text and no secret negotiations".  The representative of the G77 (a group of developing countries) indicated that they will support the President in this process of negotiation as long as "there are no shadow ministerial process" taking place. 

The way the UN negotiations usually work, the work accomplished in the first week is by diplomats and negotiators, not political ministers from each country.  During the second week, the ministers arrive and provide the political expertise to ratify and approve of the technical negotiations that have taken place.  If there is any additional momentum needed, then they are there to support the process as guided by the President of the session.

What happened last year was that ministers and heads of state, anticipating a landmark agreement (which never manifest itself) flew into Copenhagen and basically took over negotiations from the diplomats.  In the end, the outcome was the Copenhagen Accord, which to many countries was an agreement that violated the democratic an transparent principles that the UN is founded on.  Instead it was a back room deal that was cut between a select number of countries while the majority of nations present were simply ignored or not consulted.  It was a slap in the face of all those countries and, to them, an indication that the democratic principles of the UN are a sham when the most powerful nations go off on their own.  The question raised is "To what extent does economic power trump democracy?" 

Following the breakdown of the Copenhagen talks last year there was a great deal of pessimism about the integrity and utility of the UN negotiation process to resolve a problem as broad and critical as climate change.  One of the ministers from the UK notably stated that perhaps it was time to look for a process outside the UN framework to solve climate change.  On the part of the developing countries, there was a great deal of anger over their being cut out of the final negotiations and it raised old shadows of distrust among the vast number of countries that are not economic powerhouses or politically powerful about the integrity of the process.  The minister from Colombia a few moments ago referred to this as "the Ghost of Copenhagen". 

What is clear is that the success or failure of the talks here in Cancun will be critically important not just for the future mitigation of climate change but also for the legitimacy of the UN process of negotiation itself.  As the President herself indicated yesterday the process of how talks proceed as well as their final outcome, "is very important to the future of multilateralism and the UN." 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.