Access to negotiations and delegations

While NGOs have been formally accredited as observers to the climate change negotiations since the talks began in 1991, participation in the negotiations have in practice taken the following forms: access to the conference venue, presence during meetings, interventions during debate, the face-to-face lobbying of delegations, and the distribution of documents (Oberthür et al, 2002). Somewhat paradoxically, most of the final negotiations of the compliance procedure, where most delegates agreed on the need for transparency, were conducted behind closed doors (see also Chapter 1 by Werksman). Although participation does not equal influence, it has certainly been a drawback for the green NGOs to have been shut out from important forums. NGOs have therefore had to rely on traditional 'corridor politics' involving face-to-face lobbying and the distribution of documents in the lobby between sessions.7 There are ways, however, to overcome the problem of lacking access. For example, there has been a rather small but important network of experts on compliance that has interacted frequently. Some of these are official delegates, others are NGOs and academics.8 Other ways for NGOs to get more direct access to negotiating tables and other closed forums is through participation in government delegations as representatives of civil society constituencies or as expert advisers (Oberthür et al, 2002, p134). For example, FIELD, Greenpeace and WWF have all helped the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) with policy advice and scientific backup in the climate negotiations (Newell, 2000, p143), and FIELD lawyers have frequently been accredited as members of small islands delegations (Oberthür et al, 2002, p135).9

Apart from participation and lobbying internationally, access to national governments is crucial for NGO influence. Access to governments can be in the form of consultative meetings and regular meetings with civil servants (Newell, 2000). Many US-based advisory NGOs have worked closely with the government, and they have enjoyed a high degree of access (Eikeland, 1994; Newell, 2000). According to Newell (2000, p132), the World Resources Institute (WRI), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Defense (ED), the Woods Hole Research Center and the Audubon Society 'all worked closely with US policy makers and UN agencies in formulating policy options on climate change'. In the US, there were regular meetings before negotiating sessions that started out as meetings between delegations and different kinds of non-state actors. Over time these have been split up, and green NGOs meet separately. US decision makers have said that open brain-storming and other kinds of interaction have been very useful for them (interview with Bodansky, 2000). However, with the change of the US administration, environmental NGOs in the US no longer enjoy a high degree of access to the government, and they have to use other channels to gain influence in future climate change negotiations (interview with Anderson, 2002).

One strategy to increase access, or compensate for lack of access, is to form alliances with other environmental NGOs to share information and coordinate positions. In the climate change issue, nearly all environmental NGOs coordinate their positions through CAN.10 Created in 1989, CAN is now a global network of almost 300 environmental NGOs working to curb human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.11 To achieve this end, CAN members exchange information, work out joint position papers at climate change negotiations and coordinate strategies at the international, national and local levels. As the recognized umbrella NGO in the international negotiations, CAN unites activist and advisory environmental NGOs in one network. CAN is split into a number of working groups according to issue areas, and there is a separate group on compliance issues. Over time, CAN is said to have developed into a well functioning body, characterized by good procedures, open discussions and loyalty by member organizations. (interview with Gulowsen, 2002; interview with Singer, 2002). Although CAN is more important for the less resourceful groups than for the major ones, the CAN network is usually an effective way of communicating NGO positions with one voice during the climate negotiations.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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