UNITAR - Training course on "Multilateral Negotiations: Strategies, Techniques and Results”

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The UNITAR Office in New York organized a training course on “Multilateral Negotiations: Strategies, Techniques and Results”, taught by Yale University Professor Roy S. Lee and attended by over 70 delegates.

The seminar focused on the ways of reaching a consensus to accommodate divergent interests and concerns. Professor Lee stressed the need to “find the right language that would cover different concerns”, explaining that the ICC, for example, would not have seen the light of day, were it not for the replacement of the term “supersede” with “complement national jurisdiction”.

Among the other strategies that can be used to convince States to ratify a legal instrument, Professor Lee mentioned allowing them to withdraw from it after a certain number of years, in addition to leaving some amendments inactive as a way of ensuring that the rest of the legal instrument is accepted.

Professor Lee went on to outline the main requirements for fruitful multilateral negotiations. He stressed the need for diplomats to attend informal meetings, as it is at this early stage that decisions are made; explained the vital importance of having good co-facilitators and co-chairs; and indicated that negotiating through interest groups is important because not all countries necessarily have a position.

Turning to the main challenges that may arise, he mentioned host country-appointed Presiding Officers who may, sometimes, be unfit for the job; their changing views due to a government change; the drafting committee usurping the rights of the negotiating committee; and the time-consuming renegotiation of a previously agreed-upon text because delegates have changed.

During the Q&A session, a debate revolved around which legal instrument - the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement - was a better deal.

Perhaps one of the most memorable pieces of advice given by Professor Roy S. Lee, who described reaching a consensus as an art, was the importance of choosing the right package of elements for the negotiations, as well as an adequate and less precise language to compromise.