Interventions – Two Minutes of Fame or Something Else?

“Interventions” – it is one of the buzzwords at the UN climate conference. It’s a word the privileged folk in their fancy fur coats at the UN like to use to confuse the ordinary people (joking). But to break it down, it simply means the delivery of a statement or comment given during negotiations. And in this article, I would like to specifically talk about interventions given by constituencies.

The purpose of these interventions are to involve civil Non-Party Actors in the process of negotiations. Negotiations are only carried out by parties and blocs. Often, it’s a more symbolic act than anything else because there are also other avenues for civil society groups to influence negotiations (read, local NGOs stalking their local negotiators around and questioning them). But it serves as an important exercise for the constituencies to conceptualise their positions on the various issues and for negotiators to be reminded that the world does not revolve around their country and its’ national interests.

How interventions at the Conference Of Parties works, is that the various constituencies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are given the chance to offer two minute interventions during the negotiations on behalf of their constituency. If you run longer than two minutes, the mic would be cut off. A little bit unfair considering how negotiators are allowed to run on for as long as they like and some of them take a while to get to their point.

Few infographics on what constituencies are can be viewed here.

Within each constituency there are certain ‘house rules’ if one can use that term. RINGO for example prefers to remain non-partisan and does not comment on the party positions per se. Their interventions normally calls on the inclusion of more research, transparency and a consideration of data into the process of negotiations. I am unsure why these constituencies follow such rules. It could be because they are afraid of being too critical for fear they do not get called upon in the future to speak. Or perhaps because of this unspoken agreement that everyone should be as nice and as indirect as possible in these negotiation chambers.

Drafting these interventions are led by small groups of RINGO members, of which a couple volunteers (usually the first ones to volunteer) take charge of it and the entire constituency is free to contribute on google docs, as far as they are willing and able to. Every morning after the RINGO coordination meeting concludes at 10am, a small team of drafters meet up to work on as much of the intervention as possible – a process which I found muc satisfaction in. The art of diplomatic and succinct writing is key in this and I had a challenging but engaging time putting those skills to the test. Subsequently the intervention is carried out in the negotiation chamber by one of the drafting RINGO members, whom is decided upon by consensus by the team working on the document. At one point it boiled down to a game of scissors paper stone between me and another lady because both of us had put in just as much effort and were just as interested in talking. 

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Xiandi giving an intervention on behalf of YOUNGO.

YOUNGO on the other hand, has a slightly different and somewhat more haphazard system of working on interventions. The list of interventions is sent out via email and someone (usually the Focal Point if no one is interested enough) will start up a google doc and people chip in as and when they want to online. The choice of intervention is supposedly carried out by putting the names of all interested people into a hat and getting a random passersby to pick out a name. However for one intervention, one of our fellow delegates who had worked on a substantive amount of the document by herself, was not allowed to speak on behalf of YOUNGO because another Malaysian girl had spoken at another intervention earlier. Therefore representatives of this constituency are not necessarily the ones that drafted the document. A case of equity over equality perhaps.

To be able to give the intervention at the negotiations, is seen as something of a matter of pride, especially to YOUNGOs. Perhaps it is our urge to be recognised and taken seriously despite our youth. Or perhaps the constituency just happens to attract individuals who are more enthusiastic about being in the limelight. There are often many names submitted as speakers (although the number of drafters is considerably smaller). RINGOs too looks forward to delivering interventions as everyone likes their two minute of fame but their preoccupation with this is somewhat less.

Seriously though, if you got to deliver an intervention in the famous Chamber Hall, that would be so cool!

Sometimes individuals wait for hours in the negotiation room for their chance to give their two minute intervention. I heard a senior member of RINGO mention that once a representative had to deliver the intervention at 3am. In our case (the other girl won) the APA closing plenary at which she was to deliver the intervention, got suspended after an hour and only resumed at 7.30 pm. And was then suspended yet again (because parties are unable to arrive at a consensus) and eventually the secretariat decided not to have interventions for that plenary. For the CMP closing plenary, the representatives gave their interventions at 5 am in the morning.

That is the face of a man (Mike) who has gone without sleep, to deliver an intervention. Dedication!

In conclusion, I would say that the system of interventions is important as it highlights the importance of non-party stakeholder interventions in the process of negotiations. However individuals could perhaps be a little less preoccupied with getting their two minutes of fame and focus on delivering a solid, insightful intervention that reflects the views of the constituency as a whole.

Written and Photos by Lhavanya

Edited by Varun

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