Becoming a climate negotiator

By Pragya Sherchan (JWH grantee 2022)

“Being a negotiator is a difficult role to play. To be a negotiator, you must be calm, patient, and a good listener. You must also respect each other's opinions and abandon food, water, sleep, and rest, as the huddles in the negotiation process go on and on. It's even tougher to negotiate on gender issues. Because there still remains a gender gap in the negotiation arena.”

My journey of becoming a negotiator began in July last year with a training on the UNFCCC process, to the stimulation of negotiation skills, as well as other personnel skills and mindfulness. This training was difficult because it was virtual, and it required dedication and enthusiasm to allocate time and learn. As we were from 27 different countries, we sometimes took a session beginning at midnight and ending in the early morning. Our last session was scheduled in person in Cairo, just before the COP27. We were all incredibly eager and deeply anxious to finally meet in person after four months. The two-day in-person simulation of the negotiation process was the highlight of the training. We really felt like, we were in a negotiation battle. We learned how to negotiate on a draft text, present your country's position in formal/ informal and contact groups, strategies to convince other party countries to bring in consensus, and deploy common ground in the negotiation space. We were able to understand the significance of language in the negotiation process. Each word (for example, shall, should, and may),text, and phrase has its own significance in creating the agenda items, whether strong/powerful or loose.

The COP27 had been a unique and precious journey for me. The government of Nepal had nominated me as a youth negotiator in the COP. That led me to be a part of the Climate Youth Negotiator Program (CYNP) and eventually to the COP27 in Egypt. The government had assigned different roles to the delegates participating in the COP27. And, I was assigned a Gender theme. In the opening session, we got to know that 'Gender and Climate Change' had been added to the UNFCCC COP27 agenda for the first time. Though everyone is aware that women,girls, children, and differently-abled groups are highly vulnerable, highly impacted, and disproportionately affected, and addressing the gender aspect in climate reality is critical. Gender still remains at distant and in the shadow in the negotiations.

Gender balance was the first topic ever brought up in the UNFCCC decision to address the under-representation of women in many delegations, especially at higher levels of leadership and in countries. Subsequently, with the launch of the Lima Work Programme on Gender in 2014 (COP20), the gender theme expanded beyond gender balance to address multiple aspects of gender equality. At COP25 Parties agreed a five-year enhanced Lima work programme on gender and its gender action plan (GAP). GAP has five priority areas with the aim of advancing knowledge and understanding of gender-responsive climate action, as well as women's full, equal, and meaningful participation in the UNFCCC process and its coherent mainstreaming in the implementation. At COP27, gender negotiation was based on the GAP. Except for one agenda item under the fourth priority area on gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation, all agenda items were agreed. The worst thing is that the GAP implementation will still be delayed as a result of no consensus on the draft text. Besides GAP, the Gender theme also made two major progresses. As the IPCC AR6 (WGII & III), gave space for gender in their report for the first time, SBI-SBSTA special event was commenced in this regard. Similarly, there was also a joint dialogue on LCIPP/GAP to enhance indigenous women climate leadership in the UNFCCC process, which is also the 1st of its own kind.

In the realm of negotiations, gender must also take precedence. Since women and gender are frequently included when discussing affects,this is quite the reverse when it comes to participation,decision-making, leadership, and access to resources and funding.Therefore, gender requires greater room in other key themes, such as loss and damage, technology, climate finance etc. in the negotiations.  

This year again I am participating in COP 28 and continuing my journey of being a negotiator. I will be following the Gender theme in the negotiation with more enthusiasm and better understanding. My expectation is that the GAP implementation is agreed in consensus and gender gets more space in other key negotiation agendas like climate finance, loss and damage funding arrangement, global stock take and others.

Also, I am hopeful that the COP will have a female presidency in the future, marking a watershed moment in UNFCCC negotiation history. Along with the growing number of male parties in the gender negotiation domain, because gender is about more than just women and girls, male participation, wisdom, and support are critical.

Apply for a grant

Our 2024 Call for Applications will open in June 2024. Stay tuned!