Ensuring you get what you want out of an international negotiation is a tricky business. As Copenhagen approaches, around the world, country delegations will be preparing for battle. Experienced negotiators have honed their success strategies over the years. Here are some of their top tips for the less experienced:
1. **There’s safety in numbers.** So make sure you’re part of a big gang. If you happen to have the misfortune to be a negotiator for a small country you will be at an automatic disadvantage since the size of your delegation will mean fewer people to cover the various negotiating strands. It’s a recognised strategy to win people round to your way of thinking by wearing the opposition down through exhaustion. In a large delegation you can operate like a wrestling tag team – but with no-one around to hand over to you have no option other than to knock back the coffee and stick it through to the early hours where all the important decisions are likely to be made. Wary of this tactic, African groups imposed a 6pm curfew in the last meeting in Barcelona. In Copenhagen there will be a strictly imposed cut off time for the negotiations due to the arrival of the world leaders. Up until then though expect lots of late night meetings and impromptu gatherings well into the small hours.
2. **Learn the lingo.** The official language of the negotiations is English so being a fluent speaker can give you an advantage. But no one in climate summits actually speaks English. They speak in a mixture of acronyms and numbers that are utterly impenetrable to the layperson. If you hear three words used together more than twice, expect a TLA to be created almost instantaneously. You better learn what all the articles in the Convention and Kyoto Protocol refer to to stand a chance of knowing what’s going on. Be warned some acronyms actually take longer to say than the thing they describe – like LULUCF (loo-loo-see-eff) which really just refers to land use. To spice things up you might want to invent some completely bogus ones of your own and drop them into conversations. Give yourself points if you hear others using them. Oh and don’t leave home without a thesarus – when it comes to arguing over words it’s really good to have a few outlandish alternatives up your sleeve.
3. **Make yourself hard to ignore.** Achieving consensus is a tricky business so inevitably some short cuts occasionally need to be employed. If you are from a big, important or troublesome country then your objections will be listened to, but interventions from smaller countries can sometimes get overlooked if consensus is tantalisingly close. So if you don’t want to risk being ignored by a vexed chair seeking desperately to reach a conclusion, make friends with those big, important, troublesome countries and get them to make your point for you . You could also try wearing an outlandish wig and jumping up and down a lot.
4. **Pretend to smoke.** As tension mounts towards the end, almost everyone will be smoking. Even in sub zero temperatures THE place to hang out and hear the latest gossip from the main players will be the smokers outdoor area. If there isn’t a formal one then the nearest set of bins outside the conference centre will become one so hang there. No one said summit-going was glamorous.
5. **Wear your delegate badge facing inwards.** Those lucky, or maybe unlucky enough, to be on a country delegation and actually part of the negotiations are given a pink badge. This acts as a clear invitation for every NGO (environmental lobbyists) and BINGO (industry lobbyists) to collar you whenever you are outside the safety of the closed negotiation rooms. Although 20,000 people are likely to descend on Copenhagen only a small fraction are actually negotiators which means there are a lot of people milling around, many with their own strong views about the negotiations that they will be eager to share. Seasoned practitioners will take up prominent places in the lobby to be ready to pounce. But nowhere is safe. Especially not the toilets.
6. **Strike a pose.** The Earth Negotiation Bulletin and ECO are the daily newspapers of the conference that everyone reads. If you want to become a summit celebrity be sure to keep up appearances throughout the two weeks and strike a pose whenever you see the ENB photographer approaching. Favourites include the pre-occupied huddle if in a group or the talking urgently into your mobile if on your own.
7. **Get yourself a laptop and get on Facebook.** Not a lot appears to have changed in climate negotiations since the Kyoto protocol was negotiated in 1997, but the outside world has of course changed been enormously. Where the worlds collide is with the use of the internet. It is now possible for delegates to communicate with one another in real time as the negotiations are going on. Status updates on Facebook are a useful way to communicate with your friends and distract yourself from the tedium of arguing over single words in square brackets. Many a facebook app has ‘gone viral’ during negotiations. ‘What kind of muppet are you?’ was a personal favourite.
8. **Don’t be afraid to cry.** Maybe it’s the tiredness, maybe the subject matter, maybe the relentless verbal bullying and name-calling but something about climate negotiations brings emotions to the surface. The world may be watching but if you have to let it out, let it out. You’ll feel better and who knows it may just help to remind people that things would be a whole lot better if we were just a bit nicer to one another. It is after all the fate of human society we’re talking about here.