From a Negotiator's Perspective
When I think of international summits and conventions pertaining to the environment, what comes to my mind first will always be the Paris Agreement. Crafted during the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris in December of 2015 and adopted by 196 countries, it entered into force a year later, becoming one of the most recognizable symbols of international cooperation in addressing the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Applying for my internship in Parabukas, I thought that this was the only area that mattered in the dialogue on environmental protection and conservation.
In Parabukas’ InfoMunch held on February 10, 2018, I was introduced to the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD, which was an outcome of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Along with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), it was one of the legally-binding agreements supported by a majority of countries worldwide. This InfoMunch’s speaker was Atty. Elpidio Peria, who has been a negotiator and legal consultant to the Philippine government for the CBD negotiations.
Here are the key takeaways that I got from his discussion:
You don’t always get your way. Atty. Peria shared that in his experiences as a negotiator and consultant for the CBD, there will be times that you won’t be able to push or put forward your country’s agenda. It’s easy to assume that negotiations are easy since all you do is ‘talk and argue’, but when you remember that you have to negotiate and reach a consensus with 195 other sovereign states, while at the same time pushing your own country’s agenda, it’s easier said than done.
Negotiations are a way for you to immerse yourself into many other cultures. Seeing that the conferences happen in different parts of the world and you are placed in a space where you engage in dialogue with delegates from literally all over the world, negotiating is truly one of the best ways to immerse yourself, not just in the culture of the host country, but also to the culture of your fellow delegates. (Best-kept secret: They say that the Thai delegation brings the best food to the negotiations)
You will get into conflicts, but you can still remain friends after. During the InfoMunch, Atty. Peria showed us a picture of two negotiators from different countries laughing together and having their photos taken. Without much background of who those two were, you would even assume that they were part of the same team because of how much fun they seem to be having. Atty. Peria then told us that the two people he showed in his photo were arguing so hard against each other in the session before the photo was taken. This means then that you can always separate personal life from your professional life. They may overlap sometimes, but it’s generally always manageable.
Negotiating is a decades-long practice, something that I always tend to forget. I’ve always thought that once I do become a negotiator, it’ll be like starting all over again: new agendas, new objectives, new people. I guess I had forgotten that the current dialogue on the CBD are the fruits of the sleepless nights that current and past negotiators cultivated. The negotiations for things like these are always forward-looking and oriented towards the future, but maybe for us aspiring negotiators, it’s better to look first to the past to find how we can be part of the future we are all building together.