Negotiations lessons from COP21

Getting 195 countries to agree on reducing carbon emission when a lot of them are reluctant, this in final round of negotiations of 2 weeks, is an achievements that leading management consultancy would be very proud of to say the least. The agreement has indeed been hailed as the world’s best diplomatic success. How was this achieved?

Quartz reports on the use of a negotiation technique called “Indaba” originating from South Africa which bring people together in face to face discussions with every party stating their red lines and ideas on how to move things forward.

This is however only part of the story. The French leadership, including the President, has been working for many years to prepare this event, they engaged directly with head of States and gave reluctant countries the facilitator’s role on the exact same topic where they were challenged.

The COP21 started with the head of States and not concluding with them? Why? This was a way of telling the negotiators, “You are here to get an agreement in the next 2 weeks”, something the french diplomats will use to remind negotiators their bosses wanted results.

Next key countries were particularly taken care of. For example, South Africa, leading the G77 + China group, was a critical member of this round, and choosing the “Indaba” terminology was a way to recognise the work done by South Africa in the Durban negotiation round.

Then, coalition between countries with conflicting interests but with some common grounds where built, leading to ambitious proposals as the Guardian reports.

Most importantly, the French leadership did listen to every body with respect and created an environment where negotiators could share their issues and concerns openly. Laurent Fabius even stated at the beginning to key negotiators “I will not hide anything to you and I expect the same from you”.

So what can we learn as managers from this? A few things:

  • Listen and be open: listening, truly, every parties and allow everybody’s concerns to be expressed freely.
  • Care pays: caring and show respect to everyone.
  • Engage: don’t leave anyone without a role.
  • Organisation pays: plan your negotiation, set objectives and get senior leadership involved.
  • Skills pays: bring on people that can drive this process.