No more brackets, at least for now

By Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler

So the night before last the Brazilian government came up with a new negotiating text, and from now on they will be chairing the negotiations. Being the host country has its perks. The consensus seems to be that the new version isn’t terrible but it leaves out a lot of important stuff, like an Ombudperson for Future Generations.

The interesting part is that the negotiations will no longer be done by going line by line through the text. Comments will be about concepts instead of changing language like “should” to “will” and “technology transfer” to “research into technology, innovation and science.” This means no more brackets. It will be up to the chair to decide what the important points of consensus or disagreement are, and to incorporate those into a new text.

A couple people in the briefing were pretty outspoken that this was the right move. One man said that “forgetfulness” has always played an important part in negotiations. If a suggestion was not echoed or built upon by other delegations, it did not get written down by the chair, and thus did not make it into the new document. But with laptops and projectors, every new suggestion gets typed in and projected for all to see. If countries can’t agree on some language it gets put in brackets, and before long the text is chock full of square parentheses. Going back to the way negotiations were done ten or fifteen years ago delegates to the chair the power of crafting something that will be mutually agreeable. Negotiators register major objections instead of bickering about individual sentences. And in this way the process moves faster.

What are your thoughts about negotiations, the role of the chair, and brackets?

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