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Editor's Note: Coalitions and Coordination 

Issue #180 | 2 December 2011

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By: Lynn Wagner, Ph.D., Group Director, SDG Knowledge, IISD <>

Coalition building and coordination of policy measures are key objectives in many sustainable development processes. A number of recent events illustrate some of the challenges related to them and the important roles that coalitions and coordination play in determining outcomes.

A review of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin daily reports from the Durban Climate Change Conference, for example, indicates a further evolution in the country coalitions used in those negotiations. In the past two years, the country groupings at climate change negotiations have been particularly interesting to watch. Just prior to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, in December 2009, the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) held their first meeting, but continued to participate within the Group of 77/China coalition. At the opening plenary for the Durban Climate Change Conference, however, a speaker for the BASIC group presented those countries' first joint statement to the UNFCCC. Additional coalitions in that process, from ALBA to LDCs, the Umbrella Group, and the Environmental Integrity Group, all reflect changing interests and international alliances since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was first opened for signature in 1992. Through these alliances, each country makes its voice “heard” in the development of the next global agreement, but the evolving coalitions reflect shifting global interests and capabilities, and reaching consensus in and among these groups remains challenging.

While delegates in Durban have discussed the report of the Transitional Committee on the Green Climate Fund, a newer process has weighed in on how climate finance should be approached. The Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, in its declaration titled the "Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation," indicates that providers of development assistance “have a responsibility to reduce fragmentation and curb the proliferation of aid channels,” and the signatories commit, by 2013, to make greater use of country-led coordination arrangements, and by 2012, to agree on principles and guidelines to guide their joint efforts. Specifically on global climate finance, the declaration indicates that participants will “seek to promote coherence, transparency and predictability across their approaches for effective climate finance and broader development cooperation.” The declaration also establishes the first framework for development cooperation that reflects a diversity of actors – “state and non-state actors, as well as countries at different stages in their development, many of them middle-income countries.” This “complex architecture” presents new opportunities and challenges for coalition building and policy coordination, including the possibilities that come from having different international fora addressing related issues.

At the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the 23rd Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (COP 9/MOP 23), which convened in Bali, Indonesia, from 21-25 November 2011, delegates again were faced with the question of whether to coordinate policies under one multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) in an effort to contribute to the objectives of another MEA. Canada, the US and Mexico have submitted a proposal, and the Federated States of Micronesia submitted a separate proposal, to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Protocol, given their high global warming potential. However, some delegates opposed the proposed amendment, arguing that HFCs are not ozone depleting and so should be addressed under the UNFCCC. Proposal proponents responded that, because HFCs are a common substitute for HCFCs, which are being phased out under the Protocol, the Protocol has a responsibility to also address HFCs, but were unable to persuade the other coalitions to create a contact group to further discuss the proposals. Some suggested that high-level consultations would be needed to move forward this endeavor to coordinate efforts within one MEA to address the issues covered by another MEA.

The need for greater coordination of efforts among countries and coalitions and the direction of MEAs will be the subject of extended discussions in the coming six months, as the outcome from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) is negotiated. Recently, it has been suggested that this event will consider seven priority areas: the sustainable management of the oceans and marine resources; combating poverty, including through green jobs and promoting social inclusion; advancing food security and sustainable agriculture; sound water management; energy access including from renewable sources, as well as efficiency and sustainability; sustainable human settlements; and improving resilience and disaster preparedness. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin and Sustainable Development Policy & Practice teams will be reporting on the coalitions as they develop and on the proposals to coordinate policies among these and other issues, as they are identified.