Kurt Herminghausen, NCAA / National MUN (NMUN)
Written by Charlene Yaneza, University of Michigan
The world "caucusing" is nothing more than "a fancy diplomatic term for negotiation. The most important step in caucusing: researching and understanding the plight of the state one represents. Formal, or moderated, caucusing is performed through speeches while the committee is formally in session. Informal, or un-moderated, caucusing occurs when the committee is out of session, either through personal discussions in committee chambers or simply at a nearby restaurant.
The formal method of caucusing gives the delegate of a conference an opportunity to present their cases in a global forum. There are five elements that a formal caucus session should include: an overview of the respective topic, a consideration of any historical precedent, a discussion of potential steps towards a resolution, an analysis of competing and alternative options, and one or more negotiation strategy. As stressed in this session an effective delegate must address the current situation as well as the history of the committee and the United Nations with regards to similar issues. Other responsibilities of the delegate are for he/she to explain their opposition to alternative options and to announce potential negotiation strategies. Examples of such caucusing methods take place at the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, in which leading officials of the member-states introduce the foreign policies of their respective governments. the records from such sessions can be accessed through the U.N. website and/or a U.N. Depository Library.
The majority of diplomat negotiation occurs informally between member-states and/or non-governmental organizations, where much of the process is kept off-the-record. In such encounters, a successful delegate introduces his/her state’s policy initiatives and collects the input of other member states regarding the options for a resolution. Negotiations may also stem beyond the topic the topic under consideration. For example, in an attempt to amass support on a specific resolution regarding the situation in Iraq, the Western bloc might give concessions to the People’s republic of China regarding a human rights topic that is on schedule for future consideration by the committee.
Informal caucus sessions present the best opportunities for the arrangement of member-state negotiation strategies. The most common strategies of diplomacy in the United Nations resemble those in a civil lawsuit: always demanding twice as much as expected to be received, considering the benefits to refusing to compromise versus potential liabilities, and using an informal caucus session to negotiate and settle differences.
Effective multilateral caucusing methods will vary depending on the policies of each member-state and the specific forum of the deliberation. For instance, the United States, caucusing in the United Nations will assume different techniques than that of China, and the methods applied to a member-state in the General Assembly, will be different from those used by a delegate (from that same member-state) participating in the Economic and Social Council or the Security Council.
The five factors that form the foundation of diplomatic negotiation are:
1. Concerns and objectives of the represented member-state, regarding the topic under consideration;
2. Potential allies and adversaries, as well as common and/or conflicting characteristics;
3. Historical precedent of the respective state in relation to the topic under consideration;
4. International instruments historically supported by the member-state;
5. Negotiating tools available to the state.
When representing a country, one must not be fooled into thinking that one’s allies will always be those with similar ideologies. Two states can be very ideologically opposed to each other, but if they share a common concern they may form a joint resolution
A basic starting point for a delegate is regional and trades blocs. On a more advanced level, one would research historical precedents in past treaties or conventions in order to provide a springboard for a specific resolution. Potential resolution by the international community is considerably reinforced with the application of historical global treaties. In addition, a successful delegate must be aware of any potential adversaries opposing opinions. As stated earlier research is crucial to effective caucusing to effective caucusing. The United Nations website (www.un.org) provides such as resources as daily update on U.N. events, full texts of U.N. resolutions, missions statements, and much more.
One activity used in Mr. Herminghausen’s session concerned the issue of global warming. Three students participated in this exercise, each representing one of the following nations: United States, Mexico, and Grenada. As a developed state, the US’s objectives (as stated by several students in the session) would be able to help alleviate the problem of global warming, but not at the expense of the U.S. economy. A similar objective would apply to a developing nation, such as Mexico. Grenada, on the other hand, being a non-industrialized island state, would be very inclined towards ending global warming. Regarding potential allies of each state, the U.S. and Mexico would both look to other industrialized and industrializing member-states, development-related non-governmental organizations, and trade organizations such as the WTO and UNCTAD. Grenada would turn to the other "Green" member-states, as well as environment-related NGO’s like GreenPeace and Friends of the Earth. In this trio, the U.S. and Mexico’s adversaries would be allies of Grenada, and vice versa.
One diplomatic strategy of the U.S. would be to seek a long-term agreement to slow the emission of greenhouse gases, but with reservation agreements based on the economic growth. As stated earlier, part of U.S. a objective would be to slow global warming without substantial costs. In the caucusing process, industrialized nations like the U.S. must keep in mind that the developed world emits significantly more pollution per capita, and has a history centuries long of profiting from the exploitation of global resources. Mexico would seek similar measures, being wary of any binding agreements, however, a developing nation must also be careful not to damage the diplomatic relations with important allies and trading partners. As for an island like Grenada, diplomatic strategies would include moral pleas for immediate action, the use of supportive statistics, and the implementation of the "polluter pays" principle. Island states would want to appeal to human rights issues and global morality, also being cautious about injuring important diplomatic relations.