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Developing Countries' Participation in International Negotiations Working Papers

Working papers

In the last 20 years, the role of developing countries in the international system has been transformed. This goes beyond the impact of their greater economic and political strength. They are now active in the international institutions. From being either excluded or treated as exceptions, some have become participants: pursuing their own policies and a target for the policies of others. Others, however, remain outside, either because they believe they have little to gain or because they are powerless to achieve significant gains.

 In a three-year research programme, three researchers at ODI, working with four associates in individual countries, have tried to understand how this participation has evolved, by which countries, when, in which negotiations, with what strategies. We want to examine:

  •  how and when can participation by economically and politically weak countries influence the results?
  •  what are the conditions which influence how countries participate, and how they succeed?
  •  are there lessons, for other countries, for the international institutions themselves, or for donors deciding how to target assistance, from the success of some countries, and the failures of others?


 In the first stage, we analysed three negotiating processes and the experience of three countries.

 The three negotiations are an environmental example, those on climate change (for the UN Framework Convention), multilateral trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization (and GATT) and an example of bilateral, preferential negotiations, those between the EU and its associated countries under the Lomé and Cotonou negotiations. The three countries are Bolivia: with strong interests in the climate change negotiations, Guyana, with special interests in its relations with Europe, and Zimbabwe, increasingly prominent in the WTO.

 For the negotiations, we were interested in when developing countries started to intervene actively: which countries were active, for what purposes, and what led to success or failure. In these, therefore, we were identifying the most important issues and participants in each negotiation.

 But from the point of view of an individual country, the negotiations must be seen in the context of all their development (and other) national policies, and more particularly among all the other international relationships which they must join or which they may choose. Here, we were interested in when and how a country decided to become active; which negotiations were most important to it; how the government and private decision-makers formed their positions, and responded to those of others.

 The working papers available here represent the first results of this project. The second stage will be to analyse and compare the results to find general results, and then go back to the countries to discuss these with the researchers and with policy-makers, before finally drawing conclusions.

 The study forms part of the Globalisation and Poverty programme, financed by the Department for International Development, which now includes fourteen projects on the relationship between the global economy, and global institutions, and poverty, and on how the developing countries can influence this.