From Policy to Practice: Training for Effective Plastic Treaty Negotiations for Commonwealth Countries

24 May 2024

How the Commonwealth and it's countries' governments are working closer together to create a greener future.

Training for a better future

In preparation for pivotal negotiations surrounding an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, particularly in marine environments, the Commonwealth Secretariat, in collaboration with the UK Government's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Centre for Political and Diplomatic Studies convened a training for government officials. This initiative was conducted in anticipation of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-4) held in Ottawa, Canada in April 2024.

The training, organised under the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance Action Group, co-championed by the UK and Vanuatu, under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, saw the participation of 39 officials and negotiators representing 19 Commonwealth countries. The primary aim of the programme was to enhance the countries' capacity to effectively engage in the negotiations and enhance their ability to meaningfully contribute to the negotiations.

How empowerment can lead to change

Dr Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, emphasised the significance of equipping government officials with the necessary expertise:

"Empowering our Commonwealth nations with the knowledge and skills to tackle plastic pollution is essential as we navigate the challenges posed by marine environmental degradation. This training underscores our commitment to fostering informed and impactful negotiations for a cleaner, healthier ocean."

A representative from Defra reaffirmed the UK's dedication to combatting plastic pollution:

"As co-champion of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, the UK remains steadfast in its commitment to leading global efforts against plastic pollution. This training demonstrates the dedication of the international community to come together and forge a path towards safeguarding our ocean for future generations."

Training for treaties and negotiations 

The training introduced treaties and their negotiations, encompassing structural, legal, and operational dimensions. Participants also received practical guidance on negotiating strategies applicable across various scenarios, including plenary sessions, regional groups, contact groups, and bilateral meetings.

Notably, the training enhanced participants' understanding of the intricacies inherent in treaty negotiations and equipped them with practical skills essential for navigating complex diplomatic landscapes. By fostering a collaborative learning environment, the training sought to enhance the collective capacity of the Commonwealth in advocating for effective solutions to pressing environmental challenges.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an agreement by all 56 countries to work together to address shared ocean challenges through country-led Action Groups focused on ten key ocean issues: marine plastic pollution, coral reef protection, mangrove restoration, climate change, ocean acidification, ocean observation, marine protected areas, sustainable aquaculture, sustainable coastal fisheries and the sustainable blue economy.

Over the past few years, the Secretariat has ramped up efforts to support members virtually, through knowledge exchange webinars, virtual dialogues and training. This training was supported by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation.