Functions of COP side-events in climate-change governance
Side-events are the most visible venue for civil society involvement in international climate negotiations. The many varied functions that side-events fulfil for participants and organizers are identified and analysed for their contributions generally as well as for their contribution to the negotiation process. The analysis is based on two surveys of over 2,000 side-event participants and organizers at COP-13 and COP-14. The surveyed side-events were found to fulfil the broader official objective of benefiting COP participants through providing a shared conceptual basis as well as building institutional capacity and legitimacy. All participant groups, particularly from Africa, G77, and less-developed countries, found these events useful for their work. As a venue for information dissemination, side-events provide an important opportunity for capacity building. Historically, new items were introduced at COP side-events before being discussed in the formal negotiations. Side-events also provide a process for creating a shared vision. By providing a forum that includes more organizations and actors in conjunction with the negotiations, side-events have the potential to increase the input legitimacy of the international policy process. A significant challenge will be the inclusion of a wider range of stakeholder groups and geographical, socioeconomic and epistemic communities, in order to avoid favouring the hegemony of NGOs and other organisations based in industrialized countries, as well as Annex 1 Parties.