What mechanisms do you have for getting people to and from international meetings and being organised while they are there?
Focusing on the welfare of coalition participants at international meetings is a key job for a coalition. It is worthwhile investing significantly in order to get this right. Having dedicated staff able to spend substantial time organising travel, visas, accomodation and other arrangements for coalition members is vital.
Where possible, it can be helpful to have individuals from the coalition staff or coalition members focused each on one specific area of work, such as conference registration, transport, sponsorship and so on. There can be a tendency to pile all of the logistical requirements onto one or two ‘logisitcs people,’ but this can result in burn out. Havaing enough people to do this work and being clear about the division of labour should be a key area for the coalition leadership to focus on.
Some of the key areas that can make or break an organisational effort at an international conference are set out below – areas that invariably use more staff time than expected.
Key Areas for Coalition Logistics
Visas: Visas required to enter a country can be a big problem for coalitions. This includes transit visas for countries through which coalition members may be travelling on their way to the destination. It is very useful if the host government can issue letters for each participant indicating that they are accredited to the meeting and will get a visa on arrival.
Registration: Coalitions sometimes find themselves responsible for managing the official conference registration of their own participants during a meeting.
This has advantages and disadvantages: it affords a certain level of control over and inclusion in the process, but it does mean a lot of work. Coalitions can also be responsible for determining and controlling the physical presence of NGOs in meeting rooms when there is limited space.
For example during the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions in February 2007, the CMC was asked to specify 12 delegates (from a delegation of over 100) who would have access to the conference room and appointed one person to manage coalition members’ access to an overflow room where proceedings could be viewed. Similarly, during the opening ceremony of the final negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, the CMC was asked to identify a set number of campaigners who would be in the room during the ceremony.
Side events and evening events: As noted in Chapter 6, it’s important to provide space for coalition members to showcase their activities and organising this is a key role for the coalition. Coalition organisers need to make sure the requests for events are compiled and that each event organiser knows what they are expected to provide and what they can expect at their event, including catering, audio-visual equipment, translation services, and any other requirements. This can get complicated and if there are a lot of side events it can be worth having one person dedicated to the job.
Coalition meetings: Making sure coalition meetings run smoothly during a conference is another crucial area, also discussed in chapter 6. The orientation meetings, daily morning briefings, evening briefings, wrap up meeting – and the closing party – all help to nurture the coalition.
With a risk of meeting fatigue, it is important to keep meetings as brief as possible, make them outcome- oriented, know what you want to achieve and prepare well with participants in advance:
- Always have an agenda
- Always identify the decision-making items
- Always take clear minutes of these decision-making items.
- Put in place a chair that is respected and can keep time and handle the personalities and complicated debates
- If you don’t need a meeting, don’t have one just for the sake of it.