As the climate summit COP28 kicks off this week, and Egypt hands the summit baton to Dubai, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation discusses what any negotiation needs to be effective. In her role, Rania Al-Mashat helps drive economic diplomacy and she shares the phrases that can help build common ground, the personal traits that can forge perseverance and the mindsets that are key to make trust and action possible. This conversation, recorded during UN Week in New York this September, also explores some of the key priorities leaders will explore for climate action this year and what should be kept in mind to drive progress.
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Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader Welcome to Meet the Leader, the podcast where top leaders share how they are tackling the world's toughest challenges. Today, we talk to s Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation. In a conversation recorded this September in New York during UN Week, she'll talk to us about what's needed for effective negotiation and what she depends on most.
Subscribe to Meet the Leader on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your favourite podcasts. And, don't forget to rate and review us. I'm Linda Lacina from the World Economic Forum and this is Meet the Leader.
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt We signed many agreements at COP 27. We want to go to COP 28 to say this is the progress that has been achieved on this platform.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader Rania Al-Mashat is Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation. It's a job that requires partnering with a range of organizations and groups around the world and helping to negotiate for big change.
Negotiating is always an important skill, but especially important at the end of this year, as leaders and negotiators from around the world gather in Dubai for COP 28.
It's the annual conference of the parties. This is the main decision-making body for the global climate change process and those who have joined a special treaty for climate action will come to negotiate on their country's behalf, and on the world's behalf, on how we can limit global warming, make good on climate commitments and drive the transition to clean energy.
It's a critical moment for countries to get themselves heard, especially in a year where record temperatures, floods and fires have given us a sneak peek at the calamities that a warming world will bring. The vulnerable are hit most by these changes, and while most agree that we are not where we should be, many disagree on how we should reach the Paris Agreement's goals and how that work should be funded.
Egypt hosted COP27 last year, and as Egypt hands the reins to Dubai, we felt it was the perfect moment to check in with Rania Al-Mashat to better understand the nature of effective negotiation and what anyone, including the folks coming to COP 28 this year, can keep in mind.
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt You know, when I'm asked, what does the Ministry of International Cooperation do in order to give a shorthand of a long list of tasks? I say we're engaged in economic diplomacy.
In the world today, we have multilateral international institutions, such as the UN, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asia Infrastructure Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and then we have many bilateral institutions, which are development institutions, such as USAID, French Development Agency and many other agencies. Our role is to negotiate with these partners.
They are called development partners because they have development goals, which also support countries in fulfilling their national development goals. We discuss with them and negotiate on projects, on technical assistance and once projects are negotiated and agreements are ratified, we start monitoring our portfolio with these different development partners. So, the shorthand of all of this is that we are engaged in Egypt's economic diplomacy, fostering multilateralism, fostering the global common goals, trying to push for progress towards these goals and, if we are using the General Assembly language, it's for the benefit of the people and the planet.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader You mentioned that your role involves negotiation, a lot of people wish that they were better at negotiating. You know, what's the key to a successful negotiation in your mind?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt What is really important in negotiations is to identify first what is your goals. Okay, what do I want out of this agreement? What do I want out of this discussion? So, that's very important in my mind, I need to very clearly structure what I want out of the negotiation.
The second point is with the person or the institution or the party that I'm negotiating with. It's very important to figure out what is the common ground. What do both of us agree on? Where is the common denominator? And to try and reduce the level of tension or conflict in that.
In our case, as a ministry that is responsible for sustainable development goals, responsible for projects that affect the people and the planet, with the institutions we negotiate with there are commonalities, there are these 17 SDGs. There are projects related to renewable energy and to social solidarity, to education, to health and so forth. So there are common goals. And when we negotiate, we want to make sure that the priorities that we set and the priorities of our partners align.
And here comes the idea of finding that common ground and trying during the negotiation, discussion or period, because there might be several rounds, to try and come very close to identifying the priorities.
The other important aspect in the negotiation is to try and build trust and the trust comes from maybe previous action that identifies our relationship. So let's assume that I'm negotiating today with a certain development partner, it's very important that our previous projects or previous negotiations yielded positive results that reflect positively on that institution, as well as positively on my institution.
Maybe the third thing in negotiation also is to find an innovative way of describing the relationship between our party and the, you know, the party we're negotiating with. So to give an example, our business is to negotiate more agreements and more financing and one of the elements that we used in 2020 is to say, "okay, the whole world is trying to mobilise finance for health and, at that time it was vaccines and COVID-19 and so forth," so we innovated the tool where we mapped each and every dollar to the SDGs.
Try and think innovatively about creating that common ground and making the partner you're negotiating with proud of their partnership with you. And this definitely yields positive results.”
And, so this was a very important tool, an innovative tool that helped in negotiating new contracts and new agreements. So I would say the third point is to try and think innovatively about creating that common ground and making the partner you're negotiating with proud of their partnership with you. And this definitely yields positive results.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader You mentioned that there's a huge role here as a diplomat, too. There's also a huge role here in language that makes everybody feel good about what's going on. What are some phrases that you find just effective or useful as you're having these conversations with people? What are the things that come to mind?
Rania Al Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt In negotiations, I would say "alignment." I would say "this is creating an example to be replicated in other cases." So this also reflects that our negotiation is a "building block" or an example for other countries or other projects. So, this also means that the relationship doesn't end at exactly this juncture, but there are opportunities for the future. I would say common goals. I would say as SDGs, I would say climate ambition. I would use a lot of the narrative, which is very common today across the stakeholders that we deal with.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader People who don't use those words, alignment, common goals, things like that, who aren't speaking that into their conversations, what else can you say in these conversations to move talks forward?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt What's the mutual benefit to both of us? I would say that together we can yield results. I would say that our negotiation would be outcome-driven. I would say that our purposes are common and your purpose could be whatever both parties are sitting down to negotiate over.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader And you also mentioned that sometimes language can help reduce tension, sometimes negotiations - people might be on different sides and they aren't sure how they can bridge it. What are some phrases you might use to reduce that tension?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt I would say together we can build. We complement one another. I would say that our previous collaboration yielded positive results and we can scale this further.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader We are here at SDI and this is the halfway point to 2030, to all the global milestones that have been set, what is top of mind for you right now?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt We are here at 78 General Assembly and we have two important summits that are taking place, the SDG Summit and the Climate Summit. And I was just saying that they don't come as a coincidence that they are the day after the other because the climate ambition is very much linked to the SDG goals. And for developing and emerging economies, we should not choose between climate or development. We should try and build a case where each and every climate project or climate transition is adding to the global goals.
For developing and emerging economies, we should not choose between climate or development. We should try and build a case where each and every climate project or climate transition is adding to the global goals.”
It's eradicating poverty, it's reducing hunger, it's creating more jobs, it's creating renewable energy. So all of these are SDG one, two, seven and five. In thinking about the future and in thinking about from now until 2030, there is a big gap which has happened because of the successive crises that have hit us since 2020. And it has sort of, you know, reduced the pace by which achieving these SDGs was going because countries have been challenged in terms of the fiscal space or have been challenged in terms of the priorities, given the implications of the different crises.
So, it's important that as we are trying to fill that gap, we always think about climate and development hand in hand. We try and, in the policy dialogue within government, emphasize it in the dialogue we have with the private sector, we emphasize it in the dialogue we have with the financing community. We also try to emphasize it, and that's the way to create that common goal.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader You have been a huge advocate for climate financing. Tell us a little bit about that. For those who aren't familiar, why is that so important?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt In order to create change on the climate agenda, what does that mean? It means that countries need to invest in projects that move from the use of gas and fossil fuels to renewables. That requires investment. It requires investment in solar plants. It requires investments in wind turbines. So there's an investment, there's a money component in order to move forward.
If we're talking about energy, also, if we're talking about protecting the land, using water efficiently, creating better agricultural land, better crops or protecting even the existing land through early warning signals and so forth. So whether it's mitigation through energy or adaptation through agriculture and water, all of this requires investment and investment means finance for the countries who have not completed their industrialization, the climate goals sometimes are seen in conflict with the development stage they are at. And here comes the concept of helping them by providing concessional finance or finance at low cost so that they can move forward and invest in those projects that I was describing.
When we talk about finance for climate action, there needs to be an element of justice. And this justice means that low-cost financing needs to be availed for countries in order to attract private investments.”
Now, the world has fallen short of providing that type of low-cost money to the countries that need it in order to continue developing, but at the same time, reduce emissions or protect water and agricultural resources. What we have been doing since, maybe COP 26 and COP 27, is to try and figure out how can we increase concessional finance. How can we make concessional finance more efficient by attracting private sector investments, because the government on its own cannot provide public money because space is very limited?
Concessional finance is very, very tight because multilateral development institutions have not increased their capital too much and the private sector sometimes is very suspicious of coming into countries because there's high risk or they see it as a cost, rather than an opportunity. So, this means that all these players need to come together in order to move forward in countries that need to create climate action.
So that's, you know, a very long story, but I try to say it in a very simplistic way, but what we have been advocating is that when we talk about finance for climate action, there needs to be an element of justice. And this justice means that low-cost financing needs to be availed for countries in order to attract private investments.
And, the other important aspect is the initiative, which is bringing in another type of capital, which is philanthropy into the equation. So it's a public/private partnership and then we can put philanthropy on top of it. So it's PPPP, rather than three Ps. And why is philanthropy important? Because it can come in and put an element of finance, which we call is patient. It doesn't have to get returned right away. It waits and, therefore, it can aid and help countries project the private sector at very early stages in this process of developing a project for climate action.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader There's so many commitments that have been made. There's been more awareness of the need for climate financing. In your mind, what's going to be your big hill to sort of climb, in maybe the next six months to a year, to land what you need to land for climate financing?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt I mean, one of the excuses that is given why this concessional finance doesn't make its way to countries is because the countries are not ready with projects that make sense.
This has always been the debate, that the supply is there, but the demand, the absorption is not there, because the countries are not ready with bankable projects or investible projects. So, what we tried to do as President of COP, Egypt was president of COP 27, so, you know, we pass on the baton in November '23 to UAE, we said, okay, we are going to create a platform, a country-led platform that has priority projects, as I mentioned, mitigation. So, there's you know, projects related to mitigation on energy transition. And, we will also create or have a pipeline of projects on adaptation, so water and food.
So this platform is the nexus of water, food and energy, (NWFE) and, NWFE in Arabic, means fulfilling commitments or fulfilling pledges, so it goes back to your point, have the commitments been met? So, we said we are going to create a meaningful demand, a country platform that has these projects. We are going to leverage our economic diplomacy, which the Ministry of International Cooperation does with different development partners, to basically say, here's the project, here's the concessional finance that can crowd in private investment.
We signed many agreements at COP 27. We want to go to COP 28 to say this is the progress that has been achieved on this platform at COP 28 and then say out of these outcomes, this is an example that can be replicated in other countries. And, therefore, I believe that the next six months to a year, is to show results in terms of NWFE and also what worked and can be used by other countries and other MDBs.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader Our Chief Economist Outlook just came out a few days ago and we see there's a lot of regions that are going to be battling stagflation, battling growth. Everybody's going to have to balance that and also sort of help for the climate. What about your region? What's going to be important for you and what are you going to be prioritizing?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt Since 2020, there have been consecutive shocks hitting all economies. We started with COVID and then we had the war in Europe with its implications on food supply, food prices, fuel prices and all of this meant that there is a tightening cycle that took place in the world. So, interest rates went up to battle, inflation and so forth and this implication was double on emerging markets because they had inflation, but also the tightening cycle in the US and Europe meant that capital found it more risky to come to developing and emerging markets.
So, this puts more pressure on the ability to mobilize financing and definitely for climate action and when we look at what are the priorities going forward, I just go back to what was discussed in the G20 in India, and one of the important calls for action was that for different multilateral development banks, that provide the concessional finance that they need, to triple their financing by 2030. And this is a very important goal if you will, because it means that more resources will be available for emerging markets to be able to push more on their climate action and to try and mitigate the implication of the high cost of capital that we are seeing because of the repercussions from the external macroeconomic environment that I was discussing.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader We talked a lot about the things that you are working on in the way that you have to work on them in order to make progress and collaborate with a variety of different stakeholders. In your life, what helped prepare you for this role? What kinds of experiences helped you build the skill set that you need for this?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt Sitting down and always trying to absorb the new trends. So education is very, very important. Educating yourself is extremely important. Collaborating, listening, exchanging of ideas and, by the way, the exchanging of knowledge and the exchanging of ideas doesn't only happen at an individual level. Today in the world, we hear this concept of South-South cooperation, which means countries also exchange knowledge. So on an individual level, it's, you know, trying to get exposure to what the new trends are. That happens in different conferences, but also with colleagues, with the teams I work with, there's always new ideas that come up and we try to implement these ideas.
We take the risk of trying to create. This is very, very important and that's how we stay engaged in global conversations and try to have an edge when it comes to this platform, NWFE or coming up with the Sharm el-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing, which again was based on filling in a gap that exists in this ecosystem. So, I would say engaging with people, I think there's a very famous paper that says there's spill-over from having lunch with smart colleagues, that is definitely a plus, and then the second is to have a sense of humility because it's only by being humble to what's around that you are able to move forward.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader Is there something that you do now in the course of your work, a habit, a trait, a way of working, that maybe wouldn't have occurred to you when you first took on this role or maybe at the beginning of your career? Is there just some way you worked? You're like, gosh, I didn't have that. I don't know what I'd do.
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt I would say patience. It comes over time, but it doesn't mean to slow down, it's just maybe to be patient with the pace of others. So you try to push, you try to inspire, but at the same time, you have to be a little bit mindful of those around you.
And I think the other very important aspect is to set an example and be consistent. Consistency is very, very important. So, it's not just that something comes to your mind and you're good at it now and then you forget it. It's consistency in messaging. It's consistency and ideas that are fresh, new and implementable. So that is also, I think, a very important, important trait.
Don't be limited by where you are at or by your own ideas.”
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader Is there a piece of advice you've always been grateful for?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt Maybe something my father always tells me, that the world is very big and I think the concept here is that you should not be limited by your space where you are at or limited by your own ideas. The world is very big. Look around. Get exposure. Interact. Move around. Sometimes you don't realize it. You take it for granted. But we're not thinking in that way.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader And your last question, a lot of people are going to be saying, hey, we need to make action now. We need to work urgently. What is the number one tactic people can use in their daily work when they're in a meeting to push something forward? What's your advice for people so that they can make sure that they are not thinking about 2040, 2050, They're thinking about the here and now. What's your advice for them?
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt So everything counts, from the smallest thing in mentioning a statistic during a meeting, to actually trying to change policy. So everything counts. The world is very much connected. Anything you say here is definitely going to echo elsewhere. So that's my recommendation that whatever you believe in and have passion for, try and link it to some of the concepts that you're hearing, you know, tossed around here and there and make sure that that is repeated in the different engagements you have. And as I mentioned, never belittle the contribution that you're making.
Linda Lacina, Meet The Leader That was Rania Al-Mashat. Thanks so much to her and thanks so much to you for listening.
A transcript of this episode and my colleague Robin Pomeroy's episodes of Radio Davos are available at https://www.weforum.org/podcasts.
This episode of Meet the Leader was presented and produced by me, with Jerry Johansson as editor and Gareth Nolan driving studio production. That's it for now. I'm Linda Lacina with the World Economic Forum. Have a great day.
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