The role of NFPs includes facilitating the lead-up, in terms of logistical preparation, to a meeting for the delegations attending. Formal invitations from the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit notifying Member States of the meeting contains information regarding the date and venue of the meeting as well as further details, such as registration deadlines and procedures.
Timely preparation can ensure compliance with possible funding deadlines, and the preparation of necessary documents can ensure the full participation of the delegation, including the exercise of voting rights.
Composition of Delegations
A delegation can be described as the person or people officially representing a country at a meeting. It can consist of a single representative from a Member State, but may also include alternate representatives and advisers. Each country will have its own procedures for selecting individuals for its delegation. As the person with the most detailed day-to-day knowledge of the instrument, the NFP is usually included in the national delegation, although a more senior colleague might be nominated “Head of Delegation” as these meetings deal with overall policy. Furthermore, the NFP is instrumental in advising the rest of the delegation. NFPs should inquire at an early stage whether delegates are eligible for funding to participate in the meeting in question. It is recommended that the NFP starts to coordinate well before the meeting about who should be on the delegation.
When considering the composition of the delegation, the NFP should take into consideration:
• The type and level of expertise required for the consideration of the topics on the agenda and their priority for the Member State;
• The ministries that, according to national policy, may need to be represented at the meeting.
Coordination of the Delegation’s organizational needs includes several aspects.
The NFPs must check well in advance whether their country may be eligible for funding for a representative to participate in a meeting. The eligibility criteria for funding are normally determined by the budget decisions of the decision-making body. However, further criteria may apply and NFPs therefore have a greater chance of success if they prepare the applicable criteria for funding before each meeting.
The Secretariat/Coordinating Unit will normally arrange for sponsored delegates to receive a return ticket to travel to the meeting and pay a “Daily Subsistence Allowance” to cover accommodation and meals. The rates vary from city to city and country to country.
Non-sponsored delegates are responsible for making their own travel arrangements and booking accommodation, but the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit will often provide a list of suitable hotels. Relevant information on the details of each meeting is included in the official notification which is sent by the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit to the Member State.
Pre-registration of participants does not normally follow a strict deadline. Early registration is however appreciated by those organizing the meeting. There are fixed deadlines for participants requiring funding though. After the deadline, registration for such delegates is still possible but funding might not be available. The CMS Secretariat created an online pre-registration system to cover all meetings organized by the CMS Family*. Here the NFP is required to select the correct meeting from a list and register information, such as name, some personal data (date of birth, passport number, and expiration date), contact details, and affiliation of the delegates.
A recent innovation is an online registration system. Delegates must have reliable access to the internet to be able to use it.
Credentials for national delegations to COPs and MOPs must be signed by the Head of State, Head of Government or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whereas credentials for MOS can be signed by the relevant minister (separate arrangements are in place for delegations representing regional economic integration organizations). Credentials must be duly signed and stamped and contain the names of the Party’s official delegates who will represent the government (specifying who heads the delegation). Credentials empower the delegation to participate fully in the meeting and transact all matters and vote on behalf of the relevant Ministry. An advanced copy of the letter of credentials may be requested from delegates seeking funding to attend. The original must be submitted to the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit at the beginning of the meeting in one of the languages of the instruments (or if in another language accompanied by an official translation), which will then be reviewed either by the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit or by a credentials committee composed of country representatives. Normally the Secretariat/Coordinating Unit provides models for a letter of credentials.
It is important that the NFP facilitates the delegation receiving appropriate credentials. Otherwise, representatives would only be recognized as observers to the meeting.
Formal acts for negotiating or signing new instruments, such as MOUs or Agreements, require additional authorization known as “full powers” which indicate that the person is granted authority to sign and/or negotiate the instrument. It is important to highlight the difference of “credentials” and “full powers”.
• name a representative who is going to sign or negotiate the instrument, and
• for legally binding instruments - must be issued and signed by the Head of State or Government or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or
• for non-binding instruments - must be issued and signed by the relevant minister.
Invitation letters from Secretariats/Coordinating Units also provide information about visa requirements for entering the country hosting the meeting. Each delegation member is invited to apply for a visa in due course and it is important that the NFP facilitates the process. Secretariats/Coordinating Units facilitate the issuance of visas by providing country delegations with visa support letters and informing the appropriate authorities.