Role-Play on SDGs in ASEAN: Negotiating Initiatives on Social Protection

The intersection between the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community Vision 2025 became the theme of the workshop "Capacity Building in International Negotiation Skills: Simulation on Multilateral Negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals Agenda" held in Bandung and Jakarta from 19-23 August 2019.

The SDG 10 calls for reduced inequalities among its members, and one of the important topics in achieving it is through social protection. The provision of healthcare, the protection of workers, such as maternity leave and the protection from unemployment are among the key issues. Although strong economic growth in ASEAN over the past decade has lifted a lot of people out of poverty, many still work in the informal economy, as well as working as temporary migrant in other ASEAN countries. Those working in this field are unfortunately not granted health insurance or unemployment protection by the state.

An interactive method of role play was chosen by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Indonesia Office and the Coordinating Ministry of Human Development and Culture to provide a better understanding of the SDGs and the role of regional organizations such as ASEAN in their implementation, particularly on social protection. By focusing on a fictitious region that is modeled on ASEAN the game was designed to expand the understanding on the process in reducing inequalities within the region of Southeast Asia and the complexities in achieving the common standard among the countries or joint regional efforts. A Berlin- based organization, planpolitik, whose expertise is in interactive learning method had designed the simulation game and became the facilitators in Bandung and Jakarta.

This workshop aims to give participants a better understanding of the dynamics of multilateral negotiations and of the negotiation skills needed to successfully navigate the process. "Tell me it and I'll forget it, show me it and I might remember it, involve me and I'll understand it".

The quintessence of the interactive learning method can be summed up in the abovementioned traditional Native American saying. Throughout the week from 19-23 August 2019 around 110 participants from government institutions, academia, and civil society organizations learnt all about negotiation skills. The workshop in Bandung was jointly organized by the Department of International Relations at Parahyangan Catholic University (UNPAR), whereas the workshop in Jakarta was organized together with the Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS). In the simulation the participants took on the role of fictitious political actors involved in multilateral negotiations. With each national delegation coming with their own positions and interests the participants will need to find allies and learn how to compromise in order to come to an agreement.

The first simulation emphasizes a formal negotiation setting between national delegations with a focus on social protection regulation as part of the SDGs to negotiate about whether there should be regional standards on social protection provisions. In this game the participants gained an insight into the formalized process of multilateral negotiations, including to chair such as negotiation. Thus, they learnt to better understand the dynamics of formal multilateral negotiations and discussed some of the most pressing regional sustainable development policies.

"The negotiation simulation has been very useful to provide a bigger picture. We understand why it was difficult to reach an agreement since every party has different position and interest. It was also interesting to play a role; to put ourselves in the delegates position, faced with time pressure to achieve something, "said Ary Maulana, Sekolah Damai Indonesia SEKODI Bandung.

In addition to the formal negotiation setting, the participants also engaged in the informal negotiation setting. The second simulation game which was focused on a regional disaster risk reduction mechanism consisted of country representatives and also the non-state actors such as the UN agency, an NGO and the multilateral development banks. While the negotiations remained mostly informal, the non-state actors needed to lobby the states in order to gain influence. This approach emphasizes on the geo-politics and the participants gained a better understanding of the multi-level nature of international negotiations.

As a closing to the week-long program we organized the "Training of Trainers" in Jakarta joined by around 30 participants to learn how to facilitate the simulation game in their own workplace. Reflecting from their own experience the participants of this training learnt what to keep in mind when facilitating the simulation game: how to introduce the game, to how deal with difficult situation, and moderating the debriefing session. The combination of state and non-state actors in this negotiation simulation provides a glimpse into the world of international governance initiatives and the relationships between actors at this level.

"I learnt a lot from the facilitators from planpolitik. How to actively interact with the participants, but still guide them through the process. It is all very interesting. I look forward to practice it with my students," said Dian Novikrisna, Pertamina University.

Negotiation is an essential part of our lives. The simulation offers an exciting insight into world politics, showing how geo-political interests are intertwined with regional development strategies. After the simulation the participants felt more engaged with the topics of social protection and disaster risk reduction. They also had better understanding why it was so difficult to achieve an agreement. In many ways this will be reflected in their work on regional policies, for future advocacy within ASEAN or in their teachings. Since the game is on fictitious region, it would be easily replicated in other forums and countries. To get more information about the simulation game, contact us at info(at)fes.or.id.

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