Getting more than 190 countries to reach a uniform conclusion on an issue of such magnitude as the global response to the impact of climate change is no easy feat. Delegates who participated in the recent COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris had every reason to raise their hands in victory at having concluded such a huge task in so short a space of time.

With so much ground to cover, and so many representatives participating, delegates knuckled down and thrashed out issues until late into the night.

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Conference president and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had implemented the indaba method earlier in the conference to streamline the process. By December 10, the eve of the last day of the summit and with several matters still unresolved, Minister Fabius called for an urgent and critically focused Indaba of Solutions.

The word 'indaba' means meeting or gathering, and is a method the Zulu and Xhosa tribes have long used in South Africa. An indaba is an important meeting or conference called by the chief and the higher ranking men of the tribe to discuss weighty issues that affect the community.

While the final decisions lie with the principal elders who head the indaba, everyone is allowed to attend and present their views, opinions and input. The term originally comes from a Zulu word meaning 'business' or 'matter'. Today the word indaba has found its way into mainstream South African life with events, conferences and exhibitions like the Tourism Indaba, Design Indaba and Mining Indaba adopting the term.

And so it was that on the night of December 10 and after several other previous rounds of indaba meetings, Fabius and key decision-making ministers (many operating on little sleep) went into a final intensive indaba. “I’ll be presiding over another indaba meeting but this time, it will be exclusively oriented towards finding compromises,” Fabius stated.

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When certain disagreements could not be quickly resolved, those countries were sent off to meet separately with the aide of facilitators who were instructed to report back within 30 - 45 minutes with a solution or compromise.

It worked. Delegates emerged on Friday, December 11 weary and sleep-deprived, but holding the final draft document that has been heralded by many as historic.

* Image by COP21 and released into the public domain