Posts Tagged With: negotiation

Sinbad – The Hero or the Villain?

As in other negotiation and mediation trainings, the first case introduced to us 20 trainees from 13 Asian, African and Central/South American countries is the controversial “Crocodile River Story”:

“Once there lived a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Greg. Greg lived on the opposite side of a crocodile-infested river. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Greg, but the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him before the trip. She refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. After she had been to bed with him, Sinbad fulfilled his promise and delivered her across the river to Greg. When she told Greg about her amorous adventure, Greg cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and rejected, she turned to Slug with her story. Slug, feeling compassion for her, sought out Greg and beat him brutally. Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Greg getting his due. As the sun set on the horizon, people heard Abigail laughing at Greg.”

Each of us was instructed to rank the characters in the story from 1 (who you think is ‘best’) to 5 (who you think is ‘worst’). Then we were divided into small groups with three or four members each, and each group was asked to come up with a common ranking. Thereafter, members of each group were asked to select their group representative to negotiate with the representatives of other groups to come up with a common ranking.

I’m sure, you can now expect the outcome of the exercise:

For the subgroup where I belonged, three of us agreed on ranking Sinbad as the number 1 (‘the best’) on the basis of rational choice theory and material cost-benefit analysis, but one us firmly stood his ground of ranking Sinbad as the number 5 (‘the worst’). In the end, we failed to agree on a single ranking.

And the same disagreement was the outcome of the representatives’ long, emotionally-charged negotiation.

     

What is your take?

Is Sinbad the best, or the worst?

Tips:
1. Before negotiating with the other parties, the criterion/criteria must be clarified upon. Technically, it is called “Rules and Procedures.”
2. Nothing is agreed upon unless something is agreed upon.

(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

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Tougher to Negotiate With

The second module we had studied during the Asia-China Peace and Leadership Training-Workshop (Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, July 14-23, 2017) was about International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and for this two-day module, we were lucky enough to have PROF. GUY OLIVIER FAURE as our facilitator or resource person.

Dr. Faure is currently a Visiting Professor at CEIBS, Shanghai, China; Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Sorbonne University, Paris; and Director of International Conflict Resolution Center, The Hague, Netherlands.

Having done extensive works in international negotiations and conflict resolution, particularly in the domains of Long-term Strategic Forecast, Terrorism, and Business Security, Prof. Faure has lectured in a number of renowned universities and institutions including the Harvard Law School and the New York University.

He has authored, co-authored and edited 19 books and over a hundred articles, and one of those books is entitled “Negotiating with Terrorists: Strategy, Tactics and Politics” (Routledge, 2008).

During the second and last day of the module, as the time for lunch was approaching and everybody seemed to be already imagining to hold a spoon, instead of ballpen, I posed a question:

“Sir Olivier, taking into consideration your wide array of experiences in negotiation, both as a theoretician and a practitioner, which do you think is tougher to negotiate with: the ISIS, or MISIS (“wife” or “madame” in Filipino)?

After an unprecedented laughter, Sir Olivier retorted, “Of course, it’s the MISIS because they personally know our soft spot!”

How I wish, Sir Olivier’s next book project will be entitled, “Negotiating with MISIS: Strategy, Tactics and Politics.”

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Mediating Negotiation, Negotiating Mediation

donkey

MAKATI CITY (20 September) – Following ‘Id al-Qurban last week, some 30 Moros from various sectors – revolutionary fronts, legal profession, civil society organizations (CSOs), local government units (LGUs), and the academe – gathered not to form a political party or anything of that sort, but to attend a four-day training on negotiation and mediation at Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City.

In partnership with the Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations) and UNDP Philippines, the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) organized the “Training-Workshop on Negotiation and Mediation as Instruments for Conflict Settlement” with the aim of providing the participants with the necessary skills sets that could “hopefully help them identify, discuss, and achieve common grounds on various issues confronting the Moro society and negotiate better”.

As his opening salvo, one of the two training facilitators introduced the Onion Model of Negotiation and Mediation, which identifies three essential elements that a negotiator or mediator should know. They are ‘positions’ (outer later), ‘interests’ (middle layer) and ‘wants’ (core). As Wilbur Perlot of Clingendael, a world renowned think-tank involved in the training of diplomats and negotiators the world over, was explaining each element of the Onion Model, I cannot help but look at it through IR theoretical lenses – both positivist and post-positivist.

As I was suspecting from the beginning, the model is indeed based upon liberalism and its basic assumptions on cooperation and drive for gains, as can be deduced from the facilitator’s answer to a lawyer participant who asked about the place of ‘motives’ in the model – ‘motives’ being equated with ‘wants’ which constitutes the ‘core’ in the model.

Contrary to the positivist liberalism which identifies ‘wants’ as the element on which the ‘interests’ and ‘positions’ depend, social constructivism – a midway post-positivist tradition – introduces an ‘inner core’ element – that is, ‘identity’. It propounds that one’s positions and interests are not dictated by his wants but rather by something which is continually shaping his wants. That is his ever-changing identity. Accordingly, not only one’s positions and interests that can be negotiated, but also his wants, provided that his identity also changes accordingly.

As Alexander Wendt would blurt, “Positions and interests are what negotiators make of them!”

Interestingly enough, the lecture sessions were interspersed with mind-bending exercises that simulate actual negotiation and/or mediation, while the refreshment breaks were peppered by spontaneous narration by MNLF and MILF negotiators of critical episodes of actual experiences negotiating with the Philippine government in the past.

The exchange of pleasantries and laughter among the participants, and at times, with the two facilitators as well as members of the secretariat, would remarkably defy the wide age disparity among the participants – from mid-20s to over 70 years old.

As part of the debriefing on “bargaining on the merits,” the other facilitator and mediation expert in both theory and practice, Mark Anstey of South Africa, told us the tale of two donkeys who finally found a win-win agreement on how to deal with two separate fodders. Instead of simultaneously consuming their respective fodders which is impossible to do given their being tied together, donkey A and donkey B agreed to consume together fodder A first and then fodder B. Within the framework of liberalism, it is as simple as that – the two parties agree together to come up with a win-win situation for them both.

But it is not so with structural realism which, like liberalism, is also a positivist tradition, but at the other end of the spectrum. Structural realism does not only settle with an apparent agreement but also questions the intention of each party and even entertains the possibility of deception on the part of one or both parties. Accordingly, after the two donkeys agree to consume together the two fodders, it is not unlikely that after consuming together the fodder A, donkey B is deceiving its counterpart as it intends to kill it so that it could consume fodder B by itself alone.

After undergoing the last exercise which was a simulation of tedious multilateral negotiation involving a concerned citizens’ group acting as the mediator, a central government, a regional police, a group of old protesters with specific constituencies, and a group of young protesters with particular constituencies, one realization I had is that mediating is doing a sort of negotiation while negotiating is undeniably inseparable with mediating works.

In short, mediating is negotiating, and vice versa.

 

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