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.