by Charly Jaffe, U.S.A.

Before recalling the events of the day, I must make a confession: I am a bit of a rookie at this conference. And I like it. Instead of sitting in class with other inexperienced undergraduates, I am surrounded by 65 extraordinary people from around the globe whose diverse perspectives reflect their diverse experiences. I am fully aware of how incredibly lucky I am to be here, and have been doing my best to soak it all up. But the negotiation simulations with Dr. Anthony Wanis-St. John don’t just let me sit back and observe. They push me to apply the concepts we have learnt about the complex process of multi-lateral negotiations and to elevate my game.

Our negotiation simulation today regarding the funding and construction of a deep water port in Sri Lanka post-civil war, was increasingly complex, with a point system quantifying our different priorities. There obviously had to be some push and pull in these negotiations, but none of us knew the other participants’ exact priorities and some sneaky spoilers were ready to stop the deal at any time. I quite enjoyed keeping others guessing what my priorities were throughout the process, and was elated when our arguments and back-channel discussions finally led to a deal. Although this process was much more simple than any real life negotiations of this caliber would be, actually participating in the process gave much more meaning to the concepts we had learned.

In the afternoon we had the honor and privilege of hearing one of the most courageous and impressive negotiators this world has seen. When Betty Bigombe walked into the room, you could feel her presence. Speaking with an endearing sense of humility, Betty began by apologizing if she bored us over the course of the next two hours. But I’m not sure if it is possible for her to bore anyone, and I sat on the edge of my seat as she relayed stories of risking her life while getting to know the infamous Joseph Kony and dealing with the communities he had destroyed. When asked how she kept going and remained motivated in such a frustrating and mentally draining process, Betty did not talk about balance or keeping her spirits up. Instead, she looked out at us, with an intensity you could feel, and recalled the victims who had persevered even after they had been raped, their children had been abducted and turned into killers, or their families massacred. It is these people that drive me, she proclaimed, I am out to save the world. And so are you, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

To have such a brave, real live hero relate to me like that was both powerful and surreal. Betty Bigombe is one in a million, and while I don’t expect that we will all achieve feats as great as hers, it certainly put the pressure on us to elevate our game.