by Amy Thomson, New Zealand

Three days of trying to end the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict (in our universes this equated to about 20days) and I’m shattered. Acting on behalf of a small nation without international recognition (Abkhazia) is beset with problems. Balancing interests that are in some ways contradictory and then getting other stakeholders to even consider those interests is a complicated and frustrating process. In the end due to time constraints my universe ended up supporting the status quo as the next best alternative to a resolution of the conflict. Given that during the past three days Georgia and Russia have been close to full-blown war, this was a successful mediation process. For Abkhazia it meant failing to achieve all the goals it had, but leaving their achievement a possibility for the future.

Once each universe had arrived at their final statements, we were provided the opportunity to see what agreements all the other universes had come to. Some of them were close to being realistic and others were nice fairy tales. In some Russia and NATO forces had clashed and full out war was declared. In others Abkhazia gained everything it had dreamed of from Independence to economic prosperity without having to lose out on some interests.

The majority of this final day of the simulation was taken up with debriefing. It was a very useful process as it helped me to understand what some of the things that were realistic about our simulation, how I could have negotiated better and what to expect from mediation processes at an international level. I learned that if you keep a group of diplomats in a room for days and days until all hours of the morning and you don’t let them out, they are more likely to come to an agreement. They are human after all and fatigue works on us all. I learned that the perception that the mediator is listening to your concerns is an important factor in cooperating in the discussions. I learned that getting to an agreement is one thing, but actually implementing that agreement will be quite another. I learned that personalities are hugely important to the success of the discussions. I learned the importance of changing the situation from a zero-sum game to a win-win scenario.