by Charlotte Nicol, UK/Australia

At the end of an intense week of the skills training and speaker presentations which made up our second week here in Bologna, I know I am not the only one of my fellow participants who feels a sense, not only of exhaustion, but also of inspiration and awe at the remarkable experiences of the speakers and trainers we have had the privilege of listening to this week.

On Friday we concluded our three days of negotiations skills training under the expert guidance of Dr. Anthony Wanis-St John. Highlights of day’s session included three elements critical to conducting a successful negotiation process: tactics of reframing conflict to enable mutually beneficial outcomes, cross cultural awareness, and the ethical dimensions of negotiation. Our three days training with Dr. Wanis-St John have been beneficial in better understanding how negotiation processes work, and in preparing us with practical tools for engaging in negotiation ourselves.

Interspersed with our negotiation training on Friday were two presentations from experts in peace building. Our first speaker, Jeffrey Mapendere is currently a Senior Advisor on Peace Process Design on the United Nations Mediation Support Unit’s Standby Team of Experts. He spoke of his own personal experiences in negotiating with rebel groups is various conflicts, providing fascinating insights into the dangerous situations he has entered into in support of peace building processes. Mapendere highlighted the importance of engaging with, rather than excluding, rebel groups in conflict resolution processes. In order to do this effectively, he insisted on the importance of understanding the characteristics of each rebel group, grasping the core positions and interests at stake in the conflict in question, and identifying your role as the negotiator and the influences, positive and negative, that you may have in the outcome. The presentation covered a perfect balance of personal insights and practical recommendations for building peace through engagement with all parties to conflict.

Our second speaker for the day was Gareth Evans who, among many varied and prestigious roles throughout his career, was co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001, which produced the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) report. Evans gave an overview of the R2P concept itself and the negotiation process he and the ICISS went through in developing the concept itself, and its later adoption by all UN member states at the World Summit in 2005. Not only did this presentation demonstrate the challenges of building consensus in international, multilateral negotiation processes and how to do it successfully, but it also was particularly valuable for participants in understanding the principles behind the R2P concept at a critical juncture in its, given its current application in Libya. Evans’ openness and frankness set a tone for the presentation that enabled participants to gain real insights into one of the most significant normative concepts in peace building today.