by Alex Hong, United States of America 

In the fourth and final week of the IPSI Symposium in Bologna, we get to try everything our we have learned so far. Tuesday was the second day of a conflict simulation run by Sara and Amber from LINC Negotiation architects. Our talks take place in the context of an evolving situation on the ground, making it difficult to reach a peace agreement between Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia. Like the first day, my group ends the session without agreement on any of the issues. The only thing we can agree on is procedure, which includes standing up when the person playing the facilitator walks in and speaking one at a time during our negotiations. In our talks, we are trying to put together a statement defusing the situation.

So far, we have been unable to agree on even the most basic tenets. Reaching an agreement is far from straightforward and our talks bleed out into the coffee and lunch breaks, when we aren’t required to play our roles. We’ve been taught at IPSI how the ‘art of negotiation’, like the visual arts, is a process requiring a series of decisions by participants that will lead to a final product. It is not obvious which proposals or stance is the best, so it is still unclear what our final statement will look like. I’m enjoying the simulation and arguing for the interests of the breakaway region of Abkhazia, but I’m not optimistic about coming to an agreed framework tomorrow.

On a practical level, I will always be more aware of group dynamics and the ability of all participants to contribute to (or hinder) discussions. The Symposium in the last weeks has passed by quickly, especially with the busy schedule. There is a huge diversity of life experiences here that I’ve learned much from. When we leave Bologna, I hope we can continue sharing our stories of peacebuilding all over the world.