by Imy Jacobs, Australia 

And so we saw the beginning of the end of the IPSI 2012 Bologna Symposium. We kicked off our final week of classes with a three day simulation, with the objective being able to “better understand the deep seeded issues that stand in the way of peace” in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. Gathering together the skills and knowledge we’ve learnt from the numerous expert practitioners and academics, we began our attempts to negotiate effectively and find opportunities for consensus. Our attempts to broker peace between the parties are made that much harder, however, by the random yet constant addition of new facts that always seem to pop up at the most inopportune moments – a characteristic normal for a real-life negotiator, no doubt. Throughout it all we reminded each other that it was the process that counted, the working together for a common goal, not the result where one party won while the other suffered.

Amber Hill, a graduate of the American University and Sara Shokravi both work with LNC Negotiation Architects, training people in negotiation, mediation and facilitation through simulations. Self-proclaimed ‘peace nerds’, they help people understand themselves and their negotiation styles. Their enthusiasm for their work is infectious, and I found myself and others in my group slipping into our roles with a little much too ease, eagerly awaiting new information that may benefit ‘us’ or ‘them’, or maybe, just maybe, help all of the parties involved. Entering the discussion group, everyone was ready to find a peaceful resolution, sure that we, as mature adults, would be able to come to a consensus, using the commonalities in our positions to work together. At the end of the first day, we left with a somewhat stable proposal but also with the knowledge that tomorrow morning it would be cast aside as the situation escalated and tensions between the factions rose. How professional we felt we were.