by Hamdi Aden, Somalia

There is a surreal experience when you sit listening to a talk by someone whose work you have often quoted (in the hurried pages of the many essays you have written) over the course of 5 years, give a lecture on theories that have nourished your essays on international peace and security. Today, I had the pleasure of experiencing that with over 50 delegates when Dr Zartman gave an introduction to international negotiation. While it is true that rare is the Peace nerd who has not come across Zartman’s work, it was fantastic to hear him contextualize the theory with many examples spanning the ages and continents from Arab spring and two Sudans’ ‘pact of double suicide’, the break up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ‘coercive deficiency’ in North Korea, Ecuador and Peru’s long standing border dispute and decolonization in Africa.

Zartman defined negotiation as ‘ giving something to get something’ utilizing the three Cs  (concession, compensation and construction (redefining the issue) in the context of deprivations and gratifications, stressing that ‘people are compelled to act more by the threat of losses than by the promise of gains’.

Though we start on positions, negotiation takes places on all three levels; positions, alternatives and expectations. However, the success of the negotiation often depends on the following three elements: relationship (and the shadow of the future), ownership (of the process) and craftsmanship (creativity).

While Zartman brought the theory, Wilbur Perlot grounded his discussion on the conditions of successful international mediation on the practical and personal aspects from commitment, communication to cultural awareness.  This again came back to the individual as the negotiator both in business and conflict situations and the skills, tactics, history, attitude and leverage you bring to the table which may or may not help you achieve a desired outcome.

Both presenters were varied in their method of delivery and take on the topic, and this Peace nerd had a fantastic day soaking up some tips on international negotiation, not to mention basking in the envy of colleagues abroad!