Purposes of Negotiation
At the outset of this course, it's fair to ask how these skills will help you, particularly in the context of conflict management and peacebuilding. What kinds of aims, long- and short-range, will this course help you achieve?
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger departs after meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko for nuclear arms negotiations on January 23, 1976; both superpowers had multiple goals in their various negotiations during the Cold War. (AP Photo)
Depending on the subject of the negotiation, these aims will be defined in various ways. When focused on conflict management and peacebuilding, negotiators generally come to the table with a few broad goals in mind:
Preventing or stopping violence. When a conflict escalates, negotiators will try to prevent potential violence or stop actual violence, either through preventive or crisis diplomacy, often resulting in cease-fires or other rapidly negotiated agreements. When successful, such agreements are substantial accomplishments that immediately start saving lives. However, by themselves these generally do not address the root causes that led to violence in the first place.
Advancing and protecting interests. Thus, another motive for negotiators is to accomplish around a table what they might have otherwise tried to gain on the battlefield. In Kelman's words, "each party seeks to protect and promote its own interests by shaping the behavior of the other." To illustrate, he describes U.S./Soviet relations during the Cold War, where for several decades negotiators for both sides angled to advance their various interests.1 Parties also negotiate to reduce their exposure to risk or to limit damage. The NPT described earlier is a good example of a treaty aimed at mutual risk reduction, in this case by enhancing overall international stability
Building durable peace. To the extent that negotiators are successful in advancing and protecting their interests by talking through problems, their efforts put them in position to build the kind of long-term durable peace that we described in our conflict analysis course.2