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What is negotiation?

Negotiation is unequivocally one of the most essential tools in any conflict management an resolution activities.

The primary purpose of any negotiation activity is to reduce differences between the parties. The differences that are at the core of the dispute. The faster conflict escalates, the more crucial it is to start considering negotiation as an adequate method of setting the conflict in a peaceful manner. Then that table and depending on the nature of the dispute, negotiators might have a number of broad objectives in mind.

First of all, they might be interested to prevent or reduce conflict escalation. Especially significant is the reduction or termination of violence that a conflict might generate. As a preventive or management tool, negotiation saves countless lives by promoting the spirit of cooperation wich results in various cease fires, interim settlements or if possible comprehensive peace agreements. Secondly, the parties might be interested to reach a stable and durable peace. If the parties are able to bridge their differences throught negotiations in a way that still accommodates and promotes their particular interests, negotiations might prove to be instrumental in contributing to the achievement of a long term peace and stability between the parties. Finally the parties might also be interested to promote and protect particular interests.

Negotiations are often used as an alternative to belligerent activities. As the parties may perceive that they might actually gain more from the negotiations that what they can achieve by fighting. As such, they might use negotiation as a measure throught wich they influence the other sides behavior and reach an outcome that is in line with their interests and needs. It should be noted that reaching an agreement is not the primary purpose of the negotiation process. In other words, there is no guarantee that once negotiations started  they would inevitably yield an agreement. Parties might use negotiations for devious reasons in order to rearm and regroup on the battlefield, to expand their coalitional power on the international level or simply to stall the process and reduce the appeal of negotiations. At the same time, we should not think that any agreement is better than no agreement. Therefore, when entering negotiation process, parties need to be very clear what are they trying to achieve. What their objectives might be, and what leverage they might employ in the process.

 In order to achieve these goals. Negotiators need to focus on some very specific dynamics. Altering behaviors and attitudes of the parties. So that they can empathize with eachothers positions and interests. Establish procedural arrangements in order to create a predictable and workable environment. This is turn might help the parties build trust both towards one another or towards the process itself. Jointly solve problems in order to reconcile opposing interests. Throught negotiations, parties might reframe the issues and look at them from a completely different perspective wich were unavailable while they were approaching the problems unilaterally. Transform and develop relationships by working together, parties might not only produce a successfully negotiated agreement but also, set the stage for advancing their cooperation in the future as well. With all this in mind, it is now important to establish what negotiation actually is.

First of all, it is a communication process throught wich the parties exchange the necessary information wich helps either side gain a more complete picture of the issues that are being disputed. It is a communication process where parties work together. To gain something that is unavailable to them throught unilateral action. These gains are certainly in line with their particular interests and the agreement that is potentially reached should be better than their alternatives. In other words parties can always walk away from the negotiation. If the proposed outcome or agreement is less beneficial from what they can get elsewhere or if the agreement is not reached.

 Negotiation is most commonly understood as a process of competitive bargaining. Once parties make their initial offers, they realize that a compromise is only possible if they commit to make the necessary concessions. They start making promises and threats that induce the parties to move closer to each other’s positions. Since the parties are not interested in establishing long term relationships but are more focused in reaching an agreement in a more time efficient manner. They might emply hard bargaining tactics, such as bluffing, flattering, threats, take it or leave it offers etc. Parties might opt for a different negotiation strategy called collaborative problem solving. By using the problem solving approach parties might redefine the issues at stake and not look at the problem as a conflict. But is a common problem on wich they need to work together. By realizing this, they also realize that they might have a common gains instead of competing gains. In international negotiations, parties work together to reach an agreement that is in line with their interests, however, often parties are either unable or unwilling to reach an agreement on their own. In such situations, they might get help from a third party. Situations where a third party is assisting the conflicting sides to reach an agreement that otherwise they could not reach on their own is called international mediation.


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