Ambassador Dr. Ahmed Mokhtar El-Gammal
Diplomatic negotiation is defined as a process in which divergent values are combined into an agreed decision, and it is based on the idea that there are appropriate stages, sequences, behaviors, and tactics that can be identified and used to improve the conduct of negotiations and better the chances of success.
Negotiation is a science and an art. It is a science in the sense that it is subject to a scientific discipline and to measurements and criteria. It has its own basic concepts and fixed rules that can be studied. Never the less, there is no general theory of negotiation yet that can encompass and explain the whole process, but there are a number of well-developed theoretical approaches that both open the way for and require much more testing and debate. There is another aspect of negotiation that makes it an art. Diplomats who negotiate are human beings. Such diplomats should be talented to begin with. Then it is easy to develop their talents and relevant skills by simulation, games and on-the-job training. Negotiation as a science needs intensive study of the negotiation’s elements, and technical procedures and rules.
Diplomatic negotiations between states may encompass a great number of political, economic and technological issues such as energy, food, raw material, resources, trade and technology transfer. These issues have been part of domestic affairs, but now they belong to international and diplomatic concerns. In the past, political affairs were called “high politics”. Other affairs, such as trade, etc., were called “low politics”. Now diplomacy serves development objectives, and is used to alleviate internal problems in such fields as attracting investments and fundraising.
Although diplomatic negotiation prevails in relations between states, much more than wars, it is not studied in such clarity or intensity as is the case with military subjects or battle strategies. Not many are interested in strategies and tactics of diplomatic negotiation and its analysis.
Problems that are related to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, before they lead to a war, and also putting an end to a war if it was launched, has preoccupied statesmen and politicians all the time. However, due attention to study peaceful ways and means to settle disputes are rare.
Democratic governments are in need of negotiation with their enemies and adversaries, in order to lessen possibility of resort to the use of force, with its catastrophic consequences and implications. Governments need to negotiate with its allies and friends, as well, to settle differences, and to establish common interests. Negotiations with friends are as important, and may be more difficult than negotiations with enemies.
If differences between states erupt, and there is a political risk of the use of force, and if the world is threatened of destruction, negotiations can defuse the danger or eliminate the risk. Settlement of disputes and resolution of conflicts are subjected to scientific research, and can lead to international peace and security through negotiations.
To be able to run negotiations for the settlement of disputes, a negotiator should acquire a theoretical knowledge of the nature of negotiation, the characteristics of negotiators, different kinds of new subjects of negotiation that may affect the nature of the negotiations themselves, how to prepare for their conclusion, and how to provide negotiators with all the documents, evidences, and arguments that help them in the negotiation process.
Theoretical explanations concentrate on particular terms of analysis, such as learning rates, the number of negotiating parties, or the role of threat in negotiation These need to be joined to other explanatory variables or parameters in examining particular cases. Some experimental test focus on effects more significant to the discipline or theory than to the understanding of historic case These need to be separated from experiments that do test recognizable phenomena and therefore lead to better understanding of negotiation as practiced. Analytical concepts have to be identified in specific cases, so that the real effect can be recognized through its conceptual name. For example, game matrix and utility-curve models conceptualize negotiations as a process of strategic choice and value maximization. But in the history of international negotiations it sometimes becomes difficult to locate such concepts in the diplomats ’ practice. The process of persuasion and communication may be indirect and implicit in a range of contracts between parties, so that the process of choice and movement is, in reality, broader and looser than the theories imply.
There are two elements essential to concluding any diplomatic negotiations. There should be:
Issues of conflict
Although common interests are one of the logical conditions for negotiation, some governments may go into negotiations even if they were convinced that a base of immediate common interests did not exist. They may realize that its failure to negotiate will probably harm it politically at home, may make it seem inflexible by the international or regional public opinion, may embarrass its allies, antagonize neutral states, or infuriate member states of a regional organization, of which it is a member .Issues of conflict are essential for negotiation, because without such issues there are no need for negotiation
There are some generalities of the qualities and skills which a good negotiator should possess. He or she should have a clear vision of his mission and what he has to achieve, a deep devotion to the public interest, and he should be a good defender of his country. He has to believe that his country’s interests and national security supercede personal interests and ambitions. It is in the interest of the negotiator to sincerely foster feelings of trust, since discovery of false deadlines and bad faith destroys the element he needs to draw a sharp bargain. The more a negotiator wants to bluff, the more he needs to appear trustworthy in order to carry off his deception he needs when its moment comes. If the negotiator is caught in a bluff it will damage his credibility and impair his credentials in future negotiations with the same party On that basis, a diplomat can be selected as a negotiator by studying his C/V, that shows his personality traits and attitude traits , his experiences, and his achievements.
A negotiator should know also how to manage a conflict, and how to contain it in such a way as to put it under control. A counterpart should not be allowed to digress or be out of context, just to cause distraction or waste time. The venue of negotiation should be jointly selected to be convenient, and the framework and references should be identified and easy to access.
.A negotiator should know all about the issue on which the negotiations revolve. He should know all the details about the rules of procedure: how to proceed, how to discuss, when to stop, and when to insist. If a negotiator comes to the bargaining table, knowing something about his counterpart – what motivates him, what his basic needs are, how he views the negotiation situation, and what he expects of negotiations – the negotiator will be in an improved position to predict his choice of strategy and prepared to deal with him and reach an early and favorable agreement.
Ploys and devices that negotiators use should be known, and should not constitute a surprise for a negotiator. If he is trained to use them effectively, he may use some of them if necessary. A negotiator and his aides have to carefully study all the other side’s demands and claims, and decide what to be accepted of them and what not. It means that an extraordinary effort should be exerted to identify what is the minimum that the other party will accept, or what is called “point of resistance’. Negotiators usually do their best to hide points of resistance, and instead ask for the maximum.
Sympathy is outside the job description of a negotiator, because it may weaken the negotiator’s position, and he may be apt to agree to a series of concessions which are not justified. Sympathy for the other other’s position would be too much to ask for and in any case would weaken a negotiator’s ability to speak for his own side, but empathy involves the crucial ability to understand the other party’s point of view, if only in order to counter it more effectively, and encompasses both the intellectual and the emotional components of his stand. Empathy means that he knows how his position looks from the other fellow’s shoes, as well as how it feels to be in them But “empathy” is important, and . a negotiator should be ready to apply it. Empathy is the ability to listen to the demands and positions of the other, to enter into his confidence and to take him into one’s own. It helps to identify the counterpart’s attitudes, how he feels about sensitive issues, and why he behaves in such a manner, what is his point of view, and what pressures he is under by his superiors. This may all appear as cosmetic but may have real impact on the substance of the agreement. Trust is enhanced if a negotiator can demonstrate a genuine interest in trying to help the other side reach its objective while retaining his own objective and making the two appear compatible. In that case an experienced negotiator may be able to help his counterpart to get out of an impasse, that he finds himself in as a result of previous intransigence or exaggerated demands. Trust is enhanced by not threatening or promising wildly. If the goals of the two parties can be shown to be similar or complementary, or even if information is exchanged to that end, trust can be enhanced.
A negotiator should be able to run negotiation in an atmosphere of tension and stress without being much affected or disturbed. This needs him to be very patient and calm, and to have physical and mental stamina, as it is difficult to predict how long negotiations will take. A negotiator cannot go to the negotiation table and expect immediate solutions of problems. Problems and differences that have been accumulated for a long period require a gradual movement and many sessions to reach a final solution that is accepted by all parties. The negotiations that ended the Korean war required two years and 575 meetings. The negotiations for the International Atomic Energy Agency lasted almost three years. The Law of the Sea was under debate for over a decade.
A negotiator is assigned to protect the interests of his country, and is responsible for implementing his government’s instructions. He has to report to his superiors of any development, and to sign an agreement only by initials if they approve, and later such an agreement has to be endorsed by the Parliament before it is final and binding.
There are some concepts that should be clear in the negotiator’s mind, such as “convincing” and “bargaining”. Convincing is the effort exerted by the negotiator to make the other party understand why his demands are of great importance. At the same time, a negotiator may show that the counterpart’s demands are exaggerated, and are impossible to accept, and that logic and reason, not passion or enthusiasm should prevail. Bargaining on the other hand is characterized by concessions and conditioned offers, and perhaps by using incentives or disincentives, or the carrot and the baton. Also the linkage strategy can be used, to encourage the other party to be moderate, by convincing him that reaching a solution of the negotiated dispute will determine the privileges or disadvantages in other important issues.
As for concessions, one should be aware that there are variations in the seriousness in granting concessions. There are some concessions that if given, cannot be drawn back later on. Other concessions offered by the counterpart can be withdrawn, and in that case they lose much of their value in bargaining. Possible violations of an agreement, should be discussed, to see if they can be detected in time, and if they have to be included in the text of the agreement or in an annex.
Bilateral negotiations are easier to deal with than multilateral ones, especially if there is no cultural homogeneity between negotiators representing different countries. The same difficulty exists if there are preconditions or dogmas that have to be dealt with. Multilateralism requires that negotiators are well vested of all details of the conflict, and all other parties’ needs and demands.
The language and tactics used in bilateral negotiations are different of the ones used in multilateral negotiations. The latter, for instance should consider the interests of all parties concerned which may constitute an obstacle to reach a consensus, unless concessions are granted to each party.
Diplomatic negotiation requires an agenda that is agreed upon by all parties. Striking a balance between threats and real power is essential. It is preferable not to resort to the use of threats in such a way that loses its impact, making the counterpart immune against them. It is preferable to have a deterrence, in case the counterpart insists on his stance, without enough justification, and also in case negotiations are about to be unilaterally and abruptly terminated by the counterpart.