In 2018, Clingendael Academy started a cooperation with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue Nigeria (CHD) to support their inclusive communal dialogue processes across the Middle Belt region. Nigeria's Middle Belt - a region divided between the Muslim herders in the North and the mainly Christian farmers in the South - has seen cycles of violent conflicts for decades. Dialogues should reduce open hostilities and lead to the signing of landmark declarations.
CHD consultants and staff who run these dialogue initiatives are all experts in their field due to many years of experience, but only a few of them ever received formal training. This is where Clingendael Academy comes in: to enhance conflict negotiation and mediation skills, thereby supporting existing peace initiatives.
The training that we ran together with the CHD Nigeria team was a mix of role plays to better understand negotiation processes and behaviour, and exercises to practice with preparation tools.
The verbal, non-verbal and para-verbal behaviour plays a crucial role to establish a good communication and negotiation climate. This requires practice and strengthening critical self-reflection on whether intention actually matches impact. For example, during simulations, participants found out the negative impact of (unintentionally) using words with high positive value loading, such as calling their own proposals fair, logical or flexible. Participants also learned to better recognise defend/attack spirals, the importance of sharing feelings and doubts (as this will increase trust), the importance of making use of good questions and much more. These learning cannot only be extracted from theoretical knowledge alone, one needs to experience, practice and hear from others how their negotiation behaviour is perceived.
Positions, interests and needs
The Nigerian herders and farmers both need land but for different reasons. Herders are on the move, looking for food and water for their cattle. For farmers, the historical claim to land ownership is important and essential. Disputes arise when herder's livestock cross
over farmer's fields, who will, in turn, chase the cattle or even kill them. Herders payback with equal terms. Both sides dig into their positions in an uncompromising manner. What started as rivalry in relationship to land, has now into a much more complex conflict with needs issues around respect, ethnicity, religion, politics and reconciliation.
There are tools to unravel this complex situation. One model of use here is the Positions-Interests-Needs (PIN) model. We display the PIN model as an onion, as it starts with an outer layer which contains the positions that we say we want, for all to see and hear (e.g. we want land). Underlying these are the interests - what we want to achieve from the situation concerned (e.g. we want crops for our cattle). You can only see these once you peel off the outer layer. The interests are hidden underneath the surface. Finally, at the core, are the most important needs to be satisfied. This is where our demands come from and what we must have (e.g. we need food to survive and we want to pursue our traditional way of living).
Our training method
Tools such as the PIN model can be of use in dialogue and negotiation initiatives but are definitely not the exclusive key to success. Most important are the negotiation climate and the willingness of people involved to come to a negotiated deal. To train the latter, we try to make people more aware of the choices they make throughout such (very lengthy) processes and of the impact if their own behaviour.