Negotiation & mediation in conflict resolution

Lessons learned by Palestinian negotiators
Training category
Negotiation & mediation in conflict resolution

Even though there is no formal peace process ongoing between the Palestinians and Israelis, regular day-to-day talks continue on the technical level, as part of the obligations of the Interim Agreement of 1995. Several committees try to settle day-to-day issues with their Israeli counterparts in the field of water, energy, agriculture and security, amongst others.

Clingendael Academy supports Palestinian negotiators by training these so-called Joint Technical Committees. In September 2017, we started a separate training for the Negotiation Advisory Department (NAD), responsible for the management of Joint Technical Committees.

The participants took away four lessons from our training programmes:

1. Negotiations require information about the other parties’ interests and needs.

Trying to simply convince the other party to agree with your views might lead to deadlocked negotiations. To create room for manoeuver, parties will have to exchange and develop different options. Asking questions to understand the underlying wishes of the other party is key in order to be able to start a bargain.

2. Negotiations do not only take place at the negotiation table.

Any negotiations starts with a good preparation and definition of the rules of the game. The latter can also be negotiated before you start talking about the content. When becoming part of an existing structure, negotiators should not forget that this structure is also part of the negotiations. With a lack of parity between the negotiating parties this is not an easy task, but should nevertheless not be neglected. Issues such as the inclusion of a mediator or the location of the meetings can be made part of the more technical negotiations.

3. Negotiations should not only focus on content, but also on process and behaviour.

Thematic experts tend to forget about process and behaviour while negotiating. It will be hard to succeed in any negotiation when sticking to the optimal solution from a purely technical perspective. Negotiators will also have to deal with other people’s personal interest, group dynamics, and the consequences of their own behaviour at the table.

4. Negotiators need a mandate and contact person who is in charge of their mandate.

The success of negotiations is partly in hands of those persons who are responsible for writing mandates. Before sending negotiators to the the table, they need to be equipped with a mandate, as this provides red lines as well as the range of issues negotiators are authorised to negotiate on. Without a mandate, the joint committee members cannot be flexible and creative in reaching an agreement. Any counter proposal by the other side will have to be put on hold by the negotiator without a mandate, as they have no assurance that their ministers will act in conformity with the deals made. On top of this, the negotiators need to know who is responsible for their mandates and must have a phone number to call, so that they can check – even during a negotiation – whether a newly negotiated deal is acceptable.

The training was designed at the request of and in cooperation with the Negotiation Affairs Department (NAD) of the PLO. NAD supports and coordinates with the technical committees of the line ministries. In 2018, we will continue to support the work of NAD and the negotiators of the technical committees.

This project is part of the Clingendael training facility "Negotiation Training as a Conflict Resolution Instrument", funded by the Netherlands MFA.

If you are interested to work with us to support peace negotiations, please do not hesitate to contact us.