Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The recently-elected President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is starting to sound like a mediator. Today Rouhani published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, in which he said the following:  The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities. . . .  In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, […]

The most high profile negotiations in the world this weekend took place in Geneva, where the U.S. and Russia announced agreement on a framework for the surrender of chemical weapons by the government of Syria. Apparently discussion of this issue has going on for a long time. The idea of disarmament by the government of Syria did not simply arise in response to its recent chemical weapons attack. We might therefore try to analyze this agreement using modern principles of interest-based bargaining. Syria and Russia have an interest in resolving a terrible civil war (they are hoping to resolve it in favor of the government of Syria). They also have an interest in trade and decent relations with other countries in […]

Using the tools of mediation, we delve into the root causes of problems, and we try to solve those problems in a non-adversarial way. Take the problem of excessive gun violence, for example, much on the public mind since the horrific Newtown massacre. Sadly, much of the debate on this topic is fairly superficial, and much of it reflects the typical confrontational way in which we resolve conflicts in our society. On one side we hear advocates talking about banning weapons; on the other people talking about how their rights are being infringed. We may be losing an opportunity to identify shared values and find common ground to reduce the underlying problem of gun violence. I heard a panel discussion […]

A friend of mine, Hoyt Hilsman, runs a program called the Intentional Conversation, sponsored by Marymount College. I finally had a chance to participate in my first one of these events this week. The design of the  program is deceptively simple. You enter a large space with a lot of other people, mingle a bit and get some coffee. Then you are assigned to a table, as if you are attending a wedding or a banquet. That becomes your table for the day, which enables everyone at the table to get to know one another fairly well. Everyone at all of the tables is given the same topic and some questions to stimulate discussion of the topic. So there are […]

This is eight year old Martin Richard, who has achieved immortality as an international symbol of peace. Martin was killed on Monday for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His mother also suffered a brain injury and his sister lost her leg, when a bomb exploded near to where the family was standing while they were watching the finish of the Boston Marathon.  

Critics who accused President Obama of leading an “apology tour” during his early foreign trips might claim some vindication from this week’s presidential visit to Israel, which culminated in a spectacular apology that took place in a trailer at the airport as the president was about to depart for Jordan. But it wasn’t President Obama who was apologizing. The president instead acted as a mediator in brokering a restoration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey. In order for that to occur, it was necessary for Israel to apologize to Turkey for mistakes that occurred during the 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to run the blockade of Gaza. Clearly, both Israel and Turkey will greatly benefit from […]