Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Last night I had a chance to hear Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd discussing their new book A Sliver of Light, which recounts their two year ordeal of imprisonment in Iran. You might be more familiar with them the way they were usually characterized in the press as the “three American hikers.” They prefer to be thought of as hostages rather than hikers. In actuality, they were tourists visiting the Kurdish region of Iraq. Hiking was just the activity they happened to be engaged in on the day they accidentally crossed (or were lured across) the border into Iran. Their story is compelling as a prison and survival narrative, and as a result of their experiences, they have […]

One of the plot lines of the new season of House of Cards (I’ll confess I’ve spent a good deal of President’s Day weekend binge-watching it), depicts a trade negotiation between the US and the Chinese that abounds in confusion and double-crossing. On the American side, the negotiator is our anti-hero, the new vice-president Frank Underwood, who repeatedly misrepresents to the President what his Chinese counterpart told him. On the other side, Xander Feng is a shady businessman who might–we are never sure–be speaking for the Chinese government or only for a faction trying to change government policy. Or he might be put away after a corruption trial. While exaggerated, this depiction of international diplomacy has its roots in reality. […]

Over the weekend, negotiators in Geneva achieved what many are calling an historic agreement with the Iranian government. What was achieved is an interim agreement, effective for the next six months, that essentially freezes Iranian nuclear development and allows for the lifting of some international sanctions against Iran. During that time, the parties will attempt to negotiate a more comprehensive agreement that satisfies the world community’s demand that Iran be precluded from developing nuclear weapons while moving toward normalized economic and political relations with Iran. Before the ink is even dry on this agreement, we are hearing a wide variety of reactions, most of which are predictable. Some are already heralding the agreement as President Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievement, […]

At this year’s fall conference on Saturday November 2, 2013, the Southern California Mediation Association will be presenting the Cloke-Millen Peacemaker of the Year award to Seeds of Peace, an organization that since 1993, has brought young people  from regions of conflict around the world to meet their historic enemies face-to-face at their International Camp in Maine. Seeds of Peace operates on the theory that while treaties are negotiated by governments, peace is made by people. The Cloke-Millen Peacemaker Award will be accepted by Sarah Brajtbort, US-based Programs Manager for Seeds of Peace. Sarah was a Seed herself in 2006, and returned as a counselor 4 years later, which she did for two summers. She was hired full-time in 2012 as […]

Last night I had a chance to see an early screening of the new movie, Captain Phillips, based on the true and well-known story of the ship captain freed by Navy Seals after being taken hostage by Somali pirates. While the manner in which the captain was freed has to be somewhat disappointing to mediators, the movie still provides a good illustration of the problem faced by hostage-takers who fail to get their prisoner to a safe location. If they give up the hostage, they risk being killed. If they kill the hostage, they will almost certainly be killed or captured. And if they try to bargain for the hostage’s release, they still face the difficulty of making a clean […]