Should They Listen to Us? Seeking a Negotiation / Conflict Resolution Contribution to Practice in Intractable Conflicts

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Journal of Dispute Resolution


Conflict resolution (CR) has had its successes, particularly in what has become common negotiation and mediation practice in divorce, civil litigation, and small to medium scale public policy disputes. Yet despite these practical inroads and increasingly successful dissemination of the ideas of our field, CR practitioners in politics and policy (and other fields) are still conspicuous by their absence in the largest, most consequential conflicts. Negotiation remains the vehicle for addressing international conflicts nonviolently. However, as of 2007 when we first questioned the relative lack of practical impact (at the highest levels) of negotiation scholarship, the international relations practitioners did not seem to acknowledge any debt to, draw inspiration from, or request assistance from negotiation theory. We propose here that in this respect, there has been change. Indeed, as we write in late 2016, the U.S. presidency has just been contested under some quite remarkable conditions. Among them, not the least interesting for our field is that the prevailing candidate centered his claim to fitness for the world’s highest office on competence in negotiation – even while dismissing many key notions and ethical precepts found in the field’s literature. These changes together raise the question, how should we go about contributing positively to conflict management practice in public and international conflicts?