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    Fighting for Our Principles: Interests vs Values in Conflict Resolution

    Young, Mark (2018) Fighting for Our Principles: Interests vs Values in Conflict Resolution. Journal of Mediation & Applied Conflict Analysis, 5 (1). pp. 678-686. ISSN 2009-7170

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    Recent events, especially in the realm of political negotiation, provide some evidence that ‘win-win’ negotiation may be going out of style. The undeniable success of some unabashedly win-lose dealmakers, in the US and elsewhere, should force us to reflect again on our own negotiation precepts, especially those in the win-win tradition of principled negotiation. How can it be that negotiators with questionable ethics have succeeded at least in the negotiation of becoming elected in several major countries? Are values no longer important, or at least the values that many of us hold dear? These negotiators certainly understand the concept of interests. The Harvard approach to negotiation famously differentiates between positions and interests, admonishing us to get beneath closed binary demands made by the opposing side in a negotiation and instead explore the interests underlying those demands, which are usually more personal, broader and more readily addressed once properly understood. These can then be pursued more effectively, leading to either a win-win or a win-lose result. In any case, they help us to seal the deal. At the same time, in his farewell speech, Barack Obama warned of a “buckling of democracy if we allow our values to weaken”. But just where do values fit into negotiation analysis? As a consequence, questions arise for those who study, teach and practice negotiation: How do we differentiate values from interests? And what strategies and tactics are needed when the conflict arises not from what people want but from their values – who they think they are? Are values ever negotiable? And what is the difference between negotiation and advocacy? This paper first seeks to establish clear definitions for some of these terms in order to contrast the dynamics of interest-based negotiation with those of value-based conflict. In that discussion, we also explore the consequences of disputes arising out of shared vs conflicting values, especially in interaction with interests. To understand the practical implications, I apply all of this to the particular case of a surprising successful negotiation around the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. Here was a seemingly intractable situation with highly ideological protagonists in conflict mode for a very long time. Yet somehow it turned out to be values as well as interests that yielded the seed of the solution. While many tricky issues remain, it is a fertile case for exploring not only the difference between negotiation and advocacy, but also the power within each when they can be combined successfully.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Conflict Resolution; Principles; Values; Interests; Harvard School;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > Edward M Kennedy Institute
    Item ID: 9867
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Kennedy Institute
    Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018 14:14
    Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Mediation & Applied Conflict Analysis
    Publisher: Maynooth Academic Publishing
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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