The Lessons of Oslo
-- Facilitation and Peacemaking Rules from a different perspective,
Rules and Process Cues -- Prenegotiation Negotiations.
I recently had the chance to read Getting to the Table in Oslo: Driving Forces
and Channel Factors. 14 Negotiation Journal 115 (April 1998). From
that article and some earlier readings (such as Conflict Resolution by John
W. Burton, etc.) I have derived my own "rules" for facilitation and some
These rules are especially applicable to "prenegotation
negotiations" or "secret process" negotiations where the parties are meeting
in order to agree to meet, yet may be able to cover and create significant
accords. The process cues are observations of
values and strengths of this particular process.
Rules for Facilitation
Protracted conflicts that have degenerated into stalemates are better targets
for dispute resolution than early conflicts where parties have begun to make
serious efforts to "win" by force.
Watkins & Lundberg have an excellent discussion of the various driving
forces for and against peace. One force that erodes the anti-peace forces
is time and failure. Protracted stalemates exist because of the passage
of time and the failure of force.
When the hazards and risk of force are just begun, when it is uncertain who
will win or lose, is also an excellent time for peacemaking, especially if
the peacemaker has interjected force that equals protective
Neutrals with a history of significant charitable involvement and without
strategic interests are significant and important channel facilitators.
If an entity's only involvement with the parties has been to provide help
without looking for advantage, that builds a bridge that others will have
a difficult time creating.
The lack of strategic interest is also important. The American attempts
at peacemaking that failed while Oslo succeeded failed because the American
strategic interests were seen as adverse to, and without any benefit to,
There is a different way at looking at and for interest groups necessary
for a peace initiative. Look for:
Entrepreneurial Co-Mediators: that is, moderate partisans who
have been building relationships and who have been striving for peace.
These have already started the process and can create trust.
Guardians: those leaders whose reputation is built on protecting
their group or interest. These are necessary to create validity in
"selling" the peace once it is made.
Unofficial Representatives: politically well connected academics
and businessmen who can act as proxies for their political allies/contacts.
These allow for legitimate "unofficial" contact.
Governmental Sponsors: a neutral country's government to fund and
support the prenegotiation seminars (locations, travel expenses, security,
etc.). Requires ministerial level officials to participate and
Facilitators rather than mediators -- servants rather than masters.
The third party neutrals must avoid becoming a participant in, or a gallery
or a witness to, the sessions.
The third party neutrals must allow the participants to own the process and
to control it.
The third party neutrals must work constantly with the parties between sessions
to nurture shared experiences, to create and promote a common metaphor, to
organize and support a metalanguage of conference history, trust, experience
Process Cues from Oslo
The value of Secret Diplomacy
It delays internal negotiations.
It marginalizes opponents to peace.
It simplifies the negotiation/presentation of the peace proposal to the issue
e.g. "here is a potential move towards peace.
this is how it hurts us, this is how it helps.
are the advantages worth the cost? do we
It avoids posturing and media dynamics
It creates momentum if leaders sign on before the release of the results.
The Value of Mutual Testing
It assures the authority of the participants (that even though they are not
de jure, they are de facto in authority and position).
It creates and builds trust and confidence.
Testing should be welcomed as a necessary step in creating validity and
peace, not confronted as a challenge to the process.
The Value of Staged Agreement
A "staged agreement" is one that comes together one part or one stage at
a time, deferring everything else to later developments.
Each success creates momentum.
Each deferment allows for roadblocks to be set aside and peace to go forward.
Be aware that deferment may benefit one side over the other and that a partial
peace may result in increased violence as to the deferred issues.
This is obviously just my conclusions. However, Oslo provides a good example
of a successful project that had its own real world dynamic and implications.
No matter how brilliant the theory or how comprehensive the rules, without
reality testing and dynamics they are no more sensible than Aristotle's physics.
Oslo takes us into reality, both for its successes as well as for its failures.
This Website is by Stephen R.
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