Positioning the Process Approach



How do these processes originate? How can we explain that issues that seem to be perfectly reconcilable with straightforward negotiation resulting in a clear deal, still develop into an unpredictable, seemingly never-ending process? The first reason is that in truly controversial cases it is impossible to start negotiating immediately. These issues have a past of negotiations and events that is so heavy with issues and failures that parties cannot simply rejoin the negotiation table. There is no longer any mutual trust, and trust cannot simply be restored by decree. Such negotiations therefore always have to be preceded by a process of ‘pre-negotiations’. If these proceed well, they result in agreements about the ‘real’ negotiations. Pre-negotiations are highly contentious and are characterized by their own specific arrangements. They are usually carried out by ‘unofficial representatives’, they proceed via ‘secret diplomacy’, and may result in ‘staged agreements’ [33].

On 13 September, 1993, Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo peace accords. Formal negotiations had commenced in Norway on 11 June 1993. But the move ‘to go to the table’ was preceded by months of unofficial dialogue between the two sides. And even these unofficial dialogues could not simply be initiated. They were preceded by years of careful overtures. The problem in such processes is that groups that do not trust each other and sometimes do not even recognize each other need to talk to each other, and require mutual affirmation of the fact that the negotiations matter and that the negotiation partners have a certain degree of authority. But their official position is that the other party does not even exist—and as a result, affirmation of authority is a contradiction in terms that undermines one’s own position. For how can any authority be assigned by a body that is not recognized and therefore has no authority itself?

For many years, so-called ‘unofficial representatives’ and ‘entrepreneurial co-mediators’ have made overtures towards each other. Unofficial representatives embody a critical combination of connections to important officials and unofficial status. They may for instance be authoritative academics who, under the veil of a scientific seminar, assess each others standpoints and test how far the other party is willing to go. Formally, these unofficial representatives have no governmental relationships. Both governments can easily dismiss any statements and concessions that the unofficial representatives make—although of course the governments can also take all the credit when it comes to potential successes.

Entrepreneurial co-mediators are ‘moderate partisans’ who reach out to moderate partisans on the other side. Often implicitly, they can build upon the work of the unofficial representatives. These overtures are highly contentious. If they became public, major unrest would immediately arise, and the negotiations would have to be stopped and even denied. At key moments in these negotiations, ‘guardians’ have to take control of the results. Guardians are top leaders who have established their credibility as protectors of their respective groups during crucial periods of danger and struggle. They possess the authority needed to gain widespread, grassroots support for the agreement. Rabin played this role on the Israeli side, and Arafat on the Palestinian side [33].


Process Management Problem Definition Negotiation Process Land Reclamation Process Approach 
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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Technology, Policy and ManagementDelft University of TechnologyBX DelftNetherlands
  2. 2.JH LeiderdorpNetherlands

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