Norwegian Foreign Minister visits PON

By — on / Daily, International Negotiation

On December 6, 2010, faculty and associates from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School met at a private lunch with Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, and the ambassador of Norway to the U.S., Wegger Chr. Strommen. At the meeting, the Foreign Minister described how he helped bring decades of negotiation with the Russians to a conclusion with the Treaty on Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The treaty, signed on September 15, 2010, ensures the continuation of Norwegian-Russian cooperation on fisheries and governs cooperation and exploitation of present and future petroleum deposits that extend across the delimitation line.  Minister Store welcomed the opportunity to analyze his work with negotiation experts at PON, noting that he had worked with Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project in  South Africa in 1986 and had been a Teaching Fellow and that Harvard negotiation programs had been “a source of inspiration”.

As Foreign Minister Store reflected on the efforts of Norway to help manage the Arctic, he noted how important it is in negotiations to “know yourself and know the other side” and to find ways to frame challenges productively. For example, rather than calling the situation with the Russians a “conflict”, he had chosen to describe it as “dealing with overlapping claims”.  It’s also important, he noted, to acknowledge the “legitimacy of the other side’s interests” and to “apply objective criteria”.

Particularly challenging in the Russia-Norway talks were the political changes that rocked the former Soviet Union, and the Foreign Minister said that one has to shield the negotiation process from politics and the electoral calendar.  As  negotiations progressed over many years, the Arctic emerged as a focus of geopolitical interest.  Contributing to a final break-through were these factors: the parties were two stable states that were ready to commit; the economic potential grew, and both sides were poised to benefit from the upside; and there was sufficient trust among the negotiators to envisage a compromise. In thanking the Minister, Program on Negotiation Chair Robert H. Mnookin noted that “both the Foreign Minister and Norway have contextual wisdom” and PON was grateful for the opportunity to learn from Norway’s experiences.

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