International law and diplomacy is a rapidly evolving field that depends on the brokering of agreements between nations and other stakeholders. Whether there are language barriers, cultural differences, or both, some of the most challenging negotiations involve parties from different nations. Because of the relative lack of clear legal precedents and the difficulties of enforcement, most decisions are reached via global agreements rather than decided by courts. Case in point: Computer Waste Policy Simulation—a negotiation simulation exercise brought to you by the Program on Negotiation’s Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC).
Set in the not-so-distant future, this ten-party negotiation exercise takes place in the European Union. In this simulation, the EU has prohibited the disposal of personal computers in landfills and has required that individual countries develop policies for electronic waste management.
Several European and North American countries have already implemented such policies and the fictional nation of Sweland is working to develop theirs; however, there are many disparate stakeholders with varying interests. Armed with extensive resource material, participants explore the question:
How Do You Build Consensus in the Face of Competing Self-interest?
In their roles as government, environmental, and industry representatives, participants learn to:
- Develop new policy while knowing that it will be scrutinized by other nations
- Examine the usefulness of caucuses in this type of negotiation
- Explore the interaction of economic and environmental interests
- Understand the complexities of policy development
In Global Management of Organochlorines—another popular role-play exercise from the TNRC—participants assume the roles of representatives from eight countries who are investigating potentially dangerous chemicals. Known as the “Chlorine Game,” this negotiation simulation asks participants:
Who is Responsible When Lives are at Stake?
In light of evidence indicating that organochlorine compounds may pose serious risks to human health and the environment, the Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) gathers a Working Group of representatives from eight countries, as well as four representatives from various relevant non-governmental organizations to produce a draft of an international treaty which would call for a phase-out of some of the most harmful organochlorines.
In addition to concerns about the dangers of the chemicals, the parties also debate who should bear the cost of the phase-out and how quickly it should be handled. In this thirteen-person, multi-issue negotiation simulation, participants learn how to:
- Hone their “basic” skills of negotiation, such as active listening, improving one’s BATNA, and inventing options of mutual gain
- Explore the technical, political, and economic issues at stake during the treaty negotiation
- Understand the dynamics of an international environmental treaty negotiation
- Improve the process by organizing informal dialogue before the formal treaty-making process
These are just two of many negotiation simulation options available through the TNRC.
In fact, we have an entire section dedicated to global treaty-making negotiation simulations like Computer Waste Policy Simulation and Global Management of Organochlorines. These specialized negotiation exercises enable participants to gain experience in handling complex, highly nuanced negotiations while also presenting opportunities to build consensus and facilitate agreements.
In addition to offering more than 200 negotiation role-play simulations, the TNRC offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including:
TNRC materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.
Role-play negotiation simulation can introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing viewers to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.
Originally published in November, 2014.