Dr. Daniel L. Shapiro, an Associate at the Harvard Negotiation Project and a Senior Lecturer at the Sloan School of Management, M.I.T., was recently invited by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to facilitate negotiation training in Montenegro for Serbian governmental officials. Among those represented were members of the Education, Judicial, Environment, and Labor Committees of the Parliament of Serbia, ministerial representatives, and a senior member of the Republic Parliament.
Why negotiation is important for Serbian legislators:
Serbia is in a state of political, economic, and social reform and its citizens want to see tangible results of that reform, according to Dr. Shapiro. Government officials are finding that working together can serve to advance the cause of democracy and the needs of Serbian citizens. “Negotiation offers a set of tools that can help foster joint work,” says Dr. Shapiro. “In fact, negotiation has become a way of life for those in the political system.”
As an example, Dr. Shapiro cites the challenges of Serbia’s 17-party governing coalition called the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). As Shapiro explains, “Take the simple case of a group of friends trying to decide where to eat. It can be 45 minutes before you decide where to go. Now think about the complicated dynamics of a 17-party coalition trying to negotiate serious matters where each party has constituent demands, multiple internal pressures and individual aspirations. As you can imagine, it’s quite a challenge.”
Dr. Shapiro hopes to supplement the political skills of conference participants with some practical tools to help them negotiate more effectively.
Focus of Dr. Shapiro’s work with Serbian officials:
This training was part of a larger conference aimed at providing committee members and their governmental counterparts with a better understanding of the political dynamics within coalition systems. Additionally, skills and tools were offered to improve the level of cooperation and efficiency of their respective institutions. According to Jean Lavoie, an NDI Program Director, “Negotiation definitely constitutes a priority for politicians who need to deal in their daily lives with discrepancies over law and policy-making, various party influences or inter-institutional conflicts.”
Dr. Shapiro’s training session builds on over 10 years of experience in developing conflict management programs in Eastern and Central Europe, including program development for refugee youth in Serbia in the early 1990s. He is the author of a curriculum on conflict management (“Conflict and Communication: A Guide through the Labyrinth of Conflict Management”) that is used in more than 15 countries and in over 8,000 schools and universities. He and Professor Roger Fisher are currently working on a book manuscript focused on how to deal with emotions in negotiation.
About the National Democratic Institute:
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a nonprofit organization working to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide. NDI provides practical assistance to civic and political leaders advancing democratic values, practices and institutions.