Alliances and animosities between countries have existed since the emergence of sovereign states over 5,000 years ago. Major advances in transportation and communication over the past 150 years have, however, massively increased the degree and complexity of interactions among countries. Most nations are now part of highly intertwined webs of trade and bind themselves with numerous international treaties. Most wars, even ostensibly civil wars, involve more than one country with materials, troops and refugees regularly crossing borders. In this environment, effective international relations are key to a country or large firm’s success. International relations is a very delicate sector in which good negotiation skills ideally make up for the lack of common laws or definitive arbiters.
Role-play exercises available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) cover a variety of international relations-related negotiations. In the Ship Bumping Case, groups representing the United States and the Soviet Union prepare separately and then negotiators meet one-on-one to lower tensions after an American Navy incursion into Soviet waters. Authority and power in multi-level negotiations is a major theme. In the Pacrim Dispute, three nations negotiate around the rice trade. Unfortunately, in addition to goods and people, pollution regularly crosses borders. In the DS-30 exercise, two neighbors negotiate compensation after a chemical spill in one country flows into the other.
The TNRC offers a variety of videos and books on international relations. The Great Negotiator series of videos presents talks by extremely accomplished mediators and negotiators, including Ambassadors Stuart Eizenstat and Richard Holbrooke. The Breakthrough International Negotiation book introduces a new seven-principle framework for international negotiation and illustrates it with case studies. Some books available focus on particular subsets of international relations or on particular regions. Environmental Diplomacy, for example, explores the current state of environmental diplomacy, highlights the role of non-governmental organizations and offers new techniques for crafting effective environmental agreements.