March 26, 2014

Richard Haass on the need to create a larger context

In my last post on Richard Haass here, we learnt one thing. Negotiations require you to look behind your adversary and to take into consideration what forces lie behind them. In the video discussion above hosted by Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria), Richard Haass looked at the two main tensions in that can hold up negotiations.

One, was on the tension between passionate minorities and passive majorities. Richard Haass said:
"These passionate minorities in the full sinlight of public opinion can really lead to the unravelling of an agreement. So it's never enought to concoct a deal that has trade-offs that may make sense. You've got to always think, how do you prepare the world for it, so the [negotiating] individuals can sell it to their constituencies."
Two, concerned the tension between the politicians and their vocal minority base. He explained the need to prepare, explain and contextualise the dispute to the vocal base group on each side.
"We went to extraordinary lengths to try and shape the context [in Northern Ireland] and still it proved to be not enough... Even if you can get agreement among the experts... unless you've created a larger context, where they feel confident to be able to politically, not to mention physically, survive, then you haven't accomplished that much."

Meghan O'Sullivan noted a side issue on Northern Ireland:
"The issues of identity and their interaction with sovereignty were so immature that it was impossible to get people to really get down into the details, until the society had a wider conversation about those issues."
As Richard Haass said, the deadlock shows the enduring power of differences based on identity to block progress.

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