Strategies to use in a Negotiation Friday, Mar 30 2012 

The concept of negotiation has always been with us. Right from the initial stage of human development in the family, to the workplace and subsequently to the complex world of communities or States. Negotiation has played a pivotal role in shaping  people as well as societies. The inherent common denominator is the desire to see an end of a looming crisis or conflict/dispute. It is actually all about conceding on certain principles initially held onto.  In the words of Mahatma Gandhi

All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take

on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is surrender.

For it is all give and take.

However, not everyone is willing to engage in ‘give and take’. Why is this, the simple reason would be that of pride. Most people want to be victors and because the ego is involved reasoning is absent. This actually in all fairness should be present and encouraged. As a result of ego, conflicts/disputes degenerate into court processes. Mostly because parties eventually want a resolution; and at the same time want to show some strength of power. There is always the need to resolve the conflict/dispute regardless of who started the dispute. In as much as court processes are expensive and time-consuming, parties find it psychologically better because it gives the initiator and eventually the winner of a court case an upper arm in the interim. Negotiation does not only mean give and take, it does to a large extent represent maturity amongst the parties. Similarly, in the words of Abraham Lincoln.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever

you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man.

There will still be business enough.

Consistently, negotiation has shown as the singular act that helps in the resolution of conflicts/dispute irrespective of what the dispute is all about. The social revolution that swept through North Africa and the Middle East took place in the various countries because the  leaders which includes  Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya and to some extent Assad of Syria found it difficult to negotiate and obviously found their end undesirable; except Assad of Syria whose end is yet unknown, although its been reported he entered a negotiation with Mr Kofi Annan early March 2012. Mr Kofi Annan had a plan when he went to Syria  to which Mr Assad agreed to, unfortunately fighting continues.

The various leaders ousted by force could have left the office with some dignity if only they had exercised restraint and caution.

Negotiation includes a number of factors, namely compromise, tactics, patience, positive attitude, credibility and maturity. Although lot more factors do play a part in having a good negotiation. The listed criteria for a negotiation are based on the basics for a simple negotiation. Disputes/conflicts occur purely as a result of a breakdown in negotiation. It is obvious a party can not be compelled to negotiate; the fundamentals must exist for there to be a chance of success.

It is the responsibility of the initiator to ensure the platform is conducive for negotiation. In an example which illustrates the power of negotiation and its advantages; the production of working nuclear weapon by Pyongyang regime in North Korea. Mr Bill Clinton, former president of the United States of America did enter a dialogue with the government of North Korea in the production of nuclear weapon. What resulted was the ability to contain efforts of the Pyongyang regime in North Korean in the production of working nuclear weapons by the Clinton administration. At the end both parties felt satisfied with its outcome. According to Global Asia of Journal of the East Asia Foundation Volume 3 Number 2 2008, the negotiation that occurred between the Clinton government and the Pyongyang regime helped strengthen relations between the two countries.

It is often stated that leaders are good negotiators. That to some extent is arguable. Obviously, in the course of leadership,the leaders will be expected to negotiate positively to achieve desired goals. According to the Harvard Law School in its Negotiation program, certain factors are instrumental to the achievement of a good negotiation. These factors when combined effectively achieve excellent results. They include working within a relatively small bargaining power/zone, an ability to obtain good results when up against oppressive deadlines and finally the ability to deal with difficult people and situations with minimum problems. The application of these factors according to studies shows the  result is seemingly an  effortless negotiation between the parties.

Would you consider the leaders of States in the 21st century as good negotiators?

ADR answers virtually all questions raised in a dispute Wednesday, Mar 28 2012 

Most  people who find themselves engulfed in a dispute feel the only option is to resort to litigation, only a few actually ask the question why litigation. At this point only those who think outside the box have actually found ways to resolve their disputes through alternative means.

The current state of events in Syria could culminate in the Syrian government facing the International Criminal Court. However, currently we are all unsure of how the conflict will end. This means resolving the conflict by litigation is temporarily ruled out, rather the use of an alternative dispute mechanism, notably negotiation has been used.  Where there is a conflict or dispute, a resolution is required. ADR as a matter of principle advocates for the resolution of disputes by means such as mediation, negotiation/dialogue, facilitation and other hybrid forms of ADR.

I have intentionally omitted arbitration because arbitration by its structure and as preached by its practitioners see this form of resolving disputes as distinct and therefore separate from other forms of ADR. Interestingly, with the recent visit of the former United Nations  Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan to Syria, the negotiating mechanism was seen to have played a vital role in allaying fears of the Syrian people to an extent; all because a dialogue seems to have taken place.  How the execution of the agreement over the agreed terms by the Syrian government would eventually unfold sooner than later is yet to be understood, to the world and most importantly to the Syrian people.

The power of ADR in the resolution of disputes cannot be undermined. A whole lot of conflicts /disputes in the world can either be averted or curtailed if ADR is used increasingly in such an early stage  by the people as well as the States.

Negotiation at work, this can be effective mostly where some respected person in the society, institution, or persons mandated to negotiate on behalf of others undertake the task of resolving a conflict/dispute. Negotiation has brought positive results where there is mutual respect and civil attitude between parties.

This means ADR most often starts with the question why can’t this conflict/dispute be resolved peacefully and quickly in other to avoid more problems. The recipient of the problem or the hardship seems to be the one who normally extends his/her hand in good gesture with the big question saying lets end the feud amicably.

I guess that is why negotiation is often referred to as the gentleman’s agreement. Wondering why negotiation does not play a dominant role in human relationship as it should?

Impact of Google’s recent privacy rules on the use of Online dispute resolution Tuesday, Mar 6 2012 

Google has the uncontested position as the No 1 search engine in the world. The non-participation of Google in the recent blackout protest over the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act apparently was due to its sensitivity and secondly the awareness of Google’s place in the dissemination of information. It is inconceivable what it would be like, not to have Google search engine for a couple of hours. Most people will agree, the loss will be unimaginable.

Now with Google’s recent change in its policy rules, on the March 1, 2012, not a lot is known to the average user. The important issue here is the privacy rules only applies to Google and Google related products which includes Gmail, Google+, You Tube and all Google products. An easier understanding of the Google privacy rules; is that there has been a consolidation of all Google’s policies. Google and its products have been put within the range of 60 policies, which means a merge of all policies into one generic policy thereby eliminating different policies for different Google products on March 1st 2012 was precisely what has been done by the recent Google privacy rules.

The question that may arise, can one opt out of the Google privacy rules? The simplistic answer here is it depends on a couple of factors. If like me you have a Gmail account you automatically opt in because the use of its product Gmail, inadvertently means all users of Gmail account are bound by its terms and conditions which includes Google’s recent privacy rules. On the other hand, the question raised is what if one doesn’t have a Gmail account and probably does not use Google as a search engine, will the person still be bound by the recent Google’s recent privacy rules. The answer can only be provided by the person, because the use of YouTube which is a product of Google makes the user bound by Google’s recent privacy rules. This means it will be difficult to evade the use of Google or Google related products in an information world.

Although the European Union reacted, as soon as the changes were made on March 1st 2012, by its statement that the new privacy rules were illegal. The BBC supported the European Union’s assertion on its illegality, by expressing its reservations on Google privacy changes which BBC said were ‘in breach of EU Law ‘ According to Viviane Reding in a recent interview with the BBC on the 1st March  2012, she expressly stated that the ‘ transparency rules have not been applied ‘  However, Google was quick to address all concerns raised by the public by Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, who went on to re-confirm that Google’s privacy principles were as strong as ever.

On the face of it, the recent privacy rules mean businesses enjoy all the benefits advertising can give, such as enhanced product awareness and maximum global reach. Not only has Google presented itself as a great platform to showcase products to the world; it has also created in some ways an easier avenue for consumers to make a comparison and informed choice when contemplating the use of products. From a commercial perspective, the recent Google privacy rules make excellent uniformity and compliance goals achievable. Mainly because the consolidation of all Google and Google related products compliant with its own policies and eventually acceptable universally will be easily understandable.

Although some will argue here, that Google is in some ways is delving into marketing as opposed to its strict known area Information.

As an Online dispute resolution (ODR) advocate, the Google’s privacy policy makes for good compliance sense. Here users and ODR practitioners are both aware of their terms and conditions of engagement. Often, the use of Google and Google related products will definitely feature in the course of dispute resolution, unless a user expressly states otherwise, which I envisage will hardly be the case. Here an evaluation of the impact of pros and cons on the use of ODR will have to be determined if it is remotely seen to be disadvantageous.

With the use of online platform for various activities from banking to shopping, do you think the recent Google privacy policy has created (as some do), a level playing field for consumers and businesses alike ?