Preventive Negotiation: Avoiding Conflict Escalation
The preventive imperative is due in part to the paradigm shift in international relations toward the emergence of the individual, said Jane Holl Lute. She stressed that far from the being the world’s policeman, the U.S. is most of the world’s bystander. This has serious repercussions because “unchecked violence in the face of an obvious capacity to react erodes the rule of law and our international leadership.” Preventive negotiation most often involves two categories: 1) conflicts between parties (ie. border wars) and 2) conflicts versus nature, said Bill Zartman. He suggested that the international community should calculate the benefits of preventive action by looking at present costs and the future discounts of preventive action. The good news, he said, is that conflict prevention works, and evidence of this is shown by the chapter authors of this book.
Chapter author Jim Goodby suggested that preventive diplomacy and negotiation must take place in the early stages, because “once you are negotiating to prevent conflict escalation, it’s too late. You are doing crisis management.” During his tenure in government, he was sometimes accused of having “a solution looking for a problem,” but preventing nuclear war, a global arms race and preventing materials from falling into the hands of terrorists are conditions worth finding solutions, he said. Bert Spector, another chapter agreed. He discussed several components necessary to for successful negotiations, including having common goals, principles, an imminent threat to stress the urgency, and participation form civil society.
Citing his experiences in the United Nations and with the Swedish government, Jan Eliasson discussed several difficulties with prevention: 1) it is often seen as interference - some Southern countries view humanitarianism as a Trojan horse and interference with sovereignty. 2) acting early often goes against basic human behavior - we don’t want to admit things are bad or deal with crises. Still, such efforts are necessary and timely, and most usefully - already articulated in the United Nations Charter (ie. Article 33). Eliasson suggested strengthening the capacities to deal with the gray zones, such as mobilizing REACT forces (part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - Rapid Expert and Assistance Cooperation Teams) BEFORE the crisis.