Negotiation is a process to achieve your goals through communication with at least one other party, with the presumed outcome an agreement. The two parties have a conflict, or have differences that may result in conflict. In any case, the other party has the ability to prevent you from achieving your goal.

In negotiation, communication may be:

  • direct and face-to-face
  • at a distance
  • through a third party

The negotiating table can be anywhere. It can be in a conference room, a military headquarters, a restaurant or bar, in an automobile or by the side of a road. Negotiation is often described as a journey of discovery, because parties can open up new options or develop understandings completely different from what they might have imagined or considered acceptable at the start of the process.

Rarely is a negotiation a one-time event. There is usually a history. Equally important, there may be a future context. You may be involved in future negotiations with the same party, and your negotiating behavior may affect the way other negotiators deal with you in the future. Thus, the relationship you build with the other party may influence that negotiation, as well as other negotiations.


Negotiations go through various stages. Pre-negotiation can be a critical stage of the process. This is not only a preparatory phase, but also a vital opportunity to clarify the issues (specifying what can be dealt with now and what must be left for later) and exploring a general formula for achieving an agreement.

Why parties enter negotiations

Negotiations begin at a general stage of discussion and develop into more detailed discussion. Parties also enter into negotiation when circumstances are “ripe.” For many reasons, a party may see the time as right for entering into negotiations as a way out of a situation of increasing difficulties and decreasing prospects of achieving its initial goals. This can be the result of a deadlock, a hurting stalemate for both parties or changes in the international or domestic contexts.

Negotiation contexts within the OSCE

There are many contexts in which negotiation takes place in the OSCE. OSCE Missions negotiate with host governments and domestic groups. They negotiate with other international or regional organizations. They negotiate with non-governmental organizations, representatives of civil society, political parties, academic and other educational institutions. Such groups may be non-violent and operating in accordance with the law of the land, or violent and in opposition to the host government.