Negotiation in a routine OSCE situation

OSCE staff at the larger Missions in the Balkans typically work in the field at the local level and apply their negotiating skills to resolve problems that affect the lives of individuals. A complaint addressed by OSCE may be a genuine human rights abuse, involve discrimination or simply reflect bureaucratic ineptitude or misunderstanding. OSCE municipal monitors may negotiate with government authorities to resolve structural barriers on issues such as property returns. OSCE democratization officers may play a third party role between groups and national authorities.

The following sections describe a common scenario facing a democratization officer and the stages in negotiating a resolution.

Manage expectations by managing process

You have received a complaint from a citizen or are aware of a problem and determined that it appears valid and within your mandate for action.

  • Find out whether there is a pattern of such problems and whether there is an OSCE institutional procedure for handling them.
  • Discuss complaint with citizen and what you can do to be of help.
  • Describe your third party role—mediator or facilitator.
Discuss / explore the situation

You may want to privately discuss the issue with the relevant governmental authority. Alternatively, you may want to accompany the citizen to meet with the relevant governmental official. The official should be informed that you will accompany the citizen to the meeting.

  • Describe your third party role.
  • Each party will want to have its say and tell its side of the story. You will want to engage in active listening. Accept different stories, perspectives, and interpretations as natural and inevitable.
  • You may want to ask open-ended questions to gain fuller understanding and clarification.
  • Try not to use questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
  • “Why?” is often the most effective question.
Identify major problems and clarify issues
  • Keep track of major problems; ask additional questions
  • Clarify specific issues; ask questions.
  • Explore what is behind each side’s position on the issues; ask additional questions.
  • Look for a solution.
Develop a strategy while remaining focused on your objectives
  • Try to get the parties from focusing on the past. Get them to envision the future solution and how to get there.
  • Determine an order for dealing with the issues involved in the complaint; there may be additional aspects of the problem that need to be addressed in finding a solution.
  • Have no hard and fast rule for deciding the order in which to tackle issues.
  • Think about options for dealing with people, procedural or substantive problems.
  • Evaluate and prioritize options – time, need; resource availability; practicality; feasibility.
Structure an agreement
  • Ensure that valid concerns have been addressed.
  • Ensure your objectives have been met.
  • Try to get agreement on an action plan; may require phases.
  • Agree on implementation, as required.
  • Be clear about the consequences of non-compliance and the advantages of compliance. Will there be a guarantor of the agreement? Will non-compliance involve sanctions?
  • Write up specific terms of agreement and have parties sign (if possible).
  • Need follow-up? Can the parties handle this themselves or do they need/want continuing third party involvement?