“Behind-the-Table” Conflicts in the Failed Negotiation for a Referendum for the Independence of Catalonia: A Student Note by Oriol Valentí i Vidal

By Oriol Valentí i Vidal*

Spain is facing its most profound constitutional crisis since democracy was restored in 1978. After years of escalating political conflict, the Catalan government announced it would organize an independence referendum on October 1, 2017, an outcome that the Spanish government vowed to block.

This article represents, to the best of the author’s knowledge, the first scholarly examination to date from a negotiation theory perspective of the events that hindered political dialogue between both governments regarding the organization of the secession vote. It applies Robert H. Mnookin’s insights on internal conflicts to identify the apparent paradox that characterized this conflict: while it was arguably in the best interest of most Catalans and Spaniards to know the nature and extent of the political relationship that Catalonia desired with Spain, their governments were nevertheless unable to negotiate the terms and conditions of a legal, mutually agreed upon referendum to achieve this result.

This article will argue that one possible explanation for this paradox lies in the “behind-the-table” conflicts on both sides. For Catalan secessionists, this conflict related to the role that unilateralism had to play, if any, in the negotiations with Spain to organize an official referendum for independence. For those against it, most notably the Spanish political parties, the pressing internal conflict concerned the scope of the negotiations that had to be conducted with the Catalan government. These internal “behind-the-table” conflicts blocked an “across-the-table” agreement, leading to a deadlock in negotiations.

This article hopes to contribute to the academic conversation around the barriers to progress in high-stake negotiations, and it suggests that the failure to negotiate an independence referendum for Catalonia reveals the limits of unilateral action in the context of a supranational region like the European Union, the dynamics in negotiations where there is a sharp power imbalance between the parties, the tensions between democratic legitimacy and the rule of law, and the risks of path dependency for negotiated agreements.

Read the full article here.

*Attorney; Lecturer in Law, Barcelona School of Management (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) as of February 2018. LL.M. ‘17, Harvard Law School; B.B.A. ‘13 and LL.B. ‘11, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Diploma in Legal Studies ‘10, University of Oxford.

Bridging Cultural and Technological Divides: The Role of Culture in Email Negotiations Between American and Chinese Negotiators

By Matthew Parker, a 3L law student at Harvard Law School

I. Introduction: The Role of Culture in Email Negotiations

Culture fundamentally affects email negotiations. In an increasingly globalized world where cross-border negotiations have increased substantially[1] and the use of email communication has grown exponentially,[2] surprisingly little research, however, has been conducted on culture’s role in email negotiations. Culture supplies the building blocks for interpreting and structuring social interactions like negotiations,[3] and email can fundamentally change how these social interactions are played out.[4] In this article, I bridge the gap in current negotiation research between culture and email to argue that culture is an important factor in email negotiations that influences negotiation behaviors and outcomes. Taking a case study approach by examining literature on cross-cultural negotiations between American and Chinese negotiators, I contend that different cultural influences affect the behavior of negotiators from the United States and China when they negotiate together using email.

I begin this article by reviewing some of the existing literature on the effects of culture on negotiation before turning to an examination of the way that email changes the negotiation dynamic. Combining research on email negotiations with literature on the role of culture in the negotiation process, I show that culture affects email negotiations. I then conclude by summarizing my findings and suggesting avenues for further research into the dynamic interplay between culture, email and negotiation.

II. Culture and Negotiation: A Review of the Impact of Culture on American and Chinese Negotiators

The way people understand and act during a negotiation reflects fundamental cultural assumptions varying along numerous cultural dimensions that are explored in this section of the paper.[5] While it is certainly true that there is substantial variation in negotiation behaviors, norms, values and beliefs within a culture, there is a greater and sometimes even dramatic variation between cultures.[6] The most significant cultural differences among American and Chinese negotiators occur along the individualism-collectivism, high-low power distance and high-low context dimensions.[7] Each of these differences warrants further discussion because they have a significant impact on the way American and Chinese negotiators negotiate.

  1. a.     The Individualism-Collectivism Dimension

American culture is often characterized as individualist whereas Chinese culture is seen as more collectivist.[8] In countries with highly individualist cultures like the United States, people are more likely to consider themselves as independent of the social group and thus more free to focus on personal goals.[9] As a result, American negotiators generally rely more on analytical-rational thinking styles that focus on the problem, and use tactics such as argumentation based on logic and the presentation of facts.[10] In contrast, negotiators from countries with more collectivist cultures like China rely more on intuitive-experiential thinking styles and use tactics that appeal to emotions, social obligations, and the desire to maintain harmony and save face.[11] Consequently, Chinese negotiators are more likely to think about negotiation in terms of relationships whereas American negotiators are generally more focused on outcome.[12]

New research, however, suggests that these characterizations about individualist and collectivist negotiation styles may be too simplistic and that collectivists may actually act more aggressively to out-group members (i.e. people who are not a part of their collective).[13] Researchers posit that when negotiating with strangers outside their culture, negotiators from collectivist cultures may no longer feel constrained by a concern for others and are thus more likely to reveal their egotistical sides.[14] It is thus clear that the individualism-collectivism dimension affects how negotiators negotiate, suggesting for our purposes that this cultural dimension has implications for American-Chinese email negotiations.

 


[1] See Wendi Adair et al., Culture and Negotiation Strategy, Negot. J. 87, 87 (2004).

[2] See Janice Nadler & Donna Shestowsky, Negotiation, Information Technology, and the Problem of the Faceless Other, in Negotiation Theory and Research 145, 145 (Leigh Thompson ed., 2006).

[3] Jeanne Brett & Michael Gelfand, A Cultural Analysis of the Underlying Assumptions of Negotiation Theory, in Frontiers of Social Psychology: Negotiations 173, 175 (Leigh Thompson ed. 2005).

[4] See, e.g., Nadler & Shestowsky, supra note 2, at 145; Ashleigh Rosette et al., When Cultures Clash Electronically: The Impact of Email and Culture on Negotiation Behavior 3 (Disp. Resol. Res. Ctr., Nw. U., Working Paper No. 302, 2004); Michael Morris et al., Schmooze or Lose: Social Friction and Lubrication in E-Mail Negotiations 6 Group Dynamics: Theory, Res., and Prac. 89 (2002).

[5] Brett & Gelfand, supra note 3, at 175.

[6] Jeanne Brett et al., Culture and Joint Gains in Negotiation, 14 Negot. J. 61, 79 (1998).

[7] Wendy Adair & Jeanne Brett, Culture and Negotiation Process, in The Handbook of Negotiation and Culture 158, 161 (Michele Gelfand & Jeanne Brett eds., 2004); E. Alan Buttery & T.K.P. Leung, The Difference Between Chinese and Western Negotiations, 32 Eur. J. Market. 374, 375-77 (1998).

[8] Brett et al., supra note 6, at 65-67.

[9] Adair & Brett, supra note 3, at 160.

[10] Gregory Kersten et al., The Effects of Culture in Anonymous Negotiations: Experiment in Four Countries, in Proceedings of the 35th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science 418, 421 (2002).

[11] Gelfand & Dyer, A Cultural Perspective on Negotiation: Progress, Pitfalls, and Prospects, 49 App. Psychol.: Int’l Rev. 62, 81 (2000); Adair & Brett, supra note 7, at 159-60.

[12] See Adair & Brett, supra note 7, at 160-61.

[13] Xiao-Ping Chen & Shu Li, Cross-National Differences in Cooperative Decision-Making in Mixed-Motive Business Contexts: The Mediating Effect of Vertical and Horizontal Individualism, 36 J. Int’l Bus. Stud. 622, 624 (2005); at 624; Rosette et al., supra note 4, at 8.

[14] Chen & Li, supra note 13, at 624 (discussing a series of studies conducted by researcher Toshio Yamagishi).

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Talking with the Taliban: Should the U.S. “Bargain with the Devil” in Afghanistan?

AFG

Although the issue has not yet gained the prominence of its Iranian analogue, it is essential to begin conducting a sober analysis of whether the benefits of negotiating with the Taliban outweigh the costs. While there are many negotiations relevant to the Afghan War—between the U.S. and its NATO allies, between the U.S. and the Afghan and Pakistani governments, and between the Pakistanis and the Taliban—this paper will focus on whether the United States, together with its allies in Kabul or NATO, should negotiate with the Taliban.

To bring a coherent logic to the complexities of this cost-benefit analysis, I will apply the decision-making framework described by Professors Mnookin and Blum in their article “When Not to Negotiate” and elaborated upon in Professor Mnookin’s forthcoming book, Bargaining with the Devil. This framework focuses the inquiry on five key issues: 1) the parties’ prioritized interests, 2) their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), 3) potential negotiated outcomes, 4) the probability of implementation, and 5) the direct and indirect costs of negotiation. The framework then focuses on the related considerations of legitimacy and morality. Mnookin and Blum argue that while we should not always “bargain with the devil,” our ingrained biases often lead us to reject negotiation prematurely, and we should therefore establish a rebuttable presumption in favor of negotiating.[1] With this in mind, I conclude that although it may indeed be too soon for direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, it is not too soon for indirect talks to probe the Taliban’s interests and to seek a path to a zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) and a mutually beneficial outcome.

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Using Mediation to Resolve Disputes Between U.S. Military Bases and Foreign Hosts: A Case Study in Japan

The U.S. military presence in Japan has provided great stability in a region of uncertainty. In recent years, the importance of the U.S. military in Asia has been underscored by continuing volatility in North Korea, the growth of terrorist organizations and pirates, and expanded human trafficking.[1] A continued relationship between the Japanese and the U.S. military is vital to regional stability, the protection of maritime commerce routes, and the countering of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, piracy, and human trafficking.[2]

In the last thirty years, relations between local Japanese communities and the U.S. military have been strained, largely due to incidents occurring in the local communities involving off-duty military personnel. According to one source, over 4700 crimes have been committed in Japan by U.S. military personnel since 1972, causing extensive anti-American sentiment throughout the country.[3] The conflicts between U.S. military bases and local Japanese communities have found resolution at the highest levels of government. In the process, the interests of several parties have been lost. Perhaps a new method of dispute resolution should be considered: namely, mediation.

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No Silver Burress for Plaxico’s Bullets: How an Unstructured Approach to Problem-Solving Can Produce Mixed-Up Results

On November 28, 2008, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh with an unlicensed handgun while partying at a New York City nightclub. Beyond the poor judgment of the incident itself was the short-sightedness of the team’s response to it, which demonstrated just how inadequate problem-solving can be when conducted without the use of a structured approach.

The major flaw lay in failing to properly diagnose the problem and failing to sufficiently brainstorm possible solutions. In this way, the Giants ended up treating the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. Deliberately following a model such as the Four Quadrant Tool for problem-solving* would have helped the team avoid the classic misstep of jumping straight from describing the symptoms of a problem (step one) to generating an action plan going forward (step four).

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Tomorrow’s Peacemakers: How to Encourage the Next Generation of Conflict Management Professionals

Ask Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, how he thinks we can make the world a better place, and he’ll answer without hesitation that we must teach young people how to deal with conflict better.  In a conversation with us earlier last year, he spoke about our obligation to foster a generation of global citizens equipped to create value and improve relationships within families, across organizations, and among nation-states.

We believe the best way to fulfill this obligation is to encourage passion, teach theory, develop skills, and provide real-world opportunities through a multi-pronged approach involving combined classroom-clinical curricula, internships and jobs with clear professional development plans, and innovative customized experiences such as fellowships.

Blending Classroom and Clinical Education

Conflict management education requires the development of blended classroom-clinical curricula. It should begin as a fundamental component of youth education and continue through higher levels of academia. We need to move toward creating school-wide workshops, after-school international conflict management organizations, and negotiation competitions.

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