Training course “Methods of Conducting Negotiations in Conflict Situations”
Moscow, 4 – 6 October 2000
Article written by the participant of the training course
Moscow Association of Latvian Culture
«Connecting one objective»
How to behave as a representative of a NGO in certain situations? How to avoid conflicts and how to find a common language with the authorities? The seminar was dedicated to all these problems. The program gathered people for the purpose of acquainting and exchanging experience and searching new methods for the solution of social and political conflicts. The British Embassy gave the grant for the training of leaders of ethnic minorities of Russian towns in skills of protection of rights of their compatriots.
In the seminar participated not only the representatives of non-commercial organizations from both Russian capitals but also from Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod and Krasnodar. There had been a Latvian and a Kazakh, an Abkhaz and a Georgian, a Jew and a German, and even a representative of the ancient Assyrians. One cannot often meet so many different people at the same time. Becoming acquainted with all of them closer, it is going to be even more surprising. The Moscow Korean Yevgeny was born in the Krasnodar Krai (county), the Greek Semen had moved to Rostov-on-Don from Georgia, etc. The fate of each participant is as interesting as the fate of the people he or she is representing. Neither a schoolbook nor an encyclopedia can contain everything about the existence of peoples living on our continent for the last millennium. But persons who aspire to preserve the culture, language and traditions of their people are always ready to share their history with everybody who is interested in.
THE FIRST DAY OR HOW TO AVOID A CONFLICT
The first day of the seminar was dedicated to “conflicts”, or strictly speaking to the study of theories of conflicts. In order to understand a conflict, one has to analyze it. And in order to analyze it, one has to imagine the conflict like a graphic. That is to set about the cartography of the conflict. Theories need their practice. Therefore the participants of the seminar were divided into groups to figure various situations on big pieces of paper. Each person had name a conflict: for instance, one person doing business has a conflict in the firm; the other is deeply concerned about the crisis in Chechnya.
By the way, did you ever think about the fact that people are playing roles every day? As a rule, as much as they are used to their everyday roles (passenger, customer, patient, etc.) they do not notice the way they behave in certain situations. Role games had been a very important element of our seminar, as it is not enough to understand the theory of conflicts and conduction of negotiations. All this should be reproduced in the games.
The first what had to be trained in the game situation was to talk about a given topic for 2 minutes. Sometimes this is more complicated than it seemed on the first sight. The task of the partners (the group was divided into pairs) seemed to be easier – they had to listen attentively. But doing so they had to observe two dozens of rules. The game was successful. Another point was not less important. The game had been played on the first day of the seminar. The participants listened and shared things they care about in their personal life. Doing so they came in contact, even these people who were not or few acquainted with each other.
“Influence and Rule“, “Identity and Belonging” – these topics were also touched at the first day of the seminar.
In order to become better acquainted with each other in an ease atmosphere, a big part of the participants of the seminar stayed in the restaurant of the hotel “Sverchkov, 8” where they had an welcome evening. The main event of the evening was an informal competition of national songs. Each of the persons sitting around the table performed his or her favorite song in his/her mother tongue. Paul Clifford, the leader of the seminar (English organization Responding to Conflict) completed the competition singing the anti-war song of Pete Seeger “Where have all the flowers gone?” (He sang it in English, of course).
SECOND DAY – IN SEARCH OF COMPROMISES, or “WHAT TO SAY AND WHAT BETTER NOT”
The morning of the second day started with the game “Miracle fruit”. In the course of 10 minutes a group composed of three persons should find the ideal version for the solution of a given task. Doing so it was not possible to avoid arithmetic. Both, a shop assistant and two customers want to buy the same product. Who wins? Will there be a looser or will all of them be content with the solution? Alas, there were losers. The majority of the participants understood the ideal variant to solve the situation only at the end of the game. But each group had so many non-expected and interesting proposals that the absolute loser did not feel anyone.
Worth mentioning that the participants of the seminar liked the game “Miracle fruit” so much that many of them noted down the rules of the game, as the wanted it to play with their friends.
After the theories of techniques how to conduct negotiations and the break there started another role game. The aim was to train the conduction of negotiations with authorities. A situation, which is met often in the live of a NGO: leaders of non-commercial national organizations ask the representatives of the authorities to give a certain sum for the development of their association, their culture, etc. Everything else has been as usual. But not usual has been that both, on the side of the NGOs or “peoples” and on the side of the “authorities” were participants of the seminar. Of course, each negotiation needs its long and careful preparation. For one and a half hour “peoples” and “authorities” discussed the necessities and problems, purpose and operation, searched for alternatives to the discussed agreement, considered a possibility to go on concessions. This way the negotiations were conducted. Alas, they have been concluded like in real life: the NGO did not get more than 10 percents given by the authorities. But at the end of the game the results have been discussed, the mistakes found, and everyone realized that for all mistakes we have understood and learned a lot.
The next day, there was another solemn supper. This time it was dedicated to the Teacher’s and took place in a national Armenian school. After a concert and a small excursion, all visitors were invited on a table covered with dishes of the Armenian Cuisine. Worth mentioning, that most of the dishes have been cooked by the students. The holiday was closed with Armenian dances, in which everybody participated irrespective of age and nationality.
THIRD DAY, OR BEING GUESTS AT DEPUTIES
On the 6th of October, in a building of the Moscow Parliament in the Petrovka Street the deputy Gennady Rybalsky read a lecture for all participants of the seminar titled "Combat and/or unity of contrasts". He discussed the question what is an official and if it is worth to struggle with him. Thus, the participants of a seminar have learned more about state structures and social partnership. And they understood what a bureaucrat is. Special success had the table "Fundamental model of the official’s pragmatic filter", in "colloquial language" called "Section of an official’ head".
As already mentioned above, the majority of the NGO’s exist on state grants. But only few leaders NGO’s know how to write correctly letters to the local authorities. Only because of that, noncommercial organizations receive often refusals of financial support. And G. Rybalsky, a deputy of the Moscow Parliament, told the audience some details, which should be known by drawing up of the letter to an official. In addition, he talked about interaction between government bodies and non-state non-commercial organizations.
At the end of the lecture and after a little coffee break, the seminar in the Moscow Parliament was continued with a "roundtable" on the topic "Interaction of government bodies with national public organizations as a relevant factor to avoid ethnic conflicts in megapolis". The deputy Juri Osokin and his assistant Tatyana Dyakova had organized the meeting. Abrar Yarlykapov and Edward Coman reported on the work of the Committee of Public and Inter-regional Relations. Victor Polunin, the director of the Moscow House of Nationalities, informed the participants of the roundtable about the creation and the activities of the institution. Anatoly Ishutin, the representative of the Moscow Passport Office was confronted with many questions. By the end of the seminar, the hostel "of Crickets, 8" had become a kind of home for all participants. Thus, after the dinner we returned to the hostel to develop strategies for the future based on everything we have learned during these three days. Divided into groups, each group represented its city. 1,5 hours were enough for every group to developed an action plan for the nearest future. And each project was worth to be paid attention to. On the presentation, which took place in the most spacious hostel room, various ideas were presented. All of them were directed on enriching the national politics in Russia and on the work of national organizations in the regions.
Thus, the seminar came to an end. It seemed, that all people were now connected by something common. And it is easy to understand why the final game was called "cobweb". After three days being together without any break, everybody had to say a few words one another. To experience more intensively that we were all united by similar purposes, a ball of a bright solar rope was taken for the game. Everybody spoke about his or her impressions and thoughts and threw the ball to the person addressed. After some time, a «cobweb» of kind wishes connected all participants, which stood in a circle.
And as always there was a solemn supper, on which one there came the representatives from the Ministry on Nationalities and leaders of ethnic communities of Moscow. Solemnly, but is sad. The seminar is ended, and already tomorrow each will leave the city. But main not to forget the given on "spider line" promising to not lose one another, both to meet again. And to believe, that Center of Interethnic Cooperation, which one has collected us together, necessarily will find a causing again us to collect.
P.S. As the writer of this article and participant of a seminar, I want on behalf of all say thanks to the Center for International Cooperation and our British friends, and especially Paul Clifford, our teacher. Thanks Paul for a seminar of friendship, for these three days without conflicts.
October 20, 2000
"League of Nations"
A similar training course has been carried out from April 3 till April 5, 2001 in Moscow for the leaders of other ethnic communities of Moscow, St.-Petersburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov on Don, Krasnodar.
April 4 the participants of the training course visited the Moscow House of Nationalities. April 5 the circular table on the subject of " About the designs of the acts in an orb of national attitudes " in the Moscow City Council was held. In the evening of April 4 in restaurant of hostel the participants of the training course in informal circumstances have met with Sergey Alexandrovich Podgorbunsky, chief of Department on Interaction with Mass Media and Public Relations of the Ministry on Federation, National and Migratory Policies. In the evening of April 5 the representatives of national communities from the regions had the possibility to meet the leaders of the Moscow communities.