Negotiating Agreements in International Relations

negotiation7Negotiating Agreements in International Relations

John S. Odell and Dustin Tingley
with Fen Osler Hampson, Andrew H. Kydd, Brett Ashley Leeds, James K. Sebenius, Janice Gross Stein,
Barbara F. Walter, and I. William Zartman*

Part 1. Introduction

International negotiation has been one of the most pervasive processes in world politics since
the dawn of recorded history, yet it has been the subject of far less political science research
than other aspects of international relations, such as war and international institutions. This
chapter is designed to synthesize key insights and findings from available research on negotiating
international agreements and to point to specific paths toward potential research. We hope
more political scientists will decide to join the enterprise of illuminating this important process
and the conditions under which international negotiations operate. We hope this research will
ultimately prove useful in the practical world.
We conceptualize negotiation as a process in which actors take steps to agree on an
outcome, and every actor seeks to make that outcome as good as possible from their own
perspective. Some actors’ perspectives may include making the outcome as good as possible for
their community or a common institution1
. Agreements may be explicit or tacit. We assume
differing preferences will be present in all cases of international negotiation and thus will always
be a possible obstacle to agreement. For instance, any joint gains created will need to be allocated
between parties.2
We do not assume that influence and coercion are absent from negotiation by
definition, that parties always negotiate in good faith, or that negotiated agreements are all “winwin”
relative to the status quo. This report, however, does concentrate on a subset of situations in
which the parties see some prospect for mutual gain. Thus, the negotiations of concern involve
both integrative questions (How can the size of the pie be maximized?) and distributive questions
(How much of the gain and the cost does each participant get?) This report identifies key
obstacles that can impede joint-gain agreements, and it documents remedies and responses that
have helped make agreement more likely and more successful.

Negotiating Agreements in International Relations

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