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Building Negotiation Skills In Support Of Sustainable Land And Resource Use Solutions In And Around Protected Areas In Africa


The Mutual Gains Approach (MGA) to negotiation is a process model that is based on experimental findings and hundreds of real-world cases for negotiating better outcomes for each involved party, while protecting relationships and reputation. A central tenet of the model, and the robust theory that underlies it, is that a vast majority of negotiations in the real world involve parties who have more than one goal or concern in mind, and more than one issue that can be addressed in the agreement they reach. The model allows parties to improve their chances of creating an agreement superior to existing alternatives. The process focuses on the mutual interests of parties at the negotiation table, instead of defending their positions and gaining at the cost of another party.

Problem, challenge or context: 

Sustainable development and resource competition – how do we navigate the ever-increasing pressure on Protected Areas and biodiversity and achieve sustainable development goals? Both cross-sectoral engagement and integrated development planning at local, national and regional levels are crucial to achieve sustainable solutions related to the use of natural resources. However, dialogues and negotiations are often very complicated and multi-faceted, and constitute a major challenge. The Mutual Gains Approach offers a robust process for achieving sustainable outcomes.

Specific elements of components: 
  1. Consensus Building Principles: Understanding and implementing the key consensus building steps can vastly improve the outcomes of negotiations in favor of sustainability. Critical steps include: (a) clearly define both the issues and the relevant stakeholders; (b) ensure that key stakeholders are willing to seek consensus. This key step may require some investment in raising awareness about the long-term and short-term outcomes of various development decisions to ensure that all stakeholders have a full understanding of the implications of various scenarios. In the context of Protected Areas, this includes ensuring a common understanding among all stakeholders of the various values that PAs and biodiversity can contribute to sustainable development, both in an economic and social context. Additional important requirements for consensus building are: (c) a legitimate convener; (d) the availability of sufficient resources to support the process throughout (time, information, technical assistance, funding); and, (e) realistic opportunities for agreement on at least some issues.
  2. Mutual Gains Approach: The emphasis in the mutual gains approach is on joint gains for everyone at the negotiation table. This requires both extensive preparation as well as a willingness to create value and find solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders. A strong emphasis is placed on “interests,” rather than “positions,” as this opens up perspectives on finding new solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders.
Key lessons learned: 
  1. Planning, preparation and a good understanding of the situation ("situation analysis") are crucial for any successful negotiation.
  2. It is import to focus on interests, not positions. Work to understanding all stakeholders’ needs (not only “wants”) and looking for solutions that meet all needs.
  3. Each negotiation is as individual as the landscape and the people in it. Therefore, it is critical to listen and take individual situations into account. There is no “one size fits all” solution.
Impacts and outcomes: 

Negotiation “soft skills” are seldom formally taught. Yet most protected area managers and related professionals are expected to conduct negotiations on a daily basis. Therefore, the demand for more formal training around negotiation skills is very high in the Eastern and Southern African region.

Contact details: 
Christine Mentzel
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