Small and large-scale negotiation skills

by Yongbei Li, Singapore, ELP 2014
Written on July 24, 2014.

We had a mini negotiation session at the end of Susan’s workshop, which was about developing communication skills as well as leadership skills. That was the most exciting session for me so far as I really enjoyed the role I was playing during the negotiation. I was a poacher doing illegal poaching in the national park while the park manager, NGOs, hydropower companies and ecological companies came over and tried to stop me from poaching in that area. We had an intensive debate and discussion as all of us endeavored to maximize our benefits and the benefits for our organizations that we represented. We reached consensus to some degree, though it was a tough decision for all of us.

I have never experienced this kind of roleplaying game before. We need to fully know the characteristics of the role that we were playing and put ourselves in those positions. The poacher I represented was an ignorant, permanent resident that poached for survival and fed his own family. He did not care about the environment or the ecological system, which was the biggest challenge as environmentalists and governments pushed for processes on ecological development and sustainability. However, we could not simply implement policies or facilitate changes without caring for the citizens; instead, we need to rely on them as they are the main labor force and affect the regional stability.

How did we address the issues and come up with win-win solutions? After a long discussion, we agreed that the park manager and relative ecological organizations would provide subsidies and job opportunities for poachers, who would stop poaching in return. Although it may not fully satisfy each party at the end of the day, we did try our best to negotiate and compromise to contribute to the environment while protecting our own rights at the same time.

In reality, we all know that it is not easy to come up with perfect solutions after negotiations. Poachers, for instance, may only care about how building national parks will occupy the land and harm their profits and hence ask for high compensation, which is not affordable for the other side of negotiators. This is similar to the case in which we all know the emergency to mitigate the effect of global warming by reducing emissions, but the progress is so slow that we can hardly see the hope of having a future with a better environment for our offspring. Nevertheless, environmental protection actions have never been stopped. Many organizations are actively organizing global conferences to engage both developed and developing countries in setting agendas for monitoring and fund raising for climate change. In a smaller scale, environmentalists from all over the world gather at UC Berkeley and try to work things out. I am still optimistic about our future and I believe that the environment will be better with more effective environmental policies and greater resource management. I hope I can be one of the environmentalists and devote myself to the environment.