Summary of "Culture and Negotiation"

Summary of

Culture and Negotiation

By Guy Oliver Faure and Jeffrey Z. Rubin

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Culture and Negotiation. Guy Oliver Faure and Jeffrey Z. Rubin, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1993.

Culture and Negotiation, an edited volume by Guy Oliver Faure and Jeffery Z. Rubin, compiles an impressive list of authors to address the role of culture in international water resource conflicts. This project, which stems from a joint effort between the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), delves into the multiple interfaces between culture and conflict to arrive at a more systematic understanding of intercultural negotiation practices. With a growing awareness of the forces of globalization dominant in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, especially surrounding environmental concerns, this book adds a fresh perspective to the growing literature on intercultural communication and conflict resolution. In the words of Rubin and Faure, "This is not a book about water resources, Nor is it a book about conflict and negotiation over water.... Rather, this book addresses the way conflict over water resources- and the way such conflict is settled or resolved- is affected by the dimension of culture."

The central question addressed by this book is whether culture is more or less important in determining or influencing the outcomes of negotiation processes than other factors. In other words, given an increasingly interdependent world, is culture a barrier or a bridge in bringing disparate or divided peoples together? Does increasing interdependence foster greater conflict, or does this interdependence work to break down cultural differences in a way that is conducive to peaceful coexistence? Considering the impact of these trends on the negotiation process, the authors state, "it goes without saying that culture often does have an impact on negotiation, but so do countless other variables and considerations. The question, then, is more what the distinctive effect of culture may be, both in creating unexpected opportunities for dispute settlement and in imposing obstacles to agreement" (p. xii).

The book is organized into three sections. The first section, "International Negotiation: Does Culture Make a Difference?" provides an overview of the core issues, concepts, approaches, and theories surrounding the multiple inroads between culture and international negotiation. Coming from multiple viewpoints, readers are made aware of the underlying theoretical and conceptual context undergirding the project and book itself. The second section, "Cases and Analyses," reports a series of case studies concerning specific rivers, and the people who live and produce on their banks and tributaries. Drawing from river and other water disputes in Africa (Nile River), Northern (Rhine River) and Eastern Europe (Black Sea), the Middle East (Jordan River), the Caspian Region (Euphrates), and the Far East (Three Gorges Dam), these case analyses explore the unique cultural contexts characterizing each of these conflict sites. In particular, each chapter addresses if and how the cultural backgrounds of the disputants influenced the negotiation process, its outcomes, and disputants sentiments toward these outcomes. Additionally, for the particular water conflict, the authors explore which specific cultural components made a difference in the negotiation process, and illustrate how culture influenced the dispute and the ways in which it was approached.

Before jumping into the specific cases, in Chapter 6 Rubin and Faure provide a brief but useful overview of water resource conflicts, including the practical, symbolic, utilitarian, and geographic meaning that each party attributes to the particular body of water. They also highlight the importance of how the "shared" nature of these water sources contributes to conflicting ideas about water use, pollution management, and geographic division between two regions, territories, or countries. Chapters 7 through 12 explore, from west to east, particular regional conflicts surrounding water resources.

In Chapter 7, Francis M. Deng explores water conflicts surrounding the Nile River in Northern and Southern Sudan and contextualizes these struggles amidst the surrounding religious, territorial, and cultural conflicts characterizing the history of the region and the mythical and spiritual meanings attached to this body of water. The chapter traces the origins of this North-South conflict in light of the Jonglei Canal project, and explores the problems associated with negotiating a consensual outcome to this conflict due to differences in cultural values, ideologies, and identities. In Chapter 8, Christophe Dupont examines the conflicts and negotiations surrounding the polluting of the Rhine River in Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. He examines various cultural and historical factors influencing the negotiation process including language, negotiating styles, emotions, socio-political forces, environmental and ecological norms, and various other factors. In Chapter 9, Vladimir Pisarev takes the reader to the Black Sea to investigate the ecological impacts of surrounding countries and the problems of negotiating across competing areas of marine jurisdiction. Pisarev outilines various cultural factors impacting the negotiation process, including different historic-cultural and ethnic-cultural backgrounds, emotional perceptions, and political systems, and explains their socio-cultural origins.

Chapter 10 takes readers to the Middle East where Randa M. Slim explores conflicts between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq over the distribution of Euphrates water. Slim examines the role of historical-political factors rooted in conflicts and events taking place outside of water rights negotiations, such as nationalism, economic development, foreign policy, ideology, and internal politics, and explains how these histories can lead to stubbornness, blame, and rigidity in the negotiation process. In Chapter 11, Miriam Lowi and Jay Rothman take up another water conflict in the Middle East and examine conflicts between Arabs and Israelis over the Jordan River. Focusing on issues of national identity and legitimacy, Lowi and Rothman argue that other contentious political issues facing the region must be addressed before serious improvement can be made in terms of resource use and development. However, they hold that by focusing on cooperation and mutual interests in functional issues such as the water negotiation process, momentum may be created to find common ground in other disputes facing these countries. Chapter 12 features China and the hotly contested Three Gorges Dam Project. Kenneth Lieberthal explores the conflict and negotiation process amidst the backdrop of China's bureaucratic culture- one that dominates social and governmental life in this country. He explains six key components of this bureaucratic culture and outlines the challenges and potential misunderstandings foreigners must face when becoming involved in this dispute.

Section Three distills the lessons and insights drawn from the first two sections to explain how these lessons will be of service to ADR practitioners mediating cross-cultural conflicts in their own work and research. Additionally, this section concludes with a statement about how these insights can lead to developments in international conflict resolution research, theory, and practice.

In sum, this book provides ADR practitioners, international or cross-cultural negotiators, historians, environmentalists, and a host of other readers with a broad spectrum of water rights cases throughout the world. The case studies provide a wealth of information about the backgrounds, cultural components, and negotiation practices used to solve a large variety of very contentious disputes over water resources. In addition, the insights from this book are useful for those studying related, cross-cultural environmental conflicts or unrelated conflicts involving peoples with different cultures, values, ideologies, or religious orientations.