A couple of weeks ago we were surprised by the results of the “referendum” in Colombia. Colombians faced this question: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a long-lasting and stable peace?”. This question referred to the agreement reached by the Colombian Government and FARC (oldest guerrilla group in the country). It was an agreement to put an end to a 52-years conflict that brought to the country thousands of casualties and displaced people, not to mention the impact of this conflict in the social and economic development of the country for decades.
The possible answers were “Yes” or “No”. As we said, we were surprised when the Colombians voted “No” (50,21%) and also because about 6 out of 10 Colombians did not vote in such an important and decisive moment for the country’s future.
The referendum itself was the final phase of a negotiation process, it was the ratification of the agreement reached by the parties, and we are not here to judge whether the outcome of this “referendum” was wrong or right. We are here to share a couple insights from the negotiation process as we see it and what lies ahead for the parties.
The whole negotiation process was carried as a bi-lateral negotiation between the Colombian Government and the FARC, but was it really bi-lateral? Here, as negotiators, one of the main steps to go through is to clearly define “what we want to achieve with this negotiation”, in other words, to define an outcome or a desirable objective of the negotiation. Once the parties have done that, jointly or separately, wouldn't be clear that any outcome would need the civil society to be active part of this negotiation for the agreement to be valid and supported? Be aware if you need to set a bi-lateral or a multi-lateral negotiations in order to reach your objectives.
And now what? Parties have two paths in front of them, deadlock/walk away or carry on and renegotiate. Both paths have several costs the parties must consider before choosing their next move. Wise negotiators do size costs of both scenarios not only for them but also for their counterparts and then make a decision. It is not time to let egos and power to lead the negotiating table, but to consider costs and common interests to act accordingly.
A final message to our fellow readers, rarely 100% of the people get 100% of their objectives in a negotiation. Negotiating is a compromise where to get comes tied with to give. Negotiating is a trading process!
Rafael Castellanos and Silvio Escudero
Scotwork Latin America