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Multi-Stakeholder Negotiations Workshop - 1

The role of the facilitator in the power dynamics


of a multi-stakeholder negotiation process
-- Fernando Azpiroz --

The goal of this paper is to summarize my understanding of the role of the


facilitator in the power dynamics that take place in a multi-stakeholder negotiation
process.
Ideally, multiparty negotiations is a dialogical process which should result in the
empowering of all the parties that take part in a negotiation. In other words, a
successful negotiation should allow all the interested parties to arrive at a win-win
agreement in which their final power position is better than their original BATNA,
that is, the best alternative that each party has to a negotiated agreement before
they start to negotiate.
In this paper, I understand power as the capacity that each party has to act
regarding the issue that is being negotiated. This power is a complex reality that
results in the combination of different elements, namely: 1)power-within, 2)
power-to, 3)power-over and 4)power-with (Cunningham & Mathie, 2008). I
understand the power-within capacity as the internal power and cohesion that
each party has inside itself when it starts the negotiation process. This power is
related to the degree of inclusiveness that exists within each party, which is finally
expressed in how well each partys delegate/s is able to represent all the voices
existent within its own party during the negotiation process. I understand powerto capacity as the degree of preparation each partys representative possesses
before starting a negotiation process. This is related to their negotiation skills; the
information they have about the issue itself and the negotiation process; their
correct understanding of their partys BATNA, rights and interests; their
understanding of the other parties BATNAS and positions, etc. I understand
power-over capacity as the power or pressure that each party can exert over the
other parties in conflict to come out with an agreement that benefits its own
interests. Finally, I understand power-with capacity as the possibilities that each
party has to arrive at potential solutions that benefit its own interests together with
the interests of the other parties in conflict.

Multi-Stakeholder Negotiations Workshop - 2

According to my understanding, the role of a good facilitator during a negotiation


process should be to help the parties arrive at a common solution that empowers
each and every negotiation party. This means that they should work to minimize as
much as they can, the possible situation of power imbalance that exists between the
negotiating parties that could undermine a fair win-win agreement between them.
To do so, they should actively intervene in the different stages of the negotiation
process, namely: 1) the laying of the background of the negotiation, 2) the
discussions during the negotiation, 3) the agreement and 4) the implementation of
the agreement (Wallace, 2008).
During the preparatory stage of the negotiation, the goal of the facilitator should be
to assure that the process will meet all the initial conditions that are conducive to
achieve a win-win and sustainable agreement for all the parties. Basically, this
means that they should have sufficient knowledge of the issue to insure that all the
interested parties are properly and well represented at the negotiating table. To do
so, the preparation process should include a transparent mechanism that allows
the facilitator to spend time with each individual negotiating party to help them
maximize as much as possible their power-within and their power-to capacities.
The outcome of this stage should be that each party will be well represented and
ready to start the negation process. Issues such as the insufficient representation of
women and other social, political or religious minorities within each party
constituency could undermine or weaken the future implementation

of an

agreement and should be addressed during this stage of the negotiation.


Once the formal negotiation discussions start, the role of the facilitator is to
streamline a discussion process that minimizes the negative effects of

power

imbalances among the parties. To do so, they should ensure that there is mutual
respect and equal time and opportunities for each party to express their interests
and to receive all the information they demand from the other parties regarding the
issue. At this stage, the facilitators goal is to minimize the negative effects of the
power-over capacity to maximize the possibilities of the power-within capacity
of the different parties. In other words, the negotiation process should be conducive
to promoting a shift in the parties from their power-over to their power-with

Multi-Stakeholder Negotiations Workshop - 3

capacity. To do so, the goal of the facilitator should be to help the parties identify
possibilities and areas of cooperation that will result in a win-win agreement.
Once a negotiated agreement between the parties takes shape, the facilitator should
make sure that this agreement is well accepted and reflects the interests of each
individual party. The inclusion in the process of another round of meetings between
the facilitator and each party could be helpful to minimize the negative effects of
the power-over capacity of the stronger parties, which may put pressure on
weaker parties to accept non-beneficial agreements.
Finally, power imbalances can also hinder the implementation of the agreement
when some of the parties try to manipulate the implementation process. To avoid
this danger, the facilitator should make sure that the agreement also includes
mechanisms that allow all the parties to monitor and supervise the implementation
process.
In conclusion, the facilitator plays a very important role in minimizing the negative
effects that power imbalance between the parties can cause in the different stages
of a multi-stakeholder negotiation process. While in the preparation stage of the
negotiation their role is to maximize the power within and power to capacities of
all the individual parties. In the discussion stage, their role is to promote a shift in
the parties from their power over to their power with capacity, helping the
parties to identify possibilities and areas of cooperation that will result in a win-win
agreement.
Fernando Azpiroz
04-October-2008
Antigonish - Nova Scotia

References:
Cunningham. G. & Mathie, A. (2008). Mobilizing assets for community-driven
development. Participant manual. Antigonish, NS. Coady International Institute.
Wallace. R. (2008). Multi-stakeholder negotiations. Participant Manual. Diploma program
2008. Antigonish, NS. Coady International Institute.