Between 9-10th January 2018, Forward Thinking held six workshops in Gaza. Three workshops provided practical negotiation training and conflict resolution skills. Three further workshops shared the historic and current experiences of conflict and peace in Belgium with prominent academics, political and youth leaders. Facilitated by Forward Thinking, the workshops were led by Professor Alain Lempereur, a visiting researcher at the University of Geneva and Executive Committee Member of the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School, where he teaches the Global PON executive workshop.

The ‘Exploring Divisions’ programme responds to the sincere need to develop Palestinian political thinking and explore effective mechanisms for governance and co-existence in divided societies.

The Belgium Experience of ‘Living Together and Separated’

The Belgian experience of ‘living together and separated’ was a useful case study to enrich participants knowledge of how Belgium’s political institutions and parties have developed through time. The aim is not to present Belgium as a prescriptive model for Palestinians to follow but for participants to understand Belgium’s political settlement as an ‘imperfect’ work in progress.

Belgium has transitioned through hundreds of years of violent conflict to a country living with deep social, political and economic differences, however, it lives with difference without violence. Belgium’s territory is de facto separated along linguistic lines between Flemish speaking Flanders, in the North, and French speaking Wallonia, in the South. Its political, economic, educational and media institutions are divided, for example, Belgium has six separate governments split between a complex constitutional arrangement. The lack of togetherness, shared spaces for interaction and ethno-linguistic differences create obstacles for cross-community interaction and mutual recognition of ‘the other’ in everyday life, routines and experiences.

The context of why violence does not erupt was gleaned through a deeper understanding around core issues: the importance of economic prosperity; the establishment of viable political structures which foster a healthy culture of negotiation and reconciliation; the political recognition of separate ethno-linguistic identities and respect for individual rights and equality before the law.

Principles Underpinning Effective Negotiations

Using the Harvard Negotiation Model, three further workshops explored principles underpinning effective negotiations to create the chances for fair and lasting deals, which improve or at least do not damage relationships for example: ways to approach negotiation; how to separate people and problems; understanding interests; preparing coalitions and closing deals.

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