The Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy hosted its tenth annual International Negotiation Simulation involving over 20 SFS students and U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland in the Intercultural Center on Saturday.
According to SFS Assistant Dean Anna Steinhelper, the simulation was set in 2017 at a crisis point in the long-running territorial dispute near the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan that is becoming increasingly unstable. Specifically focusing on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the simulation also involved the regional powers of Turkey and Iran, as well as Russia and the United States.
The event was coordinated by Steinhelper and ISD Director of Studies and Training Jim Seveers, with assistance from U.S. Army War College Fellow Colonel Michael Pratt.
The simulation saw students organized into seven separate delegations, each representing a different country at a UN Security Council meeting in The Hague.
The part of the UN Special Representative was played by Norland, who was Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2007 to 2010 and to Georgia from 2012 to 2015. His role was to preside over the final negotiations at the end of the event before a deal could be made.
Andrew Boling (SFS ’18), a member of the Nagorno-Karabakh delegation, said in an interview with The Hoya thatthe area has historical and deep rooted divisions.
“This is a region that is pretty old with regional tensions. Armenia is Orthodox Christian, as is Russia. Azerbaijan is majority Muslim just like Turkey and Iran,” Boling said.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh once was part of Azerbaijan, but a bloody war in the late 1980s resulted in Azerbaijan losing de facto control over Nagorno-Karabakh, with more than 20,000 killed and over 100,000 people displaced.
Alec Pharris (SFS ’18), an Azerbaijan delegation member, said in the simulation Azerbaijan wanted to reclaim its internationally recognized land.
“We want to retrieve de facto control of it. Almost every nation in the world recognizes that this is our land, we are trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement to this issue,” Pharris said.
The simulation, developed by the U.S. Army War College, was designed to be as realistic as possible, incorporating many elements of a real world scenario, which included sending emails to other delegations to schedule meetings.
According to Pratt, the simulations change each year to reflect current events.
“The War College has been very good in keeping the scenario current, so every year they add in the historical context to it,” Pratt said.
Each team must adhere to a set of secret conditions and goals set by their respective country when negotiating the deal.
“Each team gets a very well developed negotiating position — what we call confidential instructions — which would be similar to what diplomatic delegations would get at a peace talk, which outline all of its interests and positions of that country or political entity,” Seevers said.
Anthony Bernard-Sasges (SFS ’18), a U.S. delegation member, said his goal while negotiating was to promote peace and stability in the region and to resolve conflicts.
“Our goals are to help the refugees, stop the war, return the peace to the region,” Bernard-Sasges said.
Lauren Allen (SFS ’17), a member of the Russian delegation, said she had similar goals as the U.S. in the simulation but saw the U.S. as an ideological opponent.
“We want a similar solution, as we want peace and security but, as far as who brings about that, there is some differences in strategy,” Allen said.
The delegates scheduled meetings throughout the day, often multiple within an hour. Deals were made and details were slowly ironed out between multiple delegations. The final negotiations took place at 3 p.m. between all parties and were presided over by Norland.
Norland said he was very satisfied with the outcome of the simulation.
“I was really impressed that the students go into the nitty gritty of a very complicated real-world conflict situation, namely the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Norland said.
Norland was also glad students were able to work to resolve a hypothetical conflict.
“It is so great to see young people looking at how they can apply their intellect to resolving situations that could easily get out of control and led to bloodshed and instability in a really important part of the world,” Norland said.
Boling said he enjoyed the intensity and realism of the simulation.
“I thought it was a lot of fun. I have done simulations before, none quite as intense or really thorough as this one, but I thought it went really well,” Boling said.
Allen said she found the event intriguing and liked seeing different countries attempt to resolve their differences in the negotiation.
“I thought it was a really really positive experience. People got really into their roles and it was exciting to see people so invested in their country’s goals and their country’s ambitions,” Allen said.