In international diplomacy, negotiation consists of discussion between officially designated representatives. Their aim is to achieve a formal agreement between their governments to agree a way forward on an issue that has come up in their relations or to establish a multilateral agreement or treaty on a particular topic. Negotiators are often faced with the paradox of trying to maximize their individual interest whilst at the same time knowing a deal can only be found collectively. But negotiations are more than a clash of different objectives and ideas. They are also opportunities to explore common ground and establish trust between participants, and are being increasingly influenced by a range of non-state actors, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industry, and networks of scientists and universities. Negotiation is one of the key skills for science diplomacy at both the bilateral and multilateral levels.
Negotiation skills are qualities that allow two or more parties to reach a compromise. These are often so-called ‘soft skills’ and include leadership abilities such as communication, persuasion, working in teams, strategic planning, and cooperation. The most effective negotiations aren’t always about winning, but rather about getting good results for ourselves and our negotiating partners while maintaining positive working relationships which can be crucial in future interactions (a strategy known as the mutual gains approach).