Author: Evangelos Raftopoulos
Publisher:  Cambridge University Press – 268 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Over the decades, conflicts between nations have shifted in nature from military (for example, conquest and annexation of territory to increase power) to political (sometimes unfavorable – e.g. ‘ethnic cleansing’, sometimes favorable – legal inward migration of educated and talented people from one country to another) to economic (acquisition of cheap labor, land, mineral resources, intellectual property, or other assets).

Today, much major conflict is economic in nature. For example, China and the United States are involved in a ‘trade war’. President Donald Trump wants to reduce the massive trade deficit the United States built up over the decades that past presidents allowed to mount.

China’s imposition of sovereignty over some islands in the Pacific Ocean, buying farmland in parts of Africa, mineral land containing gold and silver deposits elsewhere, acquisition of real estate in New York City, and purchase of substantial (sometimes, controlling) stakes  in American public companies are some other examples.

While outcomes of many past international conflicts have been that one party wins and the other party loses, my observation of some recent conflicts shows that the results have been mixed in nature. Winner-take-all outcomes are usually not long-lasting and seldom final. I believe human nature always seeks to better one’s well-being, especially economic well-being.

The author of this book – Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos – reveals a basically out-of-the-box-thinking feature of what I believe is his inclination to find solutions to difficult problems. This is a highly valuable asset to have. (Maybe he can help find permanent peace for Israelis and Palestinians in their decades-long stalemate?)

He looks at international negotiation as a “structured process of relational governance” If that means co-existence with an agreed-upon, mutually-beneficial, permanently harmonious, and stable relationship of shared responsibilities and rights, then I am all for it! Who would not want that? I am thinking again about Israelis and Palestinians when this ideal outcome comes to mind.

Raftopoulos also shows his creative-thinking-and-problem-solving bent when he “challenges prescriptive models of negotiation.” He suggests that negotiations be ‘creative’, ‘holistic’ and ‘subjective’ in nature, and importantly have the element of ‘understanding’ in them.

This relatively short and small book of just over 250 pages consists of only five chapters in two concise Parts, as shown below.

Introduction

  • Part I – Theoretical Approaches to International Negotiations and International Common Interest
    1. The Theorization of International Negotiation: Autonomous Prescriptive Theoretical Models and Their Deficiencies
    2. International Creative Negotiations: A Relational Theoretical Framework
  • Part II – The Negotiation Phases in the Conventional Construction of International Common Interest
    1. The Pre-negotiation Phase as a Process of Transformative Governance
    2. The Constitutive Negotiation Phase as a Process of Constructing Treaties of International Common Interest
    3. The Renegotiation Phase as a Process of Revisionary Governance of Conventional Regimes

A book does not have to be long and detailed in order to be effective in achieving its goal. This one takes a fresh, new approach to international negotiations that shows how to understand the most important desires, needs, and wants of the other side.

This valuable resource should be read by diplomats, mediators, and most importantly, by leaders of warring nations involved in military, political, and economic conflicts.

 

Author:

Evangelos Raftopoulos is Professor of International Law and International Environmental Law at Pantelon University in Athens, Greece. He is also Founding Director MEPIELAN Centre at Pantelon University which is an officially accredited UNEP / MAP partner and a member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development.

Educated in Cambridge  with a PhD (Cantab) and LLM (Cantab) and at Athens (LLB), he has been recently a visiting scholar at Downing College, University of Cambridge, and he is a Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG) at the University of Cambridge.

For more than two decades, he has been consulted by the Mediterranean Action Plan / Barcelona Convention Secretariat as MAP / UNEP legal advisor. He has participated in more than 70 international environmental conferences and meetings and has 11 books and numerous articles and international reports. He holds a diploma in the piano.