A fish called BATNA

Now, that peace negotiations between the Government and “rebel” groups are back on track, it’s time to talk about a fish called BATNA.

The Government, the CPP/NPA/NDF and the MILF are obviously in negotiations because of their respective beliefs that these will lead to results more favorable or beneficial than those they can get by going to war. Even though it is possible that a party is using the negotiations as a tactical move to support the primary strategy of war, the general rule is a good faith belief by the parties that their objectives can be attained through peaceful and nonviolent negotiations.

In the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In, Roger Fish and William Ury talks about BATNA:

“The reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can obtain without negotiating. What are those results? What is that alternative? What is your BATNA — your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? That is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured.”

The BATNA is the guide of the parties in negotiations. It provides a baseline. The BATNA is a document that outlines what the party will do to achieve its aims if nothing happens in the negotiations. Having a clear, detailed yet flexible BATNA is very important for successful peace process. The BATNA clarifies the thinking of the negotiators. It gives them a compass to agree or reject a proposal. Negotiators cannot make wise decisions whether to enter into agreements or not if they do not know what they will do if negotiations fail, if they do not have a BATNA.

Thus, simply stated, if what is being offered on the table is better than the BATNA, the negotiator should accept. If however what is offered is something less than the BATNA, then rejection is in order. Why? Because the negotiator can get better results outside of the negotiations. The negotiations have not improved his situation. And if the offers are not improving through time, then the parties might consider suspending the negotiations in order to reassess and rethink their BATNAs or to altogether scrap the negotiations and pursue their respective objectives outside of the peace process, i.e. through means other than political negotiations.

What do you think is Government’s BATNA? How about the MILF or the CPP/NPA/NDF?

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One thought on “A fish called BATNA

  1. You offered a very relevant question here. I support this to be the primary reflection point for all worriers of peace, especially here in Mindanao (might as well ask, what is our public BATNA).

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