Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore Named the Great Negotiator of 2014

Contact: Doug Gavel
Phone: (617) 495-1115
Date: September 24, 2013

Cambridge MA -- The Program on Negotiation, an inter-university consortium of Harvard, MIT, and Tufts; and the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School have named Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore the recipient of the 2014 Great Negotiator Award. Ambassador Koh will be honored at a series of public events at Harvard on April 10 for his distinguished career contributions to the fields of negotiation and dispute resolution, especially his leading roles in challenging settings, including the Law of the Sea, the “Rio” Earth Summit, the ASEAN Charter and the Singapore-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Co-chairing the event will be Harvard Business School Professor James K. Sebenius, Vice Chair of the Program on Negotiation; and Harvard Kennedy School Professor Nicholas Burns, Faculty Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project. Sebenius and Burns jointly stated that, “In honoring Ambassador Koh, we have the unique opportunity to learn from one of the world’s leaders in the practice of large-scale, multiparty conference diplomacy—a complex form of negotiation that will be increasingly needed to forge effective collective responses to a range of global problems in areas such as the environment, trade, public health, finance, development, national security, and terrorism.”

Over their careers, Great Negotiator awardees have negotiated against great odds in different settings to accomplish worthy purposes. By discussing the successes (and failures) of this distinguished group of men and women from varied backgrounds, the events associated with the Great Negotiator Award seek to uncover broader lessons and generalizations about effective negotiation and dispute resolution in public and private settings.

Past recipients of the Great Negotiator achievements include:

  • Senator George Mitchell’s work in Northern Ireland leading to the Good Friday Accords;
  • The efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, to forge a post-conflict government in Afghanistan;
  • Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s negotiations leading to the Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian war, as well as his multiparty efforts to deal with unpaid U.S. dues to the United Nations;
  • The Honorable Stuart Eizenstat’s negotiations over Holocaust-era assets in various European countries;
  • U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata’s quiet negotiations on behalf of refugees and internally displaced persons in regions from Iraq to the Balkans to Rwanda;
  • Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari’s negotiation efforts leading to Kosovo’s independence and the resolution of a decades-long, bloody conflict between the government of Indonesia and the province of Aceh;
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker’s negotiations leading to the reunification of Germany within NATO, actions to forge the Gulf War coalition to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, and diplomacy paving the road to the Madrid Conference.

While the Great Negotiator Award celebrates its recipients, its lasting impact derives from the research and teaching materials that have flowed directly from the Great Negotiator events. During a highly interactive process on the day of the event, interested faculty and students will discuss how the awardee has approached and overcome the most daunting barriers to agreement. In the following months, this same group will seek to crystallize what they will have learned. The resulting research and teaching materials, both in print and video, will enable others to use these insights throughout their negotiating careers. Hundreds of Harvard, MIT, and Tufts graduate students and executive program participants annually absorb insights resulting from the Great Negotiator Award process.

More logistical and programmatic details will be available in early 2014. In the interim, contact Susan Hackley, Managing Director of the Program on Negotiation (617-495-1857, shackley@law.harvard.edu) or Cathryn Clüver, Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project (617) 496-0104, Cathryn_Cluver@hks.harvard.edu) for further information.

The Program on Negotiation (http://www.pon.harvard.edu) is a dynamic inter-university consortium, founded over thirty years ago, dedicated to improving the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution in a range of public and private settings.

Led by R. Nicholas Burns (Director) and Cathryn Clüver (Executive Director), the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is dedicated to promoting the study and understanding of diplomacy, negotiation and statecraft in international politics today. The Project aims to build Harvard Kennedy School’s ability to teach in this area, to support research in modern diplomatic practice and to build public understanding of diplomacy’s indispensible role in an increasingly complex and globalized world.

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