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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP9: The North Korea Nuclear Deal: Our Students Did It


There is no end in sight to the North Korean nuclear problem. And yet a group of international students in Geneva, Switzerland, have sketched out the contours of a possible deal. Their work, which describes mutual concessions and when/how they should be implemented, offers each of the concerned parties some helpful ideas on how to achieve a much-needed agreement.


At the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, Master’s degree students in European Studies can choose a seminar on “The Art and Science of Negotiation” led by Professor Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former foreign minister and president of Switzerland. Among other courses, Professor Calmy-Rey teaches the theory of “Diplomatic Engineering,” developed within the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and other experts. This theory is integrative in nature, seeking win-win solutions. It involves both mathematical/technical elements and procedural features derived from the Harvard method originally developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in 1981. This theory also complements existing negotiation theory, integrating a problem-solving approach. Its goal is to implement pragmatic solutions to a given problem applying “situation-specific instruments and tools,” as is done in engineering.

At the end of the seminar, a simulated negotiation is organized every year on a different topic. For the semester that concluded in November 2018, the focus was the Korean Peninsula, given its timeliness. The students who participated in this exercise came primarily from the University of Geneva, though students from the Zurich Federal Polytechnic School (ETHZ) and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) were also involved.

The ‘delegations’ to the simulated negotiation were mixed, i.e. with students from various countries and backgrounds. While assisted by experts, the students conducted the talks on their own. To make full use of the (limited) time available for this exercise (two full days only), the chair of the negotiation was entrusted to two retired professional diplomats: one from Switzerland and the other from the United Nations.