NIFK17002U Conflict Analysis and Negotiation Design

Volume 2018/2019

MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management


Most MSc candidates working with the environment, land use, urban planning or e.g. natural resource management will professionally be part of public policy decision making - where scientific knowledge will be negotiated against values, concerns and conflicting interests in the public. To competently manouver in such complex landscapes and conflictual decision spaces one must handle relevant theory and tools to analyse the situation and identify the critical features that must be addressed. The analysis forms the basis for meaningful design of multiparty negotiations, mediation initiatives and other possible actions or interventions.

This course presents and discusses relevant theories across disciplines and integrates them into a comprehensive, analytical framework (the Unifying Negotiaton Framework). The students will use the framework on a real-life environmental conflict case of their own choice. The student will identify the critical features of the situation and design a balanced negotiation process proposal tailored to address the specific challenges of the chosen conflict.

The course content is distributed at two distinctly different levels: A) the personal level, and B) the process level:

A) The emphasis on the personal level comes from the recognition that the environment, land use/urban planning and natural resource management professions involve an inevitable component of conflict-laden decisionmaking. Often they act in conflicted situations be it as part of political decision making, public or private management or in relation to an involved, often antagonistic general public. The course presents current theory and an analytical framework on how to constructively manage complex and conflict laden public policy and planning situations - as seen from a public planning or private organization or stakeholder perspective. The course address the following specific themes: Discourse, Culture, Institutions, Power, Capacity, Incentives, Cognition and a number of Social Psychological Factors - all of importance for process design. Further, the role of learning, expert knowledge as well as local/indigenous knowledge is imphasized. The course provides theory, analytical tools and skills for the students. The students project work starts with an initial context assessment by use of the analytical framework. Guided by their assessment the students get a personal experience with selected theories and tools in order to analyse and develop appropriate strategies and design culturally sensitive processes for the specific situation at hand. To supplement this hands-on experience from project work a series of lectures presents an overview over the course theory, analytical frameworks and tools. Student seminars, group-exercises, discussions or role plays in combination with individual work provide a basis for students personal development and reflection on own skills, capabilities and potentials with regard to conflict analysis and management.

B) The second level that this course operates on addresses culturally appropriate process design. The participants in this course will come from many different countries with many different political systems. It is not possible to teach them a universal approach to conflict management that will be equally successful in all of the countries in which they may be employed. The second major focus of the course is therefore to develop in the students the awareness of political culture and the ways in which that context must inform their efforts to design processes that can integrate complex scientific issues and sensitive social values is a way that leads to innovative outcomes in natural resource decision making. The course uses concrete cases from natural resource management in Euro-American as well as developing countries contexts. Through exercises and project work the students can try various tools and approaches to conflict assessment, context analysis and development of context specific management strategies. Part of the analysis also concerns social psychological factors as well as cognitive aspects of the situation and the peculiar groups/individuals involved. A series of broad principles will be a focal point of the course, but the students’ core learning task will be to apply those principles in a flexible and integrative fashion to a case of their choosing.

The course design and objectives have been constructed to response to the unique challenges and learning opportunity that a broadly international student population creates. The specific content will to some degree be adapted to the expressed learning needs and particular interests of the actual group of students and the political and institutional cultures they represent.

Learning Outcome

The aim of the course is to develop the students personal conflict management and facilitation skills. A specific focus will be held on environmental conflict - as found in various cultural and socio-political contexts around the World. The aim is to learn how to assess and analyse such environmental conflict situations. Based on the assesment and analysis students will learn how to make strategies and design culturally sensitive processes for negotiation decision making and public involvement.

After completing the course, the students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate understanding of the best practices of environmental conflict management, and relate those practices to their own personal communication, conflict style, and professional effectiveness - thus extending the knowledge students may have aquired in the Conflict Management course (LFKK10265U) at Science. 

2. Demonstrate comprehension of the complex nature of environmental conflict management situations.

Competence and Skills
1. Enact essential conflict management practices, such as key skills of negotiators, facilitators, mediators, assessors, and evaluators.

2. Apply a conflict management process assessment, analysis and design framework to specific cases or situations (at least one of which the student will select).

3. Design comprehensive (multi-party) negotiation and learning processes that can address contentious environmental problems in the specific legal and cultural contexts in which they arise (typically the student’s country of origin or envisioned job future.)

The high degree of cultural sensitivity woven into this course also provides a foundation for students whose career interests are leading them toward international projects, foreign aid and development work.

The course literature includes selected articles and chapters from books on environmental conflict, public policy decision making, collaboration and negotiation. This literature selection is used to extend certain theoretical points and illustrate country-specific dynamics. See Absalon for a specific list of course literature. As an example, the following books have been used in former versions of the course:

Hajer and Wagenaar: Deliberative policy analysis

Forester: Dealing with difference - dramas of mediating public disputes

Gelfand and Brett: The Handbook of negotiation and culture

Coleman, Deutsch and Marcus: The handbook of conflict resolution

To support the students project work a broad selection of optional relevant course literature will be available including conceptual essays and case studies about how to assess and analyse multi-stakeholder environmental conflict situations and how to design negotiation processes sensitive to cultural and institutional aspects - as well as the peculiar individuals and incentives involved in the situation.

This course does not require any specific requirements or particular academic qualifications. However, it should be mentioned that this course has been designed to extend and supplement the content and learning of the Conflict Management Course (LFKK10265U)
The course is composed of alternating lectures, exercises, student seminars and discussions - as well as an individual project report. The lectures give overview of theory/principles, examples of application in practice and make connections between different parts of conflict management. Exercises, student seminars are made, as well as written course assignments, where theory and experiences are translated into practical analysis and advice. The individual project work gives hands-on experience with a specific real life case of own choice.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Guidance
  • 2
  • Lectures
  • 36
  • Practical exercises
  • 12
  • Preparation
  • 48
  • Project work
  • 96
  • Seminar
  • 12
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Various forms of feed-back will be used flexibly each year, e.g. depending on the numbers of students in class. This may imply that not all kínds of the above marked feed-back forms will be used each year.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, To be written during the block
Assessment of the students submitted Individual Project Report.
Exam registration requirements

Successful completion of 1) Personal Communication and Conflict Style Self-assessment and 2) Cultural Conversation and Reflection Note. Both hand-ins must be evaluated "passed" prior to final examination. Finally, the Individual Project Report must be submitted on due time.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

The same as the ordinary exam: Successful completion of 1) Personal Communication and Conflict Style Self-assessment and 2) Cultural Conversation and Reflection Note. Both hand-ins must be submitted two weeks before the re-examination date and evaluated "passed" prior to final re-examination. Finally, the Individual Project Report must be submitted on the specified due time for the re-examination.

Criteria for exam assesment

To obtain the grade of 12 the student must fullfil the Learning Outcome