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The Negotiators

The Negotiators

Author: Doha Debates and Foreign Policy

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Conflicts don’t just get resolved on their own. Most are resolved through a grueling process of give and take, usually behind closed doors. On the podcast The Negotiators, Doha Debates is partnering with Foreign Policy to put listeners in the room. Each episode features the mediators behind the world's most challenging negotiations. You’ll hear about a nuclear standoff, a hostage crisis, a gang mediation, and much more -- successes and failures that shaped people’s lives.

37 Episodes
All manner of the rich and powerful have passed through the doors of the mountaintop Hotel Petersberg in Bonn, Germany. But perhaps never as motley a cast as the one that arrived on November 27, 2001 to negotiate an end to the wars in Afghanistan. Warlords, exiled monarchists, intellectuals, and enemies so fierce, some had already been trying to kill each other for decades. But a key element was missing; The Taliban was not invited. Australian Iranian investigative journalist and author Soraya Lennie got the story from some of the negotiators who were in the room.
We all remember how the story ends, with the fall of Kabul and the return of the Taliban. But in this special seven-episode season of The Negotiators, we’re going back to the beginning, to try to understand why some of the world’s smartest and most experienced negotiators failed for 20 years to mediate a peace deal in Afghanistan.
The Maestro of Mediation

The Maestro of Mediation


William Ury is one of the most famous negotiation experts in the world. He co-wrote the classic book Getting to Yes and co-founded Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. On today’s episode of the Negotiators, our last of the season, Ury describes his role in mediating some of the world’s most difficult conflicts. His forthcoming book, Possible, includes lessons from a long career as an international troubleshooter.  The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
After nine years of war in Yemen, a peace deal finally seems at hand. Representatives of the Houthis met with the Saudis in Riyadh in September, in their first official visit since the war in 2014 began. On today’s episode of The Negotiators, we talk to Yemeni mediators about how they have advanced the peace process and what they think is needed to end the war. First, host Jenn Williams speaks with Maeen Al-Obaidi, one of the most successful local negotiators in Yemen, about how she has helped facilitate hundreds of prisoner exchanges. Then we hear from Farea Al-Muslimi, a Gulf regional expert at Chatham House and co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.
The staggering violence between Israelis and Palestinians over the past month has rekindled a question long vexing professionals in the negotiating business: Why have efforts to mediate peace between the two sides failed again and again? To explore that question, we look back to an initiative 20 years ago known as the road map, which seemed to hold particular promise. Sponsored by some of the world’s major players—The United States, Russia, The United Nations and the European Union—the road map sketched out a two-year path to peace that included independence for the Palestinians and security assurances for Israel. But, like previous peace plans, this one also was never implemented. Peter Bartu was a political adviser to the United Nations in Jerusalem at the time and helped mediate between Israelis and Palestinians. The story he tells on the show this week provides a forensic analysis of one particular plan that failed. But it also helps explain a broader history of diplomatic failures in the region. One of Bartu’s revelations: British Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed the United States to accept the road map in exchange for supporting the United States’ invasion of Iraq. But once the invasion got underway and troops became bogged down, the U.S. lost interest in the road map.  Bartu is now a Senior Research Scholar at the University of California Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a Lecturer in the school’s Global Studies program.  The Negotiators, hosted by Foreign Policy’s Jenn Williams, is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
The Colorado River provides water to about 40 million people in seven U.S. states, 30 Native American tribes, and northern Mexico. But because of climate change, the river has become significantly drier in recent decades. On today’s episode of The Negotiators, we hear how the U.S. states and Native American tribes reached a historic agreement in May to reduce water consumption by 13 percent—after an excruciating negotiation. This is Part 2 in our look at negotiations over the Colorado River. Reporter Luke Runyon, who covered the talks for NPR member station KUNC, is our guest on the show. He also hosts Thirst Gap, a podcast about the Colorado River. Runyon interviewed some of the key negotiators for our podcast. He shares his insights with host Jenn Williams.  The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
You may have heard about the Colorado River negotiations that ended in May. In a monumentally important agreement, several U.S. states along the Colorado River agreed to cut water use. We will cover that deal in next week’s show.  But for today’s episode of The Negotiators, we hear about an earlier round of Colorado River talks between the United States and Mexico. These binational talks from 2007 to 2012 tell us something about resource scarcity and the delicate negotiations required to address the issue.  Bruno Verdini, a negotiation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, followed the talks closely and interviewed just about everyone involved for his book Winning Together: The Natural Resource Negotiation Playbook. Host Jenn Williams talks to Verdini about how the agreement not only reduced water consumption but also benefited each side in multiple ways.  The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, who passed away five years ago, was one of the most famous diplomats of his time. On today’s episode of The Negotiators, we hear about Annan’s mediation of a Kenyan political crisis in 2008—which stands out as one of his most impressive acts of diplomacy. A disputed election in late December 2007 spurred violence and displacement across Kenya. A number of diplomats tried to mediate an end to the conflict. But ultimately, Kofi Annan along with Graça Machel, politician and wife to the late Nelson Mandela, and Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, were asked to negotiate an end to the violence and a peaceful transition of power.  Meredith Preston McGhie was an aide to Annan during this mediation. She was also the Africa director at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. She describes how Annan approached the negotiations, including garnering Kenyan and international support for the process. McGhie, currently the Secretary General for the Global Center for Pluralism, told her story to our senior producer Laura Rosbrow-Telem. The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
The Writers Guild of America struck a deal recently with Hollywood studios, ending one of the longest strikes in the union’s history.  Ellen Stutzman, Assistant Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America West, was the union’s chief negotiator in the talks. She is our guest this week on The Negotiators.  The interview, conducted by our senior producer Laura Rosbrow-Telem, is the most extensive one Stutzman has given since the deal was reached. The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Gang violence in Los Angeles surged dramatically in the 1980s. Over a seven-year period beginning in 1985, more than 4,000 people died from gang-related clashes. That’s more than the death toll in some high-profile conflicts around the world, including the Troubles in Northern Ireland. On the latest episode of The Negotiators podcast, we look at the Watts truce in 1992—a peace agreement between rival gangs in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. It had a significant impact: Gang-related murders reportedly dropped 44 percent in Watts in the first two years after the treaty was signed. Aqeela Sherrills grew up in Watts and was one of the key negotiators of the truce. He is currently the co-founder and leader of the Community-Based Public Safety Collective, and recently partnered with the White House on preventing gun violence. He shared his story with Negotiators host Jennifer Williams.  The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
This bonus episode from the podcast The Closer is a complement to our recent episode about the U.S. Soccer equal pay negotiations. While the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is among the most decorated teams in the game, until recently, its players were paid only a fraction of what the men took home.  On The Negotiators, you heard from Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, about the role she played in the fight for equal pay. On this episode of The Closer, you’ll hear from sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who built a career out of representing some of the most high-profile athletes in labor disputes with professional leagues. He takes us inside the team’s strategy and reveals how they got the deal done. The Closer is a show from our talented friends at Project Brazen. While The Negotiators tends to focus on diplomacy, The Closer spotlights the world of business. Hosted by Aimee Keane, an award-winning financial journalist, The Closer reveals the inside story of the deals that changed the world, as told by the people who know how they all went down. Their next season starts airing in a few weeks, so go ahead and follow them wherever you get your podcasts.
For the first time in U.S. soccer history, the men’s and women’s national teams are getting paid at the same rate. That’s the result of a grueling negotiation that ended last year, led by Cindy Parlow Cone—a former professional player who became the U.S. Soccer Federation President.   On the latest episode of The Negotiators podcast, Cone describes how far apart the two sides were at the start and how they reached an agreement. She spoke with producer Karen Given. The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Our podcast The Negotiators launches its third season this week with a look at one of the most famous diplomatic deals ever: the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.  Jonathan Powell was UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief negotiator for the Good Friday Talks. He was also Blair’s newly appointed chief of staff. In an interview on the podcast, he describes the painstaking negotiations that led to the deal—followed by years of additional diplomacy over its implementation.  Powell now advises other groups and governments about resolving their conflicts, with his nonprofit Inter Mediate. He told his story to our senior producer, Laura Rosbrow-Telem.  As with all peace talks, there are multiple perspectives to the Good Friday negotiations. We encourage listeners to seek out other sources. We’ve included some links in our show notes. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy and is hosted by Jenn Williams.
The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. U.S. soccer negotiations for gender parity. How Kofi Annan mediated a political crisis in Kenya.  The Negotiators podcast is back on Sep. 19 with all new stories from people resolving some of the world’s most dramatic conflicts. Hosted by Jenn Williams, the Negotiators is a production of Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
President Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START agreement with the United States. Putin’s move puts the last remaining nuclear arms deal between the two countries into question. Last season, we spoke with the chief U.S. envoy to the New START talks, Rose Gottemoeller. She shares the grueling process of negotiating that treaty—which was finally signed in 2010. Even as Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Russia continued to abide by that same New START deal. Till now.  In case you missed it the first time, here is an encore presentation of that episode.
Earlier this year, a British Pakistani man took several people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas—including the congregation’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker. During the 11-hour saga, FBI negotiators posted outside tried to persuade the gunman to come out quietly. Meanwhile, another kind of negotiation was happening inside the temple’s walls: between the rabbi and the hostage taker. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, Rabbi Cytron-Walker describes how he tried to humanize himself and the other congregation members in order to stay alive. Cytron-Walker told his story to our show’s senior producer, Laura Rosbrow-Telem.  This is our last episode of the season. We’ll be back soon with more negotiator stories. If you have an idea for a Negotiators episode, feel free to email us at  The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
The negotiations that led to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union lasted more than four years. During that grueling process, three different prime ministers came and went in Britain, shifting positions and occasionally roiling the talks. The one constant was Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner in charge of Brexit talks.  This week on our podcast The Negotiators, Barnier tells host Jenn Williams about challenges he faced in the talks, including one that couples often confront in divorce proceedings: how to dismantle the partnership and still retain a measure of goodwill. Barnier has published a diary he kept during Brexit. For his full story, we recommend reading My Secret Brexit Diary: A Glorious Illusion. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
The uprising in Libya that ended Muammar Qaddafi’s long reign in 2011 was supposed to provide a path to stability. Instead, the country descended into civil war, with regional powers vying for influence and resources. An election brokered by the United Nations last year was called off at the last moment and the sides to the conflict remain at an impasse. But while official negotiations have stalled, one peace group decided this past summer to bring opponents together in Norway, where they would try to find a way forward. The group, Together We Build It, has been working on peace and security issues since 2011, in part by engaging more women and young Libyans in the process. While the Norway talks were held largely behind closed doors, reporter Amira Karaoud attended the conference and interviewed the participants.  Karaoud, who is originally from Tunisia, is featured in the latest episode of The Negotiators, a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Criminal justice advocates have tried for decades to pass legislation to reduce the United States prison population. Yet somehow, at a moment when the United States felt more polarized than ever, lawmakers managed to agree on a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill during Donald Trump’s presidency. It was called the First Step Act and it reduced the sentences of thousands of incarcerated people in federal prisons.  This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we talk to Jessica Jackson, a lawyer and one of the key advocates for the First Step Act. She and political commentator Van Jones co-founded the group #Cut50, which helped advocate for the legislation. In this episode, Jackson tells host Jenn Williams how she convinced politicians from both parties to support the bill.  For the full story on the First Step Act negotiations, we recommend watching the upcoming documentary The First Step, out in U.S. theaters in early 2023.
When Chileans were asked in a referendum in 2020 whether they wanted a new constitution, the response was overwhelming. The current one dated back to the rule of Augusto Pinochet, the military dictator who had stepped down more than three decades earlier. Nearly eighty percent of the population voted in favor of a negotiation that would lead to a new charter for the country. But the negotiation process—which included representatives from the left and right side of the political map, along with dozens of independents—was rocky from the start. Delegates introduced many lofty ideas but the actual give-and-take required to produce a consensus was missing. Voters rejected a draft of the new constitution in September—by a large margin. This week on our podcast, The Negotiators, we examine what went wrong, with the help of John Bartlett, a reporter based in Santiago, Chile. Bartlett covered the constitutional convention and interviewed many of the key players. The Negotiations is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Comments (18)

Mandana Taheri

Nov 30th

Ms. C

Great topic and discussion!!! Would like to know if Mr. Sherrills is still active and meeting with groups to address the issue(s) of black on black crime that persists currently in 2023? Thank You for this presentation...we need more discussions/presentations such as this. Mr. Aqeela Sherrills has given me hope!!!! Again, Thank You Ms. Host and Mr. Sherrills.

Oct 11th

Saith Ammar

The negotiation process for Chile's new constitution aimed to be inclusive, with representatives from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum, as well as independent voices. However, the initial lofty ideals put forward by delegates were accompanied by a lack of effective give-and-take necessary to reach a consensus. The divergence of opinions and conflicting interests among the delegates hindered progress and impeded the creation of a cohesive draft that could garner broad support.

Jun 27th

Saith Ammar

Conflict resolution is a complex and intricate process that often takes place away from the public eye. In the podcast "The Negotiators," a collaborative effort between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy, listeners are provided a unique opportunity to step into the room where some of the world's most challenging negotiations occur. Through captivating storytelling, this podcast delves into the experiences of mediators who have played pivotal roles in resolving conflicts that have shaped lives and nations. From high-stakes nuclear standoffs to delicate hostage crises and gang mediations, "The Negotiators" offers a deep dive into the give and take that underlies successful conflict resolution.

Jun 1st

David Vega

we need to put 2 police officers that are already on the payroll in every school in newyork city and newyork state in order to save children and teachers from school shooters...

May 20th
Reply (2)

sonaer kronie

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May 6th

Jenny Adams

I am from Colleyville loved this episode. How G-d placed the person placed as Rabbi with training for such a time as this! Loved this episode!

Apr 14th

rory gehman

The podcast gives real insight into those Americans who betray both the United States and our alliance with Israel in the shameful capitulation to Iran

Jan 4th

Basit Golnawaz


Nov 7th

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Oct 12th

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Oct 11th

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Oct 11th

Lamine Bamba


Oct 4th
Reply (1)

Patrick Neal

The podcast gives real insight into those Americans who betray both the United States and our alliance with Israel in the shameful capitulation to Iran.

Oct 26th

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Oct 21st