Interview with Pierre Najlis
Former Chief, Energy and Natural Resources Branch
United Nations Department for Policy Coordination & Sustainable Development
(This interview was conducted in 2002. Mr. Pierre Najlis retired in 1999.)
During his tenure as Chief of the Energy and Natural Resources Branch of the United Nations Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, Pierre was involved in a number of activities concerning water and sanitation policy coordination among member countries. Before retiring in 1999, he was also a key member of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Commission.
Most Important IPMS Lessons
The aspect of his IPMS experience that Pierre feels most strongly about is the heightened sensitivity he acquired with regard to the dynamics that influence the negotiation process.
Applying IPMS Lessons
As a result of this increased sensitivity to negotiation dynamics, Pierre developed new insights on the exchanges that he witnessed while serving on the Sustainable Development Commission. During many policy coordination meetings, he noted a deep distrust on the part of developing country representatives toward their developed country counterparts. According to Pierre, this distrust was fostered by the imposition of regional water charters, pricing schemes, and shared resource arrangements for which no substantial consultations had been made with developing country representatives. Consequently, despite the degree to which these representatives favored such water policy proposals, they did not openly endorse them because of their dissatisfaction with their involvement in the policy development process. Pierre points out that this lack of consensus-building and the mistrust that it created led many developing country representatives to mask their real interests with respect to water resources policy.
Suggestions for Improving IPMS
Pierre encourages IPMS facilitators to give participants as much time as possible to absorb critical background material in preparation for the more complex simulations. Having adequate time to read the background material can further improve each participant’s understanding of the context in which each negotiation takes place. Pierre feels that Dr. Lawrence Susskind’s facilitation of the oil pricing game was particularly effective at illustrating the effectiveness of the mutual gains approach.
He also believes that IPMS should continue to explore ways to encourage participants to adopt their respective simulation roles as ardently as they might under real world circumstances. In Pierre’s estimation, adopting vigorous stances during the games leads to healthy levels of disagreement, which in turn create an atmosphere that gives participants the greatest insight into the interpersonal dynamics of negotiation.
Suggestions for Other SCF Activities
Pierre envisions a regional IPMS-type programme as being particularly beneficial for achieving greater homogeneity in the language used for communication during lectures and games. At the same time, social or cultural diversity among participants would ensure a multiplicity of perspectives necessary to understand the dynamics of conflict. In addition, a regionalized programme can allow substantive issues to be more relevant to the region in which it is based. Pierre also points out that it is important to consider the implications such a programme may have for a decentralized management structure.
Furthermore, he suggests that IPMS expand its contact with other organizations working on global sustainability issues in the water sector, such as the Water Resources branch of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Global Water Partnership. Pierre also feels that the Minister of the Environment of Nicaragua would also benefit greatly from participation in IPMS or similar programs.