CENTER FOR ETHICS AND THE RULE OF LAW​

The Ethics of Negotiations in Armed Conflict

Negotiation ConferenceWhen states conduct negotiations in
the shadow of armed conflict, the exercise of diplomacy presents certain unique challenges. Negotiating with “rogue states,” for example, raises the concern that we are helping to legitimize governments and practices we otherwise strongly
condemn. Nonetheless, as some have argued, there may be an obligation to negotiate with such a state when it comes to grave security issues like weapons of mass destruction. How do the alternatives to negotiation impact the moral considerations
involved in dealing with such states? Does negotiating with non-state actors, through official state channels or otherwise, undermine the international order by conferring a legitimacy and authority traditionally granted only to
states? Similarly, when confronted with non-state hostage takers, many governments insist that they will not negotiate.  Recently, however, the Obama administration has indicated that it will no longer bar families of hostages from
paying ransom to kidnappers. How will this shift in policy impact official governmental relations with hostage takers? Does a willingness to deal with hostage takers encourage their behavior? Conversely, is it ethical to refuse to negotiate with
them in the name of deterrence? 

Finally, democracies face expectations of transparency and open public debate. In a democracy, what role should the public play in deciding whether to negotiate? Is secrecy necessary for diplomacy to be effective in certain cases—as with
Kissinger’s trips to China? How might the role of secrecy change with respect to not only other states, but non-state armed groups? The conference will bring together high-level academics, military personnel, diplomats, and policymakers to
engage in a multifaceted conversation on the legal, moral, and practical dimensions of these vital topics. 

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The Ethics of Negotiations in Armed Conflict