Conference Schedule

Thursday, April 14

Location: Fitts Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Inaugural Keynote Panel: Negotiating Hostage Situations

Moderator:  Professor Claire Finkelstein

Panelists: Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, Ambassador John Limbert, Dr. Adam Dolnik

Following on recent stories and policy developments concerning hostage situations, this expert panel will discuss the ethical and legal dimensions of negotiating with hostage takers in the context of transnational conflict. Is it ethically permissible to negotiate with hostage-takers, especially when there is reason to expect that such negotiations will encourage further hostage-taking?  Is it ethical to refuse to negotiate with hostage-takers in the name of a policy of deterrence?  Are the types of hostage-taking tactics, such as barricading, kidnapping, and hijacking, relevant to the question of whether to negotiate? Is the strategic or political motivation of the hostage-takers relevant?  Does the act of negotiating with such groups lend legitimacy to their movements and organizations?  Are there obligations owed to a nation’s citizens when they are taken hostage?  Are there obligations owed to a government’s representatives captured while serving?  Do private citizens, family members, or associated organizations have the right to negotiate for those taken hostage? What role does rational choice theory play in hostage negotiations?

Free and Open to the Public

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm Cocktail Reception

Friday, April 15

Location: Bogle Chairman’s Room, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

8:30 am - 9:15 am Registration and Breakfast
9:15 am - 9:30 am Welcome Remarks: Professor Claire Finkelstein

9:30 am - 10:45 am


Session 1: Bargaining with the Devil: When Is It Unethical to Negotiate?

Moderator: Professor Claire Finkelstein

Looking to historical examples to frame the conversation, this panel will explore some of the essential questions concerning when it is morally acceptable to negotiate.  Should the US and Allied forces have negotiated with Hitler?  Should the US or other parties negotiate with ISIS?  At what point is negotiation no longer an option?  What actions might disqualify a potential negotiation partner?  Where is the line drawn between negotiation and force, if it is drawn at all, and is it drawn on moral or pragmatic grounds?

10:45 am - 11:15 am Break

11:15 am - 12:30 pm


Session 2: Negotiating with Non-State Actors

Moderator: Mr. Jamil N. Jaffer

This panel will address the challenge that non-state actors, such as ISIS, pose to the Westphalian view of sovereignty reflected in the international legal order and modern international affairs.  Do states have moral or legal obligations to negotiate with these groups in the same way they might with traditional states?  Does it matter whether a non-state actor is engaged in an insurgency for political control over a state or is engaged in terrorist tactics to advance a broader ideological platform?  Does it matter whom the group targets, e.g., military personnel or civilians?  If non-state actors are organized in fractious ways, should their military defeat or surrender take priority over a negotiated settlement?  How might these considerations shape the decision to negotiate?

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


Keynote Address: Professor Steven Brams The Win-Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody

1:30 pm - 2:45 pm

Session 3: Negotiating Across Religious, Cultural, and Moral Differences

Moderator: Professor Kevin H. Govern

This panel considers the challenges raised by religious, cultural, and moral differences between negotiating parties. How do different cultures understand and value the choice between negotiating, providing training and advisory assistance, and using force? What special challenges emerge when a state that adheres to just war principles, the Law of War, and human rights as provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights confronts a state or non-state actor that does not? More broadly, what are we to make of the fact that no state or non-state actor consistently conforms to a fixed set of principles about libertarian human rights or when or how to fight? How can parties to a negotiation work within a shared framework given the significant cultural, religious, moral and legal differences that exist between and within states and that shape conflicting concepts of legitimacy?

2:45 pm - 3:00 pm


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Dennis Ross

Location: Kirby Auditorium, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Free and Open to the Public - More Information Here

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Cocktail Reception - Invited Participants Only

Location: The Racquet Club of Philadelphia, 215 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Dinner - Invited Participants Only

Location: The Racquet Club of Philadelphia, 215 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Keynote Address: Professor Stuart Diamond


Saturday, April 16

Location: Bogle Chairman’s Room, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

8:30 am - 9:15 am Breakfast

9:15 am - 10:30 am


Session 4: The Utility and Morality of Secret Negotiations

Moderator: Professor Brendan O’Leary

Following the work of Robert Putnam, this panel explores how transparently and democratically conducted negotiations occur on two levels, the domestic and the international. How does this dynamic disrupt the negotiation process, given how strong minority viewpoints can steer conversations and how otherwise unrelated issues can become attached to a negotiation?  Is it problematic, particularly in a democracy, to conduct negotiations in secret or behind closed doors?  Should democracies reject secret negotiations on principle? Or are there moral and ethical considerations that would lead a state to conduct negotiations in secret, knowing that its democratic process could stand in the way of peace or the greater good?  Could Kissinger’s secret trips to China, for instance, have transformed US-China relations the way they did if they had been conducted under public scrutiny? Did such secret diplomacy nonetheless undercut democratic values?

10:30 pm - 11:00 am


11:00 am - 12:45 pm


Session 5: Preventive Diplomacy

Moderator: Professor Marie Isabelle Chevrier

This panel considers whether states have an obligation to negotiate before resorting to the use of force.  What if they have strong reason to believe in the imminence of an attack by another state or a non-state actor?  Do third-party interventions or mediations infringe too greatly on the political independence of states, particularly in a civil conflict where a population’s right to self-determination may be at stake?

12:45 pm - 2:15 pm


Keynote Address: Mr. Niall O’Dowd

2:15 pm - 3:30 pm



Session 6: Negotiating Around Armageddon: Are Nuclear Negotiations Special?

Moderator: Mr. Richard Nephew

This panel explores whether negotiations in the nuclear context—from the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960’s to the recent deal with Iran—take on special considerations all their own. Should the potential for mass destruction change the way we think about negotiations in this context? In the event of a nuclear standoff, does the potential for global annihilation require us to find a deal at any cost?