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By: Mark Anstey

Breaking Through: Negotiating Impasses

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Life is a process of mutual persuasion. Whatever our walk of life much of our everyday energy in interpersonal, intergroup and international relations is directed at trying to get others to do as we want, to change their behavior or beliefs. Change can evoke resistance, tensions rise, people find themselves in conflicts they cannot see a way out of. They precondition talks; become entrapped by escalation dynamics; struggle to listen effectively; misjudge one another’s intentions, capacity, commitment or competencies; and make choices whose consequences they haven’t thought through. Current and future relations become marooned on unresolved issues from the past.  Some see better returns in perpetuating than resolving differences. Predatory neighbours and difficult political, social and economic conditions reduce the wriggle room for creative problem-solving. 


Drawing on 35 years of experience as a mediator in a changing South Africa, as a conflict scholar, and as a trainer across over 30 countries Mark Anstey shares insights into how people have broken through such impasses. 

Mark Anstey grew up in Zimbabwe, working there briefly before moving to South Africa in 1977. This book draws on his learning as an academic, but more especially on insights he acquired in the multiple labour and community mediations, strategic planning and relationship building processes he facilitated in South Africa between 1984 and 2019. He has over forty years of experience in training business leaders, trade unionists, social workers, educationists, community and political activists, police officers, government officials and diplomats in negotiation and mediation.


He served on South Africa’s National Peace Accord structures during the nation’s political transition and was Director of Monitoring (Eastern Cape) for the Independent Electoral Commission in its historic 1994 elections.


He is an Emeritus Professor of Nelson Mandela University (where he lectured from 1987–2017); a Senior Academy Associate of Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations; a member of the Steering Committee of the Processes of International Negotiation (PIN) Program; and a senior fellow with the University of Kent’s Conflict Analysis Research Centre.


He was a Professor with Michigan State University in Dubai (2008–11) and has taught at the Universities of Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Kent. He holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (Witwatersrand) and PhD in labour relations/organisational behaviour (University of Port Elizabeth).


He has worked with people struggling through conflict situations across Africa, the Middle East, the Philippines, as well as Europe and North America. His books include: Negotiating Reconciliation in Peace-making: Quandaries of Relationship Building with Valerie Rosoux (Springer 2017); The Slippery Slope to Genocide: Reducing Identity Conflicts and Preventing Mass Murder with William Zartman and Paul Meerts (Oxford University Press 2012); Managing Change, Negotiating Conflict (Juta 2006) three editions 1991–2006; and Collective Bargaining in the Workplace (2011) with John Grogan and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.


His earlier books include: Employee Participation and Workplace Forums (1997); Practical Peace-making (1993); Worker Participation: South African Options and Experiences (1990) and Working with Groups (1983) all through Jutas, Cape Town.



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