A Container for Creative Contention

William Ury

Director of the Global Negotiation Project, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: That what I was going to ask you, because all this - whether you're on one side or the other, you consider yourself as someone who is advocating for the whole, and you think your way is the best way.

A: Yeah, but the difference between the third side was very well expressed at the conference which was one of the first times where Chavistas and Anti-Chavistas came together at a conference of maybe a hundred people for a day. Some were politicians, legislators, some were civil society, some were from universities, some were young, some were old, women, men, from different sectors, women's groups and so on, church groups, and there was a bishop there who said, "Let me just get three things straight: Number one, the 'other' exists. Number two, the 'other' has interests; they have needs. Number three, the 'other' has power. Whether we like it or not, let's just recognize those three things."

Q: Speaking to both sides?

A: To both sides. And to me, that's the voice of the third side, saying, "Look, both sides exist." The third side has respect for both sides and respect for the whole. The third side is a container for contention -- for creative contention. The third side is a container within which the conflict, the real issues, between the rich and the poor, and so on, can be actively engaged and transformed. In other words, the forum can be transformed from the destructive violence, or terrorism or coups into dialogue, negotiation, democracy. The aim of the third side isn't so much resolution, as the transformation of the conflict.