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The Paris climate agreement. The Iran nuclear deal. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign. How did these deals get made? On The Negotiators, each episode will feature one person telling the story of one dramatic negotiation. Hosted by Jenn Williams, The Negotiators is a production of Foreign Policy and Doha Debates.

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jennifer-williams-foreign-policy-negotiators-podcast-square

About our host: Jennifer Williams is a deputy editor at Foreign Policy and the host of The Negotiators. Before joining FP, she was the senior foreign editor at Vox and co-host of Worldly, Vox’s weekly foreign affairs podcast.

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Season 2

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Executive producers: Amjad Atallah, Jigar Mehta, and Japhet Weeks  |  Lead producer: Laura Rosbrow-Telem  |  Managing Editor: Dan Ephron   |   Additional support from: Rob Sachs, Rosie Julin, and Maria Ximena Aragon  |  Illustrations by Anuj Shrestha for Foreign Policy

Mickey-Bergman-Negotiators-podcast-square-site
Mickey-Bergman-Negotiators-podcast-square-site

Episode 1

Negotiating an American Journalist’s Freedom From Myanmar, Part 1

Welcome back to The Negotiators, the podcast that brings you stories from mediators, troubleshooters, and negotiators around the world. The show is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy, hosted by FP deputy editor Jenn Williams. We begin our second season with a dramatic prisoner negotiation. Danny Fenster is an American journalist who covered the coup in Myanmar in 2021. Months later, while trying to leave the country for a visit with his family in the United States, he was arrested at the airport in Yangon and eventually charged with sedition. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In this two-part story, we hear from Mickey Bergman, who helped negotiate Fenster’s release. Bergman is the vice president and executive director of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a charitable organization that helps Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned around the world. On the show, he describes the grueling process of making the right connections in Myanmar and negotiating the deal—at times over the objections of the U.S. State Department. This isn't Bergman's first time on the show. On episode 4 of season 1, he described negotiating a complicated prisoner exchange with Iran.

Episode 2

Negotiating an American Journalist’s Freedom From Myanmar, Part 2

This is part two of negotiator Mickey Bergman’s story about Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was serving an 11-year prison sentence in Myanmar. In the first episode, Bergman described how much work it took to get to the gatekeepers. In this second part, he and his boss, Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, are finally in Myanmar for the secret talks.
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Cathy-Blackstock-First-Nations-Canada-Negotiators-foreign-policy-podcast-FP-site-square

Episode 3

How a Band of Activists Negotiated a CA$40 Billion Settlement for Canada’s Indigenous Children

For decades, Canadian activists have criticized the government in Ottawa for underfunding Indigenous communities, leading to various harms and hardships. The activists, led by Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, sued the Canadian government in 2007, claiming that federal underfunding prompted First Nations children to end up in foster care in large numbers once residential schools were closed. The court battle dragged on for 15 years. But this January, the federal government offered to pay 40 billion Canadian dollars (about $32 billion) to Indigenous children and families harmed by the child welfare system. It was the largest-ever proposed class action settlement in Canadian history—which some people are now calling a form of reparations. This week on The Negotiators podcast, Blackstock sits down with host Jenn Williams to discuss the tactics used in negotiations with the government and the conditions that led to a successful settlement.
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Burkina-Faso-terrorism-Negotiators-podcast-square-site

Episode 4

Negotiating With Insurgents in Burkina Faso

Late last month, military officers in Burkina Faso seized power in the country’s second coup this year. In both cases, the main justification was the leadership’s failure to curb violence from groups linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda. The insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about 10 percent of the population. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we tell the story of one community leader in Burkina Faso who set out to negotiate with the insurgents so that members of his community could return to their homes. His story might be familiar to people who follow conflicts in other areas—including Afghanistan—where, in the absence of a broader peace process, people at the local level engage in their own small-scale diplomacy. Journalist Sam Mednick, who covered these community-led negotiations in Burkina Faso for the New Humanitarian, reports this episode with us. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
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New-Start-Rose-Gottemoeller-Negotiators-podcast-square-site

Episode 5

What It Took to Negotiate a Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia

In 2009, the last nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia was about to expire. The START-1 agreement, and others like it, had helped protect people around the globe from the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between the world’s two superpowers. Barack Obama, who became president that year, was eager to get a new deal in place.

On the latest episode of The Negotiators podcast, we hear from the chief U.S. envoy to the New START talks, Rose Gottemoeller, about the grueling process of negotiating that treaty—which was finally signed in 2010. Even now, as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Russia continues to abide by that same New START deal. Gottemoeller was interviewed by our senior producer, Laura Rosbrow-Telem.

The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.

-Chilean Constitution Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite
-Chilean Constitution Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite

Episode 6

Chileans Wanted a New Constitution, but Negotiators Failed Them

When Chileans were asked in a referendum in 2020 whether they wanted a new constitution, the response was overwhelming. The current one dated back to the rule of Augusto Pinochet, the military dictator who had stepped down three decades earlier. Nearly 80 percent of the population voted in favor of a negotiation that would lead to a new charter for the country. But the negotiation process—which included representatives from the left and right, along with dozens of independents—was rocky from the start. Delegates introduced many lofty ideas, but the actual give-and-take required to produce a consensus was missing. Voters rejected a draft of the new constitution in September—by a large margin. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we examine what went wrong, with the help of John Bartlett, a reporter based in Santiago, Chile. Bartlett covered the constitutional convention and interviewed many of the key players. The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
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Jessica-Jackson-Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite

Episode 7

Negotiating a Criminal Justice Bill Across Party Lines

Criminal justice advocates have tried for decades to pass legislation to reduce the U.S. prison population. Yet somehow, at a moment when the United States felt more polarized than ever, lawmakers managed to agree on a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill during Donald Trump’s presidency. It was called the First Step Act, and it reduced the sentences of thousands of incarcerated people in federal prisons. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we talk to Jessica Jackson, a lawyer and one of the key advocates for the First Step Act. She and political commentator Van Jones co-founded the group #Cut50, which helped advocate for the legislation. In this episode, Jackson tells host Jenn Williams how she convinced both Republicans and Democrats to support the bill. For the full story on the First Step Act negotiations, we recommend watching the upcoming documentary The First Step, out in theaters in the United States in early 2023.
Photo: Paul Patrick Borhaug/Utøya
Photo: Paul Patrick Borhaug/Utøya

Episode 8

Inside the Youth-Led Fight for Peace in Libya

The uprising in Libya that ended Muammar al-Qaddafi’s long reign in 2011 was supposed to provide a path to stability. Instead, the country descended into civil war, with regional powers vying for influence and resources. An election brokered by the United Nations last year was called off at the last moment, and the sides to the conflict remain at an impasse. But while official negotiations have stalled, one peace group decided this summer to bring opponents together in Norway, where they would try to find a way forward. The group, Together We Build It, has been working on peace and security issues since 2011, in part by engaging more women and young Libyans in the process. While the Norway talks were held largely behind closed doors, reporter Amira Karaoud attended the conference and interviewed the participants. Karaoud, who is originally from Tunisia, is featured in the latest episode of The Negotiators, a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
Barnier-Brexit-Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite
Barnier-Brexit-Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite

Episode 9

Inside the Turbulent Negotiations Over Brexit

The negotiations that led to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union lasted more than four years. During that grueling process, Britain had three prime ministers, who sometimes shifted positions and occasionally roiled the talks. The one constant was Michel Barnier, the European commissioner in charge of Brexit talks. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, Barnier tells host Jenn Williams about challenges he faced in the talks, including one that couples often confront in divorce proceedings: how to dismantle the partnership and still retain a measure of goodwill. Barnier has published a diary he kept during Brexit. For his full story, we recommend reading My Secret Brexit Diary: A Glorious Illusion. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.
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Rabbi-Charlie-synagogue-hostage-Negotiators-podcast-square-FPsite – 1

Episode 10

The Art of Hostage Negotiations—When You’re the Hostage

This year, a British Pakistani man took several people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas—including the congregation’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker. During the 11-hour saga, FBI negotiators posted outside tried to persuade the gunman to come out quietly. Meanwhile, another kind of negotiation was happening inside the temple’s walls: between the rabbi and the hostage-taker. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, Rabbi Cytron-Walker describes how he tried to humanize himself and the other congregation members in order to stay alive. Cytron-Walker told his story to our show’s senior producer, Laura Rosbrow-Telem. This is our last episode of the season. We’ll be back soon with more negotiator stories. If you have an idea for a Negotiators episode, feel free to email us at podcasts@foreignpolicy.com. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.

Season 1

Episode 1

Inside the Paris Climate Agreement

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paris-climate-accords-negotiations-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
These days, with the world divided as it is, it’s hard to imagine that just six years ago, more than 195 countries came together and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet that’s precisely what happened in 2015 with the Paris climate agreement. The accord was a landmark achievement, one of the most remarkable in the history of diplomacy. But what do we really know about how it was achieved—how countries, organizations, or individuals reach significant agreements? What really happens behind closed doors? On the first episode, we hear from Tom Rivett-Carnac, who helped bring countries together in Paris. Rivett-Carnac began his adult life as a Buddhist monk and eventually became the senior advisor to Christiana Figueres, who helmed the U.N. talks that led to the climate agreement.

Episode 2

Negotiating a Peace Deal Is Hard. Implementing It Is Harder.

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implementing-a-peace-deal-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
In 2014, the government of the Philippines signed a peace deal with Islamist separatists in the southern part of the country, known as the Bangsamoro region. The agreement brought a gradual end to a conflict that had killed more than 120,000 people since 1978. This week on The Negotiators, we hear from the government official who navigated the talks: Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. She was the first woman ever to lead a negotiation with an armed rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  Coronel-Ferrer was a political science professor before going to work for the government in 2010. One thing that made her effective at negotiating with the rebels was she, herself, had been an anti-government activist during the era of former Filipino strongman Ferdinand Marcos.  

Episode 3

Inside the Grueling Negotiations That Led to the Iran Nuclear Deal

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the-iran-nuclear-deal-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
The Iran nuclear deal is one of the most significant diplomatic agreements in recent history. This week on The Negotiators, we’ll hear the inside story from Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. side of the negotiations as the undersecretary of state for political affairs. She now serves as the deputy secretary of state. This interview was adapted from FP's First Person podcast with Sarah Wildman.  Of course, much has changed since the Iran nuclear deal was reached in 2015. Then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018. To catch us up, host Jenn Williams talks to Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group’s Iran Project director, about where talks stand with Iran these days.  

Episode 4

Inside the Secret Talks That Led to a U.S. Prisoner Exchange With Iran

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iran-hostage-release-mickey-bergman-negotiators-podcast-square-site
International talks aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program are expected to resume later this month, for the first time since Iranian elections in June. It remains unclear whether the United States will participate in the talks, and even if it does, diplomatic breakthroughs between the two countries are rare.  But to mark the occasion, we decided to focus this week’s episode of The Negotiators on one recent example of successful diplomacy between the two countries.  In 2019, when relations were at their lowest point, the Richardson Center for Global Engagement mediated a prisoner swap between the United States and Iran that brought home Xiyue Wang, a Chinese American graduate student.  Mickey Bergman, the center’s vice president and executive director, helped direct the talks. He has also helped bring home other political prisoners, including Otto Warmbier from North Korea. Bergman describes the Iran negotiation on our show this week.

Episode 5

Just How Close Did Israelis and Palestinians Come to a Peace Deal in 2008?

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a-palestinian-peace-negotiator-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas came close to outlining a shared vision of peace between their two nations—closer than the two sides had ever come. But what really happened in those meetings? And why did they fail to clinch a deal?  This week on The Negotiators, we hear from Khaled Elgindy, who served as an advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team during the Annapolis talks. Elgindy is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, where he also directs the program on Palestine and Israeli-Palestinian affairs. His latest book is Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump Also: Host Jenn Williams talks to Govinda Clayton, a conflict resolution expert at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich and a co-creator of The Negotiators. They discuss Elgindy’s story as well as negotiations covered in previous episodes.

Episode 6

From Gang Member to Gang Mediator

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chicago-street-violence-negotiators-podcast-site-square
On the show this week, we hear from a former gang member in Chicago who became an interrupter—a person who intervenes in potentially violent situations to prevent people from getting killed.  Ameena Matthews was born into violence. Her father ran a gang, and her brother was killed on the streets of Chicago.  Eventually, she left that world and joined a group called CeaseFire. The idea was simple: Former gang members used their street cred to mediate conflicts between warring factions.  Matthews is now the executive director of Pause for Peace, an anti-violence organization, and a congressional candidate for Illinois’s 1st District.   

Episode 7

Negotiating With the Taliban

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what-happened-in-afghanistan-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
The Afghan government spent nearly a year trying to reach a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban—until the group’s fighters swept into Kabul this past August. Those negotiations failed to produce a deal, but, in retrospect, they tell us a lot about the Taliban, about why the country fell so quickly, and about what the future holds for Afghanistan.  For an insider’s perspective, we hear this week from Fawzia Koofi, a former Afghan government official, who sat across from Taliban negotiators throughout the talks in Doha, Qatar. Later in the episode, host Jenn Williams speaks with Ashley Jackson, a researcher and author who documented a different kind of negotiation with the Taliban—one that Afghan civilians were having across the country in the past few years with members of the group. Jackson wrote about the phenomenon in her book Negotiating Survival: Civilian-Insurgent Relations in Afghanistan  

Episode 8

The Long Road to Libya’s Election

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starting-a-peace-process-in-libya-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
Libya will hold its first-ever presidential elections on Dec. 24, after decades of dictatorship and years of civil war. The vote marks an important turning point for the country and is due in part to the creative diplomacy conducted there in recent years by the United Nations. On The Negotiators podcast this week, we hear from Stephanie Turco Williams, the former head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, who oversaw much of that process.  Host Jenn Williams also speaks with Hajer Sharief, a prominent peace activist in Libya and a co-founder of the organization Together We Build It. Sharief worries that the fragile peace in the country could yet unravel.  

Episode 9

How a Motley Group of Negotiators Freed the Chibok Schoolgirls

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boko-haram-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square-site
In 2014, members of the Islamist Boko Haram group abducted around 300 mostly Christian girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria, prompting outrage around the world and triggering an unparalleled social media campaign that included A-list celebrities and world leaders. Despite global attention, it ended up taking three years to negotiate the girls’ release. Many of the girls had died by then or were forced into marriages with fighters.  On The Negotiators podcast this week, we hear from Zannah Mustapha, one of the key mediators in the affair. He spent many months building up contacts with the group and winning support from the Nigerian government, which ended up paying ransom money to Boko Haram. We also hear from Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw from the Wall Street Journal, who published a book about the ordeal called Bring Back Our Girls: The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria’s Missing Schoolgirls. The authors analyze how the social media campaign affected the war against Boko Haram and the efforts to release the girls.

Episode 10

How a Finnish Diplomat Negotiated Release of Mothers, Children From Syria

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Islamic-State-Finland-the-negotiators-podcast-foreign-policy-anuj-shrestha-illustration-square
This week on The Negotiators, we hear about a negotiation that should have been easy but turned out to be long and complicated.  Jussi Tanner is an ambassador and special envoy with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In late 2019, he negotiated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, a Kurdish-led area that’s part of Syria but has its own governing body and military units.  Those units helped defeat the Islamic State caliphate in 2019. They now run detention camps in the region, where many former Islamic State fighters and their families are held, including some foreigners. Tanner’s mission was to get the Kurdish-led government to hand over Finnish mothers and children in the camps for repatriation. He thought it would just take a few weeks, but the negotiation lasted for nearly two years.
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