Enlightened Negotiation: The Way of Implementing UN SDGS

NEGOTIATION… A test of combative power and self-interest? Not necessarily. There’s another path we can choose: enlightened negotiation that is founded on 8 core principles for connecting and co-creating, with a unity of wills to serve the higher good.


In our quest for sustainable development, it is crucial to recognize that human interactions and behaviors are an integral part of our “ecosystems.” Just as the laws of nature govern our natural environment, they also apply to our relationships and interactions. As outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda, the key focus areas are People, Prosperity, and Partnership.

To effectively implement these principles and foster sustainable development, individuals need to cultivate conscious negotiation skills. These skills not only strengthen the means of implementation but also nurture sustainable relationships and enable long-lasting prosperity.

The Enlightened Negotiation approach transcends traditional negotiation methods by integrating principles from various disciplines such as integrative negotiation, emotional intelligence, neuroscience, behavioral sciences, wisdom traditions, and mindfulness practices.

This practical method transcends self-interest and taps into the innate human desire to connect, communicate, and co-create optimal results that maximize collective gain for all parties involved. In this approach, parties thrive in a mindset fueled by enlightened self-interest, replacing the notion of “survival of the fittest” with “thrival of the wisest.”

Effective negotiation not only resolves conflict, but also serves as a preventative approach for potential conflict that might arise. As such, the following laws or principles are universally applicable to negotiations aiming to prevent conflict and ensure peace and security, which are cornerstones of the SDG 2030 Agenda.

To demonstrate the practical application of Enlightened Negotiation, the case of two sibling farmers, Carlos and Carolina have been used. While this case revolves around two individuals, the principles are equally applicable to entities of any kind—corporations, NGOs, independent entities, or governments. Additionally, the subject of negotiation, in this case, the division of a physical inheritance, can be replaced by other resources or services.

Carlos and Carolina, both in their 20s, found themselves faced with the task of dividing their late father’s land inheritance—a situation that typically leads to conflict among heirs. Instead of hastily dividing the land, they chose to apply the principles of Enlightened Negotiation. They embarked on a journey, walking the land side by side, to discover each other’s needs, aspirations, and life purposes.

Carolina expressed her passion for becoming economically independent through making blue corn tortillas, which she knew were in high demand in the village. Carlos, driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, recognized a significant demand for soybeans in the nearby city and envisioned exporting them at a profitable price.

After three weeks of thoughtful discussions, Carlos and Carolina decided against dividing the land. Instead, they agreed to jointly farm the entire land, engaging in a process called intercropping. Carolina grew corn, while Carlos cultivated soybeans. This agreement resulted in a substantial increase in their respective productions. Not only did they create a thriving farming business, but their relationship also grew stronger, setting an example for sustainable agriculture and fostering positive family relations within their community.

Ultimately, achieving the SDGs on a global and local scale requires a collaborative mindset driven by enlightened self-interest. Various industries, policy makers, government agencies, and cultures must co-create with efficiency to ensure their own social, economic, and ecological sustainability. As human beings, we must embrace the science and art of mindful negotiation and collaboration to shape a better future for all.

By mastering the principles of Enlightened Negotiation, individuals can foster sustainable relationships and prosperity. Through conscious negotiation skills, we can strengthen the means of implementation outlined in the SDG’s Agenda, paving the way for inclusive, long-lasting prosperity. Let us embrace the power of collaboration, cultivate our inner wisdom, and co-create a brighter future for ourselves and future generations.

This article is an excerpt from a chapter in the edited book, Evolving Leadership for Collective Wellbeing, Lessons for Implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals