- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

The Great Negotiator: Ambassador Tommy Koh

Summer 2014

Ambassador Tommy Koh, recipient of the 2014 Great Negotiator Award, discussed “Multiparty Deals: The Law of the Sea, the Rio Earth Summit, and the Future of Large Conference Negotiations” during an event in April honoring him for his many successful efforts in large-scale diplomacy. Koh, of Singapore, is the eleventh recipient of the Award, awarded jointly in 2014 by Harvard’s Program on Negotiation (PON) and the Belfer Center’s Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School.

Nicholas Burns, director of the Future of Diplomacy Project, took part in the discussion with Koh along with James Sebenius, professor at Harvard Business School and member of the PON executive committee, and Susan Hackley, managing director of the PON based at Harvard Law School.

The award honors Koh for his work as the chief negotiator for the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, the UN Rio Earth Summit, and other large-scale negotiations.

In a joint statement announcing the award, Sebenius and Burns said: “In honoring Ambassador Koh, we have the unique opportunity to learn from one of the world’s leaders in the practice of large-scale, multiparty conference diplomacy—a complex form of negotiation that will be increasingly needed to forge effective collective responses to a range of global problems.”

Of his success in complex multi-party conference negotiations, Koh said, “The chairman of the conference is both a choreographer and the conductor of an orchestra. You are a choreographer because you have to design a conference structure and then you must marshal the complexity of issues, and determine—like a conductor—who can lead various structures within.”

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For Academic Citation: The Great Negotiator: Ambassador Tommy Koh.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2014).