At the end of the first game session, the players and the trainer appeared to have a different conception of the role-play. While the trainer had chosen facilitation as an alternative dispute resolution, the players believed to be expected to act as state representatives in a negotiation process on an agreement on transboundary water management of the Chu-Talas Basin. Summarizing the course of the role-play, the first part could be described as a guided tour through the past and present of the Chu-Talas Basin. The session became considerably more interactive while playing present and future. Due to the lack of detailed regional and historical knowledge of the players about the Chu-Talas, the first session was mainly driven by the facilitator with strong support from the observers and the audience.
Evaluation and assessment of the session:
The players were only able to formulate clear positions (see above) only in the third time span and, at the end, a shared vision. There was no direct communication between the players. All the player statements were repeated by the facilitator (trainer) and presented to the other country delegates or the audience for comments. Generally speaking, the freedom of the players to explore different management options was limited since historical epochs were enacted that had to lead eventually to the present status of cooperation.
- No written information was given to the players in advance for possible preparation of their roles. Background information was given in the keynote and introductory speeches [PDF format - 311 KB] and in off-stage conversations with the observers, and the specialists of the region.
- The trainer considered the members of the audience as 'active players' and assigned them different and often changing roles.
- The trainer, the observers, the keynote speaker and the audience often intervened to stress the importance of a topic or to present their own, often contrasting, view of the discussed topic. The keynote speaker and the trainer intervened to clarify some aspects of water resources management. They acted as a neutral, independent 'clearing house of information' or 'living knowledge base' for regional and historical issues. Their contributions helped to nuance the feasibility of some of the options proposed by the players.
- The trainer succeeded in addressing all important topics related to the Chu-Talas Basin by attributing different roles to the players. He thus 'forced' the players and the audience to recognize issues that wouldn't otherwise have been addressed in the case of permanent roles.
- The choice of facilitation as ADR-method proved to be successful as a tool to develop shared visions.
The chair invited the observers to comment on the role-play and on the bilateral dialogue process itself. They agreed that the process of bilateral dialogue was not as simple and relaxed as demonstrated in the role-playing game process.
Additionally, the players and the audience made the following comments:
- 'When the role-play game was introduced, I thought that the role-play was to be a process of negotiation, but it was different. It made the task of the players more difficult because we didn't anticipate the continuation of the game.'
- 'On the one hand it was interesting to switch roles but, on the other hand, the fact that I couldn't identify myself with a role made it also more complicated.'
- 'It was interesting to play. I learned a lot and obtained knowledge about a formerly unknown basin. I met interesting people.'
- 'I learned to identify several ways to deal with problems.'
- 'There is already a friendly basis of cooperation between the countries. There isn't a real conflict situation, which makes it harder for players to pronounce them in favour or against the issues raised during the role-play.'
- 'Instead of trying to play the history of the region, the basin and both states, it would have been better to listen to a lecture about the historical background and concentrate on playing the present.'
- 'The public was integrated actively into the role-play by taking over different roles, e.g. acting as a scientific expert for the Kyrgyz Government or as an environmental activist in Kazakhstan. This was very welcomed by all.'
Finally, the last word was reserved for the actual Kyrgyz and Kazakh representatives:
- 'Despite a lack of information in the keynote speech, the players delivered a good performance, developing interesting strategies to solve the problems.'
- 'The decisions made by the players reflect the process and the content of decision-making in reality.'
- 'The players could act more freely than the "observers" can act in reality. It seems to be easier to solve problems in a role-game.'
:: See keynote on main characteristics of the basin [PDF format - 311 KB]
:: See role-play