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Students share award for writing on dispute resolution

Graduating students in law and engineering have been named co-winners of the 1997 Richard S. Goldsmith Award for the best paper by a Stanford student on dispute resolution.

Peter Bouckaert, who received a law degree on June 15, wrote about negotiations leading to democratization in South Africa. Jeffrey Belkora, who received a doctorate in engineering-economic Systems and operations research, wrote about collaborative decision-making between breast cancer patients and their physicians.

"In a highly competitive year, both of these papers stood out for their potentially important contributions to our understanding of conflict and its resolution," said Kenneth J. Arrow, professor emeritus of economics and the director of the Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation, an interdisciplinary center for the study of conflict and its resolution that administers the annual university-wide competition. Bouckaert and Belkora will share the $1,000 honorarium that accompanies the award, and their papers will be added to the center's Working Paper Series, Arrow said.

Nearly 30 graduate and undergraduate students from more than a dozen different schools and departments submitted papers. The award is named for Richard S. Goldsmith, former chief magistrate of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who was an early and important advocate for alternative methods of solving disputes.

Bouckaert, a 1997 graduate fellow at the center, analyzed the secret negotiations between the South African government and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress that led to the fall of apartheid and the creation of a new democratic government in South Africa. Published in the Stanford Journal of International Law, the paper lays out the political environment leading to the negotiations, the need for them to be secret, the importance of personal integrity and trust among negotiators, the interests at stake and how they were accommodated.

"The ANC's central vision of a nonracial, democratic society was the single most important factor in the success of the South African negotiations," concludes Bouckaert, who is taking a legal position with Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization.

Belkora proposed and tested a model for collaborative decision making between people with a diagnosis of breast cancer and their doctors. As part of his doctoral dissertation, he conducted clinical trials to evaluate planning methods to assist patients before their consultation with their doctor on treatment. Belkora found that both patients and their doctors were more satisfied with their consultation if the patients had undergone a pre-consultation session with someone who helped them identify, verbalize and organize their concerns and questions.

Belkora will be involved in follow-up research analyzing the delivery of consultation planning to breast cancer patients at the University of California-San Francisco.


By Kathleen O'Toole