Roger D. Fisher May 28, 1922 - Aug. 25, 2012 Harvard Law Professor and Author, Expert in Conflict Resolution

By Kaufman, Leslie | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Roger D. Fisher May 28, 1922 - Aug. 25, 2012 Harvard Law Professor and Author, Expert in Conflict Resolution


Kaufman, Leslie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Roger D. Fisher, a Harvard law professor who was a co-author of the 1981 best-seller "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" and whose expertise in resolving conflicts led to a role in drafting the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel and in ending apartheid in South Africa, died Saturday in Hanover, N.H. He was 90.

The cause was complications of dementia, his son Elliott said.

Over his career, Mr. Fisher eagerly brought his optimistic can- do brand of problem solving to a broad array of conflicts across the globe, from the hostage crisis in Iran to the civil war in El Salvador. His emphasis was always on addressing the mutual interests of the disputing parties instead of what separated them.

It did not matter to Mr. Fisher whether the warring parties reached out to him; he would assume they needed his help. "Most of the time he was not invited. He would invite himself," Elliott Fisher said. "Our sense growing up was that he would read the newspaper and think, 'Oh, shoot, there is something to fix.' "

For example, when a rebel group took hostages at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, in 1997, his son recalled, Mr. Fisher found a way to contact the president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, and gave him suggestions for how to dampen the sense of crisis, including restoration of the power and water in the embassy. This strategy won the freedom of the majority of the hostages. In the end, however, Peruvian forces stormed the embassy, killing all 14 of the rebels and rescuing all but one of the 72 remaining hostages.

Mr. Fisher is credited with helping initiate the summit meeting between the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1985, convincing Reagan staff members that just meeting to brainstorm and build relations was more important than settling a specific agenda.

In 1979, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance went to Mr. Fisher's house on Martha's Vineyard before the meeting at Camp David that would lead to a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Mr. Fisher suggested to Vance the "single negotiating text" method that was used to bring the parties together, said Bruce M. Patton, who wrote "Getting to Yes" with Mr. Fisher and worked on many diplomatic projects with him. …

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