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Published on Beyond Intractability (http://www.beyondintractability.org) Home > Track II (Citizen) Diplomacy

Track II (Citizen) Diplomacy
Track II or citizen diplomacy are peacebuilding efforts undertaken by unofficial (usually non-govermental) people who try to build cross-group understanding and even develop ideas for conflict resolution that have not been broaded in official channels. Track II (Citizen) Diplomacy

By
Diana Chigas

August 2003| |

Who are Track Two Intermediaries and Diplomats?The term "intermediary" refers to people who become involved "in the middle" of a conflict. They are not disputants, but rather people who try to work with the disputants to resolve the conflict or transform it to make it less destructive. Sometimes these intermediaries are official or "formal" intermediaries: professional mediators, arbitrators, judges, or other official actors. But often they are informal, or unofficial people who work outside official negotiation, mediation, or "Track I" processes. Unofficial third-party intervention means different things to different people. At the interpersonal level, it refers to any informal mediation process...a friend intervening between a fighting couple; a co-worker trying to help two employees solve a dispute. Anyone who tries to help disputants work out their differences, but does so as a friend or unofficial third party is an "informal intermediary."At the inter-group or international level, the term encompasses a number of different terms: "track two diplomacy," citizen diplomacy, "multi-track diplomacy," supplemental diplomacy, pre-negotiation, consultation, interactive conflict resolution, back-channel diplomacy, facilitated joint brainstorming, coexistence work. While differing in emphasis, agenda, and theoretical approach, these initiatives share many common goals. They attempt to provide an environment that is low-key, non-judgmental, non-coercive, and safe, and to create a process in which participants feel free to share perceptions, fears and needs, and to explore ideas for resolution, free of the constraints of government positions. The process is designed to encourage the development of mutual understanding of differing perceptions and needs, the creation of new ideas, and strong problem-solving relationships.Normally, informal intermediaries are non-governmental actors, such as religious institutions, academics, former government officials, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian organizations, and think tanks, among others. In some cases, however, governments or government officials can act as informal intermediaries when they facilitate discussions among non-officials -- private citizens or groups of individuals -- from conflicting parties.Functions of Informal IntermediariesIn intractable conflicts, traditional instruments of negotiation, mediation and conflict management have proven to be ineffective.[1] In some cases, this is because the conflict itself is not "ripe" for resolution[2]; in other words, one or both parties may not have strong motives to de-escalate because they believe the costs of working to de-escalate or solve the conflict exceed the benefits.[3] Even when de-escalation would be beneficial, a society may be too divided to permit bold initiatives for de-escalation, or the conflict may be intertwined with other regional or global conflicts.[4]Scholars and practitioners in the field of conflict resolution point to additional limitations of traditional diplomacy that informal intermediaries are particularly well suited to address. First, intractable conflicts tend to involve basic human needs and values that the parties experience as critical to their survival, and, as a consequence, as non-negotiable.[5] Traditional negotiation and mediation processes are well suited to resolving resource-based issues, such as poverty, control over land, power sharing, and distribution of economic opportunities. But issues of identity, survival,...
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