4 Tutorials that teach Multi-Track Diplomacy
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Multi-Track Diplomacy

Multi-Track Diplomacy

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the concept of multi-track diplomacy as a means of international conflict resolution.

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Video Transcription

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International conflict resolution is really about peacebuilding. It's about reducing conflicts in countries that already exists and preventing conflicts from erupting elsewhere. And it goes well beyond formal diplomacy. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about a concept called multi-track diplomacy.

Multi-track diplomacy is a term that originated back in the 1980s. It refers to bringing in sectors of society that are not officially government representatives to cultivate relationships in countries that are in conflict. Originally, this was called track two diplomacy. Why Track two? Well, because these non-government, unofficial representatives were typically conflict resolution professionals who would go into a country to train or reduce conflict. So that was considered a second track. And track one would be formal diplomacy.

Here's your track one. Formal diplomacy, of course, is conducted by state actors, we would say-- nations and countries who have their official formal representatives to conduct diplomacy. Peace treaties would be conducted this way, trade agreements, anything that would be formal and officially recognized as diplomacy, something that maybe our Secretary of State would do here in the United States. So that's formal diplomacy carried out by state actors-- nations, formal governments.

And track two is bringing in this unofficial, informal representatives of a country. They're not sanctioned by the state or by the government. These are non-state actors who are going in to cultivate relationships, to build and promote peace. It became known as track two. And over time, it was recognized that we needed to bring in additional tracks. That's where the concept of multi-track diplomacy came from. So multi-track diplomacy and track two are really the same thing, just different terms for involving all sectors of society in peacebuilding.

Because we know that formal diplomacy can do official things like sign a peace treaty, make a trade agreement. But if there's really entrenched conflict between two countries, two nations, the people in those countries have animosity towards one another. And the perceptions and attitudes that have caused conflict run deep. And you don't change these just with formal agreements.

People's perceptions change over time. Attitudes change over time. And they change by cultivating relationships with people who are in the country that you're having a conflict with. The idea here is to involve all sectors of society. Multi-track diplomacy does just that. And here are some of the sectors of society that have been involved.

We have business people who are doing business in other countries that are involved, that are helping to cultivate positive relationships, private citizens, religious groups, the media. If you have journalists in one country getting to know journalists in the other country and they get together to try to tell the story, to put out what's really happening so that each nation can read about those in the other country to change the story. Then we have academic institutions.

And even nonprofits. In particular, there is a nonprofit that I know of that fosters intergroup connect contact programs with youth. They actually bring youth together from nations that are in conflict with one another into summer camp programs. So these youth get to know one another. And when they go back, they have these different ideas about the people in the country that they've been in conflict with.

I also know of this happening over in Israel. A woman who does this program called The Land Twice Promised has brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together in dialogue, and has had a very successful program doing that. This is one example of a nonprofit effort coming out of multi-track diplomacy to cultivate relationships between countries that are in conflict.

Other outcomes of this kind of diplomacy would be something like the Truth and Reconciliation Council. The most well known, I think, is in South Africa after the conflict there. They held the Truth and Reconciliation where they brought in both sides in this conflict-- the black Africans and the white Africans to talk about what had happened, to tell their stories of apartheid.

After the Truth and Reconciliation Councils, there was healing. There was reparations. Sometimes in countries that are at war, when they come together to do this kind of peacebuilding and healing through storytelling, there will be reparations where payments may be made to a segment of the population that has experienced discrimination, conflict. So there are reparations. There are memorials that are set up so that they won't forget what happened.

These are all ways to bridge the gap between peoples that have been in conflict, to remember what happened, to learn what happened, and to make restitution. And bringing people together to talk about these things, of course, will do a lot to promote and build positive relationships and prevent this kind of conflict from happening in the future.

So multi-track diplomacy, sometimes known as track two diplomacy, is really a complement to formal diplomacy or track one diplomacy, bringing all sectors of society together to promote peace and reduce conflict.

Thank you for joining me. I look forward to next time.

  • Diplomacy

    Cultivation of relationships between political states as conducted by those states’ official representatives.

  • Multi-Track Diplomacy

    A newer term for track-two diplomacy, which recognizes that different kinds of groups may influence relations between countries, cultures, or other groups.

  • Track Two Diplomacy

    Cultivation of relationships between political states or cultures through the action of non-official/non-government groups cultivating their own relationships.

  • State Actor

    A formal, recognized nation or government that has official power to conduct diplomacy with other nations.

  • Non-State Actor

    A group that is not the official representative of a government but is involved in inter/intranational conflict as an intervener.