The Fourth Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum
Professor Eileen Babbitt
The Contribution of Non-Official Parties to the Success of Official Negotiations
Good afternoon, everyone. It's still afternoon, I think. It's a pleasure for me to be here with all of you today and also a pressure very much to share the podium with my colleagues from Russia, from Japan, and from America.
Rather than be the person who summarizes what everyone else has said, I'm going to take the conversation in a slightly different direction from my predecessors.
The focus of today's discussion has been primarily on official relations between Russia, Japan and the United States and the importance of negotiation at these official levels in achieving and maintaining peaceful relations between countries.
However, diplomatic achievements are a result not only of the activities of diplomats. As the City of Portsmouth has demonstrated, nonofficial actors can also make a significant contribution to the success of diplomatic initiatives.
Portsmouth is one of a handful of venues in the United States and abroad that have hosted official peacemaking efforts. In the United States, the most recent examples are Dayton, Ohio, for the negotiations to end the war in Bosnia and Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which hosted the Israel-Syrian talks.
What Portsmouth and these other cities and towns have provided are a welcoming environment in which parties in a conflict can feel comfortable away from the glare of the media and the pressure of their constituencies. In such surroundings, it is often more possible for negotiators to think creatively and open-mindedly about options for settling their conflict more so than in formal diplomatic forums in which posturing and hard bargaining often make agreements impossible to find.
It has long been known that providing such informal venues for official negotiators can be one key ingredient in conflict settlement. If such meetings are conducted under conditions of secrecy, they are referred to as back channel. The now famous Oslo process which provided a confidential cover for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a prime example of such back channel diplomacy.
In the last 10 to 15 years, a new set of questions have begun to be asked about diplomacy focusing on the role that a variety of nonofficial actors can play in promoting peace between warring communities. This new focus has emerged for two main reasons. The first is the growing understanding in international relations that peace must be made not only between leaders and governments but also between the communities of people who these leaders represent. This is all the more true as we watch internal civil wars overtake wars between states as the dominant form of conflict in the world.
We can think of each community that may be involved in conflict as a pyramid with the decision makers and political leaders occupying a small space at the top, opinion leaders and influential nongovernmental institutions making up a larger mid- section, and grass roots organizations and civil society comprising the large base of the pyramid.
Using this as a framework, we can see that peacemaking activities must proceed not only from the top down but also from the bottom up and from the middle out. If the leadership, for example, is not able to bring its influential and grass roots constituencies along, agreements reached may not be sustainable. And Mr. Trenin previously mentioned, for example, the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Israel as an example of this sort of disjuncture between the leadership and their population.
Conversely, in countries like Northern Ireland where you have leaders who have been reticent to take risks and to make difficult decisions, you have a population that is pushing from the bottom up, wanting peace and pushing their leaders to take the kinds of risks that the population would like them to take.
The second reason for focusing on nongovernmental actors comes from the emergence of conflict resolution as a field of both scholarship and practice. One of the primary interests of this field is understanding the dynamics of conflict and the potential modes of intervention to prevent conflict from escalating and to find ways of helping parties in conflict reach agreements that create a more sustainable constructive relationship between them. This has led to a systematic investigation of how both official and nonofficial actors within the conflict and outside of it can contribute to these ends.
Two of my colleagues in conflict resolution, Louise Diamond and John MacDonald, have built upon these new insights to develop the concept they call multi-track diplomacy. The notion is that efforts to create peaceful relations between countries or groups can proceed along several parallel tracks, each having its own contribution to make but with enormous potential for synergy and reinforcement between them.
I'd like to review these tracks for you today, nine of them in all, to give you an idea of how our understanding of peacemaking has deepened in the last decade.
The first track, track one, is relationships between governments, peacemaking through traditional diplomacy. This is official relations between nation states where the actors in the process in this track are governmental representatives meeting bilaterally or multilaterally in intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, etc.
The strength of track one efforts is in their ability to mobilize the vast resources of nation states to support whatever policies it chooses. However, there are weaknesses to the track one process, primarily resistance to change and the tendency to rely on traditional forms of power for coercing agreements rather than having agreements progress along different modes.
What the track one processes can do is provide the command function for international peacemaking efforts. They can set the agenda for peacemaking, an agenda which other tracks and other components of the international system might support, challenge or seek to influence.
Track two is the nongovernmental professional track, peacemaking through professional conflict resolution. In the track two efforts, auspices are provided for nonofficial meetings of parties in conflict often in the presence of a third party facilitator or mediator.
Track two participants are usually drawn from the midsection of the pyramid I mentioned earlier, from influential opinion leaders, religious leaders, media, etc. of their respective communities. The focus in track two efforts is to provide opportunities for influential members of communities in conflict to examine the root causes of their conflict, to explore possible options for resolution out of public view and public scrutiny. It also provides an opportunity for -- to promote deeper understanding between the two communities of each others' perspectives and of the constraints in which each is operating under. It allows time which is not always available in the formal track one process to focus on building the relationships that peacemaking requires including establishing what we will call some level of working trust. And in the best case scenario, track two efforts help the parties to reframe their conflict as a joint problem to be solved rather than a competition which has to result in a win/lose outcome.
Track two practitioners may operate from many bases of operation. They may be situated in academic institutions, they may be affiliated with nongovernmental organizations, or they may operate as independent practitioners.
The strength of the track two efforts are that they become the leading edge of the international peacemaking system where gaps in the track one processes can be recognized and potentially filled in, where there is space for creativity and for the opportunity to identify possible ways forward that don't rely on the traditional sources of power.
One notable example of a track two process were the Dartmouth conferences which were held between the United States and the Soviet Union for many years during the Cold War in which there were exploratory discussions in which diplomats and influential members of both communities were able again to meet out of the glare of the official forums and explore the possibilities and options for better relations between the two superpowers.
Track three is the business track. Peacemaking through commerce. In track three, the idea is to mobilize the private sector as a conduit for building relationships and creating opportunities for communication and joint action. The assumption is that business interests can be a positive, mutually beneficial activity for both parties in a conflict.
In English we have a saying that says that a rising tide raises all boats. And the idea here is to create the incentives, the business incentives of the business connections across communities in conflict that might create benefits for all.
One example, for example, is the big Turkish business association that was begun by businessmen from Greece and Turkey who recognized that there are benefits to the normalizing of relations between these two countries and who provide in these forums not only a possibility for communication and discussion of possible ventures that they might engage in together but also a possibility for discussing the ways in which the political differences between the two communities might be addressed. These business leaders then become a conduit back to their political parties and political leaderships in their respective countries because they are respected members of their communities.
Track four is the track of private citizens. Peacemaking through personal involvement. This comprises individuals working through many types of organizations to affect international problems and international issues. Some examples include, first of all, exchange programs, cultural, educational, professional, as examples, involving reciprocal visits of organizations like women's organizations, artisans and musicians, health care professionals, environmentalists, church groups, etc. Sister city programs are one example of this kind of exchange in which there is an opportunity for citizenry of two different cultures and communities and countries to have an opportunity to meet with each other and get to know each other as people rather than as stereotypes, which is often, unfortunately, the case in communities in conflict.
A second example of individual action is the possibility of connecting to private voluntary organizations (PVOs) which do relief and development work. These PVOs often solicit individual contributions. They provide newsletters which educate the public as to activities and things going on in other parts of the world. They also can solicit direct involvement. And I'm thinking now of organizations like the Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity, whose office I happened to see as I was walking through Portsmouth this morning, to invite individual citizens to take part in activities abroad and to also create again the conditions for people to have direct contact across these different divides.
A third possibility for individual involvement comes through professional interest groups. And I'm thinking here of organizations like Physicians for Social Responsibility, Educators for Social Responsibility, who send delegations to communities in conflict in other parts of the world to lobby for different activities and involvement of citizens and their counterparts, their professional counterparts in communities that are experiencing conflict.
The strength of the track four efforts are that they mobilize the energy and the effort of millions of people at the grass roots level. They provide an inclusive way for many to get involved and empowered, to participate and connect with others worldwide.
Track five. Research, training, and education. Peacemaking through learning. The focus here is generating and transferring information about peace and conflict, peacemaking and conflict resolution activities through the work of think tanks, educational institutions and professional training programs.
As you might know, in this country conflict resolution education now is found not only at the professional level and at the university level, but in schools and grades kindergarten through twelve in many, many parts of the United States. And it is becoming a common concern in countries that are coming out of war to have their first priority at least at the citizen level of looking at their educational system and being sure that they are incorporating conflict resolution issues into the education of their children with the hope that alternatives to violent ways of settling conflict will become part of their culture, at least for the next generation if not for this generation.
The strength of the track five efforts, research, training and education, are that they provide the brainpower of the international peacemaking system by producing information that the other tracks and the other components can use, and they also can provide continuity by passing this information on to future generations.
Track six is the track of activism, of peacemaking through advocacy. The focus here is on changing institutions' attitudes and policies. The assumption is that peace is not possible without social, political, environmental, economic or economic justice and integrity.
The primary actors in the activism channel or track are organizations, some of which you are no doubt familiar with, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, large advocacy organizations. There are also, however, a significant number of smaller local organizations working for specific peace related causes, the elimination of child soldiers, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, the reduction in small arms, and also organizations focused on peacemaking efforts in specific geographic regions like Kosovo, Chechnya and Sudan.
Track seven is the track focusing on religion and peacemaking through faith and action. The religious track is often propelled by a belief in the unity of the human family and in love and compassion as the means for finding peace and resolving conflict.
There are many examples of faith organizations that are involved in peacemaking efforts. The Quakers and the Mennonites, for example, have long been engaged in peacemaking through facilitation and mediation and as extensions of their relief and development work. There are also delegations from every faith that send groups to countries in conflict. And this is becoming even more of a possibility as the conflicts as I mentioned earlier are becoming more internal in nature, and the activities of religious groups within these countries are implicated both as exacerbators of the conflict and potentially as resolvers of the conflict. And so their counterparts from other countries often try and create the opportunities to meet with the members of their faith within these communities in conflict and try to promote the conflict mitigating aspects of their religious beliefs rather than the conflict exacerbating aspects.
Track eight is the track that focuses on funding. Peacemaking through providing resources. The assumption here is that those with wealth have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to make a positive contribution through sponsorship of worthwhile projects.
The primary actors are large mainstream foundations. In the United States that includes the Carnegie Foundation, Ford, McArthur, etc., Also smaller sometimes family-based foundations who are targeted on particular regions or on particular areas of peacemaking, and corporate foundations who become the social responsibility arm of the private sector.
The importance of the track eight actors and funders is their ability to set an agenda for peacemaking activities and also to provide a gate-keeping role for deciding who participates in these peacemaking activities and who maybe does not have the resources to do so.
The last track, track nine, is that of communications and the media. Peacemaking through information. The assumption is that informed people make better choices and that the media can offer a forum for public debate and involvement on key global issues.
The challenge to the print media and the broadcast media, for example, is in how they choose to frame and present options to their publics. And part of the effort in conflict management through communications is in educating journalists on how they might frame issues in a more constructive way such that their populations begin to see possibilities for conflict resolution rather than possibilities for conflict escalation.
One of the new challenges with the communications and media track is the rising role of the Internet which provides not only instantaneous access but direct access to individuals and groups worldwide including nonstate actors, many of whom now have their own Web pages so that you don't have to read the New York Times or the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal to find out what the people in remote areas are thinking. You can tune into their Web page and find out directly and make your own assessment of their cause.
What these multiple tracks do, I think, is provide a framework for imagining a tremendously expanded set of opportunities for a large number of actors to be involved in peacemaking efforts. It is true that diplomats and track one players are still key to the legitimacy of agreements between nations and groups, as the discussions today of the Portsmouth Treaty have demonstrated. But there now exist many additional tracks on which important supplementary activities might proceed. These supplementary activities can act as a counterweight to the sometimes constrained activities of track one. They can also provide possibilities for the inclusion and participation of citizens and groups at many levels which can create a solid foundation upon which formal agreements can rest.
The contribution of the City of Portsmouth both historically as host to the track one negotiations between Russia and Japan and currently as participants and sponsors of these ongoing forums is a testament to the importance of such synergy in promoting peacemaking efforts.
The challenge is to legitimize the contribution of these various tracks and to synchronize their efforts so that they are not necessarily working at cross purposes but are working in concert to promote peace and justice.
And I can't help but add that in light of the potentially pessimistic assessment of our colleagues today about the possibility for some short-term resolution to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Japan, I can't help but wonder whether some of these alternative tracks might be pursued in the interim until the track one players are in a position to actually take the initiatives that will need to be taken in order for agreement finally to be reached. Thank you very much.