Advice to Track II on How to Deal With Track I

Chester Crocker

Georgetown University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What advice would you give Track II folks on dealing with Track I?

A: Well, I think the main lesson or the main realization is to know your niche, and to be clear about your niche. There are many different kinds of Track II initiatives and Track II institutions, so there's not just one niche. There's probably quite a few, and some Track II organizations operate at the decision-making level amongst warring parties. That's the kind of thing that Jimmy Carter often has taken initiatives of that kind, and he's not the only example. Others are more focused on, for example, a conflict resolution workshop, interactive type procedures, which may be at the elite level, but not the decision making level. They are dealing with the influential maybe more than the actual decision makers. That's a different niche, and of course there are many kinds of grassroots, bottom-up type Track II initiatives, with lots of different niches there. I doubt if anything that one could say what applied to all those different sorts of institutions. When I say, know your niche, I'm really saying know your limits. Understand your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Understand what you can do and what you cannot do.

To me, the example of San Hajezio's ??? tradecraft in Mozambique is an interesting example in that respect because they knew what they could do and what they couldn't do. They helped to stitch together a fabric of communication between Renamo and Philimo that would never have been possible by a government. What they could not do was establish a military agreement that would lead to a UN peacekeeping force coming in between the government and rebels. There is an element of humility there that was important. A second bit advise for Track II is that letting a hundred flowers bloom may seem like a nice open flat hierarchy kind of situation that we are familiar with in our society, may be nice, may be congenial to let a hundred flowers bloom. If you let a hundred flowers bloom in Nepal what you are going to get is a lot of crushed flowers. You need some coherence. That implies making sure that there is a role for you that is not being played by someone else, or being willing to join teams, which is hard. I don't think that NGOs like to be coordinated by anybody.

Q: Certainly they don't.

A: That is an issue, and it is an issue because in fact what you are doing is exporting your own confusion to the warring society unless somebody figures this out. I think there have been cases of that when we have seen just an awful lot of spontaneous complexity introduced into war torn countries. People don't know how to make coherence out of it. Without coherence you don't get focus, and without focus you don't get decisions. It is not just about building bridges to nice people in war torn countries, it is about getting them to move.

Q: What do you think that Track II folks should know about Track I?

A: They need to know that Track I is composed of all sorts of actors from the most short term minded people, bureaucrats, to people of genuine commitment that might share some of the idealism that Track I people might think that they have a monopoly. I think they need to look very carefully at Track I individuals and do their homework on who is Track I, and who is this person who is engaging in this effort. That is one kind of lesson. Another might be that there are ways to work together to maybe have an open mind about that and not assume that you are going to be co-opted or whatever. Those are just a few further points.

Q: So Track I is not a monolith in any given conflict?

A: I think that we haven't talked enough about the differences in Track I, because Track I might be the UN. What is the UN? It is an empty vessel, it is a shell that consists of a mandate that may come from the secretary general or may come from the temporary coalition of members of the secretary council. What is Track I? Track I is one thing in Cyprus where you have had Alvro Desoto speaking for the secretary general, and Avro Desoto is a first class Track I type negotiator working for an international organization. Sometimes what comes out of the UN is kind of a special representative who has basically got a license to buy air tickets and he moves around, talks to people, and then sends reports back home. He doesn't really get much of anything done, or doesn't have the means to get anything done. There are lots of different types of actors here.