Jacob Blaustein Professor of International Organizations and Conflict Resolution and Director of Conflict Management at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Topics: track I - track II cooperation, NGOs, leadership
Interviewed by Susan Allen Nan and Andrea Strimling — 2003
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This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Q: What is the value of Track Two and the value of Track One?
A: As I was saying, I would start with Track One because I think it is Track One in most cases that makes the agreement and makes the official agreement possible. The
limitations of Track One are that there official and therefore engaging to the institution that they represent and that there short on shmozzing time; they are not able to follow up with all the breadth
that Track Two largely conceived and can do in regard in relations to conflicting parties. What's the value of Track Two? The value of Track Two is that it can do things that are not engaging,
it is looser and it can cover a larger area of relationships among the parties.
Q: What do you mean by not engaging?
A: It does not tie down the United States; it ties some NGO, which doesn't matter. So it's not engaging to the party that's doing the mediating or
peacemaking or whatever it may be. With that said I think that sells Track One short a little bit because after all the diplomatic missions do lots of things besides deal with the problems. They are
engaged with lots of things. ??? and visits and things like that with representation. Although they are also engaged in broader types of relationships like commercial relationships and so on that help
tie relationships together before, during, and after the conflict. NGOs do not have an unlimited span of attention because they don't have unlimited funds. Track One, that is officials have a
reason for being there, there has to be a diplomatic presence that is going to be there all the time whereas to send somebody out on a kind of permanent basis to monitor relations from a third party
that has no official for being there poses a difficulty and then if the party does have official reason for being there then it has interest then it is engaged in some particular way. So we have problems
about humanitarian organizations whose job is to get food somewhere and have their own interests to serve and not simply to tend the relationships between the parties. I mean I think that..do you
want me to go on and on and on?
Q: I actually wanted to back up and ask you in light of your earlier comrades or is it comments, how would you define Track One and how would you define Track Two?
A: Track One is official, period.
Q: In the diplomatic community do you include other official actors in Track One?
A: Like what?
Q: Defense, military..?
Q: All of the official actors?
Q: In Track Two who do you ???
A: Anybody who is not official. Any private organization.
Q: Including outside the conflict resolution realm?
A: Oh, yes.
Q: Not everybody has the same definition as???
A: I think that the extent of the definition that I have given of Track Two comes in part out of our previous conversation where we were talking about the examples in
Afghanistan and so on. And we were saying you could include in Track Two everything practically including tourists and trade and that kind of stuff. That we can argue about. But I think that we
really better agree that Track One is official because then I think if we don't do that then we waste a lot of energy on it. I say that with some deliberateness because I have just been through our
website toolkit and went through a debate with someone who was talking about Track One and Track Two, and there is something you might want to see our toolkit on this subject and she wanted
do Track Two as referring to as informal activities, whether conducted by unofficials or officials and I think that is just wrong. Why is the definition wrong? Because it muddies the important
distinction and it makes a distinction that is unclear. In other words, she would have made walk in woods or walk in wharf a Track Two even though it was conducted by the Ambassador and I think
that's very confusing.
Q: Wonderful. The second question is can you talk a little bit about the value of Track One /Track Two interaction?
A: They fill the holes and that's why I think you first want to ask what are the holes that each one has and what can they do and what can't they do, then what can
the other party do. The United States is not going to set up dialogue groups in Israel. "A" because it would be my word engaging or committing before?? And "B" because it
would be let's say interference, it would be getting too deep into the unofficial relationships, on the other hand the United States could help fund NGOs that were setting up dialogue groups in
the Middle East. The United States or a country could help negotiate an agreement but it would benefit a lot from private organizations who would flesh out the tissue of that agreement in
developing relations among the people. So that's what I say filling the holes.
Q: We are looking for definitions or illustrative examples of success in Track Two interactions. You talk about filling the holes, what would a really successful interaction look
like on the ground and what examples come to mind of it?
A: I haven't played this out. My first example is kind of hopeful but I am going out in the middle of July to the Ivory Coast for a week to run a reconciliation session
among all the parties in Abigail???, and there are a couple of other people who are going out with me. Were going to ??? for a week. The situation is that they have an official agreement that nobody
is whole-heartedly implementing and so what we are trying to do is change mentalities in a week to get people to see the need for and think of ways for reconciliation. This is organized by the PAO
of the US Embassy and the Minister of National Organization in Cutevwar???. I don't think that the Embassy could do it. It could not be done unless somebody paid for it and somebody
official got the parties to believe that this was real and worth their coming. So I think this is a good example of cooperation.
Q: It is very helpful actually because we think of this range of interactions. Some of the Track One actors have really focused on funding, the channel of funding, and the only
way the Track One/Track Two can legitimately interact is Track One funding Track Two. This puts it in a broader spectrum and broader context.
A: There is the funding element but the other side is somebody has to come out to do it, ??? Muell, by the way, one of the people that is coming. We are actually still looking
for a fourth party, somebody highly fluent in French who could join us in the effort, if you could make any suggestions that would be helpful?
Q: Actually, there is a woman from Search for Common Ground, her name is Sandra Moreno, and I can give you her contact information. I just wanted to pull out from what
you said before Track One making a case for supporting Track Two, not just the funding. I think you said making a case for why it is important which hasn't been pulled out in our other
A: Yeah. Another example is the event that's Susan Collin Marcs wrote about the peace agreement, that was set up between the negotiating parties in South Africa but
then was run as a became a grassroots activity and I don't think there was any funding, I think it was all volunteer there but it's a good example. That's not international because it
was between two internal parties but the parties made the peace agreement. Then somebody had to implement it and the officials couldn't by the nature of the thing couldn't implement it.
That's another one that is successful. I think FAFO and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry working together was a successful operation. I mean here was somebody who got the confidence of
the Palestinians and the Israelis and was able then to kind of call this meeting and of course the head of FAFO's wife was the Norwegian diplomat and that's the finest kind of
cooperation, but they still operated as a I think what's called Track One and a half, I think that is a good example. Sometimes the borderline is kind of difficult where Track One flies. That was
not totally official and it was not totally unofficial. It was a good case of cooperation.
Q: I am almost envisioning that you are really at the earliest stages of this spectrum, graphic spectrum that has the range of interactions with pieces, like South Africa and little
arrows pointing up so that a lot more cases then we can cover in our formal cases get references in some document like South Africa and like Northern Ireland?
A: There is a whole range of activities long before the word Track Two was invited this journalist galley was contacted by the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis and
took the message to the State Department. Why did one need a journalist? In a sense it made it more difficult because he had to prove is bonefides to the State Department, but that is a very good
example it seems to me of a little unofficial piece in there. Just like Washington Acumu who is the one who negotiated the final piece in place in the first South African agreement between the
Freedom Party and the Parties of the agreement. An individual who happened to be there and who happened to have the confidence of the parties. I don't know how that type of case fits into
the definition or the characterization of the holes because in principle an official should have been able to play that role but the fact is that for some reason or another maybe a diplomat could help to
define what was missing there, but for some reason or another a loose track two person was more valuable there to make that bridge between two official parties. That's a little bit of Track
Two in a Track One process as opposed to Track Two operating on it's own or complimenting or supplementing a Track One organization.
Q: I think it is a question of metaphor whether two tracks is the right metaphor to capture what we are learning?
A: Yeah, well no metaphor fits completely and I think we are stuck with that metaphor. I don't know what is better.
Q: I was thinking as we were talking about filling the holes and these two tracks don't fit together in that way?
A: The two tracks never meet too.
Q: Exactly. Well, that's great. Is there anything else on the research or something else?
Other Man: Often times they will use a contract that isn't quite official??? ???That can have that person talk to people???, so again where does that fit in, some type of
Track one and a half.
A: I do think that there are two other elements that have to be brought in just to complete the picture in addition to this idea of the holes or the roles or the strengths and
weaknesses. That is coordination and leadership. I think that Track Two can be powerfully disturbing if it becomes just an alternate mediator and as we know multi mediators are often useful but
when they are uncoordinated they open up the possibility of one-up-man-ship among the mediators and the parties just go shopping from one to another. If that is what Track Two does then it gets
in the way. And so it needs coordination and somebody has to be in charge of the process. Now I was going to say control but I think that is too strong but I say leadership because that implies some
kind of a wisdom and understanding what the strengths are of the other party, of the complimenting party and giving them room, allowing them to get out and make contacts during a peace process
and so on.
Other Man: Do you think leadership qualities have to be taken by the Track One people?
A: I think when you get into the heat of the negotiations that you are coming toward an agreement, it probably does. I think leadership could much more frequently be
exercised by Track Two people in the beginning before official attention has been drawn on this. In fact, if you want to replace one caricature or model with another more complicate caricature or
model; the more complicated you get the closer you get to reality. But one could say then in the beginning there is a greater role for Track Two leadership; in the middle there is a greater role for
Track One leadership and probably more close to necessary. In the post agreement phase what Track One wants to do is get rid of the problem. It wants to hand it over to civil society, so it in fact
wants to hand it over to Track Two and let normal politics and normal diplomacy do their thing and the trouble society to get back to normal functioning.
Other Man: That's one of the lessons that we have heard over at the department of defense. Of course the military can go in and fight a war but that is not necessarily
the ideal tool to build civil society and of course as you know that has been the debate forever. There are people who are over there especially looking at Afghanistan and Iraq now who are saying
perhaps we shouldn't be doing this, we should be facilitating other ???
Q: I think that is true, I mean I think that timeline is simple but it is an interesting way of thinking and it is helpful. I wonder you are talking about a peaceful transition within
the Track One/ Track Two relationship between the Track Two leadership to Track One leadership to Track Two leadership. What allows for that seamless transition that you're talking about
Other Man: Which is part of what we are trying to get to with these programs. First of all understanding the roles??? Understanding the strengths and weaknesses. And I think
on the Track Two side, perhaps understanding that the Track One people are not always you know out in left field somewhere and maybe they do have reasons for doing what they do. And of
course Track One understanding that Track Two does have a ???
A:Then I guess the other side of respect then is competence. I think that respect is important I mean it is a human relation but at the same time in the gritty technical world
they have to be able to do the job. So it's not just coming in and saying oh you are here and it's good to see you, no serious work has to be done that takes some skills ???.
Q: Great. Anything else. That was wonderful.