Coordinating Track I and Track II Diplomacy

John McDonald

Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

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 ???).

Well, I've tried for some time now to create an office in the State Department bureaucracy on Track II because I believe that until you create an institution of change, you're not going to be able to do the actual thing that you're talking about. We had a moment where I thought good things were going to happen, actually with an NGO initiative. Kevin Clemens, who was head of ICAR and does international work, shortly after he arrived there, he got together with our group and about forty NGOs around the world, and put together a little paper on Track II and what it could do to help support governments. They presented that to the Foreign Ministers Meeting of the G8 when they were meeting in Tokyo in 1998. That was accepted and it was passed onto the G8 meeting in Okinawa, and they actually came out in the communiqu about two paragraphs: one on preventive diplomacy, which was first put forth in 1992 by the UN General for Peace which this college put together, and another paragraph on conflict resolution.

So I thought, man this a real break for the G8, such a powerful institution, and if we can get them to focus on this then that's wonderful. Well, nothing much happened.???The next meeting the Bush administration??? came to their first meeting. I tried to meet with Secretary Powell to brief him on these ideas, but I didn't get through the barriers, the gate-keepers. Out of his meeting, they reiterated those two recommendations, and they added two more. They said, we ought to work with business in peacebuilding, which is Track III, and we ought to work with women in peace building; and that's a fantastic breakthrough. Then 9/11 came along, and the whole thing fell apart, and the US has done nothing at the State Department to carry through on this concept of creating an office with a budget, with staff, as part of a career path, to institutionalize this whole concept, and so that has not happened today at the State Department.

The other thing that excited me was in April of 2001, the new administrator of AID testified on the Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to confirm. He said, "I want to create two pillars in AID, and the first is I want to go back to basics in agriculture, make that a strong element of AID, and the second is I want to build a pillar about conflict resolution." Well, I read that testimony and I was ecstatic. He then appointed a task force, and they hired a couple of contractors to do a major study, and one or two of them had worked in AID. I met for hours with those contractors, giving them my guidance and advice and ideas. They came out with a report last December, a year ago, which was fantastic. It was the best report that AID has ever produced, as far as I'm concerned. It had all kinds of ideas, suggestions, and future steps for the administrative team.

My goal was then to set up an office in the administration, above all the other bureaucrats this is his pillar. This is what he wants, so lets go for it. Well, the task force finally had its first public meeting in January of last year, 2002. There were twenty people there from the hill, from around government, from AID, and two NGOS, with myself representing AID, and John Marks representing Search for Common Ground. We met for two days with this group and reviewed every paragraph of that report, and laid out ideas that we wanted to pursue over the next six months. We wanted a monthly meeting and we would really get involved and wanted to help to create this dream. The task force never met again. It was right there and they never met again. The administrator, I guess, had other priorities, and he was involved in Afghanistan of course, in great detail.

Maybe he viewed that these recommendations were too far reaching, maybe they were threatening to other agencies, I don't know but we never had a chance to talk about it with him. It was officially dissolved on June of last year. They have now renamed one Bureau, the office of Democracy Building Humanitarian Assistance and Conflict Prevention. They have buried in the bowels of AID a little three-person staff, without a leader, they haven't found the money to get a leader yet, and they've been looking for six months. Its just a totally different concept then we had in mind when we started out. That's where we are at the moment, not very optimistic.