The Importance of Track II Diplomacy

Carolyn Stephenson

Professor of Population Studies, College of Social Sciences, University of Hawai'i

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 is the importance, do you think, of track II processes in peace building?

A: Over the long term, track II has to be a part of any peace building process. While you need to build things at the top level, you also need to build the relationships within the society. These societies have been separated for at least 25, actually 35 years in most cases. The older generation speaks English, Turkish, and Greek. My generation speaks, English and whatever is their language and the younger kids are now at the point where they don't even speak English well. Remember, it's a British colonial territory. People that used to go back and forth and have contacts at high political levels, went to school together in the much older generation is the generation which is now at top levels of political power; they know each other.

If you don't rebuild then the next generation only knows each other if they happened to have gone to the same college in the US or in Britain, but without building those relationships there are friends of mine who's kids have never met somebody from the other side. These kinds of relationships are necessary to deal with basic stuff, like one friend of mine said her daughter asked, "Do they have cats on the other side?" "Do they eat the same things we do?" That kind of lack of trust and so on can only be built up by involving people in basic cross-cultural kinds of things.

The theory of international organization and politics and the theory of functionalism says get people together to do specific problem-solving oriented things and that will overcome some of the bounds of stereotypes across national boundaries.

Singing clubs, conflict resolution associations, management associations, women's film groups and so on are ways to build up communities that have bonds that can overcome some of the national bonds. I think that in any conflict that is a long-term intractable conflict, you really have to work it both ways; you have to have the elite commitment and then you have to have a wide variety of functional communities, specific problem-oriented groups working across all levels of the society, if it's not going to have more disastrous violence when it comes back together.