Noone is better equipped to write a book on Track II diplomacy than Peter Jones who has decades of experience as both a Canadian diplomat and faculty member who has both conducted and studied this intriguing approach to diplomacy and conflict resolution. As good as it is, this book illustrates how hard a subject it is to write about because most of what happens in Track II negotiations is and should be private.
Although the practice is ages old, the term was apparently coined in the early 1980s by Joseph Montville, who was then a United States Foreign Service Officer and continues doing this kind of work in retirement. Citing a series of leading practitioners who have worked in the field, Jones suggests that Track II covers a wide range of activities involving negotiators who themselves have little or no decision making power but have the capacity of shifting the way those in power deal with a dispute.
As Jones makes clear, Track II diplomacy is no panacea. It does not work at all times or in all displaces, but he has gotten much farther than any other author in determining what those conditions might be. Rather than recapitulating the entire book, it makes sense for to highlight his key conclusions which you can dig into more deeply in this short and readable book:
- Most Track II work has at least an implicit theory of change. If key influential individuals change their point of view through this kind of work, the policy makers themselves can change as a result.
- The participants, locale, methodology, and even the funding of the negotiations have to be chosen carefully.
- Facilitation of the process is critical, however the discussions are structured. The best facilitators have the skills to help people get to know each other, share ideas, and gradually help them move toward greater understanding and agreement, all the while keeping their own views on the intellectual back burner.
- Building trust among the participants is as important as any concrete goal or any specific agreement the negotiators reach. That’s the case because they rarely have decision making power on their own but can help expand the options those with that power find worth considering.
- Last but by no means least, at most, Track II processes make formal agreements possible.