The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy
Occasional Paper: Building Peace and Transforming Conflict: Multi-Track Diplomacy in Practice
by James Notter and Louise Diamond
Published as Occasional Paper #7
© Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Washington, DC, October 1996
In 1991, Louise Diamond and John McDonald wrote a book titled Multi-Track Diplomacy. In this book, they described a system of interconnecting "tracks" that shape how peace is achieved in the international system. In 1992, these two individuals founded the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) in order to put their theory into practice. The theory presented in the Multi-Track Diplomacy volume, however, is mostly descriptive, identifying the various actors and relationships that make up the system of international peacemaking, but not providing a clear framework for a specific conflict resolution practice. While this systems approach to peace represents a breakthrough in the conflict resolution field, building a practice around this approach actually requires an even broader theoretical base. As IMTD has grown over its first four years, the staff has developed this broader theoretical base and has developed and tested a set of principles and methodologies that put this theory into action.
This paper describes the concepts, principles, and methodologies behind the work of IMTD. At the conceptual level, we will provide the theoretical context for understanding IMTD’s practice by explaining three concepts which underlie IMTD’s work: conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and multi-track diplomacy. Within that conceptual framework, we will then describe a set of twelve practice-oriented principles which guide IMTD’s work. These principles are divided into four categories, depending upon which aspect of our work is their focus: our entry into the system; our involvement with our partners; our approach to the work; and our overall goals. Finally, we will describe the basic activities of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, looking both at conflict interventions and at system development activities.
The field of conflict resolution can be confusing, because there are so many terms, often used interchangeably, to describe what conflict resolution actually is. For example, the terms conflict management, conflict settlement, conflict termination, conflict mitigation, conflict amelioration, and dispute resolution are all used by various practitioners in this field to describe what they do. Furthermore, the term conflict resolution has been used to describe activities ranging from court-based mediation and arbitration, to problem-solving workshops and reconciliation work, to the use of military force. At IMTD, we have purposefully chosen the term conflict transformation to describe what we do, because the word transformation and its implication of deep-level change is central to our work.
Conflict transformation refers to the process of moving from conflict-habituated systems to peace systems. This process is distinguished from the more common term of conflict resolution because of its focus on systemic change. Social conflicts that are deep-rooted or intractable get these names because the conflict has created patterns that have become part of the social system. With the social system as the unit of analysis, the term "resolution" becomes less appropriate. Transforming deep-rooted conflicts is only partly about "resolving" the issues of the conflict—the central issue is systemic change or transformation. Systems cannot be "resolved," but they can be transformed, thus we use the term conflict transformation.
This relatively simple change in terminology, however, represents a significant paradigm shift within the field of conflict resolution—a field which, in its own development, represents a paradigm shift away from power politics. The field of conflict resolution was revolutionary by stressing the need to identify and address the root causes of a conflict, with the focus on mutually enhancing solutions and the satisfaction of human needs. This radical new perspective, however, was still put forth mainly within a negotiation or problem-solving framework. Conflict resolution practitioners often shifted their focus away from governmental actors to unofficial actors, but the ultimate goal of these projects was still to have an effect on the official negotiation process.
Negotiation alone can never transform an entire system. In cases of deep-rooted social conflict, like Cyprus, Israel and Palestine, or South Africa, the entire social system has embodied the conflict, and the population has absorbed these conflict patterns at a very deep level. The social system, in a sense, has become addicted to the conflict, and a single behavior modification cannot eliminate the addiction. It will take a concerted effort, engaging many different parts of the system simultaneously, to overcome the addiction and establish new patterns in a process of true transformation. At IMTD, our work is to facilitate this transformation from conflict-habituated systems to peace systems.
The term conflict transformation describes the outcome, but it does not describe what we do. We don’t "do" conflict transformation—that is ultimately the job of the conflicting parties. To understand the activities in which we engage when we facilitate conflict transformation, we refer to the broad concept of "peacebuilding." UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali used the term peacebuilding in his 1992 Agenda for Peace as part of a continuum, ranging from preventive diplomacy, to peacemaking, to peacekeeping, and finally to post-conflict peacebuilding. Preventive diplomacy seeks to stop conflicts from escalating, peacemaking seeks to bring conflicting parties to the negotiating table before large-scale violence takes place, peacekeeping seeks to contain the violence, and post-conflict peacebuilding seeks to reweave the fabric of a society as it emerges from a destructive international conflict or civil war.
Our definition of peacebuilding differs significantly. Boutros-Ghali has based his continuum on the emergence and presence of large-scale violence in a conflict. His framework is based on the more traditional, power-politics perspective of conflict. Since IMTD keeps its focus on social systems (and not just on armed factions or official governments), peacebuilding activities are not restricted to certain points along a continuum of violence. When we say peacebuilding, we mean creating the tangible and intangible conditions to enable a conflict-habituated system to become a peace system. Peacebuilding can be done, therefore, before, during, or after violence erupts. To build peace, you must have a viable infrastructure or foundation on which to build it, thus the activities of peacebuilding are about creating infrastructures. There are three distinct types of peacebuilding activities, all of which are necessary to achieving conflict transformation: political peacebuilding, structural peacebuilding, and social peacebuilding.
In terms of infrastructures, political peacebuilding represents the outermost superstructure. Political peacebuilding is about agreements. It deals with establishing political arrangements that provide the overall context for understanding the relationships of the various parties and their resources. It is about building a legal infrastructure that can address the political needs and manage the boundaries of a peace system. Activities include negotiations, fact-finding missions, technical working groups, etc. Governments focus their attention on political peacebuilding activities.
Structural peacebuilding activities create middle-level structures. It deals with creating structures—systems of behavior, institutions, concerted actions—that support the embodiment or implementation of a peace culture. It is about building an economic, military, and community infrastructure that provides concrete and realistic avenues through which a new peace system might express itself. These structures are necessary, because political peacebuilding can never accomplish conflict transformation by itself. A signed peace treaty does not create peace; it only creates a basis for peace, or a legal infrastructure to support peace. Without the corresponding societal infrastructure to support it, the peace will never hold. Activities of structural peacebuilding include economic development programs, strengthening democracy and governance, and supporting the creation of indigenous NGOs which support peace. Structural peacebuilding is not the exclusive domain of either governments or nongovernmental actors—both can be effective in this realm.
This necessary social infrastructure, however, is also dependent on a more basic foundation: a human infrastructure. Social peacebuilding is the grass-roots portion of the peacebuilding process. Social peacebuilding is about relationships. It deals with feelings, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, and skills as they are held and shared between peoples, individually and in groups. It is about building a human infrastructure of people who are committed to engendering a new "peace culture" within the social fabric of communal and inter-communal life. As practitioners, we build this human infrastructure through programs of training or dialogue, or by supporting community-building programs. Governments, to date, have not been able to successfully carry out social peacebuilding programs.
IMTD’s primary focus has been on social peacebuilding. Most conflict resolution practitioners help the parties in conflict to come to agreements (political peacebuilding). The conflict resolution field today, more often than not, is using track two, or nongovernment actors, when doing their work, but their goal is to work with the advisors to the governmental level, in order to influence that process. Sometimes the field engages in structural peacebuilding by creating conflict resolution institutions, or by working with media and other social institutions, but the focus remains, generally, on political peacebuilding. These newly created institutions often spend their time focusing on political negotiations.
Social peacebuilding is the missing link, because it seeks to build the human infrastructure that can support the political agreements and societal institutions. Although IMTD does not work exclusively in social peacebuilding, we have found that it is often the part of the system that needs the most work, so that is where we focus our activities. We have seen in Israel that the signing of a peace accord does not stop the violence. By building human infrastructures, we are trying to prepare the system to be able to implement political agreements without the further loss of life.
The final piece in the conceptual context of IMTD’s practice is the concept of Multi-Track Diplomacy. The term multi-track diplomacy is based on the original distinction made by Joseph Montville in 1981 between official, governmental actions to resolve conflicts (track one) and unofficial efforts by nongovernmental professionals to resolve conflicts within and between states (track two). Later, Louise Diamond coined the phrase "multi-track diplomacy," recognizing that to lump all track two activities under one label did not capture the complexity or breadth of unofficial diplomacy. Ambassador John McDonald then wrote an article expanding track two into four separate tracks: conflict resolution professionals, business, private citizens, and the media. This framework, however, still had the four unofficial tracks operating with the exclusive purpose to affect or change the direction of track one.
In 1991, Diamond and McDonald expanded the number of tracks to nine. They added four new tracks: religion; activism; research, training, and education; and philanthropy, or the funding community. More importantly, however, they reorganized the relationship between the various tracks. Instead of putting track one at the top of the hierarchy, with all the "unofficial" tracks poised to change the direction of track one, Diamond and McDonald redesigned the diagram and placed the tracks with each connected to the others in a circle. No one track is more important than the other, and no one track is independent from the others. They operate together as a system. Each track has its own resources, values, and approach, but since they are all linked, they can operate more powerfully when they are coordinated.
IMTD uses a multi-track approach in its work by involving as many different tracks as possible when implementing projects. This way, even when doing social peacebuilding work, we involve people from government, media, or other social institutions which provide a link between the structural peacebuilding and political peacebuilding processes. Just as conflict transformation and peacebuilding are understood in terms of systems change, multi-track diplomacy takes a systems approach to understanding the nature of international peacebuilding.
In fact, it is this systems approach, inherent in the three concepts of conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and multi-track diplomacy, that makes IMTD both as unique and as effective as it is. We take a systems approach when describing (a) what needs to change about a conflict (conflict transformation), (b) how that change is effected (peacebuilding), and (c) the actors involved and the environment in which such change takes place (multi-track diplomacy).
Practice-oriented principles: The twelve principles of multi-track diplomacy
Building a practice out of a broad conceptual base is not easy. As IMTD was created, we started to develop projects in conflict areas in several parts of the world. While we were doing this, we offered a training program called "Peacebuilding in Action: The Principles and Practices of Multi-Track Diplomacy." In this training event, we articulated twelve basic principles of multi-track diplomacy. We have modified and strengthened this list so that it now actively guides our work in the field. We divide the principles into four categories which highlight the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and the conflict-habituated system. The principles focus on: (1) IMTD’s entry into the system; (2) our involvement with our partners; (3) our approaches to the work; and (4) our overall goals.
Approaches to the Work
(7) Synthesis of Wisdom
(2) Long-Term Commitment
(8) Multiple Technologies
(9) Action Research
Involvement with Partners
Principles Focusing on IMTD’s Entry into the System
1. Invitation—We enter the conflict by invitation from a local party. We do not impose ourselves on a system but go only where there is an open door and some form of request for our participation. This invitation will often be from one party in the conflict or from one particular group in the system. Invitation, however, only gets us into the system—we still must gain acceptance and build trust and credibility with all parties before we can be successful in our work. While we may enter the process through a particular sector of the multi-track system, we are likely to embrace a more thorough representation of the system as the work evolves.
2. Long-Term Commitment—We realize that conflict-habituated patterns take a long time to develop and will not be transformed easily or quickly. Therefore, we make a long-term commitment to our projects—for at least five years, or until the parties of the system no longer need or desire our presence. We state this policy clearly and up front as we develop our projects. We do not design projects where we arrive in a system, provide a single training event, and then depart. Such a design does not support our mission of peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
Principles Focusing on our Involvement with our Partners
3. Relationship—We believe that our success as peacebuilders is directly related to the quality of the relationships we establish, over time, with the individuals, groups, and institutions throughout the system in which we are working. A large portion of our work in a conflict system will be devoted to establishing relationships with the parties in conflict. These relationships must be established before substantive work on the conflict can be done.
4. Trust—These relationships must be built on mutual trust. We seek to build personal and institutional trust with the full spectrum of actors system-wide, which includes gaining the trust of the political establishment and acceptance of our work in the larger public sphere. In practice, IMTD builds trust in several different ways. One way is by honoring another of our twelve principles: long-term commitment. Simply stating this commitment to the people in conflict begins to build trust. Second, we must honor that commitment by consistently showing up. A constant or regular presence in the system establishes familiarity, another component of the trust-building process. Third, we build trust through the simple act of listening. When we first arrive in a system, we listen. We demonstrate that we are not there to impose a pre-set methodology on them, but we are developing a project with them interactively. Fourth, we honor and acknowledge their personal courage, because they are the risk takers.
5. Engagement—We are actively involved in our projects, not as distant outsiders, but as engaged and caring partners. Although we enter conflict situations as "neutral" third parties, we are only neutral in terms of any particular outcome of the conflict. As we enter into relationships in the system, we become a part of it, and we are affected by what happens within the system. We are interactive and fully present with our local partners, sharing and developing deeply human relationships within the bounds of ethical professional behavior.
6. Partnership—We model partnership in all aspects of our work, operating collaboratively with our local partners and creating coalitions and consortia with professional colleagues as well. We do not refer to the people with whom we work as clients—they are our project partners. They will be doing the very difficult work of conflict transformation and systems change in the years to come, and they are engaging in a partnership with us so that we may help them through that process. This framework for understanding our relationship empowers our partners in their work. Our partnership with other professionals in the field serves two purposes. First, we model partnership in these collaborations because the example of different groups partnering together is often sorely lacking in the conflict systems. Second, we recognize that no single organization can provide all the staff, skills, or substantive expertise needed in a conflict transformation process. Synergistic cooperation between different practitioners in the field will ensure greater success in the project and advancement of the field.
Principles Focusing on our Approaches to the Work
7. Synthesis of Wisdom—We recognize that Western conflict resolution principles and practices are culture-bound and may not be effective or harmonious in other cultures. We therefore seek to elicit the indigenous wisdom of the communities in which we work and weave an appropriate cultural blend of theory and practice that fits each particular situation. We do not try to deny that we come from a Western perspective in our conflict resolution practice. Rather we offer our cultural view as one part of the picture, encouraging our local partners to complete the picture through their experiences and approaches. We include room in our evaluation process for feedback on the cultural relevancy of our work and materials, and we support the creation of locally-authored education and training materials.
8. Multiple Technologies—We draw on a variety of techniques, methodologies, and activities, and we create new ones, as necessary and culturally appropriate, to honor the uniqueness of each situation. This is another reason why we team up with other conflict resolution practitioners in our work—no single methodology will be enough. We also realize that different stages of conflict transformation require different interventions. In cases where the violence was brutal and very recent, dialogue processes are most needed to bridge the gap created by the violence. In other cases where the immediate pain from the violence has subsided, problem-solving processes or community-building processes can be activated. In other situations, work may already be progressing on the community front, and the most important third-party intervention could be at the level of official negotiations.
9. Action Research—We view our work as learning-oriented. Although our mission statement does not mention learning and research, we recognize that our practice is on the cutting edge of a new field, and we must learn from this process in order to develop it further. We believe we are always learning with and from our partners in all that we do, and we seek ways to extract, express, and share that learning with those partners, our professional colleagues, and other interested parties. All of our programs include an evaluation process which examines both the short-term and the long-term effectiveness of our intervention. This also provides data for research into the effectiveness of interactive conflict resolution practices in general. Since our research is so heavily based on our practice, we often enroll the help of our participants in this process. Local research teams can gather more extensive data and have the added benefit of a different cultural lens on the research.
Principles Focusing on our Overall Goals
10. Responsibility—We do not, and cannot, take responsibility for solving the problems of others. Our work is to assist parties in conflict to address their own concerns and fulfill their own dreams and visions. We can catalyze and facilitate processes that help that to happen, and we contribute toward the building of local capacity and institutions to sustain that work. As communities experience intense ethnic conflict, and atrocities are committed on all sides, the groups invariably feel like victims. It is common to see cries for international intervention to achieve "justice." We stress in our work that solutions (and justice, for that matter) can never be imposed from the outside—responsibility for dealing with the conflict is their own. To support our local partners in taking responsibility, our initiatives support the creation of local institutions and capacity. In all of our training projects, we spend a great deal of time in re-entry, not just to deal with the psychological stresses of re-entering a system that did not share a transformative training experience, but to focus on developing and implementing projects that take advantage of the learning. The more capable the participants are, the more they will recognize and honor their own ability to act.
11. Empowerment—As individuals and groups take responsibility for their own lives, they know their creative power more fully. We seek to encourage this empowerment process, supporting local agents of change as they address the complex and often dangerous challenges facing their systems. Empowerment can take many forms. Through partnership and responsibility, our interventions themselves empower the people we serve. In addition, we often take specific steps to empower the participants. We offer them opportunities to attend conferences or special trainings to aid in their professional development. In some cases, we have even hired training participants as consultants, because without some form of compensation, they would not have been able to continue their local conflict resolution work. In other instances we offered personal coaching to specific individuals, or we used our position as outsiders to convene groups that otherwise would not have met together, thus furthering the work. The point is that our work is never limited to the objectives of a single training or dialogue event—we are seeking conflict transformation, and that requires local empowerment.
12. Transformation—The principle of transformation, of course, is central to the mission of IMTD. In supporting conflict transformation, however, we focus all our actions towards systems transformation, facilitating change at the levels of beliefs, values, perceptions, feelings, behaviors, and structures. At every level we offer the experience of transformation, knowing that if the individuals themselves can have such an experience, then they will likely have a much clearer vision of their goal of systems change, and will be able to pursue that goal more effectively. We may not focus on transforming conflict at every training event, but we do expose participants to transformational processes. In some cases, such as in dialogue processes, we often seek a transformation in perceptions—perceptions of the "other" side or perceptions of history. The moment of transformation is a powerful teaching tool.
These twelve principles describe the general boundaries and structure of IMTD initiatives. They describe how we enter a conflict system, what kind of relationship we form with our partners in that system, what general approaches we take to our work, and the overall goals we are trying to achieve. This is usually where we stop in presenting a "model" of IMTD activities. We value flexibility, and we recognize the uniqueness of each conflict situation. Yet during the three years in which we have followed these principles in IMTD projects, some basic components of our methodology have emerged. We will describe these activities next, not posing them as answers to all conflicts, but presenting them as tools in a toolbox that can be used in pursuit of IMTD’s mission.
Activities: The Practice of the institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy
The mission of IMTD is to facilitate the transformation of deep-rooted social conflicts and to promote a systems approach to peacebuilding. In terms of activities, IMTD’s mission points in two different directions. First, in facilitating the transformation of deep-rooted social conflict, our mission relates to more "traditional" projects in the conflict resolution field—that is, conflict interventions. We design projects in which we engage a conflict system as consultants and trainers in order to assist the parties in transforming their conflict. The other part of our mission, however, is about promoting a systems approach to peacebuilding. While this goal is also supported in our conflict interventions, promoting a systems approach does not always require a deep-rooted social conflict as the context for action. IMTD has developed another category of activity, which we call "System Development Activities," which focuses on developing the individual "tracks" or communities which make up the multi-track diplomacy system. These two categories of action are described below, accompanied in each case by specific examples from IMTD’s work over the last three years to illustrate how we are putting our theory into practice.
We do not promote a set model of intervention which we can apply in any conflict situation. To respond to the variety of different conflict situations, we have developed a collection of different activities—a toolbox—that provides us with the measure of flexibility we need to be successful. There are three categories of activities in this toolbox, all three of which address vital peacebuilding issues. In some cases we will use only one of these tools, and in others we will need all three; nevertheless, we believe that the issues behind all three categories of action must be addressed at some point in order to achieve conflict transformation. Since peacebuilding is about creating infrastructures, our three categories of conflict intervention activity are designed to provide infrastructure-oriented support at key points in the system that have been weakened by the effects of the conflict. The categories are bridge building, capacity building, and institution building.
Bridge Building. The primary goal of bridge building is to bring together parties in conflict to create mutual understanding, rebuild trust, and examine together the root causes, needs, and interests that underlie each side’s stated positions. Trust and communication are the first elements to break down in conflict situations. We understand, however, that trust and clear communication can create the basis for healthy relationships, so our conflict interventions often focus first on these issues. By building bridges through dialogue, training programs, or community-building programs, we begin the process of rebuilding relationships.
Our work with Israelis and Palestinians has spawned several projects, one of which focuses particularly on bridge building. IMTD’s left-right dialogue project, which started in 1993, is an attempt to build mutual understanding and relationships across the left-right split in the Israeli general public. Our contribution to this dialogue has been to provide facilitation and training to an ongoing group of Israeli psychologists that desires to bring the tool of dialogue to the media and to politicians. To achieve that goal, the members of the dialogue group have first had to successfully maintain a healthy dialogue within the group, understand the process and its relationship implications, and then be trained to replicate it. We are assisting the group in all three of these areas.
Another example of IMTD’s bridge-building work comes from our project in Cyprus. In fact, Cyprus is IMTD’s longest-running project, and through it we can provide examples of all three types of conflict intervention activities. Bridge-building was the first activity in which we engaged in Cyprus. In the first two years of the project (1991–1993), we offered several different training events for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, both on and off the island. Early events were done with each community separately, and a few were done bicommunally, including a nine-day intensive residential training program for twenty Turkish and Greek Cypriots in Oxford, England in August 1993.
Clearly, the first gap we were trying to bridge was the gulf that exists between the two communities. Separated by a "green line" which is manned by UN Peacekeeping troops, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can hardly communicate with each other. They have been separated in this manner since the hostilities of 1974, so an entire generation has grown up never having met someone from the other side. By bringing members of these two communities together in a safe environment for training in conflict resolution skills, we were able to build some lasting relationships and friendships. We gave them a shared experience (the training), shared abilities (conflict resolution skills), and a shared purpose (bicommunal conflict resolution projects), which resulted in some very powerful bicommunal relationships.
We also engaged in bridge building within each community separately. Because of the sharp division between the two communities, each was a separate system with its own dynamics. In one case, we worked hard to bring together members from different political parties representing the left and the right within that political community. In another case we brought together people with the same objective (peace), but with differing opinions as to the path to that goal. Bridging these differences through joint training and activities was powerful within each community as well as between them.
Capacity Building. Making connections and establishing relationships, however, is only the beginning. Peacebuilders seeking to transform conflicts must also be equipped with the proper tools for the job, thus our second category of activity is capacity building. The primary goal in capacity building is to develop skills for conflict resolution and reconciliation within a group of local peacebuilders, who can then use these skills within and between their own communities. These skills include a creative blend of both the local, indigenous, traditional methods of addressing conflicts and Western-based methods. The skills, however, are not the only component of this work. Capacity building is a key component of the social peacebuilding process, which is about building a human infrastructure. The skills are an important part of this infrastructure, but they are no more important than the people themselves or the actions they take as a result of their learning experiences. IMTD’s capacity-building programs take this into account. We do not offer simple, isolated training events. Instead, we offer intense training and consultation and coaching to a specific group of peacebuilders, helping them not only to acquire skills but to apply them in their own system.
One IMTD project that focuses particularly on capacity building is our developing project in Cuba. Our focus in this project is not immediately on conflict transformation or systemic change. There is certainly a need for conflict transformation work with Cubans, living both in Cuba and in southern Florida. Our entree into this system, however, has been limited to Cuban governmental officials, so our intervention has focused on capacity building at that level. In April 1995 Ambassador McDonald traveled to Cuba to provide a training in negotiation and conflict resolution skills to twenty-five Cubans from five different Ministries in the government, all interested in international relations. Participants were instructed on topics such as characteristics of a good negotiator, durable settlement agreements, and multi-track diplomacy. Although the training did not focus on a specific conflict, it did focus on building capacity within the Cuban government to deal with conflicts at all levels.
Of course, capacity building is also a crucial component of our Cyprus project. In the beginning, as we were focusing primarily on bridge building, the context for building these bridges was skills training. The premise of training in conflict resolution skills brought together the peacebuilders we needed to work with. Training them in these skills also created a core group of skilled individuals who provided the necessary leadership and courage to maintain this long-term peacebuilding process. Having completed some basic skills training for the core group, we then turned to expanding this training system-wide. In 1994 we formed a consortium with the NTL Institute and the Conflict Management Group (CMG) to provide skills training to over two hundred Greek and Turkish Cypriots in that year also. We trained them in basic communication skills, conflict analysis skills, and IMTD’s basic model of conflict transformation. We also provided instruction on topics such as negotiation, trust-building, and collaborative problem solving.
Building capacity, however, includes reducing the system’s reliance on our help from the outside. So in addition to providing training in basic skills, we also included a program in training trainers. By the end of 1995, in addition to our basic skills training, we have provided a basic and an advanced training of trainers program to approximately thirty Turkish and Greek Cypriots. At our last training, members of this group successfully planned and implemented two week-end trainings in conflict resolution for forty newcomers to the process. The ability to train others will now let them further adapt these materials into their own culture and language. As these people take over the responsibility of providing basic training to the system, it allows our own capacity-building program to focus on other elements within the society, like policy leaders, business leaders, or journalists.
Institution Building. The full power of building conflict transformation capacity within a system, however, cannot be harnessed unless there are institutions to support the peacebuilding work, thus the third category of IMTD conflict intervention activity is institution building. The primary goal of institution building is to help the local peacebuilders develop sustainable institutions—organizations, alliances, working groups, university programs, etc.—that can further the work of peacebuilding theory and practice in the conflict system and the broader region. This is where our conflict interventions begin to overlap between social peacebuilding activities and structural peacebuilding activities. Institutions provide the medium for making a shift from the individual peacebuilding activities being performed locally to the development of a full-blown peacebuilding movement. Since conflict transformation is ultimately about social change, a movement is an appropriate vehicle. Institutions provide legitimacy for such a movement, and they support the expansion of activities within the movement.
One project where we have had a particular focus on institution building is Liberia. Our intervention into the Liberian conflict began in 1993 as we formed a consortium of organizations (IMTD, the Carter Center, George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Friends of Liberia) to explore how we might collectively have a positive impact on the Civil War (1990–1995). Named the Working Group on Peacebuilding in Liberia, we decided to focus our efforts on engaging political leaders in a series of problem-solving workshops. At the outset, we did not intend to focus on institution building.
The problem-solving workshops focused primarily on the political aspects of this conflict and were so useful in deepening the dialogue and building consensus that after the first workshop in February 1994, the participants organized themselves and created the Liberian Initiative for Peace and Conflict Resolution (LIPCORE) to carry on the work they had started. As the members of LIPCORE were mostly high-level members of political or warring factions, LIPCORE provided a secure platform from which to coordinate and carry out joint peace missions to the various leaders. Our second problem-solving workshop was then able to build on both the findings from the first workshop and the peacebuilding work being done by LIPCORE through renewed dialogue and training. Since our workshops, several members of LIPCORE have served as Ministers in the Liberian government, and LIPCORE remains a reservoir of trained talent ready to engage in the post-conflict peacebuilding process.
In Cyprus, we have been attentive to the institutional issue since the beginning. During our earliest visits to the island, we offered consultation to help strengthen a Peace Center in the Greek-Cypriot community. In November 1992, we convened a Bicommunal Steering Committee (BSC) to advise us on the development and implementation of our project. The BSC consisted of four Turkish Cypriots and four Greek Cypriots, all of whom were committed to the project and had been participating in our initial training events. In the coming months and years, however, the BSC took on a life of its own. Bicommunal activity in Cyprus at that time was very difficult to initiate or maintain. By setting up a structure for consistent bicommunal interaction, we had set in motion an important institutionalization process. Acting beyond the scope of our project, the BSC organized bicommunal events and created an identity as an independent, bicommunal conflict resolution institution on the island. In 1995, the BSC secured a room in a building in the UN-controlled Buffer Zone between the two communities and established a bicommunal conflict resolution office. This was one more important step in institutionalization. We have supported this institutionalization process through our project work. We have even included line-item budget expenses for the BSC in our funding proposals in order to include some compensation for these people, most of whom take time out from their paying jobs to do this important peacebuilding work.
System Development Activities
As important as IMTD’s conflict transformation work is, our systems approach dictates that we not limit ourselves to a practice of conflict intervention exclusively. The international system of peacemaking, as outlined in our multi-track diplomacy model, is made up of many actors, including official governments, businesses, religious groups, and peace activists, as well as track two professionals like IMTD. Our work as track two professionals is important in the system, but in order to fulfill our mission of promoting a systems approach to peacebuilding, we must also attend to the other eight tracks. The peacemaking system will work more effectively if each track is empowered to work in harmony and cooperation with the others. A portion of IMTD’s practice, therefore, is dedicated to developing the international multi-track diplomacy system.
We do not have the time and resources to dedicate a program to developing each of the nine tracks individually. Our conflict transformation work does represent the bulk of our work, and our progress in that arena is important for maintaining our reputation in the field and our funding base. We focus our system development work, therefore, on a few select areas which can simultaneously support our conflict transformation projects.
One track that does warrant its own separate initiative at IMTD is track two. Because IMTD is a part of track two, our responsibility and our ability to develop this track is greater than that of the other tracks. For this reason, we single this track out as a special category, and we have developed a single initiative, our Professional Development Program, which is dedicated to developing this track. The Professional Development Program exists to provide high quality training and education to professionals in the many fields of activity related to peacemaking and peacebuilding. Each program is intended to introduce participants to the latest theories and practices of multi-track diplomacy in action. In the beginning, these programs would be offered in the form of week-end trainings, covering specific topics like non-linear approaches to conflict transformation, or IMTD’s five stage model of conflict transformation. Recently, IMTD has developed a new training series for conflict resolution professionals entitled "Deepening the Art: Advanced Studies for Conflict Transformation Trainers and Practitioners." This series includes three five-day trainings focusing on specific third party functions, namely training, facilitation, and practitioners skills.
One important IMTD initiative to develop track two departed from this model, however. In 1995, IMTD collaborated with Joseph Montville, a conflict resolution practitioner known for his specialization in issues of healing and reconciliation. We joined forces to offer two "consultations" on reconciliation which convened practitioners in the field who are doing work in the area of reconciliation. The consultations allowed for an unprecedented gathering of practitioners in this field and resulted in a productive sharing of ideas and concepts. The group explored issues around different reconciliation processes in relational, procedural, and structural terms. This work will go in several different directions from here. More consultations will be scheduled, and we will publish some of the findings from the first two two-day meetings. Also, as a direct result of the consultations, George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution will be offering a course on reconciliation for its Masters and Ph.D. students in conflict resolution.
In addition to our Track-Two focused Professional Development Program, we have developed significant initiatives around track one (government) and track three (business). Our efforts to develop track one are aimed at educating track one about the rest of the multi-track system. Like most tracks in the system, track one tends to focus exclusively on its own role. By broadening the scope of track one professionals, we hope to increase the effectiveness of track one as it engages with the other component parts of the system. We try to accomplish this goal by engaging track one professionals whenever possible. For example, in 1994 the U.S. Agency for International Development convened a two-day conference in Washington, DC on conflict mitigation in Africa, where Dr. Louise Diamond, IMTD’s Executive Director, was one of the facilitators, and Ambassador John McDonald, IMTD’s Chairman, was one of the participants. During this conference, the attendees developed a list of twelve principles to guide AID missions in Africa, and these twelve principles relate directly to the work we do at IMTD. Diamond and McDonald were also invited to do a training for senior U.S. government foreign affairs specialists at the Foreign Service Institute’s Senior Seminar, the highest level training the government provides for foreign service officers. In addition to these formal activities, Ambassador McDonald also spends a great deal of time working informally and one-on-one with representatives of track one, since our conflict transformation work demands, at various times, track one involvement.
For track three, the business community, our efforts have been more coordinated and concentrated. In order to engage track three more constructively in the peacebuilding process, IMTD created an International Business Council (IBC). The IBC was created to give business leaders the opportunity to become more involved in peacebuilding through the work of IMTD. The mission of the IBC is to explore and enhance the role of business in peacebuilding, and to mix and cross-pollinate the skills and perspectives from the business world with the skills and perspectives from the peacebuilding arena.
Our work with business leaders has been focused in Asia. We are in the midst of a two-year conflict transformation project that relies heavily on the Asian business community. In the first year of this project, we conducted an assessment of the peacebuilding needs and resources in the East Asia region as experienced and perceived by the local business community. In the second year of the project, we will actually implement a pilot peacebuilding project in India and Pakistan. The project will be unique in its utilization of the business community in Asia during the development and implementation stages. This project will be a case study on the effectiveness of the business community as a partner in developing peacebuilding projects.
As the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy grows, we will continue to play a part in developing the young field of conflict resolution by further refining our theories and methodologies. We have presented in this paper a snapshot of what IMTD is in 1996, but we realize that this organization, and this field, are constantly changing and growing. We will continue to pursue our mission. We will always promote a systems approach to peacebuilding and facilitate the transformation of deep-rooted social conflict. While today we are using the tools and approaches described here, we know that we cannot remain static in our practice. In the years to come, we will model our own principle of transformation by developing new methods and approaches in pursuit of our mission. We look forward to this growth—the growth of IMTD itself, and of the field as a whole.