To achieve peace in today’s complex conflicts, Track II peacebuilding efforts are becoming increasingly important. The most famous of these produced the Oslo accords in 1993. Highlighting the importance of Track II activities, the United states Institute of Peace (USIP) has published, Conducting Track II Peace Making. Written for both Track I and Track II practitioners, this handbook explains the different stages of Track II activities, from assessment and planning to implementation and evaluation. Track II activities typically involve reputable academic, religious, and NGO leaders and other civil society actors experienced in conflict mediation or other areas of social and political expertise.
Not intended to be a substitute for top-level government negotiations (Track I), Track II diplomacy involves prominent civil society actors and is designed to complement official action by building bridges between opposing sides. It can serve to address misperceptions by warring parties, and the de-escalation that results from such interaction is often necessary before official negotiations can be politically feasible.
One of the advantages of Track II diplomacy is that it can include major parties involved in the conflict that are often viewed by official actors as “illegitimate.” Seldom can peace be achieved, the handbook says, “without talking with such parties directly, because they will continue their violent struggle until they have at least “been heard” or their needs have been met.” But the political space for Track II activities is hardly guaranteed. “Even where an active civil society does exist, Track II efforts may still be infeasible because of severe restrictions on civil liberties.” One such restriction the handbook cites is the U.S. law that makes it illegal for anyone to offer a group that has been formally classified as a terrorist “material support” of any kind, including training and advice. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, ruling that “urging a terrorist group to put down its arms in favor of using lawful, peaceful means to achieve political goals is “providing material support” to terrorists, and is therefore illegal.” Click here for more about this Supreme Court ruling and its impact on humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts.