Episode 534 Track Two Diplomacy

Peter Jones is a professor of international relations at the University of Ottawa and director of the Ottawa Dialogues, an organization that develops “backchannel” communications between nations that are in conflict. Often the two sides take the public position that they will “never negotiate” with each other, while in fact they are conducting unofficial meetings – or at least authorizing citizens to carry out such meetings. This is “track two diplomacy.” The term also can apply to the kind of contacts that civil society organizations conduct without authorization, or even against the wishes of their governments, because they wish to lower the acrimony between the two sides and create conditions that in the future may allow negotiations to take place. For the video, audio podcast, transcript and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-534-track-two-diplomacy/ 


Peter Jones


people, track, conflict, oslo, meetings, talk, conversation, dialogue, government, 

diplomacy, official, quietly, public, years, field, country, group, cold war, side, peace


Metta Spencer and Peter Jones discuss track two diplomacy in the context of Pugwash, an international organization established during the Cold War that facilitated conversations between the East and West. Peter explains that track two diplomacy involves facilitating conversations between people who cannot officially recognize each other or discuss certain topics. He distinguishes between track 1.5, track two, and track three diplomacy:

  1. Track 1.5 or back-channel diplomacy involves semi-official, clandestine discussions between people affiliated with governments or movements. These conversations are usually secret and facilitated by organizations like the Ottawa Dialogue.
  2. Track two diplomacy is not secret, but not public either. It involves conversations between influential citizens of different countries or movements, often for relationship building and discussing the possibility of peace treaties.
  3. Track three diplomacy is more public and civil society-based. It involves meetings of artists, women’s groups, business people, and other civil society actors to develop proposals and advocate for the relaxation of tensions.


Peter acknowledges that the boundaries between these categories are elastic and often blur. Pugwash, for example, can be considered track two diplomacy as it involves influential people primarily interested in security, arms control, and nuclear disarmament. The organization’s work may be deliberately kept quiet or made public to advocate for certain causes. Peter highlights the role of track two diplomacy in successful peace negotiations, such as those in South Africa, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Mozambique. However, he admits that daunting prospects, such as current tensions between Russia and the Western world, make track two diplomacy more challenging.

Liz Carmichael has recently published a book about the South African peace process, detailing the long-standing contributions of the religious community to dialogues for peace. Peter Jones explains that while these dialogues might not have led to immediate change, they eventually helped shape the political landscape.

Jones also discusses the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s relationship with the West. He highlights the importance of bringing people together to consider and discuss the future of these relationships, even if it seems difficult in the current political climate.

Metta Spencer highlights the potential for conversation among the 700,000 Russians who left the country after mobilization. Although these individuals might be cautious to protect the safety of their families, their perspectives could provide valuable insights into potential changes in Russia.

Ottawa Dialogue, a university-based organization with a staff of around 10, focuses on running track two and track 1.5 dialogues in different parts of the world. They also conduct research and publish policy briefs on best practices and general principles in the field of conflict resolution and mediation.

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jones sees value in continuing to pursue the two-state solution, despite its challenges. He believes that it remains the most viable option when compared to alternatives like the one-state solution.

Track Two diplomacy involves unofficial, informal interactions between individuals or groups representing different nations or conflicting parties. It can complement official diplomacy (Track One) and help to manage or resolve conflicts, transform the underlying issues causing conflicts, or create public advocacy for change.

To successfully carry out Track Two diplomacy, one needs to determine the appropriate level of engagement, establish clear objectives, build personal connections, and gain the trust of the involved parties. This process can be time-consuming and requires raising funds and demonstrating competency in managing dialogue projects. Meetings are typically referred to as problem-solving workshops, where participants are encouraged to treat the conflict as a problem they need to solve together.

Track Three diplomacy involves public advocacy for change, often through symbolic gestures or public demonstrations. This type of diplomacy can be particularly useful when there is a need for a more public and visible approach to addressing conflicts.

Multitrack diplomacy is the idea that a fully functioning and ultimately successful peace process should involve activity on all three tracks (Track One, Track Two, and Track Three). While it is challenging to design and execute a multitrack peace process, it has been recognized that in cases where there has been real change in a conflict, all three tracks have made a contribution.

One approach discussed is bringing together people representing different conflicts to listen, learn, and reflect on each other’s experiences. While this approach can be powerful, it is also dependent on the willingness of the parties to participate in such discussions.

Track two diplomacy can lay the groundwork for official diplomacy, such as the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, which was facilitated by Brendan Duddy’s secret communication between the British security services and the IRA.

One historical example of successful track two diplomacy is the Mozambique conflict resolution facilitated by the religious organization Community of Sant’Egidio. They invited representatives from the two sides to engage in dialogue, leading to official peace negotiations. In South Africa, track two diplomacy occurred between the African National Congress and the apartheid government over a period of 15 years. This process ultimately led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the transition to majority rule.

Organizing track two diplomacy requires building trust and identifying influential individuals on both sides who share the goal of resolving the conflict. The process typically takes years and involves a high level of confidentiality. Track two diplomacy aims to create the conditions for official diplomacy to take over, ultimately leading to a signed peace treaty.

Moral questions arise when leaders publicly state they will not negotiate with the other side while secretly engaging in track two diplomacy. However, the hope for eventual change and the potential for progress toward peace justifies continuing these confidential dialogues. Track two diplomacy often involves meetings over a year or two, with the aim of fostering a tight-knit community of people committed to dialogue, even if they don’t yet believe a solution is possible.

The process generally involves six to eight people per side, meeting for three to four days at a time. Initial exchanges often involve anger and frustration, but facilitators work to create an atmosphere of understanding and problem-solving. By building connections through shared experiences, such as meals and trips, participants gradually form a sense of community and come to see their counterparts as decent people. Eventually, they can introduce problem-solving dynamics and work towards a mutual understanding.

Track two diplomacy is separate from official diplomatic channels, where representatives follow their government’s instructions. This allows for more candid exchanges and the exploration of alternative solutions. In some cases, secret emissaries may be sent to deliver messages between leaders or establish a means of communication. Although the United Nations is a hub for diplomatic interactions, it is not often a fruitful place for breakthroughs, as participants are bound by their government’s instructions.

Track two diplomacy has resulted in significant progress in the past, with the Oslo Accords being a notable example. While official Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington were unproductive, private dialogue in Norway led to a historic agreement.


This is a machine-made transcript, so it will contain errors. Don’t cite it without checking it against the video for mistakes.

Metta Spencer  00:00

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer. Today let’s talk about track two diplomacy. I’m not much of a diplomat, but I’ve got one on hand now, somebody who’s a track two guy. And this is Professor Peter Jones from the University of Ottawa, and the Graduate School of I don’t know, what do you say it was Peter,

Peter Jones  00:19

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs,

Metta Spencer  00:22

All right. So the way I know him a little bit is through Pugwash, I’ve been a member of Pugwash for something like 40 years, and he says about 20 some. And I know that he’s done actually some track two diplomacy through Pugwash. And in a way, you can say that Pugwashi itself is kind of a setup for track two kinds of activities in various contexts, because it was an organization set up during the Cold War to facilitate conversations between East and West. And it’s continued to be an international organization with conferences and dialogues and so on. And it has it did some very good work, especially during the Cold War, and was recognized with a Nobel Prize. So we’re going to talk about this whole thing of track two diplomacy, which is his bag. Good morning, Peter, how are you?

Peter Jones  01:22

Fine, thank you. How are you?

Metta Spencer  01:24

Good. Okay, now, we, I won’t even attempt to, to tell people what it is, because you’re better at giving a course on track two diplomacy. So let’s have a mini course on track two diplomacy this morning.

Peter Jones  01:42

Okay, sure. You’ve probably all heard, you know, a prime minister or a president or a foreign minister, stand up in Parliament and say we will never talk to, and then insert Ira PLO, whatever you wish. And so there is this position that governments take that they will never talk to adversaries. But we know, in fact, historically, they do all the time, Israel talks to Hamas, the British talk to the IRA, for many years, the apartheid government of South Africa talk to the African National Congress. And they do it through a mechanism which goes by various names, back channel diplomacy, track two diplomacy. Essentially, it’s the business of facilitating conversations between people who otherwise couldn’t, they couldn’t, because they don’t recognize each other officially, or because even though they may recognize each other, they’ve sworn that they’ll never talk to the other side about a particular issue. India and Pakistan will never talked about Kashmir. Well, they do talk about Kashmir, they talk about it in track two. So it’s a way of having these kinds of discussions. So one way to think about track two is on different levels, if you like, the kind of talks that I’ve been just describing sort of semi official clandestine between people affiliated with governments or movements, sometimes in the field, we call that track 1.5 or back channel. It’s a kind of discussion that’s almost but not quite an official discussion. And then there’s…

Metta Spencer  03:13

Those who are in this, these conversations are themselves government officials. But …

Peter Jones  03:19


Metta Spencer  03:20

They’re not publicly letting anybody know that they’re talking. Is that it?

Peter Jones  03:24

Right? Yeah, sometimes their government officials, sometimes they might be, you know, retired officials, but still very close to government. So they’re, there really on behalf of the government, but the fact of the talks is secret. And very often there’ll be hosted and facilitated by an organization like the one I run the Ottawa dialogue so that they’re portrayed, if they ever become public, as academic conversations, they’re not official. We’re not negotiating with those people. You know. That’s the sort of way that that’s done. And then another level is more classically track two, which is it’s not secret, but it’s not public, but it is conversations between influential citizens of different countries or, or different movements. But it’s more, it’s not necessarily negotiations over specific things. It’s more general relationship building and talking about how one day we may progress towards a Peace Treaty. And so one way to think of that is that for many, many years between Israelis and Palestinians, there were track two talks going on around the world. And they eventually when the time was right, became a track 1.5 in Oslo, which then eventually led to the Oslo agreement. So it was a progression. I mean, eventually, these talks that had gone on for many years, which were not secret, but not public, between Israeli academics and people close to the government and people close to the PLO, eventually became talks between Israeli government officials and PLO officials, but not official talks, facilitated by the government of Norway and then eventually, official diplomacy. A third level that we sometimes talk about is what we call track three. And that is much more civil society to civil society, and is very often public. And so you know, very often you’ll have situations between countries or groups in conflict where you’ll have meetings of, you know, artists, women’s groups, business people coming together to try to develop proposals, ideas, ways to advocate on behalf of a relaxation in tensions. And so again, I mean, I do a fair bit of work in the India Pakistan context, and I’m not involved myself, but there’s an awful lot of track three, there’s an awful lot of meetings of Indian and Pakistani business people to say, well, you know, if we could trade openly, the economy of both countries would be, you know, enhanced, or groups of artists or filmmakers or women’s groups of advocate on behalf of better relations. But that’s track three is much more public. And it’s meant to be and it’s meant to be more advocacy based…,

Metta Spencer  06:04

Then tell me, I read your paper where you make these distinctions, but to me, the boundaries between the three are very blurry…

Peter Jones  06:12

Oh they are elastic, yeah.

Metta Spencer  06:13

I am trying to think what is, what is Pugwash? Is it track two or three?

Peter Jones  06:19

Well, the boundaries are very elastic. And you know, these, depending on the kind of meeting you’re running, you could be doing any one of these things I personally, most of what it does, I will call Pugwash track two, which is to say, sort of influential people who are primarily interested in security and arms control issues and nuclear disarmament, as it was in the Cold War, for the most part, and who are seeking to influence their governments who are meeting quietly. Sometimes the work they do, they deliberately decide to make public in order to sort of advocate on behalf of, but sometimes it’s deliberately kept very quiet and only given to the respective governments to so to show, you know, possible ways forward. So I think Pugwash is a very good example of an organization that, that does a bit of all three of these things. And it just depends on the role it’s taking in a particular time. And how it goes about it’s business.

Metta Spencer  07:17

During the Cold War, some of the people that influential Pugwashites were actually members of the government. It wasn’t the Duma in those days, but whatever. You know, they were they had very high positions in the ministry of foreign affairs or something.

Peter Jones  07:35

There’s a book by a professor at Cornell named Matthew Evangelista.

Metta Spencer  07:40

Yes, I know him.

Peter Jones  07:41

It’s on armed forces. It’s a history of the Pugwash movement during the Cold War. So it goes into all this. It’s very good.

Metta Spencer  07:47

Yes, I have the book. I used to know Matthew, in fact, I wrote a book about, my book was called the The Russian Quest for Peace, or the Soviet, The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy. I guess it was but you know, and it was it covered a lot of those those interactions. So Matthew, and Icompared notes sometimes.

Peter Jones  08:09

Yeah, there was another organization called the Dartmouth conferences, which was named after a university in the Northeastern US where they began having a series of these kinds of meetings and they’d have working, it’s still going on, on Russia, US working groups.

Metta Spencer  08:24

In fact, that’s interesting that that it still exists, because I, I kind of…

Peter Jones  08:29

To my knowledge anyway.

Metta Spencer  08:31

I wasn’t aware that it still existed. Okay, there’s certainly a lot of room for it now. But I don’t think there’s much, much hope that you want to talk a little about. What would you even consider trying something right now with two governments that are so far apart as, as Russia and let’s say, the rest of the Western world, not just Ukraine, but you know, EU and so on? It would seem to me to be a very daunting prospect.

Peter Jones  09:08

Oh yeah. Well, you cannot do this kind of work, unless you’re prepared to accept daunting prospects. Because I mean, for most of the history of these, of these dialogues, even the ones that have succeeded, you know, South Africa, was an example of a tract, tract two process or processes that eventually contributed significantly to the end of apartheid. And, and I’ve mentioned the Israeli Palestinian Mozambique, the Cold War, there are examples of these things. But they went on for a very long time, and very often the sort of the public face of them. I mean, we now know that, you know, just before Nelson Mandela was released, there was a series of track 1.5 meetings in England, that were sponsored by a British company, which had interest in South Africa and but, and those are now known they’d been talked about and written about, but what’s not known. There’s a very good book just out by a professor at Oxford named Liz Carmichael was for years and years and years, there were all kinds of quiet discussions going on.

Metta Spencer  10:07

I knoww Liz Carmichael but I didn’t know, she had a new book.

Peter Jones  10:11

Just written a book on the South African peace process so there’s a whole chapter on the contribution made over several decades, largely by the religious community in South Africa, on both sides, you know, the Dutch Reformed Church and other people on the, the Anglican Church, and so on sponsoring dialogues? And that went on for a long time. And you know, for most of it, you would have said, Yeah, well, that’s all very nice, but no change is possible, nothing’s going to happen. But they kept going. And eventually, some of the contacts and the ideas, sort of blossomed, you know, when the political circumstances caught up. And that we see that over and over again. So, to go back to your question, if I was to do something, or, and there is discussion going on between Russians and Americans, and so on right now. It would be very much at this point in the view that, you know, we are not going to be contributing to the end of the war in Ukraine. That’s going to happen, you know, militarily and diplomatically. But this is much more about well, what kind of a relationship is Russia going to have with the West in the next 10,15, 20 years? And the answer is not knowable. But the point is, you know, bringing together people to start considering it and talking about it and thinking about it is, is vitally important precisely at these kinds of moments. But it’s difficult to do.

Metta Spencer  11:30

You know, when I was visiting Russia, doing that kind of interactions, I found that there were people in the government, who were supposed to be official, they were party members, with big time party members, and who were very much hoping for some real changes and very much for democracy and so on. I mean, Gorbachev was not alone. He was part of a movement, you know, and they we didn’t know about it on the west, very many people didn’t know about it. But I, when I asked people now like I asked Michael McFaul it, is there a comparable kind of contrary movement within Putin’s entourage? Now, he’s thought not,that you couldn’t find anybody who would actually go take any chances in terms of even whispering, malcontent behind his back, you know, that there just isn’t that kind of movement now. I don’t know, would you be in a position to have heard?

Peter Jones  12:41

I’m afraid I don’t know, I’m not really an expert on on Russia. I mean, but I mean, if you can’t find people within the system, who are disposed to have these kinds of conversations, you know, this system won’t be here forever. And there are potentially people who might rise in the next system. Now, this becomes very dangerous, because for them, it’s, you know, they’re being watched. And it’s very difficult to have these kinds of conversations. So it might be at this exact moment with the conflict in Ukraine, it might be difficult to have these kinds of conversations and, and people might not be willing to take the risk. But the point is that at some point in time, there’ll be a need to reach out and try to find the individuals with whom you can have a conversation. The other thing is, if you think at these different levels, track one and a half, track two, track three, probably at the track one and a half level, there may well be some people around Putin, who’d love to have a conversation. But it’s going to be more about how do we manage the situation, you know, they’re looking to sort of remain in power, and maybe extricate themselves from the mess they put themselves in and, and things like that. And so the question for people who do this is, you know, do I, do my help to facilitate that kind of a conversation with these really horrendous people who’ve done terrible things? But who may if the the deal is right, be willing to back off and remain in power. You know, so it becomes a bit of a moral conundrum in that. I mean, it’s very easy to say, Well, I’ve only talked to people who are represent the light of the pure and want change, and, and, you know, I’ll have conversations with them, but people are being killed now. So do you, do you have conversations with the killers to try and try and reduce that? It’s a it’s a real conundrum for the field.

Metta Spencer  14:26

Well, the thing that I’m trying to encourage is that, you know, I believe 700,000 men left Russia, after mobilization and they’re scattered everywhere now. And really, that is a promising place to have some really serious conversations. They’re not used to that. They don’t themselves just spontaneously start getting together and planning what kind of new government they want, but that’s where the the most promising conversations could take place because they’re out of the country. Of course, their families are still there, they may be cautious about that. But still, I think that’s, that is, that’s a hopeful sign that maybe they can have conversations by zoom everywhere in the world, you know.

Peter Jones  15:18

Yeah, that may be an area. I mean, I personally don’t work on that part of the world. But that may be an area to, as you, as you say, begin planting some seeds and, and developing some relationships. But that’s more of a long term payoff. It’s not going to necessarily reduce the fighting right now.

Metta Spencer  15:33

But that’d be your track three, right. That’s what you would mean, by track three?

Peter Jones  15:37

Well, it would depend if you were doing it sort of relatively publicly and trying to bring together coalitions of people due to publicly put pressure on the Russian government to change its policies and to advocate a new course, then yes, I mean, if it was a case of quietly reaching out and trying to find people who, who could be leaders in a future Russian government, whatever it might be, they might not want to be so public right now. They might want to be talking quietly, but still willing to talk and try to understand what they might do. So that might be a more confidential kind of dialogue, it would really depend on what you were trying to accomplish.

Metta Spencer  16:15

Tell, tell us now you run this out of a dialogue. Tell me what it is for one thing, I mean, it’s not just you, it’s some other folks too right? And what do you do?

Peter Jones  16:24

Well, we have a staff rating of about 10. It fluctuates up and down, depending on what we’re doing. And we’re very much within the University of Ottawa, so we’re a university based organization. And we’re very much involved in running track to dialogues in various parts of the world, some track 1.5, but also doing research and publishing and holding workshops and conferences on what track two is. So if you go to our web page, www.Ottawadialogue.ca. we’re described. And if you go to the resources page, we publish three or four times a year a series of papers called policy briefs about different aspects of this field and how it works and what the best practices are, and so on. We have a research department, headed by a very, very active young PhD named Julia Palmiano Federer, a Canadian who lives in Europe, and she and her team are sponsoring, writing, and research and, and I do writing on the field and how it works. So we do an awful lot of trying to understand what track two is, and working with others who work in this field, we’re part of an international organization called the mediation support network, which is a group of NGOs who do this kind of work, it’s based in Switzerland, and we get together once a year and talk about our sorrows and victories and you know, exchange notes. And so, so, so there’s a whole sort of public side of what we do in terms of trying to understand track two and, and develop the field, because it’s still a relatively little understood form of conflict resolution and mediation. And then we have this more operational side of quietly running these dialogues in different parts.

Metta Spencer  18:10

Are you officially part of the University of Ottawa as an Institute? Or are you independent?

Peter Jones  18:16

No, we’re part of the University of Ottawa.

Metta Spencer  18:18

Okay, now you have, you say you have projects going on. I presume that when you publish a paper, you’re not disclosing much about what is actually ongoing. But reflecting on general principles, or maybe telling the story of what did happen, is that…

Peter Jones  18:35

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. I mean, where the participants in our dialogues are willing to make some sort of public proposal, we do that, but only if they’re willing, and they’re comfortable. And that doesn’t happen very often. Usually. On that side, you know, the ideas that come out of the workshops we hold, they’re given to the two governments or the two organizations, for them to consider. But when we do are publishing and writing, we talk about, as you say, general principles, best practices. A lot of work on looking at, you know, for example, we just published a policy paper by a European scholar, Andreas Herblinger who’s looking at the potential application of sort of new communications technologies and artificial intelligence, to how peace processes can be run virtually. And so that’s one of our policy papers. A little while ago, we published a policy paper by an Israeli scholar named Lior Lehrs, who looked back on Oslo because Oslo is 30 years ago now and you look back on the different narratives and explanations and understandings that exist of what happened in Oslo and, and how, you know, history and time and, and a certain amount of credit claiming and all the rest of it is causing there to be a whole series of different narratives of what Oslo actually was. And so he sort of disentangles those and looks at those and looks at what that kind of historiographical if that is a word, historiography is a word I know that. What that has done to the field of track to and our understanding of it. So, so there’s a variety of things we’ve published, and

Metta Spencer  20:07

Excuse my saying this, but I’m surprised that anybody would be wanting to boast about Oslo. It looked good at the time, but I don’t think much has happened that that makes you think it’s great.

Peter Jones  20:20

I mean, it’s not a question that you’re boasting. It’s a question to try to understand. And Oslo is a very interesting case of in this field that I work in, because, as you say, at the time, it was the great success, right? Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And, you know, as time has gone by, not so much. So the question is, well, is that the fault of track two? Or is it because the ideas that were inherent in the, in the, in the, you know, the talks in Oslo, they weren’t implemented by each side? And so you say, well, track two did it’s job, but then the government’s took over and, and, you know, failed to implement? Obviously, this argument…

Metta Spencer  20:59

Now what i would like to ask you is if you were running it, and you were picking it up and carrying it forward, now, what, how would you change it? Only? I think I shouldn’t ask you that, because I think you may actually be doing that. And I’m not supposed to talk about it.

Peter Jones  21:17

The other thing that also did was it changed the reality. I mean, you know, before Oslo, it was illegal for Israelis to talk to members of the PLO. And I mean, now there’s the Palestinian Authority, which is not a country but is a kind of quasi government and Israelis and members of the PA talk to one another all the time. And so, you know, there’s there’s an altered reality on the ground that really directly stems from Oslo now. It’s not the reality we’d hoped for. And, you know, things seem to be going in a rather poor direction right now. But, but I mean, I think where we are right now is, there’s a variety of different views as to the potential way forward, there are still those, a decreasing number, who believe in this concept of the two state solution, and that, you know, Israel and Palestine living side by side and so on. So there’s some talks going on, to try to fathom how that would work. And you know, are there, are there things that can be done to encourage that? And, and by the way, that still is the official position of most of the international community. There’s a growing number of people who don’t believe it anymore.

Metta Spencer  22:21

Well I gather, I’m inferring maybe incorrectly, that you are not one of those people who believe that it has much hope.

Peter Jones  22:29

Probably incorrectly actually, the thing about the two state solution is that it’s probably the least hopeful of the solutions on offer. But it’s the only real solution. Because the other idea that’s now out there is what’s increasingly being called the one state solution, which is that somehow this area, which comprises Israel and the occupied territories, becomes one country and that you have the two different communities sort of governing themselves within one unit,. Or, you have a demographic nightmare, where eventually the Palestinians outnumber the Israelis and demand to take over. And there’s, you know, enormous bloodshed and violence and so on. So there’s a variety of different dialogues going on, sponsored by different people looking at different aspects of, of that. So, you’ve asked me what I would do, I would be still plugging away. However, you know, regretfully and so on trying to see if the two state solution has a future.

Metta Spencer  23:32

Okay. I won’t quarrel with you. I have given up hope.

Peter Jones  23:37

I don’t, I don’t hold out a lot of hope.

Metta Spencer  23:40

Yeah, right. Okay. That’s difficult. Okay. Now, I keep derailing you from the original request, which is, give us a little how to do it lecture. What is it, if, if you were training people to do track two  diplomacy, what are the instructions?

Peter Jones  24:06

Well, I mean, first of all, you have to decide what level you’re working at track three, track two, track one and a half. And you have to decide, what are the objectives? You know do you want to sort of help to manage a conflict, which means to say, it’s not going to be ended, but it at least be a lower level of violence? And so do you want to try and resolve the conflict? Do you want to try and transform the underlying situation that caused the conflict in the first place? Those are all very different objectives. And so the kind of track two you run, the kind of people you bring to the table. Those are all the sorts of things you have to think about and have in your own mind, a fairly clear picture of what you’re trying to do. And then you have to start saying to yourself, Well, okay, what am I we call them in the field entry points. How do I enter the conflict? How do I persuade people at whatever the appropriate level is, whatever the appropriate objective is, to come to the table and start talking to one another. And very often, that’s a matter of personal connections. Having a reputation as someone who does this kind of thing, but it’s very time consuming it, you have to go and meet people and talk to people and establish a real sort of rapport of trust, and so on. And you have to sort of find the right people for the right level and the right set of objectives that you’re pursuing. And then when you finally you have to raise the money, which is not easy, then you have to sort of approach the funders of this sort of thing, which are a select number of governments and foundations. It’s not terribly expensive, you know, as compared to the cost of flying a jet fighter for two hours, but it still costs money. So you have to do that, and you have to manage it, you have to show a certain competency, in managing funds and so on the Ottawa dialogue, we, we have a staff from about 10 right now, and we have people who are, you know, administrative coordinators, and who do this kind of thing. And it’s very important that, you know, the funders want to know that their money is being spent properly and in accordance with their, you know, national requirements, and so on. And so my competency in managing that kind of international Dialogue Project is an important part of what you do. So assuming you’ve, you know, you’ve decided on the level you want to work at, and you’ve brought people in who are willing to talk and, and you raise the funds and all this sort of stuff, then you have to start saying, Well, what kinds of meetings do I want to have, in the classic world of sort of track two track one and a half, which is what we do in the Ottawa dialogue, the key.

Metta Spencer  26:45

Sorry, you do primarily to track one and a half?

Peter Jones  26:49

Track two, track one and a half areas are the the, as you say, the fungible gap, the fungible boundary between the two. And so the key concept for how you run these meetings, and what you try to accomplish in these meetings, is what is known as problem solving. And what is meant by that is that when you get two groups of people together, who are from a long standing conflict, long standing intractable conflict, when they sit down together, the natural tendency is to start bargaining, start negotiating, right. And they either negotiate over particular issues between them, or they even negotiate over their narratives. I mean, my narrative of pain and suffering is worse than yours, you know, and they start going on and living the conflict. And, you know, and that’s pretty pointless. I mean, that’s what got them there. And so what you’re trying to stimulate is a different approach on the part of the people at the meeting. And you’re trying to, to gently lead them to a place where they begin to, together as a group, regard the conflict between them as a problem. And a problem they need to work together to try and solve Well, that’s why generally speaking, the kinds of meetings we have are, are called in the literature problem solving workshops. And the approach of track two is a problem solving approach. And so you’re trying to create a kind of a, you know, you have these people and maybe half a dozen from each side, maybe eight usually not more than that. And to create a sense of a group dynamic, and a sense that they’re working together to, to jointly identify the issues of a problem, and then and then propose solutions. But this takes time, I mean, track two dialogues last years, you know, all these track twos that are going on between Israelis and Palestinians, and South Africans and members of the African National Congress is on they took many years, and ,and the slow process of of making that change of approach, which was largely a sort of the third party facilitators job to try and quietly do that takes a long time. So that’s what we would do. Now, if you’re running a track three, and you’re more involved in public advocacy, then you’re looking for, you know, people who have a bit of name recognition, people who are committed to societal change around whatever issue is your women’s rights, environment, trade, whatever the issues that you’re running on, and who are willing to come together and make a bit of noise, you know, and make a bit of a splash and, you know, probably, over time, perhaps put together a sort of a joint statement, which they will release with a considerable amount of fanfare and trying to attract attention. And that’s a different kind of process. And…

Metta Spencer  29:36

Even there, excuse me, but you know, even there the borderline of what is what would be considered track three is is not as clear to me. I mean, for example, take these women who march across the border from South Korea, to North Korea and you know, have a picnic together or something and basically go home. Now, they’re not negotiating at all, they’re not trying to work any thing out. And, uh, but it’s mostly a public relations, demonstration of some kind of willingness to try to overcome some problems, but it’s just a symbolic gesture, right?

Peter Jones  30:20

But somewhere, they had to have a discussion to agree to do that. That didn’t just happen spontaneously. And so that would be a conversation. I mean, one of the more famous examples that you’re talking about, was in Northern Ireland, in groups and large groups of women who got together from both sides of the divide, and marched and said enough, and, you know, had a significant public impact, and that didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a discussion, and how are we going to do this and, and then a movement was, was born to make sure that whenever extremists were threatening to take the field, a large group of these people would show up and say, no, we don’t agree with that. Now, as that was happening, there was a lot of track two and track 1.5. And so one of the concepts that we talk about in the field is, is a phrase known as multitrack diplomacy, which means that a kind of a fully functioning, ultimately successful peace process involves activity on all these tracks. Right, just as the people are quietly talking at the track 1.5 level, people are marching and advocating change. And, and so the idea being that, you know, if you’re going to have a fully functioning peace process, there has to be activity on all these tracks do to promote the idea of change at all levels. And it’s sort of an ideal in the field of those who study it and think about it that you could design a multitrack peace process, you could design a process where there’s activity, nobody’s ever figured out how to do that.  It happens spontaneously where it happens, because, you know, these tracks are operating at different levels for different purposes. And you know, the people who are noisily advocating change, probably aren’t interested in talking to or would would reject the idea of those who are quietly talking at the track 1.5 level and vice versa. And so the idea of of structuring a multitrack approach, and nobody’s quite figured out how to do it. But everybody recognizes that in cases where there has been real change in a conflict, real transformation, it’s because all three tracks made a contribution.

Metta Spencer  32:22

You know, I once participated in something I don’t know whether to call it track three or even, I don’t know what to call it, but I was active in the Helsinki citizens assembly. And we had, it was a group that toward the end of the Cold War in Eastern Europe, and between started between Eastern European democracy advocates and Western peace activists and I participated in several where there was a guy named Mient Jan Faber, who was the head of IKV, in the Netherlands, and very prominent in the HCA. And it was wonderful, because he did not speak Russian. But there were about I think there were five wars going on at the time, among, you know, the Armenians and Azerbaijanis and and all of these local wars as the Soviet Union was trying to break up. And there were real conflicts between them. So, we would sit at a table, and one group would talk about their problem. And they had to slow down to be translated, because Mient Jan Faber was the mediator or the head honcho in that meeting and he didn’t speak Russian. They could speak to each other in Russian or there some other language, but they had to stop and let the translation take place. And it was wonderful, because that sort of cooled things a little bit, gave them time to settle down a little bit if they’re getting hot. And, but the other thing is, at the same table, there’d be the next group of people who had their issue. And the next group, there were about three different conflicts go being discussed at the table. And everybody listening into what the other group was dealing with, could easily see that their issue was mirrored perfectly in what was going on in this other group. So I was thinking they would actually get benefit from listening to how the other group was dealing with their issue. And then when their turn came, everybody listened to them. And it was I thought the idea of bringing together people representing at least two different conflicts that are similar, should have a lot of value. So I tried to organize something between the Kosovo and Serb you know, conflict which was going on at the time, and the Sri Lankan. conflict, because the issue, you know, the separatists issue and, and everything about it, the two issues were very similar. And I would think that you could get, you could listen and see yourself reflected in that other group. But you know, I couldn’t get them sit at the same table, we had preliminary meetings where the each side would come and tell us their side. But they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t sit at the table, never got them to sit at the table. And we went on trying this for a year, here in Toronto. These were just local people that were not, you know, not officials. But there were there were people who would, you know, fled the country or had some big stake in the outcome. And I don’t know, I never, you know, I didn’t take your course, it might have turned out differently if I had taken your course.

Peter Jones  35:54

We’ve done a version of that in more of a track 1.5 setting, which is, which we’re done. Now we can talk about it, you know, it’s been written about we were one of a few groups that was running dialogues between Americans and Iranians at one point, before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was was signed, which Trump of course has since abandoned, but nevertheless. And one of the things that we did, and we found useful, because there is nothing to talk about, nothing in common talked about, there’s no way forward, was looking at other examples of countries that had had bilateral differences over nuclear issues, broader political issues, whatever they were, and bringing people in to talk to this group of Americans and Arabians, who this was track two, they were not officials, but they were retired officials, they were influential and close to the respective governments. And so I remember one of the things we did was, as you may know, there’s an agreement between Argentina, Brazil ABACC which is a special bilateral nuclear control agreement, you know, each side can inspect each other’s because at one point, there was some concern that both of these countries were, were contemplating going down the nuclear road. So they, neither of them was necessarily completely comfortable with the NPT. So they signed a bilateral agreement. And there’s a there’s a bilateral organization which inspects nuclear plants in both countries. And so we brought an official from ABACC to a meeting we had in Dubai with Americans and Iranians, and he talked about the ABACC experience. And I mean, and it was very interesting, because the Americans and Iranians, they quickly said, well, that’s not really relevant to us. But, interesting that, you know, people succeeded in doing something. And so let’s take this and, you know, and even if we initially are having a discussion about why this case isn’t relevant to us, we’re at least starting to talk about something. And then, you know, again, it becomes an act of the facilitation of saying, well, what would be that, you know? And so, I mean, that kind of idea of bringing in people from other conflicts, to talk to those in a conflict, it can be very powerful, depending on how you do it, and what the circumstances are.

Metta Spencer  38:15

You mentioned that the there’s been a lot of that kind of thing going on in Ireland, before the settlement a while back. Can you, I’m not too familiar with what all went on. I do know, of course, about these, these women, and they were very public about

Peter Jones  38:36

Yeah, absolutely.

Metta Spencer  38:37

Your activity. So you’re saying that there were back backroom conversations?

Peter Jones  38:42

Oh yes very much. It’s coming out. Now. There’s a scholar in Ireland, Niall O’ Dochartaigh, and he’s written about it, there was a couple of people, one of the most well known now, although it was a big secret at the time, was a businessman in Northern Ireland, Brendan Duddy, and he largely through personal, you know, in his childhood had connections on both sides. And he, over a period of time, and it’s a fascinating story, how it happened, he, he became a go between, and he hosted meetings in his front room of people from the British security services and the IRA, and organized, you know, passed messages back and forth and, and over many years at considerable risk. I mean, this was not a risk free venture on his part. But he established a level of, and this is going to be a funny word, I’m gonna use trust. And I don’t mean trust in the sense that the two the IRA and the British Secret Service came to like one another, but they, they began to regard that there were at least some people on each side, who when the message came through Duddy, they couldn’t believe it. Even if they didn’t like it, at least they couldn’t believe it, you know, and they couldn’t, there was a level of sort of a secure channel of communication which was not public and deliberately not kept public. And there were moments in the conflict over the decades when the two sides were fighting one another, like cats and dogs, because you know, the tensions have risen and conflict had exploded. And yet, they were still quietly talking through Brendan Duddy. And there were others, there was an Irish priest named Father, Alex Reid, who played this role in some way. And so when the time came to begin the dialogue, which eventually became the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, there was at least a cadre of people on each side, who, who understood that it was possible to have a conversation. And even if you didn’t like what the other side said, you could at least trust that it was a genuine expression, they weren’t trying to con you, right? And that the and of the confidence very often at the beginning of one of these things, the most important thing to establish is that the confidence of the channel will be respected. Because when you have a situation where the two sides have said that they will never talk to the other side, and the high political level stated that. If it were to become public, that they were, in fact, talking to the side, you know, politicians would be discredited so, so very often the first thing, the most important thing is the fact that they can be trusted to keep the secret of the conversation. And then you go from there to start building further and further trust so it’s an interesting story.

Metta Spencer  41:23

I was reading this morning, your paper where you were talking about these three different levels of negotiator, track two, track 1.5, etc. And you refer to the importance of deniability. Now that can talk a little bit about that. I don’t know. I mean, you know, when if somebody is doing a conversation, and if the press asks them and they say, no, we’re not, I think, you know, I’m gonna lose faith in those people. That, you know, it’s, there’s the argument that they must tell the truth in certain circumstances.

Peter Jones  42:10

Well, yeah, I mean, I think you have to start, you raise a very interesting moral question. I mean, if you’ve publicly stated that it is your policy, that you will never talk to the other side. And then you do, and you are, you know, you’re lying to the public to your own public. And, you know, there’s a moral, there’s a moral argument in there. The counterpart is that, you know, very often in these sort of political situations, the public pressure that a politician or a leader might be under to make a certain statement, because he’s, you know, he’s got his own party and the opposition movement or, you know, yelling for blood, and we can’t talk to these killers, and, and all the rest of it. It’s just a political reality. And if you did, the leader didn’t understand that they wouldn’t get a chance to be leader, right? But by the same token, there has to be a way to at least begin to open some doors, and explore whether or not there are people on the other side, who might one day be the kinds of people with whom one could potentially have a conversation. And so, at the sort of most confidential levels of track, 1.5 are sometimes called back channels, sometimes for a long period of time, the individuals and they’re actually not talking to one another. They’re both talking to the the middleman Brendan Duddy, whoever it is, who’s going back and forth. And so, you…

Metta Spencer  43:40

Shuttle diplomacy,

Peter Jones  43:43

Sort of a back channel, call it you know, shuttle diplomacy is often a little more public, you just you’re seem to be going back and forth. But some mechanism whereby at least some very basic level of rapport and trust, can begin to be built between, you know, leadership’s of the two sides or some leadership’s, and to begin to test whether or not as I say, there are people over there with whom we might one day be able to have a conversation. And so it’s a slippery moral slope. Right? If you said, You’ll never talk to these people, and quietly, you are, but I think, you know, most people in diplomacy and politics and, and so on, are aware of the need to sort of navigate this. Now, where you have a moral question, I think, as someone who does this, is if you’re allowing yourself to be placed in this position, and you’re going back and forth. Are you doing this in the service of the hope that one day change will be possible, which may take a very long time? Or are you helping two groups of very unpleasant people manage their conflict to sort of keep it below a certain level of violence so that they can keep the conflict going and remain in power and not have to change anything? And that’s a difficult question. And so when you get involved in some of these things, you have to begin to ask yourself, you know, am I, am I acting in a way, which may hopefully one day contribute some small piece towards, you know, a new reality? Or am I now becoming part of the furniture of the conflict and part of the landscape and, and helping these people to keep going? And that’s not an easy question. And I’m sure there were many times when, when Brendan Duddy you know, that question occurred to him, but he kept going, and I think you have to have a certain level of faith, that eventually things will begin to change, things may begin to change. And by doing what you’ve been doing, you’re, you’re, you know, helping to set the ground for for that change.

Metta Spencer  46:06

Give me an example of a real triumphant track two diplomacy.

Peter Jones  46:15

Well, again, we look to history, because what’s going on now is generally not publicly known. But in the 1970s, for example, there was a significant conflict in Mozambique, between the government and some rebels, backed by, by the communist world, and it was extremely bloody in difficult conflict. And there was very little dialogue between the two sides. And so a movement based in Italy, the community of Sant’Egidio [alla Vibrata], which was affiliated with the Catholic Church, it was a religious organization, gained entry to the conflict largely through the Catholic Church in Mozambique, which tried to, you know, maintain contact with both sides. And, and invited people from the two sides to come to their premises in Italy, near the Vatican and take part in some dialogue and discussion and over a period of time, was able to foster a sense amongst the people taking part in the conversation, that at the end of the day, we’re all Mozambicans. And we can kill each other [inaudible] and destroy the country. And then what, you know, what are we left with, we have to find a way. And so there was a process, which gradually led to the emergence of a sense that we have to find, find a way out of this and made a contribution. Now, eventually, one of the things about track two is that track two never resolves a conflict, track two attempts to get the the dialogue between the two sides to a point where official diplomacy takes over. And then the peace treaty is signed, but it’s never signed by the track two people. It’s signed by diplomats. But you get the people to the point where they can begin having an official conversation. So that’s, that’s an example that’s widely held up in the field. And another one is, again, the case of South Africa. I mean, there was, for all the time that the apartheid government was saying, we will never talk to the African National Congress. And the ANC was saying the same thing. They people were quietly talking. And it culminated eventually, towards this with the very end of the apartheid era, in this sort of series of secret dialogues, which took place in Britain, sponsored by a British Mining Company, which had interest in South Africa and, you know, knew that if the country blew up, they were going to lose a lot of money. So they had an interest in sponsoring a conversation. And they brought together some of leading people from the African National Congress, including Thabo Mbeki, who went on to become president of South Africa, when after the apartheid ended, and people who were not of the South African government, the apartheid government, but who were quite influential people who were members of sort of Afrikaners societies and groups and people who influenced the South African government. And in fact, towards the very end, the president of South Africa’s brother took part in some of these conversations, but I’m just a private citizen, and began to work out the sort of the mechanisms which eventually led to the release of Nelson Mandela in the process of of moving towards majority rule in South Africa.

Metta Spencer  49:17

How long did those conversations go on? And typically how, when you’re talking about a track two process, I assume you’re talking about something that generally lasts years?

Peter Jones  49:28

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I mean, again, if you look at the South African case, the, the talks in the sort of the, the one sponsored by the English mining company, about 18 to 24 months, but the talks before that 10-15 years, you know, and if you look again at Oslo, which again, you can argue debatable today how much have regarded success, but the Oslo process itself took less than a year, but there were people I mean, one of the famous people in the field is a gentleman he just passed away a short time ago named Herbert Kelman he was a professor at Harvard who ran a series of these dialogues between Israelis since the 1970s. And they all kind of accumulated towards what became this breakthrough.

Metta Spencer  50:12

Okay, so it’s typical then. Now, if you’re setting up something, let’s say you’re taking the initiative, you see a conflict someplace, and nobody’s working on it, and you decide to own it, you’re going to, you’re going to set up a dialogue. What do you do? Do you contact, you go around and take meetings individually with the people that you hear, have some influence and ask them if they’d be willing, and so on? And then you, what do you do I hire a country house for a trip for a week? How do you just plain in organizational terms? How do you structure these things?

Peter Jones  51:01

Yeah. I mean, there are many ways into a conflict, probably as many as there are conflicts. So the question of how you kind of gain access to the conflict is, it’s very often sort of idiosyncratic it. You know, in our case, some of the work we’ve done as the Ottawa dialogue, it’s because people have approached us. Because you know, we have a bit of a reputation, we’ve done this work, and we publish it, you know about it, and so on. In other cases, it’s because of sort of personal connections, which some of us have had over the years in a given region. And people say, you know, we need to find a way to talk to someone on the other side, we need to begin a conversation. And so once there is a sense that there are at least some people on both sides who are interested in trying to find a way to have a conversation, then it becomes a question of quietly going and talking to them and spending time with them, and visiting them. And so well, what kind of what, what, what, what realistically, could we expect to achieve? But how would you, how should we set this up in such a way that, that the people who come from the conflict itself will be comfortable, because ultimately, I mean, I will just go home to Canada, if this all blows up, they’ll have to live with the consequences. So you have to find a way to make sure that there’s a high level of comfort. And so you, you develop a kind of a, an understanding of, you know, what kind of conversation at what level about what subjects, at least initially, who will come and you spend time…

Metta Spencer  52:38

Typically, for example, I’m assuming that you’ve actually done this, you personally take the initiative to go and interview people and travel around and, and good for you. So now you say I’ve got what 20 people to meet on on a weekend, or,….

Peter Jones  52:56

Yeah, no, you probably depending on the issue, maybe five or six aside, and generally, or maybe eight at the most and generally, you, you, you find over time, one or two people each side that you really form a rapport with and a bond and a trust and a deep level of sympathy that they you share a goal, right? And with them, you sort of identify a few others. And you try and identify, and this is, again, the track two track one and a half level track three is different, you’re looking for civil society advocates, but at this level, you’re looking for people who have some degree of influence with within the conflict situation. So if you’re have a situation where on one side, the most influential tiers are sort of political leaders on the other to the military, you will have people from the that those, you know, on each side, so they might not be symmetrical, but it’s questioning people have influence people who are connected and people who you are able to establish, share a belief, that it’s time to begin trying to find a way out of this, not necessarily believe that it’ll be possible to do so. People may be deeply skeptical, but at least they feel it’s time to try. And so when you’ve got your group of people, then, you know, you get your money, go up to the people in governments who sponsor this kind of thing in the Scandinavian countries or whatever, foundations or whatever, you find a place where everybody’s comfortable going. We have held meetings in Dubai and Istanbul and Bangkok and different places like that. And you get an agenda agreed, which for the first few meetings is very often simply them talking, coming together and sharing their perspectives. And you begin the process and then over time, if you’re successful in having a series of meetings.

Metta Spencer  54:49

Okay now how many meetings and the first meeting might be, a week or two months or how long?

Peter Jones  54:57

No, no, three four, three days, four days at the most.

Metta Spencer  55:01

For about five people or six.

Peter Jones  55:03

So well, five, six aside so twelve.

Metta Spencer  55:06

Okay? All right,

Peter Jones  55:08

And it varies, it could be more or less, but that’s generally sort of between six and eight per side, right. And so you bring them together, and you have an initial exchange. And very often at the initial exchange, there’s a lot of sort of table thumping and anger. And your job as the facilitator is to say, well, wait a minute, now, we’re, we’re here to try and understand this as a problem, not as a, we’re not here to bargain we’re here to, and you constantly gently, and there’s various techniques, facilitation techniques that you use to, to bring people around to that perspective. And you build into these interactions, you know, public, not public, you know, events, which meals and little trips places together and trying to create an atmosphere of a group, you know, and, and you have an interesting situation, a very often I’ve been in meetings where, you know, you find these people who are retired generals from the two sides, and basically spent their entire lives looking at one another through a gunsight, they’ve never actually met someone from the other side, they’ve never actually sat down with the general from the other side. And so they’re, they’re, they’re fascinated, on one level, they’re repelled. But on the other level, they’re just fascinated, you know, and, and I remember having a meeting of people who were former officials from two countries. And, you know, it was very stilted, and very, you know, they did their set peace statements, and so on. But then over dinner, they began talking about the respective pension systems of their armies. And they were fascinated, and you know, how the pension system worked in the other army, because they were all retired on a pension. So suddenly, they were having this marvelous conversation over dinner, you know, exchanging, that’s really interesting, we never knew that. And it sounds kind of silly, but that began to form a bit of an environment, you know, a bit of an atmosphere. And so these things go on and over time. And if you’re successful, then over a course of several meetings, over a year or two, they begin to coalesce into a rather tight group of people who are very committed to dialogue. They’re not necessarily yet believing that a solution to the problem is possible. But they come to believe that these individuals that they are meeting on the other side are decent people, and that they really should try. And then you’re beginning to really make some progress, because then you can really introduce this problem solving dynamic, and they begin to say, yes, we really want to see this conflict in those terms, and we want to try to understand what can be done about it in those terms. And, and that becomes a very sort of powerful moment, but it takes time. And it’s, it’s about building a little community amongst these people, as much as anything else.

Metta Spencer  58:02

You know, some, I don’t know what you would call this, but sometimes governments apparently send kind of secret emissaries just one person to do some spadework. And people, for example, I think Norman Cousins, was sent to talk to Khrushchev. And he had this secret message or something that he was conveying. I remember hearing stories about their encounter, and so on and how they got along. But that’s, that’s not a that’s not the kind of thing you’re talking about. But it has is the same purpose. Does that happen very much?

Peter Jones  58:45

I believe. So, yes, I’ve heard of instances where it happens both historically. And in contemporary times, where two leaders, they feel they have to get a message to one another, and they establish a means to do that. But that I mean, my understanding of that, I’ve never been involved in that. But my understanding of many of those kinds of connections is that they’re kind of transactional. They’re kind of this is what we’re doing. Don’t be alarmed. You know, this is what we need from you. That kind of specific messaging, which is very useful and very necessary. This [inaudible],

Metta Spencer  59:23

Member of Trumps cabinet, a military general or something former general was saying something like when Trump got so out of bounds with threats, that basically he picked up the phone and called his counterpart.  I don’t know what it was North Korea where it was, but to warn him to assure him, we will not let this happen. Whatever you have recently be afraid of. We’re not going to let Trump do it. Now, I mean, I that I wouldn’t think would be very common. kind of thing to do?

Peter Jones  59:41

In China. No, I wouldn’t think so. But that’s that’s that’s two governments you know they have to communicate with one another what we’re doing is groups of people who are influential and have connections to government beginning to try and explore new ideas of what a relationship should be.

Metta Spencer  1:00:16

You would think that more of that would go on at the UN or maybe it does go on? I don’t know, I don’t I’m not aware that.

Peter Jones  1:00:25


Metta Spencer  1:00:26

That that is that the UN is a particularly fruitful place for breakthroughs I have never heardever heard of anything.

Peter Jones  1:00:34

The thing is that the UN, everybody who’s there is representing their government, right. And when you’re in a track one environment and official diplomatic environment you have instructions, from your capital. And as a diplomat, as a representative of a government, you have to fulfill your instructions. And often the instructions reflect the politics of the moment. So if the politics of the moment are, we will never talk to these guys, then as a diplomat, you are required to not talk to these guys, whether you’re at the UN altogether or not, you just don’t. Unless you have a secret instruction, which says, well, you can talk to them, but very quietly, and don’t let anybody know about it. But the alternative is to say, you know, our official instruction is we will never talk to these guys. But quietly over here, we’ve got, you know, three or four people who are retired, but still highly trained. And they’re talking to these guys in a deniable meeting. And so when Oslo was going on, for example, when Oslo was going on in Norway, there were official Israeli Palestinian talks going on in Washington, being facilitated by the United States government. And they were getting nowhere. They were everybody was angry. Everybody was just, you know, trading insults or, you know, standing firm on their positions. And the purpose of Oslo was to explore whether they could get beyond that. But the people in Washington didn’t know Oslo was happening, and many of the people in Washington, when Oslo came out, were furious. They said, look, I was there arguing, thumping the table. And they said, yes, you were following your instructions, that’s fine. But over here, we were trying to figure out something else to be done. And so that’s not uncommon.

Metta Spencer  1:02:09

Okay, this is wonderful. This has been fun. And I’m so glad you’re doing this kind of thing. Yeah, I’d like to know more. So, good, good wishes for whatever, I know, you’re doing things you’re not talking about in this meeting. So good wishes for whatever it is.

Peter Jones  1:02:26

Thank you.

Metta Spencer  1:02:27


Peter Jones  1:02:28

It’s been a pleasure, I enjoyed meeting you. And as I say, we have a website, Ottawa dialogue.ca. And we publish lots of things about how track two works, and so on. So I encourage people to visit and have a look.

Metta Spencer  1:02:41

Terrific. Good to meet you after all these years Peter, take care.

Peter Jones  1:02:45

Take care, thank you, bye-bye.

Metta Spencer  1:02:47

That’s it. Project  save the world produces these shows and this is episode number 534. You can watch them or listen to them as audio podcasts on our website tosavetheworld.ca you can share information there also about six global issues. To find a particular talk show enter its title or episode number in the search bar, or the name of one of the guest speakers. Project Save the World also produces a quarterly online publication Peace magazine. You can subscribe for $20 Canadian per year. Just go to pressreader.com on your browser. And in the search bar, enter the word peace. You’ll see buttons to click to subscribe.



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Select the Videos from Right

We produce several one-hour-long Zoom conversations each week about various aspects of six issues we address. You can watch them live and send a question to the speakers or watch the edited version later here or on our Youtube channel.