Professor Steve Tsang (left) and Yoji Koda, Vice Admiral Japanese Self Defence Forces (Retired)
The role of personal networks and Track II diplomacy
A seminar on ‘Trace II diplomacy was held at Daiwa Foundation, London, 30 September 2014. The speakers were Vice Admiral Yoji Koda and Professor Steve Tsang. The seminar was chaired by Professor Barry Buzan of the London School of Economics.
Yoji Koda, Vice Admiral Japanese Self Defence Forces (Retired) discussed the possibilities for Track II diplomacy between China and Japan, while Professor Steve Tsang of Nottingham University talked about the need for communications between academics to enable matters to be discussed openly. They examined the situation in the South China Sea, the difficulties faced by surrounding states, including Japan, and the importance of Track II diplomacy to avoid volatile situations turning into actual conflicts.
The phrase “Track II diplomacy” was coined by Joseph Montville and appeared in Foreign Policy in 1981. Montville wrote that “citizens could take some action rather than simply being bystanders while the grown-up governments acted like jerks”. Track II Diplomacy is a way for private individuals to meet unofficially and find their way to common ground when official negotiators cannot. NGOs, academics, and ex-officials often act as Track II diplomats in having unofficial conferences and conversations about pressing issues, and have sometimes brought them to a successful conclusion. Official government-to-government interactions are not necessarily the most effective methods for resolving differences between nations.
Track II diplomacy is based on the assumption that conflicts can be resolved or eased by appealing to common human capabilities to respond to goodwill and reason.