The role of unofficial diplomatic actors in the effectiveness of international diplomatic functions

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Modern diplomacy is experiencing fundamental changes at an unprecedented rate, thus affecting diplomacy’s very character. In that sense, technical developments, technological advancements, the complexity of conflicts, and the proliferation of foreign business relations affect how diplomats perform or should perform their functions. In that same diplomatic trend, the number of domestic and international actors influences diplomatic functions differently. Against that backdrop, the role of unofficial diplomatic actors is paramount for peaceful relations and conflict resolution.

However, these unofficial initiatives do not intend to achieve the goals of traditional diplomacy, nor do they intend to produce agreements nor to affect significant shifts in policy in the short term. Instead, they aim to affect more intangible but significant factors of intractability, such as changing the attitudes and relationships of the conflicting parties. This paper explores the particular contribution of unofficial diplomatic actors to the success of international diplomacy and the various challenges encountered in that process. A few cases were worth including to demonstrate the success of informal diplomatic efforts. These cases have proved how unofficial diplomatic actors are instrumental in providing a non-judgmental, non-coercive, and safe environment for open dialogues that enables the parties to freely share perceptions and needs while striving to explore ideas for resolution.


In modern society, foreign policy and international diplomacy require global efforts to address global warming problems. Diplomatic functions have become more demanding and burdensome for official diplomats with limited time. However, the proliferation and complexity of global warming issues require dealing with them from their root causes, with the need for informal and friendly approaches and being flexible throughout the process. To that end, only unofficial diplomats can serve that purpose without becoming substitutes for official diplomats; but complement and perform the seemingly impossible work for official diplomats.

a) The Particular Character of Track-II Diplomacy Compared to the Track-I Official Diplomatic Functions

The complexity of intrastate and interstate conflicts has become a critical challenge in conflict resolution. The best methods of resolving these conflicts require various types of diplomacy. Therefore, track-II diplomacy is the leading method that marked the successful work of agents who do not appear in an official status. One weapon that constitutes its success baseline is that officials do not fear losing constituencies, which is a significant burden for track-I diplomacy. Furthermore, it involves grassroots and middle leaders directly contacting the conflict[1].

Another particularity of track-II diplomacy compared to track-I is the lack of official status of the parties involved in the conflict resolution process, who are influential people. Furthermore, an essential gain of unofficial diplomacy is its consideration of the social aspect of the conflict and implementation of the conflict resolution agreement. Typically, peace agreements that do not consider inter-societal relations are unlikely to endure since they lack public support and cooperation.

Track-II talks set the groundwork for formal negotiations; they are the baseline for formal talks. However, track-II diplomacy is not an official negotiation and does not intend to substitute for official negotiations. Insofar problem-solving workshops used in track-II diplomacy are closely linked to formal negotiations and play a significant complementary role at all stages of the negotiation process. For example, in the pre-negotiation stage, such workshops may help create a political climate conducive to movement to the table. In the actual negotiation phase, they may help overcome obstacles to productive negotiations and to frame issues not yet on the table, while in the post-negotiation phase, they may contribute to the implementation of the negotiated agreement[2].

b) The Place of Unofficial Interveners in the Diplomatic Process: The Case of Track-II Diplomacy

As mentioned earlier, track-II diplomacy is a critical component of unofficial diplomacy that finds its strengths in unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities. Unofficial diplomatic works encompass track-II diplomacy, citizen diplomacy, multitrack diplomacy, or supplementary diplomacy. It may also occur during the pre-negotiation or consultation phases, with interactive conflict resolution or back-channel strategies. In other aspects, it can consist of facilitated joint brainstorming.

Typically, unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities aim to build relationships and encourage new thinking that can lay the foundation for official talks. Since it is unofficial, various unofficial interveners contribute to its success. These include academic, religious, NGOs, private individuals, and other actors who can interact more freely and informally than official diplomats or high-level political leaders.

i) The Role of Non-governmental Organizations in International Diplomacy

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can act in ways that states and intermediaries are not. Because of their transnational identities, they can hold the world’s public interests above national interests in ways neither the states nor the U.N. itself can. They operate with longer-term time horizons than states, have a better historical memory for issues, provide education opportunities for conflict resolution, and serve as information channels. Interestingly, many peacemaking activities that require time, effort, and patience, such as track-two diplomacy, can be best dealt with by NGOs. Besides, whereas the states and even most international organizations, as third parties, are usually motivated by the desire to extend Influence, NGOs operate independently of power politics; therefore, they are likely to be trusted by the parties in conflict. In short, it is essential to recognize and encourage the participation of NGOs as intermediaries and mediators in international conflict situations[3].

ii) Mediative Efforts of Unofficial Diplomatic Facilitators

As emphasized above, track-II mediative diplomacy involves interactions between individuals or groups outside an official and formal negotiation process, while track-I refers to all official, governmental diplomacy. It typically refers to unofficial meetings between non-governmental representatives of opposing sides who convene to discuss options to resolve conflicts. In that process, many informal diplomatic exchanges play a non-negligible role.

However, as Smith and David insisted, these informal meetings do not replace official dialogue or negotiations. Instead, they can complement official dialogue by broaching subjects too sensitive to discuss in formal negotiations. In doing so, they provide a forum for governments to indirectly exchange, use back-channel messages, or socialize participants with one another. In that work, they create working relationships and a more robust understanding of the institutional dynamics at play on the other side. Ultimately, there is a need for complementarity between both tracks and information sharing to inform officials’ decision-making, develop cohorts of people who later participate in official negotiations, or contribute to a domestic political environment in which official negotiations become an acceptable policy.

In these mediative efforts, track-II dialogues can contribute to an understanding and expertise in arms control, expertise that might be lacking prior to such informal talks. To do so, track-II mediators often focus on what they do best; establishing and sustaining relationships between hostile groups and keeping communication channels open.

iii) The Strategic Mediative Approach

Track-II diplomacy is an unofficial and informal interaction between members of adversary groups or nations aiming to develop strategies, stimulate public opinion and coordinate the required resources in ways that might help resolve their conflict. Problem-solving workshops represent the paradigmatic application of track-two diplomacy. In order to happen, problem-solving workshops are intensive, private, and non-binding meetings between politically influential representatives of conflicting parties. These politically influential representatives are unofficial[7].

Herbert Kelman’s role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis by arranging several workshops between the Israelis and Palestinians was resourceful. Participants included parliamentarians, leading figures in political parties or movements, former military officers or government officials, journalists or editors specializing in the Middle East, and academic scholars who are significant analysts of the conflict for their societies and some of whom have served in advisory, official, or diplomatic position[8].


There is a remarkable difference in approach and success between Track-I and Track-II because the former tends to be more short-term focused, while the latter has a broader remit to address longer-term futures. Concerning the success, a few cases discussed in the sections below represent numerous cases that prove the success of non-state and informal diplomatic actors in their mediative efforts. These include the Mozambican peace process, Israel versus the Palestinian Liberation Organization, India versus Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, the U.S.A., and Ossetia versus the Republic of Georgia. In all these cases, track II mediation allowed deeper digging by bringing representatives of hostile groups to dialogue in informal settings to address the root causes of long-standing differences and contentions[9].

a) The Role of Multiple Informal Mediation Actors: the Mozambican Peace Process Case

The Mozambican case is one of the leading examples of long-history violent conflict that marked the successful mediative work of informal actors, and N.G.O.s in particular about meditating. This case consisted of a multitrack process, with the need for multiple resources; thus, official personnel and states continued to play a crucial role because they had resources unavailable to informal players[10]. The mediation attempts involved the Government of Vatican, the governments of Italy, Kenya, the Sant’Egidio Community, the Mozambican churches, France, Malawi, Portugal, Zimbabwe, the United Nations, the United Kingdom, and a non-negligible role of the U.S.A. One particular aspect is that each party was represented in the group, with observer status, and later became the mediation group, the collective mediation action. This approach proved successful after disagreeing about the African state to invite as mediator[11].

This collective mediation action met the wishes of both conflicting parties because the government wanted a mediator with a minor role and no manipulative ability. These were the mediation requirements of RENAMO; that is, a mediator rather than bilateral negotiations[12]. Moreover, this case marks the role of religious elites (Roman and Anglican) and Non-Governmental Organizations. In that sense, the Christian Council of Mozambique (C.C.M.) established the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation (C.P.R.) to explore possible options for dialogue and facilitate communication between the litigants, acting behind the scene throughout the mediation process and involved in negotiating the conditions of an amnesty with RENAMO leaders[13].

i) The Strategic Use of Informal Setting in Mediation of the Mozambican Complex Case

In this case, the mediation group used the communicative strategy to maintain the dialogue between the parties and transformed the relations of hostility into cooperation, helping reconciliation through a dialogue between the parties. The shuttle diplomacy played a role in dialogue with delegations of the factions in Rome and other top leaders of the parties. They attempted to agree on meeting agendas and clarified the issues to focus on or mitigate the situations beyond the authority of the heads of Rome delegations. By formulating mediation, mediators could control the agenda and, accordingly, change it and set deadlines and meeting settings. However, the low profile of the mediation group had little influence; that is, the group could not grant legitimacy to any diplomatic agreement[14].

The mediation group had to recourse for diplomatic assistance from influential states, whose resources could help them address an impasse whose resolution became complex. In other words, they had to resort to the assistance of track-I diplomacy, especially from the Zimbabwean, the U.S., and Italian governments. The same assistance process was required when it concerned technical matters, namely of a military nature, of which members of the mediation group did not know[15].

ii) Inevitable Role of States in the Success of the Mozambican Mediation Process

The diplomacy of various African and Western states played a significant role in monitoring and supplementing the mediation group’s action. It happened significantly to resolve complex issues or when the parties were reluctant to reach an agreement. Their role helped overcome the impasse between the negotiating heads of the delegations, talk to the top leaders, set deadlines, and stimulate possibilities for resolving issues that could not be resolved[16].

b) UnofficialTalkswithNuclearOutliers: The North Korea and Iran Case

The Iran and Korean case marked the role that track-II talks and other engagement initiatives played in addressing the issues caused by Iran and North Korea.

i) Governmental Representatives in Informal Talks

The North Korea and Iran case involved a mixture of private individuals and government representatives participating unofficially; that is, track-one and half diplomacy. In this case, North Korean and Iranian interlocutors in unofficial meetings with Americans were almost government representatives, typically from the countries’ Foreign Ministries.

After a long history of impossible talks between the two states, track-II talks helped create an environment for the resumption of official talks between the U.S.A and Iran. These talks led to a joint and comprehensive plan, with action implementation (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program[17]. These informal exchanges from people-to-people initiatives helped pave the way for U.S. and Iran track-II talks on political and security issues. On another side, the U.S. and European think tanks and universities began regular track-II initiatives with Iran on political issues[18].

There is no doubt that the meetings in the phase of track-II dialogue were productive. Track-II talks, in this case, helped inform U.S. experts’ analysis in outlining ways to achieve progress in formal negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. In some cases, the involvement of technicians and experts who joined the dialogues engaged in technical discussions with Iranian counterparts. Their focus was to assess the proliferation risks of a limited and contained Iranian uranium enrichment program[19].

The role of track-II dialogues and people-to-people talks in the conflict between North Korea and the United States of America is an emblematic note in history. The North Korean and the U.S. nuclear crisis was prolonged over crisis with difficult formal talks. The leading role that track-II dialogues and people-to-people exchanges played had been significant in getting official negotiations on track and ensuring effective communication and information sharing between U.S. specialists and North Korean officials. These consisted of unofficial talks and back-channeled messages since the rise of the crisis in the 1990s[20].

c) Individual facilitators and Non-Governmental Organizations in the Facilitation of Official Talks

The expansion of foreign relations, global conferences, and increase in trade has opened forums for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to participate with no decision-making power. Their diplomatic role has been remarkable in campaigning to ban landmines and end poverty and other socio-economic aspects.

i) Non-governmental Organizations

In the conflicting cases above, various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supported complementing a complementarity between official negotiations and unofficial discussions, making them less rigid. These NGOs played a considerable role in coordinating discussions between the North Koreans and American foreign policy experts. To do that, they occasionally included U.S. officials participating unofficially. Inevitably, continued track-II dialogue allowed the U.S. and North Korean participants to build strong working relationships and provide experience and knowledge that could prove helpful to both Washington and Pyongyang should government-to-government talks resume[21].

ii) Simplification of Official Diplomatic Talks by Individual facilitators

The private individuals’ track-II diplomacy is most suited to conflict resolution, especially in polarized cases. Its particular application resides in its flexibility in shuttle diplomacy, consisting of back-and-forth talks with disputants. In conflict management, the conflicting parties receive private individuals rather than officials; the trust, openness, and confidence to talk increases with private individuals. Private individuals are flexible in reaching each side and inducing them into formal negotiations. Though private individuals are involved in the diplomatic process, they do not change international affairs; they contribute at their level. Throughout the process, the shuttle diplomatic helped them find commonalities or shared interests than focusing on differences[22].

These works may start with individual self-promotion and personal public visibility and end in formal diplomacy. In inter-state relations, a private individual may be an intermediary who interests parties to initiate contacts. In that process, the private individuals’ track-II diplomacy is most suited to conflict resolution, especially in polarized cases. Its particular application resides in its flexibility in shuttle diplomacy, consisting of back-and-forth talks with disputants. In conflict management, the conflicting parties receive private individuals rather than officials; the trust, openness, and confidence to talk increase with private individuals. Private individuals are flexible in reaching each side and inducing them into formal negotiations[23].

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter played a significant role in the North Korean nuclear case when he traveled to Pyongyang as an unofficial in June 1994. His visit aimed to negotiate a potential framework for North Korea’s nuclear program[24].

In another case, Jim Carter’s reconciliation among the Nicaraguan people and between Nicaraguans and Americans signals the results of personal efforts in resolving complex conflicts[25]. In the same trend of the positive impact of persons without any official ties, the role of Tarje Rod Larsen in track II, back-channel conversations, and Norwegian facilitation is virtual memory in the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization[26]. Other well-known private individuals with substantial diplomatic influence include Armand Hammer and Tiny Rowland, the former managing Director of Lonrho. Hammer’s influence to promote East-West détente on behalf of the Soviet Jews at the instigation of Israel made a critical remark. His tremendous experience with the Soviet Union and vast wealth had been instrumental in opening the doors in Moscow that others found closed[27].

iii) The Role of Independent Diplomats in the Small States’ Diplomacy

International diplomacy, especially the United Nations, is characterized by an imbalance of powers, discrimination, and alienation of small states. In other words, the debates in the U.N. do not consider serious matters that are enormous burdens to the small states. The more the U.N. conferences fail to address critical issues and promote inequality and discrimination instead, the more global warming problems and isolated countries increase. As Ross criticized, essential ideas of small states are safely ignored in the U.N. debates, while crazy ideas of major powers become imperative to all members[28].

As a solution, there is a need to reinforce the role of small states in multilateral diplomacy; the role of experts and other technicians in critical diplomatic matters is essential. Equally, independent diplomats can play a vital role in supporting the small states to overcome the abuse of some states’ power in manipulating foreign affairs and the international community’s failure to address global warming issues[29].

d) Training and Capacity Building as Another Strategic Way in Conflict Resolution: The Kashmir Case

In the case of India and Pakistan, several ideas developed under track-II initiatives have been implemented. These include the establishment of a hotline connecting the leadership of the land forces of Pakistan and India. It resulted from the tremendous work of the Stimson Centre, the Cooperative Monitoring Centre at Sandia National Laboratories in Mexico, and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) [30]. These centers played a considerable role in providing ideas and training to officials from the three neighboring states: Pakistan, India, and China.

Their principal objective was to reduce the danger of nuclear conflict, promote nuclear non-proliferation, create an understanding of the Kashmir issue, normalize the relations between India and Pakistan and mainly stabilize the politics in the South Asian sub-continent[31]. The center started a dialogue process between India and Pakistan, but their main contribution has been training Pakistani, Chinese, Indian officials, journalists, and academics in arms control and confidence building. The result of these centers’ work is that they ensure a friendly atmosphere, and even while divisive issues were discussed, members of the two groups maintained cordiality[32].

The same strategy of capacity building and problem-solving workshops was used by the Conflict Management Group team (C.M.G.) in the conflict between South Ossetia and the Republic of Georgia in 1995. The strategy consisted of facilitated joint brainstorming, an informal and unofficial discussion in which a few knowledgeable and influential people from each side were coordinated in generating options that might later be recommended to the leaders. Through this strategy, the participants were to consider how they might deal with them instead of focusing on the issues separating them. Finally, this informal and unofficial interaction helped to establish an official bilateral process where it did not exist[33].

e) The Role of Special Missions

Special mission diplomacy evolves into ad hoc diplomacy, or diplomacy by itinerant agents, extraordinary diplomats, special envoys, or temporary delegations[34]. The involvement of special envoys is one type of unofficial emissaries that is relevant primarily for contemporary diplomacy because of the growing relevance of non-state entities in foreign policy and the need to utilize informal channels of communication in politically sensitive contexts[35].

Special missions help facilitate mediation, especially in polarized situations where parties are overtaken by ideology, cultural considerations, and other extremities blocking them from meeting and resolving the matters. In the same reasoning as the above, special missions are helpful in proximity talks by being the messenger between the conflicting parties, especially when participants are not continuously present at the exact location but periodically take turns meeting individually with the mediator[36]. In this aspect, the work of ambassador Bunker in Egypt and the Middle East signals an inevitable need for special missions in high-tension conflicts. He played an unprecedented role in fact-finding and persuasion of the parties on interest to mediate[37].

f) Other Influential Non-State Diplomatic Actors

Other various non-state actors include Political Groups that Advocate Violence (Terrorists), Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Transnational Corporations (T.N.C.s), Multinational Corporations (M.N.C.s), Transnational Actors, Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), the terrorist groups that hold some power and can influence the international relations between states. To these non-state influential actors, it is worth adding sub-state actors; these are groups of people with similar interests that are not beyond the states that can affect the state’s foreign policy. They are also known as domestic actors[38].

Furthermore, M.N.C.s with greater earning capacity and financial resources than states tend to impose some policy orientation on states. In most states where the legal and regulatory frameworks are not standing enough, they become the actors of coercive diplomacy; that is, they manipulate the negotiation and legislation processes and exploit local labor, including child labor and cheaper payments. Many of their activities in the host states cause environmental degradation, and some support opposition and rebellions, threatening the state’s sovereignty. International representation competes with diplomatic missions of foreign states on different commercial and business matters; worst, they use their diplomatic resources to fight international projects that hurt their interests[39].


a) Discontinuity of Informal Talks Due to the Change of Administration

Based on the example of Korea and Iran, the new Obama administration hindered the standard progress of the talks; they had been changes in the positions of the former participants in the negotiations. The impact of track-II talks with Iran was not immediately apparent during the first term of Obama’s administration. Instead, talks on Iran’s nuclear program faltered, while Washington’s policy focused on sanctions to build a stronger negotiating position.

The U.S.A. coordinated a global economic pressure campaign against Iran and a handful of U.S. officials with previous experience in track-II meetings. These meetings played a role in establishing a secret U.S. and Iran bilateral channel in Oman to address these challenges[41]. The situation worsened with the new Trump administration’s approach to impose a travel ban to the U.S.A for Iranians, which posed significant challenges to future Track-II or people-to-people exchange efforts[42].

b) TheIssueofLimitedMandateandParticipantswithUnequalStatus

It is with no doubt that informal meetings can only change negative attitudes if certain conditions are met, and in the absence of them, interactions between conflicting party members may even exacerbate the existing tension. For example, Daniel Serwer served in Bosnia-Herzegovina under Assistant Secretary Richard Holbrooke as the special envoy for the Muslim-Croat Federation. Serwer felt he was successful partly because his Mandate was narrow, consisting of working with Bosnia’s Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats to create a viable political entity. He was not caught up in broader aspects of the U.S. policy in resolving the Balkan conflict. Under Holbrooke’s protection, he had the latitude to act quite freely within his Mandate[43].

The discussions above emphasized the usefulness of unofficial diplomats, especially their role in track-II diplomacy. The developments below emphasize the various factors that can hinder its regular progress. Principally, track-II discussions can mislead the group members who lack the political realities of their governments and societies. Inevitably, ongoing regional conflicts and instability often make such discussions challenging to progress.

On the contrary, a more comprehensive mandate helped the special envoys or special representatives deal with the Sudanese crisis at the regional level. In less than a year after signing the peace agreement, South Sudan’s fragile political system collapsed, and the country fell into civil war, while the peace with Sudan and the entire region’s stability was threatened. South Sudan’s internal weaknesses were a continuing threat to peace and needed much greater focus. The special envoys’ role has been revitalized as part of a complex regional mediation effort. Without any doubt, empowerment is an essential tool for the success of this function. Typically, failure to empower undercuts an envoy and works against the interests of the policy[44].

Problems may especially be experienced regarding the issue of finding participants of equal status. In most conflict situations, the power disparity between the parties itself would be a source of inequality as members of the more powerful side tend to view their counterparts as lower-status people, even if there is no excellent dissimilarity among them in terms of class[45].

g) External Influence on the Parties and Time Constraints

The parties’ consent and commitment to mediation are essential for the excellent conduct of the process and the outcome. However, due to external influences, one can still question the success of unofficial diplomats’ efforts in the effectiveness of informal talks[46]. These may pressure the parties, manipulate the process, and exercise pressure on the facilitator by advancing some deadlines, and these influences can undermine all the efforts produced by the facilitators.

External influence on the parties may include political or military influence or economic leverage[47]. In the Iraq case, the influence of superpowers, namely France and Russia, blocked all the attempts to propose collective actions against smuggling. The basis of these superpowers’ opposition to that proposal was that there was insufficient proof of the smuggling or that such action might further harm the Iraqi people[48]. Furthermore, time constraints can create pressure and thus impact the process and the outcome.

i) The Impact of Media

The impact of media in diplomatic functions may be public diplomacy, where state and non-state actors use the media to influence public opinion abroad, or where officials use the media to communicate with actors and promote conflict resolution. It can also be media-broker diplomacy, where journalists serve as temporary mediators in international negotiations[49]. In all these aspects, negotiators may commit to discussion elements of the issue because “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” because they bear in mind the pressure of media and press upon the negotiators[50]. Therefore, they commit to refrain from making the negotiation progress known publicly to the press and media until the final agreement is reached. In this context, Leguey insists that media can negatively affect informal negotiation efforts when speculations and inaccurate information are taken as factual reporting, mainly when highly controversial or emotional issues are at stake[51].

On a mission to Beijing, Dag Mammajarskjȍld had done tremendous negotiation work to release eleven U.S. detained soldiers imprisoned in China. His efforts moved from informal conversations to official talks with Chou, in which they jointly delivered an official communiqué on their successful negotiations, the good health of the prisoners, and their commitment to keeping the talks in the future, an action that the media turned into a failure. On his return to New York on January 13, 1995, emotions and tensions were high in the families of the prisoners and the public due to inflammatory media accounts that had frozen positions in a way that had rendered the situation much more difficult[52].

ii) The Negative Impact of Spoilers and Political Dependence

Spoilers are another factor that can deter the regular progress of informal talks, especially when there has been information leakage because spoilers inevitably undermine and marginalize efforts that intend to build bridges across conflict lines. Furthermore, unofficial processes cannot completely protect themselves from the political environment in which they operate because participants in these efforts are always responsive to their communities’ political developments.

In some instances, this context is invariably hostile because participants are victims of direct harassment, intimidation, and sometimes violence from rejectionists and even their governments[53]. In other situations, hostile bureaucratic actions by political authorities include failure to grant visas to these unofficial or enforcement of laws forbidding contact with local people or some categories of officials while making participation difficult. Moreover, unofficial intermediation processes are vulnerable to harmful media exposure, especially in case of leaks or media commentary[54].

h) Needs for Governmental Support to Private Diplomatic Initiatives

In many situations, political leaders are reluctant to appear in formal contacts because of the message they can deliver to the public. That way, individual private initiatives can bridge that gap. To do that, governments should be (unofficially) supportive of the effective conduct of their initiatives that may finally lead to formal talks. The core reason for this governmental support is that though the person may be acting in her name, there might have been an invitation from the government, and she can open communication channels. Furthermore, opening channels for communication by a private individual help avoid embarrassment or opposition[55]. While unofficial intermediaries try to overcome the imbalance between the participants’ contributions, they often do not have the resources to equalize the relationship. Consequently, weaker parties sometimes view these processes as not addressing the core problems in the conflict[56].

One of the leading examples of the success of this political, governmental, and financial support is the Oslo Accords signed by Israel. These Accords resulted from the joint efforts between track-II institutions that facilitated and enhanced track-I initiatives. I agree with the author that track-two efforts are a solid foundation for track-I by enabling ideas to be tested before official negotiations[57]. In this regard, the states’ actions should be supportive rather than deterring the private initiatives’ efforts.


The diplomatic landscape consists of numerous diverse actors and widening issue areas encompassing different public policy sectors beyond the traditional focus on foreign affairs. Against this background, diplomatic engagement is observed in multiple settings across various levels, from domestic to global. The growing complexity of interactions prompted the diplomatic machinery to develop new modalities and techniques, such as broadening stakeholder involvement and using additional channels and instruments.

As the conflicts increase and will keep increasing, unofficial diplomats have a significant role in ending the conflict. They are a valuable means of signaling that the community is paying high-level attention to a particular conflict because of some work on individual initiatives. Apart from the conflicting situation, the appointment of an unofficial diplomat, such as a special envoy or a special representative, can also strengthen the control over a particular policy or situation important to the sending state. However, they can be fully effective only if sufficiently empowered and supported in their work.

In conflict resolution, though the work of unofficial diplomats may be less direct and dramatic, they are an essential tool in conflict transformation. All forms of unofficial intermediation, from track-I consultation to formal negotiations, have shown considerable success in changing the parties’ attitudes and relationships and empowering them to work together cooperatively to develop peaceful means for resolution.


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November 16, 2022.

List of footnotes

[1] Jeffrey Mapendere, “Track One and a Half Diplomacy and the Complementarity of Tracks,” Culture of Peace Online Journal 2, no. 1 (2000): 68.

[2] Muzaffer Ercan Muzaffer, “Track-Two Diplomacy as a Resolution Approach to International And Inter-Societal Conflicts,” Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Dergisi 19, no. 2 (January 1, 2004): 161–162.

[3] Muzaffer Ercan Yılmaz, “Third-Party Intervention in International Conflicts: Peacekeeping and Peacemaking in the Post-Cold War Era,” Uluslararası İlişkiler 3, no. 11 (Fall 2006) (2006): 28.

[4] Daniel Wertz, Track II Diplomacy with Iran and North Korea (National Committee on North Korea, 2017), 4, (Accessed November 19, 2022).

[5] Amy L. Smith and David R. Smock, Managing a Mediation Process (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2008), 12.

[6] Wertz, Track II Diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, 4.
[7] Muzaffer, “Track-Two Diplomacy as a Resolution Approach to International And Inter-

Societal Conflicts,” 157.

[8] Herbert C. Kelman, “Contributions of Unofficial Conflict Resolution Effort to The Israeli-Palestinian Breakthrough,” Negotiation Journal 11, no. 1 (January 1995) (1995): 22.

[9] Mohammed Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution Training in the Middle East: Lessons to Be Learned,” International Negotiation 3, no. 1 (January 1998) (1998): 106.

[10] Carlos Branco, “Non-Governmental Organizations in the Mediation of Violent Intra- State Conflicts: The Confrontation between Theory and Practice in the Mozambican Peace Process,” JANUS.NET e-journal of International Relations 2, no. 2, (Autumn 2011) (2011): 86.

[11] Ibid., 87.
[12] Cameron Hume, Ending the Mozambique War: The Role of Mediation and Good

Offices (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1994), 34–35.

[13] Ibid., 28.

[14] Branco, “Non-Governmental Organizations in the Mediation of Violent Intra-State Conflicts: The Confrontation between Theory and Practice in the Mozambican Peace Process,” 89.

[15] Hume, Ending the Mozambique War: The Role of Mediation and Good Offices, 62.

[16] Branco, “Non-Governmental Organizations in the Mediation of Violent Intra-State Conflicts: The Confrontation between Theory and Practice in the Mozambican Peace Process,” 90.

[17] Carne Ross, Founder of Independent Diplomat, 2015, (Accessed November 9, 2022).

[18] Daniel Jasper, Daniel Wertz, and Catherine Killough, Engaging North Korea: Building Toward Dialogue with U.S. Government-Sponsored People-to-People Exchange Programs (American Friends Service Committee, June 2016), 6, Korea_WEB.pdf (Accessed November 23, 2022).

[19] Wertz, Track II Diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, 11. [20] Ibid., 8.

[21] L. Gordon Flake and Scott Snyder, eds., Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003), 38.

[22] Dudley Weeks, The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution: Preserving Relationships at Work, Home, and in the Community, 1st ed. (New York: J.P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1994), 144–146.

[23] Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy (Boulder, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009), 336–337.

[24] Wertz, Track II Diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, 9. [25] Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, 332–335. [26] Ibid., 335–337.

[27] Steve Weinberg, “Armand Hammer’s Unique Diplomacy,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 42, no. 7 (1986): 51; G.R. Berridge, Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 193–195.

[28] How Small States Influence Policymaking in Multilateral Arenas, 2014, accessed November 17, 2022, (Accessed November 16, 2022).

[29] Carne Ross, Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite, Crises in world politics (Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 2007), 11–16, 210–212.

[30] Talat A. Wizarat, “Track II as a Method to Break Barriers: Pakistan-India Relations since 1980,” Business Review 9, no. 2 (July 1, 2014): 11–12.

[31] Ibid., 13.
[32] Ibid., 16–17.
[33] Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, 343–345. [34] Ibid., 253.

[35] Francesco Morini, “Adapting Dynamically to Change in Diplomacy: A Comparative Look at Special Envoys in the International Arena,” The Hague Journal of Diplomacy 13 (2018): 551.

[36] Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, 262–267. [37] Ibid., 268–274.

[38] R. J. Art and R. Jervis, International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, 10th ed. (New York: Pearson Education, 2011), 4.

[39] Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, 114–116.
[40] Morini, “Adapting Dynamically to Change in Diplomacy: A Comparative Look at

Special Envoys in the International Arena,” 6.
[41] Jasper, Wertz, and Killough, Engaging North Korea: Building Toward Dialogue with

U.S. Government-Sponsored People-to-People Exchange Programs, 7–8.

[42] Wertz, Track II Diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, 8.

[43] Princeton N. Lyman and Robert M. Beecroft, Using Special Envoys In High-Stakes Conflict Diplomacy (Washington, D.C: United States Institute of Peace, October 2014), 4, Stakes_Conflict_Diplomacy.pdf (Accessed November 24, 2022).

[44] Ibid., 5.

[45] Muzaffer, “Track-Two Diplomacy as a Resolution Approach to International And Inter-Societal Conflicts,” 161.

[46] Smith and Smock, Managing a Mediation Process, 14.

[47] United Nations Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation, Annex to the report (New York: United Nations, June 25, 2012), 8, (Accessed July 27, 2022).

[48] Ross, Independent Diplomat, 77.

[49] Christina Archetti, “Media Impact on Diplomatic Practice: An Evolutionary Model of Change” (Presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Convention, Washington, D.C: University of Salford, 2010), 6, (Accessed November 24, 2022).

[50] Michele Gelfand and Jeanne M. Brett, eds., The Handbook of Negotiation and Culture (Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2004), 18–23.

[51] Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, 7.

[52] Ibid., 237–240.

[53] Louis Kriesberg, “Mediation and the Transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research 38, no. 3 (2001): 376.

[54] Ibid., 378–380.

[55] Ibid., 337.

[56] Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Dialogue, Conflict Resolution, and Change: Arab-Jewish Encounters in Israel, SUNY series in Israeli studies (Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1999), 68.

[57] Mapendere, “Track One and a Half Diplomacy and the Complementarity of Tracks,” 75.

Jean Marie Vianney Sikubwabo

WMO Membership Level: Intern. Accredited court Mediator, university Lecturer, doctoral student (EUCLID university)

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