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The Future of Track-Two Diplomacy

In a world where traditional interstate diplomacy often misses critical dynamics of global affairs, such as the influences of religion and culture, there are increasing calls to buttress, or bypass altogether, traditional diplomacy in favor of society-centered "track-two diplomacy." This Doyle Undergraduate Fellows course explored whether and how the United States can more effectively engage civil society abroad to advance foreign policy goals.

Through an examination of critical case studies and original research organized around student interviews with government and NGO experts, the class addressed the following questions: How does "track-two diplomacy" differ from and relate to "track-one diplomacy" centered on interstate relations? What are the tools available to policymakers and activists to engage diverse societal groups around the world in pursuit of peace, human rights, development, and other goals? How have those tools been applied in specific cases, and to what effect? How might they be improved into the future?

A special focus of the course was on the efforts of religious actors engaged in peacebuilding. Some have argued that religious actors and institutions have unique advantages in working for peace: they are trusted institutions embedded in their community, they adhere to an explicit and respected set of values, they have a particular warrant for opposing injustice, and they have an unrivaled ability to mobilize people-locally and transnationally-in favor of specific ideas. Others claim that engaging religious communities abroad to advance US policy goals is inappropriate and often counterproductive. Many of the cases explored over the course of the semester touched on these and related issues.

Over the course of the semester, students interviewed foreign policy experts, in and out of government, on the relationship about the past development and future promise of two-track diplomacy. In addition to their individual research projects, they published their findings in a Berkley Center Undergraduate Fellows Report at the end of the semester. 

By the end of the course, students developed expertise on the assumptions and applications of traditional and track-two forms of diplomacy, learned and put into action an interview-based research design, and contributed to a high-quality report that adds to our knowledge in this expanding area.

In order to combine individual accountability with a collaborative research project, the syllabus carefully laid out expectations, including: 

  • Traditional course readings, class discussion, and several short papers. 
  • Clearly defined roles within the collaborative research project, with each student expected to contribute background research, interviews, writing, and editing.

related | Syllabus

The Future of Track-Two Diplomacy

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Eric Patterson

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