Volume 12 Number 2
A Gifted Diplomat's Legacy
01 April 1999
Fifteen years ago in a ground-breaking article in Foreign Policy magazine in the United States, Joseph V Montville described the relatively new concept of citizen diplomacy. By this he meant the unofficial initiatives of private citizens and groups to help open lines of communication and build trust between those involved in international conflicts.
'Conflict and Resolution' by Allan Griffith: New Cherwell Press, Oxford, UK, 1998, £14.95 paperback, ISBN: 1 900312 15 8
Fifteen years ago in a ground-breaking article in Foreign Policy magazine in the United States, Joseph V Montville described the relatively new concept of citizen diplomacy. By this he meant the unofficial initiatives of private citizens and groups to help open lines of communication and build trust between those involved in international conflicts. Montville, himself an experienced foreign service officer, called this activity Track II diplomacy, and contrasted it with the more formal methods of traditional Track I diplomacy.
Since then Track II diplomacy has become a valued part of integrated strategies for the resolution of international conflict. What is less well understood is that during this same period the Track I community has itself adopted increasingly sophisticated and psychologically sensitive tools for conflict resolution, sometimes drawing on and refining methods pioneered by Track II activists.
In this meticulously researched study of peace-building in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Cambodia, Allan Griffith describes in vivid detail how seemingly intractable conflicts were resolved. In each case this involved convincing all the warring parties that their best hope lay in taking a stake in the emerging democratic process. He shows Track I diplomacy at its best: firm and yet forbearing, purposeful and yet endlessly patient, creative and even visionary while remaining utterly realistic. He also documents the effective and close collaboration between governmental and non-governmental efforts in these three situations.
Perhaps what accounts for the singular contribution of Griffith's book to better understanding of the art of diplomacy is that he was himself one of its most dedicated, agile and effective practitioners in both the Track I and Track II communities. He was for over 30 years foreign policy adviser to successive Australian prime ministers.
Griffith's work has immediate relevance for the many regional and internal conflicts that continue to bedevil the world community: Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, to name a few. Thus, his book warrants careful study by all those who set out to help resolve such conflicts.
While Griffith's account is instructive for both Track I and Track II practitioners, his counsel is perhaps more relevant for the non-governmental community. Here enthusiasm and idealism sometimes make people less aware of the subtlety and skill of more traditional diplomacy, blinding them to the potential value of greater collaboration between the two.
Sadly, Allan Griffith died shortly before the book was published but he has left us an important contribution to the study of diplomacy.
Richard WB Ruffin