Track Two Diplomacy and Beauty as a Bridge.
By Rene Wadlow.
Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing
from the bank of darkness to the side of light.
Nicolas Roerich (1874 – 1947)
There is a growing interest in the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations and the U.N.’s Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO. Through time and persistent effort, NGO representatives have developed a structured role for themselves in such fields as human rights, ecology, and humanitarian relief.
The role of the NGO representative is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process from the initial raising of an issue or proposal through the final voted resolution and the start of the application. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the U.N. from lobbying at the national level is that one may appeal to and discuss with the representatives of many different governments. While some government representatives may be unwilling to consider the ideas of anyone other than the mandate that they receive from the Foreign Ministry, others are more open. Out of the more than 100 States usually present at most U.N. meetings, the NGO representative will find some who share a common policy outlook or who are seeking additional information on which to take a decision. These non-governmental efforts are increasingly called “Track Two diplomacy.”
Track One diplomacy is official government negotiations with their backup resources of research and intelligence agencies’ resources. Many governments also have news or information services who present the government’s views and usually analyze the foreign press and media. Many governments also have cultural bodies to present national cultures and are often in touch with cultural workers in other countries.
Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics.
Track Two diplomacy is citizen-based efforts through research, dialogue, mediation, and collaborative relations. No non-governmental organization has the resources of a government. Thus NGOs must often work together in trans-frontier alliances. However, Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics for two reasons. First, increasingly armed conflicts exist between a government and one or more armed movements as we see in Yemen, the Kurds in Syria or with the ethnic minorities in Myanmar. Governments are often reluctant to negotiate openly with armed groups fearing to give them legitimacy or fearing to encourage other such armed movements. Yet a peace agreement requires discussions with such groups. Talks can be carried on in unofficial ways which governments can deny later if needs be. (1)
The second area is illustrated by the UNESCO-led International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) in which the Association of World Citizens has been active. Culture is usually broader and more diverse than that promoted by national cultural agencies such as the Confucius Institutes closely related to the Chinese government’s views on which elements of Chinese culture should be stressed. We can also recall the 1950s-McCarthy period in the U.S.A. when “subversive books” were to be taken out of the libraries of the U.S. cultural centers abroad.
Concept of Beauty.
Thus the need for a broad concept of beauty. Beauty can bring out in the individual sentiments of awe, of compassion, of the spiritual in life. One such example was the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra led by Daniel Barenboim with musicians from Israel, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Spain – Spain in honor of the creative co-existence of Christian, Islamic and Jewish culture at one stage of Spain’s history.
Music, dance and painting are wordless and thus can touch a part of human consciousness that can be blocked by words. While the bridge of beauty does not overcome political divisions in the short run, beauty can open dimensions of the person not reached by economic gain or political calculations.
1) see P. Willets (Ed). The Conscience of the World. The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the UN System (London: Hurst, 1996)
W.E. De Mars. NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.