Evaluating the Contributions of Track-Two Diplomacy to Conflict Termination in South Africa, 1984-90

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Lieberfeld, Daniel (2002) Evaluating the Contributions of Track-Two Diplomacy to Conflict Termination in South Africa, 1984-90 , Journal of Peace Research 39(3): 355–372.

This article evaluates the political impact of three non-official, track-two initiatives aimed at resolving the conflict in South Africa. Meetings between white South Africans and the African National Congress (ANC) in the pre-negotiation period from 1985 to 1990 produced direct, substantive inputs into official, track-one decisionmaking regarding negotiations, as well as indirect inputs into public opinion and party politics bearing on questions of negotiated settlement. Track-two talks are credited with changing the political risks and rewards of official talks by legitimizing the negotiation option and desensitizing each side's constituents to talks with the enemy, by building latent support for track-one negotiations, by furthering incentive-creating political polarization over the issue of negotiation, and by encouraging the formation of liberal, pro-negotiation political parties and NGOs. Track-two talks prepared each side for track-one negotiations by clarifying conflict goals and post-conflict policies; by exploring common ground; by developing cadres of officials with experience in dialogue, some of whom developed a bureaucratic stake in an official negotiation process; and by communicating preconditions for track-one talks. The ANC and government each sought to use track-two talks to divide and weaken the other. A sense of South African identity emerged during track-two dialogues which reduced threat perceptions among white participants who communicated with central decisionmakers, and helped create a sense of negotiation possibility complementary to decisionmakers' sense that negotiation was necessary.