How Do Experts Differ from Politicians in Understanding a Conflict? A Comparison of Track I and Track II Actors

Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
C R Q, vol. 35, no. 2, Winter 2017 147
© 2017 Association for Confl ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21208
How Do Experts Di er from Politicians in
Understanding a Con ict? A Comparison of
Track I and Track II Actors
Özden Melis Uluğ
J. Christopher Cohrs
is article explores the confl ict understandings of Track II actors in the
Kurdish confl ict context and compares them with confl ict understand-
ings of Track I actors to identify similarities and diff erences between
these actors.  e results highlight two diff erent confl ict understandings
among Track II actors: a democracy and identity viewpoint, and a
democracy and economy viewpoint. Integrating these results with previ-
ous results for Track I actors highlights four diff erent confl ict understand-
ings across Track I and Track II actors: a Kurdish rights viewpoint, a
democracy and freedom viewpoint, a conservative-religious viewpoint,
and a terror viewpoint.
U nderstanding politicians’ positions in a confl ict context is crucial due
to their tremendous impact on the course of the confl ict.  e public
knows politicians very well, and this gives politicians the political power
to change a political situation in a short period (Zannoni 1978 ). However,
although Track I diplomacy is important for resolving confl ict, it is not
enough on its own (Lederach 1999 ; Saunders 2001 ). A sustainable peace
and transition agreement requires the broader inclusion of diff erent actors
from various segments of society such as religious, nongovernmental, civil,
academic, and legal actors (Lederach and Appleby 2010 ; Paff enholz 2015 ).
is is especially true if those actors from various segments are able to
infl uence the quality of agreements and/or push for starting negotiations or
signing agreements (Paff enholz 2015 ). For these reasons, recent approaches
have emphasized the complementary role of Track II diplomacy in confl ict
148 Uluğ, Cohrs
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
resolution.  ey emphasize that Track II enables some activities such as
interactive problem-solving workshops that are very useful but hardly pos-
sible to implement within Track I (see, e.g., Kelman 2000 ).
Although Track I and Track II can complement each other in resolv-
ing confl icts, actors within Track II might see the confl ict diff erently from
Track I actors. Track II actors might know the context of the confl ict and
people who experience this context better than top-level leaders (Lederach
1999 ). ey can also be more fl exible due to not having a high-pressure
agenda; they can travel more easily especially in confl ict-ridden places and
might have connections to the leaders of confl icting parties due to connec-
tions with diff erent NGOs and other organizations. As they add expertise
on what the confl ict is about and how it should be resolved, their perspec-
tives on the confl ict carry utmost importance for resolving the confl ict.
As people from these segments of society need to work together in
creating a lasting peace (Saunders 2001 ), we should try to understand their
diff erences which may make cooperation more diffi cult. Identifying dif-
ferences among various segments is crucial because these diff erences, on
the one hand, have the potential to exacerbate the confl ict. According to
Kelman ( 2009 ), internal divisions within societies impose constraints on
political leaders who try to fi nd a way for confl ict resolution. On the other
hand, these diff erences within society might also mitigate the confl ict and
initiate a change in the confl icting relationships (Kelman 2009 ). erefore,
it is a major task of researchers to understand the diff erences between vari-
ous tracks in a confl ict situation.
In addition to diff erences between segments, confl ict researchers
should also focus on fi nding similarities across segments of society. Finding
similarities across segments of society helps contribute to the solution of
a confl ict (see Lederach 1999 ). ese similar points across segments help
develop further steps in confl ict resolution and peacebuilding.
In this study, we argue that Track II actors—in other words, experts
(e.g., scholars and journalists)—might see confl icts diff erently from Track I
actors—in other words, politicians (e.g., members of parliament). We aim
to investigate both similarities and diff erences within and between these
two segments of society. We use the Kurdish confl ict as a confl ict context
that allows investigating exactly these points. We argue that within each
segment, diff erent people might have diff erent priorities and concerns,
which results in diff erent confl ict understandings. We also compare politi-
cians’ and experts’ confl ict viewpoints to see how their understandings of
the Kurdish confl ict are diff erent.

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