September 24, 2001
Hoffman works between the tracks
Deanna Congileo is director of the Carter Centers Office of Public Information.
When Ben Hoffman joined the Carter Center last year, he saw an opportunity
to chart a new course in the field of conflict resolution.
The Carter Center is unique in integrating what we call track
one and track two mediationtrack one being official
state-to-state diplomacy, and track two being long-term peace building
at the community level, said Hoffman, director of the centers
Conflict Resolution Program (CRP). We can take advantage of President
[Jimmy] Carters access to political leaders to achieve peace accords,
yet implement agreements in a way that achieves sustainable peace.
Track 1.5 is the name Hoffman has given to this hybrid approach
to conflict resolution being pioneered by The Carter Center. Although
most conflict resolution and peace building originates at the grassroots,
track two level, there is a limit to what such work can achieve,
A few words in a diplomatic accord can set the framework and political
will for permanently improving life for hundreds of thousands of people,
Hoffman said. But those agreements should contemplate all the elements
of sustainable peace with justice: the role of civil society, rule of
law, respect for human rights[all] aspects of long-term peace building
dependent on grassroots action and vigilance.
Throughout his 25-year career, Hoffmans preoccupation with
the realization of justice has been more than an intellectual passion.
In Canada, he managed large-scale projects to bring about healing for
battered women and their abusers and for clerics who perpetrated long-term
patterns of abuse against boys in their care. Later, after leading peace-building
projects in Haiti, Lebanon, Lithuania, Crimea and Romania, he became widely
recognized for his work on reconciliation and the design of dispute resolution
systems to support rule of law.
He says lessons from the trenches have proven useful at the elite level
of mediation, noticeably in the CRPs current effort to restore diplomatic
relations between Sudan and Uganda and advance peace in the region.
Since Carter and the CRP brokered an agreement between the two countries
in December 1999, center staff have worked continuously to get the accord
implemented, with successes including the exchange of 74 prisoners of
war and the return to Uganda of more than 200 Ugandan children abducted
by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), a northern Uganda rebel group
based in Sudan.
Ultimately, we need to look at a range of peace-building activities
in the region, Hoffman said. The peace accord is only one
For example, long-term peace will require a commitment to reintegrating
former combatants into society. A Carter Center field representative has
been working to get agencies in Sudan and northern Uganda to cooperate
in establishing reception centers, providing trauma recovery programs
and training former soldiers to work in society.
We do not work directly with the traumatized children, Hoffman
said, but we are mobilizing people and resources to see that necessary
groundwork for permanent peace is made.
This emphasis on long-term peace building is not completely new. After
assisting with peace negotiations in the Liberian civil war in the early
1990s, the Carter Center remained engaged in the country for nearly a
decade, observing peaceful elections in 1997 and subsequently working
to advance human rights and strengthen Liberian nongovernmental organizations.
The same is true in Guyana, where the Center has sponsored post-election
projects to strengthen human rights and civil society.
As the CRP refines track 1.5 diplomacy, Hoffman said staff
will begin to analyze and document successes and failures to share with
the academic, diplomatic and conflict-resolution communities.
With his own extensive academic credentials, Hoffman knows the rigors
of making a sound case for a new concept. His training includes a specialization
in dispute resolution from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University
and a doctorate from York University in the United Kingdom, where his
thesis examined approaches to restructuring power in political conflict.
But along with running the academic gauntlet is a pressing need to share
this new mediation approach with the larger diplomatic community, putting
theory into practice.
There is a bona fide set of clinical skills used in the mediation fieldand here at the Carter Centerthat are available to the larger diplomatic community, Hoffman said. And there is a great opportunity to build bridges, operationally and professionally, between diplomats and those working at the grassroots for peace. The Carter Center is uniquely positioned to move this vision forward.