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'Let Iranians talk to Americans'
by William Green Miller & Seyed Hossein Mousavian
Christian Science Monitor
April 5, 2013

Ambassador William Green Miller is the senior adviser on the US-Iran Programme for the non-governmental organisation Search for Common Ground and a senior public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and a former spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiators.

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Track II Mediation Unit



The Track II Mediation Unit conducts dynamic, multi-level processes to restore trust between conflicting parties, uncover areas of common interest and support official agreements and reconciliation.

Our activities are completely unofficial and include facilitated dialogues and "Track 1.5," or semi-official – activities such as back-channel talks and shuttle diplomacy.  Extending beyond the negotiating tables and facilitated dialogues, Track II processes take many forms to include people-to-people exchanges. Such exchanges can be a vital tool in re-building trust and breaking down stereotypes.

We rely on the skills and expertise of senior advisors, mediators, and facilitators. We currently have projects in the Middle East, North Africa, and United States.

Track II vs. Track I

Track II diplomacy does not replace or compete with Track I diplomacy, or official processes. In the end, only governments can make peace. Therefore, we aim to complement and in some cases bolster official negotiations by dealing not only with the substantive issues of a conflict, but also on the human level to:

  • establish personal connections

  • overcome stereotypes

  • nurture people’s commitment to working constructively toward mutually agreeable solutions

By building bridges of communication and trust on the Track II level, we support positive movement on the official level. Even when no official negotiations or peace processes exist to resolve a conflict, we work to keep connection and communication alive between parties.

Our Approach

Build trust- Trust is the only real basis for lasting settlement.

Find a common metaphor- Metaphors can help groups understand their conflicts in new ways and create a common understanding from which to work.

Be inclusive- If people are left out of the process, they can act as spoilers of an agreement. Even if they might be disruptive to the process, it is better to include them because they will demand to be addressed.

Be persistent and patient- Demonstrate commitment to a long-term approach by showing up consistently and trying new approaches.

Be impartial- The mediation process is one of drawing out others, not bringing our own agenda. We work to be impartial about what common ground looks like to maintain credibility with both sides.

Know the culture- Knowing the cultures with which you are working helps you engage and respond more dynamically and with more sensitivity.