Fourth-Track Diplomacy: Its Time Has Come

The Covid-19 pandemic highlights both the challenges to and opportunities for a reimagination of diplomacy and, by extension, democracy. Traditional views of diplomacy assert that each nation should negotiate from a ‘my country first’ perspective. But the modern social problems we face internationally, with Covid-19 being arguably a ‘dry run’ for more global management of climate change, are characterised by a need for collaboration rather than for competition. A collaborative approach would likely help to ensure that more resources reached the poorest parts of the world. We contend that a new form of diplomacy is needed. Second-track diplomacy emphasised the engagement of non-state actors, and third track combined that with traditional diplomacy, but we argue that a fourth track is now both urgently needed and quite viable. This fourth track could engage citizens in diplomacy by using dialogue and digital technologies. A range of dialogic techniques could be leveraged to facilitate the incorporation of a much broader array of voices into the public sphere, infusing more diverse and outside-the-box perspectives into the creation of policies that directly affect citizens and their communities. Such engagement could also be global, connecting people from various countries with their counterparts around the world to explore how nations might work with one another to solve global and regional problems. One nation could help another to solve even a local problem. A massive disruption to routinised lives across the planet provides an unprecedented opportunity to create new ways to meaningfully include a much wider range of voices and perspectives within the way the People – of the global citizenry – do business.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Former diplomat; Executive Director of YAKIN (Youth, Adult survivors & Kin In Need)

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is a former diplomat for Singapore who works in the child sex trafficking space with Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

Suzanne Goodney Lea

Assistant Professor of Crime, Justice, and Security Studies at the University of the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC; CEO of Red Dot Foundation Global (RDFG)

Suzanne Goodney Lea, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Crime, Justice, and Security Studies at the University of the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC. Dr Lea is also CEO of Red Dot Foundation Global (RDFG), which is taking global the effort by Safecity.in to crowd-map sexual assault and harassment.