John McDonald

Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Well, I have a little booklet, perhaps I should give you a copy of it. I did it some years back and its called "Guidelines to Newcomers of Track II". I'll give you that and you can look through that and feed some of that into the process. It's a bit of philosophy in one sense, first of all, these are the questions that I ask interns who want to intern with us. An internship with us is, first of all we only take students in the graduate schools majoring in conflict resolution or getting their masters in conflict resolution or related subjects. I already know that they have started down that path, so you have to make a personal commitment to the concept of peace building. I think that's a major step. You have to think through this whole process. This is not a job. This is a commitment. They are two different things.

First of all we don't pay interns, but even when we have staff the critical alimony is this is your path, we want your dedication to the concept because you never get rich in this business. You are surviving, that's all. It's not a job, it's a commitment. It's a professional commitment for peace for the present and for the future, so that's a very important element in our whole concept and I just wanted to share that with you.

Q: Other advice, other highlights?

A: So commitment, patience and dedication. I'll tell you a story about the World Bank that relates to my next comment on that. I've been working with the director for Bosnia, which is a big program, a 650 million dollar program in the World Bank. We were putting in for a small amount of money, and they finally upped it to 350,000 to do what we were doing. We had to jump through all kind of hurdles and so forth, it was very frustrating. Along the way I said that I wanted to find peace building for you and I said there is three levels as far as we're concerned. First there is political peace building, which I know about Bosnia, and I said that's what the Dayton Accords were all about it was a peace treaty with military support. They went in there, they kept the peace, they allowed a political processes to begin to take place, and governments began to understand that it takes them a while to get their act together but its possible.

The second level is economic peace building, that's what the bank and the fund and the UNDP and ??? donors where they go in and try to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure primarily. The third level is social peace building, governments don't understand what I am talking about when I talk about social peace building. We look at the root cause of the conflict, we work with the people, and we deal with their hate/ fear about each other. We work with the heart.

When I tell a government agency that we work with the heart they think I am squishy soft, which I am not, because you have to change the heart, the person that you want to change their mind and perception about the enemy, we call it transformative social change. You learn the skill of conflict resolution then you have to touch the heart, first your heart and then the heart of the enemy. Only at that point in time are they going to start beginning to trust each other, they are going to start conversing with one another and eventually they are going to live next door to each other as neighbors, and that's a long process. When I talk about the heart I am very serious about that, your heart has to be touched, yourself, and you have to be able to touch the heart of others. Governments don't like that, and that's to bad because I am dealing in the real world and they are not dealing in the real world.