Track II simulation puts
spotlight on Asia

Academics, post graduate students and government officials attended the Spotlight on Asia track II simulation, which was held on the margins of the 52nd Otago Foreign Policy School.

The Otago Foreign Policy School is a yearly event that brings together leaders in international relations to discuss topical issues; this year the theme was Open and Closed Borders: The Geopolitics of Migration.

Spotlight on Asia participants describe the value of track II dialogues and what they took away from attending the Dunedin event (see links below for the extended interviews)

Unlike track I diplomacy, which is held between governments, track II diplomacy is less formal and typically involves people from outside government. One of the strengths of track II diplomacy is that participants are not inhibited by the political constraints of track I diplomacy and are thus able to freely express their personal views.

The Dunedin simulation provided participants with insight into what is involved in participating in a track II dialogue with the hope they will seek opportunities to take part in future track II dialogues. 

The dialogue was divided into two sessions: one on North Asia, which looked at what evolving regional dynamics might mean for New Zealand, and the second on Southeast Asia, which looked at shifting alliances over the South China Sea and the implications for New Zealand.

Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper says one the challenges facing the track II community in New Zealand, and elsewhere, is the need to grow the ‘genepool’ of talent.

"The Asia New Zealand Foundation is working with its partners at universities and think tanks to encourage a new generation of scholars to study international relations and trade, with an Asia focus," he says.

The track II dialogue in Dunedin was the first of several dialogues that will be conducted at university campuses around the country to attract new track II participants.

“We want our pool to be more diverse and more representative of contemporary New Zealand. We want to see more young people and more women participating in these important exchanges,” Mr Draper says.

Spotlight on Asia participant and Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network member Will Seal says he finds enormous value – personally and professionally – in participating in track II dialogue.

Will Seal discusses the opportunity of participating in the Spotlight on Asia Track II simulation

Will attended a track II dialogue in Taiwan in 2015 and says others who are thinking of joining a track II dialogues should “absolutely do it”.

“If you are a political junkie, if you love the news, if you are interested in international relations, things going on in your own country, track II is an incredible way of meeting new people with similar interests and having those topics debated and discussed in a really engaging and fantastic forum," he says.

Robert Patman, professor of international relations at the University of Otago, described the Foundation-led track II dialogue he has taken part in “as a fascinating experience”.

“It fully opened my eyes to the value of interacting with people who are dealing with similar issues but doing it from a different point of view...”  he says. 

“We don’t have enough cooperation and dialogue between people working in think tanks, between people working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Defence and the academic world.

"We need to have more dialogue because in a small country we need to maximise the talent we have, and track II is one way of doing that.” 

Professor Robert Patman shares his thoughts on the role of track II diplomacy

The Foundation leads New Zealand’s track II diplomacy efforts in Asia which involve dialogues and roundtable discussions with leading think tanks, universities and counterpart organisations in Asia about the major political, economic and strategic issues facing the region.