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UPH holds successful webinar on Quiet Diplomacy for prospective UPEACE students

4 May 2021 – Linking The Hague with Costa Rica, Brussels and Geneva, UPEACE Centre The Hague (UPH) held a successful webinar to present the University for Peace to prospective Master students. The online event included a debate on the role of quiet diplomacy in international relations as a means to (try to) resolve conflicts through informal contacts.
Clockwise from top left: Robert Serry (UPH), prof. Adriana Salcedo (UPEACE), university dean Juan Carlos Saenz-Borgo (UPEACE), Stine Lehmann-Larsen (EIP).

Viewers got a taste of UPEACE in a specially prepared video that showed the history,  meaning, curriculum and campus life at the university. This immediately awoke feelings of nostalgia with Tessel van de Putte from the Netherlands, who studied at UPEACE in 2018-2019. “I immediately recognized those morning yoga sessions and cultural nights”, she said in a live interview from Geneva, where she now works with the International Committee of the Red Cross.


“It was an incredible experience. Living together in a small community creates strong bonds and expands your network. Now I have friends for life all over the world. On an academic level, there was lots of space during my study at UPEACE to discover new themes, and to investigate not only the theories, but also ways to put them into practice.”


European students among the audience were informed how UPEACE Centre The Hague can assist them with following a Masters at the University. Those who apply via The Hague are eligible for a 30% reduction on the tuition fee.* Moreover, as an exceptional measure, UPH can offer support for travel costs to Costa Rica of up to 1000 euro.


Debate on Quiet Diplomacy


The discussion offered a rare glimpse into Quiet or “Track II” diplomacy, an area that has received little academic attention. But, as moderator Lorena De Vita stressed, “the fact that these processes have low visibility does not make them less important.”


Quiet Diplomacy has been put into practice for a long time, as was demonstrated by the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement between Israel and Palestinians, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 in Northern Ireland, and the end of the decades-long civil war in Colombia. These would not have been possible without previous behind-the-scenes contacts between informal actors from both sides, to sound out where there could be initial areas of agreement which could ultimately lead to a more definitive resolution.


Speaking from Brussels, Stine Lehmann-Larsen of the European Institute of Peace gave an overview of the work her organisation does to facilitate conflict-solving. This can involve a range of instruments, such as strategies to engage with each other, opening new channels of communication, confidence-building measures, and preparing the correct psychological setting. “If you put two people who have been fighting each other for years in a room for breakfast, you’d be amazed about the outcome that can be achieved if you manage to create the right atmosphere!”


Robert Serry told about his field experience in Quiet Diplomacy: in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians (first as a Dutch diplomat in the late 1980s and then as special envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Middle East Process in 2008-2015), in Macedonia for NATO to help avert a civil war with the Albanian minority, and between Ukraine and Russia in a process that was initiated by UPEACE Centre The Hague. “Sometimes you have to be like a chameleon and show understanding and empathy for the views of conflicting parties. You also need to be patient, don’t expect quick results. And even then, what may look like a breakthrough can sometimes turn into a stalemate.”


From Costa Rica, UPEACE assistant professor in Peace and Conflict studies Adriana Salcedo stressed the importance of inclusivity. “Track 2 can be a gamechanger, but peace may be more durable when the process is embraced by society. That’s why it is important to involve groups who cannot get their voices heard, as happened in Colombia: women, youth, elderly, indigenous groups, actors who are themselves trapped in the conflict.”


But what if society does not accept the results of a peace process that took place in secrecy, asked one member of the audience? “This can happen”, Serry warned. “Oslo was rejected by Hamas on the Palestinian side as well as by movements in Israel. It is therefore crucial not to announce the outcome of the process prematurely. You need sufficient support on both sides first.”


Watch the full webinar here.




00:00:00          Welcome by UPEACE Centre The Hague chairperson Robert Serry

00:02:26          Welcome by UPEACE’s Dean Juan Carlos Saenz-Borgo

00:04:46          PART 1: Debate on the Role of Quiet Diplomacy in International Relations

01:00:41          PART 2: Presentation of the University for Peace

01:01:16          Film presenting UPEACE, its history and campus life

01:05:55          Alumnus Tessel van der Putte on her experiences at UPEACE

01:11:27          Round-up: What UPEACE Centre The Hague can do for you

01:15:41          End


* Not applicable for students from countries that have signed the UPEACE Charter (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey).