Australian Second-Track Diplomacy

Speech to the University of Western Australia delivered on 28 April 2010 by John W.H. Denton, Chairman of the BCA Global Engagement Task Force and Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Thank you for the invitation to speak at Breakfast by the Bay this morning.

The University of Western Australia continues to demonstrate its commitment to engagement with the wider community.

This event is an example of that commitment.

I commend the university on its outstanding record in fostering the exchange of ideas through fora such as this and the excellent and to be repeated “In the Zone” conference.

Today I would like to speak about the idea of increasing the contribution that Australia’s private sector makes to foreign policy.

What is foreign policy?

Foreign policy has been defined as all those dealings of the nation with the outside world that are subject to official interest and activity. Its purpose is to advance a nation’s interest and facilitate the security of its citizens.

My fundamental premise in my speech today is that the development and implementation of Australia’s foreign policy would benefit from greater involvement by the private sector.

Australia has a strong record when it comes to effectively formulating and executing foreign policy.

This was exemplified by the contribution Australia made, in cooperation with many others, towards the creation of the United Nations in 1945.

It included a significant role in drafting the UN Charter itself.

Australia’s capabilities were also at the fore with the creation of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or APEC in the late 1980s.

Again, the Australian Government played a leading role.

But importantly, government alone could not, and did not, put APEC in place.

Our governments have also been successful in building effective bilateral relationships with key strategic partners.

The Alliance between Australia and the United States has, and continues, to be the most important such relationship.

There are many other examples of effective engagement in multilateral, regional and bilateral diplomacy.

Notwithstanding this record, there is an opportunity to improve our effectiveness in dealings outside our borders and in shaping our international policies.

And in so doing, to strengthen our key relationships, advancing our national interests and facilitating the security of our citizens.

The participation of the non-government sector in foreign policy is sometimes referred to as second-track or track-two diplomacy.

Second-track diplomacy has been traditionally defined as the direct involvement of private organisations or individuals in conflict resolution.

But it is much more than that and certainly can be more than that.

It should include shaping foreign policy priorities and opportunities through dialogue and persuasion of those who influence foreign policy at home and abroad.

Australia’s private sector has the capabilities to contribute to this task.

Australian Second-Track Diplomacy: Speech by John W.H. Denton to the University of Western Australia