Harold Saunders, as director of international affairs at the Kettering Foundation, plays a key role in the foundation’s international studies. These have included the Dartmouth Conferences, the US/China dialogue, and the International Civil Society Exchange. Dr. Saunders is the architect of Sustained Dialogue, ‘a public peace process’ designed to change relationships among those in deep-rooted human conflicts.
He played a central role as a senior U.S. diplomat in the Arab-Israeli peace process after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Working with a team headed by Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter that mediated five agreements, 1974-79, he learned three lessons: (1) the power of a continuous political process to change the political environment; (2) the importance of the human dimension of conflict; and (3) the importance of the relationship between whole bodies politic—citizens outside government as well as those inside government. “The peace process,” he wrote later, “was a series of cumulative agreements that gradually changed the political environment and gave citizens a sense that peace was possible. It was in that larger political process that relationships changed.
As chairman and president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), he conducted peace-making and peace-building dialogues during and following the civil war in Tajikistan, 1993-2007, as well as a three-year dialogue to improve relationships between the Muslim Arab heartland and the West. IISD is currently conducting a dialogue with participants from Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, as well as a dialogue on national reconciliation with participants from across the political spectrum in Iraq. IISD continues to transfer Sustained Dialogue to the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, and is the institutional base for the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, now operating on some 16 high school and college campuses. Dr. Saunders is the author of A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1999) and Politics Is about Relationship: A Blueprint for the Citizens’ Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).