The Northeast Asia region remains characterized by Cold War era political interactions. The region is, at times, charged with fierce rhetoric amid fears of military escalation, and lacks institutional mechanisms for peace and security. The Korean Peninsula remains in an armistice system, without a peace treaty to end the Korean War. The absence of sustained dialogue and repeated military aggressions have heightened tensions within the Korean Peninsula and across the region.
Launched in 2003, the Six Party Talks involve China, the DPRK, the ROK, Russia, Japan and the US. The Talks are the closest alternative to an institutional mechanism for regional peace and security, and have been the best available tool for peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue in Northeast Asia. Various rounds have achieved some results, demonstrating that progress in regional engagement is possible. Yet the suspension of the Talks since 2009 and increasing calls for a hard-line response have left little room for the resumption of dialogue on a governmental level. Inflammatory rhetoric and the escalation of several territorial disputes in the region emphasize the need to maintain space for dialogue and build trust and confidence between all parties. In order to move towards realizing regional peace and stability, it is imperative to revitalize dialogue processes on wide-ranging issues, including the Six Party Talks, based on mutual trust and confidence among all parties.
Moreover, the need for dialogue is emphasised in the UN OHCHR Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK. The report is explicit in recommending civil society organizations to foster opportunities for dialogue, and encourages contacts and opportunities for the exchange in such areas as culture, good governance and economic development.
Central to the Ulaanbaatar Process is the emerging strategic role of Mongolia within the Northeast Asian context. Mongolia is a state with internationally recognized nuclear-weapon-free status that benefits from political security assurances of the five nuclear weapon states. It also maintains friendly diplomatic relations with all the states of the Six Party Talks and other states of the region. Hence it is well-positioned to play a significant and unique role as provider of political space and venue as well as a possible mediator for regional dialogue. The Mongolian government has supported GPPAC by hosting regional GPPAC meetings in 2007, 2010 and 2014 in Ulaanbaatar, focusing on various issues, including reducing nuclear threats through regional dialogue. GPPAC's Ulaanbaatar Focal Point, the NGO Blue Banner, plays the lead role in this coordination. Reflecting the role of Mongolia in this process, this dialogue is referred to as the ‘Ulaanbaatar Process'.
Crucially, the Ulaanbaatar Process creates space for civil society perspectives from across the region, including both the DPRK and ROK, to be heard in the same forum. As a global network based on multi-stakeholder collaboration, with a foundation for constructive dialogue already developed by the GPPAC-NEA network in the region and with a neutral platform and location in Mongolia to convene the different parties, the Ulaanbaatar Process is uniquely positioned to serve as an effective regional Track 2 dialogue.
As a worldwide alliance of civil society organizations structured around 15 regional networks, based on a network approach, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) is well placed to convene and facilitate the Ulaanbaatar Process. Dialogue and Mediation is a key priority of GPPAC, supported by a working group comprised of representatives from nine regions, including Northeast Asia. With extensive practical experience in facilitating such processes, this group seeks to promote and enhance dialogue and mediation practices and processes in the regions, by generating knowledge, exchanging experiences and cooperating cross-regionally.
In addition to creating a politically viable platform for a Track 2 dialogue process, for the past 5 years GPPAC has built sufficient constituency reaching out to the political community and civil society in a broader sense. Importantly, GPPAC has secured sufficient access to the parties engaged in a Track 1 process. Realising the importance of relating the GPPAC supported Track 2 process to Track 1, GPPAC has developed relations with relevant governments that have a stake in addressing peace and security issues in Northeast Asia. This has led to working relations with the Governments of the ROK, DPRK, China, Japan, the US and Mongolia. GPPAC also has regular meeting and debriefings with the European External Action Service, and relevant UN institutions. Moreover, GPPAC has invested in building relationships with a broader constituency of civil society in related countries, including Russia.