War’s a-brewing. Who ya gunna to call? Nonviolent Peaceforce!
Violence has broken out between the government of country y and people in the x province over longstanding disputes about oil royalities from the region, corruption, ethnic representation and rigged elections. Union leaders and indigenous leaders start disappearing or turning up dead in rivers. Troops fire on protestors. An explosion destroys an oil company building. Indigenous leaders declare a breakaway government. Civil war looks to be breaking out.
Who do the local activists turn to? The UN can’t get involved without agreement from the government, and the government doesn’t like the UN ever since it published a damning human rights report on the country. Requesting military intervention from a neighboring country or help from terrorist groups or mercenaries will only inflame the situation. So they call the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Two weeks later, 100 nonviolent activists from around the world arrive to monitor government troop movements, accompany union leaders and indigenous leaders to meetings with the government and military, report internationally on developments, provide an international presence at protests and interposition themselves between pro and anti-government protestors.
The tension eases as talks proceed between government and local groups, a ceasefire and peace process is agreed and four weeks later most of the Nonviolent Peaceforce departs with just a small contingent remaining to help monitor the peace process.
The idea of nonviolent intervention in such a scenario may sound like fiction, but a huge step to making it possible was taken with the launch of the Nonviolent Peaceforce in India in December 2002. More than half a century ago Mohandas Gandhi began the first steps to realizing his vision of an international brigade trained in nonviolence and ready to intervene in civil conflict in order to assist the parties in coming to a peaceful solution. He formed a brigade which intervened between rioting crowds of Muslim and Hindu and helped calm the violence.
There have been many initiatives based on Gandhi’s vision since then including Peace Brigades International, Witness for Peace and Christian Peacemaking Teams. However, these have been formed for specific conflicts. As yet, there has been no international standing nonviolent peaceforce available to go to conflict areas at short notice. The Nonviolent Peaceforce aims to develop such a capability – and provide a non-violent alternative to the use of force in civil wars and international conflict.
The project began as a dream at the Hague Peace Conference in 1999 – part of the Hague Appeal for Peace program to abolish war. Since then the coordinating group has done extensive research, consultation, training and planning in order to launch something that is solid and achievable. A Non-violent Peaceforce feasibility study was undertaken, supported by the United States Institute of Peace, untilising the experience of nonviolent interventions and initiatives in numerous conflict areas around the world.
Nonviolent Peaceforce has established offices in Ottawa, London, New Delhi, Brussels, San Francisco and St Paul Minnnesota, and has developed a network of 5000 friends, supporters and potential peaceworkers.
Over 100 people participated in the New Delhi launch including Shief Hasina (former Prime Minister of Bangladesh), Ela Gandhi, South African Member of Parliament and granddaughter of the Mahatma Gandhi, Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, and members of the Iraq Peace Team, Peace Brigades International and other nonviolent peace teams. Nonviolent Peaceforce principles were put into practice for the launch when they refused military protection for Shief Hasina whose family has been killed and who has herself been the target of assassination threats, and instead provided non-violent protective accompaniment for her.
Nonviolent Peaceforce decided to start its field operations with a pilot team going to Sri Lanka to assist the peace process, and is considering possibilities for a nonviolent team to make some impact in Israel/Palestine.
Contact in Aotearoa-New Zealand. email@example.com
We must meet hate with creative love Martin Luther King Jr
The theory and practice of non-violence are roughly at the same stage of development today as those of electricity in the early days of Marconi and Edison. David Dellinger
In non-violence, the masses have a weapon which enables a child, a woman or even a decrepit old man to resist the mightiest government successfully. If your spirit is strong, mere lack of physical strength ceases to be a handicap. Mahatma Gandhi
World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. Martin Luther King Jr
The abolition of war does not require anti-war, anti-military lobbies or demonstrations and protest, but the development of effective non-violent alternatives to military struggle. Gene Sharp
An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot. Thomas Paine. 1795
There will be no better legacy that we can leave for the upcoming International decade for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence than to have in place an effective global Nonviolent Peaceforce by the end of the decade. Shiek Hasina. Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
How Nonviolent intervention works: Tools of the Nonviolent Peaceforce
Accompaniment: Peaceforce workers accompany vulnerable leaders and negotiators in conflict zones. Accompaniment has been used successfully in places such as Guatemala where assassinations of human rights leaders threatened to derail peace efforts.
International presence. Large numbers of Peaceforce workers create an international presence in vulnerable villages, borders, and areas of conflict to let combatants know that attacks will create an international backlash. Such a presence helped prevent attacks on Nicaraguan villages in the 1980s.
Monitoring/witnessing. By making sure “the whole world is watching,” Peaceforce will deter violence by making violent action politically unacceptable. Peaceforce members will monitor events in conflict areas, and disseminate information internationally to the media and general public. In addition to traditional media, Peaceforce will project real-time digital photography to their worldwide monitoring system via the Internet.
Interpositioning. Peaceforce workers may place themselves between opposing groups in an attempt to prevent violence, thus creating cooling off time and a space for local groups to peacefully resolve their conflicts.