Trained, nonviolent and unarmed civilian forces have for over twenty years been invited to intervene in conflicts around the world to provide protection for human rights defenders and peace workers by maintaining a high profile physical presence accompanying threatened individuals and organizations. Since these organizations are not associated with any government, and since their personnel are drawn from many countries and have no agenda other than creating a safe space where dialogue can occur between conflicting parties, they have a credibility that national governments lack. By being nonviolent and unarmed they present no physical threat to others and can go where armed peacekeepers might provoke a violent clash. They provide an open space, dialogue with government authorities and armed forces, and create a link between local peace workers and the international community. Initiated by Peace Brigades International in 1981, PBI has current projects in Guatemala, Honduras, New Mexico, Nepal and Kenya. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Brussels. NP has four goals for its work: to create a space for lasting peace, to protect civilians, to develop and promote the theory and practice of unarmed civilian peacekeeping so that it may be adopted as a policy option by decision makers and public institutions, and to build the pool of professionals able to join peace teams through regional activities, training, and maintaining a roster of trained, available people. NP currently has teams in the Philippines, Myanmar and South Sudan.
These and other organizations such as Christian Peacemaker Teams provide a model that can be scaled up to take the place of armed peacekeepers and other forms of violent intervention. They are a perfect example of the role civil society is already playing in keeping the peace. Their intervention goes beyond intervention through presence and dialog processes to working on the reconstruction of the social fabric in conflict zones.
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