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Case #949

Creating a Nonviolent Peaceforce


What might happen if the world had a standing nonviolent army of thousands? Could we transform our response to conflict? What might happen if the world had a standing nonviolent army of thousands? Could we transform our response to conflict? Could we create a radical possibility: a different kind of force, a nonviolent army that could constitute an entirely new and creative response to conflict. Such a force is not a dream; an actual Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is being born. Nonviolent intervention has been going on-without benefit of media coverage-for some time. This new organization is poised to take it to a new stage by creating a 2,000-member professional corps, along with 4,000 reservists, 5,000 volunteers, and a research division, ready to respond wherever there is conflict around the globe. NP's mission is not merely to end violence after it has already begun, but to prevent or dampen outbreaks of violent conflict before they escalate. The new project, if it succeeds, will result in a worldwide peace service capable of intervening in a conflict or incipient conflict more quickly than the UN peacekeeping division and-more importantly-with a different kind of power from that of national militaries. While the US government insists there is no alternative to endless war, the Nonviolent Peaceforce is quietly attempting to institutionalize a proven alternative. If it succeeds, the world will have two kinds of standing army to choose from.


Formally organize, train, and "deploy" committed volunteers interested in nonviolent intervention and conflict prevention in different areas around the world. The Nonviolent Peaceforce began to take shape in 1999 as a result of this vision.

WHAT IS WORKING: (1) international volunteers committed to nonviolent intervention and/or witnessing in areas of conflict (2) building on a nonviolent intervention tradition that has been practiced for a long time (3) One element is witnessing-being present as an observer, sharing information with the outside world and demonstrating to all the parties involved that the world is watching. (4) Another kind of nonviolent intervention is accompaniment. Peace Brigades International volunteers have successfully accompanied threatened human rights workers for 20 years now all over Central America, East Timor, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. They monitor, and thus moderate or prevent, human rights abuses-and in the extreme they can even stand between armed groups to stop violence. (5) unarmed civilians groups within a society interposed themselves between armies (6) The NP study concludes that nonviolent intervention is humanity's greatest chance to mobilize civil society against the war system, and finally to bring it to an end. As long as the international community can think of nothing else to do but bomb someone to stop some conflict it deems intolerable, as long as societies know of no other way to defend themselves but to take up arms, war will be with us. But when they do come to know that there is actually an alternative, more and more people will demand that their governments choose it. (7) The Nonviolent Peaceforce is organizing Work a Day for Peace on September 11, 2002, and invites people to donate that day's wages to the group.

IMPORTANT POINTS: (1) The Peaceforce would enter a conflict only after being invited, with the aim of creating the space for local groups to resolve their own disputes peacefully. (2)NP would draw its membership from throughout the globe, so that it could circumvent political divisions and visa problems. Its 2,000 professional peacekeepers would be paid, trained, and signed on for two-year contracts. (3)Nonviolent intervention is a recurrent vision among people who refuse to believe that humankind is condemned either to fight or stand by helplessly when violence rages. Though people no doubt have stepped in to break up fights as long as there have been fights, what is now called nonviolent intervention arose 100 years ago, in Mahatma Gandhi's great campaigns for Indian rights in South Africa. When Gandhi was not calling his Satyagraha volunteers "pilgrims," he often referred to them as nonviolent "soldiers." (4)The mere presence of internationals changes the atmosphere of conflict, often defusing hatred. When they 'short-circuit' entrenched hostility in the way we've just seen, third parties can actually reawaken the humanity in people under arms. These people are voluntarily risking their own lives and safety to reflect, through their concern, the humanity of those who have become mere victims.
Location: global
Action: Direct
Setting: Developed World, Semi-Developed, Third World, Urban, Village
Extent of Action: International
Issues: Peace/Conflict Resolution
Year(s): 999
Outcome successful
Source: YES! Fall 2002, p.49


Prepared By: sl, 7/09
Rating: 1
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