«Nonviolent Peaceforce Director: Mel Duncan 801 Front Ave. St. Paul, MN 55103, U.S.A (++1)-651-487-0800 info ...»
...We have seen many people suffer a lot of emotional turmoil because they were not adequately prepared for the difficult situation...We cannot guarantee our presence will prevent acts of violence, rather we hope it will lower the probability of such acts. The possibility of violence against the people we are with and against ourselves remains very real and we need to be able to accept that. Do not think, as many do, that you are safe... Your ability to respond to a violent or tense situation could well depend on how honestly you have accepted the danger and prepared yourself.
... The very protection you offer as an international observer is in itself a constant reminder of the danger they face and the oppression that makes you safer than they.
The response to this contradiction varies, but it can express itself in outright anger and mistreatment. Dealing with this requires patience and tolerance, and a belief that people who fight for human rights have a right to live, and an accompaniment service cannot be contingent on their personality or their emotional response to an intensely stressful situation. We must all keep in mind that it is not their responsibility to please us, to meet our needs, or even to pay attention to us. We are there to serve.
The idea of accompaniment may sound glamorous or romantic from a distance, but in fact it is hard work, and very demanding...One of the most difficult problems 66Heid - interview with author 67Ibid 68Evans - interview with author
volunteers face is boredom. The work is not for everyone, and we’d like you to think seriously in advance about whether it is the right work for you.70 3.2.2 Relationship to local groups George Willoughby, one of PBI’s founders, admonishes that foreigners cannot know what they can do for a people in conflict. A long-term relationship needs to be formed with groups in a region if intervention is to take place.
The forming of this relationship is often referred to as partnership, but the term has no consistent definition among peace team organisations. It sometimes connotes a formal arrangement with the local group which includes agreed upon goals and tactics. I use the word in this chapter to indicate a working relationship in which the third party organisation is invited to contribute its energy and expertise and the local organisation is relied upon for insight to the conflict, connections to other groups and leaders, and the personal investment of its members.
Lisa Schirch advises approaching this relationship by asking the following questions:
What kind of peace efforts are already going on inside the country? Who are the nonaligned groups that the teams can work with and empower with moral and practical support? Who are the authentic leaders that might already be involved in efforts towards peace and reconciliation and who will have the authority to provide leadership after the teams have left? Is there broad-based support for intervention among local people who will be working with the invited team, clear and shared perception of goals of outside intervention,74 and a common understanding of how and by what means those goals will be achieved?75 Schirch proposes empowerment of the leaders locals turn to (which might be traditional leaders such as chiefs, elders and religious leaders) and a multitrack approach to the field with relationships on levels which include government, middle-range actors (religious, ethnic, sectoral leaders and NGO), and grassroots (Indigenous NGO, community developers, women’s associations, local religious, health, municipal and business leaders and refugee camps).77 Partnership to local groups has direct bearing on non-partisanship. Placing volunteers with a local group means that you are working for them--any claim on non-partisanship would be misleading. This becomes even more complicated when ”formal” partnership is established and yet the project seeks to remain somewhat independent. Some organisations have decided against having a local partner (or at least a single local 70Mahony/Eguren 1997: 53 71Schirch 1995: 16 72Schirch 1995: x 73Schirch 1995: ix 74Schirch 1995: iii 75Schirch 1995: iv 76Schirch 1995: x
partner) in order to avoid identification with one side (e.g. Pax Christi in Herzegovina).
There are four models of ‘having local partners’:
a) International volunteers are placed with the local group, working for them as their international volunteer. Examples: most projects of the Austrian Peace Services, Pax Christi (one volunteer with church community in Columbia), BPT-France plans to do the same in Kosovo/a.
b) With a formal local partner, but volunteers bring their own (an ‘extra’) project. This
could be done in two ways:
1) with a formal invitation but carried out as independent work (as BPT and PBI)
2) as a partner with whom a project is then developed (typical for German CPS, and especially for German development services.)81
c) With no single partner but with a developed relationship to a network of groups.
Example, Pax Christi in Herzegovina. Reason: Having one partner (as required by law in order to get government funding under the CPS scheme) would be detrimental for mediation work because it would place PC with one of the ethnic groups. Therefore, PC made its own locally registered office the formal ‘partner’ and works with a variety of groups.
d) Formation of a network of mutually supportive partner organisations which includes both local and third party groups82 Witness for Peace practices the third kind of partnership, with a network of local groups.
They have maintained a practice of working closely with local groups in each country they have entered, and their intervention goals develop from contacts with religious communities and government officials. One of the factors of their success, according to Ed Griffin-Nolan, is the emphasis on development of partner relationships with local people and agencies. These include organisations that do educational and religious work, regional and local task forces concerned with Central America, and the Interreligious Task Force on Central America.
BPT worked on peacebuilding with a variety of local groups. One service valued by the local groups was helping them keep in touch with each other. BPT found it problematic to be asked by embassies and donors about the groups they worked with; so ”an informal policy was made that we would not recommend any groups but give a neutral answer that was honest.”85 78Schweitzer interview with Weber, 4/01 and Wilmutz, 3/01 79Outlined by Christine Schweitzer 80See ”Exploration Mission Report to BPT members from Pierre Dufour (BPT France), Tanya Spencer (BPT-Coordinating Committee ) to Kosovo/a, 2.-114.March 81See Schwieger 2000 82This last model of partnership is added to Schweitzer’s earlier three to reflect discussion at ISC’s 7/01 meeting 83Schirch 1995: 17 84Griffin-Nolan in Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 304
Sandra van den Bosse reports that local appreciation of BPT was spotty; ”We were not appreciated by all at all times.”86 A very positive evaluation of Balkan Peace Team's work comes from Albanian and Serbian activists in the region. Ymer Jaka, a leader of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms stated: "If reconciliation is going to happen, the work of the Balkan Peace Team must continue and be strengthened."87 Christian Peacemaker Teams, in Hebron, has worked closely with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and the Palestinian Land Defense Committee on the issue of the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli authorities. CPT also engages in nonviolent actions with Israeli peace groups such as Gush Shalom and Rabbis for Human Rights. Any slight claim they have to non-partisanship is helped by the affiliation with Israeli groups while living in solidarity with Palestinians. CPT does not have formal partnerships, but works with local groups who share their desire for nonviolent pursuit of justice.
Local groups report that they respect the CPT team and feel encouraged to keep up the work because of their presence. In Chiapas it was harder to gain good rapport with local groups simply because there are so many NGOs working there. ”Now we have gained respect,” says Claire Evans. ”Though some groups think we’re too weird; that our public nonviolent actions are too scary.” Peace Brigades International has a unique partner relationship with the groups it accompanies, e.g. returning refugees, human rights groups or labour movement. They have been practitioners of multi-track entrance to the field since their first year in Guatemala, which they spent ”visiting rural farmers, clandestine contacts, and government and military officials, introducing themselves and feeling things out.” They were determined above all, to take the lead from local groups.
SIPAZ, as an international coalition, has Latin American member organisations, a Mexican woman on the Board of Directors and a local team leader in Chiapas. This helps with the issues of outside intervention. SIPAZ is usually viewed by local organisations as ”cautious,” according to Director Poen. He believes they find this caution comforting in the beginning, perhaps allowing them to enter into a relationship with less fear. The SIPAZ team strives to develop affiliations with every level and category of organisation.
The Michigan Peace Team was in Chiapas at the invitation of the Delores Hildalgo community, which sought internationals to be present but absolutely covert so armed factions wouldn’t know when they were there and when they were not. ”Each community we went to was a community that invited us. That’s foundational.” Extending the invitation is a risk to the communities in and of itself in a counterinsurgency situation.
The difficulty is that it doesn’t stay clear what they invited you to do and what you came 86van den Bosse, Sandra - interview with author 87http://www.BalkanPeaceTeam.org 88Evans - interview with author
to do. ”An invitation doesn’t protect you from the opinion that you shouldn’t be there.” Being sufficiently clear about the relationship with local groups is a challenge all intervention teams face. Teams have had to learn how be very explicit in describing their mission and goals in order to avoid misunderstanding and false expectations. All have had the experience of discovering that the local people thought they would bring money or material aid, that they would work for them (doing translations or driving people around), that they were missionaries or U.S. spies.
Working closely with local organisations is essential to all the teams. They would no doubt share the basis for an evaluation Dave Bekkering made about BPT, ”The future of Otvorene Oci depends on the length of time domestic NGOs think they need its support.” Intervention decisions are best made within relationship. This is the strength of third party ”outsider” but at the same time an inhibitor. An example might be made of the Delores Hildalgo community decision that MPT volunteers should be covert in their movements from village to village. If peace team experience is that tactics of presence and accompaniment depend on visibility for effectiveness, does this wisdom take precedence over the wishes of a local partner? Will the partner agree? Is the partner perhaps right, bringing judgement on specifics of the local situation unknown to the team? CPT Director Stoltzfus draws the line at risk. ”We as outsiders can and should make the decision about the amount of risk we are willing to face based on advice we choose to listen to, recognising that the final responsibility for the decision is ours.”94 3.2.3 Relationship to other INGOs and GOs working in the region Following a time of armed conflict, a region is sometimes inundated with international NGOs, perhaps tripping over fresh grant money and one another as they try to help locals get back on their feet. This less often true before or during the escalation of violence, but it remains important for INGOs and GOs to co-operate and allow one another to utilise the special skills each brings.