«Nonviolent Peaceforce Director: Mel Duncan 801 Front Ave. St. Paul, MN 55103, U.S.A (++1)-651-487-0800 info ...»
Tourist status has been a problem for peace teams in Chiapas. Michigan Peace Team volunteers, in spite of their efforts to just blend in, were stopped at barricades and told "Tourists don’t visit here." Robert Poen is very frustrated by the visa situation for the SIPAZ team in Chiapas. Their volunteer from Uruguay had to renew her visa every two months; the U.S. volunteers get six months if they’re lucky. Travelling to renew visas is "a tremendous burden financially, and the time costs are enormous. On a tourist visa you’re not supposed to interfere in the domestic politics in Mexico, and you can be expelled on the flimsiest excuse. Our volunteers have never been expelled, but they are often stopped at road blocks and not allowed to continue to where they were going.".112 During their early work in Guatemala, PBI volunteers could enter only on tourist visas;
applications for formal legal status met consistent delays.113 It was only after deportation and return that PBI was allowed a change in status. Team members witnessed a police shooting, were questioned in the Office of Foreign Relations and given 15 minutes to choose between legal deportation, court charges of ”illegal involvement in an event resulting in a woman’s death”, or leave the country voluntarily under protection of their embassies. The volunteers were told that if they refused to leave, the entire PBI team 111Schweitzer in Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000, 274 112Poen - interview with author
would be expelled and their lives in danger. They co-operated and were deported.114 But PBI went public with its story after the murder and deportation, insisting on the legality of their presence; and in the end special visas were sanctioned by the Guatemalan Congress.
In Colombia, the Government considered PBI presence consistent with its own commitment to human rights and thereby authorised special ”courtesy” visas for team members, which were eventually registered and legally recognised. This is unique in the history of peace team projects.
SIPAZ reports that their 30 international observers during the Mexican elections were required to get FM3 visas (for human rights monitoring), which was an unbelievably time-consuming process and limiting to their activities. The new government has made it possible to do international observation work without an FM3 and not be expelled.
Michigan Peace Teams found that the visa for observers was too restrictive for regular team work in the villages, however.
PBI begins their program at each location with a round of visits to national and local authorities, both civilian and military. In Colombia, for example, PBI explained the function and methodology of accompaniment to each authority, thus fulfilling the deterrence strategy requirement for communication regarding the existence and possible political consequences of accompaniment. They also recruited support from the diplomatic corps, which was kept closely informed of PBI work. The Colombian groups receiving protection also formally notified the government of the accompaniment they were now receiving.115 For all projects in the Balkans, registration with the police is required by law, even if entering the country as a tourist as many projects do. BPT sometimes avoided it in Kosovo/a, but it was a risk. They tried registration as an INGO in Croatia, but it was very slow to come through because the law was just being put into practice. CPSes do not necessarily contact national governments upon entering the field but in BiH and Kosovo/a are registered as internationals.116.
18.104.22.168 Facility in local language and use of interpreters SIPAZ, PBI, and WfP all have very high standards for fluency in the local language. Any person who inquires about being on a SIPAZ team is sent information and an application form in Spanish; so the relationship is begun in the language which will be needed. BPT and Austrian Peace Services offer two-week language classes during training and expect team members to continue to learn while in the field (BPT held these classes in the country). Resultant facility is minimal for use in the field. German CPS (and development services) offer intensive language training with a special organisation before going to the field.
A new volunteer on a Michigan Peace Team was at Spanish immersion school on her way to Chiapas before she realised that no one on the team would be fluent in Spanish.
114Mahony/Eguren 1997: 118 115Mahony/Eguren 1997: 228
She wrote back to the base, ”Moving ahead with this without a strong base of fluency would be not only personally challenging but potentially life threatening for people we are trying to shield... If I do not have a fluent person on the team I am considering leaving... This is not tourist travel where one can muck along through language with a conversation travel book”.117 John Heid reports that as he worked in Chiapas he had many doubts, questions and suggestions, but had to go along with the program because of his weak language skill.118 In Colombia, all CPT team members must be fluent in Spanish. Originally, only one person on their Chiapas team was fluent; now they try to have two at all times. In Hebron, they rely on locals who speak English and the on translators who have assisted CPT long enough to understand their work.119 Team-sending organisations do not normally require familiarity with indigenous languages or with second languages of the region. PBI, for example, was handicapped in its Guatemalan work, particularly in rural areas, by the fact that no volunteer spoke a Mayan language.120 How much fluency is needed? Beth Abbot of Project Accompaniment says it is ”the ability to speak Spanish well and not to lose that ability in tense situations!”121 WfP tells potential applicants, ”Conversational fluency means that you can converse with fluency in Spanish, that you can communicate your thoughts and ideas without much hesitation and that those you are talking to can understand you. It also means that you can understand and respond to those talking to you. This implies that: (a) you can use all the verb tenses: present, past, future, imperfect, subjunctive, conditional, present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect tenses, (b) you have a good working vocabulary.”122 22.214.171.124 Unwelcoming local government Only in Guatemala and El Salvador have any of these peace teams experienced being made explicitly unwelcome by the local government. In Guatemala, General Mejia Victores used the immigration department to cut off visas for 10 PBI volunteers in 1985, saying they were illegally meddling in internal politics.123 In El Salvador, five PBI volunteers were detained in November of 1989, and the entire PBI team was ”exiled” to Guatemala.124 Both CPT and PBI have practised the peace team ”relay method” - if one team member is expelled, she/he is replaced as quickly as possible by another.
PBI believes that accompaniment as effective deterrence depends on adequate 117Source confidential 118Heid - interview with author 119Use of translators in Hebron requires accompanying them to and from their homes and necessitates going to get them when an urgent situation arises which cannot be understood without translation.
120Mahony /Eguren 1997: 63 121Abbott in Moser-Puangsuwan /Weber 2000:170 122http://www.witnessforpeace.org 123Mahony in Moser-Puangsuwan / Weber - 2000: 138
communication with the state, but this has not always met with positive response. In Guatemala, PBI met with local military and civilian authorities to inform them of its presence in El Quiche. The meetings, which called for attention to protection and international interest focused on the CERJ, had mixed results. Local mayors were polite, some supportive. But the governor threatened to have volunteers thrown out of country if they got involved in internal politics by attending CERJ events.125 PBI’s heaviest clout is the use of political influence from Northern Hemisphere countries.
They used this to good effect after their expulsion from Guatemala by issuing a public statement, visiting embassies and government officials, emphasising PBI commitment to nonviolence, to non-intervention in internal affairs of Guatemala and to acting within the law. Their international alert system includes government officials in places a small country may not want to offend. PBI insists on high visibility, use of international pressure, and a claim of non-partisanship to work in the field even when a local government is less than excited about their presence.
3.3.1 Introduction This chapter is based on the author's experiences of 6 years working in conflict areas with a particular focus on civil society development, human righs and democratisation.
During this time the author worked with the following organisations: Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, CARE International, Amnesty International and OSCE in Bosnia, Croatia, Russia, Bangladesh and Kosovo.
The following are reflections of her observations in the field as well as discussions with colleagues, from both NGOs, IGOs, and national government organisations (GOS) including OXFAM, IRC, UNHCR, UNDP, IPTF and other UN civilian peacekeeping personnel, the Council of Europe, CIDA and USAID on many of these issues.
3.3.2 Working and living in a team There is a wide range of practices used by IGOs, GOs and INGOs in the field. On the one hand you have an organisation like ICRC which has its delegates both live and work together, to the other end of the spectrum where people are responsible for their own living arrangements. They make whatever arrangement may best suit them – living with a local family; sharing a place with other internationals; living in a hotel, etc.
Many organisations fall somewhere in between. They may have a house for their workers and others attached to the organisation who come through from time to time, such as consultants. If the organisation is very small (in terms of personnel and/ or programs on the ground), the living and working quarters may be in the same place.
Some organisations such as the U.N. maY even take over a whole hotel or series of apartment buildings for their personnel.
Many living and working arrangements depends on the security situation on the ground and how security conscious an organisation IS. For example, employees of the U.S.
government, either with the embassy or an organisation like USAID, are only allowed to live in places which are deemed ‘secure’ by the U.S. government, often behind a tightly secure and barricaded compound with their fellow compatriots.
This is the norm for all U.S. government employees in almost all overses postings considered unstable. However for IGOs and INGOs, how much of a role they will play in their employees living situations more depends on the security situation on the ground as well as factors that address the liveability factor of the place rather than any coherent policy. For example, it would be more common for international personnel to live in compounds in a Mission like East Timor rather than Kosovo. However, most organisations are security conscious and so encourage group living in places considered ‘secure’. ICRC is the only other organisation which demands of its delegates that their employees live together.
Living arrangements also depend on whether or not the posting is a family posting. In most conflict and post-conflict Missions, the posting tends to be a non-family station.
3. Field relationships 3.3 Larger-scale organisations 241 But some people, not wanting to be posted for such long periods away from their families, move their families to the nearest safe place to which they have easy access.
For example, although Kosovo is a non-family posting for international organisations (both for INGOs and IGOs), some people moved their families to Skopje Macedonia (approximately 1 ½ hours’ drive from Pristina) so they could at least spend the weekends with their families. And some postings allow for families to come along, even if it is not a family posting. For example, during the war in Bosnia, many INGOs had their HQ in Zagreb, Croatia for safety reasons. Some workers moved their families to Zagreb even though they themselves might have spent most of their time in Bosnia.