EDUCATION FOR PEACE .
An article by Nonviolent Peace Force
After multiple exploration missions that included several rounds of consultations with Ukrainian organizations, various stakeholders, and conflict-affected communities, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was invited to Ukraine to introduce Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) methodologies to local civil society actors and their communities. In March, NP carried out a series of trainings on UCP for Ukrainian stakeholders in the ongoing conflict. Conducted alongside the Association for Middle Eastern Studies, this was the first time UCP principles had been introduced to Ukraine.
In March of 2015,with generous support from the Human Rights Fund of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine, NP and AMES were able to introduce UCP to civil society in Ukraine for the first time, conducting a series of trainings for 40 participants. Trainings were held in two locations, Odessa and Kharkiv,with participants representingUkrainian civil society organizations, civilians in conflict-affected communities(as well border regions that have potential for escalation of violence or intercommunity tensions),IDP communities and local authorities.
The trainings covered a wide array of civilian protection and violence reduction topics, with a strong emphasis on rumor control and guiding participants in developing local rumor control monitoring mechanisms.The trainings also covered the principles of UCP, conflict mapping, early warning and response systems, and different understandings of civilian protection. Stressing nonviolence, non-partisanship and the primacy of local actors, the trainings were designed to prepare participants to better protect themselves and those around them, to be able to de-escalate tensions, and to prevent further violence in their communities against civilians.
Participants in the trainings expressed that regardless of their background, work/life experience or age, all of them are ready to learn and work for peace because it is the job of every citizen to build a peaceful society where conflict can be managed by dialogue and mutual respect.
One participant best summed up the proactive and committed spirit of the groups, stating that “I am ready to step in to the shoes of each person involved in this conflict, find their needs and work with them with the hope that we can stop the suffering of the people living in the conflict zones or hundreds of people who lost their homes and became IDPs.”
The trainings had many positive outcomes, including locally designed protection tools that will be used in the coming months.These were the result of participants preparing local civilian protection risk analyses and conceptualizing the means for locally appropriate interventions and responses for their respective communities.
Importantly, participants also identified that a countrywide community-based protection mechanism could be an extremely effective tool for a unified civil society response to the protection needs of civilians in conflict-affected communities. This mechanism could then adapt to the needs of each community as well as the challenges and capacities of local civil society organizations.
NP and its partners are currently developing various interventions to support this new initiative and exploring more concrete partnership opportunities for this protection mechanism with international actors and the donor community.
The trainings were led by Atif Hameed (Director of Programs) and assisted by Salome Bakashvili (Program Manager) and other NP and AMES staff.
(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)
We have the advantage of an independent evaluation of the Nonviolent Peaceforce initiative in the Philippines conducted by Swisspeace. The evaluation is very favorable, although in the end, as one reads through it, gets the impression that such initiatives can help but cannot bring peace by themselves.
Nonviolent Peaceforce in the Philippines can look back at more than two years of unique, relevant contributions and constructive engagement in one of the most difficult, political and volatile, contexts to work in: Being the only international non-governmental organization working with and living in close proximity to the most conflict-affected population in Mindanao, NP in the Philippines was able to support and enhance local structures of cease-fire monitoring, early warning, cross-community dialogues, human rights protection, to offer civilian protection and help to reduce the high levels of community violence.
The accepted offer to NP in the Philippines in late 2009 by the conflict parties GRP and the MILF to join the International Monitoring Team1 (IMT) and its Civilian Protection Component is a direct expression and result of its successful contributions to non-violence and violence reduction of the last two years.
To keep up the important work of NP’s project in the Philippines in the years to come, it is essential to ensure that the activities and objectives of NPP are based on a strategically and conceptually sound footing. This seems even more important given that NPP is going through a remarkable consolidation and expansion phase at the time of report-writing.
The re-focus on its key mandate, strengths and strategic advantages in Mindanao gives NP the opportunity to further enhance its unique work in the area of nonviolence, peacekeeping and peace building.