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Modus Operandi

En librairie

Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Brussels, novembre 2007

The role and potential of Peace teams: character, goals, activities, outcomes and impact

Examining the range of peace teams and broad analysis of the activities they undertake and the impact they have

“The existence of a third party at the scene of events makes it easier for the conflict parties to take a more constructive approach to behaviour and problem-solving. A reversal of the escalation becomes possible because the conflict parties question their own conflict behaviour and are supported in their search for a different approach to the problem.”(1)

The team-sending peace organisations examined here differ in many ways, but all might be described as having a goal derived from the quote above: to reverse escalation in conflict and support parties in evaluating and altering behaviour that may have contributed to the escalation. Or as stated by Müller and Büttner, ”to influence the conflict parties using less and less threat and violence in order that they develop a productive treatment of their problems, that is, an increasingly civil peace strategy.”(2)

All the teams studied sprang from an urgent need to ”do something” about a particular conflict or crisis. For Peace Brigades International (PBI) it was Guatemala; for Witness for Peace (WfP), Nicaragua; for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), grassroots wars in Central America and North America in which U.S. was identified with elite groups; for Servicio Internacional Para La Paz (SIPAZ), Chiapas; and for both Balkan Peace Team (BPT) and Osijek Peace Teams, it was Croatia and Serbia/Kosovo/a.

PBI and WfP are the forerunners in this studied group, both founded in 1981 and created new peace team specialities from the precedents of Shanti Sena, World Peace Brigade, Peaceworkers and A Quaker Action Group. A look at the founding of each organisation will give us an idea of their character.

PBI was formed by activists who were international as a group, experienced in the field, and primarily former members of World Peace Brigade, International Fellowship of Reconciliation and War Resisters International. WfP was the response of outraged clergy and lay people in the U.S. to the Reagan Administration’s policy of ”low intensity warfare” directed toward Nicaragua’s civilian population. CPT (1986) was formed by Mennonite Churches, Church of the Brethren, Friends United Meeting and other Christians as a way for these churches to express their faith. BPT (1993) formed when organisations, including International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Brigades International and War Resisters International, received requests from Croatia and Kosovo/a for an international presence. SIPAZ (1995) arose in response to an invitation from the Mexican church and human rights groups, who hoped an international presence in the state of Chiapas might benefit the peace process there. Osijek Peace Teams (1998) began as a project called “Building a Democratic Society based on a Culture of Nonviolence” as a joint effort of the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights Osijek, and the Life and Peace Institute in Upsala, as well as their partner organisations The Face of Peace in Slavonski Brod and Austrian Peace Service.

There are strong relationships between some groups. PBI, in addition to developing its own structure and work in the field, went on to be a part of the coalitional founding of BPT and SIPAZ. War Resistors International and International Fellowship of Reconciliation were co-founders of PBI, SIPAZ and BPT. These three, plus Osijek, are the organisations that are founded and structured as coalitions: PBI with sections in 17 countries, BPT with 11 member organisations and SIPAZ with over 50 member groups.

The work of SIPAZ, WfP and CPT springs explicitly from the Christian faith; the mission of WfP and CPT is grounded in opposition to US policies that create injustice for citizens in other countries.

All claim some form of neutrality or non-partisanship, but there is quite a range to how the term is used and applied. Osijek, BPT and SIPAZ demonstrate the most easily defined form of non-partisanship. The peacebuilding done by BPT and Osijek is offered to all, Osijek teams always have both Serbian and Croatian members, and every effort is made to build communication between conflicting parties and to serve all populations. WfP claims non-partisanship in the field, choosing not to be involved in the internal struggles of any country or group. But their opposition to U.S. impact on that country might position them with one faction and not another. PBI has worked very hard, over the years, to define accompaniment as non-partisan, even if they accompany only persons of one group within the conflict. They do this by detachment from the work of that group (or person), but this position will always have to be defended. CPT’s partisanship or non-partisanship is even more confusing. They live with, train and defend the houses of Palestinians in Jewish Settlements, e.g., but claim that since they would defend anyone who was threatened in this way, the work is still not partisan.

The goals of these team-sending organisations range from peacekeeping through peacemaking to peacebuilding. PBI’s goal ”to create space for local activists to work for social justice and human rights” (3) emphasises the work of locals and involves violence reduction. CPT’s intent to ”get in the way” (4)implies the intervention of peacekeeping, but supporting peacemakers and affecting U.S. and world policies places their work also in the range of peacemaking. The emphasis of WfP is on peacemaking - to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas ”by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression. We stand with people who seek justice.” (5) This is peacemaking as it lobbies for change in the politics of war. What they describe as maintaining a presence in these countries has often been the work of peacekeeping, however, and their intent to assist in the building of stable societies is peacebuilding. SIPAZ began its work in Chiapas with a goal of keeping peace - to ”forestall or reduce violence and to protect and expand the precious political space in which dialogue [between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government] is possible” (6)- and has since pursued peacebuilding goals. BPT and Osijek, of the organisations represented here, are the ones whose goals and work fall most within peacebuilding. The Osijek project sought to assist ”reconstruction of a normal society with tolerance and acceptance of all people living peacefully together,” with the words ”empowerment, reconciliation, co-operation, democracy”(7) in their mission statement. The goal with which BPT identified itself was ”to work for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to demonstrate an international commitment to peace.”

Activities of peace teams

I will use, here, the three overarching strategies of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding, showing the activities of the peace teams in each.

Peacekeeping strategy aims to reduce violence in areas of conflict. Peace teams can effectively utilise tactics intended to keep individuals or groups safe by the ”creation of buffer zones or human chains; observation of cease-fires; observation of conflict events to reduce the incidence of violence; escorting of or presence near threatened persons or organisations; appeals.” (8)Some of the many nonviolent tactics used by civilian intervention teams are discussed below.

Interpositioning is the physical placement of peacekeepers between groups engaged in violent conflict in an impartial stance toward all parties. As conflicts do not necessarily have a separation of parties and often have more than two contending sides, interpositioning is not always even remotely possible. Interpositioners may do other peacekeeping activity while occupying the space between parties. WfP is the only team studied which has attempted large-scale interposition.

In 1983, after the Grenada invasion, Witness for Peace was founded by Christian activists in the U.S. to send teams of volunteers to Nicaragua to deter attacks on the Nicaraguan people by U.S.-sponsored Contras. In the event of an invasion, they committed themselves to “assemble as many North American Christians as we can to join us and go immediately to Nicaragua to stand unarmed as a loving barrier in the path of any attempted invasion, sharing the danger posed to the Nicaraguan people.”(9) Volunteers lived in villages along the northern border until their strategy had to be changed because fighting occurred more randomly across the Nicaraguan countryside rather than having a clear border between parties.(10) WfP volunteer Doug Spence says of their interposition: ”We perceived ourselves as a presence that would make the U.S. government think twice before attacking. If it didn’t stop them, they would at least have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”(11)

Interpositioning may at times refer to smaller groups of people.

In 1986, as Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM) women held a demonstration at Guatemala’s National Palace, the riot police began to beat the demonstrators. PBI quickly formed a human chain between the two groups. This act, effective as it was and non-partisan as we know interposition to be, was politically powerful enough to result in the threat of expulsion of PBI. PBI called for international support and published a public statement clarifying its nonparticipatory role.(12)

The most single-minded effort at interpositionary peacekeeping was known as the Gulf Peace Team. The idea was to send a team to the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia as part of the struggle to prevent war in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Established well in advance of the UN Security Council deadline, there were 73 people from 15 different countries in the camp at the onset of war; ten days later they were evacuated and taken to Baghdad.(13)

The fact that this interposition effort happened at all has nonviolent historical significance. And because it has significance, the problems incurred in the project merit evaluation. One of those problems had to do with non-partisanship, which is essential to this kind of interpositioning. The group sought permission for their camp from both sides of the border, but got no response from Saudi Arabia and therefore established camp only on the Iraqi side. In addition, they depended on Iraqi tankers to supply water. The Gulf Peace Team Constitution stated, ”We as a team do not take sides in this dispute and we distance ourselves from all the parties involved, none of whom we consider blameless.”(14) But without a response from the Saudi Arabian government, with a camp only in Iraq and relying on Iraq for water, GPT’s non-partisanship was compromised.

Accompaniment of persons who are at risk is the physical counterpart of international advocacy. In order to deter or report violence, one must be physically there, in the right place at the right time. ”In most instances death squads and other human rights violators do not want their actions exposed to the outside world. Thus the physical presence of a… volunteer, backed by an emergency response network, deters violence directed against local activists.”(15)

Peace Brigades researchers and team veterans Liam Mahony and Enrique Eguren say that accompaniers need ”to be as obvious and visible as possible to the outside world, and yet as unobtrusive as possible in the lives and activities of those being accompanied.”(16) This accompaniment of activists, refugees and communities threatened with violence requires 24-hour a day presence, while the individual accompanier might be reading a book during a meeting, travelling with individuals or community, or being present at a demonstration. (17) Canadian volunteer, Sel Burroughs, puts it this way: ”Escorting is difficult. It involves being ready to move at someone else’s schedule, hours of waiting and intermittent exclusion and inclusion in the lives of the person you are responsible for.”(18)

PBI has done by far the most accompaniment work in the past two decades and has additionally analysed what does and does not make it effective. Their mission statement avows specifically: ”The aim of PBI’s international presence is to accompany both political and social processes through a joint strategy of deterring violence and promoting active nonviolence… PBI, where possible, initiates contacts with all the parties to a conflict in order to establish and inform of our presence.”(19)

The formulation of effective accompaniment work took place in the 80’s, as PBI experimented with tools for keeping civilian activists safe from military dictatorship and guerrilla resistance in Guatemala. As they began accompanying women of the Committee of Mothers of the Disappeared and Assassinated (COMADRES) and the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), they opened the PBI house for meetings and participated in the organising and strategy-planning of these organisations. It was later that PBI developed principles of non-involvement and non-partisanship as central to safe accompaniment practice. In Guatemala, El Salvador, Sri Lanka and Colombia, PBI teams have accompanied clergy, union leaders, campesino leaders, human rights activists and returning exiles. To increase effectiveness, PBI forges links with the diplomatic community locally and with media and human rights networks globally.(20)

PBI’s accompaniment takes these forms: escorting an individual 24 hours a day, being present at the office of a threatened organisation, accompanying refugees returning to their home communities, serving as international observers at elections and demonstrations.(21) They will not accompany anyone who is armed and they will not participate in the work of that activist or group no matter how needed or worthy. Because of this, they are able to claim that their accompaniment is non-partisan, even if they are protecting only parties who have a particular position in the conflict.

Presence is akin to accompaniment but expanded to an entire community. It is appropriate when violence is one-sided and/or parties are impossible to separate and it seeks to reduce the risk of violence rather than to protect the social change work of any particular individual or group.(22) All teams studied could be said to provide presence in the communities where they work.

Presence might include the following activities:(23)

  • a) patrol or occupy certain areas to prevent their falling into the hands of one party or the other in violation of law or stipulation

  • b) patrol a demarcation line

  • c) maintain a demarcation line free of violations and incidents

  • d) maintain open access to certain areas or routes

  • e) deny access to certain areas buildings or facilities.

Presence assumes that teams or team members may be spread out among the villages that need protection when it is not possible to interposition between conflicting sides, and that thus spread out they will still be a deterrent to violence. It does not rely on any particular activity but on certainty that one’s presence is known.

In fact, team members may be doing the unexpected. Asking one’s hostess, ”Show me how to make a tortilla” and allowing one’s ineptness to be a source of amusement is, according to Phyllis Taylor, a day well spent being present(24). Other activities of WfP in Nicaragua included observing and listening to stories (particularly of victims), sending health delegations, writing materials to educate people in the U.S. ”The nonviolent presence came to include symbolic marches and vigils, accompaniment of individuals and communities in danger, fasting, work projects, peace flotillas, and a host of other actions.”(25) Short and long-term WfP delegations and teams lived and worked with the Nicaraguan people, met with religious, political and media leaders, stood with the grieving, documented atrocities, recorded stories, harvested coffee and perhaps most importantly did all they could to fulfil their goal of changing U.S. policy.(26)

The Cry For Justice coalition (27)in Haiti (1993 and 1994) provided the presence of foreigners where human rights abuses were most severe. Volunteers walked the streets of St. Helene getting to know people and writing reports for churches and the Haitian solidarity movement. Objectives of the project were to diminish violence; educate people in the U.S.; show solidarity and offer hope to Haitian activists; pressure and embarrass the UN, OAS, and the diplomatic community into taking stronger actions against de facto military government.(28)

Kathleen Kern describes what CPT members did during a typical day of being a presence in Haiti:(29)

We began every morning with devotions and a meeting, then separated to go visiting throughout the community of St. Helene. We accumulated a great deal of information about military and paramilitary activity in this way and would make a point of visiting the areas in which this activity occurred. When told about human rights abuses, we wrote reports and sent them to contacts in Port-au-Prince, who in turn disseminated them to various human rights agencies. Afternoons were spent on language study and naps. Rounds were made again in early evening. Meetings with the Democratic underground or friends in hiding took place at night.(30)

And the daily presence for CPT in Hebron, according to Ms. Kern, goes like this:

Morning devotions in the park in front of the mosque. Pick up trash, fix broken benches in park, or play with children. Separate and visit people - some journalist friends to pick up news, some friends or families near settlements. Twice a week, two members taught English classes to Palestinian highschool students, which became discussions on the theory and practice of nonviolence. Afternoon: writing, visiting in late afternoon and early evening, write more in the evening. Saturday: Afternoon and early evening on Dubboya Street (scene of many violent encounters between settlers and Palestinian residents and shopkeepers) to serve as violence deterring presence.(31)

SIPAZ has been placing teams in Chiapas, Mexico, since 1995 to ”forestall or reduce violence and to protect and expand the precious political space in which dialogue [between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government] is possible.”(32) SIPAZ makes persistent efforts to maintain communication with all the key actors in the conflict and seeks to deter human rights violations and promote tolerance and dialogue while monitoring the conflict.(33)

Observing/documenting/monitoring activities have potential for both reporting and deterrence. Team members can put into effect a string of consequences for an abuser of human rights by channelling information to the outside through emergency response networks with people ready to send messages to protest the violation. But the more immediate goal of observing is deterrence.

The teams studied all use the tactics of observation, documentation and monitoring. However, Witness for Peace is very distinct from the others by documenting and reporting only those policies and practices of the US government or US government-funded multilateral institutions insofar as these policies and practices lead to rights violations.(34)

A camera and notebook are the main human rights observation tools. CPT team members in Hebron report the effectiveness of making notes at an army check-point while telling the soldier that they are sure U.S. Congressmen will be interested in what they are doing while using money from their country.(35) And PBI team members posit that the act of taking a picture is perhaps more important than the picture itself. Upon seeing the camera, police or military become conscious of themselves. It is a distraction from their potential brutality and requires taking time to turn attention to the volunteer, make an arrest, seize the camera, or expose film. Meanwhile, they saved face and tension abated.(36)

Observation and reporting are an integral part of almost every other tactic or activity. Nonviolent peace team members who are interpositioning, accompanying or being a presence are at best utilising their ability to observe, document and report the violence and other human rights abuse they observe. Thus while being a presence in Nicaraguan villages, Witness for Peace volunteers interviewed survivors of Contra attacks to document the stories and report them in the U.S. to advocate for Nicaraguans, educate U.S. citizens, and lobby Congress to stop funding the Contras.(37)

”Armed only with a camera, PBI volunteers are a walking embodiment of the pressure the international human rights community is ready to apply in the event of abuse. As potential perpetrators know, our exposure of such abuse may adversely affect a regime’s foreign aid allocation.”(38) The Balkan Peace Team in Croatia undertook considerable monitoring in the mid to late 1990’s: the return of the Serb population, the trial of Mr. Mirko Graorac, accused of war crimes, in the Split County (Zupanijski) Court, rental violations, etc.(39) Observation and reporting is undertaken by WfP specifically to document the results of U.S. and corporate injustice. They use collected evidence to change U.S. policies of economic violence.

Advocacy with the International Community involves alerting those in other places to the conflict violence, injustice and human rights abuse and is nearly inseparable from the other tactics of peace teams. Civilian peacekeepers are often very deliberate and energetic in seeking media attention in order to draw world attention to the conflict. The attention in and of itself has potential to decrease violence if parties in the conflict are concerned about their international image. Secondarily, well-directed advocacy engages those who can apply political pressure that increases safety and causes positive change in the nature of the conflict itself. The five teams studied all undertake advocacy, but again a distinction must be made about Witness for Peace, which advocates for change only in the U.S. and with multi-national corporations.

PBI has built and utilised an exemplary rapid-response network to mobilise international concern and pressure in response to emergencies. What began as a safety feature for both themselves and the Central American citizens they accompanied was developed over the years into a telephone tree of thousands of people around the world. Within a few hours, the PBI network had the capability to generate hundreds of phone calls and faxes protesting imminent or occurring danger, and that was before electronic communication!

Initially, the target of these messages would be the Guatemalan government or military. Later it was sometimes members of congress or parliament in the callers’ own countries, urging these politicians to put pressure on Guatemala. The goal was to multiply the protective power of the accompaniment while giving thousands of citizens around the world a way to learn about Guatemala and take effective action.(40)

In November of 1989, at least 60 foreign citizens were officially detained in El Salvador. The group included five PBI volunteers. Canadian team member Karen Ridd asked to make a telephone call and was able to reach the Canadian honorary consul and through them a U.S. PBI volunteer who activated the PBI international emergency response network before the captives could even be led away from the scene. Karen and Marcela Rodriguez (PBI Colombia) were mildly tortured, Karen was released but went back in to accompany Marcela, and both were released that same night and handed over to Canadian embassy officials.(41)

CPT uses their 2000-subscriber Urgent Response Network sparingly, in order not to decrease its effectiveness as a crisis intervention tool. Subscribers should feel compelled to take what measures they can upon receipt of the information.(42) BPT had a written policy on appropriate reasons to use their alert network:

  • 1. Physical attacks on citizens or nonviolent activists in the country

  • 2. Arrest/disappearance of citizens or nonviolent activists

  • 3. Direct threats to citizens or nonviolent activists

  • 4. A threatening public atmosphere short of direct threats

  • 5. Other human rights violations announced

  • 6. Other human rights violations occur

  • 7. Physical attack on team members

  • 8. Arrest/disappearance of team members

  • 9. Direct threats to the team

  • 10. Threatening public atmosphere concerning the team.(43)

The sending of delegations has been a successful activity of both WfP and CPT. ”CPT attempts to send several, short term delegations each year to project areas. These delegations are an important short-term encouragement to local people who are often overworked or face a crisis. In Haiti, the Middle East and Mexico, these delegations have led to long-term projects. Short-term delegations can sometimes engage in important dialogue or provide nonviolent witness, which might be difficult or impossible for a long-term team to do. Finally, delegates provide important advice for ongoing program activities because of the fresh eyes and ears that participants bring to the situation. When they tell their stories back home they augment the voices for justice.”(44)

Particularly for WfP, with its emphasis on giving witness in the U.S. against harmful U.S. policy, the sending of delegations is a high priority. Long term team members host the delegations, which are usually from 10 to 20 people who stay for two or three weeks. Since 1983, WfP has sent over 7,000 U.S. citizens to Central America, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, and Colombia.(45)

Activism might be chosen as a tactic of either peacekeeping or peacemaking by peace team members who feel the strongest, most personal, and most immediate statement must be made. Nonviolent direct action can be used by intervenors to raise awareness of a particular manifestation of the destructiveness of a conflict. There is no doubt from the history of nonviolence that it may exponentially increase the bargaining power of the oppressed party. The question here, is whether that direct activism can be undertaken by a third party intervenor.

Of the teams studied, CPT is the only one that embraces nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, as a tactic in the field. Their mandate includes the statement, ”We believe a renewed commitment to the gospel of peace calls us to new forms of public witness which may include nonviolent direct action.”(46) They see it as essential to their civilian conflict interventions and faith based stance with the oppressed. Additionally, they provide training in nonviolent direct action as a means to address conflict.

In 1995, CPT team members used sledgehammers on a locked gate at Hebron University because it was an unjust barrier to students from Hebron. Three team members and one member of the Hebron Solidarity Committee were arrested and spent the night in jail before having bond posted by an Israeli friend.(47) In March of this year, team members Rick Polhamus and Pierre Shantz were arrested while attempting to clear the entrance to the town of Rantis, which had been blocked by the military with debris. In early April, Shantz climbed to the roof of a Palestinian home just as the Israeli military approached with a bulldozer to demolish it. He was kicked, slapped and pushed down the stairs. Also in April, Greg Rollins and Bob Holmes attempted another clearing of a road and sat down when the soldiers arrived; they were then dragged away. In these three cases, the individuals were released later without charges.(48)

CPT believes climbing to the roof of a house is effective. ”I don’t think many had heard about home demolitions on the West Bank until we went there,” says Claire Evans.(49)

Direct action may compromise legal status inside a country and will most likely violate a principle of impartiality. (Direct action undertaken by peace teams is often described as partisan third-party intervention.(50)) PBI ”will not plan, participate actively in, or carry out direct actions.”(51) Non-partisanship, a cornerstone of PBI work, is not something they will compromise. But PBI has a second reason for ruling out all direct action: they believe foreigners should not intervene in internal politics.(52)

WfP members are certainly not shy of direct action, but they keep it in the U.S., where they wish to make a passionate plea for change.


For the purposes of this study, peacemaking is defined as bringing together groups or individuals to dialogue about possible resolution of conflict. This can occur at the diplomatic level or between ordinary citizens who are caught up in conflict. This calls for ”mediation between the conflict parties through forms of dialogue: e.g. house to house visits, appeals, assemblies, delegations, fact finding, negotiation, creation of publicity between the parties and to the outside.”(53) Robert J. Burrowes calls it nonviolent reconciliation and development.(54) The intention is to facilitate conflict resolution, community reconciliation and/or community development by participating in projects that encourage conflicting parties to work together to achieve shared aims in defiance of the legal, political, economic and/or military constraints imposed by elites.(55)

CPT has tried to combine mediation and reconciliation efforts with intercessionary peacekeeping. Some, however, insist that the same organisation cannot do both reconciliation and peacekeeping work.(56)

BPT also was involved in both actively facilitating bringing parties together and being present in a conflict region. Their roles included: a) seeking to identify possibilities for dialogue between different groups, b) serving as channel of independent and non-partisan information from regions, c) contributing through contacts and networking to promote communication, d) dialogue and mutual understanding between different ethnic or peace groups and Croatian people and international community, and e) contributing team-members’ skills for benefit of all citizens (workshops in mediation, language classes, etc).

A June 1999 report from BPT team members in the field reads, ”In a recent exploratory trip to the region, the BPT-Yugoslavia team heard from some of the people they met that reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians will now be impossible. From many others, however, they heard that future dialogue and communication is not only possible, but absolutely essential. BPT was given strong encouragement to continue filling our unique role as networkers at the grassroots level, visiting and communicating with NGOs in both communities.”(57)

Sandra van den Bosse says that her objectives on the Balkan Peace Team were to support the people that were interested in a nonviolent solution to the Serb-Albanian conflict by helping to strengthen their organisations and to encourage dialogue with the other side.(58)

Though SIPAZ uses the word peacebuilding to describe its work, most of their activity falls under the definition of peacemaking used here. They have coalition members who are experienced in international non-governmental conflict resolution. ”SIPAZ seeks to play a facilitative role, enhancing the context in which Mexicans are working to solve largely Mexican problems.” It encourages the international community to examine its relationship with Mexico and its role in creating greater political, economic and social justice.(59) As a faith-based organisation, they have put considerable effort into ecumenical reconciliation - reducing tension between evangelicals and Catholics. They offer peacebuilding workshops to strengthen local peacebuilding capacities for participants who are NGO, community and church workers.

Their list of activities in Mexico and in international witness between November 2000 and January 2001 shows a balance of peacemaking and peacebuilding:

Contacts and Visits:

  • Participation in gathering of base communities in the northern region of Chiapas on the theme of community reconciliation.

  • Meetings with a variety of political and religious contacts in the northern region to discuss the implications of the new state and federal governments.

  • Meetings with several North American delegations to brief them on the political situation in Chiapas and the work of SIPAZ.

  • Organisation of a visit to rural areas in Chiapas for the Under-secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Great Britain.


  • Continuation of the tour by a SIPAZ team member in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, with … speaking tour in Europe.

  • Publication of article on indigenous women in conflict area.

  • Publication of two articles in Dutch periodicals.

  • Meetings with three international academics studying role of SIPAZ & other NGO in Chiapas.


  • Meetings w/ church contacts

  • Participation in strategic planning

  • Initiate series of meetings


  • Facilitation of workshops on Conflict Transformation

  • Convene reflection process on processes of community reconciliation(60)

Most of WfP’s work falls directly under the strategy of peacemaking. One of the organisation’s greatest successes, according to Executive Director Steven Bennett, was ”participating in the process that ultimately resulted in the re-integration of CPRs (61) into Guatemalan society. We played an accompanying and facilitating role in this process, our presence providing a sense of security for the CPR population feeling directly threatened. The same went for the Guatemalan refugees in exile in Mexico.”(62) WfP’s lobby against the oppression of the U.S. and multi-national corporations is peacemaking as well. They act as channels of information from the victims to the policy-makers and from U.S. citizens who care back to the people who suffer.


Peacebuilding involves the work of relief and development. Lisa Schirch describes it as ”social, political, and economic development projects to address structural violence and prevent destructive conflicts from occurring or recurring.”(63)

The Balkan Peace Team made peacebuilding a major part of its work in Croatia and Kosovo/a. ”Facilitating peacebuilding is a process requiring a long-term commitment and a respect for the time that traumatised people need for healing. This is especially apparent in the war-torn society of Kosovo/a, where the memories of repression are still vivid, the wounds of recent atrocities still festering, and inter-ethnic violence still rampant… the BPT team in Kosovo/a hopes to continue to listen to and work with all communities in the region. In this way, they seek to contribute meaningfully and responsibly to the construction of peace and tolerance - so that no one will be made to feel that their home is no longer a place where they belong.”(64)

After the return of Albanian refugees into Kosovo/a, BPT staff together with local Albanian activists elicited and recorded stories of Albanians receiving unexpected assistance from Serbian people during their recent trauma. ”The goal of such a project is to counter what some local activists fear is becoming the homogenisation of the war experience.” (65) BPT members helped to establish a youth centre in the remote community of Dragash where both Albanian and Slavic Muslim youth could have access to locally identified services such as computer training and English language lessons.(66)

BPT-Yugoslavia, working in Serbia and Kosovo/a since 1994, described its primary focus there as building bridges between Serbs and Albanians. The team’s daily work was predominately networking: visiting regularly with local NGOs; learning about their situations and needs; offering information on international resources. A highlight was a dialogue and discussion, which BPT helped to bring about in 1998 between Serbian and Albanian university students. Another example was BPT’s work with a Serbian peace group who asked for help in building links with like-minded Albanians.(67)

The Osijek Peace Teams(68) pursue an impressive list of peacebuilding activities, all of which became possible after the war in Croatia. Their explicit peacebuilding goal is the ”slow reduction of prejudices.” They offer counselling through psychosocial workshops for children, women and war veterans, and education in the form of computer and language courses and seminars on democracy, election monitoring, de-mining, etc. They facilitate communication between people, communities and ethnic groups, specifically interreligious dialogue through ecumenical services attended by Catholics, Orthodox and Adventists with clerics from all denominations. They assist with the founding of associations, encouraging multi-ethnicity (e.g. the creation of youth clubs and a hiking association and the organisation of concerts and readings). They support and monitor the re-integration of returnees or disadvantaged groups, accompany citizens to the authorities and offering legal counselling. The Peace teams even pitch in on rehabilitation projects, notably the repair of libraries and sports centres and ecological co-operation on an idea for a peace park involving Croatia, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

Training in nonviolence is offered by all teams studied as some form of peace education in the field, except for WfP, whose teams offer educational events only for the WfP delegations they host.

CPT includes training others in nonviolent direct action and seeks to provide a nonviolent perspective to media, interested groups, congregations, or organisations through speaking and writing. PBI offers education and training in nonviolence and human rights, and nurtures indigenous versions of nonviolence.(69) In Haiti, PBI worked alongside local conflict resolution trainers to organise workshops about nonviolent methods of resolving conflicts. In Guatemala and El Salvador, they offered a broad range of workshops on conflict resolution, negotiation methods, group process and political analysis, as well as on specialised topics such as ”community responses to fear and torture.” Paolo Frere’s techniques and methods became a regular feature of the teams’ work. BPT staff offered workshops and training in nonviolence, conflict in Kosovo/a, stereotyping, gender, etc. Skills of the team members determined what was offered.(70)

Humanitarian Assistance as a form of peacebuilding is not offered by any of the team-sending organisations studied except Witness for Peace. It is not a priority for the organisation, but they occasionally make it part of their work.(71) Christian Peacemaker Teams have a policy against giving monetary or material aid, which includes the following statement: ”CPT’s ability to work effectively within its mandate in local settings depends on developing healthy, honest relationships that are not based on gifts or financial assistance.”(72) Team members have reported finding this challenging when living in places of deep poverty.(73) PBI also stresses that they are not a development organisation, believing that ”communities need space and freedom to carry out their own development in ways that create self-empowerment rather than dependency. When we become aware of a development opportunity we try to pass it along to an organisation set up specifically for that work”.(74)

In the beginning, people expected humanitarian aid from Osijek Peace Teams: ”We sent them home with empty hands.” (75) The Osijek project does, however, direct aid to the region and people where it is needed. SIPAZ similarly assists by accompanying INGO caravans of humanitarian aid.

Visibility in the field

All teams find visibility desirable in the field, but to a greater or lesser extent depending on the activity undertaken and the security factors.

PBI found it necessary to go for the highest visibility when the situation in Guatemala was treacherous for both them and those to whom they offered protective accompaniment. After three volunteers were knifed in Guatemala City, PBI published an ad defending its work in every major Guatemalan newspaper. It was signed by dozens of members of the U.S. Congress, members of parliaments from Canada and Europe, international church leaders, and other well-known international figures. Simultaneous ads were placed by Guatemalan organisations condemning the attack on the volunteers.(76) After the team moved into a more secure house, they held another reception for the diplomatic and press corps. U.S. military aid to Guatemala had been directly threatened because of attacks on U.S. citizens. PBI frequented government offices, and ambassadors visited the team house. The violent attacks stopped.

CPT volunteers wear red armbands for visibility while monitoring checkpoints. They actively seek media attention by learning the names of local journalists and cultivating relationships. They write press releases and do high profile public actions. Learning how to talk to media is part of the training for new team members. In addition, their e-mail outreach goes to around 2,000 households and their newsletter to 7,000.(77) And of course public protest and direct action exercised by team members is meant to achieve the highest visibility.

WfP was the first international group to hold public witness in front of the U.S. embassy in Colombia, which resulted in headline news there. ”We seek this kind of news… We want Colombians to know that not all people in the US support US funding for Plan Colombia,” explains Director Bennett.(78) WfP team members continue the witness in front of the embassy every Friday now, seeking visibility in asking forgiveness from Colombian people.

Additionally, WfP’s mission requires a great deal of visibility back in the U.S. A commissioning service was held in 1983 for the first short-term delegates going to Nicaragua. They held it in Washington, DC, with Vincent Harding as speaker, all as visible as possible. Carefully cultivating a profile of ”ordinary people” taking ”extraordinary risk,”(79) the press release stated: ”The aim of the witness is to provide…a protective shield between the Nicaraguan people and the U.S.-sponsored Contras… The group hopes that the constant presence of North American church people in the war zone will hamper the operations of the Contras.” The event and its advocacy were widely successful and ”drew media like flies to honey.”(80)

Outcomes and impact of Peace Teams

Actually, I think things are just a mixed bag.(81)

How does one measure outcomes of nonviolent work? All who expend their effort to reduce violence struggle with this question. Did we succeed?

”A farmer couldn’t harvest his wheat [because of Israeli harassment]; so we went and worked in the fields with him. He was able to work with us there, but the harvest was burned later and we couldn’t save it. Did we help? Sadly, the houses in Hebron have been destroyed again. What did we accomplish?” (82) These questions are asked by the CPT team in Hebron and they demonstrate that outcomes are illusive.


Peacekeeping does little to create lasting peace. Its function is simply to stop the violence and open out the possibility of peacemaking. Presumably it will be possible to measure the outcome of large-scale nonviolent peacekeeping when it occurs, but it has not yet happened.


The encampment of the Gulf Peace Team symbolised the idea that a peaceful solution to the Gulf crisis was possible. Was its outcome merely symbolic, or did it actually have potential for real intervention? Was the aim of the camp simple physical interposition or was it political, designed to help build a global consensus against war? The Gulf Peace Camp did manage, for the first time, to place a sizeable group of peace campaigners between belligerents in a time of war—a peace camp was in place on the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia when the hostilities of Operation Desert Storm commenced.(83)

Müller and Büttner’s analysis of the Gulf Peace Camp outcome is that ”the willingness showed [sic] by the top-level to escalate the conflict does not face a serious challenge. For this there is a lack of numbers and too little visible neutrality. Because only one camp can be set up in Iraq it is not difficult for war propaganda to doubt the neutrality and moral legitimacy. Whether a larger number of people would actually be able to achieve a de-escalating effect remains an unanswered question.”(84)


Without international accompaniment, the people are like worms the army can just step on…”

  • Guatemalan refugee in Mexico awaiting return to the Peten.(85)

Cry for Justice accompaniment did, in fact, result in the release of a man abducted by FRAPH (Front for Advancement of Haiti, paramilitary) through the influence of a prominent local pastor. ”It is one of the only instances in our case studies of an accompaniment intervention freeing someone from a paramilitary abduction” and illustrates the potential of accompaniment as moral-political persuasion rather than as direct deterrence.(86)

In some cases, the life-saving outcome of accompaniment is beyond question, like the intervention of two accompaniers in what would have been the abduction in 1997 of Mario Calixto, President of the Sabana de Torres Human Rights Committee in Colombia. As two armed men pointed a gun at Mr. Calixto’s head, the accompaniers stepped between and defused the situation; the gunmen left without doing harm.(87)

According to Bradman Weerakoon, Presidential Assistant in Sri Lanka, the ”government certainly paid attention to accompaniment… a local policeman or soldier would also pay attention, even if he had no grasp of international politics. This local official is most concerned about what his superiors might hear about his behaviour, and he naturally assumes that a foreigner has some power–or he wouldn’t be there. The presence will make him cautious.” Weerakoon suggested a moral angle as well: “These men who commit these acts, they know they are doing a bad thing, and they would prefer to do it in secret.”(88)

Müller and Büttner rate the PBI Guatemala project as demonstrating ”sustainable control of violence in civil society where PBI is active.”(89)

”In numerous cases PBI are able to protect persons from the grassroots and middle levels and organisations of civil society from the threat or use of violence. This is done through presence and escorting, by establishing relations to all sides, through an offer of dialogue to the government and through informing the international community about the oppression and violence in the country…. The international alert network mobilises in critical situations international publicity, which has de facto the power of sanctions at the top-level in Guatemala. The control of violence is supported in this case through the ability to sanction exercised by the intervening groups contacts.”(90)

One hoped-for outcome of accompaniment is the enabling of local activists to overcome fear. This requires solidarity with others in their organisations, but the very act of forming such organisations may be dangerous. Without them, fear must be confronted alone, but once they exist, they are inevitably delegitimised and demonised by the state, which further inhibits participation. ”Accompaniment can lower the fear threshold, enabling people to overcome the early hurdles of democratic political activity, thereby promoting the growth of the group.”(91)

Accompaniment expands the space of political action available to activists.

”If the activists can carry out significant political activities that they otherwise would have avoided, then that accompaniment has contributed to the strength and growth of a nonviolent civil society.”(92) Or as Randy Kohan of Project Accompaniment put it: ”The greatest impact made by international accompaniment is our contribution to the breathing space we provide Guatemalans who struggle to bring about justice in their own country.”(93)


CPT Corps member Claire Evans offers both evidence and questions about the project in Beit Jala. ”A team of two was in place in early December 2000 to respond to Israeli shelling of a Palestinian neighbourhood in Beit Jala (near Bethlehem). Shelling was occurring almost nightly. Our team got some press, some of it focusing on the team member who is a 70 year old Roman Catholic nun, and also kept U.S. and Canadian embassies aware of our presence.(94) By mid-January the shelling had discontinued. Was our team’s presence a factor?

”To quote from the concluding project report: ‘In conclusion, the question becomes did we help to stop the bombing. It seems that we will never know exactly how successful we were in actually stopping or reducing attacks. Certainly, our press work was a P.R. headache for the army. It doesn’t look good for them to bomb nuns during the Christmas season. But, the bombings in this neighbourhood increased briefly right after the first media accounts of our presence appeared. Was that the army trying to convince us to leave?’

”Another question is whether we emboldened Palestinian gunmen to shoot from this neighbourhood, thinking that our presence would protect them? On one occasion after a story about us appeared, the gunfire came from right next to our house. On both of these questions our local contacts give mixed opinions.

”However, the bombing has stopped (in Beit Jala, at least [as of the Jan 17, 2001 writing]). Were we directly related to the halt? The most realistic answer is that we were one factor among several. But we certainly were a factor.”(95)

This story is clear about one thing: the value of visibility through media work in a conflict area. Being there has little impact if people don’t know the team is there and feel concern about how their behaviour will look if it gets in print. It is not clear whether their presence caused: a) the cessation of firing by mid-January, b) the brief increase of shelling in their neighbourhood following media coverage, or c) the firing by Palestinian gunmen from the neighbourhood. The outcome seems only definable as a moral victory and the experiential certainty that CPT presence was “one factor among several” which ended the bombing.

Some participants thought the outcome of WfP presence in Nicaragua was symbolic only. ”Some of them came with the idea that their presence alone would be enough to stop the war,” mused soldier Francisco Machado, ”but they quickly learned.” Sixto Ulloa, a member of WfP’s Nicaraguan partner organisation, believed, ”Witness for Peace… made the counterrevolution move away [from Jalapa],” and by visiting the resettlement communities, Witness extended a certain amount of protection to those areas as well. On the chance that visitors from the United States might be in the community, he believes, the Contras had to avoid attacking.(96)

Displaced villagers in the highlands of Chiapas believe so strongly that an international presence is protective that they told CPT members, ”The Actual Massacre would not have happened if you had been here.”(97)

Emergency response network and international pressure

The effectiveness of accompaniment and presence is reliant on the use of a well-developed emergency response network and applied international pressure. PBI has developed this tactic extensively and uses it with demonstrable outcome. Two examples follow.

”With each arrest of a volunteer, PBI activated its international emergency response network, and in several cases, evidence shows that this external pressure helped bring about the release not only of the PBI volunteer but sometimes also of the Salvadorans arrested with them.”|(98)

After avoiding an ambush set for them, a PBI team embarked immediately on a series of interviews with embassies and government officials. PBI chapters around the world called their own governments and their embassies in Colombia. Representatives of three European embassies came and met with regional civilian and military authorities in support for PBI’s work. Clearly there was a political consequence for any attack on PBI. This incident increased PBI’s safety as well as their locally perceived clout.(99)


Observation and monitoring of human rights is known to be an effective deterrent tactic, though only by anecdote. It seems conclusive, however, to the volunteer who speaks to the soldier at a checkpoint about reporting what is going on and the behaviour subsequently stops. Actual documentation and reporting, as is carried out by Amnesty International, has a quantifiable effect. But again, these activities can only be as effective as the international response network through which the information must be funnelled.

This work sometimes involves risk. CPT and PBI have many stories of seized cameras and exposed film, and in one case, the arrest of volunteers who tried to keep the cameras. PBI wonders if the taking of flash photographs might have endangered the civilians who demonstrated at the Lunifil factory in Guatemala.(100) As has been said of accompaniment, the risks do not negate but rather prove that the activity is effective.

Peacebuilding and combined strategy

The Müller and Büttner study rates BPT’s combined strategies as having had considerable effect on top leaders as dialogue partners and on middle and grassroots leaders in civil society, and some effect on the control of violence in the segments of civil society where the team was active. ”The team’s ability to network between different groups was apparent. Each group they visited was eager for information about the others, and trusted BPT as the source. One activist put it directly to them: ‘You are in a very unique position to do this because you have a history of working with both Serbs and Albanians at the grassroots.’ (101) The BPTI [International] project plays a strongly supportive role in civil society’s development of articulation and conflict resolution abilities (peacebuilding: empowerment through seminars and networking). Presence in situations of direct conflict protects against political repression. Reporting on an (inter)-national level on violence and human rights abuses increases to a certain extent pressure on state authorities… During the military offensives the BPTI assumes the role of monitor, in individual cases also the protection of threatened persons…”(102)

Training and peace education

In addition to the formal training that peace teams offer, team members have ongoing opportunities to teach very personally, and perhaps very effectively, in their conversations with local people. There is a moving story about CPT presence in a Mexican Army civic action camp in Chiapas during Lent. They fasted, prayed, had conversations with the soldiers, and eventually converted a military helicopter landing pad into a giant peace symbol. On two separate occasions they later met individual young men who had been soldiers at that camp and were now civilians. Asking the men why they had stopped being soldiers, they received the same reply from both, ”You told us to.”(103)


  • (1) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 56.

  • (2) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 9.

  • (3) :

  • (4) :

  • (5) : ”Witness for Peace Newsletter,” Vol.17, No.2.

  • (6) :

  • (7) : Hämmerle, Pete, interview with Christine Schweitzer.

  • (8) : Müller/Büttner 1998

  • (9) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 302.

  • (10) : Schirch 1995: 25.

  • (11) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 294.

  • (12) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 48.

  • (13) : Burrowes in Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 307ff.

  • (14) : Gulf Peace Team Constitution 1990:l.

  • (15) :

  • (16) : Schirch 1995: 27.

  • (17) : Schirch 1995: 103.

  • (18) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 50.

  • (19) : Peace Brigades International Annual Review 2000.

  • (20) :

  • (21) :

  • (22) : Schirch 1995: 29.

  • (23) : Schirch integrates these five tactics from Walker 1981: 19

  • (24) : Taylor, Phyllis, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (25) : Griffin-Nolan in Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 303.

  • (26) : Schirch 1995: 104.

  • (27) : CFJ was a nine-member coalition initiated by Pax Christi in 1992.

  • (28) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 219.

  • (29) : The CFJ Coalition existed for three months; CPT was in Haiti for four years.

  • (30) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000:178.

  • (31) : Ibid: 182.

  • (32) :

  • (33) : ”SIPAZ, Five Years of Peacebuilding in Chiapas” brochure.

  • (34) : Bennett, Steven, 6/01 interview with author.

  • (35) : Evans, Claire, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (36) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 245.

  • (37) : Schirch 1995:104.

  • (38) :

  • (39) :

  • (40) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 54.

  • (41) : Ibid: 174ff.

  • (42) : Evans, Claire, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (43) : Schirch 1995: 90. The BPT policy continues with recommendations of actions to be taken and criteria for decision.

  • (44) :

  • (45) :

  • (46) : Christian Peacemaker Teams Mandate.

  • (47) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 184.

  • (48) : ”Signs of the Times”, CPT Newsletter, Spring 2001.

  • (49) : Evans, Claire, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (50) : Schirch 1995: 36.

  • (51) : Schirch 1995: 37.

  • (52) : Goals and Principles of PBI, 1994.

  • (53) : Mhller & Bhttner, 1998:10.

  • (54) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 56.

  • (55) : Ibid.

  • (56) : Schirch 1995: 39.

  • (57) :

  • (58) : van den Bosse, Sandra, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (59) : ”SIPAZ, Five years of Peacebuilding in Chiapas.”

  • (60) : SIPAZ Report, 2/2001.

  • (61) : Communities of Population in Resistance.

  • (62) : Bennett, Steven, 6/01 interview with author.

  • (63) : Schirch 1995: 23.

  • (64) : Sautter, Robert, BPT report,

  • (65) : Sautter, Spring Qtly Rpt 2000,

  • (66) : Sautter, Robert, spring qtly report 2000

  • (67) : BPT report,

  • (68) : ÔFD article in Friedensdienste, 1998/99 and Schweitzer interview with Pete Hämmerle.

  • (69) : Schirch 1995: 103.

  • (70) : van den Bosse, Sandra, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (71) : Bennett, Steven, 6/01 interview with author.

  • (72) : CPT Guidelines Regarding the Giving of Financial or Material Assistance, 11/11/98.

  • (73) : The provision of humanitarian assistance can also be an act of intervention in and of itself. Note Pastors for Peace violation of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba to deliver donations. The trips are high visibility civil disobedience, peacebuilding, international advocacy and humanitarian aid. (Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber, p103). Voices in the Wilderness offers citizen intervention in U.S. hostility toward Iraq in a similar way. Volunteers travel to Iraq in violation of U.S. foreign policy, usually delivering humanitarian aid forbidden under sanctions.

  • (74) :

  • (75) : Quote from an organiser of the teams.

  • (76) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 111.

  • (77) : Evans, Claire, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (78) : Bennett, Steven, 6/01 interview with author.

  • (79) : WfP press release 1983, Washington, DC.

  • (80) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 296.

  • (81) : Evans, Claire, interview with author.

  • (82) : Evans, interview with author.

  • (83) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 16.

  • (84) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 37.

  • (85) : Abbot, Beth in Mosher-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 163.

  • (86) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 222.

  • (87) : PBI brochure ”1981 - 2001: 20 years of promoting nonviolence and protecting human rights.”

  • (88) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 200, 201.

  • (89) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 48, Table 10.

  • (90) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 35.

  • (91) : Ibid.

  • (92) : Ibid: 94.

  • (93) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 174.

  • (94) : CPT also tried to make sure the Israeli commanders knew of their presence.

  • (95) : Evans, interview with author.

  • (96) : Moser-Puangsuwan/Weber 2000: 294.

  • (97) : Evans, 4/01 interview with author.

  • (98) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 180.

  • (99) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 229.

  • (100) : Mahony/Eguren 1997: 245.

  • (101) : 6-99 BPT report,

  • (102) : Müller/Büttner 1998: 42.

  • (103) : Evans, 4/01 interview with author.