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Brussels, November 2007

Sri Lanka and NP: monitoring impact and success

Collecting information and understanding the specific impact made by NP in Sri Lanka, and the benefit to target populations.

From the examples under activities (fiche 8) it is clear that the services provided by Nonviolent Peaceforce are opening communication channels, providing support and protection to individuals, and helping to reduce tensions, but it is difficult, in complex violent conflict situations, to ascribe any action to a specific outcome, so it is difficult to measure the exact impact of the team.

Nonviolent Peaceforce has a specific strategy and goals in Sri Lanka and are looking for impact such as:

  • Reduction of violence in the communities where we work

  • People feel safer when accompanied.

  • Families affected take proactive action due to more confidence.

  • Civil society groups continue or increase their work.

  • Citizens dare to fight for their rights.

  • Higher accountability by armed groups and police/military

  • Sensitive issues are discussed openly.

  • Relations between ethnic groups and between civilians and military improve.

  • New (protection) networks develop.

  • People receive aid because they are linked.

  • Higher awareness about the situation, leading to better coordination.

  • Dialogue with stakeholders including armed groups.

Over the years the team have built up many methods for measuring impact including staff reports, eye witness accounts, internal and external evaluations, and results such as people being released form custody or living in a safe place.

Although much of the evidence remains anecdotal, the case studies that used are important in demonstrating the impact of team activities and progress towards the wider strategic objectives. The recognition and partnership with larger agencies, also concerned with protection, shows the importance of Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work, and that the strategy and activities are having a positive impact that the larger agencies wish to encourage.

UNICEF became a partner as requests in Valachchenai and Batticaloa for a safe place for families under threat became a daily phenomenon. It turned out not to be an easy task to find places and brought to the surface the great number of obstacles in identifying safe places for civilians who are directly threatened with violence as well as the limitations of major actors such as the UN in the protection of the most vulnerable. Several UN agencies sought closer relationships with NP whose work was recognized to fill gaps that emerged, especially when the situation in Sri Lanka gets more violent. This allowed Nonviolent Peaceforce to bring issues of concern to the table and take the lead in protection and human security matters. For example, NP was invited to send a delegation to an international roundtable discussion on child protection as part of a joint initiative between UNICEF and NP that marked the start for the support of community structures on the protection of children and families.

At specific times when violence might emerge Nonviolent Peaceforce has also worked on targets over a shorter space of time, this can help identify more about actions and impact. When the postponed local elections took place in the Batticaloa, in a collaborative effort with PAFFREL monitors, the presence of two NPSL teams helped inspire voter confidence, induced positive behaviour change among polling officials, increased the visibility NP’s work that led to new relationships with polling officials and the populace in general and mitigated hostilities that is common to local elections in Sri Lanka.

NP’s work has contributed to the decrease in violence in specific situations. As violence is often a positively reinforcing phenomenon- that is violence easily escalates to further and more destructive violence, decreasing violence in and of itself may be a form of prevention. In addition, NP presence, accompaniment, bridge building, supporting the development of new nonviolent resources and other work previously mentioned have clearly contributed to the prevention of violence at specific times or in specific communities. The NPSL project is NOT designed to directly affect the official, Track One peace process. The goal is to support civilian engagement in their own communities, with NGO/INGOs and with GoSL and LTTE to work for peace with justice in peacemaking work. NP’s work aims to increase the safety for civilians to do this by decreasing and preventing violence.

The words of others about the work of the teams is an important assessor of impact and after the attack on Nonviolent Peaceforce offices in Mutur the project director wrote,

“… It was heartwarming and encouraging to notice the support and words of respect, admiration and appreciation that NPSL received from other reputable individuals and organizations after the attack on its office in Mutur. It is clear that from this moment onwards, the value of the work of NP and impact it has on the society in Sri Lanka can no longer be questioned.”

This powerful message was best articulated in the words of the Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo in a front page article of the [Sri Lanka] Daily Mirror in which he, critical of the lack of ability for international agencies to provide protection of the afflicted and the frightened, but wrote: “The exception to this stance is the presence of a small INGO – the Non Violence Peace Force. The policy of this small team of foreign and local peace workers is to visibly stand by victims of violence and needs commendation. It is for this reason that the attack by an armed group on their office in Mutur must be condemned. This act has been done by forces that see their presence as a threat. Consequently, all peace loving people must do all they can to appreciate and endorse such vulnerable groups whose mandate is to stand with the vulnerable, and whose only weapon is their moral strength to be able to do so.”

UNICEF have also commented on their experience of working with NP,

“Nonviolent Peaceforce has been successful in containing violence and protecting children by demonstrating visible presence in the communities at risk, places of increased tensions, or areas vulnerable to hostile acts. …At the same time, NP has actively accompanied women to gather information on and secure the release of abducted children.” - UNICEF, November 2005