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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

Conclusions that Nonviolent Peaceforce drew about large scale nonviolent intervention teams

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is attempting to build large scale nonviolent intervention teams, so drawing on the previous research into small scale peace teams and large scale nonviolent interventions, it draws the following conclusions.

Working and living on a team

Team composition

Teams will best reflect the philosophy of NP if they are diverse in age, balanced in gender, and multi-cultural. A common language will be essential within the team, or at least within smaller units of a team, to facilitate team-building, resolution of conflict, and everyone’s ability to participate in decision-making. Diversity and balance factors on a team should include work-style and personality so there will be both leaders and followers, people who take charge in stress, people who can work alone, those who build community well. Team members will need diversity training to understand and accept differences of culture, age, gender, and personality.

The gender and cultural mix of a team should take into consideration the relative safety of each person within the specific conflict and cultural field where that team will be placed. If NP deploys a large number of people to an area, that team should be divided into small groups or « cells » (1) which move and work self-sufficiently but are subject to centrally made decisions. In each of these, both genders and people of various ethnicities should be placed together so all will be afforded equal safety by virtue of their proximity to one another. Likewise, there should be one person in each ”cell” who has greatest familiarity with the language and culture on the ground, one elder, one who is physically fit.


Consensus is the only decision-making method that involves every person and generates investment in the outcome, but it has limited efficiency and breaks down when the group is too large or time is brief. For these reasons, we recommend that consensus be used within NP at every level, but only in small functional groups and for manageable issues (2). As consensus cannot be relied upon for rapidity or orderly compliance of a large number of people the model for NP will have to move away from that of the peace teams toward that of larger organisations in the field (3).

Introduction of new members

All that is really clear from examination of small teams is that the disruption of team dynamics and consistent field work is inevitable if new people enter the group without adequate preparation beforehand or adequate time to integrate and complete training in the field. Designated people could be trained to provide on-site orientation within the teams or “cells”, giving adequate time for new members to overcome culture shock and assume a confident place in the group.


Teams must be deeply trained and provided with effective tools for handling internal conflict. When conflict cannot be resolved satisfactorily, policy similar to the CPT Procedure for Dealing with Conflicts and Grievances is recommended (4).


Stress is an unfortunate reality for those working in the field. Team members need to be forewarned of the risk and trauma as realistically as possible and given training, support, and enrichment to deal with the negative outcomes. Some stress can and should be reduced with good management, like living too closely, lack of clarity about the mission and activities, overwork and lack of time for relaxation.

Phyllis Taylor, of WfP, wants team-sending organisations to give much more attention to taking care of the families of team members and honouring their participation in the work of the witness (5). NP must offer deep and authentic support for family members in addition to team members during and after active service.

Relationship with local organisations

Acting in partnership with a local organisation allows for intervention which is less colonial in nature. Partners must be selected for their interest and leadership in nonviolent solutions; NP may then enter the field at their invitation. Partnership (formal or informal) with organisations from more than one side of the conflict can afford a deeper vision of what is needed for just resolution, and it is essential for non-partisan status. No partner at all may be preferable to affiliation with one side of the conflict, but the model which may serve NP best is probably “with no single partner but with a developed relationship to a network of groups.” (6)

NP should seek leadership from locals in all ways possible including the overall appropriateness of its presence but remain free to make decisions regarding risk and design of its intervention according to knowledge of the situation, previous experience, and organisational choices of niche, policy, and tactics (7). Since the very presence of the international community often creates an atmosphere of expectation, NP will need to exercise candour with local groups to prevent unrealistic expectations.

Relationship with INGOs and GOs

Every effort should be made to foster cooperation among organisations in the field, following the information-sharing, task-sharing and diplomacy examples of PBI and Amnesty International, for example. It will be necessary, however, to assess the helpfulness of each group in moving the contending parties toward just resolution before defining a relationship. NP should be wary of affiliation with those organisations and individuals looking to exploit or benefit from the conflict even though they may also offer assistance.

As the work of deterrence is greatly dependent on adequate communication about what activities will be undertaken and who will be aware of those activities, this information will be a major component of early contact with INGOs and GOs.

An open question for NP is how much effort it will make to network and line up individuals and organisations to provide strategies beyond our niche. Will we in fact form partnerships with INGOs whose peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts compliment our intervention?

Relationship with NP governance

It is essential for the high performance of a team that its members feel heard and supported by the home base. Communication must be two-way, swift, thorough and frequent. Combined with clarity about divisions of responsibility, access to advisors on all issues, and an explicit decision-making authority, this communication will provide a solid basis for the relationship. Most of the difficulties within peace teams have to do with the lack of a communication flow-chart assigning responsibility, timing, and exchange of information. NP’s larger size will require a relinquishing of autonomy by team members and an assurance that the governance listens well enough to their information to make and support strategic decisions.

Entrance to the field

The review of peace team entrance to the field provides no precedent for NP: tourist visas will not be possible for a large organisation.

Facility in local language

Fluency standards in the local language need to be high, but we submit that careful formulation of smaller units will make it possible to allow variation in that standard. Each “cell” or affinity group must have at least one member who can communicate without hesitation, even under stress. This smaller group could have a “buddy system” within it, pairing a fluent speaker with less one less fluent.

In the event that more than one language is necessary for NP’s work in the area of an intervention, cells might include one person fluent in each language.

Final questions

Ultimately these kinds of questions will be at the heart of the development and deployment of any kind of intervening force: What should be the relationship to the local government? To the other warring factions? What is the real or perceived legitimacy of the various local actors on the ground? Can or should an organisation take sides, especially if there are gross injustices and human rights violations perpetrated by one side or the other or even all parties to the conflict? Is there a point in a conflict in which intervention should be reconsidered? What is the best way to work with the local population?

This last question of course lies at the heart of all outside intervention and should guide all NP decisions with regard to putting together an intervening force. We must never lose sight of the fact that the sole legitimacy of any kind of organisation like NP lies in its ability to provide true nonviolent assistance. It must not, like many other organisations in the field, fall into the trap of acting to ensure its own perpetuity.


  • (1) : These might be known as affinity groups.

  • (2) : Modification of consensus is recommended, allowing for a vote when the process bogs down. Designated leadership in every situation where neither of these is practical

  • (3) : Taylor, Richard K., 11/20/00 memo “Global Peace Force DECISION-MAKING” puts forth specific recommendations for NP

  • (4) : See

  • (5) : Phyllis Taylor - interview with author

  • (6) : See 3.2.2, Schweitzer, models for partnership #3

  • (7) : Carefully drafted policy describing this relationship is needed.