When we think of nonviolent action, we often think of Gandhi’s Salt March or the American Civil Rights Movement’s Lunch Counter Sit-Ins. While these are the most publicized nonviolent actions, there is in fact a whole gamut of actions based on Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s experiments that has been developed and put into practice. One organization that is at the leading edge of putting nonviolence into practice is Nonviolent Peaceforce, which engages in unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
Counter-intuitively, most UN Peacekeeping Forces consist of armed personnel that are loaned from member countries’ armies and/or police forces. Nonviolent Peaceforce however, trains individuals in and deploys them for unarmed civilian peacekeeping. That is, they are placed in conflict zones in order to prevent, reduce and stop violence. This includes a wide range of activities, including but not limited to, observation and witnessing (for example at checkpoints), accompaniment of people likely to be the target of violence, inter-positioning (getting between two people that are engaged in violence), shuttling (going between parties during a negotiation to relay messages and/or build trust). Increasing numbers of unarmed civilians have been successful in keeping the peace in conflict zones around the world.
Nonviolent Peaceforce’s first engagement was in Sri Lanka where teams were involved in child-protection and reducing the number of child soldiers, dialogues, ceasefires (sometimes getting warring villages to stop fighting within 5 days of their arrival), trust-building and many more activities. They are taking the lessons learned there and implementing them and expanding them in South Sudan, South Caucasus and the Philippines.
Check out this report on Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work in the Philippines: