Unarmed Accompaniment

103 posts / 0 new
Last post
Unarmed Accompaniment

From January 23 to 29 our featured resouce people, organizations and community members provided wonderful insights and their experiences regarding unarmed accompaniment.

Unarmed Accompaniment: Protecting human rights defenders so they can continue their important work! Human rights defenders do their work in unpredictable and often dangerous situations and conditions around the world. Unarmed accompaniment provides a powerful witness to those who may wish to harm defenders, letting them know their actions will be known.

Table of Contents

The following table of contents was developed to make the dialogue easier to navigate. Important themes and different discussions have been highlighted for archival purposes and for new users.  A list of resources mentioned in the dialogue can be found here.

Exploring Definitions

Training, Methods, and Theory

Issues of Gender

Community Building



Liam Mahony NP Team in Uniform
Colombia CPT Team

Clockwise from Top Left: Liam Mahony, from the network members of Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peaceforce Team Two in Sri Lanka, and the ECAP Colombia Team and network members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams - CPT.

You can review the diverse and interesting biographical information of our featured practitioners.

Many organizations and people around the world have been involved in the amazing gift of providing unarmed protection to human rights defenders. This is not a new tactic - it probably dates back before written history - for bravery and sacrifice are as much a part of our human make-up as violence and self-gain. But we also know that tactics shift and change with the demands of the times. What has this tactic meant to us in OUR time?

Philippe Duhamel, in his inter-Tactica blog shares about his friend, Barbara, in "Heros and the courage to be there"

Philippe Duhamel wrote:
When my friend Barbara left in 1985, the whole accompaniment thing was barely starting. A small-scale intrepid outfit on a shoestring. She joined Peace Brigades International, to protect families of the disappeared in Guatemala.

David Grant, from the Nonviolence Peaceforce, shared with New Tactics that there are many organizations involved [over 80 organizations around the world in the Nonviolent Peaceforce Network] in providing unarmed accompaniment. Let's share where we have come in our time. One question Philippe posed in his blog: "How is accompaniment different in the various countries where projects are now underway?"

Clarification on Defination


 I am new to online discussion, so please excuse my ignorance.

 I  very much like to be part of this discussion so could you please let me know if I understood the topic correctly? 

Is "Unarmed accompaniment"= someone whom gives protection to another person working in the conflict region?

Using tactics like "Hey, beware I am watching him (the human right defender), so if anything happen to the guy I would know its you (the culprit).

If my understanding is correct. Does this means that Unarmed accompaniment actually know who is the culprit? If so, my question here is why the tactics work? Why do the culprit actually fear the "Unarmed accompaniment" threat to tell? 

I apologize if this is a very childish or basic/irrelevant questions.


who is the culprit?

Dear Kiradit,

This is by NO means an irrelevant question. Knowing who 'the culprit' is can be one of the most difficult stumbling blocks, because it is to some extent essential, and in many cases we cannot be sure. In fact, it is the uncertainty about who the culprit may be that perhaps adds to the security risk of the tactic.

Basically, though, accompaniment should involve an initial analysis which gives us sufficient confidence about the most probable source of threat, and enough confidence in our analysis of the interests and motivations of that source of threat to believe that they would be concerned about being observed or reported in their action. Whether this is a relatively anonymous abuser for whom notoriety would be something new, or an already heavily criticized violator who is sufferring some political setbacks from the embarrassment of being accused of such violations, and does not want to further add to the pressure.

If the source of threat (or their bosses) have no reason to be concerned about international observation, publicity, embarrassment or the moral pressure of a witness, it would be reasonable to doubt the protective impact of the tactic.

Fortunately, though, most of the research done to date suggests that perpetrators of politically-motivated human rights abuses usually have political interests and motivations that can be negatively affected by international pressure, even if these interests are not immediately obvious.

- Liam Mahony

Another aspect that is

Another aspect that is important here is the issue of partisanship or non-partisanship. Some unarmed accompaniment stems out of solidarity with the victim. But some stems out of concern to bring reconciliation between victim and perpetrator.  There is a distinction to be made between unarmed accompaniment for the sake of negatively influencing the perpetrators and unarmed accompaniment for the sake of positively influencing the victims.

    Human rights work has tended to 'naming and shaming'. That is the very useful nonviolent 'stick'. Non-partisan civilian intervention in violent conflict tends towards 'truth and reconciliation'. The equally useful nonviolent 'carrot'.

    Determining which to employ is a delicate balancing act. Organizations which explicitly use unarmed accompaniment have to decide where to place their emphasis. 


and David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office 

Accompaniment in Africa

Dear experts,

I read with interest that there are over 80 organisations world wide providing accompaniment - I would like to get in touch with organisations working in Africa: could someone guide me?

David G: I am aware of Nonviolent Peaceforce's plans/project in Uganda - where do your activities stand at the moment?

My feel is that accompaniment is not much used in Africa - if that's correct, why would that be? do contexts on this continent (e.g. Zimbabwe, Gambia, Ethiopia, Sudan-Khartoum) not lend themselves for it? are providers not familiar enough with the contexts and backgrounds? Or am I not looking in the right direction?

Many thanks, arend98

accompaniment in africa

I would also be interested in knowing about the many organizations doing accompaniment that are not on the international radar screen.

Regarding the use of accompaniment in Africa - I think it is worth considering also that indirect or un-deliberate forms of accompaniment are being carried out all the time by people and organizations who are not explicitly using this terminology, not based in organizations with a mission to protect or deal with human rights, or often doing accompaniment as a by-product of carrying out a different mission.

For instance, CPT, PBI and NP have all done different forms of "community accompaniment," where instead of accompanying individual threatened activists, they are accompanying an entire community that may be under duress by making their presence visible there. But this reality can extend to a great many other institutions: humanitarian and development organizations, for instance, often have an international component of their presence and visits to communities facing threats, and through this, although they do not claim to be offerring any protection, the implicit protective value of the presence may often have the same impact. Similarly, the presence of international missionaries, UN agencies, journalists, individual solidarity activists, etc. can all have this impact through presence. So if we tried to count up the numebr of organizations who are doing accompaniment unconsciously or non-publicly - in Africa and elsewhere - the number would be far greater than the the few organizations that consciously and rigorously use the tactic.

In some cases, I think the protective impact of this unconscious or non-public accompaniment may be much higher than the impact of the organizations we are featuring here, because some of these are much larger well-known organization with greater political clout, whom an offending government is actually more worried about offending.

However, a big difference is that these other organizations are only implementing a fraction of the power of the tactic. Groups that are consciously and strategically using accompaniment are able to take greater advantage of the potential, by thinking tactically about exactly where to use their presence, how to back that presence up with political communication or public reporting or external solidarity, and with a longer-term commitment to follow-up on the needs of the people we focus on supporting.

In the research I did for the book "Proactive Presence," I found that the political dynamics that logically justify accompaniment as an effective tool were as evident in the African countries I looked at as they were in Latin America or Asia, even though the international institutions offerring this tactic were less presence there.


'80 organizations' refer to NP members

I am afraid that I was misquoted at the beginning. The '80 organizations' referred to are simply the member organizations of Nonviolent Peaceforce. Many of them do *not* explicitly practice unarmed accompaniment. But all of them support development of the concept. Nonetheless, Liam is perfectly correct to point out that there are many organizations who have a great influence in preventing violence merely by their willingness to engage in areas of violence and remain in support of local peacemakers.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office 

80 Nonviolent Peaceforce member organizations


I must take the responsibility for the mistake. I'm afraid I misunderstood what David had shared about the number of organizations involved in providing accompaniment. My sincere apologies.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

accompaniment in Africa

Hi Liam,

thanks for your thoughtful comments. several comments from the perspective of human rights defence in Zimbabwe (I am vicechair of the Human Rights Forum here, as well as NP connected). A key concept in our work in for example using the African Commission for Peoples and Human Rights is to use external and international means and institutions when domestic remedies are 'exhausted' (sometimes in many senses). Of course as a part of NP I believe in the value of international third party intervention, but my central concern (in Zimbabwe) is the building of capacities in this society for human rights defenders to protect and defend themselves, and to have the capacity to protect and defend each other, and the communities affected by or threatened by violence and abuse - so that the need for externals is reduced - so that the society become in a sense (another of these jargon phrases) conflict resilient. (we are doing a process to strengthen the protection and security of human rights defenders here in the coming weeks) 

Of course we are far from that in the continent, if one thinks of Darfur, or eastern Congo, or western Kenya just now, or the northern parts of Niger. A major difficulty in Africa has been and continues to be the nature of pollitico-military organisation within this period of chauvinistic nationalism, where almost all state or non-state armed factions consider that they 'represent the whole of society' , that 'the state is me' and yet that the different parties to conflicts are often very fluid and indeterminate. Some of the more successful local interventions occurred in welldefined conflict areeas such as Kwazulu Natal, where the network of independent monitors (NIM) did excellent work. The South African Peace Accord structures were another kindof domestic remedy. We're in ten days assessing the potential for such a process here in Zimbabwe -  a third-party process but almost institutionalised.

External  nonviolent accompaniment - interventions by groups for accompaniment - needs to have a clearcut 'frontier' to patrol. Despite the statist and authoritarian nature of governance in most of Africa, the noncoherence of governing and opposition groups makes the postioning of accompaniment very difficult - as we in NP have seen in our explorations of how to intervene in Northern Uganda.

Thanks again and looking forward to the debate  




thabo for change

be the change you propose

NOVASC  PO Box CY 369 Causeway Harare Zimbabwe

Mainstreaming protection

Hi Liam,

I might take this opportunity to ask how you are percieving the mainstreaming of protection within the wider humanitarian and development sector at present. From my perspective in Australia, Oxfam and other agencies seem to be taking it up within their concept of field work and building it into project planning in some way or another. A large 'Protection' conference was held a couple of years ago in Melbourne, with all the small and larger ngo's represented, most of them hearing about PBI's work for the first time and exploring the concepts of humanitarian and human rights protection enthusiasticly. I'm sure this is happening elsewhere. I 've also noticed some useful training resources on protection work
coming from the humanitarian sector such as ALNAP's Protection Guide -

I'd be interested in hearing how you see this has progressed internationally in recent years and about the impact of the Proactive Presence book, and Protection Online in particular.



CPT's work in Africa


Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has done three exploratory delegations to the Great
Lakes Region in Africa (I believe they have visited Eastern Congo and Uganda). CPT’s website has a page outlining our work in
the region
, as well as report
from the 2006 delegation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
. The most
recent delegation just returned around the first of the year, and delegation
members are meeting this week to review their findings and make a
recommendation about possibilities for future accompaniment in the region. If you are working in the Great Lakes region of Africa, CPT may be able to benefit from your experience.

I haven’t
worked directly with CPT’s Africa Great Lakes project, but my sense is that one
of the challenges to starting an ongoing accompaniment project there is that
many of the armed actors in the regions we’ve visited don’t appear to be very
responsive to international pressure. The
fear of outside scrutiny leading to international sanction is one of the things
that makes unarmed accompaniment effective in the areas that it’s used. In a sense, this is another way that the world
community’s neglect of African issues is playing itself out; given the context
of neglect armed actors don’t believe the international community will pay
attention to their abuses even with the presence of international accompaniers,
so accompaniment as a tactic can’t be as effective.


Nils Dybvig - Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Hello to everybody. First

Hello to everybody.

First we would like to present ourselves as we would like to take part in the discussions althrough the week.

 My name is Zsuzsanna Kacso and I am participating in this discussion together with my colleague Corina Simon. We both work at the Peace Action, Training and Research Insititute of Romania (PATRIR).

PATRIR is interested in this tactical discussion as we are a member organisation of Nonviolent Peaceforce and the European Network of Civil Peace Services.  In the recent months we have developed what we call a  "Competency Framework" for peaceworkers engaged in their own community, presenting skills and knowledge necessary in the filed of peacebuilding and conflcit transformation. We would like to share these information and see how to better integrate them in the field work (i.e. unarmed accompaniment) and find viable assessment methodologies for these skills and knowledges.

Zsuzsa and Corina


"Competency framework"?

Hello, Zsuzsa and Corina,

I am interested in hearing more about your "competency framework" and the ways in which you are using it to train peaceworkers.

My name is Sarah Henken and I currently serve (from the U.S.)  as coordinator of the Presbyterian Accompaniment Program in Colombia. I hope some of our accompaniers will get involved in this discussion, and we are interested in learning about what other groups are doing. Thanks!


How we are using the competency framework

Dear Sarah,

The project in Moldova-Transdniestria, second year, wishes to focus on the capacity building of partner organizations resource persons from within the area mentioned above.

We are entering this period curently so the plan for using the framework is in its beginning phase.

After one year of the project in which some of the resource people have gone through trainings and capacity building activities, we now need to assess their level such that we can begin in a personalized manner.

The plan of capacity building in the second year involves very different types of activities: trainings, training of trainers, personal coaching with expert international peaceworkers, conflict mapping report writing, workshop facilitation, resource people training peacebuilding basics, resource people providing consultation for exisiting and new Peacebuilding projects.

The competency framework will be followed through all these activities in a certain manner, but mostly in the training of trainers and the coaching periods.

Another step of the implementation process is to see how this framework may be followed for capacity building of civil society representatives, the main target group of the project.

This is in short, the way we will use the competency framework in the Moldova-Transdniestria project.

PATRIR has several departments, one if them being the Department of Peace Operations. In this context the competency framework will guide other capacity building processes in the areas that we are engaged in.


Corina and Zsuzsa



Zsuzsa and Corina,

I'm a nonviolence trainer from Australia and have been part of the development of a competency based training and assessment framework for PBI's Indonesia Project - which incorporates many protective accompaniement related 'compentencies'.  In fact what i've found is that every single aspect of the training for field volunteers/workers - from personal and group skills to security technigues, needs to centre around concepts of protection.  - I'd be certainly be interested in you work and discussing more.

Its exciting the amount of work going into improving the quality and extent of peaceworker training around the world at present.The 'Preparing Adults for Peacework and Nonviolent Intervention in Conflicts Guide' is certainly great work and may be what you have been involved with within Partir?




Dear Anthony, Very nice

Dear Anthony, Very nice meeting you online.We have started to compile such a  framework together due to one of our major projects running in Moldova-Transdniestria, called: "Cooperative Peace Project". The scope of the project is to engage with a wide range of actors at all levels of the Moldovan and Transdniestrian society to enable and support the peaceful transformation of conflicts within and between Moldova and Transdniestria. Over the next three years the project will raise the awareness of the local civil society of their roles and capacities toward peace building and conflict transformation and will engage social actors to build resources and capacities for peacebuilding and conflict transformation and directly support and contribute to local peacebuilding and conflict transformation efforts. These critical steps toward peacebuilding and conflict transformation will be supported through training programmes, conflict mapping, the development of future visions shared by the parties for transforming the current conflicts, collaborative initiatives for building resources and mechanisms for peacebuilding and conflict transformation, and a commitment to a sustainable peace in Moldova-Transdniestria (M-T).The Competency Framework is the bases of the #2 Year Capacity Building Process for resource people of the local partner organisations.At this point, as the framework is still in development, we are looking at several categories of knowledge and skills, assessment mechanisms for them and existing resources through which the knowledge and skills can be developed.  We have touched upon: peacebuilding – overall knowledge, personal attitudes, personal skills.PATRIR has been contributing to develop further the field of peace training within the ARCA project that you have mentioned and also, through within the SOCRATES project “Development of a Curriculum for Training of Trainers in Non-violent Conflict Transformation”. The manual can be found at: www.trainingoftrainers.org

What we find difficult to gather information on is the assessment methodology of the existing and acquired skills/ knowledge of the peaceworkers before, during and after a capacity building process. How do you see this assessment process going on?


Zsuzsa and Corina

Nonviolent Peaceforce has many representatives here

I wanted to make sure that all participants in this online discussion understand that I am here mostly as a 'figurehead'. Nonvioent Peacefore is composed of eighty member organizations on all continents. We have a couple dozen unarmed civilian peacekeepers deployed in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. We have regional coordinators in six locations as well as other staff and volunteers widely spread. All of these are invited to participate and many of them will, I hope, identify themselves as Nonviolent Peaceforce contributors to this discussion.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office 

Fostering collaborations - combining carrot & stick tactics

It can be very useful for organizations to understand how their different tactics can compliment each other to more effectively further their goals. As David mentions in his post: Another aspect that is states, "Human rights work has tended to 'naming and shaming'. That is the very useful nonviolent 'stick'. Non-partisan civilian intervention in violent conflict tends towards 'truth and reconciliation'. The equally useful nonviolent 'carrot'."

This is a very important issue to raise and for organizations to
examine. We can sometimes get into the mindset that our partner
organizations or those organizations that we build collaborative
relationships with must be implementing the same tactics that we are to
be considered our allies in the work. We are missing tremendous opportunities when we limit ourselves in that way.

Take for example an organization that is trying to build a working relationship with a military commander on the ground to enhance community safety, the organization may not be in the best position to take a hard "naming and shaming" stance because it can undermine that delicate relationship builing process. But one of their partner or collaborative organizations could certainly take that hard stance to ensure that specific situations and actions are brought to light and addressed. This "carrot and stick" tactical approach carried out by two different organizations can make it possible to develop needed relationships on the ground while maintaining accountability for actions.

It would be great to hear more about the diversity of partnerships and collaborations needed to make unarmed accompaniment effective - at the local, national and international levels.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

From the lessons of NP - collaboration with the armed forces

Dear Nancy, 

 In August 200, Nonviolent Peaceforce in cooperation with PATRIR in the context of the ARCA project organized a Core Training for Civilian Peace Teams in Sovata, Romania. After a full month when the participants were first assessed and then started on the training, they had the possibility of doing a joint simulation with the Romanian Army. I was involved in this simulation as one of the volunteers. 

 At the debrief at the end, both parties found it very helpful this collaboration in joint training. In the simulation were involved many recently joined soldier as well as people who had been in international missions in Irak and Afghanistan. Their attitudes to the training were diverse: some considered it a duty, some saw it as a break from their normal routine, some were actively engaged in it, some not so much. The Nonviolent Peaceforce trainees seemed to be engaged in the training, this was on the basis of much tiredness after the full month of intensive training.

This type of collaboration appeared to me beneficial as it prepares the army to interact with other types of actors that might appear in a specific conflict area and to the NP trainees it gave them a direct interaction with an armed force and the type of organization and training that the armed forces have. 

 Another important thing is that unarmed accompaniment is likely to develop credibility with armed forces personnel and a greater understanding from them in such a way that they can both prepare in the eventuality of an encounter in an area and possibly even act as partners.

You can read the account of Phil Esmond, NP Capacity Building Director by clicking here...

Best wishes,

Corina Simon 

Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), Cluj-Napoca

Creative unarmed accompaniment training example w/armed forces


Thank you for sharing this very creative way in which to train both those going into the field to provide accompaniment to human rights defenders but to also engage and educate military forces about unarmed accompaniment. It's a wonderful way to influence the thinking, perceptions and understanding of military personne. I think your assessment is accurate, this method of training allows for engagement "to develop credibility with armed forces personnel and a greater understanding from them in such a way that they can both prepare in the eventuality of an encounter in an area and possibily even act as partners."

The potential to see each other as potential partners is already a huge step. It is difficult to overcome fears and preconceptions of the "other". This is not to say that good, concrete methods of analysis should be overlooked. But recognizing that there can be significant allies in unexpected places. Having such training experiences can give people some insights about what to look for under those situations.

What other kinds of training are people receiving before entering the communities where you are providing unarmed accompaniment? and

What of that training have you found most helpful to you "on the ground" in your day to day activities.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Preparing for working "on the ground"

Dear Nancy, 

My "on the ground" work is that of occasional visits for joint programme coordination of a peacebuilding project for civil society and meetings with civil society workers. In this respect what has proven very useful for me is my training in Nonviolent Communication (communication method by Marshall Rosenberg) and the awareness about my role and responsibilities there.

Communicating with empathy and honesty and respectful of the people that I work and engage with has saved many situations and has enabled me to create meaningful connections with people there.

I do not practice NVC in a strict manner, I mostly use the philosophy behind it in order to effectively communicate to people and understand their reality as it impacts the programme.

That is part of my experience in working within Moldova-Transdniestria. 

 With respect to what else I would benefit from in working there. Language lessons. Romanian helps me to understand and speak with a part of the people, but in order to have the views complete I am learning Russian. I am using now translation, yet I am aware that it is providing a limited connection. Using the native language is something that I see very important in building confidence and working effectively.


Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), Cluj-Napoca

Training and skills for "on the ground" work


Thank you for sharing these useful tips. Communication and language are so important but I'm especially struck by your comment, "Communicating with empathy and honesty and respectful of the people
that I work and engage with has saved many situations and has enabled
me to create meaningful connections with people there." Empathy, honesty and respect transcend language but people can feel the difference no matter what language you're using.

I'd like to bring attention to another New Tactics community member who shared another very inspiring story about how being very respectful of the "other" and altering a communication method allowed them to "reach" that opposition in a different way. Although they didn't succeed in their initially stated goal, they did act in line with their strategic goal. An excellent example of flexibility. To see his comments, go to Keeping Tactics Aligned with Strategy.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

re: another aspect that is


I think your distinction between the human rights approach and the nonviolent civilian intervention approach is much oversimplified - and some of the best evidence for this comes from the experience of accompaniment organizations once they really establish themselves on the ground: there is a tendency to gravitate towards a great many of the same practical activities and impact regardless of the diverse range of apparently different philosophical bases (which is not as diverse as some of their rhetoric might suggest, if you really look at the commitments of the individuals involved, where you will often find both approaches prominent.) .

It might be useful to elaborate on the distinction you make. Are you suggesting that accompaniment of (potential) victims serves a reconciliation purpose if done in a certain way? I am dubious, but interested. If one's fundamental objective is to have a reconciliatory impact on abusers, protective accompaniment would not be the logical way to pursue it, because it has so repeatedly proven difficult-to-impossible to create an external image of non-partisanship while engaged in accompaniment of particular groups or people.

In some situations there may be 'reconciliatory' by-products of the accompaniment role, but it is rare. It is probably more common that the presence of accompaniment is viewed by abusers as somewhere between a threat and an inconvenience - either of which impacts might have some protective value, but are not likely to contribute to reconciliation (assuming reconciliation is a relevant outcome in the given circumstances.)

I have interviewed quite a few military and government authorities, even armed group members, about their perceptions of accompaniment processes. They are often respectful - sometimes for diplomatic reasons; in one case I even felt like a Guatemalan General was actually honestly expressing respect for our willingness to take such high risks, something he considered analagous to the his commitment as a soldier. On the other hand they are sometimes angry, defensive and perceive us to be further polarizing local relationships. Even in the respectful case, I wouldn't stretch this to the point of saying it was a "reconciliatory' role.

There are many other organizations engaged in mediation and reconciliation in conflicts, and these are also a form of nonviolent conflict intervention. But usually a reconciliatory approach requires great care about projecting a non-partisan image, in order to keep the idalogue open with all parties. These are generally not organiziations doing accompaniment.

PBI has been involved in both approaches. PBI had a five-year project in Haiti in the 1990s of training and support for the development of capacities for nonviolent conflict resolution. Interestingly, though, this was not a project that put a heavy focus on accompaniment. In North America in the 1990s, PBI had a project focused on dialogue and reconciliation in some violent struggles involving native peoples in Canada and the US, but again this was not mixed with protective accompaniment. The problem I see is that once we say we are having a protective impact, here is an implicit accusation perceived by other parties. it is not easy to overcome.



- Liam 

Regarding the 'carrot', not the 'stick'

One thing Nonviolent Peaceforce makes a point of is saying that we are not there to 'bring peace', but rather to support and encourage local people who want to fight for their rights, as they see those rights, but without killing each other. We began -- with some of the founders of Peace Brigades being also some of the founders of NP -- primarily thinking about the power of 'the stick' ... of being 'the eyes of the world' ... and thus pushing the perpetrators of human rights violations back into their shadowy lairs.

But as it has turned out -- without doing much of the one-on-one accompaniment that PBI has specialized in -- that the overall encouragement and support ... more generally to the communities at larger ... simply by being in dangerous areas where other international NGOS are not willing, for instance, to overnight ... by that indication of standing-with, a positive and more subtle power than 'standing-against' ... we've managed to help some local peacemakers expand their work. 

    At times this approach is frustrating for our team members since they are enjoined to *not* raise their voices. Sometimes it is better to keep a low profile, despite observation of abuse.

    There are also the extremely complicated constraints of maintaining political legitimacy with those who issue visas and work permits.

    One of the most vexing problems, somewhat related, is the fact that, by and large, our activities have only a local effect. Sometimes we are asked "Well, why haven't you stopped the war in Sri Lanka?" Since the Ceasefire Agreement was just officially ended by the government, this isn't a surprising question. But, again, it is not we who ever made any claim in that regard. It is only the people engaged in the conflict who can end it. And yet ...

    And yet Nonviolent Peaceforce was created with large-scale deployments in mind. For the sake of making national impact. We have not gotten there yet.


David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office 

To speak, or not to speak... and to whom?


I'd be interested in hearing more of the thought process behind your statement above, how your team members (or some of them?) "are enjoined to *not* raise their voices. Sometimes it is better to keep a low profile, despite observation of abuse."

The question of who should speak out when, from where, and to whom, is one that we continue to sort out and reevaluate. We have some basic guidelines about what to do in different situations;  political accompaniment and advocacy is a part of our work with Colombia. But the question remains, and is often raised by our members. I agree in principle that it is sometimes better to keep a low profile, but I'd be interested in knowing more about what you mean.

Is it a universal enjoinder of NP that team members not raise their voices?Perhaps I need clarification: is a distinction drawn between physically speaking up in the moment of observation and actions taken later on to respond to or denounce the abuse? Does NP raise a voice on some other level as an organization, instead of the individual team members?   


To speak or not to speak...

This is really a difficult area. There is a spectrum of what 'non-partisanship' means. At one end we might cite the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have a mandate, legally recognized, to protect prisoners and wounded. They learn about many violations and sometimes atrocities, but almost always do not make any public statements. Their mandate requires them to report only to governments. Their maintenance of 'public silence' allows them to continue to have access to highly-sensitive information. And insures that they effectively protect the most vulnerable.

Nonviolent Peaceforce has generally declined to endorse petitions or statements. Since 'perceptions matter', even those petitions which might seem 'objectively balanced' often end up, later on, misunderstood to be partisan. And to be seen as for one side or against another would not only diminish our 'strength', it might make it absolutely impossible to be present at all.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

The advocacy dilemma of unarmed accompaniment

This dilemma interests me greatly, and I think many organizations
dealing with human rights issues can relate. When you have an
organization whose mandate is to protect, treat, rehabilite, etc their
clients that are under threat or are victims of human rights abuses, it
is often difficult to risk the ability to perform this important work
in order to denounce the government that is responsible.  Finding this
balance is a very real dilemma.

Human rights advocates recognize the importance of  the 'naming and
shaming' of governments responsible for human rights abuses. Human
rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch use this tactic quite successfully.  On the other hand, there are
many organizations whose mandate is to treat and protect those victims
of human rights abuses, or those under threat of abuse (like the

For those that specialize in 'naming and shaming', a necessary part of
gathering documentation of these human rights abuses involves
collecting data from on-the-ground organizations working directly with
the victims of these abuses. It is understandable that these
on-the-ground organizations are cautious to speak out directly against
the government, but getting this data to those human rights
organizations whose mandate is to publicize abuses might be a great
avenue for advocating on behalf of these victims (or those under

Does the 'accompaniment community' get contacted often from human
rights organizations such as these? What kinds of relationships are
there between your 'on-the-ground' organizations and the international
human rights community?

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Is there really an advocacy dilemma?

The advocacy dilemma mentioned in this series of comments is a very troubling and controversial one. In my experience, the presumption that advocacy will result in a curtailment of access to victims, or a prevention of ones ability to deliver services, is one of the most frequent justifications for silence.

To my knowledge, though, there is no clear empirical evidence to prove the validity of this assumption. There is a great deal of evidence that it is easier for field operations to be silent than to speak out. But whether that speaking out is going to limit ones ability to provide protection or support for people on the ground - that is a different question. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence in both directions: there are organizations who have carried out courageous advocacy on the ground, and as a result have had their staff threatened, their managers expelled, and in a few cases their organization's expelled. The experiences of some humanitarian organizations like MSF in Darfur comes to mind.


In addition, there are some particularly sensitive location and particularly xenophobic governments (Indonesia comes to mind) who have a very low tolerance for international presence and advocacy and are more likely to limit access.

But there is also a lot of anecdotal evidenc and casesin the other direction: countless cases of human rights and humanitarian organizations who have spoken out publicly about abuses they witness and not suffered any loss of access or capacity as a result.  There are other organizations who have chosen to remain pragmatically silent in horrible situations, and have lost a great dal of credibility and legitimacy as a result.

One thing I am certain of: one cannot assert any blanket conclusion that outspoken advocacy will limit an organization's ability to function. There are too many cases of productive work combined with good advocacy, even in setting where the initial presumption might be that the two could not be combined.

There is an alternative power analysis of this dilemma possible: the power to carry out effective advocacy is exactly one of the powers that accompaniment organizations have to protect people with. If our presence did not represent to abusers some risk of advocacy against them, arguably our presence would matter a great deal less to them. If they know that can blackmail us into silence by holding over our heads the constant threat of expulsion of blokcing our access to those we help, Then there is less reason for them to feel deterred by our presence.

This leads me to this poentially controversial assertion: an organization that is completely unwilling to risk expsulion, and willing to be silent for that reason, is an organization without power. No power to protect. I do not say this speaking for PBI, which has generally been very quiet on the grounds of this alleged dilemma. I say it as a logical consequence of the power analysis that justifies accompaniment. Our presence protects and our organizations are able to sustain their presence because they are perceived to have enough power to make it not in the interests of states to expel us. When we engage in advocacy overtly, two contradictory things happen: on the one hand we raise the cost of our presence, creating a greater incentive to get rid of us. At the same time we raise our quotient of power, demonstrating the potential greater advocacy and pressure that could result if they act against us further. it becomes a tough judgment call.

But if we never raise our voice, our quotient of power steadily diminishes, and even our risk of expulsion increases, because if we are seen as powerless, there is little cost associated with getting rid of us.




Effectiveness of tactics

Hello Liam and Everyone,

 Thank you for your response. So basically for this tactic to work we need to know or atleast have some idea who are behind the violence.

I also understand from the discussion that being accompaniment , in a way helps take pressure of confrontation off the direct organization working with the local institution (either government or the culprit itself). Which can be challenging.....

Than also that this tactic might not work everytime if the culprit does not ease to international pressure. For example, I am not sure how much news was broadcast in Thailand during the Polpot's regime. Why no strong action were taken when 2 million people were being killed within just 3.8 years. Similar to what might be going on in Africa?

Also given the new way terrorist are working, they have changed I believe. Most 'do not' wish to take direct responsibility for their action anymore. The fear of 'unknown' seems to work best for them. It induces both fear and helps confuse the attempt from authority to resolve the conflicts.

I am in Thailand, everyday people (most of whom are normal citizens) are being killed or injured on a daily basis. The violence have continued for 4 years already and it is still a big mystery who exactly is responsible for the action. Plus I wonder if this unrest is known at international level.   

Throughout this discussion, I would like to gain as much knowledge as possible on this or any other tactics that might fits the situation of unrest in Thailand. I belive every problem is new and unique so we should approach it individually. But I also believe that Human being can be different but similar as well. So does the nature of conflicts and its solution.  



Other resources on accompaniment and more...


I am glad you a part of this discussion. I also want to highlight some of the extensive resources available to increase our learning and sharing... I'll list just a few here:

http://www.hdcentre.org/Civilian+protection+publications This site has Liam's latest work and other work as well...

http://trainingforchange.org/content/view/111/33/ will bring you to a manual on THIRD-PARTY NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION by George Lakey and Daniel Hunter.

Liam also co-wrote a book "Unarmed Bodyguards" which is very useful:
Mahony, L. and Eguren, E. Unarmed
Bodyguards, International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights
, West
Hartford, Kumarian Press,

And just a few others:

Moser-Puangsuwan, Y and
Weber, T, editors. Nonviolent
Intervention Across
Borders: A Recurrent Vision
, University of Hawaii Press, 2000.

Sharp, G. The Politics of Nonviolent
, Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973.

Weber, T. Gandhi’s
Peace Army, The Shanti Sena and Unarmed Peacekeeping
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

Griffin-Nolan, E. Witness for Peace: A story of Resistance,
Louisville, John Knox
Press, 1991.

http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/en/feasibilitystudy Brings you to:

Feasibility Study

Nonviolent Peaceforce Feasibility Study was undertaken by an
international team of researchers whose efforts were coordinated by
Christine Schweitzer, currently Programme Director for NP. Each chapter
is a large file and the entire document is well over 300 pages.

Happy reading!



Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Accompaniment in generalized violence and impunity

Greetings from Guatemala. 


I work with Nonviolent Peaceforce as the coordinator of our 4 person team accompanying human rights defenders here. 


Responding to some of the issues raised from the perspective of recent field experience:


Perpetrators:  Here the violence is quite diffused.  Years ago it was fairly clear that pressure applied on the government would reach the perpetrators for the reasons Liam listed (embarrassment, international witnesses, bad publicity, political setbacks etc.).  Now the violence is generalized and the perpetrators are often organized crime, narco traffickers, independent security forces, some paramilitary and govt. security forces, and police.  The government is complicit in allowing almost complete impunity.  There are roughly 5,000 murders a year for which less than 2 % are even taken to the stage of a trial.  


Risk Analysis:  Human Rights Defenders have more than the usual guess work to do in this context.  They watch patterns of activity, the frequency and nature of threats, and try to weigh the odds.  They are often unsure whether those who threaten them have any higher authority to which they respond.  More likely, because organized crime has so effectively infiltrated the government, they (the perpetrators) exercise control over the government officials.  (Similar to military governments of the past in that sense.)


Emphasis for Accompaniment:  In this context, the emphasis for accompaniment has been on imparting a sense of security to the defenders so that they can continue their work.  They don’t feel alone, which can be a big factor, so they carry on.  It is extremely hard to judge whether there is a deterrent factor to anyone who might be watching our accompaniment.


Other Experiences?  I would welcome comments from anyone who has experience with accompaniment in this kind of generalized violence where it’s difficult to point the finger.  The war is officially over, but the death rate is about the same.  Assassins know the state institutions are so weak, they have a 98% chance of not even being bothered. The levers of power have not felt sufficiently embarrassed to strengthen their institutions or it’s not in their interest. 

(The exception may be the novel opening to an International Commission Against Impunity, which will be staffed by international experts and nationals for two years.  They will try to get a handle on organized crime and its process of infiltration.)


Betsy Crites

Nonviolent Peaceforce in Guatemala

on knowing who is responsible

Betsy Crites' comments from Guatemala adds important nuances to my earlier points on how important it is to know the source of threat. There are many other settings like Guatemala today where this is ever-harder to pinpoint. Does accompaniment "not work" in these settings? Well, I would not go that far.

I do think it is more uncertain, and perhaps alot more risky. When I worked in Guatemala in the mid 1980s, I knew we were facing a horrific genocidal machine of control-freak military design, in which death squads responded to military imperatives most of the time. Horrible, but nonetheless predictable.

When we don't know who it is, or we know the violence is coming from economic or illegal forces who are difficult to reach with international pressure - the uncertainty level is huge.

But there are still a few positive points to consider. For instance, Betsy points out the huge level of impunity in Guatemala, where 2% of assassinations are prosecuted. We should consider that the justice system in Guatemala is likely to be under considerably greater international pressure to respond and prosecute a case in which there was international observation and attention. The cases "we are watching" may have a better chance of being part of that 2%. If this understanding of the potential pressure for state reaction is also understood by perpetrators, than arguably that reflects some deterrent value, because they would have less interest in attacking in a situation where their impunity would be less assured.

More generally, in a place like Guatemala, with its long history of accompaniment by so many organizations over time, there is a possibility of a stronger official perception that the whole country is being accompanied and watched - even on a policy level, where they know that levels of impunity, failure of fulfillment of peace accords, or other official actions are not going to go unnoticed, especially when they related to specific organizations being accompanied. One can hope, at least, as it would be impossible to empirically verify. 

The unsettling risk, though, is that we need to be careful that the solidarity of our presence is not projecting a sense of safety to people that exceeds its actual deterrent value.  This is nearly impossible to ensure, since local people will draw their own conclusions about what difference our presence makes. But at least the conscious accompaniment organizations understand the vital importance of a humble dialogue process with those we accompany, in which we can do our best to keep protective expectations a reasonably low level.

- Liam

Impunity and Perception of Space to Act

Reality-PerceptionThere is a wonderful illustration of the political costs and perceptions available in Liam's tactical notebook, Side by Side (found on page 15). I'll share here Figure 7 from that page. The diagram provides a way to understand how accompaniment expands the political space for the person being accompanied - making it possible for them to continue to do their work. At the same time accompaniment reduces the polictical space and ability to of those wishing to do harm to carry out those actions with impunity, or with few consequences.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

The problem of criminal violence

I remember being asked once if unarmed accompaniment was meant to address 'root causes'. I replied essentially not. The questioners, Muslim students in the Philippines, were disappointed because 'root causes' was their concern.

The point has been made that unarmed accompaniment is not intended to stop a conflict. To do that would simply lock in the status quo, no matter how unjust that might status quo be. Rather the point of 'nonviolent non-partisan civilian peacekeeping' is to allow -- one might even say 'encourage' -- the conflict to continue, but by nonviolent means.

When it comes to criminal violence, however, that goal becomes moot. The 'force' against criminal violence, without firearms, that I immediately think of are the British 'bobbies' who patrolled locally with nothing more lethal than sticks. Same, I suppose, of many police I have seen around the world who have only lathis. Not that those billy clubs, lathis and sticks can not be lethal. But in all cases these police without firearms do 'carry' with them, to more or less extent -- depending upon the fairness of their actions -- a level of moral authority. After the Partition of India from Pakistan in the late 1940's, Gandhi and his followers used their much greater 'moral authority' to walk between rioting mobs of Hindus and Muslims.

   But, again, regarding criminal violence, it seems possibly more effective for local people to become directly involved. Community policing contains aspects of this. As does the original "Shanti Sena" ('peace force', Hindi) in India. They were village development workers, very local, dependent upon local financial support (living very simply) ... and trained and available to go to areas of violence, on call, only in times of crisis. But, again, that was political violence, not criminal.



David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office 

"Community Accompaniment"

Warm greetings from Sri Lanka!

I am involved in "the amazing gift of providing unarmed protection" in Sri Lanka, working with the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), as a Field Team Member. NP provides international nonviolent protection using three of the four main Third Party Nonviolent Intervention (TPNI) methods, namely, presence, monitoring/observation and accompaniment. Inter-positioning, being the fourth, has not been utilized.  

 Hitherto, I have seen presence and unarmed accompaniment as two different tools in the 'toolsbox' of TPNI methods, though intertwined...and NP is consciously and strategically using unarmed accompaniment in our work in Sri Lanka. We have found this tactic to be critical to the overall impact of our project.

Liam's use of the term "Community Accompaniment" to reflect the image of "...accompanying an entire cummunity that may be under duress by making their presence visible there..." is good learning for me personally. Thanks, Liam!

Would gladly share my unarmed accompaniment experiences as the discussion unfolds...


Kingsley Ayettey

Field Team Member

Nonviolent Peaceforce Sri Lanka

CPT's use of the community accompaniment model

“Community accompaniment” is an important tactic for Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT). The Colombia team has always focused its
accompaniment work on communities rather than individuals. We let the
communities determine what they need; sometimes it is a general
physical presence throughout a community or a specific physical
presence at a meeting where there is a risk of violence or
intimidation. At other times the community may request protective
accompaniment of a few threatened leaders as they travel through a
conflict area or after they have received threats.

Usually, our
accompaniment has a political component as well. Our political
accompaniment of a community might include visibilizing their goals
and the threats against them to an international audience, advocating
for foreign policy changes in the U.S. or Canada, or mobilizing
supporters in responding to action alerts. We always involve the
community in the process to define the accompaniment we will provide.

There are challenges involved in accompanying communities:
defining who is the community and who speaks for the community,
deciding when you've received sufficient community input, managing
relationships with multiple community members rather than a small
group of leaders, but community accompaniment is at the core of CPT's

Nils Dybvig - Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Community accompaniment

Thanks for your comment, Nils.

This is a similar approach to what we have been doing with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (in fact, as I understand it, CPT helped us get started and oriented in late 2005 when we were invited to Colombia).

Since our presence in Colombia grows out of a pre-existing partnership between our denominations in the US and Colombia, the question of defining the community is straight-forward in many ways. The question of representation is still important, though, and we need to be careful about the ways in which we become invested in the internal church politics of the other church. As we work with a community that continues its own natural cycle of rotating leadership, how do we maintain an appropriate sense of continuity while also being flexible and responsive to change, both within the community we accompany and in the broader context of the Colombian reality?  

Another piece that we, in our program, need to develop more fully is the reflective/interpretive/learning/growing side of the experience. What has been happening as a result of our involvement? We have had various periods of focused dialogue about this with our partners, but if anyone has suggestions or resources to recommend, that would be great!


Getting Definitions Straight

It's important to understand exactly what nonviolent accompaniment is.  It is different than what is usually called nonviolence.  It is actually peacekeeping.

Peacekeeping is part of the triad of active peace -- peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.  Each of these have different definitions, though there can be some overlap.  Sadly, you will often see these terms used interchangeably, reflecting that the general knowledge of peacemaking in modern societies is poor.

Peacekeeping can also be distinguished by noting what it is not -- it is not, for example, what the United Nations does with its 'peacekeeping forces'.  It has nothing to do with arms or armed intervention.  It is not police work.  It is, on the contrary, PRECISELY nonviolent accompaniment!

But it is not what is called nonviolence!  Nonviolence is active resistance or passive resistance.  At least those are the two things which are usually called 'nonviolence'.

Nonviolence is a risky term to use because it is a double-negative.  This is why Gandhi christened the term 'Satyagraha', meaning steadfastness in the truth.  Double-negative terms don't say much -- they say only what a thing ISN'T.  In peacemaking, there is an absolute necessity to say what it IS, hence the Triad of Active Peace.

 Keeping the focus on the Triad of Active Peace, where it belongs, and understanding the distinctions between the three elements -- peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding -- enables us to understand that 'nonviolent accompaniment' is actually peacekeeping. 

John Wilmerding

Quaker Peacemaker

John Woolman College


Thanks John,

 Just to build on what you were saying - (I'm also a big one for clarity of definitions and language) - one way Gultung defines 'peacekeeping' that i've found useful is that it is 'dissassociative' as in it aims to keep conflicting parties apart.  In situations where it is highly unlikely that the more dialogue-based approaches of peacemaking or peacebuilding would be appropriate or possible due to the level of violence.  Peacekeeping methods also include living walls - community truces  any method aimed at getting in between opposing sides.   As a peacekeeping method accompaniment has the effect (or tactical aim) of keeping parties apart - such as keeping the human rights abuser apart from the threatened activist.   

I like to think, as part of the triad of peace approaches, that nonviolent accompaniment, if carried out efectively and for long enough, eventually allows enough safety and political space for the actors in a conflict to develop peacemaking and peacebuilding type initiatives.  

- anthony

Dissassociative and PK and PB and other definitions

This discussion on definitions reminds me that in Sri Lanka we often got hung up on definitions.... I tend to think of accompaniment more as Peacekeeping - but I also think of peacekeeping of somewhat more superficial and short-term type work... and yet in our teams in the North and east of Sri Lanka - we are doing some deep relationship building with muitlple stakeholders, and doing confidence and relationship building and much more of the deeper and longer-term type of work that I associate more with peacebuilding. Perhaps someone has (or needs to!) come up with revised definations to somehow integrate activities that look more like PK, but are not the typical short-term type work, but that somehow integrates some of the aspects of PB - working much more relationally and organizationally and over a long period of time, and, in our SL project anyway, doing much more than just accompaniment.

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Social Capital?

Hi Jan,

Thank  you very much for your advise. I will definitely check it out to increase my knowledge on the subject.

I just got interested when you mentioned about PB in Sri Lanka that involves 'relationship building'. My professor and I tried to integrate this concept, where he puts it as "Social Capital" into the study of civil conflicts. This capital is measure as the level of trust in the society. Ranges from the trust such as within individual, family units, community and towards local instituion. We believe if this trust or social capital is increase, it will help weakens the culprit authority and activites.

I have had trouble quantifying this concept. I tried to relate this concept to corruption index. Assuming that the more the corruption the lesser the faith and trust public have over institutions. Anyway we do believe that this element (social capital) is crucial in building and sustaining peace in the society. 

Just wonder if we can really define the situation that practice of accompaniment will be most effective. So that the practice can be implemented correctly and will not jeopardize some of the ongoing effort. I wonder if we can have a strategy like we have a medicine for a disease? Shall look into the links you sent for these answers.



Connecting this thread to EVALUATION

I'm particularly interested in this question of 'quantifying social capital'. One of the difficulties in finding political and fiscal support for this work is to 'prove that it works'. This is quite difficult to do if the proof of success is 'nothing happens'.

I have thought it would be useful if there were a sociometric baseline established in a place for which an 'early warning' has been issued. (Mechanisms for identifying areas likely to descend into violent conflict are becoming more and more reliable.)  After that were done (and, frankly, it would have to be done quickly, since an 'early warning' may not be very 'early'), then deploy -- in significant numbers into a delimited geographical area -- unarmed civilian peacekeepers. If, we hope, there is 'success' over at least a couple of years -- indicated by 'nothing happens' -- then another sociometric study would be done to determine what quantifiable factors have been influenced and how.

This might help establish the kind of quantifiable parameters that funders look for and politicians like to cite. 

Does anyone know of research efforts along these lines? 


David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Evaluation Tools

Evaluation of our efforts of human rights is always a challenge - and one worth continually exploring. The Human Rights Impact Centre has some excellent resources to assist in evaluation of impact in a wide variety of areas.

A couple of their resources that might be very helpful for groups in the field providing unarmed accompaniment:

The Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CPR) Network has put together a Handbook that is divided into 3 Parts with steps to help complete what they have termed the "Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment Framework."

And the "Hands-on PCIA: A Handbook for Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment" that very specifically looks at the question of evaluating impact. I would recommend a look at: Part 3 which is peace and conflict impact assessment in practice.

Both handbooks are available in downloadable PDFs.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

on peacekeeping and nonviolence

John Wilmerding urges us to categorize accompaniment not as nonviolent action butstrictly as "peacekeeping". I usually steer clear of difinitional discussion, but I'll risk a few comments on this one, because I don't find this distinction accurate or helpful.

When we use terms, we need to consider not only the clarity that someone may have once had when they outlined them, but the fact that many of these terms have absorbed multiple definitions and perceptions over time. Peacekeeping is just such a term. The UN doesn't own the word, but neither does Johan Galtung - and when we use this or other words to describe our actions we are sending very different messages to different audiences.

One assumption behind the term "peacekeeping" is that we are dealing with a situation of armed conflict. Most of the world, hearing this term, will presume this constraint of scope. But accompaniment as a tactic is used widely in non-armed-conflict settings, protecting vulnerable groups from a wide range of types of repression, discrimination, and marginalization.

This is why the broader term of "human rights protection" is preferred by many - because it refers to both conflict and non-conflict settings, and refers to potential protection from a wide range of types of abuses, not just direct violence. 

PBI was founded as an organization trying to promote and sustain non-violent action in places where nonviolent activists were under duress. Over its long history of development of this particular tool of accompaniment which has been such a useful one in the field of human rights protection, it is now seen by many, inside and out, to be a "human rights organization."

I would personally continue to make a strong case for seeing the link between accompaniment and nonviolence and nonviolent action. I see accompaniment as a tool that nonviolent activists who face threats use to protect themselves and thus enable better nonviolent action.

Who are the protagonists of this tool? Accompaniment is a tool that is used by nonviolent activists to strengthen their nonviolent resistance capacity. It is not we who are "doing accompaniment." It is those activists on the ground who are "using accompaniment".  We are there only to help their nonviolent struggles, which, to my mind, places accompaniment firmly in the realm of active nonviolence, albeit in a somewhat subservient and humble role in the process.

One of the positive strengths of this tool is that it has been able to be used so effectively despite a wide range of perceptions about all these concepts, words, and definitions. Within PBI itself, and other organizations doing this work, there is a diverse range of uses of terminology like "human rights" or "nonviolence" (although seldom if ever does one hear PBI call itself 'peacekeepers)- so don't look at my comments here as anything but my own personal approach.




The Meaning of Peacekeeping

I'm responding gladly to Liam's good contribution to this discussion.

Naturally, I knew that I was challenging accepted usage of the term 'peacekeeping'.  Yet, it is my own discernment that what I recommend is the proper usage.

When did Johan Galtung weigh into this discussion?  And someone talking about his definitions?  Why?  I frankly don't even know what they are.

A couple of weeks ago, I congratulated David Hartsough of Nonviolent Peace Force on taking the term 'peacekeeping' back from the UN to where it belongs ... what this group is calling 'nonviolent accompaniment'.

I feel strongly it is necessary to be absolutely certain of the meanings of our words when we are doing peacemaking work.  This is why I have proposed an understanding of what I call the 'Triad of Active Peace'.  Funny thing ... I fully expect that these definitions of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding will become common usage.  After corresponding with many thousands of peacemakers and peace activists over the years, I also think I am in a position to parse out the meanings of such words, considering all the nuances.

So I think that when people use the word 'peacekeeping' to refer to the UN-style armed interventions, we peacemakers should denounce that, just as when Tracy Chapman sang "Why are the missiles called peacekeepers when they're aimed to kill?"  In this way, we will re-claim the term from its inappropriate usages, merely by building the currency of the correct usage.  It is utterly necessary that we do this.  "Hate cannot drive out hate -- only love can do that." -- M L King Jr.

Whatever audience we speak to, we must presume they wish to hear the truth.  Thus, we must do our best to speak the truth in all instances, and to all audiences.  Peacemakers can do no other.

So I disagree with the "assumption" that peacekeeping is only used in cases of armed conflict.  That is an interpretation that has arisen through the mis-use of the word.  Indeed, peacekeeping can be preventative, as well as interdictive.  But it is never armed.

Peacekeepers should also always adopt nonviolent responses if they are accosted, arrested, assaulted, etc.  I was not recommending anything different than that.

So, I say that 'nonviolent accompaniment', the way it is practiced by, say, Nonviolent Peaceforce, is peacekeeping.  But it is not 'nonviolence', as in the contemporary US-English use of the word.  That term, 'nonviolence', is usually reserved for what are called 'nonviolent direct action' or 'passive resistance'.

Finally, another problem with parsing out meanings and usages is that this work is not only carried out in English -- let's consider, though, that I have recommended these meanings, this lexicon, for the purposes of this discussion.

And maybe Johan Galtung will have a recommendation for us when we start discussions in Norwegian!  ;-)

John Wilmerding

Quaker Peacemaker

John Woolman College

The risks of peacekeeping and nonviolent struggle

The understanding of language and the way our language is used provides us with a tremendous source of both inspiration and power.

The commitment to nonviolent struggle and the herioc efforts of human rights defenders is not one lightly taken. Too often people forget, or perhaps need to forget, that much blood is shed to walk the path of nonviolent struggle. I remember how people talked about the miracle of the Philippine People Power Revolution and how it was a bloodless revolution. The country, nor the international press, wanted to speak about the more than 20 years that cost countless lives - taken by torture, disappearances and outright assination; nor the role that steady organizing under the "radar" of a brutal dictatorship that it took to create the awareness and willingness of the public to put their own bodies in the line of fire for change to make "People Power" happen. We could certainly share many other amazing examples in history and more recently in places around world where this has happened. It is truly a miracle, born of our human need to speak truth to power.

This offering up of the human body - a fragile container at best - against the ingenious weapons designed to mutilate and destroy that human body lies at the heart of active nonviolent, the seeking to stand for truth (a truth of one or a truth of many).

As Liam stated in his post titled, on peacekeeping and nonviolence, "Accompaniment is a tool that is used by nonviolent activists to strengthen their nonviolent resistance capacity. It is not we who are "doing accompaniment." It is those activists on the ground who are "using accompaniment". We are there only to help their nonviolent struggles, which, to my mind, places accompaniment firmly in the realm of active nonviolence, albeit in a somewhat subservient and humble role in the process."

I'm interested in learning from those who have "used accompaniment" - How has this tactic helped you to continue your work?

And for those who made the choice to take that "humble role", What have been the costs and benefits to your own lives and relationships?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

About the terms

I think, John, that it was Johan Galtung who first proposed the definitions of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding. Peacemaking = making treaties, negotiating formal or informal agreements. Peacebuilding = addressing root causes of war through development activities (including addressing issues of identity). Peacekeeping = separating, or intervening between, combatants. Without taking the time to research it (probably googlable), I am
certain that Galtun saw all three of those mechanisms as being
able to be accomplished without violence. In fact, of the three, only peacekeeping has the option of -- to use the euphemistic jargon -- 'robust' or 'kinetic' intervention. [Those two adjectives can apply as well to unarmed intervention.]

The term nonviolence continues to produce difficulties. It is, strictly speaking, not applicable to any particular strategy. As Gandhi said "nonviolence is as old as the hills". There would not be 6+ billion of us on this planet if cooperation and social harmony were not, by far, the dominant modalities. Violence is the anomaly, not nonviolence. But on the other hand, the term is inadequate -- defining an 'absence of'. Like the term, 'horseless carriage' for that new thing, back at the turn of the 19th Century ... that thing that eventually became known as the 'automobile'. 

So ... nonviolent struggle for justice is not, as you indicate, the same as unarmed non-partisan civilian 'peacekeeping'. This distinction is not yet well understood. And it vexes many 'nonviolent activitists' who are addicted -- as I have been and continue to be -- to 'righteous anger' in the fact of social injustice. It is not easy to 'stand in between'. It is much more 'fun', honestly, to join in the fight. Unarmed non-partisan civilian peacekeeping, however, tries to play the role of referee...not stopping the fight, but trying to insure it remain within the bounds of normal social interaction -- which is to say: without murder and mayhem.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Re: About the terms

Agreeing with you, David Grant, when you say:  "... nonviolent struggle for justice is not ... the same as unarmed non-partisan civilian 'peacekeeping'"

Just want to clarify that was precisely one of the points that I made.  Your phrase 'as you indicate' could have been taken two ways, placing me either for or against the premise.

And if distinguishing those three activities, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, accurately was Galtung's contribution, that's fine.  I don't think any of us are so arrogant as to claim the truth for ourselves, though some people might try to build up our egos, just as some have done with Johan Galtung.  Then again, he does confess a certain amount of egoism in his work -- but maybe that is just his effort to make a bigger splash with his theories and important work!

John Wilmerding

Quaker Peacemaker

John Woolman College

Gender and Peacekeeping

IFOR ( International Fellowship of reconciliation) and WPP (
women peacemakers program) are very involved in Action non violence. WPP is
raising the issue on Gender and peacekeeping, we had received testimonies from
women activist asking for special approach in peacekeeping. I wanted to know
from the people who are in the field your opinion about approaching Gender in
the peacekeeping and unarmed forces.

Are there special needs to women and to men in the
communities? How are you approaching them?



Cristina Reyna
Gender Officer


On gender and peacekeeping/peacebuilding

Cristina raises an important topic, which has to
do with a pilot research project WPP/IFOR is currently involved in. This
project was born out of the concern of many gender-sensitive people involved in
peacekeeping/peacebuilding programs that realize and acknowledge the lack of a
gender perspective in most of different peacebuilding initiatives around the

Indeed, while there is growing awareness among
people, institutions, scholars and organizations working in the field of conflict
prevention and transformation that conflict and post-conflict situations have
significant gender implications that need to be addressed by any king of
intervention –local, national or international, official or non governmental-,
in practice there are almost no systematic efforts (or very few, isolated) to
implement gender analysis and gender-sensitive policies in that field.

If there is interest, we could share in this forum
some of the questions that guide our research project, as well as some of the
relevant gender aspects/implications that, in our view, are always present and
should be taken into account when doing international accompaniment, or any
other form of civilian peacekeeping/peacebuilding in a conflict setting.

Maria M. Delgado

Hearing women's voices


Maria and Cristina,

Thank you both for
bringing gender into the dialogue. CPT
Colombia is very interested to hear more from IFOR and WPP about the gender
aspects and implications that you believe are always present and need to be
taken into account in international accompaniment.

The CPT Colombia team
is working on becoming more attentive to the violence against women that is
often experienced in conflict zones but may be unnoticed and unaddressed by
peace workers. In the coming year we intend to work harder to visibilize the
violence against women that we learn about.

Each year we compile a
human rights report of incidents that we have witnessed or heard through
first-hand testimony. In compiling our report for 2007 we noticed that much of the information we have about violence against women
was not included in the report because the information does not meet our
criteria that we have witnessed the violence or received first-hand reports.
For example, in some communities we have heard general concerns that soldiers
are taking advantage of their power and position to seduce young women and
girls, sometimes resulting in unwanted sexual contact or unwanted pregnancies.
In one community, business men commented to us that maltreatment of women by
soldiers was not a problem while the one woman in the group, a former teacher,
spoke to us privately to say she has heard of many cases of young women being
taken advantage of by soldiers. Because we did not witness the violence or hear
about it directly from a woman who experienced it, we did not include these
impressions in our 2007 human rights report.

There are many reasons
the reports we hear may not accurately tell the story of how violence is
impacting women. Women may be
underrepresented in community conversations due to household responsibilities.
Women may be economically dependent on men and concerned that reporting abuse
will jeopardize their economic security. In a sexist society, women’s voices
are less likely to be heard, even when they are raised.

In 2008 as we collect information about human
rights abuses related to the armed conflict in Colombia, we have committed to
paying special attention to how women are impacted by the violence. We expect
our 2008 report to have a section focusing on women with more flexible criteria
for what is included, recognizing that if we insist on witnessing the violence
or hearing first hand reports of violence we are adding to the silencing of
women in the conflict.

Michele Braley, Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia


Topic locked