General Background Information on Nonviolent Peaceforce Essay

Government of Norway

* Norway has served as a neutral facilitator since 1998 upon request by GOSL and LTTE. It has since facilitated a number of political negotiations among the parties.

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* In February 2002, ceasefire agreement reached with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission with observers from all 5 Nordic countries.

* Provided development co-operation and de-mining in the country

* Held the first high-level international meeting in Oslo in November 2002 to mobilize political support and gather economic assistance for Sri Lanka

* At the Oslo meeting, Mr. Jan Petersen, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, indicated his government commitment to increase its humanitarian assistance from NOK 38 million in 2002 to NOK 90 million in 2003.

* Provided transitional assistance of NOK 15 million in 2002

* Provided development assistance of NOK 112 million in 2002

http://www.peaceinsrilanka.org/peace2005/insidepage/Internationalsupport/oslomeeting/oslomain.asp

Also worth to note the contributions of UN agencies, the World Bank, ADB, Non Governmental Organizations, Bilateral donors and Civil Society in the peace process. Projects in the areas of water supply, health, education, child-care and agriculture are on-going thanks to these organizations.

General Background Information on Nonviolent Peaceforce

This organization was formed at the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace and inaugurated in Delhi, India in 2002. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating an international peace army of civilians trained in nonviolent strategies.

It deploys its trained civilians to conflict areas to prevent death and destruction and protect human rights thus creating space for local groups to struggle nonviolently, enter into dialogue and seek peaceful resolution.

Composed of member organizations from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America. It is therefore a true international organization.

How it works and why necessary & unique

* Responds to requests for help anywhere in the world

* Represent a creative alternative to massive military intervention that many people hope for- they are preventative (defuse areas at risk) not reactive in nature such as UN peacekeepers.

* Necessary because of the International Community’s inability to respond in a timely manner to crises that led to devastating armed conflicts, brutal violence and genocide- Kosovo and Rwanda being but only two examples

* Gets deployed at the invitation of local groups in the at-risk country after the International Governing Council has satisfied itself of a need for intervention and given a mandate to the team.

* The mandate may include but not limited to the following; accompanying local peace human rights advocates, facilitating communication among groups in conflict, monitoring elections or ceasefires and training locals in conflict resolution.

* Not affiliated with a national, religious or political viewpoint which gives it credibility to its neutral stance

* Fieldworkers are well trained in nonviolent intervention strategies

* The field workers also receive specific training about the people in a particular conflict area, their language and culture

* Nobel prize winners, government representatives and the Dalai Lama have endorsed the organization

Nonviolent Peaceforce’s Activities in Sri Lanka

In 2003 they began a pilot project in Sri Lanka, a nation torn apart by civil war. This was after their International Convening Event in December 2002 in India at which the 130 member delegates selected Sri Lanka as the site for their pilot project.

Their field research showed that civilians of all ethnic background were tired of the 19-year war that had claimed at least 65,000 lives, converted children into soldiers, displaced over a million citizens, and littered the beautiful landscape with land mines.

As ceasefire and peace negotiations are underway as diplomatic and government initiative, Sri Lankan peacemakers see the time ripe to build the grassroots base to sustain the ceasefire and build a lasting, just peace across the nation hence the invitation extended to Nonviolent Peaceforce.

The Nonviolent Peaceforce have offices in the following locations/towns namely Jaffna, Matara, Valaichchenai and Muthur, the latter having experienced the most violence and recorded the highest number of deaths since the ceasefire in December 2001. Tension has arisen from disputes between the Tamils and the Muslims in the Muthur area and the peaceforce provides protection to communities under threat and work with community leaders to reduce tension. Have been exploring ways of reducing tension among the different factions in the Muslim community. They also support a Peace Committee in that area. They are in constant touch with all communities, civil society, International Non-Governmental Organizations, the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (mostly Scandinavian military personnel in civilian attire), police, army and LTTE.

Examples of Some Mediating Roles Played by Nonviolent Peaceforce

A week before Wesak, the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, a medium-sized Buddha statue was erected on a major road by the Sinhala Auto Drivers Association in Muthur a mix ethnic community. Tamil Hindus were outraged and tension rose, they demanded the removal of the statue. The Tamil People Forum- a representative body called for several days of Hartal that led to clashes resulting in 1 death, several injuries and destruction of property. Tamil families sought security in Tamil dominated areas; the security forces outside the town were brought in generating even more tension. The team members moved in and did peace patrols, providing conscious presence and rapid response to incidents. They also collaborated with Norwegian ceasefire monitoring mission and other international and local groups to try to defuse the situation. Efforts in this regard involved outreach to the Tamil People’s Forum and Buddhist peace advocates.

Nonviolence Peaceforce also opened channels of communication and facilitated dialogue between a Muslim Fishing Society in a Government -controlled area and the Tamil Fishing Society in an LTTE-controlled area. This Muslim society is close to the LTTE controlled area and had been doing business with the Tamil fishermen for the last 20 years. The Muslims gave the Tamils, boats and other fishing equipment and in return received fish from the Tamil fishermen. The problem started in May-June 2005 when the LTTE decided to establish a separate Tamil Fishing Society that requested that all catches should be brought to them than to the Muslim Society.

The Tamil fishermen complied with the instructions and tension started to mount in the two communities. The Muslim fishing society contacted the NP Muthur Office and asked if they could facilitate a dialogue because Muslims were unable to even travel to the LTTE controlled areas to transact other business. The NP first contacted the political head of the LTTE informing him of the problem who tell called a meeting of the Tamil fishermen and the Tamil Fishing Society.

The LTTE invited the Muslim Fishing Society for a meeting to discuss the issue and find acceptable solution to both parties. The latter requested that NP accompanies them and sit in the meeting. NP accompanies the Muslim group to the meeting and with the consent of both parties, sat in the meeting as an observer only. The meeting was very successful with a decision by both parties to maintain and strengthen brotherly relations. The Tamils further decided to pay back 75% of whatever was due the Muslims during the period when misunderstanding ensued.

Both parties were appreciative of NP’s roles and thanked NP for bringing them to the negotiating table as well as maintaining peace in the area. This is but a few of what NP is doing in Sri Lanka. Please follow the Internet source below and learn more. http://nvpf.org/np/english/srilanka/slpintro.asp.html

I will also want to share with you a reported incident of violence and how the NP team in the area of Trincomalee/Muthur responded. On one of NP field team official duties, a group of 20 young highly charged-up Sinhalese forcefully stopped NP’s vehicle. They accused NP for facilitating a meeting between a Buddhist monk and the LTTE political leader. They also accused INGO’s as being biased. They did not run away but listened to their grievances of the angry mob and clarified the misunderstanding. After an hour discussion, the mob said sorry to NP field team members for misbehaving. They asked NP to visit anytime in their area.

Some Challenges for Nonviolence Peaceforce

* Nonalignment or nonpartisanship in conflict areas

* Must thread carefully, hold to its mission, co-operate with other groups without compromising on its principles

* Staff health is constantly at risk and have to receive medical attention regularly

* Having more unintended (ejection of locals by landlords having better offers for rent by the influx of INGOs) problems to deal with

* Most recent assassinations, disappearances of people and unofficial recruitment of child soldiers. Learn more about this and many more at http://new.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/world/south_asia/4147766.stm

* Staff turn over is also a problem that needs to be dealt with or managed

* Funding- it takes $29,900 to support a field team member for a year. You can support a worthy cause such as this by purchasing a peace bond. There is no monetary reward for the purchase as it is your contribution to creating a peaceful world. Remember peaceful ends require peaceful means, invest in a hopeful future purchase a peace bond today. Please visit this website http://nvpf.org/np/english/pb/peacebonds.asp.html

Nonviolence, does it work?

The answer is yes. It is a historically proven technique used successfully around the world. In many situations, it is the only action that works. An example is Gandhi’s encounter with the legendary General Jan Smuts of South Africa. Source: Pages 521-522 of PCS by David P. Barash ; Charles P. Webel.

The question is, does the world have any future without nonviolence?

I love this quote in our Peace ; Conflict Studies book by our professor and David P. Barash of the 19th Century American poet, Walt Whitman in his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, and it goes:

Were you looking to be held together by lawyers?

Or by an agreement on a paper? Or by arms?

Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.

Only those who love each other shall become indivisible.

Page 535 of PCS by David P. Barash ; Charles P. Webel

For more news and information on the following issues from the media

* Reassurance by LTTE on a peaceful poll

* The visit of Major General (Retired) Trond Furuhovde (Oct 10-18), a Special Representative of the Norwegian Government

* Visit of Ian Martin, an International Human Rights Advisor to Sri Lanka from October 8-16th.

* The EU ban on travels by LTTE

* International Day of Peace Art Exhibition

* Child combatant recruitment and other please visit

http://www.peaceinsrilanka.org

For information on the Road Painting Movement’s activities that began after the assassination of Tiruchelvam in 1999 which has a slogan “Secure the sanctity of life”, visit http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/srilanka/diary.html

Final note: With 50 years of ethnic conflict and two decades of brutal war, there is so much mistrust that can only be overcome gradually.

ABBREVIATIONS

INGO – International Non Governmental Organization

NP – Nonviolence Peaceforce

LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (led militarily by Velupillai Prabakaran)

PCS – Peace and Conflict Studies

UN – United Nation

EU – European Union

GOSL – Government of Sri Lanka

NOK -Norwegian Kroner

Paper Prepared By Peace Sagoe

MA in Peace & Development Studies