Could the war in Kosovo have been prevented by a large-scale international nonviolent peace team in that land? I think it could have been. To me, the only question to me is: Where - and how soon - can we assemble such a trained body of peace workers?
What convinced me were the efforts David Hartsough, from San Francisco and Mel Duncan, from St. Paul, Minnesota, who wrote the Draft Proposal for a Global Nonviolent Peace Force (see www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org). This new proposal is based on the techniques and experience of the unarmed bodyguards Peace Brigades International in Guatemala and Colombia, and the witness of groups such as Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank.
In May 1999, while NATO bombs were dropping on Belgrade and the Kosovars were being expelled, David and Mel issued the call for a global nonviolent peace force. They appealed to the 8,000 peace activists gathered for the Hague Appeal for Peace. Since then, more than 200 prominent individuals and major NGOs around the world have endorsed the proposal.
In Ottawa, I was involved in a coalition to stop the war in Yugoslavia. We were getting ready for a mass rally on May 31. Fortunately, we had organized and trained a group of nonviolent marshals. Things were tense at that rally, and a group of angry Serbian-Canadians seemed about to attack the police guarding the US Embassy. We guided the demonstration around the militants, and their anger ebbed. Had it not been for the actions of the marshals, I believe there would have been violence at the US Embassy that day.
This convinced me that we needed training to prevent violence, but I was not yet convinced that we needed a trained international force of nonviolent intervenors. In March 2000, I heard David present his idea for a global nonviolent peace force at a Quaker conference on Building a Culture of Peace near Philadelphia. This unarmed force would step in where there were human rights violations, even before bullets begin to fly.
Back in Ottawa, I found that Murray Thomson, one of the founders of Project Ploughshares, Group of 78, and PeaceFund Canada, also favored this proposal. And so did my old friend Hans Sinn of Perth, Ontario, one of the founders of Peace Brigades International. We three called a meeting for May 11, 2000, in Ottawa. That meeting was charged with an energy I had not felt in years. Forming an organization in Canada, "The May 11 Group," we sent Murray to New York City for a UN-based consultation organized by David and Mel. There the Global Nonviolent Peace Force (GNPF) was endorsed by the UN Millennium Forum of NGOs.
In June, I went to the international Interim Steering Committee for the peace force. That meeting decided to mainstream the project by reaching out to four new areas: faith communities, humanitarian NGOs, business, and military personnel.
Later GNPF-Canada chose Hans Sinn as its permanent representative to Interim Steering Committee from anglophone Canada, and Gerry Pascal from francophone Canada.by August, we had received one of the NGO spaces at the International Conference on War Affected Children in Winnipeg and convinced Mel to be our delegate. We organized literature, displays, and billeting, and recruited other volunteers locally, including Karen Ridd. Within a couple of months, Global Nonviolent Peace Force-Canada was created to replace the May 11 Group. We chose a Co-ordinating Committee, got seed funding from Ottawa Quakers, and became the first country group of this new international initiative. In Saskatoon, a meeting was organized by Jay Cowsill and other local Quakers and Bah'ai members. Rachel Findley of the San Francisco office of Peaceworkers flew up to speak to the group.
GNPF-International was even busier. David travelled to Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia, looking at places where unarmed peacekeepers would be welcome and useful. David also made new allies in those countries.
The international Interim Steering Committee needed to set a place for its next meeting. We invited them to Canada, planning to hold our own Canadian retreat at the same time in Wakefield, Quebec. Those meetings became a key moment in our development. They brought Lyn Adamson of Peace Brigades International-Canada together with David and Mel, and with Tim Wallis, the new European Secretary for the Global Nonviolent Peace Force. Tim had been the London-based Executive Director of Peace Brigades International. The group previewed pages of the report from the international group's new Research Director, Christine Schweitzer of Hamburg, Germany. Its final draft will be reviewed at the July Interim Steering Committee Meeting and may later be published in book form as a resource to all international peace workers.
In Ottawa, we held our first Introductory Training Series in Conflict Resolution Techniques from March 17 to June 9. Veronica Pelicaric from le Centre de ressources sur la non-violence in Montreal led one seminar on "From Violence to Wholeness," a Franciscan training program that has been picked up by Lutherans and others. Andrea Young-Bernier led a session on interpersonal conflict resolution, and Lyn Adamson led a seminar on Peace Brigades International Training. Vern Redekop led a session entitled "Resolution of Deep-Rooted Conflicts." Finally, Peter Dougherty of Michigan Peace Team shared his experience with violence reduction internationally and at domestic rallies and demonstrations.Our Office is Open
Meanwhile, GNPF-International sent David Hartsough and Phil McManus to Uruguay and Ecuador, learning about local needs and receptiveness to a global nonviolent peace force.
In Ottawa, a major donor to the work of the nonviolent peace force enabled us to open an office with a part-time staff person one year after we started meeting. With this new base, we will be able to carry out five joint projects with the Ottawa Quaker Meeting in 2001. We chose as our coordinator GeneviPve Talbot, formerly with the United Nations Association in Canada and the UN Development Program in Quito, Ecuador. Our new office will open by the end of May. Every stick of furniture was donated by other NGOs. The UN Association gave us a fax machine, and we only had to buy two phones and a used computer.
Carl Stieren is an Ottawa peace activist.
Accompanying (activists, leaders, returning refugees, people in peace zones).
Facilitating communication among conflicting parties.
Monitoring (elections, cease fires, treaties).
Training and training trainers in conflict transformation.
Interpositioning between conflicting sides.
Providing an international emergency response network to support local peacemaking efforts, and to prevent violence and human rights abuses.
Investigating and controlling rumors.
Promoting unbiased information, internally and internationally.
Instantaneous video witnessing to the Internet.