Unarmed Accompaniment

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Hearing Women's Voices

Thank you Michele for sharing this.

You raise critical aspects regarding the difficulties of witnessing and reporting the violence women experience in their daily lives, let alone the challenges that accompaniment organizations face in providing protection to women who have themselves been specifically threatened or find themselves targets because they serve as a means to pressure their fathers, husbands, brothers and children.

In my experience here at the Center for Victims of Torture and working in refugee camps in West Africa, there was safety in reporting an abuse that happened to a "friend", a "cousin", or someone in the community. But acknowledging that such an abuse was personal took significant trust building. The personal costs of such traumas are tremendous, if we add the social costs of revealing sexual abuse/assault/rape/slavery/torture, the implications are staggering due to the stigma, blame, shame and ostracism that women continue to experience when they have the courage to speak..

CPT is obviously trying to meet and address this challenge. Storytelling and theater have provided very useful mechanisms to open the topics and support women in finding their voices to speak out on the violence they experience, first in that "one party removed" manner and then taking more direct action. The organizations using these tools were not providing accompaniment, however, they were more involved in community education and action. But some of their ideas might be of use to your efforts.

For an example on our New Tactics website see: Action Theatre, from Bangladesh: http://www.newtactics.org/en/ActionTheatre

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Creating space to speak

This is a very important topic in our discussion and I'm glad for the challenge to think more about this.

My colleague, Anne Barstow, edited a book called War's Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution, and Other Crimes Against Women, a collection of stories about wartime sexual violence against women around the world. About a year ago she was invited to give a workshop about these stories and findings for a group of women in Colombia who are involved in one way or another with the defense of human rights and/or the work of the church with the displaced. Opening up this topic of conversation and providing information about the prevalence of rape as a tactic of war around the world apparently created an important space for these women to consider ways in which they might more effectively respond to the needs of the displaced and other women who are victims of the conflict. I'm afraid I haven't followed up with our partners to see whether this has led to any new strategies on the part of these women, but now I will make a point of asking, and I will be glad to pass along the resources that I have found in this forum.

"Acceptance" and Unarmed Accompaniment

 Again...greetings from the beautiful island, Sri Lanka!

For the tactic of unarmed accompaniment to be effective, a fertile ground of 'acceptance' must prevail in the 'environment' in which the accompaniment is taking place. The security risk of the tatic is reduced if the accompaniment organisation is 'accepted' by all the actors in the conflict. 'Acceptance', therefore, becomes a key strategy in the tactic, unarmed accompaniment.

In Sri Lanka, Noviolent Peaceforce's own security is mainly based on 'acceptance' as an 'independent outsider'...our impartial and discret role enables us to attain this feat. David Grant substantiates this in his post: To speak or not to speak...

Jan Passion pointed out in his post: Dissssociative and PK and PB and other defnitions, NP 's dual role of peacekeeping (outside presence) and peacebuilding (facilitative presence)..."doing much more than just accompaniment, NP is doing some deep relationship building with multiple stakeholders, and doing confidence and relationship building and much more of the deeper and longer-term type work..."

David Grant also mentions in his post: Regarding the 'carrot', not the 'stick'  how NP's 'standing-with' activities in the communities have helped some local peacemakes to expand their work. This has enhanced our 'acceptance' !

Neverthless, Nonviolent Peaceforce will only recommend unarmed accompaniment where the risk presented to Field Team Members' lives is both 'measurable' and 'acceptable'. 


Kingsley Ayettey

Field Team Member

Nonviolent Peaceforce Sri Lanka

"acceptance" and accompaniment

Kingsley's message points out the importance of acceptance of the accompnaiment presence by all actors, in order to ensure its effectiveness and the safety of those doing it.

Perhaps 'acceptance' is too kind or soft a word. In my experience the presence of accompaniment may be grudgingly acknowledged by abusive parties as a fact of life. it may also be deeply resented. Sometimes it is an imposition they may see as a political act of war by their enemies.

In these uncomfortable circumstances, I think the decisive factor is not whether they voluntarily "accept" the presence. In some cases it is a more brutal political cost-benefit calculation: is it worth their while to confront, threaten or hurt the accompaniment or those who are accompanied? Or is the cost of acting against them too high? If the cost is too high, this does not really signify 'acceptance', but simply political realism and rationality. They may hate us, but we are not their fundamental problem, so they tolerate us, in a strategy of avoiding costs that are far more important to them. 

When we have our diplomatic encounters with these actors, in the best of circumstance perhaps we are building bridges of acceptance and mutual respect. But short of that ideal, such clear communication serves to ensure that they are making an accurate calculation, that they will recognize that attacking the accompaniment or accompanee really does represent a political cost they should not want to suffer.

Even if they despise and resent our presence, it is not in our interest that they should make the political miscalculation of acting on that resentment.  


** How to find your way through all the comments! **

Hello all,

I work for New Tactics, and want to make participating in this discuss as easy and straightforward as possible. There is a way for you to 'collapse' all the comments made in the discussion so far, so that you only see the Subjects of each comment (as well as the author of the comment). Here is how you do that:Comment Viewing Option

At the bottom of the discussion page, you will find a place that you can 'Post a new comment'. Just above that box, there is a place for you to change your 'Comment viewing options'.

It will most likely be set at "Threaded List - expanded" and you can change that to "Threaded List - collapsed" and then use the "Save Settings" button. This will collapse all the posts to only their Subject headings and author. It will look something like this:

Clarification on Defination by kiradits

who is the culprit? by liam

Another aspect that is by DavidGrantNP

Accompaniment in Africa by arend98

etc etc

This is helpful in viewing what kinds of smaller conversations are currently being discussed, without having to dig through everything that has been written!

Let me know if you have any questions - kantin@cvt.org.


Who's making the peace?


It feels like a lot of the focus of this discussion has been on
what we as peacemakers (or peacekeepers, or accompaniers, or whatever
we choose to call ourselves) can do to bring about peace. I think
when we focus on the role of accompaniers, we ignore a much more
important dynamic: the role of communities in constructing their own

My role as an accompanier is to create a safe space where
threatened communities can organize themselves and work to bring
about peace, in the way that they choose.  The communities we
accompany here in Colombia have lived the armed conflict for years
(for most Colombians, the armed conflict has gone on their entire
life), they understand the complex social and political environment
they're operating in much better than I will no matter how much I
study, and they're more invested in the outcome of peace than those
of us who can simply choose to go home if the work gets too hard.
The communities we work with have all the ideas, experience and
skills necessary to construct the conditions of peace; they really
don't need that help from us. What our accompaniment is able to
provide is the security and the political maneuvering room for
communities to carry out their own peacemaking work. For us to think
that we know better than Colombians how to construct a Colombian
peace is at best presumptuous, and at worst, racist.

Another way we try to defer to the wisdom of the communities we
accompany is in the decisions we make about speaking out against
human rights abuses (as referred to by Sarah in her post To
speak, or not to speak... and to whom?
). It's not always clear
that speaking out against the human rights abuses we observe is the
best path; occasionally speaking out can antagonize an armed actor
and in fact result in greater risk to a community. When we deal with
these questions, asking the community what they prefer is almost
always our preferred solution. Communities at risk are incredibly
acute at analyzing the threats that face them, so I rarely feel like
I need to second guess their assessments. If they think it's safe
for us to speak up, we do. If they prefer we remain quiet, we do
that too. Admittedly, sometimes we have to make quick decisions in
the field about speaking out, so we don't always have the luxury of
community consultation. Where we do, we always try to let the
community decide if they want us to speak out. It also helps us make
the quick decisions if we have been in ongoing dialog with the
community about what kinds of things they want us to confront, and in
what situations confrontation feels too risky.

Nils Dybvig - Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Maneuvering room for communities


These are really excellent and key points to keep in our minds as we talk about the benefits of unarmed accompaniment as a tactic. In that light, unarmed accompaniment takes advantage of opportunities offered by the gaps within the system where your team is operating (country and community context). At the same time, unarmed accompaniment creates additional opportunities for communities to move forward their own vision and goal of the kind of peace or social action they are actively defining for themselves.

Please correct me if my understanding of what you've written is off the mark. It seems to me that the unarmed accompaniment you provide then is not building capacity for empowering communities but rather a tactic communities themselves choose to avail of to provide themselves with the space (as you say, the "security and the political maneuvering room") they need and are entitled to, so they can assert their choices, rights and power as individuals, as a community, and as citizens of their own country.

Is there a particular process or recommended steps that CPT, PBI or Nonviolent Peaceforce can share about how to develop this kind of community agreement or "contract" for providing unarmed accompaniment?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Enough space for "making the peace"

Dear Nils,

 I have been reading over your post and I find the points you have made very valid. I, myself am not an accompanier, I have started peacework one year ago and my practical engagement with people from conflict areas has been mainly through the training programs that PATRIR offers in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation.

Even so, one of the major aspects that I became aware of  is the necessity to leave enough space for the local people to act according to their own ideas in creating their own peace. It is always welcome to have the support of  ... let's call ourselves outsiders (as we are when it comes to conflicts that do not involve us directly) ... but as long as the conflict and violence happened to a certain community, that community, those people are the ones knowing what would help, what would work.

 Also, most of the communities have their own, traditional ways of dealing with a conflict or post-conflit situation, which are accepted by the community as a whole, and prove to be more efficient the a solution proposed form outside. For this, I belive that needs to be a good level of knowledge and awareness of the situatuion and the exisiting traditions from the pewceworker's side.

I think that the work that the accompaniers do is crucial. It provides the necessary acting space for the local community to achieve its goals.  Besieds this, having the support of international people is very importnt to the local communities. It strengthen their belief in the legitimacy of their actions and they feel morally supported. Though this does not sounds as important as having the necessary political space to act, it is one of the most important aspects for the communities that need accompaniment.


I admire each person that engages in this kind of work, as it proves the deep commitment to peace, human rights and all the positive values that we want our society to embrace.

Zsuzsanna Kacso, Assistant to the Director and Moldova-Transdniestria Program Coordinator, PATRIR




I have read the inputs of several people and I am impressed by the deep insights they have shared. Clearly, there are various interpretations and choices about “tactics”, or, if some would prefer, options for unarmed accompaniment to protect HR defenders, and/or  non-partisan peacekeeping work in support of peace processes. The exchanges reveal a spectrum of actions open to organizations as to their appropriateness and objectives. I believe the interplay of theory and ground experiences will help inspire and guide us in our future endeavor, in relation to realities we all face.

"Mainstreaming" in the EU

I take the liberty of entering this message, sent by Nonviolent Peaceforce's headquarters in Brussels:

I’d like to draw your attention to new conclusion of the EU Council on the European Security and Defense Policy (partly as the result of NP speeches to the CIVCOM) we have now a reference to NP as one of NGOs that was consulted by the Member States’ representatives working on the civilian aspects of ESDP and we have also the Civilian Peacekeeping clearly mentioned (see below).

This is important because this document is the final official document endorsed by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of 27 EU Countries and also by the Chief of State and Government in the last December European Council.  So it’s  a recognition of our work. The same document is available in 22 languages.

This is the quotation (pag 26 of the English version):


“XII. Co-operation with Non-Governmental Organisations

99. To enhance the dialogue between NGOs and the members of Council preparatory bodies,

the Presidency regularly invited NGO representatives to give briefings to members of the

Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management in accordance with the

Recommendations for Enhancing Co-operation with NGOs and CSOs. Representatives from

a variety of international NGOs (such as the International Centre for Transitional Justice,

Saferworld, Interpeace, and Nonviolent Peaceforce) presented briefings on Afghanistan,

Kosovo, Guinea-Bissau and Civilian Peacekeeping. Particular care was taken to ensure that

NGO input would be given during the early stages of the planning phase for civilian ESDP



Using the term 'mainstreaming' also reminds me of the conference held in November 1993 at the United Nations Church Center. As I recall the title of the conference was "Mainstreaming Peace Teams". At it, the director of the UN Volunteer Corps stood up and pleaded for nonviolent intervention in Rwanda and Burundi. We did not -- at that time or, unfortunately, now -- have capacity to quickly deploy large-scale. It was in April 1994 that the genocide in Rwanda happened. 

Early warning mechanisms are even better now than they were then. The mesage about from the EU, as well as from other sectors (as Anthony Kelly reports), indicated recognition is increasing. But obviously the wheels of change grind very slowly to create the political will and requisite finances. 

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Gender research

 I haven't responded to this post for a couple of days because it has to do primarily with research. We've had our hands full with implementation.

We do our best to make sure that our peacekeeping teams are balanced in gender, geography and ethnicity. What I personally hope we can do -- especially when we reach our large-scale goals -- is to have teams with specialties.  That could include units that pay particular attention to the role in violence played by various categories: of identity such as 'gender', 'age', 'religion', 'class', and of modality such as 'cultural arts',  'communications', etc. It  would be a lot easier, probably, to do this suggested research under those circumstances.  Of course no one disagrees about the importance of identity in all aspects of our work.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Mainstreaming protection

Anthony Kelly asks about the process of mainstreaming protection within the wider humanitarian ommunity. What a huge issue - I think it would take us a bit to far away from our focus here on the tactic of accompaniment. I will make a few comments on it, but try to tie it back to our theme.

You mention the ALNAP Protection Guide. This guide was actually published by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the same institution through which I published the more recent "Proactive Presence." You might also be interested in knowing that that ALNAP Protection Guide, which has been very widely used by the humanitarian community, was based on a pilot publication drafted by Hugo Slim and Luis Enrique Eguren - Luis Enrique comes from a long background in accompaniment work within PBI, was one fo the founders of the PBI project in Colombia, and also a founder of "Protection International" a new NGO in Brussels which until recently was teh Brussels European Office of PBI's "Mainstreaming Protection Project." (I recommend their web-page www.protectionline.org where you can find a wide variety of resources on protection of human rights defenders and IDPs.)

Accompaniment is a fairly small piece of the field protection reality - the humanitarian community is engaged in a wider range of protection activities, and has thousands and thousands of people deployed in difficult conflict zones to do this diverse work. In a few cases these organizations do accompaniment explicitly, in others it is an implicit impact of a field presence serving a different function. And in many cases, for lack of a conscious analysis of potential protective impact and lack of training in protection training staff, optential protective use of their huge human resources in the field is missed.

Even though accompaniment work is still so quantitatvely small out there, I think that Luis Enrique's involvement in the ALNAP manual, and the impact of Proactive Presence on the more mainstream humanitarian and human rights community as well, and in general the growing recognition of our organizations in this community of bigger actors is a illustration of something important: the rigorous,  conscious and very ground-based way in which our organizations are analyzing and using our presence, and learning directly and humbly from the people and communities we accompany on the ground, is something that many people in these other institutions are seeing as an important thing to learn from. not because they aren't already doing some of the same things, but rather because so much of the protection work they are doing is being done without conscious analysis and evaluation.

There are a lot of great people out there, deeply committed and politicized by working in the field up close to victims and courageous activists, who are working in institutions whose public face may never invovle an explicit treatment of "protection", much less accompaniment. The current expansion of discussion of practical protection impact is giving these committed field workers support and reinforcement to push their own institutions to take more coherent and conscious approaches - in some cases in order that the good protection work they are already doing will be acknowledged and better supported at an institutional level.

Another resource I would recommend to those intersted in humanitarian protection action are the many resources and studies being put out by teh Humanitarian protection Group of the Oveseas Develoment Institute in London.

- my best



Security Through Vulnerability Part 1

One provocative framework for me for thinking about
nonviolent accompaniment has been a comparison between my commitments to
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and the commitments my sister has made to the

In our family, I am the “peacenik” who demonstrated against
the Iraq War, while my sister joined the National Guard soon after 9-11, though
she has not been called into active duty. This is not a comprehensive
reflection, nor is it a simple comparison and contrast, as we serve in
different contexts.

Some of the parallels in contrast to my sister … She gets
money for college; I fundraise to serve. I’m a song leader at rallies; she’s a
cheerleader for her unit. She endured boot camp; I did a delegation and trained
for a month. In training, we both crawled on our stomachs to practice escaping
bullets. She suffered burns from a shell casing; I spent a night in cold jail.
I mourned the loss of Tom Fox, but marveled at how few deaths CPT has faced in
its work in conflict zones; my sister mourned lost soldiers who were dispatched
while she got to finish college.

We both consciously decided to be dedicated and we have gone
at it with all our energy. Both our lives could be placed in risky situations
for causes we care about. It’s not that we are seeking danger and risk, but
it’s the cause that brings us to potential threat.

While it’s true that we both enter risky situations, there
is an ironic security in the vulnerability of unarmed accompaniment. Soldiers
with guns are targets, thus their power makes them vulnerable. Teammate Erin
Kindy encountered some armed soldiers in the Colombian countryside. She
explained to them, “I am worried for your safety because you are in more
danger of being targeted by other armed groups because you have guns.”

For nonviolent accompaniers, our
sources of security come in more vulnerable forms through connection to local partners, through being
known, through recognition of our work for peace, through our watching eyes and
communication to international channels. We are not a threat, and if we are a
threat to the status quo, those who would harm us might count the cost of
causing us harm when our organization and partners would raise an international
stink as we would do for Colombians. It is through connection, no power over
others that brings us security.

In my next post, I reflect on the risks we face, as illustrated in the death of our own, Tom Fox in Iraq.

Waiting for peace,

Charletta Erb
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

The ironies and sacrifices

Beautifully stated, Charletta. Heartfelt and true. Thank you.

I spent one day with Tom Fox. He was at Eastern Mennonite University in the Conflict Transformation Program. I was there only for a day, co-leading an all-day simulation for his class (Lisa Schirch, professor). The simulation we set up was based on The Wall in Palestine. It took over the center of campus. Tom played the role of one of the Palestinian police. That is a conflicted position! When he was murdered in Iraq, about a year later, it sent shock waves through Nonviolent Peaceforce. {I made a 90- minute edited video of that day, $50, DVD, proceeds to Nonviolent Peaceforce.} One thing that gets me is that sometimes people say, after such a tragedy, 'You see, nonviolent idealism doesn't work". After one death. And yet the answer to thousands of soldiers' deaths is, often: "Send more in."

After the first Gulf War, early 1990's, I was working at Rural Southern Voice for Peace, North Carolina. We carried out 'listening projects' at military bases -- Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force. We had a survey of about 20 questions that we asked to randomly chosen military people,  mostly enlisted, on the streets outside the bases. The survey essentially *educated*, at the beginning, about the ideas of King, Gandhi and Aung Sang Suu Kyi ... and then asked if the person would be willing to be part of a nonviolent peace force -- with same benefits as the military. About 50% of those surveyed said they understood the power of nonviolence and would prefer to 'fight' nonviolently, if it were an organized option. 

I also took part in the week-long "Nordic Peace '98" military 'war game' on the island of Gottland, Sweden. It was a training for Baltic and Scandanavian militaries planning to deploy in the Balkans. They invited NGOs such as the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (for whom I was then working), Amnesty International, the Swedish branch of War Resisters International, Red Cross, and others. It was certainly the most realistic training I have had the opportunity to be a part of. As I saw it, there were two goals: 1.) to learn each other's 'language' (since NGOs and military have quite different styles, but have to communicate with each other in the field); 2.) to simply meet each other (As Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us!"). The latter point included having Scandanavian officers telling us, after hours over beers: "We've been wanting to learn non-lethal means for a long time; but you, in the peace community, have been unwilling to talk with us". In that instance, the Swedish FOR had provided 'nonviolence trainings' -- though brief -- to about a thousand of the participating soldiers in the week leading up to the 'livex' (live exercise).

   Bottom line: We're all in this together. Glad you and your sister are, it seems, friends who simply are treading the same path, though by different lights. 

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

The ironies and sacrifices

Dear David

I really appreciated your reflection on the irony of claims that nonviolence doesn't work ... "One thing that gets me is that sometimes people say, after such a
tragedy, 'You see, nonviolent idealism doesn't work". After one death.
And yet the answer to thousands of soldiers' deaths is, often: "Send
more in." " Wow! We have barely begun to explore or imagine the possibilitie of nonviolence. That excites me.

I'm also really struck by the idea of my sister in the military and I as a peacemaker being on the same path. We have stayed friends through this. We have both thrown ourselves into these paths with good intentions and with our whole selves. Maybe that's the light guiding us? But I think of our choices as distinctive paths one to life, one to destruction, while we both seeking the same light. This was an Interesting conception to consider.

Charletta Erb
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

The ironies and sacrifices

Charletta and David,

I really appreciate you both sharing these personal and insightful reflections on these two paths - "unarmed accompaniment" and "armed service".

Your postings have made me reflect upon those who have not taken up arms for a countries' military service but those who make the decision to take up armed struggle, rather than nonivolent struggle, as their path to institute change. Motivations for both these paths of armed struggle and nonviolent struggle, I would surmise, originate in a deep desire to make a difference - to transform personal and communal frustration into action.

It makes me ponder about our human choices. Some may be born out of despair - that the only way for change to emerge is to tear down the structures of oppression and destroy those that maintain and benefit from those structures. Others might be born of hope - to pursue that idea - "be the change you want". To walk that path, then if we are seeking freedom then freedom is the way, if we are seeking compassion and love then compasson and love are the way. The path to healing is healing in the here and now, not in some distant future when the "bad" structures have been destroyed.

I have tremendous respect for all of you who are involved in utilizing and providing unarmed accompaniment - you are truly modeling and being the nonviolent future you want to create - and in reality you truly ARE living that future in the here and now.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

The Way

Dear Nancy,

   I thought you would also have repeated the phrase first coined by A.J. Muste of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." That aphorism would be the reply I would offer to those who would take up arms for the sake of 'bringing peace' (eventually).

   Another slogan apropos is "Peace through strength". This leads to the naming of nuclear-headed missiles as 'Peacemaker". But there is an important truth to that slogan. As written today by one of the Nonviolent Peaceforce members on the ground in Sri Lanka, true strength of character does, indeed, lead to a peaceful society.

   Finally, "The Way". I title this "The Way" in order to provoke. Thich Nhat Hanh was  one (of many) who have pointed out that *ideology* has killed more people than weapons ever have. Of course "The Way" is also connected to the "Tao", the yin-and-yang. That is another quite different thought. Which is why I say my title is provocative.

    Gandhi had two rules for satyagrahis: 1.) Not to kill; 2.) Not to take one's own 'truth' as absolute.

    We all walk the path of "experimenting with truth". 

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Security through Vulnerability Part 2

Remembering Tom Fox, Facing Death in Faith

We haven’t yet discussed is how the death of Tom Fox has impacted the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). It follows naturally from my previous posting on our vulnerability in accompaniment. I reflected most on this theme through the winter ending in 2006, when our hearts went out to CPTers who were “hosted” by their kidnappers. CPT chose to frame their captivity in benevolent terms, so as not to demonize their kidnappers and to appeal to their good. On March 10, Tom Fox’s body was found in Baghdad. Thirteen days later, the three other men were released.

It was a bitter end with Tom’s death, sweet in the miraculous
return of the others. I began to write a commentary reflecting on these events
sandwiched between Christmas (the birth of God in form of a tiny baby arriving
to an oppressive context, Israel
occupied by the oppressive Romans) and Easter (the death of Jesus for
subverting the status quo, and his resurrection overcoming the powers of hate
with love). I wrote:

“With the
bittersweet sense of resurrection mingled with death, I wrestled with this
“backward” God who demonstrated in the life of Jesus that we are called to move
out beyond security. These peacemakers who followed Jesus’ example inspired me,
while critics called them naïve for going anywhere in a war zone without
armored cars.” Incarnation
and Vulnerability
(Lombard Mennonite
Peace Center,
Dec. 2006. page 2)

In this vulnerability, we are not just doing accompaniment
to achieve certain criteria to prove its effectiveness. We are following this
vision of overcoming evil with good. For CPTers, it’s an attempt at faithfulness
to the example of Jesus. That said, we also seek to follow that call in ways
that have effect, but the desired effect is not the origin of our service. Jesus’
vision and example of nonviolence is the origin.

Perhaps there are others who would share their reflections
on why they are doing this work, so that in remembering, this can shape our
work more than benchmark goals that are hard to measure in this work. And in
these origins, we might find clarity that counters our instincts to fight in
order to achieve our goals.


To read more about Tom Fox and the CPT hostage crisis, I
recommend the feature
in Sojourner’s Magazine from December 2006, as well as the tribute
to Tom Fox
in the same issue. For more on our faith-basis for accompaniment
work, I recommend a recent article, Courageous
by Ron Sider in Christianity Today.

Charletta Erb
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Adam Curle on 'hope'

I remember hearing Adam Curle (info on him below) speak to this. He was in his 80's, it was in Germany. He spoke about his long career as a peace educator and about peace missions on which he nearly died. At the end of his talk, he was asked "What gives you hope?" There was a long, very long, silence. The audience grew uncomfortable, wondering if he was going to answer at all.

F inally, he smiled broadly and said "I have no hope!"

The audience gasped. Shocked, asking itself, I imagine, "How can one live, much less act, without hope?"

Then he added, "But of course we go on."

I like that perspective very much. Some might call it 'Buddhist'; others might say "classic British stiff upper lip". The point is fundamental to staying in it for the long haul.

We go on.

No matter. 

EXCERPT FROM WIKIPEDIA: Adam Curle (born July 4, 1916, died 28 September 2006) was a British academic and Quaker peace activist ... In 1973 was chosen as the first professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, England. He helped set up the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights, an NGO based in Osijek, Croatia during the Croatian War of 1991-1995. He did much to establish peace studies as an academic discipline. In 2000 he was the recipient of the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award. 

 David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Remembering Tom Fox, Facing Death in Faith

Dear Charletta,

Responsing to your invitation about why we do this work... for me it gives tremendous satisfaction to provide some degree of safety and support to those who might otherwise feel completely isolated and powerless.  


I was with NP for three years in Sri Lanka.   My work with there was profound.  My job, for the most part, was to support our teams in the field... helping these international, intercultural
peace teams provide protection and inspiration to whole communities who live in
culture of fear and anxiety was an immensely moving experience.  To help young teenagers find safe places
where they would NOT have to become part of the war machine was hugely
gratifying.  Working with mothers to
help get their children released (when we were successful) made for a very good
day.  Helping local people – principals,
priests, fisher folk, monks, mayors, teachers, activists, civil society leaders
– and sometimes even police and military personnel, who had a vision of how to
“increase the peace” to manifest their vision was deeply satisfying.  Using the protection that often comes from
simply being outsiders, as well as the skills and techniques of: presence;
dialogue; listening; networking; facilitation; networking; and monitoring
(among others) to help increase the space in which people could find
alternative methods to work through their difficulties was such a gift.  What a tremendous blessing to be able to
really make a difference just by one’s presence. 

 Some of this motivation came from my own experience as a child when the police were called to intervene in my family... and having the feeling that there MUST be a better way... other than using force to change a destructive situation.  

Plus I love being a part of the movent to provide new models for how we, as a species, confront violence.  

Thanks for asking.

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Reflections on Unarmed Accompaniment


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, alias Mahatma Gandhi, tells us:                                       "If the method of violence takes plenty of training, the method of Nonviolence takes even more training"        

The "Triad of Active Peace" - peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding (courtesy of John Wilmering), is a slow iterative process that requires significant follow-ups and support after the initial set of "activities".

Unlike "the dialogue-based approaches of peacemaking and peacebuilding" (Anthony's post: Dissasociative), unarmed accompaniment as a peacekeeping method...though parochial it may seem...is a a very fulfilling act and tatic. It has a sudden major impact!

The successful completion  of an unarmed accompaniment "contract" brings great satisfaction to both the accompanier and the accompanee. To the accompanier, it is a relief of joy and satisfaction to do a "concrete good" in the midst of peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peacekeeping work, the impact of which, is often slow and less clear. To the accompanee, it is the end of a hazardous journey and the the beginning of life in safety.

Specifically, I am alluding to unarmed accompaniment provided to at-risk individuals and/or families such as, Human Rights Defenders, "surrendees" and/or 'escapees", etc..., from an unsafe environment to a safe place.

 A christian religious leader Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) successfully accompanied had this to say: "Thank you for lighting my world with your presence (accompaniment). With NP, even the dark shadows of doubt and death disappear".

On the contrary, community accompaniment --in addition to the challenges mentioned in Nils Dybvig's post: CPT's use of the community accompaniment model -- requires hundreds of acts, often mundane, to create. It is painstakingly slow work. It is incremental..clearly visible impacts are often slow to emerge, and subtle. It is a process that requires sustained efforts to document the effects of the work, usually, a building of slow effects.

I quite agree with Anthony that, community accompaniment, "if carried out effectively and for long enough, eventually allows enough safety and political space the actors in conflict to develop peacemaking and peacebuilding type initiatives". My point: it is a process that takes "long'" time to mature and show impact.

These are the sober reflections on the ground experiences of one Nonviolent Peaceforce "practitioner" in Sri Lanka. Thank you all for your enriching and thoughtful exchanges...

Magda van der Ende tells us:                                                                                                            "A tiny pebble can cause endless circles in water, and have a continuing impact on the water"  ...indeed, soft whispers of hope and encouragement!

Unarmed Accompaniment is not a fairy tale...it is salutary experience!

Kingsley Ayettey

Field Team Member

Nonviolent Peaceforce Sri Lanka

Women are not only victims, but agents!

Thanks Michele and Nancy for sharing your views and experiences on the topic of violence against women in conflict situations. There are lot of reflections we could share about that ... but I'd rather focus on highlighting, for the purpose of this discussion, that women are not always or not only victims (as the stereotype portraits "women and children" as the "most vulnerable" victims of war). Women are also and mainly active and positive AGENTS, during and after conflict, and they perform key roles in community reconstruction, rebuilding of the social fabric, bridging accross divides, etc., with incredible resilience, strength and generosity. The problem is that those contributions are rarely given attention by mainstream (male) political actors when negotiating peace agreements, discussing security issues, setting reconstruction programs, delivering humanitarian aid in refugee or displaced camps, designing health/economic/educational programs... etc.

Coming back to the specific topic of this forum, I'm sure we all have experienced that, when we are in a conflict setting, and we as international observers go into a community to discuss the situation there, to identify the needs and threats, and the resources people have: who do we talk with? Who are the leaders that approach us to tell us what's going on and what they want from us? The leaders we discuss with, negotiate, agree, support, etc. are almost always MEN. That is usually what local culture states in the communities we accompany, and of course we want to be respectful of that culture... The risk is that in doing so, without awareness and provisions to reach out to the women, in fact women's needs and interests, views and analysis, particular situation, and specific, unique contributions often go unknown, unheard, and not paid attention to... And we all miss the opportunity to include their knowledge, experiences and amazing contributions in the design and implementation of our accompaniment/peacekeeping/peacebuilding programs...

In that sense, I'd reply David that it is not only a matter of paying attention to include diversity (in terms of gender and other aspects) in the composition and performance of our teams... (although it's an important first step, certainly). It has to do more with putting on a special lens (in this case, gender lens, but also class, race, ethnic, cultural lens as well) to see through that lens all the aspects of our work and of the reality we work with/in (particularly, the power dynamics, and how they determine the access to and control over information, resources, etc. within the community or the organisation), and to act accordingly...

Indeed, we are very happy that PBI, like WPP/IFOR, is currently going through a process of recognizing the importance of mainstreaming gender and diversity at all levels of the accompaniment and civilian-based peace work... and we look forward to deepening our exchange and collaboration with them in the process of our pilot project.

It would certainly be great if you CPTs are also interested and willing to exchange on these issues, departing from each one's practices and experiences (especially in such challenging context like Colombia)!

Maria M. Delgado

Women are not only victims, but agents!

Indeed, some of our most powerful work in Sri Lanka was with female members of our peace team, working with female organizers and activists from Sri Lanka, working with women who were ready to give voice to their experience, the grievance, their suffering, and their vision.  

Sometimes too - women peace team members have a more powerful impact on combatents... I remember one time in Bethleham with another (female) colleague, when their was an escalating argument going on in the street, and my colleague felt clear that her intervention (in this case, simple observation and presence) would have more impact than I (being male).  Another reason is that many women who have been victimized would prefer to speak to another woman...  so having a multi-gender team often increases our acceptance and accessability in the community.  

So having a strong presence of women on our peace teams, and in positions of leadership, to help guide and inform our work is essential.    

On a related subject - one of our questions in Sri Lanka was whether or not the race and nationality would be a critical aspect in our capacity to reduce and deter violence...  and at least in that context, it seemed clear that the effectiveness of our peace team members had more to do with our staff being outsiders than from where they came...   This was a positive affirmation of having multicultural, multi national teams... which also helped debunk attempts to generalize about our teams (i.e., one couldn't say -- all you "westerners" or all you "christians" as it was so apparent that the descriptor was inaccurate).  

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Armed and unarmed (one works for hugs, the other...)

Dear Charletta,

Glad you resonated to a bit of what I posted.

I often have led workshops where I ask people to state what is needed to run an armed military and what is needed to run an unarmed peace force. The lists match almost completely. The only major exception is "willing to kill" versus "not willing to kill". We need to remember that the highest ideals of people in the military are no different than our own: love and protection of others, of land, of creation.

David Grant, Strategic Relations Director

Nonviolent Peaceforce - Washington DC office

Thank you for shaing this

Thank you for shaing this book reference. Please do let us know what
your follow-up with the communities reveals so we can share those new
ideas and strategies with others. I have no doubt that women have found
some tremendously creative strategies. As Maria wrote in her post, "Women are not only victims, but agents!" women are resilient, resourceful, strong and determined actors.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager



Dear all,

i work with Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka since few weeks and i read with pleasure all your comments in this interesting discussion. As this is the last day i would like share with you a small comment about my vision of unarmed accompaniment.

My contribution is referring not so much to the political side of this tool, that is very important obviously, but more to the “human inner side” of this, or i should say is referring to the inner source of Nonviolence, that is also important for me in the unarmed accompaniment, at least the one that NP wants to realize. Gandhi said in his autobiography that a Satyagrahai has to believe that God stay inside the hearts of everyone and a man live freely only when is ready to die, if necessary, by hand of  his brother but never to kill him. What i am speaking about is the concept of Trust, the fact that every peace worker has to start with her/his inner source for peace, believing that this beauty source is inside everyone. This is the base for me for Nonviolence, the base for transformation of conflicts and so also for proactive presence and unarmed accompaniment.

As Ramu Manivannan said Nonviolence is both universal and specific. Peace and harmony as tendencies have a more pervasive, stable and universal foundation in the social psychology of human beings and operate as pre-requisites of any process of institutionalization of the structure of society.Thanks to give me the possibility to share with you this toughts and stay well.Maurizio Geri

Role play as a tool for both training and recruitment


There’s already
been some important discussion about methods of training for unarmed
accompaniment. I’d like to throw in the idea of role plays. I’m sure many organizations
represented here are using role plays in trainings. I trained with CPT nearly 4
years ago and the experience of the role plays sticks in my head the most. We
used role plays to explore some high tension scenarios in which CPTers have
found themselves over the years.

experiential aspect of these exercises is critical in training our bodies to
respond nonviolently in situations of conflict. Many of us have probably seen
the videos of US civil rights activists using role plays to train each other
for sit-ins in the 50’s. What are others’ experiences with role plays as a tool
for training?

I've also experimented
with role plays in outreach. I presented on Colombia after returning from a
stint with the team a few years ago. Along with the standard photos and a talk,
I occasionally invited audience members to participate in a role play. The scenario
was drawn from our accompaniment work when an illegal armed group demanded food
from a community member I the presence of CPTers. The role play provoked quite
a bit of good discussion in the audience. It also appeared to have lasting impact
on some participants. A few months ago, I received an email from a friend who
participated in one of these role plays more than two years ago. She commented
on the impact of the role play:

“…It was a very powerful experience when you
asked us to act out a situation. What remains with me is the feelings. And the
recognition that with proper training, I might be able to help, and also how
significant it is for us to use our 'power'… to protect rather than dominate.”

As I
prepare to return to the US
next month, I’m looking forward to trying out role plays again in
presentations. What other creative recruitment tools have folks found useful in
their outreach or recruitment?

Tim Nafziger
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Role play as a tool for both training and recruitment

Tim -

I just want to echo the value of Role Plays and simulations.  We find that such methods are the most effective way to make the training "real." At some of our Core Training we have begun simulations with the traineess at 3am or 5am - and had simulations last full days or even more than one day.    

During a Training of Trainers, held in Chaing Mai, Thailand, we enlised many "actors" from the local community and held our simulation across rather wide distances, and used trucks and motorcycles and uniforms and (toy) guns - complete with checkpoints.  It helped our future trainers better understand both what life in field was like, and also more grounding in what the trainees were going to be facing.  



Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

How do people access or come to provide accompaniment?

It would be helpful for those you in organization that provide accompaniment to give insights into the processes you take for determining what people and/or communities that request accompaniment are actually provided with accompaniment.

Are there certain elements that accompaniment organizations look for to be in place before deciding to provide that accompaniment? Is so, what elements seem to provide the best match?

Are there also certain characteristics that accompaniment organizations are seeking in the people who request to serve in the capacity of accompaniment?

Thank you for sharing your insights in this area.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

How do people access or come to provide accompaniment?

Here are some notes/guidelines that we have used when thinking about
accompaniment that reflects some of our processes and planning.  Some of these answer parts of the question you are posing....    No doubt a few of our teams will
likely have updated and/or revised these guidelines, depending on the
country and the dynamics in for a particular team or a particular

Paz,   Jan

On making the agreement
    *    Communicate
with your team and the head office before agreeing to an accompaniment.
*    Either we -- or a trusted partner/neighbor in the
community -- need(s) to already have a relationship with the family or
individual requesting accompaniment (hereafter on referred to as
*    Ask ourselves whether there are any other agencies
that could be doing the job being asked of us.
*    Let client know of our confidentiality policy --
no identifying information goes outside of NP unless we get permission
of the
*    Talk about the situation long enough to get a
sense that we can meet the client's needs.
*    Talk about what will happen at the other end of
the journey -- i.e. introducing a client to their next “host” (if

    *    Have an exit strategy.  Be
clear (with each other on the team as well as with our client) before
we begin,
where our responsibilities end.  Is protection needed for family
on the return trip?  Where is a safe place to separate?
*    Confirm that our clients have given up violence
and that nonviolence is expected to be upheld throughout the time that
we are
supporting them.
*    After developing the plan, talk about how if the
circumstances change, we may have to begin again with a whole new
agreement -
even with a decision about whether or not to continue.
*    If our plan requires participation of partners,
don't finalize the agreement until checking with the partners.
*    Remember to inform key partners (if any) who need
to be informed about what we're doing  (after checking with the client
be sure it is okay with them to give information).
*    At least two team members should
always be present through any part of the accompaniment, but these may
always need to be the same two.

Preparation for the journey
*    Keep in mind potential emotional needs of our
client from the time we first meet throughout the duration of the time
we are
providing support.
*    See that the family has taken into consideration
security needs of the client until the journey begins - where is a safe
for them to stay, where to meet and how to begin the journey, etc.
*    Keep in mind potential sensitivities and concerns
about being seen with foreigners when going and coming.

    *    It may be a good protocol not
to begin the journey at the NP office.
*    When deciding how many team members are needed,
more is better than less for making good decisions but we also need to
into account other needs/demands on the team and whether it is an
adequate use
of team resources.
*    Consider carefully who to use for a driver. 

    *    Bring food, water, and
satellite phone.  It may be best not to stop until out of a particular

    *    Decide route attempting to
minimize checkpoints and consider what you will say if asked at
checkpoints if
the client doesn't have an ID.

    *    Need a better way to communicate securely with
head office and each other. 
*    Consider what kind of information to share and
what not and to whom.  Ask what the client wants and also provide
information on a "need - to - know" basis.
*    When communicating with outside agencies like the UN,
we need to ask our client if it's okay to pass this information on.

*    Take direction from the people we are serving -
the person being accompanied and their family members.  Listen to their
wishes and will.
*    Withhold giving our own opinions or advice. 
When asked, turn it back to the client by saying something like: What
do you
think? What are your ideas? 
*    Our agenda is to support our clients in their
*    For decisions within the team, always
designate one team member to be the decision - maker when a decision
needs to
be made quickly. 
*    For team decisions, strive for consensus. 
Second possibility is to call head office in case of tension or
confusion - if
there's time.  Otherwise the designated
decision - maker must make the decision.
*    Generally, decisions should be made as local to
the implementation as possible - the team implementing the
accompaniment with
their clients.
*    Especially when discussing decisions about safety,
the clients need to be included in those discussions and decisions.

NP support for NP field teams with regard to accompaniment
    *    Identify designated drivers who might be on
call if a field team doesn't have one.
*    Do some role-plays around accompaniment at an
upcoming training/team meeting.
*    Create a checklist for what to bring on an
accompaniment journey.
*    At this point, no specifics about any
accompaniments should go out in any reports, talks, or articles outside
of NP
beyond a statement that we have provided accompaniments to some people
who have
felt in danger.
*    We might be able to share lessons learned provided
the way we talk about these doesn't reveal any specifics about any of
*    Guidance is needed on how to use interpreters
specifically for accompaniments.  Keep in mind implications of using
interpreters in terms of many of the points made above.

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Providing accompaniment

Thanks for sharing this information with us Jan.

This information seems to pertain primarily to providing accompaniment for people needing to move from one location to another. Is this just one example of accompaniment performed by Nonviolent Peaceforce teams?

I'm thinking about the types of accompaniment outlined by Liam Mahony in his "Side by Side" tactical notebook. Some of the examples he provies are: "Accompaniment can take many forms. Some threatened activists receive
24-hour-aday accompaniment. For others the presence is more sporadic.
Sometimes team members spend all day on the premises of an office of a
threatened organization.Sometimes they live in threatened rural
villages in conflict zones."

I would be very interested to know what areas of accompaniment PBI, Nonviolent Peaceforce, the Christian Peacemaker Teams and other organizations find themselves providing most often - or where they have decided they are most effective in their accompaniment.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Criteria for entering a country

Thank you, Jan, for a detailed description of some of the decision making done by NP.

CPT has three criteria for starting an accompaniment project:

1. We are invited by a local organization

2. There is the threat of lethal conflict

3. The U.S. or Canadian government play a role in the conflict

CPT has main offices in the U.S. and Canada and we work to change the policies in our own countries that are impacting violence worldwide. For example, the U.S. citizens on the Colombia Team also work to hold the U.S. government accountable for Plan Colombia and we have joined other U.S. peace activists to call for revisions of the Plan. Our positions on foreign policy in our home countries are very much informed by our first hand experience and by the wisdom of our Colombian partners.

As a North American based organization we know we do not have to leave our continent to find threats of lethal violence and communities needing accompaniment. We have projects in both the U.S. and Canada where we are accompanying indigenous communities and we provide accompaniment on the border with Mexico while working to change policies that threaten these communities.

Michele Braley, Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Christian Peacemaker Teams

Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Evaluation: When is our work done?


I've been thinking about the ideas
for evaluation shared by David
and Nancy
earlier this week, as well as Nancy's
about how to develop a community contract for accompaniment, and
thought I should write about our work towards a process.

When CPT was first invited to do
accompaniment work in Colombia
in 2001, we worked with one very threatened community, and our teams' focus was
on intensive physical accompaniment. In
those days the team didn't worry much about evaluation – people we knew were
being killed or threatened and forced to displace, and it was clear that our physical
presence reduced the risks to those communities. The level of conflict in that original
accompaniment area has reduced. Some
would credit our accompaniment, others would suggest that the political context
has changed, or armed groups have moved their focus somewhere else. So my first question is if anyone has ideas
for proving causation: of the many factors that may have resulted in reduced
violence, is there a way we can single out the effect of accompaniment?

Once the situation in the initial community
we accompanied here in Colombia
was calmer, we began reducing our presence there somewhat, allowing us to
expand our work to other communities.
We're now in the position of having to consider new requests for
accompaniment, and also to evaluate the need for accompaniment in communities
that we have been accompanying for a while.
One of the hardest questions we face is: when should we stop
accompanying a community?

We've had to start developing our own tools
to assess these questions. We have a
community profile that we're working to fill out with each community we
accompany, identifying the strengths of the community, the threats facing them,
and our best analysis as to the potential protective effects of accompaniment.
We're also developing some tools (workshops, interactive presentations) for
introducing CPT and accompaniment to communities, as well as for helping the communities
tell their story to us. The tools we're
creating are still in development, but I'd be happy to share some of what we've
done so far if others think it would be useful.

Nils Dybvig, Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Tools for community assessment


It would be great if you would share the kinds of tools that CPT is developing for community assessment - strengths, threats, analysis of the potential effects of accompaniment, ways to effectively introduce communities to the accompaniment process - all of that would be great to learn more about!

Evaluating impact in the field of human rights work is always a challenge. As David had indicated in his post Connecting this thread to EVALUATION that the absence of violence is a good indicator but it's still difficult to draw a direct cause and effect line.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

a story

hello everyone! its my first time posting to a discussion, ever so please excuse my awkwardness. i was a field volunteer for peace brigades international for 2 years (including language training) in Indonesia and now am on our training committe to train potential volunteers to join PBI.

i have been trying to catch up on all the past posts, and most comments leave me short of breath in excitement about this discussion happening. truthfully, though, i would much rather sit around a kitchen table and chat about this with all of you and a pot of tea.

anyway, i wanted to tell a little story of my time as a field volunteer in Wamena, West Papua, Indonesia. we were the first non-religious forgienrs to establish a long term presensce in this town of Wamena and were trying to socialize the work of PBI. it seemed that people were actually so afraid that they were rarely even doing HR work - only a very very few were willing to risk it. so we were going from village to village over the course of a few months to 'socialize' the work of PBI - in case there were any people wanting to do HR work out there but too afraid to step forward, and in these villages the only way folks would have heard of us is if someone walked there and told them.

so, we took a bus and a walk and presented the work of PBI in a small village, a bit unsure of exactly who was in the audience but sure that there were village elders, young people and police informants. no problem, PBI always works transparently so we had no secrets to keep. after shaking many hands and thanking folks for letting us present we headed back to town.

the next morning, at 7:30 am a loud knock rang out from our front door. now, most people in Wamena know that the 'bule' (foreigners) sleep late - we open the office at 9am. but a teammate answered in his pajyamas to find a man from the village we presented in yesterday at the door. he roused the rest of us and we met in the living room.

this man was a village elder (he had 12 pigs, and was therefore also very weathy) and had been up by the fire all night after our presentation and finally decided to walk to our house at about 3am, and had just arrived from walking. he had brought along a young man to translate becuase he only spoke the local dialect, not Indonesian which is the language we were speaking.

he said "my children. i have come to tell you of my suffering and thank you for being here. i cannot tell you all the things i have endured but it is so important that you are here, that you care about our safety. i feel safer today in my village knowing you are here" (im quoting from memory here)

its a simple story, really. but this was a village that had endured great suffering at the hands of the military and police in the past generations. this man knew to be afraid, and the presence of a PBI house a 4-5 hour walk away made him feel more safe.

this is one of the reasons PBI tries to maintain a long term presence in an area, doing a long assessment before opening an office or house to ensure that we will have a positive effect on opening up space for peace.

wow! that was a long post, and i hope you all dont mind. i have lots more to say about the work of PBI and the power of nonviolence, so thank you for opening the discussion and sharing so much knowledge





A story


 This is a powerful story indeed.  It is stories like these that reaffirm why it is that we do what we do.   It certainly wasn't too long, and I hope you continue to share with the remaining time of this discussion... and I agree, it would be nicer to be sitting around sharing this over a cup of tea...  

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

A Story


I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am that you took "the leap" to make your first post on in our New Tactics discussion. Your story is indeed a powerful reminder of what we do in this work - it's all about people, building and fostering human relationships that overcome fear, oppression, hatred and violence; even if those moments are so fleeting. your story is a wonderful reminer and gives us hope and determination to continue.

Even though this discussion will be "archived" it will remain open for people to continue to add ideas, comments and new developments. So if you and others have joined the discussion by e-mail or RSS feed; you'll get the updated comment no matter when it is posted.

I'm so glad that you've found the discussion exciting and useful.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Re: a story - keep the dialogue going!

Hi Sarah,

 Welcome to our online discussion, and thank you for the uplifting story. I'm so glad that you find this discussion interesting, and hopefully useful to your work. 

I agree that chatting over tea would be ideal, but this is the best forum we could come up with at the moment since we are participating from all over the world. 

I would encourage you, and anyone else interested, to form your own networks from this discussion.  Because you are a member of the New Tactics Community, you are able to contact any other member of this commuity by viewing their profile and clicking 'contact'.

Skype is always a great way to communicate with others via the internet in real-time...and it's free!

Or you could create a group on this New Tactics website for those interested in further discussing the topic of 'Unarmed Accompaniment'.

Please feel free to contact me directly if any of these interest you and you need some help getting it started - kantin@cvt.org.

Thank you for your participation!

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Providing accompaniment

Nancy -

yes I should have mentioned this is just one type of accompaniment model and guidelines for such a model.  NP Sri Lanka has both similar and different methods than NP-Guatemala or NP-Philippines.  I suspect that each NGO may provide different types, both in the same country and between country projects...   24/7 accompaniment is a whole different situation, as it accompaniment, or presence in a community.  I would welcome more stories from others about experiences, successes, lessons learned from other accompaniment models.   

Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

Colombians accompanying Colombians

I wonder if we are one of a few (maybe the only?) accompaniment organizations that includes people from in country as accompaniers.  Our team in Colombia includes Colombians, US citizens and Canadians.

 I am thankful to work along side Colombian team mates and because of Sandra and Julián our current team is richer in language ability, cultural competency and historical and political knowledge.

Recognizing the security benefits (for our partners and for ourselves) of having  "outsiders" provide accompaniment, we have decided that we will not send a team of two Colombians on an accompaniment. We also believe that there are too many risks and potential conflicts of interest to provide accompaniment by people from a community we are accompanying. For that reason, we do not recruit from within the communities where we live and work. 

 Michele Braley, Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Colombians accompanying Colombians

Michele, thanks for sharing this important operationalization of how CPT works in Colombia.

I wanted to just clarify then when you say, "we will not send a team of two Colombians on an accompaniment" and "we do not recruit from within the communities where we live and work".

Does this mean that when you provide accompaniment, you always have at least one foreign and one local person providing that accompaniment AND that the local person who is providing that accompaniment does not come from that immediate community but from some other community in their home country?

Am I understanding that correctly? If so, how do are Colombian teammates join CPT and is there a kind of "distance" rule that applies. For example, do they need to live a certain number of kilometers away from the community they are protecting? Do they find themselves and their own families at risk because of the accompaniment work they are doing with CPT?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

criteria to include Colombians in Colombian accompaniment

 Thanks for your clarifying questions, Nancy, in regard to Colombians accomapanying Colombians. I  knew my short post might raise more questions than it answered! 

 Members of the Colombia Team might answer your questions differently because our team continues to struggle with these questions. In including Colombians on our team yet limiting the ways in which they can provide accompaniment our team has to face direclty the racist assumptions and privileged positions behind international accompaniment.  I will try to sum up our recent thinking on these issues acknowledging that these are my interpretations and that we do not have firm policies on these tricky topics.

 We always accompany in teams of two. The accompaniment team can be made up of two internationals, or one Colombian and one international, but two Colombians never accompany together.  This raises the uncomfortable question of how many Colombians on our team would be "too many" and would limit our ability to do accompaniment work if two Colombians do not accompany together.

 When we say Colombians can not come from the communities we accompany this also raises a gray area.  We do not set a geographically boundary on this because that is too strict of an interpretation of who is a member of a communinity. For example, if a Colombian had roots in another part of the country and had recently transplanted to the area for work, we might decide, in consultation with our Colombian advisors, that they do not pose a particular security risk to us or our partners.  On the other hand, a Colombian might have lived their entire life in another part of the country but one of their relatives is a high profile leader where we work and that is how they learned about CPT and we might decide they are not a good fit for the team. So, its complicated, and we have to review each application individually and with advice from our Colombian advisors.  To recruit new Colombian CPTers we generally reach out to our networks of trusted partners outside of Barrancabermeja.

In the 5 years the team has included Colombians, I do not know of any threats or risks to the Colombians that are different than those faced by the non-Colombians.

Michele Braley, Christian Peacemaker Teams - Barrancabermeja, Colombia

some local input from Bolivia

Dear participants,

Please receive best wishes and a few humble
contributions from Bolivia. I'm sorry to have stepped in so late in
this interesting debate but I'm glad to still be in time. Acción
Andina, the Bolivian organisation that I work with for 14 years, is one
of the 80 Nonviolent Peaceforce's Member Organisations. This platform
organisation was created in 1992 and at the time one of its main
reasons of being was the accompaniment of coca growing communities and
other  victims of the War on Drugs (imprisoned families, for
example). In later years we broadened our focus. Today, one of our main
focal points is the articulation and strenghtening of local capacities
in dealing with a growing tendency to use violence not only
structurally (in daily life) but also tactically during political

After reading most of the posted blogs, I wish to share
some thoughts from our experiences. My first comment is the need, in
any international debate, to recognize and emphasize  the
existence of local peace-keeping capacities. Although I'm sure
that  members of international organisations working in the field
of unarmed civilian accompaniment usually agree on the prevailing
importance of local peace work, I also feel that this local work is
often being visualized as mostly related to "peacemaking" and 
"peacebuilding", and less so to "peacekeeping". I have not seen much
mention of and reflection on local experiences of protective
accompaniment, and I'm sure that, as in Bolivia, there must be many in
other countries as well. Please tell me if my perception is wrong.

do understand that international civilian involvement often focuses on
those regions where that kind of presence is dearly needed. I think
though, that the developing international debate on the Bolivian
situation clearly shows how underestimating the role of local civil
society might dangerously result in the prevailence of proposals of
international support or intervention. In the Boliviansituatiion, what
I see as most needed on the other hand, is to support initiatives that
could help better articulate our local endeavours.

although related to my first point, the wish to clearly distinguish
Peacekeeping from Peacemaking and Peacebuilding, becomes even more
challenging if we focus on these local initiatives. In fifteen years of
accompaniment, Acción Andina's activities have necessarily involved all
these, and the question of where to put the focus in each situation
heavily depended on our analysis of needs and processes. This surely
depends on choice, and I do not wish to propose changes in the choices
of our international involvement, but within Nonviolent Peaceforce, it
does pose a pending challenge in terms of how to articulate the
international work with the local activities (up to what extent it is
possible to show ourselves as really being non-partisan?).

our relations to the military. Although  I agree with David that
"they" are not "our" enemies and I read Charletta's reflections about
herself and her sister with great interest (my father is a retired
military officer and although it took us several years, we've luckily
managed to become very close again), I think that in thinking about and
considering mainstreaming, "we", interested in the use of  unarmed
civilian protective presence, have to prioritize improving our own
language (the meaning of concepts to us and the communities that we
work with) in stead of just making ourselves more understandable in
"internationally accepted"  terms. This in not unimportant, but
should only be a part of our efforts to creatively reinvent the
international public space of protective accompaniment, in close
connection to what is important to the peace work of the local
communities that we work with. I very much appreciate some of Liam's
contributions that I've read, and would like us to somehow systematize
our collective wisdom on this, and dig deeper from there.

As a
quick comment on Betsy's mention of situations in which it is most
difficult to identify the source of violence. In Bolivia, we are facing
a situation in which powerful elite groups lead the forces that oppose
the threat of structural changes that are supported by strongly
organized popular sectors, deeply connected to the  indigenous
majority. A racist element has become present in many public
manifestations of political violence. Attacks are often secretly
planned by small groups and  have thus become less predictable.
Also, the popular social movements face the fact that "their"
instruments of nonviolent struggle for justice (hunger strikes,
marches, etc.) are being tactically used by opposition, They understand
that they need new approaches. It is interesting to see how older
leadership styles, often pretty much based on male dominance, are more
liable to choose violent means to oppose violence, while it is often
the women that successfully introduce nonviolent approaches. This is an
ongoing debate of great importance, and it clearly shows how men and
women not only experience violence differently, but also act
differently on violence.

OK, I'm sorry if this has become a rather long contribution. Best wishes from Cochabamba, Boiivia.




Local input from Bolivia


I'm so glad that you jumped into the discussion. It's never too late to post a comment, idea or question!

You raise critical points for exploration. I'm sure you are right, there are many local groups providing accompaniment and it would be great to have much more input, reflections and feedback from those groups and people involved in that work.

One obstacle that may be in the way of people entering this discussion to share might be the very technology tools we're using to come together. Like so many of the world's resources, this tool may not be as accessible to those groups and people - due to access to computers; internet connectivity; but also in terms of language.

Our New Tactics website has multi-language capability and we're working to develop that capacity. We are grateful and very dependent upon volunteers who help us to translate materials and as we develop the website as well. We acknowledge we have a long way to go and hope that everyone in the community will help us to do so. We welcome your feedback and ideas.

But back to one of your key points - "how men and
women not only experience violence differently, but also act
differently on violence" that can open up tactical possibilities. It's great that your organization is seeing the creativity of women and how critical their participation is for opening up new avenues and options.

A critical aspect of developing a wide range of tactics and understanding how tactical flexibility is necessary so we can not only respond to those who have adopted our tactics but we can initiate tactics for our ever changing conditions. It is our goal that we can share experiences in these tactical discussions that will spark new tactical innovations. Thanks for adding your spark!

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Continuing discussion on Unarmed Accompaniment

Dear Friends,

I want to let everyone know that even though our designated time period for our featured resouce people for this discussion has concluded, we can still continue these wonderful in-depth exchanges that have been taking place.

As Kristin indicated in her post "Re: a story - keep the dialogue going!" you can continue this discussion or even create a group on this New Tactics website for those especially interested in further discussing the topic of 'Unarmed Accompaniment'.

The New Tactics staff is ready to provide assistance and we welcome your feedback and want to respond to your needs to make this website useful to you!

Continuing discussion on Unarmed Accompaniment

Dear colleagues,

It was really inspiring to partcipate in this global dialog on unarmed accompaniment. I was really excited to have the cross learning between PBI, CPT, NP and others... and there was no polluting airplane tickets to purchase, nor was there any expensive hotel and conference fees.

Having the voices of those in the field, those behind desks, those who are new, those who are activists, and those who are simply curious - all welcomed into this discussion.

I am glad for New Tactics for hosting, and for everyone who has shared in this rather new convrstaion enviroment.



Passion -- Programme Officer, Nonviolent Peaceforce

women dealing with violence

Cochabamba, January 31, 2008

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for
responding to and welcoming my earlier contribution from Bolivia.
I'm thankful too for the possibility to continue this multi-logue (it is
really much more than a dialogue).

Nancy, you mentioned your
interest in deepening our reflections on the specific strengthes of
women's contributions to dealing with violence. The Bolivian
sociologist Silvia Rivera recently wrote an article called: "Violence
and interculturality" (the complete article in Spanish: Violencia e
interculturalidad", is available on the internet).

In her article Rivera describes how indigenous women in the
Andes have always played a central role in defining the relations of
their communities with "external and unknown forces" (the violent
domination of Spanish colonizers among them). She refers to the term
"ritualists of the margins", used by the anthropologist Joseph
Bastien: "men have specialized in the rites that take place in the
civilized center of the community, whereas women have specialized in
the rites of the margins: at the riverside or in the altitudes where
the animals are pastured, (which is to say) in the border areas between
culture and nature, where the community enters in contactwith external
and unknown forces. This is where women -like in their weavings and
songs- domesticate the savage".

I find this comparison of
the art of building human relations across cultural differences with
the creation of weavings and songs particularly powerful. In the
conclusion of her article, Rivera writes: "To me, describing ethnics as
a (geographic) map is a male lecture, whereas ethnics from a female
point of view could easily be compared to a weaving, because of its
intercultural nature. In their weavings, the women incorporate elements
of "the other" (the unknown), in order to domesticate, to soften them,
and this is a female act by excellence."

I 'm very interested in hearing what you and other participants think of this interpretation.

Warm greetings,


weavings and songs - domesticate the savage

Hi Theo,

You shared these concepts so beautifully that it evokes such strong images for me in my minds eye.

Your account reminds me of a meeting we had here at the Center for Victims of Torture a number of years ago with Professor Elizabeth Lira, a psychologist and researcher in the Center of Ethics at Universidad Jesuita Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile. She was sharing that especially during the early years of the Pinochet rule the men were paralized by the abrupt and brutal changes. But because women had always operated on the fringes, although they were afraid, this did not stop them from seeking their husbands, brothers, children. They had always needed to find the spaces between.

Your image of the women weaving brought back this conversation we had with Elizabeth. Women have always operated under a wide variety of limiting and to different degress of oppressive systems (at home, in the community, and nationally). They have always had to be creative in their tactics.

Thank you for sharing these reflections - where can the article you cited be found?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

on Unarmed accompainments in Africa

Dear all,

 I must say this is the most interesting piece of all the tactical notebooks that I have been reading. I apologize for coming on this later but before I add my two cents to the ongoing discussion please allow me to briefly introduce myself.

My name is Mohammed Ademo alias Damee (preferred family name). Originally from the country that today we know as Ethiopia, an ethnic Oromo. I am an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota and a volunteer intern with New Tactics Project.

I took greater interest on this subject because my experience suggests lack of access/information about the presence of such humanitarian work. And also a desperate need for such non-violent intervention there is.

Five years ago I when I was still a college student in Ethiopia, my colleagues and I protested on the streets of Addis Ababa. For a simple non-violent act as asking to meet with regional government administrators to discuss the issues that we had as Oromo students some 300 of us were rounded up and taken to a police barracked. No one knew what happened to us, nor did we know whom to contact or how. Not for its historic significance but for our unjust treatment, that incident became history unnoticed by all including the human rights community. Had I known about this at that time, at least the word would have gotten out to the media or human rights groups such as this one.

On a similar raid in may 2004 prominent leaders of the Oromo self-help association called Macha-Tulema were rounded up, their office was shutdown, non-profit license revoked and 40 years of documents/records were confiscated. This is widely reported by almost all human rights group and the Ethiopian government admitted the incident alleging the organization link to Oromo Liberation Front – an unlawful (according to Ethiopian government) guerilla organization that fights to enable Oromo people (40 million of Ethiopian population) masters of their destiny.

These respected leaders spent over 3 years in highly guarded federal prison with no founded charges against them besides trumped up charges of assumed links with OLF. If they had unarmed accompaniment the government wouldn’t deny confiscating the associations properties, their fate wouldn’t remain unbeknownst to the world etc. These are just two examples of every day trials of the Oromo people. Oromo students in higher education are very vulnerable to similar abuses, two of my former classmates dying in federal police only this year.

Due to the widespread nature of the threat and with almost anyone who spoke up against the government policies/practices being a suspect and then being at a greater risk of imprisonment and torture, I would like to know how unarmed accompaniment on volunteer basis can be sustained in places like Ethiopia.

And also where the regime is known for intentionally murdering civilians and blaming the opposition for it, what would be the guarantees for the security/safety of the volunteers?

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and inspired by the work eachone of you are engaged in.

"I regard myself as a soldier, though a soldier of peace" Mahatma Gandhi

Freedom for all Oppressed Nations!! 


Topic locked