Posts Tagged ‘PBI’

We start 2021 with a long-read about Non-violence and PBI

January 4, 2021


A new year for this blog should start with a bit of transparency: in 2020 there were 35.147 views by 19.777 visitors, which is an increase of approximately 15 % on 2019. Not too bad for a niche blog I think. A theme that does not get enough attention is in my view the principled non-violence of many human rights defenders as illustrated in “Non-violence is always the best choice” by Carl Kline in Brookinsgregister of 29 December 2020:

The year 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Peace Brigades International. Founded in 1981 at Grindstone Island in Ontario, Canada, PBI has practiced nonviolent accompaniment in numerous countries around the world.

The idea of peace brigades originated with Mahatma Gandhi, concerned about violence in India between various religious factions. Teams of unarmed volunteers would go into conflict situations as nonviolent, non-partisan actors, making contact with all groups to the dispute and helping mediate and resolve the conflict. If necessary, the volunteers were prepared to put their bodies in harm’s way to mitigate or stop the violence.

As the idea of PBI spread in the early ’80s, volunteers stepped forward, the depth of experience increased, more rigorous training developed for those in the field, and an international organization emerged with working groups in 12 countries. In 2020, projects were ongoing in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico and Nepal.

PBI does not enter any conflict situation unless invited by a human rights organization in the host country. Volunteers spend their initial time in the country identifying their presence to all sides of the conflict and to government officials. They wear identifying clothing. They have an international network of others willing to respond at a moment’s notice with telegrams, email or letters to appropriate persons, letting them know the whole world is watching.

Their primary purpose is accompanying those human rights workers who are under threat of death. A volunteer is with them 24 hours a day. Oftentimes family members are accompanied as well, to school, to market, wherever they happen to go.

Having done this work for 40 years, PBI has compiled solid experiential evidence that nonviolent, non-partisan accompaniment works and violent conflicts can be lessened and sometimes resolved by the intervention of international nonviolent agents. In 40 years of accompaniment, none of the accompanied, or those who accompanied them, have been lost to violence. Many of the human rights defenders in the various countries have attributed their survival to PBI.

The Nonviolent Peaceforce had its beginnings in 2002 with a founding conference in India with representatives from 49 countries present. They began their first project in Sri Lanka in 2003. Today they are active in Iraq, the Phillipines, Myanmar and South Sudan.

Their mission statement reads: “Nonviolent Peaceforce is a global civilian protection agency based in humanitarian and international human rights law. Our mission is to protect civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies, build peace side by side with local communities, and advocate for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity. We are guided by principles of nonviolence, nonpartisanship, primacy of local actors, and civilian-to-civilian action.”

Both organizations, similar at their core, have matured to the point where they have reputations worldwide, especially among those served. They have enough history and experience they are here to stay.

On a more local level, there is a long history of conflict resolution programs in the public schools. Creative Conflict Resolution  began in New York state in 1972, started by a group of Quakers. At the time, it was called Children’s Creative Response to Conflict. As it grew and expanded its programs across the country, it came to Brookings in the early ‘90s and local volunteers established programs in schools across the state. After a training and installment of a peer mediation program in one South Dakota school, the principal lamented with a grin that he never saw problem cases in his office anymore. They all chose to go to mediation.

The spinoffs from these programs of conflict resolution, started early in the schools and homes, are many and long-lasting. It is clear that we can educate our way to a less violent culture, if only we make it as critical an educational mission as the three r’s.

As we begin a new year, it is clear we have choices. We don’t have to add to the war budget every year. It would be far more productive and encouraging to shift some of those funds to nonviolent alternatives, like PBI or the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Or why can’t we have conflict resolution programs in every school in the country.

This year, in 2021, we have a special opportunity to choose between violence and nonviolence. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is 50 years old. The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect on Jan. 22, 2021. 50 countries have now signed it. This treaty prohibits the use, development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possession, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, threatening to use, stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons. The U.S., along with other nuclear nations, will have a choice: sign on or be a rogue nation.

Can we see the mounting evidence? From our homes and schools to the international community, there is a better way!

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/26/pbis-right-to-defend-a-new-multi-media-awareness-campaign/

https://brookingsregister.com/article/non-violence-is-always-the-best-choice

PBI’s ‘Right to Defend’ – a new multi-media awareness campaign

December 26, 2019

Putting Human Rights Defenders at the Centre

Throughout 2018, PBI ran a global campaign championing defenders for the Nobel Prize. The nomination was supported by over 4000 people and 200 organisations worldwide [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/further-plea-to-nobel-foundation-to-recognize-the-hrds-of-the-world/]. Then, it launched the campaign ‘Shoulder to Shoulder with Human Rights Defenders’, to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Now, it wants to go further to raise the profile of human rights defenders working in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. PBI UK are working closely with the filmmaker and photographer Manu Valcarce on ‘Right to Defend’, a multi-media, multi-platform communications and awareness campaign, celebrating those making universal human rights a reality. Their stories set an example of solidarity and humanity that needs to be heard: stories of extraordinary human rights defenders taking a stand against injustice: community leaders fighting to protect collective land rights against mining companies; women struggling for gender equality; human rights lawyers risking their own safety to defend the rights of activists.

PBI UK are working on a unique 60-minute documentary film, online platform, photographic exhibition, and social media campaign presenting the work of around 100 at-risk grassroots human rights defenders in Latin America, Africa and Asia on the frontline of the global fight for universal human rights. The first piece of the project was released on the 10th of December: Human Rights Day:

So far, approximately 100 stories of human rights defenders have been recorded across four countries (Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Nepal) alongside photographic material. You will be able to see the film at festivals in 2020, and the portraits will be debuted at an exhibition held at The Law Society in London, before touring worldwide. The online platform will enable PBI to further its impact as a global entity across 21 countries for campaigning, advocacy and awareness-raising to enhance the protection of human rights defenders.

https://peacebrigades.org.uk/news/2019-12-02/putting-hrds-centre

Six HRDs from Latin America on PBI’s European tour

November 18, 2019

Whilst the European Union continues to express concern for the increased impact of climate change on the planet, those defending their territories and the environment continue to be attacked for their activism across the world. This alarming trend is present in Latin America where the women defenders of land, territory and the environment are particularly vulnerable. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/06/environmental-human-rights-defenders-more-deadly-than-being-a-soldier-in-a-war-zone/] With this in mind, PBI will be accompanying five women and one man from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia to different parts of Europe in order to exchange experiences and perspectives about protection and self-protection from a holistic perspective. These defenders will share information about their own situation of risk, as well as the cases they are working on.

Protective accompaniment for land, water and human rights defenders badly needed

January 17, 2019

Photo: Peace Brigades International
Those who work to defend land, water, Indigenous, LGBTQI+ and human rights around the world face many dangers, including death- Photo: Peace Brigades International

Brent Patterson wrote on 16 January, 2019 a blog post: “Protective accompaniment supports land, water and human rights defenders”. It is a timely reminder of the work done by PBI:

According to Front Line Defenders, 2018 saw the highest number ever on record of human rights defenders killed [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/]. One way to support these defenders is through protective accompaniment (often popularly describes ed as the ‘human shiled’). According to NGO Peace Brigades International (PBI), “Protective accompaniment is a strategy pioneered by PBI for protecting human rights defenders and communities whose lives and work are threatened by political violence.” The strategy involves recruiting volunteers from around the world who want to help “defend the defender,” providing them with training, and then sending them into areas of conflict in a highly visible way to provide increased security and moral support to defenders.

Normally volunteers spend a minimum of one year in the field. “When the level of threat is high accompaniment is sometimes round the clock. In other situations volunteers stay with threatened communities or remain in the offices of organizations, and accompany threatened activists when they travel,” PBI notes. “Another form of accompaniment is regular phone calls to organizations to check on their safety.

These volunteers are backed by an international network that raises the profile of the defender and their struggle, provides analysis and international solidarity, and increases the stakes and risk of repercussions for potential attackers. “Accompaniment increases the perceived political costs of ordering an attack in front of international witnesses — witnesses whose organization is committed to making such attacks as costly as possible for those responsible,” PBI notes. The political costs can be amplified by garnering local, national and international media coverage, mobilizing embassies, governments and international bodies, challenging with facts the official rhetoric that a human rights situation is improving, and making risk-adverse investors aware they could lose money with controversial mega-projects. Hundreds of defenders have received protective accompaniment over the years.

Those accompanied by PBI have included activists from Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, community organizations, as well as LGBTQI+ activists, journalists, lawyers and relatives of the disappeared.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2019/01/protective-accompaniment-supports-land-water-and-human-rights-defenders

Side event 6 march 2017: Environmental Human Rights Defenders

March 3, 2017

The Permanent Mission of Spain, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Environment Program, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, the Universal Rights Group, ABColombia, CIDSE, Franciscans International, ISHR, Kolko, Oidhac, and PBI are organizing a side event during the UN Human Rights Council.

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: Responding to a Global Crisis

Monday 6 March 2017 12h30 – 14h30 Room XXVII, Palais des Nations (Simultaneous interpretation English-Spanish)

Panel discussion:

Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Member of the Board of Trustees, Universal Rights Group (URG)

Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

Amanda Kron, Legal Officer, UN Environment (UNEP)

Johana Rocha, Environmental and Human Rights Lawyer, Research Centre for Social Justice ‘Tierra Digna’ (Colombia)

Isela González Díaz, Alianza Sierra Madre (Mexico)

Objectives

• Raise the profile of the situation of environmental human rights defenders

• Move the international human rights community, especially members of the Human Rights Council, towards a greater understanding of that situation, and towards a greater determination to improve support for the work of EHRDs and protection of their rights.

• Launch new URG Policy Report, authored by Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, on the global situation of EHRDs.

• Present the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to policymakers and policy-influencers.

• Launch new online resource portal for EHRDs. The portal has been created by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, URG, Not One More (N1M) and Global Witness, following proposals made by EHRDs themselves during consultations in Europe and Asia. Its development was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain.

fFor some of my earlier posts on environmental defenders, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/environmental-activists/

http://www.universal-rights.org/events-detail/interface-human-rights-protection-environmental-conservation-situation-environmental-human-rights-defenders/

PBI marks 35th anniversary with conference on Human Rights Defenders at Risk: 17 Jun 2016

June 2, 2016

On its 35th Anniversary, Peace Brigades International is holding a conference to celebrate human rights defenders’ contributions to democracy and the rule of law, discuss their protection needs, and explore good practice and obstacles to enabling environments. Keynote speakers include the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, human rights defenders from Latin America, Nepal and Kenya, UK government officials, NGOs, legal experts & donors There will be four panels:

1: Rule of Law: Uses and Abuses of the Law in relation to Human Rights Defenders

2: Access to Justice: Human Rights Defenders’ Fight for Justice

3:  Business and Human Rights:  Challenges and Developments

4: Strategies for Confronting Repressive Environments for Land and Environmental Rights Defenders

On Friday 17 June 2016, from 09:00 to 18:00 (BST) – at Canada House ,Trafalgar Square, London

For more information, tickets follow the link below:

Source: Building Enabling Environments for Human Rights Defenders at Risk Tickets, Fri, 17 Jun 2016 at 09:00 | Eventbrite

Civil society calls on EU to intensify support for human rights defenders in the new EU Action Plan

December 16, 2014

Seven major NGOs (Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, PBI, Protection International and the World Organisation Against Torture) have made a joint appeal to the EU to improve the European Union‘s support to human rights defenders. This is done in the form of comments on the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. That there is a need for more cohesion was demonstrated by the recent faux pas of the EU in giving a human rights award to Bahrain which can hardly be in line with the recommendations [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/what-human-rights-day-means-in-bahrain-and-how-the-eu-made-it-worse/].

Effective and meaningful support to HRDs by the EU and its member states should aspire to [excerpts]: I draw attention especially to number 6!

1. Better protect

The EU can achieve better protection of HRDs – including better prevention of the risks associated with their work:

1. Institute a system for the centralised follow-up of all human rights defenders’ cases, and their treatment by the EU and Member states at headquarters and in delegations.

2. Ensure all staff in Delegations in diplomatic missions, and at headquarters, including at the highest level, are aware of the importance of working with and for HRDs, of the EU Guidelines and of the necessity to implement them fully, and of reporting back. Systematically train EU and member states’ staff at all levels on the full implementation of the EU HRD Guidelines;

3. Facilitate emergency measures such as relocation and emergency visas for HRDs, and ensure all staff are aware of procedures. Ensure the facilitation of visas for HRDs visiting decision-makers in the EU and member states in order to reinforce meaningful exchanges on how to support their vital work;

4. Monitor and provide systematic feedback to HRDs, civil society and the public on EU and member states’ actions on HRDs, encouraging meaningful public debate on how to reinforce their vital efforts;

5. Assist and support governments and promote participation of local civil society in developing and implementing public policies and mechanisms for the protection of HRDs; and/or in advocating for the amendment or abrogation of restrictive laws; and in the fight against impunity for human rights violations committed against HRDs;

6. Ensure that an annual Foreign Affairs Council meeting is dedicated to discussing EU efforts to pursue the release of HRD, journalists and others who exercise their rights peacefully. Foreign Ministers should adopt conclusions naming jailed rights advocates from around the world and call for their immediate and unconditional release.  Every three months PSC Ambassadors should take stock, in close collaboration with civil society, of EU efforts to pursue the release of jailed HRDs. EU delegations should be requested to clarify efforts they have undertaken, ahead of these meetings;

7. In the spirit of the EU Guidelines on HRDs, the EU and its member states should commit to documenting and reporting on effective best practices in support of HRDs, and working to reproduce them where relevant in future; organise annual regional workshops with civil society to exchange best practices and lessons learned, and build the capacity of HRDs, and of senior EU and member states’ diplomatic staff.

2. Reach out

EU policies in support of HRDs must also go beyond addressing their protection in emergency situations on an ad hoc basis. This means considering HRDs not only as victims of repression, but as key actors of change in their own country who can likewise provide a valuable contribution to the design of both EU and national policies and decision-making…

8. Implement burden-sharing between the EU and Member states, to ensure that human rights defenders in all regions of a country have access to, and contact with, the EU; that the responsibility for particularly logistically challenging tasks such as trial observation, prison visits or contacts with rural areas does not fall only on one diplomatic mission, and that continued buy-in on human rights issues by all is possible;

9. Actively support HRDs through a flexible combination of concrete actions and public diplomacy, on the basis of effective consultation with concerned HRDs, including public intervention whenever this can improve the security of HRDs at risk;

10. Conduct regular visits to HRDs outside large urban centres, and increase outreach to vulnerable, marginalised HRDs and women HRDs;

11. Clearly communicate the human rights priorities of EU country strategies to local HRDs to facilitate their work.

12. Systematically include meetings with HRDs when planning high level visits to third countries (including visits by member states’ representatives and Members of the European Parliament);

13. Translate the Guidelines on HRDs into local languages, and disseminate them amongst civil society, including different ethnic minority groups and indigenous communities.

3. Do no harm

The EU and its member states should evaluate all actions taken in regard to their compliance with human rights, and concretely monitor trade and development policies and programming to ensure they are consistent with EU and member states’ human rights commitments. The EU should offer HRDs recourse in case their human rights or those of the people they defend are violated. The ‘do no harm’ principle should be integrated in other actions foreseen in the revised Strategic Framework and Action Plan (under ‘trade’, ‘development’ etc…), which is why only key actions are proposed here:

14. Ensure the meaningful consultation/participation of HRDs, possibly through the development of a specific format for regular exchanges, in the preparation of EU and member states’ human rights dialogues, strategies, development programming, and in the context of EU trade and investment policy;

15. When debating national policy with third country governments, the EU should strive to facilitate dialogue between governments and HRDs (for example on security, development, health, etc), and ensure inclusion of HRDs and social organisations in decision-making on these issues;

16. Set up a complaint mechanism for HRDs who have become victims of human rights violations in the context of EU and member states’ policies and investments.

Intensifying the European Union‘s support to human rights defenders: Civil society proposals for the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy / December 16, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala

January 29, 2014

This time just a short presentation of Guatemalan human rights defender Lolita Chávez who spoke in Ottawa, Canada, for a group of supporters some time ago (March 2013): Lolita Chávez says it is love of life that motivates her to risk her own as an outspoken Maya Kiche activist against racism, mining, and hydroelectric project developments in the highlands of Guatemala. As a result of her leadership in Guatemala’s Indigenous movement, she is a frequent target of threats, accusations and attempts to label her as working against the national interest, as some sort of enemy of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

PBI demand guarantees of security for human rights defenders in Mexico

April 12, 2013

During the night of April 3rd, the offices of the Mexican Committee for the Integral Defense of Human Rights Gobixha (Código DH) were forcibly entered. Personnel noticed the entry when they arrived at the office at 8:20am and found the door unlocked and the padlock partially open. They found the computer was turned on and that someone had gone through the records kept at the desk, taking several of them. It is also probable that they went through digital documents found on the computer. These events were denounced before SEGOB, the Special Prosecutors Office for Crimes of Social Significance of the Attorney Generals Office and the Federal Police. In Oaxaca in recent months a climate of intimidation and harassment of community defenders, to whom Peace Brigades International (PBI) provide accompaniment, has been generated. Some of these defenders have also recently been detained. PBI demand that the state and federal government of Mexico secure conditions for the work of human rights defenders!

via Codigo-DH: We demand guarantees of security for human rights defenders: PBI.

 

A Canadian Human Rights Defender teaching in the USA put in the limelight

January 31, 2013

When writing about individual Human Rights Defenders the tendency is to give attention to those in the front line who are in immediate trouble. This time I want to refer to a HRD teaching at the University of Connecticut based on a blog post by Kenneth Best of 30 January 2013. It concerns Luis van Isschot, an assistant professor of history, who specializes in the study of human rights in Latin America ( photo by Peter Morenus/UConn Photo).

Luis van Isschot, assistant professor of history (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Conversation around the dinner table in the van Isschot home in Montreal was a bit different than in most Canadian homes. Growing up with a Spanish, Peruvian, and Dutch family heritage, Luis van Isschot listened to discussions about Latin American history and politics led by his father, a physician who treated families in a clinic based in Montreal’s Latino community…….

…His path to a doctoral degree developed from his volunteer work in Guatemala and later in Colombia, where he served as a human rights observer. It was during his time in Colombia that a friend who was a university professor and a historian told him that one of the most important books of Colombian history was written by a professor from his hometown of Montreal, Catherine Le Grand at McGill University, and that he should look her up. He did, and it led to his enrollment in the doctoral program. “She made it seem that you could be a wonderful teacher, a cutting-edge scholar, and have a balanced life of engagement in your community, and that the Ph.D. was a way of doing that,” van Isschot says. “The university is central to the community, not apart from it. That makes sense to me.”

He later became involved with MEA Laureate 2001 Peace Brigades International, a nonpartisan organization that sends international volunteers to areas of conflict to provide protective accompaniment to human rights defenders threatened by political violence in 11 nations, including in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In addition to serving as a human rights observer in Colombia, he also traveled to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, doing research in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi.

It was a really important experience for me to go somewhere where the language of human rights and social justice and the understanding of history really enriched my own understanding of what I was working on in Latin America,” he says. His experience in Colombia led him to focus his doctoral studies on human rights activities in that nation’s oil capital, Barrancabermeja, where he lived for a year. The city was the center of a major urban war between Colombian paramilitary groups and leftist guerillas. Between 1998 and 2002, in a city of 300,000 there were about 2,000 violent murders. “It was a devastating period. The relationships I made with Colombian human rights activists, teachers, and scholars convinced me that I needed to find some place to explore the issues,” he says.

His book, The Social Origins of Human Rights: Protesting Political Violence in Columbia’s Oil Capital, 1919-2010, is near completion, and scheduled to be published in early 2014. His new research project is titled “When the Courts Make History: the Impact of the Inter American Court of Human Rights in Latin America’s Conflict Zones,” and examines the historical changes set in motion by the pursuit of justice across borders.

http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2013/01/focusing-on-human-rights-with-a-latin-american-perspective/