Posts Tagged ‘Peace Brigades International’

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

In Memoriam Murray Thomson one of the founders of Peace Brigades International

May 7, 2019
Age Is More: Image: Still from Murray Thomson/YouTube
Murray Thomson passed away at 96 years of age on 2 May 2019 in Ottawa, Canada. 

The founding statement for PBI that Thomson helped draft almost 40 years ago said, “We are forming an organisation with the capacity to mobilise and provide trained volunteers in areas of high tension, to avert violent outbreaks.” There was no way for Thomson and the 10 other people who gathered on Grindstone Island, southwest of Ottawa, from August 13 to September 4, 1981 to know that the seed they planted with their vision would grow into a global organization.

Fathi Zabaar, the New York City-based Tunisian human rights activist who chairs PBI’s International Council says, “In 2017, PBI’s community of activists provided effective protection and support to more than one thousand women, men and LGBTI defenders, despite the challenging context and huge risk those working to change the world continued to face.“… Along with Thomson, there were two other people from Canada at that meeting: Henry Wiseman and Hans Sinn. Wiseman passed away at 93 years of age of in Guelph, Ontario in January 2017. Sinn remains active and still lives in the Ottawa Valley.

In April 2015, Sinn told Ottawa Magazine about the founding of PBI in 1981. “Our first project was in Guatemala. The mothers of the disappeared appealed to us for an international presence. By looking for their children, who had been made to disappear, they came under threat too,” Sinn said.  Sinn added, “They needed a link to the outside world — for protection and for international pressure to help improve the situation — and we provided that.”

….

Thomson’s contributions to human rights and peace extend far beyond the formation of Peace Brigades International. He helped found the Quaker Peace Education Centre-Grindstone Island in 1963, which worked to address the question: “How can we, who advocate nonviolence, actually practise it in hostile, threatening situations?” and Project Ploughshares in 1976, which was based around the observation that newly independent countries were spending vast amounts of borrowed money to build up military institutions rather than on the public interest and social needs. Thomson also helped found the Group of 78 in 1981 to promote peace and disarmament, equitable and sustainable development, and a revitalized United Nations system, and Peacefund Canada in 1985 as a campaign aimed at allowing conscientious objectors to have their tax payments spent only for non-military purposes.

Thomson helped found Canadian Friends of Burma in 1991 to support the pro-democracy movement in the struggle for peace, democracy, human rights and equality and Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention in 2008, a group which seeks a verifiable treaty on the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Thomson made an extraordinary contribution to peace, justice and human rights during his lifetime and his example inspires many of us to continue that work.

For more on Thomson’s life of faith and activism, please see the rabble.ca blog by Dennis Gruending, the Tribute to ‘a renaissance man of peace’ by Koozma J. Tarasoff, and the post by Peace Brigades International-Canada.

http://www.rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/brent-patterson/2019/05/murray-thomsons-lasting-legacy

Profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, human rights defender in Mexico

March 13, 2019

On 8 March 2019 LEXICON marked International Women’s Day  – in partnership with Peace Brigades International,- with a profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, a human rights defender in Mexico. This is the story of a woman who fought for her dignity and transformed her trauma and suffering into resilience. Her case led to a groundbreaking verdict by the Inter-American Court in June 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Further plea to Nobel foundation to recognize the HRDs of the world

October 5, 2018
On Thursday, 4 October 2018 Michel Forst and Susi Bascon wrote for the Thompson Reuters Foundation a piece entitled: “Growing global authoritarianism means we all need to become human rights defenders”. It is a further appeal to for the 2018 Nobel Peace prize to go to the Human Rights Defenders of the world {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/18/campaign-to-give-the-nobel-peace-prize-2018-to-the-global-community-of-human-rights-defenders/]:

It would be foolish to think that defending human rights is just an issue for people in faraway countries

Every night Juana Ramirez Santiago would deliver her husband’s dinner to the hardware store he worked as a watchman. One evening in late September she called him to tell him she was on her way. She never arrived. Neighbours heard four gun shots then found her lying dead on the street. Juana – who helped found a group to challenge violence against women – was just one of hundreds of human rights defenders brutally assassinated so far this year. 2018 is on course to set a grisly record. 

Tomorrow, the Nobel committee will announce the winner of the 2018 Peace Prize. This year the prize should be awarded not to a person or an organisation but – for the first time ever – to a community: a collective award for human rights defenders like Juana Ramirez all around the world.

Each day, these brave people stand up and speak out for nothing more than the rights which everyone should be entitled. And as a result, each day, many are silenced – thrown in jail, attacked or even murdered.

Yet how many of us have heard their names? They are hidden heroes. Too often they have to stand alone, courageous individuals and small grassroots communities forced to face down crooked legal systems, corrupt multinationals and oppressive governments. That’s why the role of UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders was developed. It’s why organisations like Peace Brigades International – who provide crucial life-saving support to defenders on the ground – exist. 

The prize would shine a global spotlight on their struggle in a year when we mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which outlined how defending human rights is a right in and of itself, not a crime. 

The award could not come at a more urgent time. Not just because they deserve recognition, but because in the words of the late Kofi Anna, “We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

Defenders are an example to us all. They show us that our rights are not only granted by law but upheld and protected by communities and individuals. They demonstrate that we all need to be human rights defenders. Particularly now that there’s a growing backlash against human rights. 

It would be foolish to think that this is just an issue for people in faraway countries. Threats to hard won rights are advancing across the West, even in the United States. Just look at women’s rights. Access to abortion is being tightened in states like Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi.

On LGBT rights it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay in most places in the United States. There are real fears about a rollback of rights from the Supreme Court.  

When even leaders of even the oldest democracies brand the media as an enemy of the people or say that “it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters” it’s time to recognise that the struggle of distant human rights defenders is a struggle everyone must face. That is, if we want to continue living in healthy, free and democratic societies.

Make no mistake, the tide has shifted – freedom and democracy are on the defensive. Authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. That’s why we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with defenders across the globe.  And that’s why they should win the Nobel Prize. Worldwide, a narrative is spreading that human rights defenders are criminals.

The Nobel Prize is the loudest stage we have to challenge the growing discourse that discourse that dismisses and delegitimises non-violent activists as terrorists, anti-patriots, or threats to security and development.

It would send a clear message: to human rights defenders both home and abroad – you are not alone. To those who would harm them – the eyes of the world are watching and your actions will have consequences. And to the rest of us? The rights we don’t defend are the rights we can so easily lose. 

Michel Forst is the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights defenders and Susi Bascon is the director of the Peace Brigades UK

———-

http://news.trust.org//item/20181004153903-7wymp/

Campaign to give the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders

September 18, 2018

Over 200 organisations from all over the world have signed on to an open letter endorsing the idea of giving the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 to the global community of Human Rights Defenders.


12 September 2018

Dear Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). It is an ideal and opportune moment to recognise and celebrate the efforts of these extraordinary individuals who despite threats of violence and unlawful imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, torture and assassination, continue to peacefully challenge injustice and call for the implementation and strengthening of the rule of law. Since 1998, over 3000 human rights defenders have been killed for defending the fundamental values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN.

In recognising the increasingly hostile environments globally, in which human rights defenders must work, the late Former Secretary-General to the United Nations, Kofi Annan, recently said:

“To stand up for human rights requires courage, perseverance, vigilance and a strong foundation of knowledge and evidence. We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

In the same vein and emphasising the critical role that human rights defenders play in promoting and fostering stable democracies and sustainable peace, Permanent Representative of Norway to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ambassador Steffen Kongstad said: “Threats and attacks against human rights defenders may hamper the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, undermining social cohesion, and ultimately stability and development.”

Despite this recognition and respect at the highest levels of the international community, human rights defenders are killed every day. HRDs who suffer disproportionately are those activists working at grassroots and community levels, in isolated regions and from marginalised populations, who lack networks and resources to command international attention. Human rights defenders can be community leaders, lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, victims of abuse, trade unionists and teachers.

It is for these urgent reasons that Peace Brigades International with the support of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group has nominated the global community of HRDs for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. It is the highest humanitarian achievement through which to recognise HRDs and celebrate their commitment to advocating for and building societies that are peaceful, safe, inclusive, tolerant, just and sustainable for all. The nomination is currently supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and some governments, diplomats and parliamentarians around the world.

We believe that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the global community of HRDs will mark a milestone in legitimising the crucial work they undertake to protect humanity and bring the trends of persecution they suffer to the public eye.

Furthermore, this collective award would mark a world first. By nominating a community rather than individuals or organisations, we emphasise that the trends making the defence of human rights ever more risky and ever more admirable, are global. We seek to highlight that the community itself is integral to the defence of human rights and it is the idea of community that motivates people to take enormous risks defending the rights of others and advancing peace.


For some of my earlier post on the Declaration: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/20th-anniversary-un-declaration-on-hrds/

The release of the open letter is accompanied by a public petition: Human Rights Defenders for the Nobel Peace Prize, which can be signed here.

https://peacebrigades.org.uk/open-civil-society-letter-support-nobel-peace-prize-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

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

Peace Brigades International officially launches its country chapter in Ireland

November 28, 2014

Interesting to note that Peace Brigades International (PBI), in spite of a large number of Irish volunteers working for it, officially launched its local chapter in Ireland only now, Wednesday 26 November 2014. PBI is known for sending teams of international volunteers to areas of conflict at the request of local human rights defenders who are threatened and the volunteers provide protective accompaniment backed up by political support networks around the world.

Peace Brigades International are active in Colombia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the launch, three visiting human rights defenders from countries where PBI works – Colombia, Kenya and Honduras – spoke about the risks facing human rights defenders in their countries. Honduran lawyer Donald Hernández Palma joined Colombian activist Yomaira Mendoza and Ruth Mumbi Meshack.

[Ms Mendoza’s husband was shot dead in front of her and her family’s land was taken from her illegally. After talking to Colombia’s attorney general about the progress of her case, she was subjected to death threats. After months of trying to reduce her risk in Colombia and re-location attempts within the country, she is now living in exile in Spain.]

[Mr Hernández Palma has been subject to threats and harassment in his work in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining in Latin America.]

[Ms Meshack is a community mobiliser, and founder and current National Coordinator of Bunge la Wamama, a women’s chapter a movement for social justice and accountability in different parts of Kenya. She has been imprisoned for her work defending human rights.]

Human rights NGO launches in Ireland – RTÉ News.

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 »