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human rights observation in conflict zones

Today (19 March) in 1995 volunteers organised as “peace campers” arrived in Zapatista communities to serve as the first human rights observers.

black_spiral_spotThe role of human rights observers is to provide protective, nonviolent accompaniment to communities threatened by political violence.

After leaving the community, observers write reports documenting the key events or news during their time in community. For example the movement and routine of the military posted in the area, rumors circulating, tensions or up-coming events.

This information is used by community leaders and NGOs to moderate the tensions in the area, prepare for and resolve crises, and protect lives.

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Time commitments vary on the organisation and the communities’ needs but generally range from 2 weeks to a year or more. If staying longer than 2 weeks, human rights observers periodically take a break away in a place outside of the conflict zone, to rest and restore their well-being.

from Gandhi to Central America and forwards …

2redbig_spiral_spotMany organisations offering nonviolent accompaniment and observation for individuals, groups and communities cite Gandhi’s Shanti Sena (Peace Army) as inspiration for their work.

In the 1980s during the conflicts in Central America, many different groups popped up to play this role, but three enduring from that era are — Witness for Peace, Peace Brigades International and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Others have also emerged and developed their own specialty, like Nonviolent Peace Force, International Alert, and Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

Organizations coordinating this type of grassroots accompaniment work have different processes of discernment, preparation and training to explore whether this type of work is suitable for someone.

cholula_earrings_ddIn my earlier post, earrings, I share my own journey to discovering the courage and skills to take up this work with Witness for Peace in Mexico.

For now though, that’s all I have to say about this very exciting application of nonviolence technology. To know more, check out the links, and watch this space.

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