Standing Peace Force:
A Proposal by Mel Duncan and David Hartsough
24 June 1999
Tanks rumble into Kosovo. NATO proclaims victory from 15,000 feet
above after eleven weeks of pounding bombs without a single Alliance
casualty. The Serb army retreats from the province to the cadence of their
butcher leader also proclaiming victory. The KLA marches in. Over a
million Kosovar Albanians resentfully return to the rubble of home as
Kosovar Serbs are cleansed northwards out of their homes.
The irradiated landscape soaked in blood, strewn with land mines and
pocked with mass graves flows with hate. Thousands of well armed
multinational troops will attempt to keep the hatred at bay while relief
organizations beg for millions to help rebuild from the carnage.
While the technology has dramatically advanced, we end this century,
the bloodiest century of humankind, the way we began with organized
brutality seeking to resolve conflicts and assert national and ethnic
claims. More people died in war during the 20th century than in the
totality of human
history up to 1900. Our world now spends $740 billion of precious
resources on armaments each year while keeping over 40 million people in
Thirty five thousand nuclear weapons glut the globe with 5,000 remaining on
high alert. The two newest members of the nuclear club continue a five
decade old war in the snowy peaks of Kashmir.
Yet this century has also witnessed dramatic advances in alternatives
to war. The people of India gained their independence through active and
sustained nonviolence. Significant civil rights gains in the United States
were forged through an array of nonviolent tactics including boycotts, sit
ins, freedom rides, marches and massive demonstrations. While we can point
to the great leaders of these movements, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.,
most of these nonviolent actions have not been carried out by saints and
pacifists but by ordinary people.
The recent legacy of nonviolence extends far beyond the well known
examples of Indian independence and the U.S. civil rights movement. In
fact, the use of effective nonviolent strategies is on the rise. South
Africa threw off apartheid through largely nonviolent means. A subsequent truth
and reconciliation process has avoided a civil war. In 1991 thousands of
unarmed Russians surrounded the White House in Moscow to thwart a military
coup attempt. The people in most of the nations of the former Soviet block
overthrew their communist dictatorships through nonviolent means. Gains
secured by the labor, women, disability rights and environmental movements
have come primarily through nonviolent means.
While warfare and violence have punctuated history, so has nonviolent
resistance. The first recorded act of nonviolent resistance occurred around
1350 B.C.E. when Hebrew midwives refused Pharaohs order to kill Hebrew
babies. The Parliament of World Religions found that the great ancient
religious and ethical traditions commonly hold the directive to respect life
and not kill other humans.
Yet when faced with the brutal aggression of Slobodan Milosevic
throughout the last decade, the peace movement has lacked a credible,
coherent and comprehensive response. The Nation editorialized about this
quandary in April. This crisis creates a profound dilemma for principled
anti militarists who do not want to turn a blind eye to ethnic cleansing but
do not embrace the NATO air war. While some international activists
bravely carried out nonviolent strategies with people of the Balkans and
still are, many others sited a variety of excuses as to why they could not
be expected to help resolve the crisis or, in some cases, reluctantly
shrugged their shoulder and supported the NATO response.
At the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in May, there was a strong
preponderance of opposition to NATOs bombing of Yugoslavia. While the
critiques were crisp, accurate and clear, each critical comment about NATO
policy was met by strident questions from Kosovar Albanians, some fresh
from the deportee camps in Macedonia. I don't care about your philosophy
or your analysis or lists of what should have been done. My family is in
Pristina right now. If you oppose NATO, what will you do to help them?
Peace activists are courageously and creatively at work in conflict
and violent areas throughout the world. Peace Brigades International, the
Balkan Peace Teams, Witness for Peace, Peaceworkers, the Helsinki Citizens
Assembly, Christian Peacemaker Teams, SIPAZ, the International Fellowship
of Reconciliation and others operate in numerous countries including
Colombia, East Timor, Guatemala, the Balkans, the U.S., Israel/Palestine,
Mexico and Nicaragua. Most are doing small scale, highly specialized
activities designed to be an active presence to lower the potential or
current levels of violence and support local peace makers.
The indelible blood stains of Kosovo, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burma,
and so many other places reminds us that we need to bring our peace making
activity to a dramatic, new level. We need to develop a strategic,
efficient and effective response to brutality, violence and genocide when
actions focused on the root causes have either failed or are ineffective in
stopping current slaughter.
The world needs institutions and collective activities that encourage
large numbers of people to engage in actions that call them to higher values
like those found in all ancient religions and that inspire hope.
We need to develop a multiethnic, multi-spiritual standing peace
force that would be trained in nonviolent strategies and deployed to
conflicts or potentially violent areas at the invitation of local peace
movements. The Force would have to include a significant number of trained
volunteers committed to strategically put themselves in harms way to
defuse violence and create the space for peaceful resolution.
Such a task is daunting. The endeavor is replete with problems and
contradictions. Yet in the last 50 years, nations, some of whom were
former enemies, came together and created NATO, able to administer
sophisticated and strategic responses to armed conflict. In the next 50
years, we can develop a Peace Force with similar commitment, cooperation
and sophistication that promotes hope over cynicism, love over ideologies
and life over death. Then we may be able to credibly respond to the
profound questions posed at the Hague conference by the Albanian Kosovar
THE HAGUE APPEAL FOR PEACE
Over 8,000 of us from more than 100 countries converged on The Hague in
mid May asserting that peace is a human right and that it is time to
abolish war. It was perhaps the largest and most diverse peace conference
ever held. Luminaries including eight Nobel Peace prize laureates, U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan, Jordans Queen Noor and the Prime Minister of
Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, gave presentations. Over 400 workshops were held.
Most importantly, grassroots activists from throughout the world met,
talked, challenged and supported one another. A huge bulletin board
announcing changes in program schedule was constantly jammed with notices
for quickly conspired meetings on an ever changing variety of subjects.
The conference proved that when thousands of organizers are put into the
same building, hyper organizing occurs.
The conference was a living example of what is known as the new, or
democratic diplomacy - the collaboration of civil society, governments
and intergovernmental organizations which has already proved its
effectiveness in bringing about the treaty to ban land mines, the statute
creating the International Criminal Court and the World Court opinion on
the illegality of nuclear weapons.
Among the meetings in the nooks and corners of the Netherlands
Congress Center, a small group of nonviolent activists began talking with
each other about the prospects of moving their work to a greater level and
developing a standing, nonviolent, peace force. Six meetings, often
impromptu, wedged amongst the avalanche of activities took place during
the conference. Individuals taking part in the conversations came from a
variety of organizations including Peaceworkers, International Fellowship of
Reconciliation, Balkan Peace Teams, Peace Brigades International, Peace
Action, Nonviolence International, Helsinki Citizens Assembly, Conflict
Resolution Catalysts and the Greens in the European Parliament.
Based upon these discussions, the following concept emerged. This
paper, of course, is not an end point but rather is designed to stimulate
further discussion and to move us to the actual development and deployment
of an international peace force.
During the meetings at the Hague conference, there was basic
agreement on three initial points:
1. Most people doing peace team work, conflict resolution and/or
nonviolent training had shared the vision at some point in their work of
building a standing nonviolent, peace force of significant size. Some
entertained the idea. Usually the idea had been abandoned because:
a. Lack of resources, especially financial, to build and sustain such an
b. The work in a particular area had become so consuming and/or
specialized that the vision of a larger scale operation was lost.
2. There was an amazing lack of turf protection. While this project is
very early in development, people representing organizations doing peace
team work, did not try to protect their groups domain even when directly
considering the prospect that a new organization might compete for funds.
3. While some people thought there were too many problems
especially a lack of significant money, most people thought that the idea
was worth exploring and developing.
The GOAL is to create a well trained, standing, nonviolent peace
force (The Force) that would be deployed to conflict areas at the invitation
of local peace movements. The Force would be equipped to carry out
strategies and tactics in cooperation with local activists. Such strategies
would be designed to lessen violence or its potential and create the space
for just resolution to occur.
To begin the program there will need to be significant advance
1. At least 200 people willing to commit to participate in training
and deployment for at least 1- 2 years.
2. At least 400 people with training and specific peace making
skills who would be available on a reserve basis for at least one
month per year over a 2-3 year period.
3. At least 500 supporting members.
4. Five million dollars for operation.
5. Significant media relationships and attention.
6. A well defined, international, efficient and accountable decision
Beginning with 200 active members, 400 reserves and 500 supporters,
The Force will be built to a level of 2,000 active, 2,000 reserves and 5,000
supporters over a six year period. All active members and active reserves
would serve as volunteers with room, board, training, transportation and a
small stipend provided. Members would be multiethnic, multi-spiritual,
international and inter generational.
Members would be recruited from a variety of places including:
1. Former peace team members from a variety of organizations.
2. Generally qualified people who have been turned down by
peace team organizations because of lack of specific skills.
3. Members of veterans for peace organizations.
5. Members of religious and spiritual communities.
6. Veterans of other nonviolent movements: civil rights,
national freedom, anti-war, women, environmental.
7. Retired people.
8. Former Peace Corps volunteers and other veterans of international service.
10. Other ordinary people willing to volunteer a couple of
years working with peace teams.
Reserves would be recruited from peace organizations, spiritual
communities and other constituencies listed above.
The 5,000 supporters would contribute at least $100 per year. They
would be connected to the work of the Force via a Web page and E-Mail. In
addition to financial support, supporters would serve as the local voice of
The Force by communicating with their local media and their religious or
social communities about its general work and specific engagements. They
would also educate their elected officials about issues related to the
The Force would only be deployed at the invitation of the local
nonviolent movement active in the conflict area. Strong preference would
be given to early intervention. As one woman from Kosovo said at the Hague
Conference, Peace workers need to be at the right place at the right time
before violence escalates. Otherwise, we are just counting our mistakes.
There was general agreement that adequate early warning was often
available. For example, Kosovar Albanian President, Ibrahim Rugova was
asking for an international peace presence in Kosovo as early as nine years
ago. David Hartsough, executive director of Peaceworkers and a Balkan
veteran, believes that 200 international peace workers in Kosovo two years
ago could have played a significant role in averting the violence of the past
Deployment decisions would be made by the Steering Committee. Make
up of the particular teams deployed will depend upon the needs of the given
situation. Criteria for involvement would include:
1. Invitation by local peace movement.
2. Clear role and contribution that the force could make.
3. Reasonable chance of success.
4. Organizational and Logistical backup.
5. Media backup.
6. Evidence that combatants are sensitive to international
7. Sufficient funding for duration.
STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
Strategies will be designed to lessen violence or its potential and
create space for peaceful and just resolution. The strategies will be
flexible and focus on these outcomes, not just on providing witnesses. Yet,
participants will be consistently placing their lives in danger. While in
the area The Force will also serve as international eyes, ears and
conscience. The tactics, developed and carried out in conjunction with
local peace activists, will be decided upon by The Force leadership team in
the area in consultation with The Force Steering Committee. Strategies and
methods could include:
1. Inter positioning
2. Accompanying (activists, leaders, returning refugees)
3. Monitoring (elections, cease fires, treaties)
4. Training and training trainers
5. Border patrolling
6. Facilitating communication between conflicting parties
7. Direct actions including demonstrations and strikes.
A group of 10-15 people with experience in peace team work, conflict
resolution, training, fund raising, organizational development and the media
will form the core. Each person will have an active commitment to the goal
of The Force. A variety of ethnicity, nationality, gender, spirituality and
age will be essential. This group will develop the concept of The Force, and
create and help implement a recruitment, fund raising, media and training
plan. This will take about 24 months. (Note: Should adequate funding
become available sooner this timetable could be accelerated.)
At the end of this period, the Core Group will appoint a Steering
Committee that may include some members of the Core Group. The Steering
Committee will be charged with implementing the plan as well as overseeing
the operation and making budgetary, personnel and deployment decisions. The
steering committee will have to be efficient, representative and
Once in the area, a leadership team appointed by the Steering
Committee will be directly responsible for making strategic and tactical
Over the six year period, The Force will document and demonstrate the
effectiveness of nonviolent strategies and methods to defuse violent
situations. During its operation The Force will work with the United Nations
to adopt and expand its operation.
Nonviolent training resources are well developed and plentiful.
Active members of The Force will take part in a one to two month general
nonviolence training that focuses on history, philosophy and practice.
Physical and spiritual training will also be required at this time. The
Force will contract with existing trainers to carry out the general training.
In addition, active members will receive specific advanced training based
on the needs of a particular region once a deployment decision is made.
The advanced training will take place at the site of the general training
as well as in the conflict region. Reserves who will be called up because
of the need for their particular skills in a specific region will take part
in the advanced training.
Good media and public relations will be vital. We will need to
document and communicate the hope and promise of our work to a world that
can be cynical and skeptical yet hungers for new approaches to dealing with
and stopping violence.
We will need to create a transcendent image that communicates
strength, hope and effectiveness to the general public in meaningful
symbols. Thus, the use of the name The Force which has become a popular,
Credible media relationships will have to be forged. They could
prove to be the lifeline to teams once they are deployed. In the wake of the
Kosovo/Yugoslavia war, we will need to begin projecting this alternative
approach into the media in the next few months.
Our communications plan will have to include a recruitment package
which encourages people in a variety of countries to participate at all three
levels: active, reserve and supporter.
A professional Web Page will have to be developed and maintained to:
1. Communicate the mission and work of The Force
2. Recruit members
3. Raise money
4. Give live reports from the ground
5. Inform members of actions that they can take
6. Discuss new developments in nonviolent strategies and
There will be individuals and organizations who will want us to fail.
Transnational weapons producers, combatants in a particular region and
military alliances like NATO are possible examples. We will need a
proactive media strategy to deal with these dynamics.
This, of course, is an awesome subject. An operation of 2,000
active members with a full compliment of reserves and supporters would cost
about $40 million a year. This is about the same amount that the world
spends on military operations in each half hour of every day this year.
Remember, an attractive element of nonviolence is that it is much less
expensive than war. This cost, however, geometrically eclipses the total
amount spent on peace team work in the world today and presents a strong
argument for eventual U.N. sponsorship.
Exploratory and developmental costs will be about $150,000 annually
for the first two years. We will seek this money from a few foundations,
major donors and religious organizations.
We will need $5 million to begin operation of the Force with 200
active members, 400 reserves and 500 supporters. This will come from
foundations, religious and spiritual institutions and individuals. We will
also have raised $50,000 from our first 500 supporters by the first year of
(NOTE: Should adequate funding come available sooner, this time line could
2000- 2002 Exploration and development.
Year 1 - Develop concept, meet with experienced
activists, gather information, identify core group, decide on whether to
proceed or not, establish office and operation, core group meet, develop
and implement media plan, fund raise for first two years, develop long term
fund raising plan, develop Web Page, develop data base for all levels of
Year 2 - Implement fund raising and media plans, maintain Web page, recruit
all three levels of members, identify trainers, analyze possible sites of
deployment, create steering committee, hire key staff, liaise with U.N.
2003-2006 Begin training, continue media, recruitment and fund raising,
first, second and/or third deployment, evaluate operation and publish
results, continue liaison with U.N.
2007 Possible adoption by U.N. and/or other international organizations
such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
CONCLUSION (The Start actually)
In addition to the staggering amount of resources required, the idea
of The Force is replete with problems. If not developed sensitively and
well, the problems could include:
Neo-imperialism. This could be a new form of nations interfering
in and attempting to dominate the internal affairs and sovereignty of other
Ignores local conditions. This proposal does not deal with the
root causes of injustice that may precipitate a violent conflict.
The work of the Force could endanger the lives of its members and
others in the region.
Lack of local empowerment. Such interventions could create
dependencies on outside forces to resolve conflicts.
Decision making. Can a steering committee make quick and relevant
decisions and still be broadly representative and accountable? Will some
form of hierarchy be accepted?
Resources. Will The Force be competing directly with organizations
already doing important work?
Associations with the U.N. and other governments. There could be a
risk of being co-opted by national and transnational agendas.
Recruitment and training. Can a significant number of people (200
to start) be recruited and trained well enough to be able to carry out high
pressured and skilled tactics in cooperation with local peace movements?
The sheer magnitude of these questions and many more are enough to
send us running for the cover of any diversion available. Yet, we live in a
time when we are called to be troubled by these questions. Questions
haven't stopped NATO. As evidenced in the last three months they are still
plagued with problems of decision making, turf, logistics and effectiveness.
We need to trouble ourselves with the development of institutions
that manifest hope and lead us to a world that honors all life. We need to
entertain these ideas and challenge each other. So for now talk, write,
reflect, pray, paint, dance, meditate. Please share your thoughts, critiques
and inspirations with us as well as ideas of others with whom you share this
Together we have the capacity to make The Force a reality.
There will be no better way to commemorate the United Nations Decade of Nonviolence than to do so.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP CO-CREATE THE PEACE FORCE.
We need help with:
*Getting your organization to endorse the concept of the Peace Force
*Outreach to key organizations and individuals
*Identifying and recruiting general and expert volunteers
*Developing a web page for the Peace Force
*Putting an article on the Peace Force in your newsletter or on your Web Page
*Organizational development and decision making process.
TAX DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTIONS CAN BE MADE TO PEACEWORKERS TO HELP IN
CREATING THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE FORCE.
"I have great hope because this idea is emerging, converging all over the
world. What form it actually takes remains to be seen but it will happen."
Sister Pat Keefe
Mel Duncan David Hartsough
1355 Albany Ave. PEACEWORKERS
St. Paul, MN. 55108 721 Shrader St.
U.S.A. San Francisco, CA. 94117
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