Originally posted in the Midland Daily News, Monday, April 24, 2017

To the editor:

Is there an alternative to the violent conflict resolution that is negatively impacting our country and world? An amazing woman, Tiffany Easthom, will address that question on Monday, May 15, at Creative 360, gathering at 6:30 p.m., with program at 7 p.m. Her vision is not pie-in-the-sky optimism. Ms. Easthom is the executive director of the international organization, Nonviolent Peaceforce, which formed in 2002, and one year later had a team active in Sri Lanka.

Read more: A Reader's view: A message to hear

This spring, learn about unarmed methods to protect civilians and prevent violence in the midst of war! Please share with colleagues and students.

Nonviolent Peaceforce, in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, is offering an online, facilitated course titled Unarmed Civilian Protection through Merrimack College.

Hours and Tuition

This is a four-credit facilitated course, comprised of 6 modules.The total course cost is $1,340.00

Start Date: May 22nd. Enrollment Deadline: May 17th

Register and Learn More Here

"Unarmed strategies must be at the forefront of UN efforts to protect civilians."

-The UN High Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations

by Mel Duncan, Cofounder and Director of Advocacy and Outreach

In December for the first time in history, the UN Security Council recognized unarmed civilian protection (UCP). The language was contained in a Security Council Resolution that renewed the mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The language states:

Recognizing that unarmed civilian protection can often complement efforts to build a protective environment, particularly in the deterrence of sexual and gender-based violence against civilians, and encouraging UNMISS, as appropriate, and when possible, to explore how it can use civilian protection techniques to enhance its ability to protect civilians, in line with the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation. 

This section recognizes NP’s strong contributions on the ground and calls upon the UN Mission to explore how they can use UCP to enhance their ability to protect civilians. The missions to the UN from Venezuela and Angola led the effort for the recognition of UCP.

Read more: UN Security Council recognizes unarmed civilian protection

 

by Marna Anderson, Director of Development and Communications

On one of the coldest weekends in January, I had the opportunity to participate in NP’s first peacekeeper training for community protectors in the U.S. The site, Bismarck, North Dakota, is approximately 50 miles away from the Oceti Sakowin camp, where tribal members and water protectors lived over the last year in an effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Approximately twenty community members attended the training looking for the opportunity to connect with one another, discuss the conflicts they faced and together find a new way forward. The group represented a wide array of members from the community including retired teachers, religious leaders, social service workers and members of the legal collective.

Those present were very engaged. What brought them together was the longing to discuss the conflict and the challenges it has created with their neighbors and friends. They wanted to learn new tools and skills to provide protection for community members who feel unsafe and to open up channels of communication between people with opposing views about the pipeline.

Read more: Nonviolent response at Standing Rock

by Tiffany Easthom, Executive Director

I usually love January. I love the fresh start the beginning of the calendar year brings, along with the resolve that so many of us feel to make positive life changes. With 2017 however, we are off to a rather rough start. The actions of the new administration in the U.S., the process that has brought about BREXIT, escalating protectionism and deepening identity politics in parts of Europe bring a great deal of uncertainty and fear. These events threaten the very foundations of justice, rights and equality.

All of this happens in a world where wars grind on and 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes to escape violence and persecution.

It is heavy. While it can feel overwhelming, it is ultimately a call to action.

Read more: Time to stand up and speak out

Women peacekeepers in South Sudan with NP staff By Tiffany Easthom, Executive Director

Rebecca, is a South Sudanese woman who fled her home to escape violence. She is an activist in the Protection of Civilians camp where she now lives. As she says, “no matter how difficult life can be, women have the ability to come together and cooperate to achieve something for the collective good.”

In the humanitarian world, women impacted by war are frequently described as vulnerable. Vulnerable to violence, exploitation, deprivation and assault. We are continually told that women are weak and in need of protection, without which they will be easily harmed.

However, it only takes spending time in those situations to know that while the suffering is real, women are consistently amongst the most powerful force for improving security and stabilization. We need to stop treating women as victims entirely reliant on third party protection. Once we remove barriers for women to take active, leadership roles in peace and security   ̶   we see tangible improvements in violence reduction, community security and the personal security of the women involved.

While it is too simplistic to assume that women are inherently more peaceful than men, women working on peace and security, tend to focus on inclusivity and civilian protection. In comparison, traditional male approaches focus on power and territorial control. While women only make up 4% of the forces within the UN Department of Peacekeeping, women make up on average 50% of unarmed civilian protectors. Without weapons, they stop rape, negotiate local ceasefires and advocate for protection from the local community. They also prevent youth from engaging in armed conflict, prevent children from being separated from their families and protect them from recruitment as child soldiers.

Women’s leadership potential in peace and security is one of the greatest untapped resources we have for ending violent conflict within the home or on the battlefields. On this International Women’s Day, call upon your communities, your governments, your friends and families to do whatever they can to unleash this force for good.

Joan BernsteinJoan Bernstein -- advocate, activist, peacemaker and passionate organizer -- was sadly struck with Multiple System Atrophy (a Parkinson-like disease) several years ago that cut short her life's work of bringing peace to our nation and the world through Nonviolent Peaceforce. Joan died December 19, 2016 at 65 years old.

Joan was the heart and soul of the U.S. and Canadian chapters of NP for many years. She helped organize the founding conference for NP, and later the annual conference of North American chapters. She provided us with vision, inspiration, resources, skills -- and the endless belief that we could rise to any challenge. In fact, one of her greatest skills was making us believe that her pet project was our own idea and at the top of our priority list!

I first met Joan when the Boston chapter of NP was in its childhood. We had coalesced around Elise Boulding's well-known workshop: "Imaging a World Without War," which Elise suggested we change to "Imaging a World with Nonviolent Peaceforce Instead of War." Firmly believing that a society cannot reach a goal until we have a clear vision of it, Elise, at 85, trained several of us to run her workshop under NP's auspices.

Then Joan came along with a vision of her own: a community training model that would teach ordinary US citizens basic conflict resolution skills while they learned about NP's work and became inspired to support it. Joan was not a trainer, and asked for volunteer trainers to help write the manual and run pilot workshops. I started out telling her I didn't have time for this project and ended up spending more hours on it than any other over the next several years!

Joan's vision of a self-duplicating model of trainings in the US to build support for global NP was smart, and it worked in many ways. Lack of consistent volunteer time and budget constraints slowed the progress of the trainings, but many hundreds of new adherents to NP bought Peace Bonds, contributed regularly, and were able to solve neighborhood or family conflicts better than before. Joan wholeheartedly gave technical and emotional / spiritual support to our cadre of trainers in a consistent and deeply devoted manner.

Her vision of the Listening Project, where inner city voices were amplified by NP volunteers, was another example of Joan's endless creativity -- and how she got volunteers in many cities around the US to join her on this effort.

Joan's life and peacework may have been cruelly shortened, but we all can carry it on!

I will long remember what she taught me, and will always miss her.

-Sherry Zitter

Read more: A Tribute to Woman Peacemaker Joan Bernstein

Dear NP Supporters,

 

I am sitting in Juba. I have just returned from the field where I had the opportunity to visit multiple field sites and see our civilian protectors at work. Amid extreme violence and chaos, they are saving lives. Those of you who made an initial investment seven years ago can be very proud. Your support has led to 145 civilian protectors working in 11 locations.

We have a team of 21 at the Bentiu camp for internally displaced people in the northern part of the country where 129,000 people have fled violence. The majority are women and children. My heart has broken many times on this trip. Yet, there are glimmers and rays of hope as embodied by the women' groups with whom we are working at the camp (pictured below). Their spirit is strong. I am convinced that women will build the road to peace here.

Thank you so much for your on-going support and for promotion of unarmed civilian protection. I've shared some photos from South Sudan below.

With hope and resolve,

Mel Duncan
Founding Director and Director of Advocacy and Outreach

Read more: Women Will Build the Road to Peace- An Update From Mel in South Sudan

March MinneapolisLeft: March in Minneapolis (MN) protesting Executive Order banning immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries entering the US. Photo by Fibonacci Blue.

On January 21st, an estimated 5 million people around the world joined the Women's March following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. According to political scientists, this was the largest single-day demonstration in the US [1]. Protestors gathered to protect legislation and policies regarding women's rights, human rights and other issues including immigration reform, healthcare reform, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers' rights.

While for many this is a frightening time, we can be inspired by those standing up to bigotry and fear. Thousands of people took part in rallies following Trump's order to ban Muslim refugees and legal immigrants entering the United States. Volunteer lawyers scrambled across the country to assist immigrants detained at airports.

 

Read more: Marching for Change