Thanks to your support, at the request of local civil society organizations, Nonviolent Peaceforce introduced unarmed civilian protection in Ukraine in 2015. There was great need and you responded by funding an NP civilian protector in Ukraine. For several months, our staff built relationships to better understand the conflict, determine NP's role, and to conduct trainings on unarmed civilian protection.* NP trained thirty Ukrainians representing several civil society organizations, community members and local authorities on providing a protective presence to civilians. NP had intended to stay in Ukraine and build our program there, but unfortunately, we did not receive an additional grant to expand our work at the time.
But there is still need in Ukraine and we intend to maintain a presence through our local partnerships. NP is poised to continue providing training on the use of unarmed strategies to build the conditions for peace and to work alongside local communities. Although a ceasefire was signed between Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, there is still a high risk of violence. To pre-empt further violence, human rights violations, and displacement, Nonviolent Peaceforce will provide training for members of 3-5 at-risk communities in human security, violence prevention and conflict resolution.
*In partnership with Association for Middle Eastern Studies.
In March 2015, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and the Association for Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) based in Ukraine conducted a series of trainings for Ukrainian stakeholders from conflict-affected communities. These trainings were the first to introduce unarmed civilian protection (UCP) to Ukraine.
In mid-April 2015, the UN Human Rights Office reported that more than 6,225 people had been killed since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine (April 2014), while expressing a fear that the real figure may be considerably higher. Additionally, the UN Refugee Agency has estimated that registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine number around 1,200,000.
Currently, civil society organizations, individual activists and voluntary networks throughout Ukraine are mobilized in efforts to assist victims of the conflict, while, at the same time, attempting to find effective mechanisms for both the prevention of violence and the promotion of peaceful dialogue. At this stage in the conflict, the role for experienced international civil society organizations knowledgeable in civilian protection and violence reduction is very apparent and immediately needed.
After multiple exploration missions, including several rounds of consultations with Ukrainian organizations, conflict-affected communities and various stakeholders, Nonviolent Peaceforce was invited to Ukraine by local organizations to introduce UCP principles and methodologies to local communities and civil society actors.
NP has also partnered with a Ukrainian organization, the Association of Middle Eastern Studies (AMES), which has significant experience in peacebuilding work in the Black Sea region. AMES is currently in the process of operationalizing a Ukrainian "Peacebuilding School".
In March of 2015, with generous support from the Human Rights Fund of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine, NP and AMES were able to introduce UCP to civil society in Ukraine for the first time through a series of trainings for 40 participants. Trainings were held in two locations, Odessa and Kharkiv, with participants representing Ukrainian civil society organizations, civilians in conflict-affected communities (including border regions that have potential for escalation of violence or intercommunity tensions), IDP communities and local authorities.
The trainings covered a wide array of civilian protection and violence reduction topics, with a strong emphasis on rumor control and developing local rumor control monitoring mechanisms. The trainings also covered the principles of UCP, conflict mapping, early warning and response systems and different understandings of civilian protection. Stressing nonviolence, non-partisanship, and the primacy of local actors, the trainings were designed to prepare participants to better protect themselves and those around them, to be able to de-escalate tensions, and to prevent further violence in their communities against civilians.
Participants in the trainings expressed that regardless of their background, work/life experience or age, all of them are ready to learn and work for peace because it is the job of every citizen to build a peaceful society where conflict can be managed by dialogue and mutual respect.
One participant best summarized the proactive and committed spirit of the groups, stating that "I am ready to step in to the shoes of each person involved in this conflict, find their needs and work with them with the hope that we can stop the suffering of the people living in the conflict zones or hundreds of people who lost their homes and became IDPs."
The trainings had many positive outcomes, including locally designed protection tools that will be used in the coming months. These were the result of participants preparing local civilian protection risk analyses and conceptualizing locally appropriate interventions and responses for their respective communities.
Importantly, participants also identified that a countrywide community-based protection mechanism could be an extremely effective tool for a unified civil society response to the protection needs of civilians in conflict-affected communities. This mechanism could then adapt to the needs of each community as well as the challenges and capacities of local civil society organizations.
NP and its partners are currently developing various interventions to support this new initiative and are exploring more concrete partnership opportunities for this protection mechanism with international actors and the donor community.
The trainings were led by Atif Hameed (Director of Programs), and were assisted by Salome Bakashvili (Program Manager) and other NP and AMES staff.