PBI works to open a space for peace in which conflicts can be dealt with non-violently. PBI teams don’t try to impose solutions from the outside. Instead, they provide moral support and a safer space for local activists.
PBI teams can pursue avenues not open to governments or partisan organizations. Free of the strings attached to the U.N. and other governmental bodies, our independent presence earns more trust from local grassroots activists, helping them to endure despite porno severe repression. PBI does not charge for its services and we do not fund individuals or groups we accompany. While we may provide workshops and nonviolent training, we do not take part in the work of those we accompany.
Our work takes three main forms:
Protective Accompaniment, Peace Education: training in nonviolence, conflict transformation and human rights, and Documenting Conflicts and Peace Initiatives and distributing this information world-wide. Protective Accompaniment PBI has pioneering expertise in accompanying those threatened with political violence. Starting in Guatemala and El Salvador, (look at our history) and since then in Sri Lanka, Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico, our teams have accompanied clergy, union leaders, campesino leaders, human rights activists, and returning exiles (such as Nobel Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchù). We have learned how political violence functions in different contexts and how best to use our international leverage to deter violence.
In most instances death squads and other human rights violators do not want their actions exposed to the outside world. Thus the presence of a PBI volunteer, backed by an emergency response network, deters violence directed against local activists. Where possible PBI initiates contacts with all parties to the conflict to inform them of our presence. To increase this effect, PBI forges links with the diplomatic community locally and with media and human rights networks globally.
Armed only with a camera, PBI volunteers are a walking embodiment of the pressure the international human rights community is ready to apply in the event of abuse. As potential perpetrators know, our exposure of such abuse may adversely affect a regime’s foreign aid allocation.
PBI’s accompaniment can take many forms:
Escorting an individual 24 hours a day;
Being present at an office of a threatened organization;
Accompanying refugees returning to their home communities;
Serving as international observers at elections and demonstrations.
To find out what it’s like doing protective accompaniment, read a report on an accompaniment to an embassy in Bogotá, Colombia and an accompaniment at an exhumation in rural Guatemala.
In some countries, notably Haiti, the PBI team has focused on working alongside local conflict resolution trainers to organise workshops about nonviolent methods of resolving conflicts. Methods used include role-plays, theater pieces and other personal work.
To learn more about these approaches, see a report on a training of trainers and other reports from PBI Haiti.
Documenting Conflicts and Peace Initiatives
All the PBI teams produce reports on their work and the situation in the countries they work in. They focus on the conflicts and possible solutions that open up which can be supported by the international community. PBI teams help to publicize different forms of nonviolence as they develop in various parts of the world. In this way PBI helps to build and enrich the global nonviolent movement. See our reports for examples of what we do.Earthquake/Tsunami 26th Dec: Our response
PBI-Indonesia Project has had a five-year relationship with the province of Aceh, where we had an extensive protective accompaniment and peace education program starting in early 2001. We were forced to leave in July 2003.
After the devastation of the 26 December 2004 earthquakes and tsunami, PBI is responding with a return to Aceh. While the world mounts an unprecedented humanitarian relief operation, the Indonesia Project plans to supplement this global effort with two concrete initiatives:
Re-establishing our protective accompaniment team in Aceh; and Assessing the need for trauma counselling in the affected areas. PBI is concerned that civil society groups may now face an increased level of threat, where disappearances could more easily occur under the guise of ‘missing from the tsunami’. The Indonesian government has not suspended civil emergency status, the media is carrying numerous stories about the ongoing military operation and its effects on the relief efforts, and PBI continues to receive unconfirmed reports of the Indonesian military continuing its offensive against the insurgent Free Aceh Movement (GAM), despite the delicate humanitarian situation and influx of both national and international volunteers into the province.
PBI is concerned that the conflict’s protagonists are taking advantage of the current situation, and this may hamper the distribution of aid and disaster relief. Local groups may be more at risk now than before the catastrophe.