4u2 - For you too - Roland Brunner
cooperation in Nonviolence:
European Network for Civil Peace Services
The field of peace services in the European countries mirrors the European cultural diversity. In many countries, organisations for Civil Peace Services (CPS) are active. They were founded by individual peace workers or peace groups, who felt the need for civil peace building or civilian (non-military) intervention in conflicts. Peace teams were trained and sent out to conflict areas, publicity campaigns and lobby work started to raise public and political awareness of the importance of nonviolent conflict resolution. Studies on peace and conflict gave more knowledge of sophisticated peace services and conflict resolution work.
In each country of Europe these CPS are developing in their own way, and at their own pace; the emphasis in the diverse countries is on different aspects of the work. In Austria, Germany and Sweden, peace organisations are cooperating to create a pool of civilians with experience and competence to work in conflict areas. They develop trainings, send out peace workers, and raise political and public awareness to develop a broad basis for the CPS trainings. In Switzerland, the main focus is on influencing public opinion, by preparing for a referendum to have the Swiss people vote for security through solidarity instead of defence. Study and training is the most important issue in Denmark; and in Great Britain, Hungary, Norway and The Netherlands the emphasis is on the development of peace education. Curricula for teacher trainings and peace team workers are being developed, and much effort is made to have peace education implemented into the official education systems. This includes a variety of Public Relations work. In France and Italy the main focus is also on spreading the idea of nonviolent conflict resolution.
Several groups did have contacts with their sister-organisations in other European countries. For instance, the Dutch Burger Vredes Teams Nederland (BVTN), who wanted to develop a postgraduate curriculum for training professional peace workers, could benefit from the experiences of the Swedish Peace Team Forum and the German Forum Ziviler Friedensdienst (forumZFD). But the contacts were incidental and scarce. However, it became clear that the civil peace work cannot stop within the borders of the country. In a slow pace, but inevitably, the European countries are growing into a unity. Europe is no longer just a continent, or a vague ideal, but an economic and military reality. In the social level, the rich European diversity in languages and cultures makes cooperation more difficult, but also more exciting. This ongoing European cooperation, especially in the field of military, makes the urge for European nonviolent civil peace services obvious.
The first step into the formation of a European cooperation of Civil Peace Services (CPS) was made in July 1997, when the German forumZFD initiated an international meeting of European peace teams. Interested participants came from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. They discussed the desirability and the chances of a European organisation of CPS. A large part of the meeting was taken by getting to know each other, and finding similarities in the work as well as possibilities of cooperation. Some of the similarities found included
After this first meeting, everyone was convinced of the importance of European cooperation, but back home, with all the tasks waiting, the European dimension soon got at the background. Luckily some persistent European thinkers, as to be found in the forumZFD, convened a new meeting of European Peace Teams and Non-violent Conflict Resolution Initiatives, thus making the others aware of the commitments they made before. This second preparatory meeting was in May 1998, also in Cologne, and even more representants of European groups were present. Several groups delegated new representants, and hence many of them did not meet before. Again an elaborate round was necessary to present each group’s goals and latest developments of activities. Many of the organisations turned out to have projects in the former Yugoslavia, but they did not benefit from each other’s experiences, because of a lack of coordination and cooperation.
A number of possible themes for further research and discussion were listed, such as
The question this time was not ‘Is it useful to cooperate as European Civil Peace Services?’ The agreement on that already was there; here the questions were ‘How to bring European cooperation into practice?’ ‘What has to be founded? A European Forum? An Assembly? A Network?’ The answers were:
The plans were fine and rather concrete; but ”between dreams and deeds practical obstacles are in the way”. The next meeting, in February 1999 in The Netherlands, was attended by a very small group, representing only three countries. Many organisations gave notice of urgent other business, but expressed their wish to continue with the European Network. The few die-hards present did not feel confident enough to launch the European Network at that moment, or to decide on the definite name. However, they felt sure it was necessary to continue with the European cooperation.
The preparations for the Hague Appeal for Peace presentation were continued, since it was already agreed in Cologne. To be sure of the support and cooperation of the other groups, a questionnaire was sent out to all European contacts, to ask them about their readiness to participate in the European Platform.
During the Hague Appeal for
Peace in May 1999, the European Network for Civil Peace Services was launched.
The name has definitely been decided as European Network for Civil Peace
During the second EN.CPS meeting in October 1999, in Salzburg, more concrete appointments were made. EN.CPS wants to be a loose network, which has no policy of its own, but is a service for the individual groups, who are not members, but participants. For cooperation in joint projects the groups don’t yet have the time and money. The groups commit themselves to be reliable partners, reacting timely when asked for a reaction. Every national group appoints a contact person for the European Network. He or she is the one who responds to requests, gives a 3-monthly information bulletin and attends the meetings. The internet site of the Swiss Gruppe Schweiz ohne Armee (GSoA) gives information about the EN.CPS.
The Network’s internal service tasks will meet the needs of the participating groups:
However, external developments are asking for a strong Network with a clear voice. The expertise in the individual groups and the synergy of the European cooperation will make the EN.CPS into a strong European expert organisation in civil conflict transformation and peace building. Such external developments are:
To strengthen the EN.CPS as a
unity, it is important to have joint activities, apart from the internal
networking and exchange of experiences. Organising conferences and seminars is a
way of empowerment for the participants and in the same time a means to promote
the idea of civil peace services. Plans are already made for two such seminars.
One is an expert workshop in Berlin, in May 2000, where the code of conduct for
peace teams and other civil peace services will be thoroughly discussed, in view
of future international teams. The other is an all European Conference on Civil
Peace Services, situated in Brussels, in the heart of the European Community, to
spread the idea of conflict transformation as a task for civil society.
The challenge for the EN.CPS is
to have the idea and practice of civil peace services spread all over Europe, as
the real nonviolent alternative in the resolution of conflicts.
The European Union is developing
a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In the discussion on CFSP the
emphasis still is on the defence and military aspects. Europe’s long-term
security, however, will not so much depend on the military, but more on its
ability to promote political and economic stability. Long term conflict
prevention and resolution methods will have to become part of the European
The EN.CPS is operating in the
field of European organisations. Even if it is a loose network still, it has
great potential. It can function as an expert dialogue partner in the European
search for nonviolent alternatives in managing conflicts, as well as promote the
knowledge on community based problem solving and active citizenship. Time has
come to play this role after the Balkan wars in the 90s of last century, and the
near-to-defeat intervention of the NATO bombings on Kosovo. The public begins to
realise that violence is not the answer after all, and public opinion is
inclined to listen to alternatives. EN.CPS should do more lobby work, to bring
the ideas on long term civil conflict transformation and peace building into the
core of the European mind set.
In several European Institutions
people are looking for ways to prevent the outburst of conflicts into violence.
The late Alexander Langer initiated the idea of a European Civilian Peace Corps,
which has been strongly supported by the Green Party. The European Parliament
already approved a resolution to do research about its feasibility. Such a
European Civilian Peace Corps is considered as an alternative to diplomatic
action or military use, and should be a short term nonviolent intervention in
outbursting violent conflicts. To EN.CPS, a European Civilian Peace Corps looks
like an addition to the work of civil peace teams. In the discussion on the
function of a Civilian Peace Corps, the EN.CPS, with its ample experience in
theory and practice of civil peace work, intends to have a loud and clear voice.
Facilitating the complicated
lobbying in Brussels, will be the task of the European Peace-building Liaison
Office (EPLO), an initiative of the Quaker Council for European Affairs. The
EPLO is meant to act as an interface for dialogue and cooperation between the
European Union and local and international NGO’s. The EPLO will serve a wide
range of official and civil society actors in the cause of peace, through
increasing collective capacity, to help prevent or resolve violent conflicts
peacefully and effectively. The EN.CPS is a member of the working group who is
founding the European Peace-building Liaison Office.
In the Global field, EN.CPS is a
supporter in the research of the American organization Peacemakers, which is
trying to found an International Nonviolent Peace Force. This Peace Force is
intended to become ”an international, multiethnic standing peace force that
will be trained in nonviolent strategies and tactics and deployed to conflicts
or potentially violent areas to act strategially to prevent or defuse violence
and create the space for peaceful resolution of conflict”. EN.CPS wants to
help developing such a peace force as a complementary task of long term civil
Austrian Peace Services
(Austria), Comité de Gestion du Service de Paix (France), Forum Ziviler
Friedensdienst e.V. (Germany), Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (Germany), Ohne Rüstung
Leben (Germany), Foundation for Human Rights and Peace Education (Hungary),
Pax Christi Austria (Austria),
Peace Bureau Salzburg (Austria), Fellowship of Reconciliation
4your questions and contacts: rbr(at)4u2.ch