An outgrowth of the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace conference, the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was established in 2001 to “promote, develop and implement unarmed civilian peacekeeping as a tool for reducing violence and protecting civilians in situations of violent conflict.” NP is a federation of 64 member organizations from around the world, including Global Exchange, Grassroots International, the Holy Land Trust, the International Solidarity Movement, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Pax Christi USA, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Sojourners, and Tikkun. The co-founders of this federation were Mel Duncan, who had previously worked for the Jobs With Peace Campaign in an effort to reduce America’s military budget during the Reagan administration, and David Hartsough, a longtime Quaker peace activist.
Typically, NP responds to “invitations by credible local organizations [in conflict zones] committed to nonviolent solutions.” Once invited, the Peaceforce dispatches a team of “nonpartisan and unarmed” representatives to live and work in those regions of conflict, where they strive not only to gain the trust of civilians, but also to meet local police, commanders from the opposing sides, and religious, business, and civil-society leaders.
Additional NP activities include: removing civilians from the crossfire of battle and securing safe, temporary housing for them; providing opposing factions a safe space to negotiate; serving as a communication link between warring factions; physically interpositioning themselves between those factions; providing violence-prevention measures during political elections; negotiating the return of kidnapped family members; visibly documenting and reporting activities in conflict zones; and providing round-the-clock accompaniment for peaceworkers who are under specific threat of violence.
All new NP peace workers go through a basic training period during which they are educated in the local languages and cultures of the areas where they are to be deployed; they are also taught about the basic issues underlying the conflicts in those places. For workers without prior experience in conflict situations, this training period (known as Extensive Mission Preparedness Training) lasts 21 days. By contrast, workers who have prior experience in conflict situations undergo only a 10-day Core Mission Preparedness Training program.
NP was involved in a particularly tense standoff in Iraq in April 2004, when nearly 3,000 U.S. troops were poised to attack Shiite rebels near the city of Najaf. In an effort to intervene, NP dispatched a “Peace Team” of volunteers to Najaf to physically place themselves between the American forces and the city’s population center.
A member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, NP has been endorsed by a host of notable leftists, including Daniel Ellsberg, Dennis Kucinich, Mairead Maguire (who participated in Free Gaza Movement flotillas in 2008 and 2009), Rigoberta Menchú, Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Jim Wallis, Cora Weiss, and Stephen Zunes. The Peaceforce is also supported by the Mennonite Central Committee International and Veterans for Peace.
NP’s international executive director is Tim Wallis, who holds a Ph.D. in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford (UK). Wallis founded the British branch of Peace Brigades International, co-chaired the International Governance Council, and served as director of the National Peace Council and of Peaceworkers UK.
NP derives its funding from a variety of sources. Individual donations typically provide about one quarter of its operating revenue ($1.9 million in 2011). Grants from governments (e.g., Belgium, Australia, Norway) and from organizations such as the European Commission, UNICEF, and Cordaid (Netherlands) represent an even larger source of income ($4.7 million in 2011, including $1 million from UNICEF alone). Further, NP receives grants from a number of charitable foundations and religious organizations ($798,000 in 2011, including a first-time grant from George Soros‘s Open Society Foundation Emergency Fund).