4u2 - For you too - Roland Brunner
Report of the 2. Preparatory Meeting of European Peace Teams and Non-violent Conflict Resolution Initiatives
Cologne, May 15th to 16th, 1998
Present were 13 persons:
The Hungarian people were not able to come for lack of funding. They gave their greetings to the persons present. Further greetings came from: David Grant, Frieder Wolf and Heinz Wagner.
First part, May 15th, evening
1. Getting acquainted
This was the second preparatory meeting, meant to make a step forward to an European NGO-network of Peace Team and Conflict Resolution work. The first preparatory meeting was in July '97; this time many organisations present were the same as last year, the representatives however were for the greater part new. That is why the first part of the meeting was spent on making acquaintances. Each person gave a short presentation of the goals of their group and of the activities they nowadays are involved in. Although each group has its own way of working, closely related to how politics and peace work in the individual countries are organised, the basic goals and objectives seem to be very similar.
Roland Brunner (GSoA): The "Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee" works on two new constitutional referenda: abolishing the army and founding a voluntary civil peace service in Switzerland. The basic idea of this action is: we need security, not defence, and only solidarity gives security. For each initiative a hundred thousand signatures are required. At this moment each initiative has already 20 000 signatures. One activity in this framework is a festival on August 1st this year. We are all heartily invited to come and support their action (more details below: "Next events").
Thomas Bertin (MAN): The "Mouvement por une Alternative Non-violente" is one of the organisations within the CCPS which started two years ago to promote civil intervention. They work on two levels, campaigning and doing small scale experiments to develop a good training. The first project is in Kosovo. The NGOs pay for the projects, the state subsidises the trainings.
Mans van Zandbergen (BVTN): The "Burger Vredes Teams Nederland" presented the day before its curriculum for training civil peace team workers. This curriculum is the first step in official co-operation with a vocational high school, where in 1999 a group of 20 students will start this one year training. Acquisition of students and finding projects of internships and jobs is the next step to take. For this they are starting a support group with relevant organisations like the Red Cross and Trade Unions.
Janne Poort - van Eeden (BVNT/IFOR): The "International Fellowship for Reconciliation" is a spiritually based organisation with branches, affiliates and groups in over 40 countries. They have five common programs, one priority is Disarmament and Peace Teams, for which they have a representative in the board of the Balcan Peace Team. The international secretariat is developing an initiative for a large scale simulation game of Non-violent Security and Intervention.
Christine Schweitzer (BPT/WRI): The "Balcan Peace Team" supports local groups who invite them; they start no project of their own. - "War Resisters International" supports and promotes solidarity and co-operation between pacifists in several countries. They don't agree with world intervention, because a third party cannot enforce peace. In September they organise a conference in Croatia on non-violent intervention.
Ansgar Kaup (PBI): "Peace Brigades International" have peace workers in Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti and North America. They had to close the Sri Lanka project because of pressure by the government that demanded submitting their reports to Government Ministries prior to publication and providing names and addresses of all their contacts. There was much discussion in PBI about this discussion, as with all decisions, since PBI decides structurally in consensus.
Burkhard Luber (Threshold Foundation): The "Threshold Foundation" has projects in former Yugoslavia, where they help in community building (literally and figuratively) and develop a peace network between local NGOs. In their newsletter, they specialise on good news, sharing experiences which might be useful for others. An electronic supplement will come out at the end of this year. They also have electronic communication between southern and eastern Europe ("Peacetronics"), exploring what media can mean for groups in peace work.
Markus Pühringer (ÖFD/PXÖ): "Österreichische Friedensdienste" is a platform of 15 peace organisations. As an alternative to military service they send civil peace workers to former Yugoslavia. At the start of a project the peace workers get a five-weeks training on conflict resolution, the dangers, fears, political situation and the language. Money for the projects and trainings comes partly from the Ministry of Inner Affairs, partly from donations. Fundraising is important. - "Pax Christi" concentrates on the debate: should Austria be in the NATO or not?
Renate Wanie (HCA): The "Helsinki Citizens' Assembly" wants to build a dialogue between Eastern and Western European people. Three years ago an international conference gathered much interest and enthusiasm, yet little action followed and only few contacts remain. A great diversity of orientations among the different national sections as well as lack of money are the main causes of today's low profile. Might the European Union provide funds? Renate is active in publishing and giving trainings on conflict resolution in schools and universities.
Birgitta Meier (Friedensmuseum): The Peace Museum at Nuremberg is an initiative to non-violent action. It is a positive answer to the many War museums. It includes a library with books, electronic peace games and co-operative games. Important part of the work is gathering oral history on non-violent actions. Old people should be interviewed on the short term.
At half past nine we decided to interrupt the presentations. The hosts from the forumZFD left their presentation for the following morning. The group relaxed on a restaurant's terrace in the inner city of cologne, right below St. Severin's Church, thus passing to an informal way of further getting acquainted.
Minutes first part: Janne Poort - van Eeden, Hilversum, May 25th, 1998
Second part: We continue on Saturday morning, May 16th, 1998.
Tilman Evers (forumZFD) passes the chair to Roland Brunner (GSoA). We agree on the following agenda for the day:
1. Getting acquainted (continuation)
Tilman Evers, Carsten Herzberg and Helga Tempel give a short presentation of the forumZFD work. The outstanding activity since last year’s meeting was the four month model training course funded by the Land of Northrhine-Westfalia (NRW). The project was a co-operation with the protestant-ecumenical Aktionsgemeinschaft Dienst für den Frieden (AGDF), Bonn, and with Bund für Soziale Verteidigung (BSV), Minden. It was not easy to find sufficient participants for the course, as several of the ensuing projects were not reliably funded and planned. There were 2 trainers and 14 participants. The training was very intense and offered (too) many subjects; the evaluation showed that future course should leave more space to the individual capacities and interest of the trainees. Most participants are now working in peace projects in former Yugoslavia. First reports show that the training was very helpful for their present work, even though many gaps as to concrete conditions and needs remained. One important effect is that the participants know each other and are actively networking among themselves in Ex-Yugoslavia. A follow-up seminar was held in Sarajevo in March, 1998. - A second and third course are planned for 1998.
The forumZFD considers itself as pacifistic in a positive, constructive way; anti-militarism is not the primordial direction of its energies. Up to now, the forumZFD has about 90 members: 30 institutions and 60 individual members. The main activities are: Spreading the idea of non-violent conflict resolution and civil peace teams; lobbying for public funding and legal recognition; professionalising peace work through adequate training; networking with similar groups on the national and the international level.
The forumZFD produced an exhibition of 10 multicolour panels explaining the idea of non-violent conflict resolution. The three copies of this exhibition are lent out by the forumZFD secretariat; the demand by peace initiatives, political groups, church communities etc. is rather vivid.
Various German peace initiatives and peace research institutes have recently set up a Platform of Civil Conflict Resolution, as possible German branch of the European Platform founded in Amsterdam in February 1997. The forumZFD is founding member of this German platform.
At present, lobbying a possible change in government following the September elections. There are dialogues with representatives especially from the Social Democratic and the Green Party, trying to ensure that non-violent conflict resolution will find recognition in a future coalition program. – Linking NGO-activities with official actors is rather difficult in Germany: Anti-state sentiments from below correspond with authoritative attitudes from above. In Scandinavian countries this is much easier.
As a résumé of the presentations, the participants agreed that although each group has its own way of working, closely related to how politics and peace work have developed and are organised in the different countries, the basic goals and objectives and even the ways of campaigning are similar – and so are the problems they are facing.
A number of possible themes for further discussion were listed up. These were
Roland Brunner opens the topic with the following leading questions: How do we hear from each other’s activities? How can we share our experiences? What are possible fields of co-operation among European Peace Team initiatives, and what sort of connection might be adequate for this?
One field of possible co-operation is training. There is already an international exchange of concepts and experiences in curricula formation. The Swiss and the Austrian initiatives might be interested in sending participants to the NRW courses. – Another field could the exchange of young people, especially those doing practical studies as students of social work; or in some countries of conscientious objectors. Markus Pühringer will consider this for the Österreichische Friedensdienste.
The already existing "European Platform on Conflict Prevention and Transformation" in Utrecht might be helpful for networking. It publishes the "Conflict Prevention Newsletter"; the address is: Conflict Prevention Newsletter, Fax +31 – 30 – 253 75 29, Tel. +31 – 30 – 253 75 28, e-mail: email@example.com Editor: Hans van de Veen
Participants regret that in spite of early invitation nobody from the "platform" is present, and no contact had been possible with its director. Some people feel that the Platform seems to be more concentrated on the diplomatic than on the "grass-root" level. – Mans van Zandbergen will pay a visit to their office in Utrecht and find out possibilities of co-operation.
The proposal is made to form a "European Network (Forum? Assembly?) of Civil Peace Services". It is meant to be less than an organisation, but more than a mailbox. The idea is strongly supported by all participants. Yet details and formal inauguration is left to a next meeting, following internal consultation within the participating groupings.
As a first step, GSoA offers its home page on Internet as a point of information and exchange. Thus, the Network can start as a "virtual organisation". The address is: http://www.gsoa.ch/act e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The minutes of last year’s meeting are already on that homepage, and so will be the minutes of this year. Further entries could include: Presentation of groups, proposals of projects, announcement of trainings, seminars, events etc., depending on the material and information sent to GSoA. All groups and initiatives are invited to mail their information for the www-publication.
The Threshold Foundation is in itself an electronic network, especially linking alternative media, democratic dissidents and peace initiatives among the different ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia. – A similar internet site for alternative media on Ex-Yugoslavia is http://www.medienhilfe.ch.
3. Lobbying and Funding
An important problem all peace team initiatives are facing is funding. The participants consider whether and how joint efforts in this field concerning EU-fund could be helpful. At the middle range, this might mean to engage a person with a small office in Brussels to do the necessary lobbying and show ways through the bureaucratic "jungle" of the EU.
A first step would be to bring peace team initiatives to the official knowledge of EU institutions. This leads to the idea of a conference at Brussels. A symbolic year would be the year 2000, promulgated as "Year of the Culture of Peace" by the UN General Assembly; and a symbolic date the 21st of March as the beginning of spring. According to previous talks in Brussels, the facilities and translation resources of the European Parliament can rather easily be "lent out" on any Monday and Tuesday morning, before regular sessions of the EP begin on Tuesday afternoon. A possible timetable could be: An international conference of European Peace Team Initiatives on Monday, including cultural events and art; followed by an official presentation to EP members on Tuesday morning. The forumZFD exhibition might be part of the cultural framework.
Planning such an event presupposes some kind of common structure, for example the envisaged "European Network of Civil Peace Services".
It is clear that funding depends on the European Commission and its General Directorates. Yet the EP might be a "door opener": Support by the EP might facilitate action by helpful-minded officials in the Commission. Besides, the EP defines the criteria for the EU budget. Easier than changing these criteria is changing its commentaries, to include civil conflict resolution under some already existing topic.
4. Next events
31st of July – 1st of August 1998: Yourope for Peace. International GSoA Festival for a Europe without Armies with civil Alternatives in Bern, Switzerland
The next forthcoming event is "Yourope for peace" (U4P), organised by GSoA in Bern, 31st of July to 1st of August. It consists of an open air festival on Friday 31st, continues with discussions and workshops during Saturday 1st and ends with a party-night that evening. Foreign guests are welcome. (Renate Wanie is taking part in one panel.)
From the invitation: "The Group for Switzerland without an Army makes the 1st of August, the Swiss national day this year an international event. Against the idea of a closed an introverted state, we stress the open-minded solidarity of the society. Against the militaristic myth of the Swiss defence during the World War II, we struggle for the perspective of a civic enlightenment. While the official Switzerland is commemorating this year its birthday and national day by looking back into the past and inside of the country, we are looking ahead and around. ... We invite you to commemorate the Swiss national day in an international spirit, to search together with us for perspectives of an Europe and a world without armies, and the possibilities of non-violent conflict resolution, conflict transformation and civil peace services."
9th to 11th of October, 1998: 4th European Conference on Peacemaking and Civil Conflict Resolution (ECPCR): Empowering Local Capacities for Peace, in Belfast
The ECPCR is an association of European based individuals and organisations active in the field of peacemaking, peacebuilding and the prevention, resolution and transformation of destructive conflict. ECPCR was founded in 1992. Its main activity is a biennial European conference. The first three conferences were held in Turkey (1992), Spain (1994), and Bulgaria (1996).
The main objective of the conference is to focus on the potential of activist/practitioners in local communities to contribute to peaceful, democratic development. The themes of the Conference encompass a very broad remit and may relate to conflicts between individuals, families, groups, communities and nations.
More information: Project Planning International, Monalto Estate, Spa Road.Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland, BT24 8PT. Tel. +44-1238 561 993, Fax + 44-1238 565 073. e-mail: email@example.com
19th of October, 1998: Consultation on Training in Kassel, Germany
On initiative of the forumZFD, German peace initiatives have established an open consultation on training methods, contents and standards. Foreign colleagues are welcome; working language is German. For more information, address Helga and Konrad Tempel, Föhrenstieg 8, D 22926 Ahrensburg, Tel. +49-4102-53337, Fax –53360.
11th to 16th of May, 1999: International Peace Conference "The Next Millennium: Time to abolish war". In The Hague, Netherlands
More information: New York Office Hague Appeal for Peace 1999, c/o WAM, 777 UN Plaza, NY 10017, New York, USA. Tel: +1 – 212 – 6872 623 Fax: +1 – 212 – 599 13 32; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
European Office Hague Appeal for Peace 1999: c/o IALANA, Anna Paulownastraat 103, 2518 BC The Hague, the Netherlands. tel. +31 – 70 – 36 34 484; fax. +31 – 70 – 34 55 951; e-mail: email@example.com
September 1999 In Switzerland: Presentation of signatures for the GSoA referendum
In September 1999, GSoA will present its 100 000 signatures to the Swiss government, to launch its referendum on the abolishment of the army and the creation of a civil peace service. There will be some public event to that effect. The exact date and form are still open.
5. Next meetings
On our last year’s meeting, we envisaged an European conference in 1999. We now feel that this is too early and that more networking must precede. Besides, 1999 is already "taken" at the international level by Hague Peace Conference in May. A good date for "our" European Conference could be around March 21st, 2000.
Participants request the Stichting Burger Vredens Teams to organise the next meeting, preferably in February 1999 (possibly Feb. 26th to 27th), in the Netherlands. At this meeting, the "if and how" of an All-European network of peace team initiatives and the question of how to present the concern of Civil Peace Teams to the Hague Conference should be the main topic.
An additional preparatory meeting for The Hague could be also in the Netherlands, on May 10th, 1999, the day preceding the Hague Conference.
Minutes second part: Tilman Evers (forumZFD), Ansgar Kaup (PBI), Helga Tempel (forumZFD), July 1998
4your questions and contacts: rbr(at)4u2.ch