Focus on Ukraine: Unarmed Civilian Protection

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

The Nonviolent Peaceforce – 2015-06-18 00:41:09

KIEV (June 2015) — In March 2015, Nonviolent Peaceforce and the Association for Middle Eastern Studies 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.

As of mid-April, 2015 the UN Human Rights Office reports that more than 6,225 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in mid-April of 2014 and expressed 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 and trying to assist victims of the conflict, while at the same time they are attempting to find effective mechanisms for the prevention of violence and 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 that included several rounds of consultations with Ukrainian organizations, conflict-affected communities and various stakeholders, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was invited to Ukraine by local organizations to introduce unarmed civilian protection (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 is in the process of operationalizing a Ukrainian “Peace-building School” and has significant experience in peace-building work in the Black Sea region.

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, conducting a series of trainings for 40 participants.

Trainings were held in two locations, Odessa and Kharkiv,with participants representingUkrainian civil society organizations, civilians in conflict-affected communities(as well 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 guiding participants in 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 summed up 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 the means for 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 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 assisted by Salome Bakashvili (Program Manager) and other NP and AMES staff.

Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping and the United Nations