20 Years in Photos
Who are we?
Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is an international NGO committed to the protection of civilians living in areas affected by armed conflict. The use of civilian teams, specially trained in nonviolent peacekeeping methods, is a unique approach to civilian protection and violence reduction. By living and working directly in the areas most affected by conflict, NP builds mutual trust among local actors, including state and non-state actors. NP is a leader in the application of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP). Unlike traditional peacekeeping methods, such as the military or private security company approach, UCP methods are unarmed, and do not depend on the protection by armed actors. It is a real paradigm shift from the current approach to security, using the power of relationships rather than the power of threat.
For the last 20 years, our mission has been to protect civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies, build peace side-by-side with local communities, and advocate for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity. NP envisions a worldwide culture of peace in which conflicts within and between communities and countries are managed through nonviolent means. We are guided by principles of nonviolence, non-partisanship, primacy of local actors, and civilian-to-civilian action.
Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP)
UCP is rooted in two main fields of practice: one field of practice is peacekeeping, and the other is the practice of Nonviolence. In general, UCP contains the 3 main pillars below:
Protect: Unarmed civilians, nationals, and internationals, providing direct protection to civilians under threat of physical violence without resorting to weapons.
Support: Supporting local civil society organizations and communities to better protect themselves, build peace and prevent further outbreaks of violence.
Strengthen: Strengthening the capacity of existing protection mechanisms and local peace structures to sustain peace.
Our evidence-based, civilian-led approaches have protected tens of thousands of people around the world since our launch in 2002, impacting millions more and helping communities live free from fear and become equipped to protect themselves and create sustainable peace. Welcome to our photo exhibit on the occasion of our 20th anniversary. We are happy to share with you some snapshots of our work from the last years.
Come and join us in building a nonviolent future.
NP provides protective accompaniment in Leer County, South Sudan. Protective accompaniment is a preventive strategy where protectors use their physical presence, visibility, and relationships to prevent threats from being realized. This method is often used in order to prevent sexual and gender based violence (SGBV): In 2014, there were around 150 reports of SGBV per month prior to NP’s presence in that area. In the month following the
implementation of protective activities, there were zero reports of violence–and this continued. A local woman said, “When NP started working here, everything changed. Before, we were scared to even leave our houses. Now we even feel safe to be outside and bathing at midnight.”
Zones of Peace
In militarised environments in the Philippines, NP monitors schools as ‘zones of peace.’ By maintaining a visible presence in at-risk communities, we have responded to concerns the six grave violations of children’s rights, including concerns of military actor occupation of school buildings, the proximity of Unidentified Explosive Ordinances to schools, armed clashes that disrupt the academic cycle, or any restrictions to the freedom of movement of students and teachers. NP’s child protection work has a wide reach; we provide protective presence at schools that have been attacked in the Philippines, at child friendly spaces of displacement sites in South Sudan, and for children who were threatened for their alleged role in extremist groups or crimes in Iraq.
Displacement, return, and reintegration
NP staff, Rocky Ambago and Mohammed Abbas, walk among rubble in al-Ayadiyah. On August 27, 2017, the Iraqi coalition retook control of nearby Telafar City, which resulted in ISIS fighters and their families taking refuge in al-Ayadiyah. The battle caused extensive damage to the town and its infrastructure which is still visible nearly three years later at the time the photo was taken. The return of IDPs and reconciliation are omnipresent themes throughout humanitarian programming, especially due to the ongoing consolidations and closures of displacement camps in Northern Iraq. The wish of IDPs to return safely to their area of origin to peaceful coexistence appears to be complicated. NP works with people during displacement, return and reintegration in areas where peace is being brokered and developed.
Built on Nonviolence
«I spent my childhood fleeing violence. My parents didn’t want me to be recruited as a child soldier, so the longest I ever stayed in one place was three months. My dad dug foxholes to hide in when bombs were dropped. My mom foraged for wild food when we were starving. Then, a peace agreement was signed in 2005,
ending Sudan’s 22–year long civil war. There was great hope for education, better infrastructure and healthcare. But as I got older, the violence only continued. A group of cattle keepers had killed my cousin and the community wanted me to help take revenge. I felt there had to be a better way to live, without conflict. But I didn’t know how. Then I saw a posting for a job with NP. They wanted to resolve the conflict in my community through nonviolence. I began working with NP and for the first time in a long time, I had a hope that we could create a better future, without violence.» Excerpt from 2018 interview with Hunter Dalli (left).
Upon first hearing about Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP), many people question if protection can truly be provided without force or the threat of force- as UCP practitioners would appear too vulnerable in situations of armed conflicts. However, NP’s first priority remains the safety of their team. At first glance, this photo appears to depict a meeting between NP and soldiers, but it is much more candid than you might have expected. While the team in Malabang was taking a break, Badurdeen, a NP driver, shared a cigarette with the Armed Forces
of the Philippines soldiers and sat with them for a chat. The answer to how protection can be provided without force is truly rooted in the strength of relationships built on connections between individuals like Badurdeen and moments as human as sitting for a chat.
Supporting Civil Society
Our work in Thailand began in 2015, when NP organised workshops on civilian engagement in peace processes. From these workshops, our Thai relationships grew and Women Peace and Security became a major component of our work. Civil society groups have been crucial in providing various support and services to victims and survivors of violence. From 2016 to the present, most of NP’s work in Southern Thailand–in Patani, Yala and Narathiwat Provinces–has been through collaboration with local partners.
Youth Protection Teams
From conducting protective patrols, to mobilising Youth Protection Teams (YPT), to conducting mediation, youth are demonstrating what it means to use unarmed and nonviolent strategies to build peace, security and safety in their communities. As noted by one member of a YPT, “It is good if you tell someone why you don’t want them to do something they see as normal. This is what NP is doing by talking to us, the youth, about violence. NP is showing us how to solve our problems peacefully. We want to try to use this means [and], if it succeeds, we shall continue with it. If it does not, then we shall see what other means are available to solve our issues in the community, but not fighting.”
The climate in Northern Iraq is dry and hot, with annual average temperatures above 18°C. Because of this, many rest during the day but socialize and open the markets at dusk. In the IDP camps, many protection actors will do safety and security patrols of the camps during the day, but it is much less common that they conduct them at night. Our night time patrolling in displacement sites, in Iraq for example, help reduce harassment or acts of aggression of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by local community members, police, and other armed actors.
Protecting Civic Space
Our work in the U.S. is focused on the direct protection of civic space, building community capacity, and reimagining safety. All too often, violence corrodes the space for underrepresented and under-protected people to express their needs and exercise their rights. We know that conflict and disagreement only escalate when these crucial spaces are infringed upon. That’s why NP offers safety support for community actions, celebrations, and events—to keep space open for everyone to excercise their rights, including protest and civic action. Our work is proactive and preventative and always starts with collaborative conversations to understand the needs of the event and organizers. During the event, our teams model community safety alternatives that don’t rely on the use of force. Safety, the one that lasts, does not look like surveillance, but relationships.
Embedded in Community
Jasmin Teodoro and Wanfatma “Fatma” Marrack from NP talk to male residents about the security situation in their area in Sulu. One of NP’s strengths is how embedded our staff are within the community, and how much of our relationship building, security assessments, and outreach start with visits such as these–two NP protection offi cers out in the community, talking with community members. Fatma felt that being a woman in her line of work helps. She said that people in the community tend to listen to her more. At times there can be an initial negative response from the community but she holds steadfast in her “gentle way of dealing with people.” This makes people liken her to “a mother talking to her children in a calm manner.”
Advocating for Change
Members of Women Protection Teams (WPT) at the 2022 National Women’s Conference in South Sudan.
Our advocacy efforts are dedicated to interrupting cycles of violence and enhancing nonviolent responses to conflict. From teams in the field supporting civilians to directly advocate for their needs, to direct engagement with parties to a conflict, to high-level political advocacy in key international fora, WPT members will advocate to their local chiefs and governors—one WPT member shared: «I see changes. Previously, men thought, ‘this woman has no voice to talk with us, even if it is my mother.’ But now, men will give women the chance to talk first. They now recognize that we have voices and they want to hear what we have to say—we are talking about peace.»
Community Researchers and Resiliency
One of our initiatives in Myanmar has been to support 35 «community researchers.» With support from NP, these community members actively participated in research on resiliency in their own communities—asking «what does resiliency mean in our community? What would safety mean for us? What do we already have in place that we can build upon?» Most communities in situations of violent conflict already have some self-protection and conflict-resolution strategies or mechanisms that existed before NP arrives in the area. In many cases on-going violence, destruction of infrastructure, and displacement may have overwhelmed or broken down local peace infrastructures. Enhancing local capacities starts with the recognition of existing capacities among conflict-affected communities to interrupt cycles of violence and enhance nonviolent responses to conflict.
Climate Change and Conflict
Women in Kuach Lual, South Sudan come to meet NP during one of our visits to monitor the cattle camp’s security situation and cattle migration. Whether it be a pastoralist, cattle keeper, or a displaced group-communities across South Sudan have been bearing the brunt of intense and worsening annual flooding. Amid the compounding crises of climate change, conflict, and risks to the protection of civilians, we need responses premised on the interconnections between people, security, and planet. Unarmed Civilian Protection is one response that does just that.
Protection Amid the Call for Racial Justice
Aurora Adams is a veteran, queer-minded activist, community organizer, student, and—following NP trainings—a NP volunteer equipped to keep her neighbours safe. After the uprisings in the Summer of 2020, NP started activating community volunteers to provide protection at the polls in November 2020, and fully launched the U.S. program with 60+ volunteers at the start of Derek Chauvin’s trial (in which he was later convicted for the
murder of George Floyd). Aurora shared: “The work that Nonviolent Peaceforce is doing is not only needed and helpful, but volunteering with NP also gives me a place where I am able to create community, which is incredibly important.”
Dr. Rosemary Kabaki, Head of Mission for NP Myanmar, conducts a training on peacebuilding. As Myanmar emerged from military rule in 2012 and embarked on a peace process, we extended our support by promoting inclusive ceasefires. Between 2013 to 2018, we trained and coached more than 700 community members from 8 different states in ceasefire monitoring and unarmed civilian protection and supported them
in establishing their own networks. We also provided training in ceasefire monitoring to ethnic armed organisations and facilitated dialogue between ceasefire parties and civil society groups, promoting civilian protection as an integral part of ceasefire processes.
From Guns to Cows
One day in a Child Friendly Space in Mayendit, South Sudan, a group of boys arrived carrying clay machine guns molded to look like mini AK-47s. An NP protection officer asked them, “Is this what you want from your life? Is a gun what you want?” The boys responded, “No! We want cows.” So together the protection officer and boys dismantled the clay guns to make a herd of cows to share with the group.
Women at the Table
NP’s program in Myanmar aims to increase women’s participation in the decision-making process for peace and reconciliation. «If women are at the table, there will be less tension, and the dynamic will surely change,» shared an Emerging Woman Leader in 2019. «I believe that in the Myanmar context, women are the best mediators.» NP hones the skills of Emerging Women Leaders so they can respond to issues of conflict and violence in their communities. Through NP, these women are increasing their participation for peace and reconciliation, establishing protection and peace teams of local women, and are advocating to increase safety in their communities and homes.
Women Protection Teams
In 2011, a group of women approached NP and asked for training so that they could provide Unarmed Civilian Protection on their own. Since then, these trainings have been replicated and today, there are 70 Women Protection Teams (WPT) working across South Sudan. While the vast majority of their work is independent, the WPT work jointly with NP and are highly trained on Unarmed Civilian Protection in general, and more specifically on social cohesion, leadership, coordination and advocacy, Early Warning Early Response (EWER), and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response. Those involved are embedded in their communities, have strong networks of relationships, and use these networks to prevent and intervene in violence in an inclusive and participatory manner.
Protection in Emergencies
During the Marawi Siege by a local militia that had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, militants inflicted at least 25 extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property on the local community. At the time, NP accompanied Muslim and non-Muslim families as they evacuated and supported hostage survivors. NP’s Xarifa Sanguila reflected: «We accompanied a family of Muslims along with non-Muslims until they arrived safely in the nearby city—Iligan City. We cannot explain our feelings when we saw the non-Muslims raising their hands and yelling «WE ARE ALIVE! WE ARE ALIVE!» In the early months of the Siege, only NP was always seen, every day, on the road going to Marawi. Other international and local organizations were advised to evacuate or cease to conduct activities outside of their offi ce while NP’s Lanao Field Team was busy responding to civilian protection. The application of UCP was strengthened especially in building and rebuilding relationships with all the stakeholders.
A Link to Humanitarian Organisations
Due to NP’s close relationships with communities, we are well-positioned to sharing their concerns to humanitarian organisations when their activities are launched or encouraging them to communicate difficulties that may emerge. NP also supports ‘protection mainstreaming’ among local and international humanitarian agencies include training and joint security assessments.
Preventing and Responding to SGBV
The main focus of Women Protection Teams (WPT) and Youth Protection Teams (YPT) is to engage in SGBV prevention and supporting women’s and youth’s participation in peace processes. In areas affected by conflict, sexual and gender-based violence is oftentimes used as a tool of war. Confronting it is a tool of peace. NP helps to create a space for survivors to break their silence, improving access to life-saving services and justice, and prevention through behavioral change. In many communities, support has enabled community members to confront this violence nonviolently, deescalate violent situations, protect the most vulnerable, assist survivors in accessing lifesaving treatment, and advocate for the next generation of girls. “Every day you could hear about rape cases—old women, young girls”, says Yodita, one of the forty female members of the WPT in Yambio, South Sudan. “I joined the Women Protection Team because I want to help people to understand what peace is,” says Yodita.
Uplifting Indigenous Knowledge
Rosamie (name changed) is a chairperson for an indigenous woman’s group in the Philippines. The group aims to bridge and strengthen peace talks between indigenous tribes and parties to the violent conflicts that have affected their ancestral lands. After attending NP’s training, Rosamie intervened in a local feud where a man was killed during a fight at a local village representation, starting a cycle of revenge killings between two extended families. Not wanting anyone else to be harmed, she mediated between the two families and facilitated an agreement through the tribal Council of Elders and the confict was resolved peacefully.
Being an Upstander
NP staff , volunteers, and training participants run a simulation during a training in Sunset Park, Brooklyn in response to the ongoing wave of anti-Asian violence. Mutual protection and Upstander Intervention trainings are one tactic in the broader strategy in building community safety. In the past few years, the United States has seen a continued increase in hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander community, a centuries-old phenomenon that has surged during the pandemic. Kalaya’an Mendoza, Director of Programs for NP U.S. (second from the left) shared, “mutual protection is an ancestral gift that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have inherited in order for our communities to survive genocide and colonial violence. Since the problems that engender crime stem from white supremacy, the solution isn’t to implement a white supremacist policing system — it’s to destroy the white supremacy that endangers all Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Disrupting the narrative that vilifies and dehumanizes Black people is one accessible solidarity action everyone can take.”
NP facilitates reunification of families separated by conflict in South Sudan through a process of registration in various regions of the country. Michael (father) and Anna (mother) were separated from their children Ezekiel (17) and Nyakueny (6), at the beginning of the fl areup of civil confl ict in South Sudan in 2014. The children went with their relatives into the Bentiu Protection of Civilians site, while the parents made their way to Juba. After 2
years apart the family is reunited in a Protection of Civilians site in Juba.
Implementing the Peace Process
NP is an implementing organization of the ongoing peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government. Our mandate includes ceasefire monitoring, creating safe spaces for peaceful dialogue between different stakeholders in the country, among others. Former International Monitoring Team (IMT) Head of Mission, Major General Datuk Sheikh Mohksin, stated in 2016 that «the work NP does makes the eff orts of the IMT possible. … the information and understanding NP teams have of the situation on the ground is tremendous and essential.»
Community Security Fora
Before, during and after displacement, we provide a holistic approach to protection in emergencies. Our teams
not only work inside displacement sites, but they also provide protective presence in insecure areas to prevent displacement or facilitate safer displacement and accompany returnees back to their villages. Our teams build capacity among displaced communities and those at high-risk to strengthen their self-protection capacities or early response mechanisms. In addition to increasing security, it restores a sense of ownership among people that may have lost everything. One way we do this is through Community Security Fora‒established to raise
their voices, including men, women and youth. One woman participant shared: «It is great to see authorities deal with our problems; otherwise you don’t find them anywhere in al-Ayadiyah! NP has a great role in emphasizing our voices to the authorities. We do something even men don’t get to!»
Ceasefires and Peace Processes
Inclusive ceasefires and peace processes view all stakeholders as having a role in shaping peace and strive to bring stakeholders into negotiations and the search for solutions. Crucially important is the inclusion of women, youth, and other marginalized communities—not merely as representatives, but as active participants and leaders. NP’s niche is its focus on the proactive role of civil society in ceasefire monitoring and the integration of monitoring with UCP methods. We promote an approach led by civil society actors and focuses squarely on reducing the impact of ceasefire violations and armed clashes on civilian populations, such as
⸱Putting communities at the centre of ceasefire processes
⸱Building trust between ceasefire parties and communities
⸱Monitoring and reporting with direct protection method
In working to provide protection in humanitarian emergencies, a specific focus for NP is given to the issue of displacement, with growing concern given to natural disasters and climate-related events. The niche of NP in the humanitarian sphere lies with its application of UCP and its unique feature of direct physical protection. We combine this with other humanitarian protection eff orts such as reducing the vulnerability of rape survivors to further harm or providing safer access to humanitarian assistance for ethnic minority groups. We also support local and international organisations to strengthen meaningful access and safety in their aid eff orts. Some of our activities are:
⸱Direct physical protection
⸱Protection before, during and after displacement
⸱Self-protection among displaced people
Children living in the midst of armed conflict face unprecedented threats. These include the six types of grave child-right violations mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 1612:
⸱Killing and maiming of children
⸱Recruitment and use of children in armed forces or groups
⸱Attacks on schools and hospitals
⸱Rape and grave sexual violence
⸱Denial of humanitarian access
The niche of Nonviolent Peaceforce lies with its application of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) and its unique feature of direct physical protection. NP combines this with other child protection eff orts such as family tracing and reunification, monitoring, facilitating access to legal aid.
Social cohesion is often described as the “glue” that unites a society in which individuals, groups and institutions having different beliefs or goals can co-exist in harmony. The niche of Nonviolent Peaceforce lies with its application of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) methods and its long-term presence at the community level, before, during and after crisis situations and humanitarian emergencies. Some of our activities include:
⸱Building bridges between communities and armed actors
⸱Strengthening social mobility and self-empowerment among marginalised groups
⸱Enhancing nonviolent attitudes and behaviour within fragile communities.
Women, Peace and Security
Women, Peace and Security (WPS) is a mechanism to promote peace by protecting women and girls who are heavily impacted by conflict and to balance power relations. Our niche lies with its application of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) and its unique feature of direct physical protection. We combine this with other known WPS strategies such as fostering alliances between women’s groups, training emerging women leaders or facilitating assistance regarding sexual violence. Our work includes:
⸱Participation of women from civil society in security processes
⸱Direct physical protection and self-protection
⸱Integrating protection and relief efforts.