Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is a young INGO that deploys unarmed civilian staff to conflict zones to reduce violence and protect civilians. Founded in 2002, the project in Sri Lanka that lasted from 2003 to end of 2011 was its pilot project.
This study here intends to sketch the history of this project, discuss the outcomes and impact NP’s work in Sri Lanka had, describe the learning processes that NP underwent, and draw some lessons and conclusions which hopefully may serve to further develop the tool of unarmed civilian protection (UCP) which is what NP calls its approach. The base of the study are mostly external and internal reviews and evaluations undertaken over the years, internal reports and minutes of meetings and interviews with many of those who steered the Sri Lankan project at one period or the other.
Arriving in Sri Lanka during the period of an interim cease-fire in the war between the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the middle of 2003, NP started out with a team of eleven field team members placed in four districts in the South, North and East of Sri Lanka and supported by four management and admin staff in Colombo. It grew to a maximum size of more than 80 international and national staff placed in a maximum of six field sites in the second half of the past decade. After the war that ended in May of 2009 NP intended to stay on to deal with on-going issues of protection in the post-war peacebuilding phase. But eventually NP had to leave by the end of 2011 when it became clear that it would – due to government regulations - not succeed to replace outgoing expat staff with sufficient new numbers of internationals, while at the same time the security situation did not allow to continue NP as a purely Sri Lankan-staffed organization.