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Brussels, November 2007

Peace Teams and Civil Peace Services

Introducing the differences between Peace Teams and Civil Peace Services

“Hope can only be kindled where there is solidarity. It is much easier to throw yourself into any commitment when you have someone with you, protecting you… I can throw myself from a high place, if I know that there is someone there to make sure I am not destroyed by the fall. You give us the force to be able to throw ourselves into our work. You have been expelled. You have suffered some of the same problems as those whom you have helped… Do not forget that it is precisely because you have suffered with the people that you have been able to support them in building their resistance.”

Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez, accompanied by Peace Brigades International in El Salvador. (1)

Peace Teams and Civil Peace Services are both umbrella terms describing a wide range of activities carried out by civilians in conflict areas, which aim at broadening the scope of local activists by accompaniment and presence, resolving conflicts nonviolently, building peace and reconstructing society. They include training of peace workers, raising awareness of the importance of nonviolent conflict resolution, sending out peace teams and co-operating with the local populations in conflict areas. (2)

If there is a difference, then it is a difference between those projects that concentrate on peacekeeping activities (accompaniment, presence, interpositioning), and those groups that concentrate on peacebuilding. But while there is presently no Civil Peace Service focussing solely on accompaniment (though there are other forms of peacekeeping practised), there are a few groups calling themselves Peace Teams that have been more focussed on peacebuilding than on peacekeeping tasks (BPT). That means that neither Civil Peace Service nor Peace Team is a clear-cut concept that separates the two clearly from each other on the one hand, or from other volunteer services on the other. If there is an idea common to the European CPS, then it may be that the term Civil Peace Service expresses a new political movement generally characterised by the following elements or goals: (3)

  • Institutionalise peace services/peace teams and have corresponding legal provisions in place, or make use of ones already existing,(4)

  • Access public funding for grass-roots work for conflict transformation and building up civil society,(5) and

  • Strong emphasis on the necessity of preparatory training that in some cases (not all) goes hand in hand with the objective of professionalising peace services.

Lacking a more specific definition, for the purpose of this study, all those volunteer and training organisations that are members of the European Network for Civil Peace Services (see below) will be called Civil Peace Services (CPS) (6) , all the others Peace Teams. (7)

In our survey of Civil Peace Services and Peace Teams, we have not aimed at covering the activities of all organisations active in that field. Rather, they include a handful of these nongovernmental organisations, and they have been examined as being precedent in many aspects for the development of Nonviolent Peaceforce. (8)

Organisations that send peace teams into areas of conflict do so hoping to increase the odds that local peacemakers will be able to take greater risks in their work but not with their lives. Local individuals and organisations that report human rights abuse or expose injustice, for example, are usually « working without a net." Peace teams take risks themselves in order to be that net.

The nongovernmental organisations that are studies here include those who practice third party nonviolent intervention by placing teams in situations of conflict and instability for more than a short-term visit, march or demonstration. They have additionally analysed their own work and thus increased our understanding of nonviolent intervention. Included here, are Peace Brigades International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Witness for Peace, Servicio Internacional para la Paz, Osijek Peace Teams and Balkan Peace Team. (9)


  • (1) : Moser-Puangsuwan/ Weber 2000: 148.

  • (2) : This definition is based on one by Janne Poort - van Eeden for Civil Peace Services (e-mail communication June 18, 2001), but we have added the part on accompaniment.

  • (3) : In some countries, specially in Germany, CPS tries to distinguish itself from all these other types of civil intervenors by emphasising its professional structure, but their concept has not generally been accepted by the projects in the other countries.

  • (4) : For example volunteer laws like those in France, have provisions for COs to do their alternative service abroad (Austria, Italy).

  • (5) : The leaflet of the European Network states: “CPS is building up a civil society in which conflicts are resolved in a nonviolent way,” and further on: “CPSs are operating at grass-roots and civil society level.”

  • (6) : Projects in the following countries are described: Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Italy and at the European Parliament. The fact that developments in Germany are described in more detail than those in other countries is due to the bias of the author, who has intensive first-hand knowledge of the German CPS and the on-going discussions in that country. Christine has to give thanks to Helga Tempel from the ForumCPS who read the section on CPS in December 2000 and made some very valuable additions and corrections to it.

  • (7) : Peace Team Websites are:

  • (8) : The goals of the Nonviolent Peaceforce in 2001 were as follows in the Draft Proposal: To work with others, including existing peace teams and peace service organisations to develop the theory and practice of third party nonviolent intervention, in order to significantly improve its effectiveness.To significantly increase the pool of people worldwide who are trained and available for third party nonviolent intervention.

To build the support needed to create and maintain a standing force of at least 200 active members, 400 reserves and 500 supporters.

To deploy large-scale third party nonviolent intervention teams in conflict situations.

The first three goals are not stated by the other peace team organisations - if they are shared, it is implied or internal. Unique to NP’s goals is the mention of large size, the development of theory and practice, an increase in world citizens trained for such work, and explicit cooperation with other peace team organisations. The fourth goal statement is common to all teams studied here, but differentiated by size.

  • (9) : Examples are used, when relevant, from other organisations or events, though they were not studied as such. Brief descriptions of these follow.

The Cyprus Resettlement Project (CRP) in 1975 placed three trained teams of internationals in the field to respond to the needs of people displaced by fighting between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.

The Gulf Peace Team (GPT) was a spontaneous effort to stop war; 70 people camped on the Iraqi/Saudi border in 1990.

Cry for Justice (CfJ) was an ad hoc coalition of more than 20 US-based peace groups in a response to the political crisis in Haiti in 1993.

Michigan Peace Team placed teams in Chiapas and has sent peacemakers into Guatemala, Hebron, Bosnia, Haiti, Chiapas and the Western Shoshone Nation in Nevada. At present, they are recruiting for other peace team organisations rather than sending teams of their own.

Mir Sada/We Share One Peace was an attempt, in 1993, to establish peace camps in three cities in Bosnia that were under the control of different parties in the war. Suffering from grievous internal problems, a single group of 65 did manage a caravan to Sarajevo to deliver messages of solidarity.