Brussels, November 2007
Peace teams: main characteristics
The team-sending organisations have for the most part been limited to small teams by resources and the number of qualified volunteers available. In some cases, however, it was decided that a smaller number of volunteers was advantageous the work (e.g. BPT, WfP). At its largest, Witness for Peace had 40 tong-term team members in the field at one time; now there are four per country. The dramatic change is due to both limited funding and a change of focus. At first the goal was to have as many people as possible see what was going on in Chiapas. Now long-term teams do more research, analysis and writing (1). SIPAZ at one time had 10 team members in Chiapas, but shrinking resources allow for only a two-person team at present (2).
Organisations differ in how many persons they place on a single team, ranging from two to eight. Austrian Peace Services sometimes sends people out alone (3); SIPAZ and Pax Christi have teams of two or three (4); Osijek Peace Teams, three to five (5); BPT from one to four. CPT currently has teams in the field of four, eight, seven and three (6), and PBI’s teams have ranged from two to 25.
The total number of volunteers sustained in the field currently ranges from two to 50: SIPAZ has two, CPS Forum six, Austrian Peace Services 11, CPT 21, PBI more than 50.
PBI has four on-going projects (Columbia, Haiti, Chiapas, East Timor/Indonesia) as does CPT (Chiapas, Hebron, New Brunswick and Colombia). Osijek has five teams in one project.
Age of team members
PBI has an absolute lower age limit of 25 and SIPAZ one of 23. Most other teams will consider a person 21 years old (7). BPT’s lower limit was ”people who were not mature enough without giving an age limit; team members were either in their 20’s or in their 40’s and 50’s.” (8) The average age of WfP team members is 27. Currently, seven full-time CPT Corps members are in their 20’s, two are in their 30’s, four are in their 40’s, three in their 50’s, two in their 60’s, and one in her 70’s. Minimum age is 21.
Culture/ Nation/ Gender
A look at national diversity of peace teams shows WfP and CPT at one end of the spectrum with only members from U.S. and Canada (by choice) and PBI at the other end with its 17 country groups recruiting from all over the world. On the CPT Corps of 19 full-timers, six are from Canada and 13 are from US. Each CPT team is selected and balanced carefully by the Director. Potential members are evaluated for personality type (e.g. leadership), age, gender, etc. It has happened that a team ended up being one female and four males because of the need to balance other factors and having a small field from which to choose (9).
BPT teams were mostly from western Europe and the US, one person was Australian, and residents of countries where the project worked were excluded. Slightly more women than men volunteered for BPT (10). Each Osijek Peace Team includes at least one Serbian, one Croatian, and one international. Members have come from Austria, Germany, Britain, Yugoslavia, Rumania and US.
SIPAZ team members in Chiapas come from France, the Netherlands, Peru, Uruguay, US, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Ecuador as well as Mexico (11). A few of the projects under the German CPS are carried out by nationals from the conflict region (project of Living Without Armament in Vojvodina and of Forum CPS in Belgrade) (12).
Team diversity may at times seem unwieldy and complex, but all agree that it contributes to the betterment of the team. CPT holds the record for greatest age diversity by far, with one volunteer who had not turned 21 and one in her 70’s. All teams strive for gender balance.
The matter of mixed ethnicity on teams is a more complicated one, having to do with justice, language, safety, and effectiveness. CPT team-mate Rey Lopez, originally from the Philippines, was adept and effective in Haitian culture (13) and a PBI team-mate from Japan was effective in Sri Lanka. However, a PBI team in Sri Lanka recommended against having Indian team members because of the colonial relationship between countries (14).
In the case of the arrest of Karen Ridd and Marcella Rodriguez in El Salvador. The two women (Ridd is Canadian, Rodriguez is Colombian) represent an ideal pairing within a team - one for familiarity with proximate language and culture, and one whose white skin provided enough immunity that she might afford some protection to her team partner as well. On that occasion in El Salvador, 37 Europeans and North Americans detained. 75% of them were held less than 24 hours, nearly all handed over to their embassies. However, of the 17 South American and Central American foreigners detained, 60% were held for over four days and then summarily deported. Due to Ridd’s accompaniment, Rodriguez was only Latin American freed the same day (15).
Though diversification and undoing racism have been PBI goals from the onset, fulfilment has proven elusive. There is no mechanism for recruitment in countries other than those which have a PBI group, PBI-USA set aside board seats for people of colour but has difficulty filling them; there has been no successful outreach in Africa.
Early in WfP development it was decided that teams should be from the US in order to contend US policy, which was a primary goal. But Phyllis Taylor believes that peace teams most certainly should be multi-cultural in Israel/Palestine, for example, to establish non-partisanship (16). The same was said of Osijek teams by IFOR secretary Pete Hammerle, that the presence of both Serbs and Croats on each team is essential (17).
(1) : Taylor, Phyllis 4/01 interview with author
(2) : Poen, Robert - 6/01 interview with author
(3) : Some alone, some together in teams (e.g. as international members of the Osijek Peace Teams (Hämmerle, Pete - interview with Christine Schweitzer)
(4) : Weber - 4/01 interview with Christine Schweitzer; Willmutz - 3/01 interview with Christine Schweitzer
(5) : Osijek Peace Teams placed 22 locals and seven internationals on teams in the beginning. Their large size proved problematic, however; now there are three to five members per team and five teams in the field. (Hämmerle, Pete - interview with Christine Schweitzer)
(6) : There are three full-time corps members and one reservist in Chiapas, six full-time and two reserve in Hebron, four full-time and three reserve in New Brunswick and two full-time and one reserve in Colombia. Full-time CPT Corps members alternate service in the field with assignments at home. (Claire Evans - 4/01)
(7) : Those Civil Peace Service volunteers in Germany that are sent out under the budget scheme of the Ministry of Development have to have a minimum age of 25 years, as must those working for Development services
(8) : van den Bosse - interview with author
(9) : Evans - interview with author
(10) : van den Bosse - interview with author
(11) : SIPAZ, ”Five Years of Peacebuilding in Chiapas”
(12) : Schweitzer, oral information
(13) : Schirch 1996: 49
(14) : Ibid - 50
(15) : Mahony/Eguren 197: 179
(16) : Taylor interview with author
(17) : Hämmerle Interview with Christine Schweitzer