Creative and non violent peace strategies
10 / 1999
On the occasion of the Hague international conference on Peace (may 1999), the Yin Yang (masculine-feminine)workshop of the Alliance for a plural, responsible and united world gathered about 20 women from different countries active in peace movements for a 3-days workshop in Amsterdam. It entailed, by putting forward their experiences, collective consideration on the specific contribution of women to prevent and solve conflicts, thereby widening the scope to questioning the importance of gender difference in the organization of our societies, on the material level and on that of mentalities, and on the essential place of women in any process of social evolution and transformation. Following this workshop, the participants organized a session at the Hague on May 13th during which they presented the network they had set up and the conclusion of their collective work.
In most of the experiences of peace activism shared by the workshop participants, there was a common thread of use non-violence as a strategy to resolve conflicts. It was through the experience exposed by the representative of War Resisters International from the USA that this common thread became evident. In 1978, close to 3,000 peace activists had participated in an pacifist act of civil disobedience against the opening of a nuclear plant in the USA by blocking the entrance of the plant. This ended with the arrest of 1,500 people causing much disarray with law enforcement officials who did not have enough place in prison to lock up so many people. Thanks to this pacifist protest, no nuclear plants have been built in the USA since then.
In Georgia, women were running peace education programs for children from Georgia and Abkhazia aimed at destroying the image of the enemy and building bridges for mutual dialogue. In Italy, women have spearheaded an alliance of civil society groups against organized crime; they integrated anti-violence, anti-crime training into educational curriculum at schools, lobbied the government for allocation of resources confiscated from the mafia into use for social causes; and as such they broke the silent consensus that allowed organized crime to go on. In Sudan, women were identifying and promoting the use of traditional local methods of conflict-resolution such as communal singing and dialogue through village councils. In the USA, ex-sex workers have started a training course for male offenders of prostitution to raise awareness of the violence and suffering caused by prostitution.
During the Hague session, Rena Tagirova of Helsinki Citizens Assembly, from Azerbaijan, made a presentation on the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia about the separatist movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. The on-going conflict has fostered the building of the image of the enemy across the opposite sides. Two women from the two sides of the conflict in Azerbaijan and in Armenia have started an initiative of public diplomacy for peace. Rena explained that as a first step the Head of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly in Azerbaijan went to Yerevan to meet her counterpart in Armenia, and from there on the two groups started a campaign of peace diplomacy opening up the channels of communication and dialogue between the civil society groups and the media of the two countries. One of the successes of this campaign was the formation of a peace corridor across the border made up of women and children from the two countries - this was an area that they claimed to be immune from the armed conflict. The public diplomacy started to break down the images of the enemy that the Azeri and the Armenian people had of each other and Rena commented that this is a solid basis upon which the peace process can build upon.
The last presenterat the Hague session, Marie Louise Sibazuri of the Association of Women for Peace in Burundi explained the situation of the armed conflict between the two ethnic tribes of the Hutu and the Tutsi in Burundi which has caused a substantial number of internally displaced people. The fight between the two ethnic groups was a struggle for political power and control over resources and the ongoing militarization drove its strength from the deepening divisions and fostered animosity between the people. The Women’s Association for Peace which is made up of women from both ethnic groups started a peace campaign through peace camps established in each ethnic community and through the broadcasting of peace programs on the National Radio. In the provinces where the radio programs were broadcast they received great attention from the public, and a concrete result was the return of people to their respective villages, decreasing the number of internally displaced people.
In each of these experiences, women have invented creative non-violent strategies to resolve conflicts by building bridges of communication between the opposite sides of the conflict, occupying the empty spaces left by war to organize around social causes, to build solidarity networks, to educate children for peace, to foster public diplomacy towards breaking of the artificial images of the enemy. All of these were aimed at establishing a solid basis for a sustainable peace building process.
This text is a contribution to the workshop on ’women and peace’ organized by the Yin Yang (masculine-feminine)workshop of the Alliance for a responsible and united world shortly before the Hague international Conference on Peace (may 1999). Original sheet in French in this data base.
Colloquium, conference, seminar,… report
The Hague Appeal Session report : When women invent non violent ways to deal with conflicts