Deeply Talks: Unarmed Civilian Protection and Peacebuilding

As Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) becomes an increasingly accepted practice within the mainstream peacebuilding community, our editors speak with Tiffany Easthom of Nonviolent Peaceforce about the overlap between UCP and peacebuilding.

Written by Natalie Sikorski, Alessandria Masi, Hashem Osseiran Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes
New child soldiers sit as they attend their release ceremony in Yambio, South Sudan, on February 7, 2018. STEFANIE GLINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

BEIRUT Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) formally falls under the sector of humanitarian protection. But the methods and strategies associated with this approach “share an identity with the peacebuilding world,” says Tiffany Easthom, executive director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP).

“Quite a lot of our programming … involves working on post-conflict stabilization, civilian participation in cease-fire monitoring and more broadly in peace processes,” she told Peacebuilding Deeply during this month’s Deeply Talks.

As unarmed civilian protection becomes an increasingly accepted practice within the mainstream peacebuilding community, our editors spoke with Easthom about whether UCP can lay the groundwork for future peacebuilding initiatives.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

Easthom defines UCP as a toolkit of nonviolent actions and strategies used to make civilians in conflict safer. But the methods can be deployed beyond protection purposes. They can be used to foster dialogue among parties in conflict and strengthen the participation of local communities in cease-fire negotiations and peace talks.

In Myanmar, for example, NP trains local communities to become active participants in monitoring cease-fire compliance and in negotiations for the actual cease-fire agreement, Easthom said.

“Inclusive participation in peace processes, right from cease-fire onwards, really increases the likelihood that we are going to see sustainable and successful solutions and peace,” she said.

“Every country I have lived in, every country I have worked in, there has been some version of dialogue, mediation and locally driven negotiation – basically some local version of conflict resolution that does not require weapons or harm,” she said.

NP also works to strengthen peace infrastructures that already exist in a country.

“One of our key principles is the primacy of the local actor. And what that really means is first and foremost that when we go into the community we want to make sure that we are not taking over work that is either being done by local people or could be done by local people,” she said.

Easthom explains that training local communities is done primarily through NP’s locally hired staff. Many of them are then seen as leaders in nonviolent conflict resolution in their own communities, she added.

“We work with women’s peacekeeping teams and youth groups. We introduce them to what we do and how we do it, and tell them to take what they like from it, and adapt it to local communities and what works for them,” Easthom said.

For more information from Deeply Talks: Unarmed Civilian Protection and Peacebuilding, listen to the full talk here.

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