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H. Sinn: Civilian Peace Service Initiatives

Presentation to the Canadian Leadership Conference and Global Peace Festival
Ottawa, Canada, October 2-5, 2008

Civilian Peace Service Canada (CPSC) began in February 2005, following an International Civilian Peace Service Consultation at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Since then, our CPSC Committee has moved forward informed by the experience of our European friends and colleagues, supported by the ongoing work of Canadian peace, human rights, and development NGOs, along with our own particular views and undertakings.

Specifically, in Canada we are moving ahead with the promotion of a Civilian Peace Service in conjunction with a Federal Department of Peace Initiative and the emphatic advocacy of peace as a profession. CPS Canada has issued a 400-page White Paper, developed an initial profile of a Peace Professional, and is about to implement a pilot project for the accreditation of Peace Professionals. Our colleagues in French Canada are currently exploring the creation of a Civilian Peace Service Cadet Corps.

The approach being taken by CPSC to promoting peace professionalism is competency-based. With the support and active participation of key partners, we plan to build a roster of qualified Peace Professionals who demonstrate the shared Core Values and Key Competencies (see below) which we propose as necessary to serve effectively in areas of conflict. Development of the Core Values and Key Competencies is largely based on the input of seasoned experts with a passion for peace and a heart for helping others. Two CPSC conferences, including the most recent involving Dr. Johan Galtung, have inspired and informed our work.

The approach we are using begins with the assessment of potential candidates against Core Values as an entry qualification. Successful candidates are then measured against the Key Competencies and invited to participate in training as appropriate. Seasoned Peace Professionals agree that while Key Competencies can be learned, Core Values need to be in place from the start. Consequently, if Core Values are not identified during rigorous initial screening, candidates are not invited to continue the qualification process.

The Core Values that are felt to be critical for professional peace work are:

  • Empathy
  • Sincerity
  • Humility
  • Sound judgment
  • Integrity
  • Strong desire for social justice and peace for all
  • Personal maturity
  • Willingness to learn

The Key Competencies felt to be essential are:

  • Communication
  • Operational planning
  • Conciliation
  • Peacebuilding
  • Conflict analysis and transformation
  • Personal security
  • Facilitation
  • Strategic thinking
  • Mediation
  • Teamwork

The Canadian Department of Peace Initiative has chapters in 11 Canadian cities and just concluded a very successful Women Building Peace banquet, honoring Canadian women. CDPI is looking forward to participating in the third International Conference of this growing worldwide movement. The conference is to be held in September 2009 in Costa Rica, in conjunction with the establishment of a Ministry of Peace by the Costa Rican government.

CPSC Canada is well underway with plans for its Women Building Peace conference February 15-17, 2009, at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. We are convinced that youth and women are essential to both the creation of Ministries of Peace and a formal Civilian Peace Service in partnership with government.

The idea of a Civilian Peace Service is not new. If it were, then we would have a much harder and longer road ahead of us. Back in 1922, Clara Ragaz-Nadig, wife and partner of the theologian Leonhard Ragaz, petitioned the Swiss government with 40,000 signatures for a Civilian Service as a substitute for military service. Before her and the founding in 1915 of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, members of the Peace churches —  Quakers, Mennonites, and Doukhobors, among others — preceded us and our work by several hundred years.

It was in that older tradition and its spirit that the World Peace Brigade was created in 1962. The World Peace Brigade undertook in its two-year existence three significant nonviolent interventions in international conflicts.  Based on Mahatma Gandhi’s 1917 Shanti Sena — or Peace Army — his successor, Vinoba Bave, petitioned the United Nations in 1970 for a Civilian Peace Service. In Canada, Peace Brigades International was established in 1981, largely by members of the earlier World Peace Brigade who reassembled. Peace Brigades International today has offices in 15 countries and manages five international projects of long standing.

Taking the cue nationally and internationally, the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg proposed in 1994 a Civilian Peace Service as a formal partnership between government and a nongovernmental organization in the fields of peace, human rights, and development. Backed by some 80 NGOs and the Green Party, the proposal was adopted, in part, by the German government and implemented in 1999. At about the same time, an international organization called the Nonviolent Peaceforce was formed, with some 90 member organizations internationally.

Clearly, unarmed civilians are serving and have served peace the world over in many ways. We are fortunate to have this tradition and these precedents to build upon and further develop, both in theory and in practice. The establishment of peace as a profession is moving rapidly from the dream stage into reality, for both young and old to choose as a career, similar to how we might choose to become lawyers, dentists, engineers or doctors.

A culture of peace is a work in progress, along with its own architecture and appropriate institutions, such as departments and ministries, which will coordinate the projects locally, nationally, and internationally. We cannot fail to notice as we come in contact and come to know each other as workers in the same field, the growth of peace work in its diversity, complexity and essential unity.

Regardless how we approach peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, be it as a religious calling or as secular profession, the values and competencies required to be effective are similar if not the same. Training programs, present and future, will aim to further clarify values and to expand and strengthen a growing range of competencies. We are likely to learn how to better observe and measure our effectiveness as peace workers in a growing set of diverse environments and circumstances and to deal with potential and actual conflict—and its consequences. Most importantly, we are learning from each other and are looking forward to learning from you.

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