Nonviolent action in postconflict situations


The Decline In Peace Activism In Post-Repressive Situations -- Croatia

Some say that there is no need for nonviolent activism in post-conflict situations, as the primary target is gone. Sadly however, the end of a conflict does not necessarily bring an end to all other problems.

Militarism, injustice and ethnic tensions can persist long after the guns have been laid to rest. Nonviolent action is necessary precisely to stop a renewed conflict breaking out again. But how do we respond to the drop in peace activism in post-repressive situations ?

Vesna Terselic from Croatia examined the causes of this drop.

  • first feeling of success can lead to apathy
  • diversifying of priorities
  • new style of activism needed
  • fashion
  • more difficult to produce alternatives
  • burnout
  • the absence of constructive programmes to work towards (the role of international agencies now hinders ´local' creativity and determination.
  • Building is harder than reacting
  • international institutions need time to adapt to support the new political and social structures in the new Croatia.
  • During the war anti-war activists joined with peace movement. Many are satisfied with the end of the war and drop out.

By facing these problems, we can find new opportunities into which to channel our energies. The drop in peace activism can be counteracted through a new constituency of activists, e.g. families of disappeared, excombatants. It could also be time to look at previously submerged issues, such as the human rights of soldiers.

Post-conflict Croatia presented an unusual opportunity, in that the military suddenly became very open. There was general acceptance that activists were needed to work alongside the government on issues of militarism and conflict resolution.

Other opportunities to address peace issues that have not yet been taken in Croatia include:

  • Accepting that the WTO and globalised control of agriculture are not a different issue, as they create social and economic injustice and discrimination. However, there is a concern that scarce activist resources in critical regions could become focused on the WTO etc, instead of critical peace issues.
  • Implementing the Community Development model. This requires interacting with people to see what matters to them.

Activists have a tendency to jump in with their opinions on what the important issues are.

  • Linking of interests, e.g. businesses/economists + peace activists want multiethnic state for some similar reasons, e.g. stability. But while dialogue can bring benefits, it also bears a danger of co-option.
  • Ecological Activism provides a universal rallying cry. It is holistic and allows personal and conditional priorities.
  • WTO/GMO actions can be used as a training ground. They can also convey other issues, such as diversity.
  • Croatian NGOs need to be given space from the international agenda of funders

Justice In Post-Conflict Situations -- Chile

Nicole Drouilly from Chile reported on the need for justice in post-conflict situations. We must strive for justice for all victims of oppression -- sometimes this is more important than peace. Without justice the victims cannot experience closure and are forced to relive the past again and again. Peace without justice can lead to repression of the past, until the injustice emerges again having festered into revenge, with the force of history behind it. The struggle for justice must have roots in the social fabric.

The international community has an obligation to uphold the enforcement of justice and to try criminals. Should all war criminals be prosecuted centrally (e.g. in The Hague), or should a more peripatetic system be implemented? While the first would probably be better at achieving "objective" justice, it might be too distant from the victims to be of any consequence. The latter could be more healing, as criminals could be judged by their peers according to local practices. However, this might not always be feasible, especially where support for the criminal is still strong or where witnesses are afraid to testify. WRI must consider which networks and resources could be available (particularly legal fields) to the relatives of the disappeared and others seeking justice.

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