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Fight violence with nonviolence

Unarmed civilian peacekeepers are saving lives today.

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The new global norm of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) should inspire the use of civil society and nonviolent means. While it includes military interventions, R2P is based on emerging international human security and human rights doctrine that aims to avert further failure by the international community to prevent and stop genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

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It may yet dawn on the world that these courageous nonviolent peacekeepers are not "unarmed;" they are armed with what Gandhi made bold to call "the greatest force mankind has been endowed with" – nonviolence.

Nonviolent Peaceforce is working to bring this kind of peacekeeping to greater prominence, with the goal of increasing its current 70 field team members to a cadre of 2,000 by 2012. For a recent deployment, Nonviolent Peaceforce had applicants hailing from 55 countries for every position available.

Well-trained unarmed civilians are saving lives and protecting communities under threat in some of the world's most violent places. They are growing. Recently the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue issued a study documenting how and why this type of "proactive presence" works.

People are ready for peaceful change and they're willing to dedicate their lives to create it. Civilian unarmed peacekeeping could be the way to recognize and help develop the vital protection role global civil society may credibly, effectively, and legitimately play in human security. For the benefit of children and women in armed conflict, for refugees, journalists, human rights defenders, peacefully protesting monks, aid workers, or election campaigners – for all of us. Because ultimately, none of us is secure until all of us are.

Rolf Carriere spent his career in UNICEF in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Burma as liaison to the World Bank. Both volunteer as senior advisers to Nonviolent Peaceforce. Michael Nagler is professor emeritus of the Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and president of the Metta Centre for Nonviolence Education.