An unarmed army to resolve world conflicts
Lafayette, Calif. — Raymond Magee has an enduring dream: ''An unarmed United Nations Peace Army'' whose members would be sent to trouble spots around the world where they would use conciliation skills to help resolve conflicts.
Mr. Magee is executive director of Peaceworkers, an organization based in this San Francisco suburb, but with members and supporters across the continent and the globe. Peaceworkers, directed specifically toward peacemaking and peace-keeping, is now ready after years of careful preparation to approach the United Nations with hopes of eventual official recognition. A presentation will be made sometime during the second special session on disarmament at UN headquarters in New York this summer.
Once under way, Peaceworkers would arrange for volunteers to be trained at institutions with experience teaching ''conflict resolution, intercultural understanding, and international affairs. Training will include development of the skills of reconciliation, arbitration, negotiation, . . . study of the history of nonviolent techniques and an analysis of those which would be most effective within the UN system and procedures.''
The exact form of the approach to the UN has not been determined, says Magee, but probably will involve a multinational delegation presenting lists of potential peacev eers from their count. There also may be a proposal for demonstration Peaceworkers projects in one or two locations.
Dr. Michael Nagler, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of ''America Without Violence,'' is chairman of Peaceworkers. He says that this ''new kind of army without guns is now a real possibility'' because of two developments. He cites ''advances made in recent decades in the field of conflict resolution and the increased determination of more and more persons the world over to work for human survival. Peace will never come until the need for security can be met without the outdated methods that depend on threats or violence which are so interlocked with the ultimate threat of nuclear destruction. Volunteer peacemaking has been proved effective as a way of building that security.''
Magee sometimes quotes military men in support of the role he foresees for peace volunteers.
Brig. Gen. Michael Harbottle (ret.), formerly with the UN peacekeeping contingent in Cyprus: ''Tact, diplomacy, and quiet reasoning when negotiating or mediating between the contestants; complete self-restraint, infinite patience, and tireless effort regardless of provocations are the weapons of the peace-keeper's trade - not his self-loading rifle . . . and through the judicious use of them he can defuse potentially dangerous situations, reduce tensions, and thereby control and contain the conflict from escalating into something worse.''
Peaceworkers is signing up potential volunteers, 18 and older, in the US and other countries. Volunteers sign an offer to the UN that states: ''I am willing to serve for two years at nominal pay in a United Nations Peaceworkers Service if, and when, one is established, my circumstances then permitting. I am also willing to participate in a study of the nonviolent means for the peaceful settling of conflicts.''
Asked to provide a profile of a potential Peaceworkers recruit, Magee said the person might be a returned Peace Corps member whose experience in a foreign country and ability to perform practical services would be supplemented by training in peace-keeping and conciliation. He indicated that, at least in the ''trial'' phase of the program, graduates of schools that teach conflict resolution and those with experience in conciliation would probably be preferred.
Once the peace volunteers organization became established, with adequate funding to provide thorough training, less-experienced people could be brought into the program.
Magee, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is no ivory tower idealist. His activities over many years in behalf of peace and human rights have taken him to such conflict arenas as Alabama, where he was a bodyguard for Martin Luther King Jr. during the Selma to Montgomery march; Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he ''talked to both sides'' in the continuing conciliation effort; and India, where he worked in the land-reform movement.
Involved in UN-related projects since 1948, Magee was cofounder and executive director of Volunteers for International Development. Through successful demonstration projects under UN auspices, that program led to establishment of the official UN Volunteers in 1972. It also inspired the founding of the United States Peace Corps.