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FALL, 1997: Volume 2 Issue 3

German Friends Help Build the Forum Civilian Peace Service by Val Liveoak from information provided by Helga Tempel, a member of Germany Yearly Meeting

Note: Helga Temple and other Quakers have been instrumental in creating the Forum Civilian Peace Service (FCPS) and look forward to it becoming a viable alternative to military service. Helga Tempel said that the FCPS training was underway as we met at the FWCC Triennial involved twenty young people, at least four of whom are from the area in conglict - the Balkans. By the time this issue reaches you, these volunteers should have begun their service. -Editor

The FCPS is an association of various German peace movement groups and non-profit organizations aimed at creating and strengthening civilian conflict resolution by nonviolent means. Its members include Catholic, Protestant and other religious groups; as well as political, professional and pacifist organizations. The FCPS is non-denominational and non-partisan, and accommodates a range of political viewpoints from radical pacifism to political realism.

The FCPS was created in 1994, mainly as an answer to ethno-political conflicts resurfacing in Europe after the end of the Cold War. FCPS's creators believe that some of these conflicts could be prevented from escalating towards violence if early third-party intervention were available. Where violence has occurred, FCPS could make efforts for post-conflict resolution. While governmental bodies such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have occasionally played a role in peace making and peace keeping, involvement of non-governmental organizations that do not depend on official consensus for early action would complement these governmental efforts. No project would be implemented outside Germany without explicit invitation from peace-minded organizations of the region involved: wherever possible, the personnel of such projects abroad would be of multinational composition.

FCPS aims at the creation of an institutionalized body of well-trained conflict mediators capable of intervening in politically violent conflicts, both within Germany and abroad. FCPS functions as an umbrella group, with independent organizations working together under general common accords and within established forms of cooperation. These organizations would be strictly non-governmental yet would collaborate with official bodies and depend partly on public funding. (The closest analogy to this form of subsidiary semi-public action is found in existing non-governmental development agencies. FCPS has established close relations of dialogue and cooperation with these organizations.) As in development projects, the experience and commitment of the personnel would allow for different degrees of participation: the main group would be long term volunteers remunerated at subsistence level, with a (relatively) few professional staff. Volunteers are men and women of at least 23 years of age who have completed their formal education.

Examples of groups which operate similar programs are such peace organizations as the Balkan Peace Teams, Peace Brigades International, Service Civil Internationale and others. Yet these institutions operate with extremely limited resources based on private donations which are no longer adequate for present day challenges. Examples of conflict resolution are also found in projects of development programs; nevertheless, they lack specific theory and training and can only work in areas recognized as developing countries under the EU. Links have already been established with Life and Peace Institute, Uppsala, Sweden; Center for Conflict Prevention, Amsterdam, Netherlands; International Followship of Reconciliation, Austrian branch; and other European groups. An international conference is being prepared for 1998.

As FCPS develops it expects to meet these objectives:

  1. organize and foment the conceptual elaboration of civilian conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation;
  2. coordinate the publicity efforts of existing peace initiatives;
  3. strengthen international networks of similar peace NGOs in EU member states as well as in other parts of the world, and intensify existing contacts with other internationally active NGOs in the field of democratization, human rights, development, and ecology;
  4. widen the public debate and political support for civil conflict resolution; 5) secure public funding at different levels of government-local, provincial, national and EU;
  5. secure adequate legal status and social service support for peace mediators (health insurance, social security, exemptions from military service etc.)

Some successes of FCPS to date have been its increasing role in the public's security and peace debate in Germany. It is, for example, invited to symposia of security academies. The idea of civilian nonviolent conflict settlement is gathering broad support in society as well as among intellectual and political elites. One example is a declaration for civilian peace service signed by 150 well-known personalities. The German province of Northrhine/Westfalia has funded a four-month model training course initiated in April 1997 and intended to be repeated annually.

There remain shortcomings to be overcome: the Conservative branch of the governing Christian Democratic Party has blocked federal funding for what it considers civilian "interference" in matters of peace and foreign affairs. Political and social support has to expand further. The personnel and material resources of FCPS are as yet too restricted to cope with the increasing number of tasks.

Immediate projects for the coming one- to two-year period are: evaluating the model training program in Northrhine/Westfalia and obtaining funding for annual trainings; cultivating greater political support for federal funding, especially with representatives of the governing coalition within the German Parliament as well as federal agencies; intensified fundraising through private donations, applications to foundations and sponsors, improved publications and services, and enlarged public funding. FCPS plans to hold a national (German) conference on training in February 1998 and an international conference with organizations from EU countries in the Fall of 1998. An increase of publicity about FCPS will be necessary to support these projects.

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