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SUMMER 1998: v3i2 INDEX

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SUMMER, 1998: Volume 3 Issue 2

Triennial Gathering of PBI Brings Activists, "Newbies" Together by Val Liveoak

The gathering was held near Boston, April 30th to May 2nd, in a youth hostel originally run by Quakers. Over 55 people attended, many of them quite unfamiliar with Peace Brigades International (PBI), some of whom had seen the invitation to the gathering only days before on the Internet. The ages of attenders ranged from early 20's to late 60's.

Rather than focusing on business, the gathering was designed to introduce new people to PBI's organization, projects and to skills such as lobbying, fundraising, organizing on the Internet, and media work that could be used to further human rights around the world. There were two Plenary speakers. Jean-Claude Martineau gave an encouraging perspective on Haiti. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer spoke on the change in US policy from military force to economic control as a way to achieve foreign policy aims. I also appreciated his comments regarding the necessity of creating and sustaining communities of resistance within the US.


Jean-Claude Martineau speaks about Haiti.

Jean-Claude Martineau speaks about Haiti while Mark Simonoff listens. Photo: Andrew Miller


In a carefully thought-out and conscious way, PBI encourages participation, consensus decision-making and nonviolent activism at all levels. For example, while there was the tendency to use a multitude of acronyms, a glossary, which was reviewed during the first session, was distributed to everyone-and the acronyms were spelled out in full whenever anyone requested it. The organizational chart was also reviewed, and explained to some degree, as was consensus decision-making, but I left with some confusion about the complexities of the former, if not the latter topic. (A balance between not enough and too much detail was hard to reach in such a varied group.)

There were two opportunities to hear of projects in detail, as well as a project fair, when there was time for interactions with representatives of each project, and a short report of each project's meetings in a final Plenary. Each project also displayed pictures and printed materials about its work and background information about the country in which it worked. The Sri Lanka Project has been put on hold after the team there saw the necessity of withdrawing in March. There is the possibility of exploring a project in the Philippines soon. The Guatemala, Columbia, and North America Projects continue to work, as do the projects in which PBI is associated-he Balkans (with Balkans Peace Teams) and Chiapas (with SIPAZ). Each project has a working group-a support team that promotes the project in North America. PBI training is project-specific, but all the projects will do training concurrently in September (see Volunteer Opportunities).

It was rewarding to see so many of the new people who had attended leave with a commitment to working on a specific project or in a specific area. I believe that PBI has the capacity to sustain itself in the area of peace team work which it pioneered-accompaniment-and perhaps to grow into other areas such as nonviolence training. I learned that PBI receives many more requests for accompaniment than it can even consider, and that the process of developing a project is painstaking (some would say tedious) and time consuming, in part due to the extensive efforts to achieve consensus among members internationally (electronic communication improvements notwithstanding). PBI seems to experience other limitations in regard to finances, logistics and personnel-the great majority of participants are volunteers, with many other demands on their time and energy. Still PBI's track record is admirable, and the organization's potential, given the response to this Gathering, is one of steady and sustained growth of deeply committed individuals. Since the achievement of human rights, peace and justice is far from completed, there will always be more work to do.

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