‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)n bringing together different sectors.
Introduced by Rob Fairmichael –
Monitoring and accompaniment are nonviolent intervention techniques – with varied intentions and focus – in situations of potential human rights abuses and violence (they are defined below). They are certainly not a panacea and may depend on goodwill from a variety of quarters. If official, state, support or just tolerance is lacking or ambivalent (e.g. Syria in 2011-12) then the task of monitors, even ones with official international backing from a body such as the UN, can be next to impossible even if all the more needed because of that.
Monitoring ‘took off’ in Northern Ireland around 1995. This is significant in different ways. The Troubles masked certain issues and, with the ceasefires of 1994, parading issues became not just a real issue of conflict between different sides but even the field of conflict (sometimes literally, as at Drumcree). Some contentious parades in the mid- to late-1990s could have been monitored by half a dozen different organisations coming at it from different perspectives; some would have been quietly watching to report or make subsequent interventions, some would have been highly visible in identifiable clothing.
The era of conflict over parades is far from over in Northern Ireland (and marching or parading has been a source of trouble for nearly two centuries) but although tension remains high over certain parades in certain areas, the level of engagement and the risk of violence is usually much less than it was in the mid- to late-1990s. There have been some, tentative, local agreements. There has been the evolution of local, cross-community networks to deal with tensions in some places. On the Protestant side, many were sickened by violence, and even deaths, associated with the Drumcree dispute.
The need for monitoring in Northern Ireland is therefore less but it remains an important tool in the nonviolent response kit both there, in the Republic, and internationally. Monitoring can be for any public situation where there are risks of violence or human rights abuse, as the 2011 monitoring project of the Corrib gas situation in Co Mayo showed. There are many different ways of doing it, for different purposes, but the key for doing it well is planning and preparation or training, with clarity in the model of monitoring being utilised. It is certainly not just a matter of standing around on street corners.
What follows is the text of a piece accompanying a set of photos on the INNATE photo site; please go to Flickr see the photos.
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There are many different forms of monitoring and this photo selection* represents a few different models and also accompaniment. Both are generally ‘third party’ interventions in situations of possible violence, civil disturbance or human rights abuse though sometimes monitors can be affiliated to, or associated with, a particular side in a conflict.
Accompaniment differs from more general monitoring in that the brief is to ‘accompany’ an individual, group or organisation at risk. Monitoring is generally observing of a more generic situation although some monitoring can be specific, e.g. monitoring of police and state agent responses, or election monitoring (which is a whole field to itself, in order to judge the fairness of an election process). In practice there can be much crossover between the roles of monitoring and accompaniment. The terms ‘monitoring’ and ‘observing’ are usually interchangeable but can be defined as different in particular situations.
The extent to which monitors are prepared to intervene in any way varies but most are there to ‘tell it as it happened’ with the additional expectation that outsiders being present may help everyone to be on their best behaviour. Of course that does not always work or may only partially work (e.g. Syria 2012). But there are many different models and ways of doing it. Stewarding – now commonplace and indeed expected of parades in Northern Ireland – is different in that it is undertaken by the organisation(s) involved and has the express intention of keeping those involved orderly and avoiding trouble.
In South Africa in the period coming up to the first democratic elections in 1994 there were both official internal ‘peace process’ (National Peace Accord) and international civil society monitors, the idea being to both help create a peaceful atmosphere, get issues dealt with, and pass what was happening on the ground upwards so a full picture was achieved. As well as one photo of National Peace Accord monitors there are some photos from the work of EMPSA, the Ecumenical Monitoring Program in South Africa, an international church monitoring project which was working for a couple of years before the 1994 elections (1992-94). With the Inkatha Freedom Party coming into the elections less than a week before they took place, the elections passed relatively peacefully. Monitoring in this period included both ‘violence and peace’ monitoring and ‘election monitoring’ (seeing whether elections are conducted fairly) which is a whole specialist division within monitoring. See here
INNATE (an Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education – whose photo website this is) was involved from 1990 onwards in promoting and using monitoring in relation to parade and public order issues in Northern Ireland. The photos shown are from the Drumcree (church parade) situation in Portadown which became the big issue in Northern Ireland in 1995. INNATE’s experience showed that if people are unwilling to deal with such issues when they are relatively small and local – if very thorny – it is difficult or impossible to deal with them when they blow up. INNATE‘s model of monitoring was to try to feed back reflections to the different parties involved privately. INNATE produced a short report on monitoring (available on request) and organised a conference on monitoring in the Northern Ireland context in 1994.
Mediation Northern Ireland (MNI) became very involved with parading issues from the mid-1990s, and also with the Short Strand-Newtownards Road interface in east Belfast in the period 2002-4. It did have an interventionist approach in terms of talking to people on all sides, and seeking to prevent trouble and move issues on, but this was done by senior figures present or in contact; individual monitors fed in what was happening on the ground. The photos are mainly from MNI’s monitoring in east Belfast. MNI has also been involved in projects, with others, to train mediators for interface areas (local people across Catholic/Protestant divides in Northern Ireland); to a considerable extent local people have taken up the role of monitoring previously undertaken by outsiders and although the fire has largely gone out of parades disputes, they still remain a bone of contention in some cases. Mediation Northern Ireland’s website as at www.mediationnorthernireland.org/cms/
CAJ, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, www.caj.org.uk became very engaged in monitoring the policing of public order situations, primarily parades but other situations of potential disturbance as well, in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s. It issued detailed reports and analysis of policing taken in the context of what was happening on the ground. It can be argued that this detailed analysis contributed significantly to ongoing reforms in policing practice.
In 2011 (from May to November) Amnesty International in Ireland (the Republic) /www.amnesty.ie and Frontline Defenders, www.frontlinedefenders.org an international human rights organisation, ran a monitoring programme in Co Mayo concerning the Corrib Gas situation which had been rumbling on since 2004-5 with considerable disquiet and allegations of human rights abuses. With intermittent direct action by protesters, and a very heavy security presence, there was a recipe for potential disaster so an impartial monitoring presence had the potential to help everyone to be on their best behaviour as well as being well placed to see what happened.
EAPPI, the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme in Israel and Palestine, is an accompaniment project although monitoring is included as well. The ‘accompaniment’ aspect is to assist the peaceful security of those being accompanied through the presence of outsiders, i.e. that the human rights of those accompanied are more likely to be respected if there are people present from outside the situation whose judgement and account, if something should happen, is likely to receive more consideration than that of an insider. For EAPPI see http://www.eappi.org
As well as EAPPI, above, those projects involved internationally in accompaniment include Peace Brigades International (PBI) http://www.peacebrigades.org and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) http://www.cpt.org
This photo set is intended as a brief guide to monitoring and accompaniment and the coverage given above relates largely to the monitoring and accompaniment experiences for which we have photos. It does not purport to be comprehensive. As always, comments or further photos are welcome. INNATE is involved in monitor training and education and is also happy to assist if it can, direct you to the appropriate people, or help with materials. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading includes, internationally, the OSCE/ODIHR “Handbook on Monitoring Peaceful Freedom of Assembly”, written by Neil Jarman of the Institute for Conflict Research in Belfast; it is available online
Regarding Northern Ireland, Dominic Bryan and Neil Jarman’s report for Democratic Dialogue (Report No.12), 1999, “Independent Intervention – Monitoring the police, parades and public order”, is available here - click on individual sections lower down rather than the Democratic Dialogue link as this organisation, and its website, no longer exists (and not to be confused with the ongoing Canadian organisation of the same name).