Humanitarian and military actions are not always sufficient, relevant and efficient. The UCP specificity is the search of a political solution to conflicts. UCP is an efficient method at the local level through its principles : nonviolence, engaging with different parties, primacy of local actors, independence, immersion and reference to international law. These principles also guarantee the safety of the unarmed volunteers on the field.
The specifity of this international solidarity action is its orientation fundamentally nonviolent. Nonviolence is not the denial of violence ; it is on the contrary a way of thinking about a conflict and setting in motion actions to achieve its resolution. It isn’t a passive and submissive attitude but rather a proactive stance oriented towards the search and proposition of alternative solutions to violence.
The UCP is a strategy of nonviolent action which aims to match the intended goal, peace, and the means used, nonviolent tools. It tends to decrease the levels of tension or violence to allow local peace actors to work safely in a more serene and rational atmopshere. Militaries can stop war and fights but they can’t build peace. Moreover the military interference can become the problem to solve, especially when the collapse of societies’ structures is accelerated by foreign troops presence.
This type of intervention tries to prevent all kind of interference. Indeed the international presence is not there to bring something or to impose solutions designed by others ; but to support local actors engaged in nonviolent management of conflicts and human rights defense.
Impartiality or nonpartisanship
One of fundamental principles of a UCP mission is impartiality or nonpartisanship, often mistaken with neutrality. UCP missions can’t be neutral, i.e. not to side with any one.
Indeed, the volunteers work consists in being engaged with the conflict parties to help them engaging in dialogue, reconciliation and conflict resolution. As says Jean-Marie Muller, the volunteers "are engaged with one and the other : twice they engage, twice they take sides". (L’intervention civile : une chance pour la paix, Alternatives Non-Violentes n° 124, 2001, p. 26.). This involvement with the different conflict parties is one of the indispensable conditions to build confident relationships which are crucial to achieve UCP work.
Primacy of local actors
UCP volunteers encourage local initiatives and reinforcement of civil society capacities. Bruno-Marie Duffé, former director of the Human Rights Institute of Lyon, recalls, regarding UCP missions, that "it is a question of considering the possibilities of a social contract - local as well as global - or, more radically, of an alliance between man and man, otherwise the human fabric, torn by violence, can’t not renew itself." (L’intervention civile : une chance pour la paix, Alternatives Non-Violentes n° 124, 2001, p. 29.)
Immersion in the field
The time dimension is also important. While military intervention, for example, is in the short term (one-off intervention highly related to geopolitical events), a UCP mission is a long-term process, working in the daily temporality, at the nearest to communities. The volunteers live among the people. This is a necessary condition for buiding trust and so for the achievement of a UCP mission.
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