A Fresh Look at Peacekeeping Starts in the West Kootenay
Selkirk College is helping broaden the scope of peacekeeping by offering a unique program to equip individuals with the proper background to make positive changes in conflicted regions around the world.
Starting in January, Selkirk College will offer the one-semester Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping Program. The first of its kind in Canada, the program has been developed in partnership with Nonviolent Peaceforce with a goal of strengthening the effort to deploy professionally prepared unarmed civilians to areas of violent conflict.
“Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping (UCP) is important because violence between conflicting groups continues to be a major issue globally,” says Randy Janzen, the Selkirk College Peace Studies Program instructor who helped develop the program and will be the primary instructor. “More research is demonstrating that nonviolent strategies are much more effective in creating peace, both in the short term and long term.”
UCP has beenpracticed by at least 35 different non-governmental organizations since 1990. In the past several years, the United Nations has become more interested in the use of UCP as part of its overall strategy to reduce violence and improve peacekeeping operations around the world.
As UCP has evolved, a need to improve training and education has developed. Nonviolent Peaceforce—an international organization that is leading the way in UCP operations around the world—developed a curriculum to train its employees. The Selkirk College Mir Centre for Peace was part of the review process for this new curriculum and asked if the curriculum could be used to offer a post-secondary citation in UCP.
“UCP professionals provide direct physical protection to other civilians and work collaboratively with local groups to strengthen or build resilient local peace infrastructures,” Janzen explains. “Unlike traditional military peacekeeping or armed private security firms, this is done without the use of or reliance on weapons. As such it is based on a different paradigm, one that emphasizes building of relationships and the skill of communication, rather than power or the threat of violence.”
A key principle of UCP is non-partisanship. UCP staff work diligently to gain the trust and respect of all parties involved.Specific tactics include accompaniment, protective presence, interposition, early warning/early response, information gathering and dissemination, and creating safe spaces.
The program being offered in January will involve six modules that are cohort-based. Five of the modules will be completed on-line between January 11 and March 31 with the final module consisting of a two-week retreat focussed on experiential learning that runs between April 18 and 29 at the Castlegar-based Mir Centre for Peace.
“This program is geared towards anyone who is interested in working to reduce violence in the world,” says Janzen, who has been a Peace Studies Program instructor for eight years and has traveled to some of the most conflicted zones on the planet to work and build on his experience. “UCP organizations work in situations of civil war and also around the world in large cities, reducing violence in marginalized neighbourhoods.”
One element of the program will include several international students who will take part both on-line and in the retreat. In an effort to help raise funds to make that aspect a reality, Selkirk College is hosting a fundraising dinner at the Brilliant Cultural Centre on September 26. The evening will include a traditional borsch dinner and admission to the Parfaite Ntahuba Mir Lecture. Find out more about this unique and exciting evening by going to selkirk.ca or calling 250.365.1288.
The fundraising dinner and program are two ways Selkirk College is helping the proactive shift towards the way people take action on making the world a safer place.
“UCP is only part of a large global trend of violence reduction that we have no idea is taking place if our only source of information is the evening news,” says Janzen.
Learn more about the Selkirk College Mir Centre for Peace at selkirk.ca/mir-centre-for-peace. To learn more about this program, visit http://selkirk.ca/unarmed-civilian-peacekeeping