There is national and global recognition of the need for an increased role for civilians in the promotion of non-violent means to prevent, transform, and resolve violent conflict, including a call by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as far back as 2001 for the “mainstreaming” of conflict prevention and for international and regional organizations to work more closely with civil society.
Thousands of organizations and millions of individuals worldwide are working to develop and implement non-violent means of resolving conflict that celebrate the range and depth at which civilians can be drawn into active peacebuilding. The question is where, how, and when these efforts are best deployed?
While there is a need for standardized, specialized, and sufficient competence in peacebuilding, there are no corresponding tools in the peace field for distinguishing between candidates best suited for senior-level international diplomacy, high-level mediation, or grassroots volunteer work. This tension between the growing demands for peace professionals and lack of corresponding tools for assessing their qualifications has been a recurring theme in CPSC research and discussions, whether with the UN, government, military, or other personnel. Military personnel, for instance, contrast their years of training for work in areas of conflict with the weeks of training, if any, of their peace worker counterparts.
The complexity of conflict and its peaceful resolution, as well as the urgency of many placements, calls for professional standards for peace workers that are equivalent to those by which doctors and engineers are measured so that potential employers can effectively and urgently select:
- candidates with the most appropriate motivation for effective placement, including core values (or personal suitability); and
- candidates with the right competencies for effectively achieving desired outcomes.
Other countries are leading the way in the establishment of civilian peace organizations. In Germany, a Civilian Peace Service (Ziviler Friedendienst) has been in operation since 1999. In the U.K., efforts to create a similar service are well under way and significant training of civilians has taken place. Throughout Europe, from Sweden to Italy, civilian peace service initiatives of various kinds are taking root, embraced by a supportive European Network. Canada can learn from, and build upon, these initiatives.