Third Party Nonviolent Intervention

Third Party Nonviolent Intervention (TPNI) is the term that has arisen for the age-old practice of an outside party intervening in a conflict in an effort to open the space for reconciliation and peacemaking. Some services of TPNI actors can include witnessing, accompaniment, monitoring, interposition, offering good offices, and rumor abatement. Because nonviolent interveners are not members of either party to the conflict, they are seen as trustworthy and are not normally targets of violence. Even the most rabid militants often hesitate to inflict violence on a member of the international community, as attacks could generate unwanted media attention. Also, the unexpected presence of a third party helps to break up the inevitable polarization of self and other that conflict causes and on which it depends. Perhaps most importantly, by risking life and comfort to protect an intended victim of violence, the third party helps to rehumanize that victim in the eyes of the would-be attacker.

In the modern period, TPNI emerged from Gandhi’s shanti sena, peace army, and increasing numbers of human rights and humanitarian interventions that have gained momentum since the 1980s. Peace Brigades International, founded in 1980 has played an important role, along with Christian Peacemaker Teams, Witness for Peace, and Michigan Peacemaker Teams. Today Nonviolent Peaceforce is building TPNI into a global entity. TPNI has been practiced with varying degrees of success in places like Michigan, Colombia, Palestine, the US/Mexico border, and Sri Lanka. TPNI stands in contrast to the standard U.N. armed peacekeeping model. In fact, some practitioners of TPNI state that nonviolent interposition can act as a full replacement for armed peacekeeping. TPNI is supported in legal frameworks by the concept of droit d’ingérence, the right to intervene. Many feel that, alongside the related Civilian-Based Defense, TPNI shows that there is a nonviolent alternative to war.