We are an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses nonviolent action to deter political violence and expand the physical and political space so that human rights defenders can continue their work in areas of conflict. On request, we send international volunteers to provide protective accompaniment and an international presence to local defenders and displaced communities who fear for their safety.
This is how we’re different from other human rights organizations; we don’t work at the legal level, which although is equally important, doesn’t always convert into protection for human rights.
Inspired by Gandhi’s practice of nonviolence, our methods work because those who wish to harm human rights defenders usually don’t want the world to know about their crimes. Our presence alone sends a powerful message: the world is watching.
Since our creation three decades ago in Canada, we have had success working on-the-ground in nine countries and on four continents, as well as in 14 other countries where we have country groups that create the crucial political and financial support for our accompaniment work. For each of our field projects, we have provided peace building and education, built support networks, raised the profiles of defenders and supplied political analysis and on-the-ground information in addition to our accompaniment.
We do not charge for our services and we do not fund the individuals or groups we accompany. We are nonpartisan and while we may provide conflict transformation workshops and nonviolence training, we do not take part in the work of those we accompany. We only set up a project because we have been petitioned by local activists, who have determined that we can play a role in keeping them safe.
Defenders tell us that an international presence is the key to preventing conflict and protecting human rights, short of having governments actually prosecute human rights offenders. Our field volunteers embody this presence, representing a global movement of people, ranging from individuals to governments, who will respond to any threats against the personal safety and security of human rights defenders.
For local activists, the presence of PBI can mean the difference between life and death.