In countries where governments are concerned with projecting a positive image regarding human rights, the international observer presence – in sites and moments of high tension or conflict – has a deterrent effect against the possible use of violence. The observer presence increases the political costs of such violence. This dynamic of protection opens political spaces for local human rights defenders, indigenous organizations, social sectors, rural communities and civil society groups who suffer repression for their work. By feeling accompanied, those actors – including groups of men and women – have less fear in filing complaints about human rights violations to which they are subject, as well as in organizing in a more proactive way.
The presence of SIPAZ in Chiapas can take at least two forms: prolonged and/or frequent trips to different regions (in order to lend continuity and context to organizational processes in these regions); or actions towards specific outcomes, short trips and/or participation in Observation Brigades in emergency situations.
Since 2005, SIPAZ has continued to expand its work in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where we find the same structural conditions that provoked the EZLN uprising in Chiapas: social, political, and economic marginalization; discrimination and racism wrought by centuries of internal and external colonialism; and repression and violations of human rights. We do not maintain permanent offices in either of these states, but we carry out long-term excursions three to four times per year in each place that allow us to cover these regions, mainly in the informative aspect of our work.
On the other hand, in order to protect the political spaces of human rights defenders, beyond physical presence and observation, we have continued to build public relations and political advocacy to influence government officials at all levels, embassies, and multilateral organizations. Through this, we seek to establish and maintain the deterrent effect necessary for our work to be visible and to create political costs for authorities who that choose violent responses to existing socio-political conflicts.
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The work of SIPAZ in monitoring conflicts and systematizing the relevant information has two main functions:
We operate several publications: a newsletter four times a year (in four languages – Spanish, English, French, and German, with a print version in the first two), a website (also in these four languages, where one can find everything published by SIPAZ since its creation), a blog (in Spanish and English, with flash-news information), and Urgent Actions and Bulletins (in all four languages).
We also offer information and analysis to delegations and people who visit our office in Chiapas. From time to time, we also organize tours, mainly to Europe and the United States.
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This area includes three fields of work:
We organize spaces of reflection on nonviolent activism, conflict transformation, and peace and reconciliation in communities. We also hold workshops on conflict transformation with social agents working directly or indirectly in areas of conflict in Chiapas and Mexico.
We support interreligious efforts in collaboration with other local, national, and international religious social agents. We seek to ensure that religion be seen not as a cause of (more) conflict, but as a force for dialogue and cooperation. Activities are developed to promote ecumenical cooperation at a local level as well as to increase awareness at the national and international ecumenical levels. In Chiapas, we participate in the Ecumenical Group for the Analysis of Reality and Context (GEARC).
SIPAZ actively maintains contacts and dialogue with a wide range of organizations, movements, and networks in Mexico and other countries that are engaged in processes of peace-building and/or monitor the conflict situation of Chiapas/Mexico.
We also participate in forums and other spaces of information exchange, analysis, and dialogue regarding promotion of cultures of peace. For instance, we actively participate in: