ANALYSIS: Between War and Peace
31/05/1996

Areas of our work

Area 1: Accompaniment and international presence

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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Area 2: Information in Promotion of Action

The work of SIPAZ in monitoring conflicts and systematizing the relevant information has two main functions:

  • Making clearly visible the patterns of social and political conflicts and human rights violations, and outlining alternatives in which local, national and international actors and institutions could interact to transform the conflicts through non-violence and dialogue. Besides limiting direct violence by exposing the causes and consequences of conflicts, we also wish to focus a spotlight on actors and initiatives that represent positive alternatives and reasons for hope in the region.
  • Informing local actors about social and political conflicts and current processes of grass-roots organizing. The goal here is to encourage peace-building initiatives; contribute to the reduction in tensions; and engage in outreach to different actors and offer capacity-building that will help civil society organizations develop more effective strategies of their own to reduce local conflict.

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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Area 3: Peace Promotion

This area includes three fields of work:

Education for Peace

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.

Work with religious leaders

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).

Networking

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:

  • the Peace Network (Red por la Paz), a platform of analysis and action composed of 10 organizations that participate in an ongoing analysis of the local and national contexts. The Network engages in specific actions such as pronouncements about serious rights violations, observer missions, and thematic meetings.
  • Organizing the presentation of the “jTatic Samuel jCanan Lum” award for human rights defenders and monitoring activities in Chiapas.
  • Broad forums of analysis about relevant topics in the context of the region’s conflicts.
  • GPPAC (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict), a global initiative of civil society organizations seeking to build international consensus about the urgent need for peace and the prevention of violent conflicts.