Strategic Nonviolent Action


Photo Courtesy Of: Minnesota Historical Society

Even though Martin Luther King Day was a few days ago, I wanted to share a post I was thinking about writing throughout the day but didn’t get to with all the excitement of roommates coming home and Fletcher reunions and bday parties to attend.

I grew up in a family that values contribution to society. My parents met and married in Washington, DC during the late 1960s in the heat and excitement of the civil rights movement. Both of them were working on the hill and studying or teaching politics at the time. I was fortunate to grow-up hearing many stories about the thrill of living in DC during that period in time. I’m sure my own interests and work with International Center on Nonviolent Conflict have been heavily influenced by these values, and the experiences they afforded me throughout my upbringing. And I think it is because of their passion for these issues that each MLK day my father would dust off the record player, dig through the few crates of his remaining record collection, and pull out the one or two records he had with Martin Luther King speeches and interviews. I still remember the cover of the album and the sound of MLK’s voice scratchy from the record player, booming through our house on a cold wintry MLK day.

And so before going for a run, scanning the course catalogs to map out potential class combinations for my last semester, picking up housemates at the airport, and catching up over “family dinner’ and drinks, with the urging of my sister, I made a point to honor this great tradition, plugging my Mac into the living room speakers, pulling up some speeches on YouTube (oh, how the times have changed…) and playing several of Dr. King’s speeches and interviews to reflect on his thoughtful words, his character, his insights, and the importance of his work in the lives that we are able to live today.

I encourage you to all turn off your distractions at some point this week and do the same.

I Have a Dream

“I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” Part 1, Part 2, and Full Text

Dr. King “In His Own Words” with NBC News

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The Phnom Penh Post reported last week that courts have announced a resolution in the defamation case against Cambodian Parliament Member Mu Sochua brought about by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The fine Ms. Sochua has refused to pay will be deducted from her monthly salary. The decision brings to a close the long political battle between the Prime Minister and Mu Sochua who has called the legal process “unclear” throughout.  In reaction to the announcement by the courts last week she replied, “this injustice makes me want to continue my politics.”

Sochua fine to be docked from pay

By: Meas Sokchea in Phnom Penh Post, August 12, 2010

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Photo by: Pha Lina

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua speaks to reporters at the Supreme Court after her defamation conviction was upheld in June.

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has authorised the National Assembly to withhold Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua’s salary to pay an 8.5 million-riel (US$2,023) fine levied against her for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In a citation dated Tuesday and signed by Judge Chea Sok Heang, the court said the parliament’s financial department would withhold her monthly salary of 4,204,899 riels until the full amount was recovered. It said the docking of her pay did not require her consent.

“Mu Sochua must not block or prohibit an official in charge of salaries at the financial department of the parliament from seizing the debt. The president of the financial department of the parliament must carry out the above decision,” the citation read.

In July last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mu Sochua of defaming Hun Sen after she filed her own defamation lawsuit against him. The conviction has been upheld on two appeals since.

Last month, the court authorised parliament to withhold an additional 8 million riels in compensation that she owed the premier.

When contacted yesterday, Mu Sochua said she had never agreed to pay the fine, and that docking it from her salary was a violation of her rights.
“This court system is an unclear system and it is a political tool,” she said.

She described the docking of her pay as a form of “force” and “intimidation”, but said she would live to fight another day.

“My political life will be alive until the end of my life. This injustice makes me want to continue my politics,” she said.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party, said he had not seen the court citation, but that Mu Sochua’s pay would be docked once the parliament’s Permanent Committee met to approve the decision.

First off… Happy Birthday to my wonderful Papa Dan! Biggest news of the day in my sphere is my dad turning an impressive 65 today! Wisdom speaks louder than words and his will continue always to echo in my ears.

As many of you have seen, the international news from the Cambodia front has been the announcement of (alias) Duch’s judgement at the EC on Monday. I’ve included a few items and hope to post something myself later this week. Until then, here are some news stories from this past week!

Photo by: Pha Lina

Exam monitors ‘take money’

By: Khouth Sophakchakrya, July 28, 2010

THE head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association yesterday accused officials in Kandal province of ordering teachers administering Grade 12 national exams to take money from students, part of what he described as worsening corruption surrounding the three-day tests.

Convicted Khmer Rouge prison chief to appeal: lawyer

By Suy Se in AFP, July 27, 2010

Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will appeal against his conviction by Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes tribunal, which sentenced him to 30 years in jail, his defence lawyer said Tuesday. Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the court on Monday in a ruling that has been hailed as a “historic milestone” in tackling impunity in the country.

Cambodian women rally behind condemned opposition MP Mu Sochua

By: Observers, July 27, 2010

Mu Sochua, a female MP of Cambodia’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party, faces jail for refusing to pay 4,000 dollars in fines and compensation on a conviction last year for allegedly defaming prime minister Hun Sen. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the proceedings against her an example of the “alarming erosion” of Cambodia’s free speech and judicial independence.

Photo by: Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian garment workers clash with police

By Prak Chan Thul, Reuters, July 27, 2010

At least nine female garment workers were injured on Tuesday in clashes with Cambodian riot police who used shields and electric shock batons to try to end a week-long strike over the suspension of a local union official.

Press Release: Kaing Guek Eav Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949

By: ECCC, July 26, 2010

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today found KAING Guek Eav alias Duch guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced him to 35 (thirty-five) years of imprisonment.

Duch gets 35 (- 5) years

By: IntLawGrrls, July 26, 2010

So says the presiding judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, in Khmer, in this 10-minute video clip of today’s verdict against Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), about whose trial we’ve blogged here. The 67-year-old Duch, stoic during the reading of the verdict, was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, and torture, and sentenced to “35 years in prison — with five years taken off that sentence for time served.”

Cambodia: The Official Launch of the First Online Human Rights Portal

By: Sopheap Chak in Global Voices Online, July 26, 2010

Sithi.org, a Cambodian human rights portal that aims to crowdsource and curate reports of human rights violations, officially launched on July 22, 2010 with participation from various institutions including embassies, international and local NGOs, media and university representatives. Over the past year, the site has developed rapidly. A number of reports of human rights violations, relevant legal instruments and publications have been made available on the site.

Irish photographer recalls day he found KRouge torturer

By: AFP, July 24, 2010

In March 1999 an old man wandered up to an Irish photographer on his day off in a village in Cambodia. It was Duch, the torture chief of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime who many assumed was long dead.

Cambodian Ruling Party’s Plenum Reaffirms Hun Sen for PM Post in Next Terms

By: CRI English, July 22, 2010

The Cambodia’s ruling party — the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on Thursday reaffirmed at it plenum Hun Sen’s candidate for prime minister post for the next terms. “The plenum reaffirms its endorsement of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen’s candidacy for the post of prime minister for the next terms,” announced the party’s communique released at the ending of the 35th Plenum of the Fifth-Term Central Committee of the CPP.

The Old Municipal Building

I first heard about Mu Sochua[i] when my mother forwarded me “Crusader Rowing Upstream in Cambodia”[ii] a New York Times article profiling her campaigns for women’s rights, land rights, and reelection to parliament which have led to political and legal entanglements with the current Prime Minister.  Now hardly a week goes by where Mu Sochua’s name does not appear in the newspaper.

The court battles began back in April, 2009 when Mu Sochua alleges the Prime Minister referred to her as “cheung klang,” a Khmer term which translates to “strong legs” in English. The term is typically used in reference to men and is understood to mean “gangster” making it especially insulting towards a woman. Mu Sochua contended the statement affected her “honor and dignity”[iii] and set forth to “claim justice for all Khmer women,” by suing the Prime Minister for defamation. The case was never heard before the courts, dismissed for lack of evidence.

Following the dismissal, both Mu Sochua and her lawyer Kong Sam Onn were accused by Prime Minister Hun Sen of defamation for having brought forth the defamation case against him in the first place. News reports indicate Kong Sam Onn was threatened with disbarment and subsequently dropped Mu Sochua’s case, apologized publically to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and formally joined the ruling Communist People’s Party (CPP).[iv]

Mu Sochua’s case is an interesting look into the intersection of politics and law and may be indicative of the reality in Cambodia today. I had the unique opportunity to observe Mu Sochua’s appeals trial at the Supreme Court on June 2nd, 2010. The following is an account of my experience in court that day. Much of the information is based on the translated summaries and subsequent discussions I had with a first-year student at the University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh who also attended the trial.

*             *             *             *             *

Early morning crowds observe across the street

I arrived at the Old Municipal Building early on June 2nd, 2010. As I got off the moto, dripping in sweat from the hot morning sun, I found the street filled with small clusters of military and police authorities chatting and observing the crowd.  Having had arrived to Cambodia just one week earlier, I felt a bit intimidated by the police presence and unsure of the procedure for attending court. After scanning the crowd for others I might know, I slipped behind a reporter, handed my ID to the guard, and allowed my bag to be searched. Without any questions I managed to squeeze through a set of double wooden doors as they were closing behind the overfilled courtroom.

Shortly after finding a spot on the floor the first trial began.  Court proceedings are held in Khmer and for some moments I listened, uncomprehending, while NGO and media attendees leaned into their Cambodian colleagues for translation. I noticed a young man in front of me reading a copy of The Cambodian Daily[v], tapped him on his shoulder and whispered, “What is he saying?” referring to the judge at the front of the room. He explained the first case was a land dispute involving a rural landowner and the state.

Less than an hour passed before the first trial concluded and Mu Sochua was called before the court. It is important to note that Ms. Sochua was not accompanied by legal representation. According to her testimony, Mu Sochua sought representation but was not able to find a lawyer due to the troubles faced by her previous counsel. According to the Cambodian Civil Procedures, under Appeals before the Supreme Court [§5.40] it is stated that “All parties may be represented by their lawyers.”[vi] However, lawyers are only required for appearances by the accused in felony cases. The question of representation was never resolved during the trial. The prosecution asserted that Ms. Sochua should not be granted a court-appointed lawyer because she could afford one of her own. When Ms. Sochua contested that, due to the treatment of her previous lawyer, no other lawyer was willing to represent her, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer argued that she could not be sure of that because did not ask every lawyer in Cambodia. And so, after a formal reading by the Court Clerk, representing her own defense, a formal statement was prepared and delivered before the court by Mu Sochua herself.

During her statement, Mu Sochua  spoke about the importance of justice for women in Cambodia. She emphasized that her case was not about herself alone, but rather symbolized the value of all Cambodian women, and of women worldwide.  During her testimony Ms. Sochua also referenced the law: the Cambodian constitution and international standards of freedom of speech, human rights, and the rights of the child, all of which are incorporated under Cambodian law.  She also referred to Cambodian procedural law, under which the accused have the right to representation, drawing attention to the fact that the courts did not appoint her a public defender, despite her wish to be represented by a lawyer.

Following Ms. Sochua’s statement, the Prime Minister’s lawyer presented arguments on behalf of the Prime Minister, who was not present for the trial.  His main argument was that by suing the Prime Minister for only 500 Riel (roughly USD 13 cents) Mu Sochua’s defamation case was not made in good faith but rather with the bad intentions of creating a spectacle and thereby defaming the Prime Minister. Secondly, if Mu Sochua indeed represented all Cambodian women, then all Cambodian women must agree with her and find the actions of the Prime Minister objectionable. Third, he claimed that Mu Sochua further defamed the Prime Minister by reaching out to international women’s organizations to support her case. Forth, in defense of Prime Minster Hun Sen’s absence at court, his lawyer proclaimed that if the court wanted the PM present they should have gone to the Ministry Council and request his presence several days in advance (in order to allow for security to secure the premises). This was followed by audible laughter from the audience who view the argument as a weak explanation for the Prime Minister’s absence and believe the Supreme Court premises could have been secured had the PM decided to attend the trial.

There was no cross examination and little to no questioning of either side by the 5-judge panel of the court.  The court recessed for about 30-40 minutes before returning with a verdict to uphold the original decision by the Municipal Court in finding Mu Sochua guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordering her to pay an approximately 8 million Riel fine. The Supreme Court is the highest court in Cambodia and is considered the court of last resort and therefore their judgment is the final binding decision unless under a special procedure they are asked to consider a revision of a case decision.

Mu Sochua Speaking to the Press

Outside the courtroom Mu Sochua’s energy was high as she stood surrounded by media and supporters holding single candles, a symbol of the Sam Raimsey political party. Police officials stood off to the side as she delivered a defeated yet defiant speech, first in Khmer, and then again in English for the international NGO and media presence. She discussed the failures of the Cambodian judicial system and lack of freedom of speech within the nation. She said her verdict was evidence that the Cambodian judicial system is not independent of the political ruling party, evidence that the system is not “just” but “justice is for sale”.  She was adamant in her commitment to not pay the court-ordered fine, stating that she “could not, in her conscious, pay such a fine”. She encouraged Cambodians to not live their lives in fear but to stand up to injustices.

Following the press statements Mu Sochua led an impromptu march of supporters from the Old Municipal Building along Sihanouk Blvd. in front of the Royal Palace and past the Ministry of Justice and towards the Sam Raimsey offices.  After a few minutes of walking, a pick-up truck barreled through and police armed in riot gear jumped out and swarmed the crowd of supporters preventing them from walking further. Mu Sochua confronted them directly and with media in tow snapping photos cried, “what is illegal about walking through the city?” After about five minutes of this face-off, the police retreated to their pick-up trucks and drove off allowing the small group of supporters to continue along their way.

Police Preventing Passage

Although the June 2nd incident ended peacefully, there is considerable debate about what will happen next and the drama continues to be played out in the national media with newspapers speculating on the final outcome. Some contend the courts will take action to seize her assets or issue an arrest in order to collect the already overdue 16.5 million Riel fine. Others claim such actions would provoke protest and amplify her cause.

As a student of the Cambodian legal system with a background working in the field of nonviolent conflict I continue to follow the story with great interest. Is Mu Sochua picking a fight with the Prime Minister or is she waging a nonviolent campaign for people’s rights in Cambodia? What precedent might this case set for future cases of defamation and freedom of speech in Cambodia and what can we conclude about political interference in the court system from this case?

As the story continues to unfold, Mu Sochua is ever-persistent in her claims that she will not pay the fine. Upon return from the United States last week she announced yet again, “if they want, they can arrest me any time, my address is already known.”[vii]

Negotiating with the Police


[i] To learn more about Mu Sochua you can visit her website: http://musochua.org/ or facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2881835&id=7906996&ref=mf#!/sochua

[ii] Mydans, Seth “Crusader Rowing Upstream,” New York Times, February 21, 2010 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/world/asia/22cambowomen.html?_r=1)

[iii] Duong Sokha, “Opposition MP Mu Sochua files lawsuit against Hun Sen on grounds of defamation,” Ka-set, April 23, 2009 (http://cambodia.ka-set.info/hot-news/news-mu-sochua-hun-sen-defamation-srp-090423news-mu-sochua-hun-sen-defamation-srp-090423.html)

[iv] “Media, opposition party under fire from Cambodia’s strongman” Southeast Asian Press Alliance, January 23, 2010 (http://www.seapabkk.org/newdesign/newsdetail.php?No=1205)

[v] This daily English newspaper does not currently have an active online presence, but information can be found here: http://www.camnet.com.kh/cambodia.daily/

[vi] International Human Rights Law Group Cambodia Defenders Project, Chapter Five: Appeals, (http://www.globalrights.org/site/DocServer/Cambodia_Ch5.pdf?docID=191) June 9, 2010.

[vii] Meas Sokhea, “Sochua defiant on return”, Phnom Penh Post, July 7, 2010 (http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010070640294/National-news/sochua-defiant-on-return.html)

Cambodian Sex Workers Protest (© 2008 AP Photo)

Cambodia: Sex Workers Face Unlawful Arrests and Detention

Officials Should Investigate and Close Government Centers Where Abuses Occur

By: Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2010

For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions. The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers’ human rights and shut down the centers where these people have been abused.

Inflation ‘manageable’ in first half of 2010

By: May Kunmakara in Phnom Penh Post, July 20, 2010

INFLATION, recorded at 5.22 percent in the first half of the year, has grown at a “stable” and “manageable” rate according to commentators. According to National Institute of Statistics consumer price index released yesterday, the first six months of 2010 saw inflation reach 5.22 percent compared to the same period last year. Quarter-on-quarter inflation was slight at 0.3 percent.

US envoy defends military relations with Cambodia

By: AFP, June 19, 2010

A senior US diplomat on Sunday defended relations with allegedly abusive Cambodian military units as he concluded a two-day visit to the capital Phnom Penh. William Burns, US Under-Secretary of State for political affairs, said military aid from the United States to Cambodia was intended to boost a civil-military relationship that was essential to a “healthy political system”.

Sochua at ‘war’ with courts

By: Meas Sokchea in Phonm Penh Post, July 16, 2010

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua reaffirmed yesterday that she would refuse to pay fines levied after she was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, again daring the government to imprison her for failing to meet a court-ordered payment deadline.

Human rights head ‘seriously concerned’ at pursuit of opposition MP

By: Earth Times, July 16, 2010

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed “serious concern” Tuesday at the Cambodian government’s pursuit of a criminal case against opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua.

Hundreds of families block land-clearing

By: May Tithara in Phnom Penh Post, July 16, 2010

AROUND 256 families from Kampong Speu province’s Trapaing Chor commune held a sit-down protest in Phlout Leu village yesterday to prevent a sugar firm from clearing their farmland, villagers said. Villager Lot Sovan, who claims to have occupied the land since 2000, said the company began clearing the land at 3:30pm Wednesday. Villagers asked the company to stop, insisting that the dispute over the concession had not been resolved. The villagers then prevented further clearing by protesting yesterday, he said.

Cambodia women see future in sports and big muscles

By: Kounila Keo, Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 2010

Cambodia women are rising fast in the wide world of sports. Pétanque player Duch Sophorn has alone won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions over the past decade.

Photo of Tonle Bassac Commune by Jake SchonEker

Group 78 anniversary rally planned

By: Jake Schoneker and Tang Khyhay in Phnom Peh Post, July 15, 2010

AYEAR ago this week, police and red-shirted demolition workers arrived at dawn on a Friday morning to clear out a tract of land in Tonle Bassac commune known as Group 78. Once a close-knit community of street vendors and civil servants that contained 146 families, the land is now empty, a fenced-in plot of grass and sand. On Saturday, former Group 78 residents plan to reunite and demonstrate at their old home, a year to the day after the last families were forced to abandon the site and scatter to the outskirts of the city.

100,000 Cambodian officials to be required to declare assets as part of anti-corruption fight

By: Canadian Business, July 14, 2010

Some 100,000 government officials in Cambodia will be required to declare their assets this year in an effort to combat corruption, a senior official said Wednesday. Under an anti-corruption law passed in March, any official found guilty of taking bribes could face up to 15 years in prison. Cambodia, a poor country heavily dependent on foreign aid, is routinely listed by independent groups such as Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia.

Artist Sketches Photo by Ou Mom

Pencil sketches reveal artist’s perspective on KR tribunal

By: Ou Mom in Phnom Penh Post, July 5, 2010

More than 20 pencil sketches on display at the Bophana Centre in Phnom Penh explore artist Kou Dalin’s personal perspective on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The exhibition, titled My Dreams of Justice, shows drawings by 20-year-old architecture student Kou Dalin while she attended the trial of former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, over the course of nearly a year. She said she was contacted by the Taramana Centre, a French organisation that works with poor children in Cambodia, to attend the hearings and make sketches.

Another 50,000 threaten to strike

By: Tep Nimol in Phnom Penh Post, July 5, 2010

THE head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation said yesterday that its 50,000 members would join a three-day strike scheduled for later this month if the minimum wage for garment workers was not raised to US$93 per month. Ath Thun, who is also head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, issued his strike threat one day after the CLC said that the wage hike was necessary in light of the rising cost of food, accommodation and transportation.

‘Freedom parks’ for Cambodia

By: Straits Times, July 5, 2010

CAMBODIA is making way for ‘freedom parks’ across the country for people to hold demonstrations, a move local activists fear could limit rights of expression, the government said on Monday. ‘All provinces and cities are preparing locations for the freedom parks,’ interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told AFP, adding that local authorities nationwide had been informed about the move.

Activists warn: farm evictees face hunger

By: Will Baxter and May Titthara in Phnom Penh Post, July 2, 2010

MORE than 1,000 families in Kampong Speu province face food shortages after being forced to give up their farmland without compensation to make way for economic land concessions granted to companies owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat and his wife, rights activists said.

UN: Cambodia must address wide rural-urban development divide

By: Earthtimes, July 1, 2010

Cambodia must change the way it targets development or risk worsening already wide disparities between urban and rural areas, a United Nations  report warned Thursday. The report’s author, Nicola Crosta of the UN Capital Development Fund, told a conference in Phnom Penh that his research had found “very stark territorial disparities” in the development of the impoverished South-East Asian nation.

Khmer Rouge verdict to go live

By: Straits Time, July 1, 2010

THE verdict in the trial of Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will be broadcast live across Cambodia when it is delivered later this month, the UN-backed court said on Thursday. Duch is the first leader from the hardline communist regime to face international justice and observers have stressed the need for proceedings to be open to ordinary Cambodians, many of whom lived through the brutal rule.

This post first appeared on my Advocacy Project Blog

Asociación Para Políticas Publicas (the Association for Public Politics or APP) is an organization that focuses on working through public policy channels to affect positive change in the realm of disarmament and ending gun violence in Argentina and in the region. By signing onto the Disarming Domestic Violence (DDV) campaign, they have expressed their commitment to working towards raising awareness about the ways in which gun violence negatively (and disproportionately) affects women (especially within their homes) and to reducing the number of women affected by gun violence within the home.

Over the past six weeks of working with APP on the DDV Campaign in Argentina, I have been struck by the enormity of the task that IANSA and their partner organizations have set out to accomplish: ending gender-based gun-violence within the home in their countries and worldwide. How necessary and yet how enormous.  With a goal so large I have begun to ask myself and others, what are the causes of gender-based gun violence?  And with causes so numerous and complex, how do we know where to begin? How do we decide where to focus our energies and work? Surely they can’t possibly be tackled through just one or two single angles. Which are the angles that are necessary to tackle such a vast issue?  Which will have the highest impact on reducing domestic armed violence?

Two of the primary focuses of my work as an Advocacy Project Fellow on the DDV campaign include working towards harmonizing gun laws with domestic violence laws in Argentina, and the collection of statistics on the link between gun violence and domestic violence. Because APP is an organization that has tended towards working within the public policy realm, they have a strategic, comparative advantage in accomplishing the legal aims of the campaign.  APP maintains strong relationships with members of the Argentine government and continues to build on and leverage those relationships to improve domestic gun laws and disarmament.

Although the expertise amongst the small, hard-working staff at APP is not in the area of social work or data collection, they recognize that working solely on the level of public policy (changing national gun and domestic violence laws through talking with members of parliament and government) is not enough.  While working to prevent arms from getting in the hands of someone with a history of domestic violence, we cannot forget to address the socio-political, cultural, economic, and historical factors, amongst others, that contribute to a home, neighborhood, city, province, country, and world in which domestic armed violence continues to occur. That is why one of the first steps APP has taken in launching the DDV campaign in Argentina has been to develop a network of individuals, organizations, women’s groups, civil society members, government officials, academics, journalists, and others who are committed to ending gender-based gun violence.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been focused on helping APP develop this network, in an effort to build a bridge and foster collaboration between the individuals and groups already working on issues related to the campaign.  Oftentimes these members are working in isolation from one another, making their work more difficult, less efficient, and therefore sometimes also low impact.  Building a network will hopefully improve efficiency, help to expand the campaign’s support base, and expand the locations (family homes, community, nations) and angles from which this enormous problem can be tackled.

One of the many principles of strategic nonviolent movements and campaigns is the importance of building a broad base of support. The phase of building support for a movement or campaign can be seen as both a strategic and tactical move as doing so upfront will benefit future campaign actions. This is certainly the case for APP, who launched the DDV campaign in Argentina back in of June prior to developing an extensive network.  Future DDV campaign actions will greatly benefit from the strength of a diverse base of supporters that can put collective pressure on the media to cover these issues and draw attention to the campaign, pressure on the government to change domestic violence and gun laws, and apply forms of social pressure to begin changing behaviors. While building this base of support may not be easy, it does indeed seem necessary.

As the quote by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo goes, “The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better”.  I look forward to seeing the impact of the work we are doing to build this “power of many” for the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign in Argentina.

Additional resource related to nonviolent conflict can be found on the following websites:
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Albert Einstein Institution
Center for Victims of Torture’s New Tactics in Human Rights – Nonviolent Action
War Resisters International
Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies

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