What is International Accompaniment?
Communities and human rights defenders under threat sometimes ask for international accompaniment so they're able to continue their work and so that their work gains visibility on an international level. The experiences of various organizations in Colombia demonstrate that international presence in a conflict region can diminish considerably the risks faced by civilians targeted by armed actors that consider them the collaborators of their adversaries.
How International Accompaniment Works
International protective accompaniment is a non violent strategy for protecting threatened individuals and communities in the midst of an armed conflict or political violence. It is based on the principles of non violence, non interference and impartiality.
As Liam Mahony and Luis Enrique Eguren explain in "Unarmed Bodyguards," accompaniment literally personifies the international concern for human rights. It is a convincing and visible reminder to those who use violence that their actions won’t go unnoticed. The premise of accompaniment is that there will be an international response to whatever violence is observed by our international teams. That request carries the implicit threat of diplomatic or economic pressure; a pressure that the perpetrators of violence want to avoid. Therefore, all of our efforts focus on the prevention of attacks on those we accompany.
Because of this, the armed actors and civilians in the conflict area should have explicit knowledge of the physical presence of the international accompaniers as well as the support network that backs them up. The work therefore is two pronged: the physical presence of the volunteers and the political/diplomatic work that raises the visibility of the accompaniment as well as of the accompanied person.
Protective accompaniment works on various levels.