War Resisters' International Report 2001


WRI Executive and Office, February 2002

Table of contents


This is the second year that the WRI staff and Executive have created a joint report to the Council. This has been a very busy year for WRI, becoming more intense after the tragic events of September 11th and the attacks on Afghanistan.

The Nonviolence and Social Empowerment conference, which we had been working on for many years, took place in February. We now face the challenge of successful follow-up. Since our goal was to increase our understanding of nonviolence and social empowerment, we are in the process of examining how the conference did that, and how follow-up work can deepen that understanding.

An important goal for 2001 was to bring on a third staff person. The Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust funded that position. Andreas Speck was hired, making progress in the areas of CONCODOC, CO work and fundraising possible.

A third staff person in the office has given us the chance to finally develop the work that Roberta Bacic was hired to do, and so we have been developing "Dealing with the Past" as WRI program.

This year we have also been moving forward on the planning of the Triennial which will take place in Dublin, Ireland from 3-9 August 2002.

We have also been able to move forward in stabilising our financial situation.

With Andreas becoming staff, Bart Horeman has stepped into the role of treasurer. We have also hired a new Finance and Admin worker, Angela McCann. Together we have developed a solid team of staff and Exec.

We have been successful in facing the challenges that were stated in "REPORT 2000" - strengthening the office by increasing staff, increasing funding so that we can develop programmes, and strengthening the internal communications to empower the WRI network. We have also made many new connections this year, through a variety of programme work. We face new challenges in the year ahead. We need to continue to work on developing our new programme areas. The Strategic Plan has been our guide for these past three years and in the coming year, before our next Triennial, we need to develop programme proposals to continue to meet our goals. We also need to continue working towards the overarching objectives, as well as organisational objectives and outreach strategies, in order to strengthen WRI as both an organisation and a network.

WRI condemned both the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, and the attacks on Afghanistan. WRI's declaration that "war is a crime against humanity", and our pledge not to support any kind of war, is the basis of our work. We reject Bush's attempt to divide the world into "them and us", choosing nonviolence instead. At the WRI Council meeting held later in September in Turkey, WRI issued the statement "SAY NO! A Call for Conscientious Objection to War and War Preparations", a commitment to conscientious objection, tax resistance and nonviolent direct action against war, which is being signed by people around the world.

War Resisters International is part of the peace movement's response to September 11 and the "war on terrorism". This war is deeply rooted in unjust global structures and WRI and our affiliates must be part of the response to the present crisis, and also part of the long-term solution to abolish the causes of war and to create social justice.

Joanne Sheehan, Chair

I. Programme goals

1) Promote nonviolence

A. Increased understanding of nonviolent social empowerment

1. The international conference on Nonviolence and Social Empowerment has been one of WRI's main projects since the Triennial in Croatia in 1998.

This conference was part of a larger project, which continues.

About 65 people from more than 20 countries and five continents participated in the conference, the majority of them from the South. There was even more interest in the conference, especially from Latin America and from Africa (Rafael Marques, an independent Angolan journalist and peace activist was invited, but was not allowed to leave Angola) but due to lack of funding it was not possible to accept more participants who were not able to pay for themselves. We did not reach our goal to get all the case studies in advance, and did not manage to have them translated on time.

This had consequences for the case study day at the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment Conference.

In spite of these difficulties the conference was a successful event, and we made many new contacts. So far two of the groups participating in the conference affiliated to WRI.

Part of the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment project is the publication of a book. Chris Ney from War Resisters League is the editor, and a small committee will guide the editing process.

2. Strengthen support for nonviolence trainers in promoting nonviolence.

The NVSE conference included a workshop on training facilitated by Joanne Sheehan. Resources for nonviolence training were available at the workshop.

As a result of that workshop, a member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe participated in an international training on nonviolence in situations of war and armed conflict in July 2001 at KURVE Wustrow, a training centre for nonviolence in Germany. Joanne also spoke about the role of nonviolence training at a plenary session focusing on Seattle. Joanne spent a week in Turkey holding workshops on Seattle and the role of nonviolence training, and was invited to Jawaharlal Nehru University to speak on this after the NVSE conference.

3. Identity issues

played an important role during the conference on Nonviolence and Social Empowerment in India. Amalia Pailalaf from Argentina highlighted the importance of reclaiming ones own indigenous identity as Mapuche for their work. The questions of minority and majority identities was also very much discussed in relation to gay/lesbian identities, especially with the example of the struggle of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe. The identity of being a woman in a very male dominated society was also discussed in India.

2) Promote antimilitarism

B. CO-work continued

Conscientious objection remains very high on the agenda in the WRI office.

With the new third staff position in the office, WRI now has a worker mainly dedicated to CO, and to further strengthen and develop WRI's CO work.

1. CONCODOC Centre

As a follow up of the CONCODOC reports ("Refusing to Bear Arms" and "A Conscientious Objectors' Guide to the UN Human Rights System") WRI aims at the establishment of a CONCODOC Centre, a world information and documentation centre on CO, in cooperation with other organisations.

Since the 2000 Council meeting, the work on CONCODOC has made some progress. Following the first meeting in July 2000, WRI's first task was to secure funding for the Centre. With the decision at the WRI Council meeting in August 2000 in Oxford to get a third staff person to work on fundraising, WRI enlarged its capacity to lead the CONCODOC Centre project.

While secure funding for the CONCODOC Centre has yet to be realised, receiving a substantial grant of £50,000 from the Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust in March 2001 to work on fundraising and CO promotion, has provided WRI with a firm base from which to work towards the establishment of the Centre.

In January 2001, Noticias in Amsterdam published the translated country reports from Latin America on the home page of the Latin and Central American Network of Conscientious Objectors (ROLC) http://www.redoc.org/concodoc.

In May 2001, when WRI launched its new website, the original English version of "Refusing to Bear Arms" was made available on the Internet.

On 4th June a second meeting took place in the London office with Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) and Child Soldiers Coalition. This meeting discussed the future development of CONCODOC.

Presently Emily Miles' "A Conscientious Objectors Guide to the UN Human Rights System" is being translated into Serbo-Croatian, and efforts are under way to raise funds for a Portuguese translation. Parts of the guide have already been translated into Korean and Russian. The Korean version will be published soon, with a preface written by Bart Horeman, WRI Exec member and author of "Refusing to Bear Arms".

The meeting on 4th June agreed to work on an interactive online publication of the guide, including versions in different languages (Spanish and French), but again this will only happen if funds are in place.

2. CO Asylum

WRI is committed to support conscientious objectors and deserters in their claims to asylum, wherever they are. In addition to the political struggle to gain recognition for conscientious objection as a reason for asylum, War Resisters' International responds to enquiries from lawyers and asylum seekers, and provides information on military service and punishment for desertion. The War Resisters' International office is approached at least weekly with queries. Enquiries over the last year came from Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada (with the majority coming from Britain) and concerned refugees from Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Macedonia, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, Sudan, Turkey, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Zaire. The office was not able to help in every case, although it tried to compile more up-to-date information.

This would be much easier if a permanent research and documentation centre was already in existence, as it is mainly the up-to-date information on specific countries that is required. As an international organisation, War Resisters' International doesn't normally get involved in commenting on specific cases, but only in providing general country information.

3.Struggle against conscription and for the human right to refuse war and obligatory service

Turkey continued to be a major focus of WRI's work against conscription.

Last year's seminar, organised by a coalition of Turkish groups with support from WRI, had the theme "Peace and women's movements in Turkey: practice and ideology", and took place in Turkey. Greg Payton, a Vietnam vet and WRL activist from New Jersey, visited Turkey around 15th May and gave several talks on the effects of war. One talk in Izmir had to be cancelled due to threats from the police to videotape the whole meeting and the participants entering the bookstore where it took place.

In addition to Turkey, WRI is developing closer links to COs in South Korea. A delegation of four CO lawyers and activists attended WRI's seminar in Turkey. The first non-religious conscientious objector in South Korea was due to appear at the barracks in December 2001. At the time of writing, he was still free, but could be arrested at any time.

Due to the situation in the Middle East, conscientious objection in Israel is slowly becoming more of a focus, with connections to the Israeli organisation New Profile, a feminist-antimilitarist organisation, slowly developing. War Resisters' International supports New Profile and COs in Israel by sending out weekly co-alerts. The WRI office also writes to imprisoned COs and to prison authorities in Israel, if appropriate. In December 2001, Andreas Speck met with New Profile activists in Tel Aviv.

In 2001, May 15th, International Conscientious Objectors' Day, focussed on Angola. In Germany, Connection e.V. organised a speaking tour with Emanuel Matondo from I.A.A.D.H. on the situation in Angola, and published a booklet, which replaced the German edition of the Broken Rifle. The English edition was published just in time for 15th May and a Spanish edition in September 2001.

In September 2001, War Resisters' International participated in a Balkan meeting on conscientious objection, organised by EBCO, which was held in Belgrade. WRI strengthened its links to its member organisations in the Balkans working on CO issues, and is developing new links to newly emerging CO groups. Many of the groups from the Balkans were represented at the WRI seminar in Turkey.

Jan van Criekinge and Andreas Speck planned to visit Angola in July to meet with a wide range of peace groups in the country. However, they were both denied visas. Angola will be the focus point for the WRI Africa Working Group as the war situation and the repression of peace activists seems to deteriorate. This will happen in close relation with I.A.A.D.H. in Berlin, an organisation that became a WRI section at the Council Meeting in Turkey.

With the introduction of a new automatic email list system in the office the old CO-alert list was replaced by the list <co-alert>, maintained on a list server. This list should be promoted as much as possible, in order to develop it into a powerful tool to support conscientious objectors.

CO-alerts are also available on WRI's website at http://wri-irg.org/cgi/news.cgi.

C. CO work expanded into broader antimilitarism work

1. Prisoners for Peace list

Although the Prisoners for Peace list 2000 was supposed to focus on the Caucasus, in the end this did not happen. With great difficulties the WRI office managed to put a rudimentary list together, along with several short articles, which was then published in Peace News. The December issue of the Broken Rifle, along with the Prisoners for Peace list, was published in four languages thanks to the support of Ken Simons, who did the layout and also put it up on WRI's website.

In 2001, Prisoners for Peace focused on the situation in Israel and Palestine. All four WRI languages were available on the web, and the list and some of the accompanying articles were published in many affiliated magazines, such as Graswurzelrevolution, ZivilCourage, Forum, etc. On time for Prisoners for Peace Day, the office sent out a letter to all prisoners on the list.

Prisoners for Peace Day is still far from its potential. The WRI network needs to cooperate much more with the WRI office in producing the list, and in campaigning for those imprisoned because of their struggle for peace.

D. New strategies developed as armies get professionalised

While in Western Europe conscription becomes more an issue of the past, the network is weak in developing new strategies. War Resisters League in the U.S. does have a counter-recruitment program. Several WRI individuals take part in various activities against new strategies of NATO.

E. Nonviolent civilian intervention experiences analysed

On its last meeting in February 2001, and upon consultations with Sian Jones and Howard Clark, WRI representatives with Balkan Peace Team (BPT), the WRI Executive has supported the idea of closing this project down, for various reasons. However, it was also agreed that WRI would continue to be a part in the closing procedure. There is no practical role WRI could play in this, rather it is important to be a part of the evaluation process. BPT was a very important project to WRI, and it is important to see the pros and cons of nonviolent intervention through peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace building. Much of the work carried out by BPT was experimental and a conclusion is necessary for future similar projects. There were also many organisational problems involved. What are the lessons to be learned? There is clearly a need and opportunity here for a political discussion.

The December 2000-February 2001 issue of "Peace News" was on Interventions.

Council Member Christine Schweitzer became Director of Planning and Research for the Nonviolent Peace Force this year.

F. Work done on reconstruction and democratisation analysed.

1. Dealing with the past

The Executive worked with staff member Roberta Bacic to develop "Dealing with the Past" into a programme area this year. There are 4 basic reasons to develop this work:

  1. It is a topic that looks into the effects of war, which, in the short or long run - become new causes for wars. It is directly linked to our statement of principles and fits into the Strategic Plan.
  2. The topic is Roberta's expertise and contribution to WRI's work against war.
  3. There have been many requests from Universities, NGOs and social organisations for lectures, workshops, consultancies and articles which means we project WRI beyond the movement and have chances to share our goals and identity.
  4. Now that we have a third staff member there is time to develop this programme. Roberta has given seven lectures for students in universities in England. She presented at opening sessions for the academic year at Universidad Católica and Universidad de Tarapacá in Chile. This work has also included writing three articles for different journals and magazines on the topic, and giving briefings on the topic for groups and committees (European Relations Network, QPS, etc) including two sessions for Amnesty Groups connected to their campaign against torture.

Roberta held a workshop on this topic for the WRI Executive and others in May so that the Executive can better understand how to develop this programme work. Roberta travelled to Croatia in June to hold workshops and participate in the public debate on the possibility of creating a Truth Commission, sponsored by the Peace Studies Centre Croatia and promoted by WRI Council member Vesna Terselic. Our web site has created a special homepage on Dealing With the Past.

II. Overarching objectives

G. WRI developed to be more global

"Peace News's" efforts to secure more contributions from non-Western countries were successful and the International Editorial Advisory Group now exists on email, although communication is sometimes poor. The list was set up to function automatically using WRI's list server. "Peace News" also introduced a scheme called "Unity Fund" to support free subscriptions for groups from the south, although unfortunately not many people have supported this fund so far. The help of WRI affiliates is needed here.

The main aim of the WRI Africa Working Group was to strengthen the WRI contacts with grassroots activists in Africa or Africans living abroad.

Special attention was given last year to the situation in Angola and to Central Africa in general. The Africa Working Group's efforts included working on the WRI launch of Matt Meyer (WG Co-convenor) and Bill Sutherland's book "Guns and Gandhi in Africa". Jan Van Criekinge (WG Co-convenor) made contact with nonviolent activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo at meetings in Brussels and Paris, met with activists from Chad and with Emanuel Matondo regarding WRI strategy concerning Angola. Matt Meyer went to Eritrea and his article was published in "Peace News". The Africa Working Group still does not have a good mailing list to reach all interested people. (See B.3. for more on Africa) The conference on Nonviolence and Social Empowerment helped to broaden and strengthen WRI's contacts with groups from the south. There was huge interest in Latin America, and in the end 10 people from this region participated, forming a strong Spanish-speaking group. The NVSE conference also contributed to strengthening contacts in South East Asia, although in the end participation from this region was poor, due to lack of funding. A wide range of groups from India participated, reaching beyond WRI's traditional base in this country. So far two groups participating in the conference have affiliated to WRI: Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency from Bougainville, and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe.

Linking last year's Council with the Seminar in Turkey was another step towards meeting outside our traditional Western European venues.

H. Gender perspective integrated into WRI's antimilitarism work, drawn from different cultures and traditions

Several events throughout the last year have focused on gender and women's situations in particular. As a result of the meeting on Violence against Women in Turkey, the women's group there will be responsible for the coming issue of WWG Newsletter. Also the seminar in Turkey in September 2001 had a focus on gender.

The NVSE conference in India last year presented women's empowerment in different cultural and oppressive frameworks. There were presentations of Indian women in particular living in a society where women are regarded of no worth, and how they are working to get out of the situation.

"Peace News" for June - August 2001 focused on gender and militarism, where war and violence, peace-building and antiwar strategies are analysed in a gender perspective. All "Peace News" issues contain a gender perspective as various topics are analysed. A WWG brochure has been printed. There was no progress in the WWG's history project.

I. Ecological perspective implicit in WRI's philosophy of nonviolence defined and integrated into our work

Several of the case-studies presented at the NVSE conference in India last year showed that the struggle of non-privileged groups had interlinked perspectives of ecology, economy, antimilitarism, human rights and gender to gain a respectable life. Examples from India (Swadhina, Chipko-movement), Brazil (MST movement) and the Mapuche-Tehuelche in Patagonia, Argentina can be mentioned.

J. Economic perspective implicit in WRI's philosophy of nonviolence defined and integrated into our work.

The NVSE conference included panels on "Empowerment to create economic alternatives" as part of the day on "The power of organising". Case studies included Swadhina, our host group and WRI section, MST in Brazil and SEWU in South Africa. An economic perspective was raised in several other places, including the discussion on globalisation.

WRI has published Brian Martin's book "Nonviolence vs. Capitalism" on our web page, with a small number of paper copies available. "Peace News" published an issue on the Economies of militarism.

K. WRI's financial position stabilized

In 2001 WRI made huge progress in stabilising its financial position. In March the Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust agreed to grant WRI £50,000 for the project "The Right to Refuse to Kill", which combines CONCODOC and the CO campaigning aspects (May 15, Prisoners for Peace, CO-alerts). This grant made it possible to employ a CO campaigning worker (the "third staff person") without making use of WRI's reserves. In addition, WRI received a legacy of A$80,000 from Australia.

L. The function of WRI Affiliates strengthened as the base of WRI

WRI has improved the quality of communication with the network this year, through the new web site and email lists: <co-alert> and <wri-info> are new public lists, <wri-internal> consists of WRI groups only. We hope this will encourage more participation from the network.

Last year we had four applications to become a new section: Musicians Opposing War (Dublin, Republic of Ireland), Angolan Antimilitaristic Initiative for Human Rights (I.A.A.D.H., Berlin), Grupo de Objeción de Conciencia Ni Casco Ni Uniforme (Chile), Initiative Group of War Resisters' International - Georgian Section (Georgia), and two applicants who became associate organisations, from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ, Harare, Zimbabwe) and Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency (Bougainville, Papua-New Guinea).

M. Cooperate with other organisations, groups and networks.

WRI strengthened several connections to other groups this year.

  1. As in the past, it has participated in most of the meetings of the Committee for Conflict Transformation Support (CCTS) and has also attended the seminars this group organises as a way to be updated in current issues concerning Conflict Transformation.
  2. Since 2000 WRI has connected to different groups in Ireland, Northern and the Republic, as a way of creating a network capable of supporting and hosting our upcoming Triennial in Dublin in 2002. These are: our affiliate INNATE, Action from Ireland (AFRI), Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), GLENCREE Centre for Reconciliation, PAX Christi, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and Latin American Solidarity Campaign (LASC). This has meant visiting and liasing with the groups and individuals. Rob Fairmichael, from INNATE in Belfast, has been a key person. Pat Barret and Siva Ramamoorthy from Dublin have been very helpful volunteers and will be our local Triennial staff beginning in February 2002. In the process of looking for resource people we have contacted different professionals linked to the topic "Stories and Strategies - Nonviolent Resistance and Social Change" to ensure high levels of experience and knowledge.
  3. When preparing the Broken Rifle 49-50 on Angola, Andreas cooperated closely with Connection e.V. and I.A.A.D.H. to put the issues together.
    Roberta put together an issue based on articles from Latin American groups.
    This has encouraged an active link with our groups there and a better knowledge of their topics and situations.
  4. With IFOR we have kept the liaison with Women Peacemakers Programme, developed by Shelley Anderson. WRI Women No 27 was produced last year and sent out in early April. The office coordinated the procedure.
  5. In connection to CONCODOC there is close cooperation with Rachel Brett from the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva, EBCO and Child Soldiers Coalition. Contacts have been made with Center on War and Conscience (formerly NISBCO) in the United States.
  6. The opening of the programme 'Dealing with the Past' has meant an active participation with different groups and organisations. It has meant spreading WRI principles and actions regarding causes and effects of wars beyond our movement. We are linked to different Universities, Peace Studies Centres, networks, magazines and journals, Amnesty International, etc.

N. WRI publications

Nearly all WRI affiliates have their own magazines and newsletters. As an International, WRI has its own publications.

The main source of up to date information is WRI's website. In May 2001 WRI launched its new website, using its new domain name: http://wri-irg.org. The website is in four languages and constantly updated by Ken Simons.

The Broken Rifle is WRI's own newsletter, which is in principle published in four languages. In the last year four issues (Nos. 46, 47/48, 49/50, 51/52, 53) were published. In February 2001, "Nonviolence and Social Empowerment", in May 2001, "Angola" (this issue was published in cooperation with Connection e.V.), in September 2001, "Latin America" (Spanish only), and in December 2001, "Prisoners for Peace Day".

Peace News, published quarterly by Peace News Limited - a joint project of Peace News Trustees and WRI, is WRI's main magazine. Since 1998 the magazine has had a thematic approach and aims to stir debate in the peace movement. The last five issues dealt with: Interventions, Economies of Militarism, Gender and Militarism, Children, war and peace and Prison and nonviolent struggle.

WRI's Women's Working Group has its own WRI Women's Newsletter. Only one has been published this year, with articles by the AN-FEM group in Turkey.

WRI published two books by Brian Martin last year on our web site: "Technology for Nonviolent Struggle" and "Nonviolence vs. Capitalism".

Programmes & Projects

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