WRI statement of principles
War Resisters' International is a worldwide network of independent organisations, groups and individuals who all accept the WRI declaration:
War is a crime against humanity. I am therefore determined not to support any kind of war, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.
It exists to promote nonviolent action against the causes of war, and to support and connect people around the world who refuse to take part in war or the preparation of war. On this basis, it works for a world without war. WRI membership is open to all those who accept the WRI Declaration.
WRI embraces nonviolence. For some, nonviolence is a way of life. For all of us, it is a form of action that affirms life, speaks out against oppression, and acknowledges the value of each person. Nonviolence can combine active resistance, including civil disobedience, with dialogue; it can combine non-cooperation — withdrawal of support from a system of oppression — with constructive work to build alternatives. As a way of engaging in conflict, sometimes nonviolence attempts to bring reconciliation with it: strengthening the social fabric, empowering those at the bottom of society, and including people from different sides in seeking a solution. Even when such aims cannot immediately be achieved, our nonviolence holds us firm in our determination not to destroy other people.
War is an avoidable form of organised violence. However, its roots go deep. WRI seeks to address these roots, including by changing processes of socialisation, and by transforming the patterns of domination that affect every aspect of life, both within society and between societies. Domination is found in the oppression of the less powerful and in the subjugation of nature iself; relationships of domination can be based on factors such as gender, class, cultural and ethnic differences, and exist between and within nation-states. The preparations for war are not confined to armed forces, they can be found throughout cultures. It is not just the soldiers and politicians who are responsible, but also those who give their consent and cooperation. It is not just those who seek satisfaction through gaining power over others or through accumulating possessions, but also those who define their own identity by demonising the Other, whether in the name of religion, ideology, or nation.
WRI recognises and opposes global injustice and the role played by the military in causing and maintaining such injustice. When WRI was formed in 1921, it was European based and much of the world was still colonised. Since then, exploitation has been continued through economic, political and military structures; through the actions of states and corporations in the industrialised and materially rich world; and through the actions of post-colonial states themselves. The pattern of economic exploitation has led not only to grave inequality and injustice — within and between societies — but also to environmental destruction. This is backed up by military force, with the active cooperation of, and often direct involvement by, former-colonial regimes and other dominant states. Our resistance to this use of military force - and to the preparation for it and to the social militarisation accompanying it - goes hand in hand with active resistance to the unjust systems in which it plays a part.
Addressing the causes of war requires a commitment to social transformation. WRI seeks to join with others in building a world based not on fear of military might, nor on domination and hierarchy, but based on relationships of equality, where basic human needs are fulfilled, where women and men have an equal voice, different cultures and ethnic groups are accepted by one another, borders do not divide, and the natural environment is respected. We work to build societies where everyone can have a say in the decisions that affect them and where collective responsibility and voluntary cooperation replace imposition.
WRI will never endorse any kind of war, whether that war is waged by a state, by a "liberation army", or under the auspices of the United Nations, or whether it is called humanitarian military intervention. Wars, however noble the rhetoric, invariably are used to serve some power-political or economic interest. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that certain situations pose a problem of conscience: episodes such as armed resistance to Fascism or to genocide, or armed struggle for liberation from oppressive or externally-imposed regimes. Each conflict merits analysis. While we unite in opposing the militarist policies and the oppressive structures leading to these situations, and in developing nonviolent forms of solidarity, in such situations we are aware of the limits to what our approach offers in the short term. Therefore, we take a long-term view. We know where war leads - to suffering and destruction, to rape and organised crime, to betrayal of values and to new structures of domination. And so we reject it, acting upon our commitment to create a better way.
WRI's "No" to war is intended to break the cycle of violence. In the grimmest situation we insist on looking at what resources are available for nonviolent action and on identifying how, and with what groups, nonviolent action might contribute to reducing the violence. We maintain our commitment to work through nonviolence because we are convinced that the means we use will shape the ends we achieve, and we know that violence and war have their own logic: that violence tends to bring out the worst in people, and that warfare cannot tackle the roots of war and tends to fuel future conflict.
WRI members engage in a wide range of nonviolent actions. Each person in WRI makes a personal commitment, but at the same time looks for ways in which this commitment can take a collective form. WRI groups have often been best known for resistance to military service or war taxes, campaigning against arms production and the arms trade, or working in solidarity with pacifists in a war situation. But groups may also carry out projects of psychic and physical reconstruction during and after wars, facilitate dialogue among groups in conflict, or promote small-scale community economic development. Behind all these strategies is the basic theme of the need to build a peace culture: a culture that carries a global and holistic consciousness, connecting how we live and the decisions we make with the impact this has on others; a culture that questions militarist, racist and patriarchal values, and that includes the perspectives of those who have been marginalised; a culture that values diversity; a culture that fosters a sense of responsibility about the world and finds appropriate expressions for this locally; and a culture that deals with conflict in a different way, seeking its transformation by nonviolent means. In this, the WRI Declaration is an important first step.