Quotes from WRI's Countering the Militarisation of Youth conference: Resistance


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I as Director of the Vocational Training Centre for former Child Soldiers implemented programmes for UNICEF including how to get children who were caught up in the war back into the mainstream of life – to get them back into school or vocational activities...Reduce or eliminate all sort of inequalities and violence will be reduced. If there is no violence, there would be no need for child soldiers... - Domino Frank Suleiman, Liberia

Talking in schools is a big part of what a lot of people do... giving young people a different perspective so they don’t join the army...my experience talking to high school students is really positive: it’s been very interesting to see how much they are shocked about my experience in Iraq. - Kelly Dougherty, USA

At Ceasefire we run nonviolence courses that we encourage young people and community leaders to participate in to see that this is the way in which they can resolve conflicts, whether with their neighbours, neighbouring countries, other bodies internationally. We feel that if we can give these essential tools to individuals...the military wouldn't be necessary...we do a lot of workshops in communities, a lot of awareness campaigns, we try to show films so that the young people can actually observe the many effects that militarisation comes with...we try to penetrate the military's media image, to say they are not really who they say they are. - Kaizer Tshehla, South Africa

I’m from a group called World Without War, and we are the only group that’s supporting “political” conscientious objectors in South Korea...for the last ten years we’ve been focusing on introducing genuine alternative service [the current one involves four weeks of military training]. - Garam Jang, South Korea

In the town of Zwolle, there were good actions for years. Activists dressed as clowns satirically exposed the military structure. The clowns were always quickly arrested though. Last time the police rang the coordinator of the protest on the morning before the pledge to ask her how many people would be present. That evening the military show took place in the barracks instead of the city centre – this was a great success...I give lessons on peace in schools. I visit around 150 primary and secondary schools per year. The aim is to make children curious about conflicts, in order to show them how the concept of the enemy arises. At the end they should understand that in the long term conflicts are best solved without violence. The children have for the most part shown a keen interest and I have often had the impression that after the lesson on peace none of the pupils will be joining the army. That’s obviously great. But the children have to think through this experience for themselves. - Geart Bosma, Netherlands

I had a Peace Studies education, to help me to be able to influence the combatants – to find out what is it that’s pushed them to do that. In other words to identify their goals, and sort out which ones are legitimate, and which ones are not legitimate, and then the contradiction between the two parties who are involved in these conflicts, and maybe contribute to bringing about peace between them. - Samuel Koduh, Ghana

We also promote and give support to those who are in the reserves – after military service. The military can call you up again for a couple of days to practise – we give help and promote the notion that after you have done the military service you can still be a conscientious objector: you do five days of alternative service. Then you’re completely freed from the military. - Paavo Kolttola, Finland

New Profile assists young people who want to get out of the military for whatever reason, runs youth groups that give a safe space to talk about the army – out of that grows critical thinking – and has an exhibition that shows militarisation – because for Israelis symbols of the military in ordinary life are invisible – which constructs some debates. If you take my parent's generation, then everyone went to the military – there wasn’t such a thing as people who didn't serve. And then in my generation you have 12% getting out on mental health, which is very high. And I think that beyond the fact that it will mean less people in the military, which is already good, people that don’t serve can allow themselves a different perspective on things, 'cause they're not part of the military system. - Sahar Vardi, Israel

When military recruiters have been at job fairs we’ve done different kinds of action: just standing outside handing out our own leaflets, or coming there as the Clown Army and trying to be recruited as clowns, or trying to recruit to the Clown Army. And also because the target group for the military is 15 to 25-year olds we go to high schools and talk about war and militarism and militarisation and the military...Of course it’s up to everyone to decide what they want to do with their life, but we give people information about what the military really is doing. And in one of the classes we gave a workshop to, in the evaluation one person said “My thought was to join the military when I finish school, and now I've changed my mind”. - Cattis Laska, Sweden

ForcesWatch tries to challenge the state and the Armed Forces on the ethics of the way they recruit young people, and also challenge this uncritical national pride in the Armed Forces. I also run a website called beforeyousignup.info, that presents the cons as well as the pros of joining the armed forces. And the Child Soldiers coalition is involved in lobbying: last year we actually managed to persuade the government to change the law so that all under-18s in the Armed Forces have a legal right to leave. They didn't have that before. Some school students have challenged army recruiters when they come in and some of them have actually chased them out of the building. There are actions around recruiting offices – close them down by occupying them, or handing out leaflets outside – and at parades and village fêtes, to give an alternative view. - David Gee, UK

Veterans for Peace UK was set up in 2011. Whereas in the US there's a culture where it's possible for veterans to question the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the UK there are only a tiny handful who have spoken out. It’s seen as a betrayal by soldiers to do that, so it takes a lot of courage. But there's a huge potential for it. And the only way the UK movement questioning military recruitment is going to take off and grow as it needs to and should do, is if more veterans are willing to make that stand. Which means it’s our job to recognise the barriers they face and to support them. - David Gee, UK

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