War Resisters' International Annual Report: September 2016 - August 2017
Put together by the WRI Executive Committee and Staff
Another year has passed for WRI and with it lots of work to do our part to be a wrench in the workings of the war machine. This has included ongoing efforts to counter recruitment to the military and other armed groups, organising nonviolence training, supporting conscientious objectors and activists targeted by militarist regimes, the publication of books and online resources on peacebuilding and antimilitarism and collaborative work with other peace organisations. A large amount of work this past year was devoted to the new WRI website, which was recently launched. The new website is easier to browse and more accessible than the previous design, making it easier for people to engage with WRI and a better tool for the WRI network.
Some more specific examples of work this past year conducted by WRI and our affiliates is the new Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation project, the Empowering Nonviolence website, the project on police militarisation, webinars concerning the militarisation of the Colombian peace process and the conflict in Venezuela, actions against the opening of NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels, campaigns around the impact of gun violence in South Sudan, and No SWAT Zone campaigns in the USA to address and support cuts to funding for SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) training programmes. This annual report covers this work and, in addition to reports from these programmes and affiliates, there are accounts of the WRI’s internal business, finances, publications and statements.
The Council 2016 took place electronically between the 14th and 24th of October 2016. About 50 people registered to participate. The most important issues discussed were the upcoming Assemblies, changes to the Constitution and Rules, budget, applications for affiliation and responses to crises. A statement on Syria was drafted, and published after the Council ended. The Council also included three webinars – on Syria, constructive programmes and CMOY.
The Executive, consisting of Jungmin Choi, Cattis Laska, Hulya Uçpinar, Sergeiy Sandler (Treasurer) and Christine Schweitzer (Chair) has had three face-to-face meetings since last Council: 4–6 November 2016 and 10–12 February 2017 in London, and 19–21 May 2017 in Istanbul. Additionally, the exec usually meets once per month via Skype.
The main topics that the Exec dealt with in this past year were: preparations for Council 2017 and Assembly 2018, budget, finances and work on the various programmes run by the office and the respective Programme Committees. For some of the Exec (Hülya, Christine) and staff, the situation in Turkey and our campaign on it has continued to be a special focus (see the corresponding section in this report).
The Women's Working group still formally exists, but has not met in person or online during the past year.
The Queer Working group has worked more as a network over the last few years, and therefore has renamed itself the WRI Queer Network. Hence, the group no longer exists as a working group.
Andrew Metheven and Hannah Brock are both working four days a week; Semih Sapmaz worked on a number of projects on a freelance basis. They hold regular meetings, and every six months go on a half-day away day to make plans for the coming months.
Andrew works on the Nonviolence Programme, and Hannah on the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme. Semih worked freelance on projects related to both the Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme and the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme.
Having been at WRI for five years as of 2017, Hannah took a one-month sabbatical, which was spent mostly in Barcelona improving her Spanish! Hannah has also moved to Sheffield, so is generally in the office three days a week, working from home on the other day.
This year (September 2016–August 2017) we have been extremely lucky to host Sarah Robinson as part of the Quaker Peace and Social Witness Peaceworker Scheme, which pays activists to work for a year in a peace organisation. Sarah has been working with Andrew as part of the Nonviolence Programme, researching and analysing the nature of police militarisation around the world, and creating an online resource to help us clearly illustrate this important aspect of militarisation and war profiteering. You can read more about this work in the section concerning the Nonviolence Programme. It's been great to work with Sarah this year – many thanks for all you've contributed!
Volunteers and interns
Executive member Hülya Üçpinar worked from the WRI office for a month in March, especially on the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme work (whilst Hannah was on sabbatical) and the Turkey project (see corresponding section below). It was great to have Hülya with us!
We are grateful to artist Ralph Ziman, who designed the new WRI logo. We are also very appreciative of the time spent by Rob Brew, who helps with our IT equipment in the office, making sure that our software is up to date.
Martyn Lowe, who was a regular volunteer in the WRI office for many years, visits the office every November for three-to-four days to help us with the annual fundraising appeal, and we are very grateful for his contributions!
WRI is supported by a large network of translators – some are members of the Council or Executive, others have volunteered through our website. They include Carlos Barranco, Nayua Abdelkefi, Igor Seke, Matias Mulet, Laura Perez Poza, Oscar Huenchunao, Pedro Ballesteros, Clara Delgado, Eva Aneiros, Cristian González, Mabel Pedemonte, Mayra Cavilla, Yolanda Alvarez, César Pérez, Gabriela Garcia Calderon Orbe, Martin Vallarino Arrospide, Carolina Olivero, Lydia Saiz, Mariana Avalaos, Manuel Torres, Paul Rankin, Ruby Starheart, Grace Brown, Anjali Mukhi Navalrai, Kevin Siegel, Inge Dreger, Gerd Buentzly, Christine Schweitzer, Rainer Sonntag, Caroline Wedler, Richard Meakin, Diana Vega, Laura Guthrie, Benjamin Lacey, David Scheuing, René Burget, Tikiri, Bastien Zara, Eve Tignol, Nolwenn Gaudin, Yoann Re, John Bogard, Lydia Castiello, Romain Ducroux, Maude Boudreault, Lewis Sinkala, Eleonora Romagna, D. Phillips, Asunción Serrano, Laura Poza and Laura Sanquer.
As well as this list of volunteers, many people help us through the Rosetta Foundation's website trommons.org, which links up volunteer translators with not-for-profit groups. Thanks to all of them!
Finally, thanks to our proofreading volunteers: Emma Green, Spencer P. Malloy, Andrew Jackson and Lyn Setchell (who proofread this report!)
Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme
International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth
The International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth was held for the third time in November 2016. During the week of 14–20 November, many activists from various countries organised actions and events protesting against militaries and war-profiteers efforts to recruit young people. The events of last year followed the weeks of action held in 2015 and 2014, and a day of action held in 2013.
Throughout the Week, antimilitarists from different countries organised street actions and protests; held meetings, talks and workshops; and ran social media campaigns that challenged the many ways in which militaries and armed groups engage with young people. In addition to these events, we also published articles focusing on recruitment within Germany and the UK.
Alongside individual supporters and participants, the groups and organisations which supported the Week included Aseistakieltäytyjäliitto AKL (Finland), Centre Delas and Desmilitaritzem l’Educació (Catalonia), Conscientious Objection Association (Turkey), ACOOC – Colombian Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (Colombia), CUERPO CON-SIENTE (Colombia), German Peace Society – United War Resisters' (DFG-VK) (Germany), Granny Peace Brigade (USA), NESEHNUTÍ (Czech Republic), Stichting voor Actieve Geweldloosheid (SVAG, the Netherlands), War Resisters League (USA), Women in Black (UK), The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (USA), and Auckland Peace Action (New Zealand). The full report of the previous year's event can be viewed on the antimili-youth website.
The fourth Week of Action will take place on 20–26 November 2017. The planning of the fourth Week of Action has progressed with the support of a working group of activists from different countries and organisations. Follow us at antimili-youth.net for further updates.
In September 2016, the WRI office co-organised a documentary screening and panel session in London, together with London Mexico Solidarity. This session commemorated the third anniversary of the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa college in Mexico. The event was organised as part of a global action to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights crisis of forced disappearances in Mexico, and to call on the Mexican Government to end it. Our panel session hosted human rights activists and experts, including an activist from Mexico.
We also organised two webinars focusing on the examples of youth militarisation and resistance to it in different countries, including Germany, Israel and South Korea (watch the recordings via the links.) This is an ongoing work, and we hope to organise more webinars later in 2017.
Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation
Thanks to the support of the Network for Social Change, we started a new project during 2017: Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation. As part of this project, we are going to organise a number of training sessions with grassroots activists from different countries, focusing on the role of gender politics in developing more effective campaigns against youth militarisation. The project will also include an online resource to be released in 2018, which will include contributions from activists and experts in the field. In addition to the Network for Social Change funding, fundraising for the project continues.
Website and social media
The content of antimili-youth.net, the website of the Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme, was improved via the incorporation of new stories from across the world – together with pieces by, and interviews with, activists from different countries. Its up-to-date content also includes visual material, i.e. videos and galleries. The website is available in three languages: English, Spanish and German, although due to capacity issues and practicalities there is more content available in English.
The site functions as an online resource centre for activists and members of the general public interested in countering the militarisation of youth. With antimili-youth.net, we aim to help visitors act on the issues around youth militarisation worldwide and to share ideas and tactics.
Countering the Militarisation of Youth Programme has its own Facebook page, which links to content from antimili-youth.net and other sources relevant to youth militarisation and resistance to it. We also have a Facebook group “War is not a Game”, where activists are invited to share content from their work and/or updates from their countries. You can follow our page here, and become a member of our group here.
CMoY programme committee
The Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme committee continues to be in regular contact and usually meets once every two months via conference call.
The committee currently consists of Cattis Laska (Ofog, Sweden), Dola Nicholas Oluoch (Chemchemi, Kenya), Michael Schulze von Glaßer (DFG-VK, Germany), Sahar Vardi (American Friends Service Committee, Israel), Hannah Brock (Right to Refuse Kill programme worker at WRI, London) and Semih Sapmaz (London).
In 2017, we received funding from the Network for Social Change to support our project on Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation. This is in addition to general WRI funds, which supported the programme during 2016. The programme continues to seek funding for its projects in 2018.
- Fundraising and new project: we started our new project, Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation, thanks to funding from the Network for Social Change.
- The Third International Week of Action took place with the participation of various groups and individuals across different countries.
- The website antimili-youth.net was further developed with up-to-date stories and contributions by activists from within and outside our network.
- We successfully held two webinars. These were pilots for further webinars, and we are currently working on organising more of them during this year.
- Despite our fundraising success this year, we need to keep pursuing further funds to support our work in the coming years. This continues to be a challenge as the programme's financial position is not fully sustainable yet.
Empowering Nonviolence website
One of the biggest projects has been our new website, Empowering Nonviolence (nonviolence.wri-irg.org), which will host all of the content of our Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, and any future publications we produce. In 2016, we successfully fundraised £4 000 to build the site via a crowdfunding campaign and a generous grant from the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust.
We are very happy with the results – the new website makes all of the content easily accessible in various languages, and displays each article in a manner that is accessible and very user friendly. One key feature is the ability for users to contribute drafts of articles and stories from their own campaigning and actions, which other users can then comment on prior to publication of the articles on the site by WRI staff (http://www.nonviolence.wri-irg.org/en/contribute).
The website is based on the same system as the new WRI website, making it easy to update.
New Worlds in Old Shells
The work on our next publication – New Worlds in Old Shells – continues, with the Nonviolence Programme committee contributing significantly to this work. This book will explore historical and modern-day examples of “constructive programme” projects, and present ideas and approaches for starting and developing these projects. We now have a complete list of case studies, and much of the work on the more theoretical content is close to completion. We hope the book will be completed in late 2017 or early 2018.
Translations of the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns
Our main resource – the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns – continues to be translated into various languages. This year, Andrew worked closely with members of Union Pacifiste de France – especially René Burget – on the design and printing of the Handbook in French. The French edition of the Handbook was financed and distributed by Union Pacifiste de France, who agreed to direct any profits to support WRI! We hope to engage in similar collaborative fundraising with other affiliates.
The Federation for Social Defence ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund the design work and printing of the Turkish translation of the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, and to make the book available to activists in Turkey for free. Over the next year we will work with the Nonviolent Research and Education Centre to produce this edition. We will also publish the Turkish translation of Empowering Nonviolence (see above).
The Handbook is also in the process of being translated into Portuguese, by our volunteer Eduardo. We will publish his translation of Empowering Nonviolence, and look for resources for its design and printing.
The Nonviolence Programme has a particular interest in working to counter the arms trade and other forms of war profiteering. This year we have been involved in various projects, as well as continuing our regular newsletter, War Profiteers News.
War Profiteers News
War Profiteers News is a round-up of news concerning research and actions against war profiteers; since the last annual report we have published three editions. You can view all of the editions of War Profiteers News at http://www.wri-irg.org/en/publications/war-profiteers-news.
In 2017, we experimented with publishing War Profiteers quarterly, rather than bimonthly. A consequence of this is simply that news is less up-to-date than it could be, especially when reporting on specific campaigns or actions. One of the most labour-intensive elements of the publication is researching and writing “War Profiteer of the Month”, a short biography of a company profiting from war or violence. This publication is entirely unfunded, but takes several days to produce; we have applied for funding to pay for staff time to support the publication, with the aim of producing a shorter, condensed newsletter every month (still featuring “War Profiteer of the Month”). If this is successful, we will begin publishing monthly from October 2017.
In 2017 we have been very lucky to host Sarah Robinson – a Peaceworker from Quaker Peace and Social Witness. Sarah has split her time between WRI and Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). For WRI, Sarah has been working on two projects – a new resource mapping the impact of militarised policing around the world, and connecting with activists resisting arms fairs and weapon expos around the world.
Sarah has connected with lots of activists and researchers with knowledge and experience of police militarisation, and has started the process of compiling her research into an online map that will be built into the new WRI website.
In June 2017, Andrew and Sarah travelled to Israel/Palestine to take part in a seminar, action and conference organised by Hamushim (meaning “Armed” in Hebrew), an Israeli project countering the Israeli arms industry. The seminar and conference brought together activists from around the world that are resisting militarisation in their own contexts or working against the occupation, with a specific focus on countering profiteering by Israeli arms companies. The ability for Israeli companies to market equipment used by the IDF as “battle tested” has made Israel one of the world's largest arms exporters; in 2016 Israel was the single biggest exporter of drones.
After the seminar, the participants went on a two-day tour of occupied Palestine, and took part in a protest against the ISDEF arms fair.
The final day of the programme was a public conference. Many of the participants gave a presentation on their work countering the Israeli arms industry. From WRI, Sarah presented her work on police militarisation and the work done by CAAT countering the arming of Israel by the UK.
War Stops Here seminar
WRI’s 2017 Council meeting will take place in London, coinciding with actions to resist and disrupt Defence and Security Exhibition International (DSEI), one of the world's largest arms fair. In addition to participating in the actions and WRI’s business meetings, we are also organising a one-day seminar called War Stops Here, which will give activists in the UK an opportunity to hear from members of the WRI network about their campaigns against the arms trade, discuss ways of building solidarity, and opportunities for joint campaigns. War Stops Here will take place on September 10th outside the gates of DSEI.
Nonviolence Programme Committee
The Nonviolence Programme Committee meets once a month, for around an hour via Skype. Its current members are: Andrew Metheven, Joanne Sheehan, Dorie Wilsnack, Eric Bachman, Stellan Vinthagen, Jungmin Choi and Hulya Ucpinar. The committee was formed a few years ago via a call-out to the WRI network, and provides staff with support and advice. Recently, it has focused its work on the "New Worlds in Old Shells" book, for which the committee is acting as an editorial group.
As in other years, the programme continues to be underfunded. In recent years we have managed to raise enough funds for WRI as a whole to break even, but we continue to try and find ways to maintain the Nonviolence Programme. In the coming years, staff hope to find ways of expanding our individual donor base.
One of the main challenges in fundraising is balancing the maintenance of ongoing projects (such as the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns and War Profiteers News) with new projects that are attractive to funders.
- Developing projects such as Empowering Nonviolence is an ongoing project that will make WRI’s resources visible and accessible in new formats. Now that the new website is built it will need relatively little maintenance.
- The Nonviolence Programme committee continues to be very active in the life and work of the programme, offering support to staff, and are particularly involved in the New Worlds in Old Shells project.
- Sarah Robinson has contributed significantly to our War Profiteers work this year while on placement from QPSW.
- As discussed above, the programme’s financial position is not fully sustainable yet.
The Right to Refuse to Kill Programme
We are continuing our work supporting conscientious objectors (COs) and CO movements – especially those facing repression – and movements resisting conscription.
Work with country and regional movements
Following the recruitment of CO Diego Blanco in December 2016, we worked with his Colombia supporters to plan his support campaign and distribute solidarity actions. Many people responded to our CO-Alerts to protest his recruitment, and we also shared information to contact his barracks by phone. He was released in June.
We are looking forward to hosting an intern from Colombia in 2018.
Eastern Mediterranean Network
The Eastern Mediterranean network continues to communicate via a mail group to share news and solidarity requests. They have been particularly active in support of Israeli COs who have been imprisoned repeatedly (we have also sent many CO-Alerts for them), Greek COs sometimes facing trial decades after their initial refusal, COs in Northern Cyprus and Egyptian COs (including Samir Elsharbaty who was exempted in April 2017).
Continuing our work with Eritreans in diaspora, after the nonviolence training for Eritrean activists in diaspora in June 2016, we have been working with a group of organisations across Europe1 working to support Eritreans fleeing indefinite conscription (what the group “Stop Slavery in Eritrea” refers to as ‘slavery’). In October 2017 we will co-host a gathering in Brussels; the first day will be an advocacy day, open to the public but including representatives of various European governments, developing recommendations to European and international bodies and giving space for the voices of Eritrean COs. Find an invitation on the WRI website.
The second day will focus on internal campaigns strategy, bringing together various European support and advocacy groups. They will share strategies and plan joint campaigns to put pressure on European governments to offer protection to those fleeing what Special Rapporteur on Eritrea Sheila Keetharuth has called “excessive militarisation”. This work is a response to growing pressure on Eritrean asylum seekers in the perceived migration ‘crisis’.
As part of our ongoing work on Eritrea, WRI signed up to a joint call for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation on Eritrea to be extended. This letter was published on the WRI website. Her mandate was extended in June.
In November 2017, we made progress in planning support for a nascent collection of anti-conscription activists in Thailand. Hannah travelled to Bangkok and Chiang Mai with Jungmin Choi and Yongsuk Lee from World Without War (South Korea); it was a great opportunity for reciprocal learning. Jungmin and Yongsuk were able to share some of their strategies for building resistance in a very uniform, militarised context, and make plans for supporting Thai activists across Asia. Various steps have been taken as a result of these exchanges, including COs in Bangkok making contact with local Jehovah's Witness objectors (who have been evading the draft for many years), Thai student activists inviting Korean objectors to run workshops on resisting conscription, and an planned internship in the WRI office for a Thai activist-translator. Read a report of the trip at http://www.wri-irg.org/military-and-monarchy.
Working with a Rwandan activist in our network, we published a report based on the testimonies of Rwandan ex-combatants in diaspora. It can be found on the WRI website and focuses on barriers to leaving the armed forces.
The election of a new, more liberal, president, gives some hope that a law will be adopted on substitute service, which was one of his campaign promises. There are currently over 400 COs in South Korea serving jail terms for refusing military service – more than the rest of the world combined.
We are still awaiting the results of the Constitutional Court's examination of the case of COs. WRI, along with Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Quaker United Nations Office, submitted a third party intervention to the court back in 2014.
In February, War Resisters' International responded to a request for information from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on conscientious objection to military service. You can read WRI's submission here. This information fed into the OHCHR's quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service, which was presented to the Human Rights Council in June. You can find the report on the WRI website; WRI’s submission is referenced a number of times. The report has a strong influence on the Council's upcoming resolution on conscientious objection, which will be an important tool for advocacy in states where rights are not currently respected.
We've been working with volunteers – including Hülya Üçpinar and Victoria Giraldo – to update our World Survey of Conscientious Objection and Conscription (CONCODOC) on a rolling basis. Recently updated reports include those on Colombia and Greece.
With the help of volunteer David Scheuing, we will be publishing CONCODOC information in a series of interactive, colour-coded maps, allowing information about COs and conscription generally to be more easily accessed and used.
Subscription to mailing lists is easier on the new website. We are excited about the potential for this to increase our subscribers (you can subscribe here: www.wri-irg.org/en/WRI-mailing-lists-and-publications).
- The CO-Update newsletter is published every two-to-three months. It remains the only wholly international newsletter on conscientious objection to military service and military recruitment that includes COs acting from religious, political and other motivations.
- The CO-Alert system has been active this year, especially for a number of Israeli COs who were repeatedly imprisoned and Colombian CO Diego Blanco, who was detained for over five months.
We also recently published guidelines for taking advantage of WRI's email alert system for conscientious objectors. Please use them to consider whether a CO-Alert might be useful for your campaign!
International Conscientious Objection Day
A number of events took place for International Conscientious Objection Day this year. Solidarity actions took place in the UK, Canada, Germany and the USA – including a singing procession in Sheffield, renaming a street on an old military base in Germany after Iraq war refuser André Shepherd. CO movements in Korea, Turkey, Finland and Colombia engaged in awareness-raising actions, including street actions in Barrancabermeja and a bike action – ‘Pedalling for Peace!’ – in Seoul. Others supported the Day on social media (see #COday), and RAMALC (the Antimilitarist Network of Latin America and the Caribbean) ran a webinar on militarisation in Colombia. Read a report here.
Prisoners for Peace Day
For Prisoners for Peace Day, we worked with Mesarvot2 – a relatively new Israeli network supporting political refusers – and a range of international partners, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Connection e.V. and Europalestine, to coordinate an international day of action in support of gaoled jailed Israeli COs. We used the slogan #refuse2occupy to connect those refusing to join the military in Israel with those asking international governments to refuse to serve the occupation by supplying it with goods and service. Afterwards, Mersarvot organiser Oren Rimon wrote to us saying “Tamar and Tamar were visited in prison yesterday and were really excited to see the photos of the different actions. One of the difficulties in refusing military conscription here is the feeling of isolation and criticism from Israeli society. International solidarity is one of the things that helps to remind the imprisoned refusers of the significance of their stance against the occupation, and encourages them to persist with it.” Images from some of the actions are available here: www.wri-irg.org/refuse2occupy-photos.
RRTK programme committee
The Right to Refuse to Kill programme committee continues to be in regular contact.
The RRTK committee currently consists of Merve Arkun (Vicdani Ret Derneği – the Association of Conscientious Objectors in Turkey), Rachel Brett (formerly Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva), Igor Seke (from Serbia, now living in Mexico), with Sergeiy Sandler (New Profile, Israel) convening the committee, and Hannah Brock and Semih Sapmaz. The committee usually meet via conference call every four-to-six weeks, and in person once a year.
Having reapplied to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, we have funding until April 2020. We seek funding for specific projects on top of this main grant.
- Making new contacts, e.g. with activists in Thailand and Colombia.
- Evolving work on particular contexts and campaigns, e.g. in response to the asylum needs of Eritreans fleeing militarisation.
- Our work to update CONCODOC reports, coupled with the launch of our new website, will ensure that we continue to be effective in our aim to provide information to activists to facilitate their campaigning. The website will make information that we already have available, e.g. CONCODOC and CO-Update, more accessible to more people; the updating of CONCODOC reports is necessary to remain a trustworthy source of information.
As ever, there is a challenge juggling programme work with the central work of WRI.
WRI in the regions
Latin American and Caribbean Antimilitarist Network (RAMALC)
RAMALC, as with many networks and organisations, has a fluctuating level of activity. In our last report, we shared the excitement of new energy within the network thanks to a successful gathering in 2015 in Mexico, the publication of our magazine Rompiendo Filas, the launch of our website http://www.ramalc.org and the incorporation of new members into our network.
In 2016, and after a high-level of activity the previous year, the network went through a quieter phase; many members were extremely busy with their local work so there was less energy going into RAMALC. During the last few years the network has relayed heavily on a few of its members, which makes it very dependent on particular individuals. The network has a steering committee that allows for the network to continue being active, but there is a lot of space for improvement to increase the share of responsibility and engagement within the network. However, the network continues to be active and there is some exciting news to share.
Following the success of our 2015 gathering in Mexico, RAMALC incorporated new members from Cuba (Taller Libertario Afredo Lopez) and Mexico (Movimiento Juvenil Huitzizilapan). These are important additions because it is very important for the network to have a presence in Cuba looking at the issue of militarism and our Mexican member is a representative of the indigenous movement in Mexico, which contributes to widening the scope of our network.
2017 Paraguay gathering
Initially the plan was for RAMALC to meet in Paraguay in 2016, but because of lack of funding it had to be postponed. However, we have managed to secure the necessary funding to host a RAMALC gathering in Paraguay, which will take place in Asunción in October 2017. This gathering will focus on the theme of “Militarisation of bodies and territories”; looking at how militarisation in Latin America impacts and occupies our own bodies and the territories where we live and how to build strategies to resist it. The gathering will include a visit to a community affected by militarisation, training on how to develop strategies to counter militarisation of bodies and territories, a RAMALC planning meeting, pubic events and a street action in Asunción.
As a network with members across the region we use the internet as much as we can for the development of our network. In 2017, we started having webinars where a single topic can be discussed in depth. So far we have had two webinars. The first of these covered the militarisation of the Colombian peace process, which was led by ACOOC, presenting the challenges of the peace process and the role of the military and paramilitary and the repression of social movement activists. The second webinar concerned the conflict in Venezuela, looking at the recent protest against the government and the motives and nature of these street protests. This webinar also looked at the increased militarisation of Venezuelan society and the repression of human rights activists.
Solidarity and support among antimilitarists in the region is one of the main roles of the RAMALC network. Members of the network are in regular communication, informing each other about the latest developments concerning militarisation and social justice issues in their countries, for example supporting the struggle in Mexico by members of Movimiento Juvenil Huitzizilapan to stop the construction of a motorway which will destroy the livelihood of their community. The network also writes statements of support when necessary, as was the case with our recent statement in support of our members in Venezuela who are at risk for their work for human rights and peace.
Collaboration with WRI
RAMALC continues to engage with the wider antimilitarist and nonviolent movement via WRI. As a network we try to support the work of WRI, such as by participating in the Week of Action Against Youth Militarisation. We are very excited that one of our members will be undertaking a three-month internship at the WRI office from July to September, which we hope will contribute to strengthening this important partnership.
Pan African Nonviolent and Peacebuidling Network (PANPEN)
An African proverb goes: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. This report summarizes the contribution of the PANPEN in transforming the socio-economic, cultural and political situations in Africa and beyond. The report covers the period of mid-October to mid-July 2017.
Though not often working in direct collaboration as a network, individual PANPEN members have been intensely active on a number of fronts in a number of inter-related campaigns. These include:
- Completion of the PANPEN-related book Satyagraha-Ujamma: Contemporary Africa-Asian Peace-building Connections (co-edited by Matt Meyer and including many PANPEN contributors, the book should be out by the end of 2017 and features a foreword by former South African Ambassador Tandi Luthuli – daughter of Nobel Peace laureate Chief Albert Luthuli).
- Continued collaborative work with the International Peace Research Association, especially regarding attendance at the very successful December 2016 Biennial Conference, held in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Several PANPEN members were in attendance at this conference, and presented papers. Matt Meyer was elected to the executive committee of IPRA’s Council. The African Peace Research and Education Association was fully re-constituted with new leadership, including close PANPEN allies Bose Babatunde of Nigeria and Christine Atieno of Kenya, now also both Council members, see https://www.peacejusticestudies.org/peace-studies-historic-gatherings-and-indigenous-knowledge-pjsa-and-ipra-2016 for further details.
- Peace-building, education, and coalition work in Burundi and the Great Lakes region; including work by Elavie Ndura, which Sixte Vigny Nimuraba continues to lead, along with his responsibilities as War Resisters League International Task Force convener.
- Work around the release, touring of, and meetings with Puerto Rican former political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera; Matt Meyer has led and written extensively about this work, and Eritrean PANPEN member Kassahun Checole – upon meeting Oscar – noted this: “I reminded Lopez Rivera that my first visit to Puerto Rico was in 1973 where I met and conversed with the pro-independence leader and famous poet, Don Juan Corretjer. When I told the great poet that, in a humble way, I am part of the struggle against colonialism in Africa and elsewhere, he said, don't forget that Puerto Rico is also an African country”.
- Continued work in conjunction with the Mauritian party LALIT, including their solidarity with Oscar alongside their main work on the freedom of Diego Garcia and demilitarization of the Pacific.
- Continued support work around Eritrean democracy and peace, especially with Arbi Harnet and groups throughout the Eritrean Diaspora.
- Work at the United Nations on issues relating to the decolonization of Diego Garcia, Puerto Rico, Western Sahara and other issues (in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association).
- Work in conjunction with the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party and the International Peace Bureau, in connection to “No to NATO” coalition initiatives and to anniversary commemorations of the 1967 convergence of Black Power and anti-war movements (see video of the major event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXOWpaeI2Mo&t=5434s).
- Continued peace studies, academic and solidarity work in and concerning South Africa (in addition to our South African members, PANPEN members from Rwanda, the Congo, Pakistan, the USA and elsewhere continue to study and work for justice and peace in South Africa).
- Continued coordination of the Pan African Educator’s Forum (coordinated by Malawian PANPEN member Steve Sharra).
- Youth, women, professionals, faith-based and civil society leaders demonstrated commitment to nonviolence and people-centred peacebuilding approaches in South Sudan and Sudan. In June 2017, president Salva Kiir of South Sudan relinquished his power as a patron of national dialogue. This came after a group of committed voluntary civil resisters publicly called for the president to allow the national dialogue to proceed without him (published in Juba monitor dated June 2, 2017 volume 7, issue no. 1072). In Sudan, PANPEN members and doctors achieved a relative improvement in the health sector following doctors’ protests and strikes which began in 2016.
- Increased public awareness on the impact of gun violence on the socio-economic, political and cultural lives of South Sudanese and other peoples. The PANPEN co-chair Moses John and member Organization for Nonviolence and Development in collaboration with the Association for Media Women in South Sudan, Isis WICCE Uganda and International Action Network for Small Arms (IANSA) held a number of consultative meetings with stakeholders and undertook campaigns before and after the Week of Action Against Gun Violence.
- Continued information sharing, solidarity, lobbying and advocacy for peace and justice by PANPEN members and between the network and like-minded networks such as the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), Global Peace Summit (GPS), Germany and others. The PANPEN Facebook page is managed by Miles Rutendo Tanhira, who doubles as a WRI council member.
- Increased regional engagement at the African Union Peace and Security Desk. Moses John, on invitation of the African Union, contributed to the ten-year post-conflict development and reconstruction policy framework review for Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Recommendations and the way forward
There is still a need for PANPEN and WRI to solicit funds and hire a part-time secretary to maintain communications with members and to support the co-chairs and the steering committee. Network member organizations should be encouraged to use local resources such as the internet and computer software etc. to reduce costs. It would be great if such a person was at least bi-lingual, for instance in English and French or Portuguese to assist in translating messages. In the meantime, the WRI office could assign a member of staff or an intern as the communication contact person to the PANPEN network and to further strengthen the network communication subcommittee and reflect its work on different media (Facebook, blogging, website, etc.).
PANPEN and WRI should raise funds to implement practical projects in the region, including following up on African Nonviolence Trainers’ Exchanges, supporting members actions/campaigns, research and documentation, and strengthening collaboration.
In conclusion, PANPEN has realised with great concern that the WRI council has not yet adopted a concrete resolution based on reports submitted by PANPEN since its establishment. While WRI is not obliged to do so, the network members feel it would encourage its ongoing commitment.
WRI in East, South and South East Asia
Last November, Hannah from the WRI London office and Yong-suk and Jungmin from the South Korean affiliate World without War visited Bangkok and Thailand to visit Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal –the first conscientious objector in Thailand. During four days of visiting, we met Netiwit and many other grassroots activists and learnt about their work and discussed how to work together in the future. See Hannah’s report (http://www.wri-irg.org/en/military-and-monarchy) to learn more about our exploration, and if you are familiar with Korean, Yong-suk’s report is available at http://www.withoutwar.org/?p=12886. Netiwit was elected as president of the student council of Chulalongkorn University last May, so now he’s currently focusing more on educational issues in Thailand.
The WRI RRTK committee invited World without War activists to their regular conference call last April and discussed future plans; there were some good signs of addressing alternative service in Korea. WRI and World without War have been working very closely regarding CO issues. Recently WRI helped Korean COs seek asylum in European countries.
WRI in Oceania and Australia
WRI has an affiliate in Australia, and an individual member in West Papua. Through the war profiteers initiative we have also made contact with groups in Australia and New Zealand. Both groups are resisting arms trade events in their local towns, and have featured in War Profiteers News.
European Antimilitarist Network
The European Antimilitarist Network (EAN) encompasses a wide-range of groups from across Europe dedicated to antimilitarism and the use of nonviolent direct action. The network facilitates communication between the groups in the network and between the network and other groups and people involved in the antimilitarist struggle. They use and developed the concept of War Starts Here (other antimilitarist groups outside the network also use it). The network has been meeting in an open conference call around every six months, sharing news of current activities and future plans. Having affiliated to WRI in 2016, Nesehutí and Campaign Against the Arms Trade are also participating.
Stop NATO 2017!
As part of the actions against the opening of NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels in May, EAN members from Belgium, the UK and Spain came together with Belgian EAN members Agir Pour La Paix and Detractive to take action. All road entrances to the building were blocked. The activists were arrested along with over 100 others, but were released without charge.
Coulport Disarmament Camp
Trident Ploughshares have invited members of the network to join in the Coulport Disarmament Camp in Scotland in July. At the time of writing this event is still coming up, but we know that a large contingent will be coming from Finland. By the time this report is published, news of the camp will be available at http://tridentploughshares.org/.
Stop DSEI 2017
EAN members are travelling to London in September to resist the DSEI arms fair, invited by Campaign Against the Arms Trade; some will stay to attend the WRI Council meeting. At the last DSEI (in September 2015), EAN members were arrested but found not guilty of obstructing a highway.
WRI in North America – War Resisters League Report
WRL is building a movement to end all forms of war and militarism through strategic nonviolent resistance. WRL strengthens the anti-war movement by connecting voices of resistance confronting root causes of violence across the globe. See https://www.warresisters.org/membership-handbook and the Membership Manual: https://issuu.com/resistwar/docs/membershipmanuasklissuu/2 for more information.
Since our last report, WRL has a new staff member, Raul Ramos, P/T Communications & Development Associate; eleven new members of our National Committee, our highest decision-making body; and we have moved to a new office, leaving our beloved Peace Pentagon, as US cities, NYC in particular, experience extreme capitalism and gentrification that leaves almost no space for non-profit and movement-building groups. WRL continues with our work, working extra hard to challenge increasing militarisation and violence that is fomenting and growing, lifting up and strengthening resistance movements in solidarity with those most directly impacted.
Major programme areas: counter-recruitment, nonviolent direct action, demilitarising health & security, war tax resistance, ending PO militarisation, GI resistance, internationalism and local organising.
Programme highlights 2017
- NVDA Training and Resources: NE Office Coordinator, Joanne Sheehan, and former WRI Chair, coordinated Training for Trainers – a nonviolence brochure being updated and redesigned for publication in fall 2017 (http://www.warresisters.org/nonviolence).
- Strengthening WRL Networks: Discussing and strategising on membership and affiliation at our upcoming National Committee meeting in July 2017. WRL is looking to assist, strengthen and transform local groups. Recent examples are collaborations with NWTRCC (National War Tax Resistance Committee), Jewish Voice for Peace Deadly Exchange campaign, Bay Area (Oakland and San Francisco, CA) on proposed UASI budget decreases and a petition against the Trump administration’s military budget increase.
- Ending Tear Gas in Prisons: Delivered 13 000 petitions to the Department of Justice in Washington DC this past winter, and looking to engage prison justice groups with future work.
- No SWAT Zone: Coalition efforts nationwide to address and support cuts to funding for many SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) trainings, part of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). WRL is working with a coalition in Berkeley, CA, Stop Urban Shield, to encourage local governments to sign non-participation commitments with Urban Shield (the tactical warfare trade shows occur in various towns/cities), and mobilising this demand nationally for replication and power.
- Counter police recruitment: Upcoming work in Philadelphia for the International Association of the Chiefs of Police Conference fall 2017, making the connections between SWAT and global repression, and the Stop ITOA (Illinois Tactical Officers Association) 2017–18. To learn more and how you too can fight back and get involved, see the article published in July by WRL National Organizers, Ali Issa and Tara Tabassi: https://thenewinquiry.com/no-swat-zone/.
- Diaspora Delegations: To Athens, Greece in August 2017, to engage in politicised service, not charity based-work, in order to build on the inherent skills, talents and decision-making of refugee communities.
- Resisting Airwars: Documenting and demanding reparations, and demanding accountability from international human rights bodies, for areas in Iraq, Palestine and Somalia that experience airwars. Engaging diaspora communities to build coalitions and coordinating with Iraqi Transnational Collective and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Escalation to target implicated arms manufacturers. Survivors who demand ‘bereavement fund’.
Peace Award 2017: Mariame Kaba and Grace Paley Award 2017: Rasmea Odeh.
Publications and outreach
New WRI website
This year, staff at War Resisters’ International have been working with the web development company Netuxo to build a new website for the network. We began this work in the summer of 2016, and the website went live in July 2017. We hope what we have developed will be a significant tool for the network in the years to come. It has been clear for several years that we needed a new site, and we prioritised the work this year because the version of Drupal (the software the website runs on) will no longer be supported – an upgrade was necessary!
The new website is easier to browse, and the various publications and projects that are hosted there are more accessible – it is also more attractive and the menu structure is much simpler. The new website also makes it easier for new supporters to subscribe to our mailing lists and to give regular donations to WRI. The website is primarily available in English, Spanish, French and German (individual articles can be translated into any language), and the language switching function is simpler for the user. From the perspective of staff, the new website is generally easier and more flexible to use than the old site, and certain tasks, e.g. sending email newsletters, will be a lot quicker.
The development of the site took a significant amount of staff time, especially in the final weeks before its completion. However, we expect that it will also bring significant benefits to the programme work and the wider network. We hope that it portrays WRI in all its vibrancy and activity!
In addition to developing a new main website for WRI, we also took the opportunity to develop a new website for our nonviolence resources, such as the online version of the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, called Empowering Nonviolence. This project is discussed in greater detail in the Nonviolence Programme section of this report.
We would like to include a brief note about Netuxo, who we can't thank enough. They went above and beyond what was asked of them to build our new website, and we are very grateful! Netuxo will continue to maintain our web server, and offer ad hoc support for the website.
All of WRI's email-based publications can be viewed on our website. You can subscribe to receive them to your inbox here: http://www.wri-irg.org/en/WRI-mailing-lists-and-publications.
We have written a simple 'writing guide' for the website, to encourage people to consider submitting ideas for stories to our publications. It is available here: http://www.wri-irg.org/en/Writing-for-WRI (German, Spanish, French).
The Broken Rifle is WRI's main newsletter, and is published in English, Spanish, German and French. It is published online, usually with a downloadable PDF version available, and sent out as an email newsletter.
Staff often use The Broken Rifle when travelling and attending events. We use Issuu to publish the PDF 'magazine' version of the Broken Rifle, which makes it much easier to read on tablets, laptops and e-readers, and to embed on the website. You can sign up for free, as well as read past issues in all four published languages, here: issuu.com/warresistersint.
Since August 2016, the following issues have been published:
November 2016: Resisters’ Stories
January 2017: Prisoners for peace, prisons for war?
War Resisters’ Stories is a short monthly bulletin of news from the WRI network. Each month it contains five stories, both from the office and from the WRI network. It is designed to give people highlights of recent activities, as well as direct them towards upcoming events, in a brief and engaging way. This year we have started translating this bulletin into French; so it is now available in English, Spanish, French and German.
The CO-Update, produced in English, is the eNewsletter of the Right to Refuse to Kill programme. Since summer 2012 it has been produced bimonthly. It contains updates on conscientious objection and conscription around the world, as well as news of RRTK activity.
WRI launched this email-based system for alerting subscribers to the imprisonment or other difficulties faced by conscientious objectors in July 2001. Since then, hundreds of CO-Alerts have been distributed. The CO-Alert system has been integrated into WRI's conscientious objection database, and is now managed entirely through the WRI website. CO-Alert is an English-only email list, although some alerts are also available in other languages on the WRI website. Please encourage as many people to join this list as possible: http://www.wri-irg.org/en/programmes/co_alerts.
The email newsletter War Profiteers News is published in English and Spanish, usually once a quarter. It has been an important tool to provide information on matters related to war profiteering to a wide range of groups and activists, and facilitates networking of groups working on war profiteering.
We continue to develop our social media work. We aim to post on Facebook once a day, and on Twitter as regularly as seems appropriate. We have also tried to regularly repost and retweet content produced by groups affiliated to WRI.
Find us here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/warresistersint/. We now have over 4,600 followers. Our most popular posts this year were about COs in Israel, our crowdfunders for DSEI and Council, and a post about the Standing Rock protest camp in the USA.
You can find WRI at https://twitter.com/warresistersint. We have over 4,300 followers. You can use this list to see twitter feeds from WRI's affiliates: https://twitter.com/warresistersint/lists/wri-affiliates.
Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns
This year we completed the French translation of the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, working closely with our friends in Union Pacifiste de France (UPF) to complete the design work – UPF kindly donated the costs and organised the printing and distribution of the book.
Statements and Press Releases
Since the last annual report, WRI has released two statements in solidarity with the civilian population in Syria. The Executive Committee also signed a statement originally written by RAMALC, WRI’s network in Latin America and the Caribbean, in solidarity with nonviolent resisters in Venezuela.
WRI has been working on Turkey since the early 1990s, mostly supporting conscientious objectors in the West of Turkey. It has two affiliates in the country: Vicdani Ret Derneği (VR-DER) (Conscientious Objection Association) and Şiddetsizlik Eğitim ve Araştırma Merkezi (Nonviolent Education and Research Centre).
At the beginning of 2016, and in response to a request by several Turkish activists, many of them known to WRI for over a decade, WRI started (together with three partners: FOR Austria, Connection e.V. and Federation for Social Defence (both Germany) a project called “Stop the Cycle of Violence in Turkey”. The original objective of this project was to raise awareness about the renewed violence in the South East and to encourage European governments to respond to it. Among other things, there have been two petitions and a lobby tour by two human rights activists from Turkey to the UN and European human rights institutions last year. Training is the next step in our overall engagement with the violent conflict and human rights issues in Turkey.
At the end of April 2016, a delegation from WRI, including two Turkish human rights activists, and members of FOR Austria and two German organisations visited Diyarbakir and Cizre to assess the situation and develop contacts for further cooperation. As a result of this trip, at the end of 2016, a four-person delegation (two from Western Turkey, two from WRI) visited Diyarbakir and discussed the project with board members from about ten organisations (four human rights organisations, two health worker organisations, two women and LGBT groups, a CO group, and an ecological initiative). After this meeting the project proposal was finalized. Unfortunately, we have so far failed to raise the means for a seminar. In addition, recent developments in Turkey raise a question regarding the feasibility of conducting such a seminar in Turkey at all.
Finances and fundraising
WRI’s financial situation remained largely stable since our eCouncil last year. This means our short-term outlook is reasonable, but the longer term gives ample reason for concern.
WRI ended 2016 with a surplus of £4 990, but this positive result is partly explained by significant expenditures (above all, much of the cost of building our new website) having been delayed from late 2016 to early 2017. Accordingly, our figures for the first half of 2017 (the latest we have at the time of writing) show a large deficit of £13 733. The rest of the year is expected to be more financially stable, but we will probably still miss our budget projection [a £8 715 deficit] for 2017. A more detailed and up-to-date presentation of the numbers will be given at our Council meeting in London, together with a breakdown of our assets and liabilities – a total reserve of £68 617 as of 30 June 2017.
In the first months of 2017, we were successful in meeting our budget projections for programme fundraising: the Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme secured a £9 750 grant from the Network for Social Change; the Nonviolence programme raised £5 000 from the Lush Charity Pot (plus, after the end of June, £1 500 from the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust); and the Right to Refuse to Kill programme continues to be generously and fully funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, which has supported it since 2001 (with funding now secured through 2020). We will also break even on our Council meeting and the activities surrounding it, possibly even covering some of the costs of staff work that went into organising them.
However, the current funding is insufficient to cover our costs. Again, we expect to end this year with a significant deficit, and we do not expect 2018 to be very different. Our staff will continue working on raising more funds, but they – we – will need your help.
As always, affiliation fees and individual donations are a notable part of our income, and we need to maintain these. This is a direct way in which the WRI network can support its office programmes. Volunteer help of all sorts (including with fundraising) could be invaluable as a resource in its own right, and will also eventually get reflected in our [financial] books.
Last but not least, we are going to have our International Assembly in 2018. Organising an International Assembly is always a huge task and strain for the office and Exec. It is also a major cost we need to raise funds to cover. Here too, you – the WRI network – can help: by contributing solidarity travel funding for delegates from the Global South; by cooperating with the office in preparing and submitting funding applications; by helping us discover and reach funding sources; and, obviously, by getting actively engaged in organising the event itself.
Outlook for the Coming Year
The WRI Office and Executive are looking forward to meeting you soon in London for the WRI 2017 Council meeting. There will be time to discuss the WRI programmes, as well as the upcoming WRI Assembly in 2018 and the issues that will be discussed there. Alongside the WRI meeting, there will be opportunities to take action against the Defence and Security Exhibition International (DSEI) and to participate in the one-day seminar “War Stops Here”. This will be a place to exchange experiences about campaigns against the arms trade and to discuss ways of building solidarity and opportunities for joint campaigns.
Coming up after the Council in September is the gathering in Brussels in October, focusing on Eritreans fleeing militarisation and giving space for voices of Eritrean COs. WRI is co-hosting this event with the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA), Förderverein Pro Asyl e.V., Connection e.V. and the Stop Slavery in Eritrea Campaign. The annual CMOY week of action follows in November, in which you are all invited to take part. During autumn, Marcela Paz from RAMALC will be in the WRI office on an internship working on the RRtK and CMOY programmes and preparing the RAMALC gathering next year. And, of course, the WRI Programmes and all the WRI affiliates will continue the day-to-day work of gradually dismantling the military industrial complex and the militarist mindset behind it.