WRI Theme Group: Nonviolent Strategy and Globalisation


WRI Theme Group Report: Strategising the Globalisation of Nonviolence

The report is edited by Stellan Vinthagen.

Update 2006-08-28

Executive summary of the report:

We were a group of between 20-35 participants who worked together on the theme "Strategising the globalisation of nonviolence". The group were convened by Jai Sen and Stellan Vinthagen. The theme group used its own version of the Open Space methodology, giving an emphasis on participants' contributions by offering theme presentations (done by 10 persons) and on small group discussions according to proposed sub-themes of strategic options, diversity of contexts and areas of struggle. Thus, five groups submitted their own reports on the following sub-themes of the globalisation of nonviolence: poverty, patriarchy, nonviolence, the state and WRI.

Main proposals to WRI-members:

  1. We could produce and distribute education material on CD; stating how poverty = violence and radical nonviolence = struggle against imperialism/injustice.

  2. We could continue this process on globalising nonviolence with a North-South dialogue within WRI.

  3. It is not always appropriate to be against the state. We can combine work on several levels (grassroots, the national state, global etc.) to be effective.

  4. Our unity in diversity can't be found in a singular space. We can evaluate our working methods at meetings securing they really express and encourage a diversity of equal participation (for gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality etc).

  5. We can clarify and adopt a better name for that nonviolence we shall globalise, e.g. "nonviolent power", and promote it in the movement of movements.

  6. We could create a Peace Organisations' Summit at WSF.

  7. A group of committed individuals are needed to carry on the reflections, strategising and organising of the "globalisation of nonviolence".

Central documents presented at the theme group, e.g. WSF-charter, the Bamako Appeal, the Global Call for Nonviolent Resistance to the Iraq war, WRI-conference articles (that now are  on the web), some of the Call of Social Movements and "Challenging Empire" (a book from the series Jai Sen edits, see www.cacim.net). Videos about summit-protests in Seattle, Washington, Prague, Gothenburg and India.

(Summary made by Stellan Vinthagen)

Theme Group Presentation: Nonviolent Strategy and Globalisation

Convenors: Jai Sen, India (www.cacim.net) and Stellan Vinthagen, Sweden (www.padrigu.gu.se)

This theme group combines the central issues of the conference, promoting nonviolence in the context of resisting globalisation. Mutual reflection which develops plural global nonviolent strategies are our goal, but we will firstly analyse the present situation of globalisation and nonviolence movements in order to build our strategy discussions on conscious assumptions. The theme group will begin with a presentation of participants' interest in the theme, some short and basic information on World Social Forum (WSF), the "movement of movements", present initiatives, upcoming events and current strategy issues under debate - and then move into a mutual discussion and analysis.

Our work structure will be according to the "open space" model which the WSF use: creating a space for critical engagement and reflection with the issues, where those participating struggle with the issues and also in locating themselves within that space. The convenors will initiate discussions which will continue within smaller groups. According to questions that will arise sub-theme discussions in small groups will be possible.

Initially we will ask ourselves: What are the strategies and objectives of the globalisation-critical movement and the place of nonviolence within these? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the apparent diffuseness of its goals? What alliances have grown up within the "movement of movements" and what has been neglected? How do the activities of the international anti-war movements mesh with this? The discussion will then move on to propose means of strengthening the nonviolent character of "globalisation from below", including considering how to focus certain strategic alliances and how to clarify strategic objectives. Issues of raising the profile of antimilitarism in "globalisation from below" will be addressed in this context.

Our discussions will recurrently arise issues of "power" (the power of world order structures as well as the power movements create, strive for or work against), the two faces of "globalisation" (neo-liberal and critical movement globalisation) and strategies/means of nonviolence and violence.

Based on our discussion on these kind of questions and issues the work of our theme group will collect a report that helps us all moving forward. Our goal is to formulate a number of central questions, problems, possible strategies and actions - a written report that will function as a discussion material for further work on this important task: "Nonviolent Strategy and Globalisation". This report will not be a final or singular statement of "our position" but rather a collection of plural visions and a discussion material for further work, e.g. in the WRI Nonviolence Program, Work groups and Campaigns, as well as strategy workshops at the next WSF in Kenya (January 2007).


Sunday 23/7 17-18:45 Welcome (and structure of session).

  1. Introduction to the theme (SV) ("Strategising the globalisation of nonviolence", the HOW ("Strategy" and "tactics": the state via political parties or guerrilla groups): e.g. WSF Charter, global collection of useful nonviolence material, Web-courses, Research & Action network, Task group of committed persons from this conference (building links and methodology) who construct an Interaction/discussion Space for interested of nonviolence (tactical, principled) at e.g. WSF Kenya etc. |

    "Nonviolent action" ("violence", without/against or construction/resistance, effective tool or way of life).

    "Globalisation" (contested, multidimensional (economy/corporate, state/governance, civil societies/social movements, interconnectedness of the world).

  2. Movement of movements (JS). Work methods of diversity: We will work with 2-3 selected Coordinators who will increase the diversity of the planning of the theme group (e.g. in terms of countries and gender). 1 volunteer will function as theme-messenger (a special home group, feeds into the theme group work through exchange of ideas/suggestions). Presentations of 3-5 minutes by participants, 1 note-taker each day (English, readable) will be compiled into the report, and a collective theme-report at closing plenary from committed persons.
  3. Presentation of participants (and participants' contribution to the  theme) (maximum 17:30-18:30).

Our goal: Formulation of our reflections on Nonviolent Global Strategies. We are posing questions, possibilities and problems, rather than answers. When we propose solutions ourselves, we do that with an understanding that these are not in any sense "final", but propositions. Our document can be something like a collection of "critical literacy" questions and possible strategies (in the plural). All which we put forward is a discussion material for other nonviolent resistance concerned people.

Monday 24/7 10:30-12:30

10:30-11:30 (JS) on "Open Space" and methodology of the theme group (JS).

WSF (objectives, initiatives, alliances, strategic discussions).

Presentations: Maria Mies (Localization), Steffen (Feb 15, 2003), Light (Poverty) and Patty (Global Call).

11:30 Group discussions (looking for sub-themes) (<7 persons).

12:15 Selecting sub-themes (participants fill it with their own understanding).

Objective: write down some proposals/ideas/suggestions of strategies, problems and possibilities for further discussion:

What different strategic options do we have to globalise nonviolence. How does the globalisation of nonviolence take into account the diversity of contexts/societies we live in?

What is the nonviolent contribution to the areas of struggle in the movement of movements (differentiate between the content of nonviolence and the traditions of nonviolent movements);

  1. Poverty and hunger: How to globalise nonviolence when you are poor, hungry, illiterate and without Internet?

  2. Patriarchy

  3. (Religious fundamentalism) Cancelled due to lack of participants.

  4. What is the power of "nonviolence" and what is the content of that "nonviolence" which we want to globalise? (are there other and better concepts);

  5. What is our strategic relationship to the state in terms of globalising nonviolence in the era of neo-liberal globalisation?;

  6. What are the links to and role of WRI in globalising nonviolence? What is the role of other organisations within the tradition of nonviolence (IFOR, Gandhians, Pax Christi, WILPF, Quakers, Mennonites, etc.). Who are "we" that will globalise nonviolence?;

Groups need to be specified and have a clear logic. If more than five a group can split up. One from each of the first discussion groups should try to go to a work-group.

Tuesday 25/7 10:30-12:30  

Presentations: Swati (Tribal struggles), Klaus (One Struggle), Ellen (WRI)

Work in Sub-theme groups

Wednesday 26/7 10:30-12:30  

Presentations: Wolfgang (Transnational cooperation in history), Rick (Local constructive work), Clare (Global Justice).

Work in Sub-theme groups

Thursday 27/7  9-10. Hand in reports to the Theme report. Create a list of names and email for participants. Collect WRI-proposals. Discuss future cooperation and  possibilities of developing our strategies. Who wants to work on this theme the coming next year or years? Evaluation (in pairs, taking notes, then together in whole group).

Final activity of the group: Feed-back to the Closing Plenary through a visual display and commited participants.

Theme Group Notes

Sunday 23 July, 17.50-18.45 (Note taker Brian)

# Stellan introduces concepts of nonviolence and globalisation.

# The term "nonviolence" needs to be discussed because, in English, it is a negative construction. Some alternatives are satyagraha, people power, ...

# Jai introduces the World Social Forum. Critiques of the WSF include those who see the problem as imperialism and those who see the WSF as a talking shop while action is needed.

# Translations needed: French-English, German-English, globalisation-nonviolence.

# Introductions by individuals: who you are, whether you'd like to make a presentation (5-7 minutes), some initiative that you've taken in relation to globalisation etc.


# Stellan: ploughshares movement; peace research

# Henry: doctor; social defence (BSV)

# Clare: WRI-US; direct action

# Light: Sudanese Movement for Nonviolence and Development, focusing on displaced people and human rights PRESENTATION

# Chris: nonviolence trainer in London; nonviolent direct action

# Bradford: US nonviolence movements, including civil rights and peace; US Pacifist Party (question: why is pacifist party so unsuccessful?) PRESENTATION

# Yvonne: WRI, London

# Chesterfield: gay movement in Zimbabwe

# Jean-Paul: Union Pacifist France

# Ellen (Norway): WRI; feminism and nonviolence

# Wolfgang (Germany): conscientious objection, nonviolent action, anti-nuclear power, building bridges at grassroots PRESENTATION MAYBE

# Veronica (Germany): IFOR

# Suzanne (France): Union Pacifist France

# Rick (US): WRL, Vietnam War resister, work with psychiatric patients PRESENTATION MAYBE

# Lisalotte (Germany): anti-nuclear waste dumping; anti-nuclear weapons, nonviolent communication (Marshall Rosenberg's approach)

# Steffen (Germany, Netherlands): military resister; nonviolent action; globalisation-critical movement PRESENTATION

# Klaus (Germany): ploughshares, animal rights, nonviolence training PRESENTATION on proactive resistance

# Pete (Austria): IFOR; nonviolence trainer; Austrian social forums

# Matt (US): WRL; peace studies and history; IPRA; contemporary African liberation movements

# Brian (Australia): Schweik Action Wollongong; nonviolence versus capitalism

# Patty (US): Global Call for Nonviolent Direct Action to End the Occupation of Iraq; daily nonviolent activity

# Jai (India): community action on dwelling and labour rights; strategies; WSF

Jai: we are looking for collaboration. We need note takers (Matt offers). Call for messengers to report on what's happening in other theme groups (Patty and Brian volunteer; the role is open to all others).

Monday 24 July, Times XX, (Note taker Matt)

Jai began with the process for the next several days: divided between full group discussions and small groups. Presentations will be made by theme group participants. Break, sub groups, then 10-15 full group review of topics for the next day. Proposed for small groups, and themes of the day topics: strategies of globalising nonviolence; the nonviolent contribution to the areas of struggle in the movement of movements; nonviolence and power to, +.

Jai, on links between WSF and WRI, provocative thoughts:

  1. WRI has proposed that it sees an opportunity and need for globalizing nonviolence. It suggests that the central manner to do this is through the movement of movements. Do we agree that we want to globalize nonviolence? Does the concept make sense, as globalization (not just capitalistic) tends to lead to homogenization, and the loss of local initiative?
  2. Also, as we discuss the WSF as an anti-globalization movement, we need to examine the ways in which WSF is, in fact anti-capitalist neoliberal globalization, and pro something else (i.e., another world is possible).

  3. It is essential, tactically, to be aware of the fact that the WSF is only one stream of efforts for alternative globalizations. PGA, people's global action, inspired by the 1994 Zapatista uprising and founded in Spain the following year, has pulled together major rural movements (farmers, India, MST in Brazil). There are Marxist movements (Mumbai resistance, for example), which has been critical of the WSF for being too liberal. Some of these groups are armed movements, but we must have some conversations with those who speak different languages. There are clusters of people's movements in civil society, sometimes represented by some non governmental organizations, who are the most affected by neoliberalism and who are not always represented by the WSF. All of these issues are intertwined with issues of gender, with issues of race and caste, with religious fundamentalisms, and with the development of the state. For many people in the world, the nation-state is essential for the struggle against neoliberal globalization.

Participant Presentations:

Maria Mies (Germany)-An alternative to neoliberal globalization is a term we've been using called Localization. Communal gardens in New York, 100 cities throughout Germany, and so forth. They are mainly women workers, they produce food, and they represent a coming together of folks from diverse countries, ethnicities, etc. (see Christa Muller, Rooted in a Foreign Land, in German; also Under the Garbage, the Earth). You learn that you have to change your relationship to the earth, and to other people. In Germany, the gardens include people from Eritrea, Bosnia, Kurdistan-and they keep the men out at first, so that arguments about politics does not dominate the coming together. The Bosnian women said, now we have something we can give, we are not beggars! People don't want to just receive help, even from NGOs. A Peruvian friend wrote of the ways in which subsistence itself is deteriorating-people are selling themselves (prostitution) and even selling the air! Some of these alternatives are not possible in a global context, but only in a local context.

Steffen (Germany)-The successes and failures of global nonviolent actions. Where were you on February 15, 2003? People went around discussing the numbers at the demonstrations in the various cities they were in (some not exactly on that date). This go around represented a way in which we were all together, not all of us in nonviolent action, but coming together against the Iraq war, against war. It is a great example, overall, of a successful story.

Light (Sudan)-In Africa in particular, economies have been tremendously weakened, debt and poverty has greatly increased. Technology has progressed, but this has meant military advancement as well, to fight wars and oppress communities. Does the increase of technology mean that most people, especially where I come from, have access? Most of those in power in the South have backing from the multinational corporations. Nonviolence in Sudan, in 1964 and 1983, helped take down military governments. Nonviolence has helped promote use of constitutionalism and a system of laws. When the corporations began exploring for oil in southern Sudan, using an iron fist, people were forced to leave the area. Basic needs were neglected, but human rights lawyers also did fact finding and helped limit the incursions of the companies. Where you don't have electricity, enough food, how do you talk about nonviolence as such? When someone is looking for food, it is a challenge to talk about nonviolence. We try to look to people's strengths.

Patty (USA)-Global Call for Nonviolent Direct Action, regarding the Iraq War. With people feeling isolated, even as members of an organization or local group taking minority opinions, we wanted to bridge the local-global paradigm by selecting key dates for people to risk arrest on the local level all around the world. We feel that this is mainly for people in the North, as this is our war; the people in the South are the ones dying and suffering from the war and its related policies. Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, has become a spokesperson for these efforts. Average, well intention white folks from where I come from (in California) are beginning to become politicized, and are looking to take actions of civil resistance beyond the marches, which seem to not be having much effect. The Pillars of this work are dates and themes: March 19, May 1, August 6-9 (War Profiteers), last week in September (Declaration of Peace, Development of concrete exit strategies).

Small Group Discussions, by random selection . . .

Large group discussion on what tomorrow's small group should look like.

In addition to the three suggested, should we split topic two into sub-themes on race, on gender, etc? Should we add a fourth on identifying who WE are in globalize nonviolence, especially given then diversity of who is in this room and who WRI is? What does it mean for our organizing work within WRI to be connecting with WSF and the movement of movements? What is our relationship to the State? How to globalize nonviolence when you are poor? Immigrant? How can we rethink the whole language of nonviolence, which has been emptied of its meaning and has come to be used as many things for many people? Perhaps we should split up according to project and proposal ideas for WRI. Perhaps Jai and Stellan should work on making these ideas more concrete and less "apples and oranges"!!

Notes, Tuesday 25 July, (note taker: Brian)

# Introductions, by name and organisation for returnees and with more information for newcomers.

# Jai: power-to is the power to do things, as contrasted with power-over which is power to control others. Globalising nonviolence is globalising power-to.

# Swati, from Gujarat, India, visiting this theme group to give a South and woman's perspective.

Indian communities suffer environmental and health effects from industry, industry that is sought by the government on the grounds of promoting "development." The land for this industry - and highways for industrial transport - is taken over from tribal peoples. The state government offers incentives for industry, and takes over tribal land on behalf of industry.

Struggles on behalf of oppressed peoples are against state power and against the ideology of global neoliberalism (the enemies are liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation: LPG). Repression of opponents is fierce. Opposing damaging industry is very difficult because people have to survive in their lives. Therefore, there is a need for support from other groups, including other countries and cultures.

# Klaus, Sweden

Here are three perspectives within the frame of globalising nonviolence.

  1. One struggle. If nonviolence is struggle against violence, without violence, then it is a huge struggle. We need to move from compartmentalisation to a more unified struggle.

  2. Focussing. There are too few of us for all the needed struggles. So we should focus, for example on one pillar of oppression at a time.

  3. Post-protest movement. Move away from reactive protest to positive, joy-oriented action. Let go of power, or transform power. Combine resistance with creation of alternatives (Gandhi's constructive programme).

# Ellen, Norway

On the first day of this theme group, only men volunteered to give short presentations. That may be because women have different ways of communicating. This is relevant to how we relate to the movement of movements.

There has been discussion within WRI about making connections with groups that have common aims. But a decision was made (1991?) not to communicate with violent groups. At the WRI meeting on social empowerment, ideas were developed but it was found that they were not easily taken forward. In 2004, there was a WRI Council decision to connect with the movement of movements. But at the WSF, there were thousands of people, many of whom were pushing their viewpoints, so there wasn't all that much dialogue. WRI's challenge: how to become more visible in relevant movements.

# Stellan introduced the topics for the subgroups.

Objective: To collect some proposals of problems, possibilities and strategies.

Notes, Wednesday 26 July, (Note taker Matt)


In the USA, the so-called Global Justice movement is majority white. But in the USA, I'll speak of lessons post-Seattle, and two challenges: the global-local connection, and the connection from corporate capitalism to anti-imperialism (looking more at the historical context-that Global Justice is the newest version of struggles against colonialism, racism, etc.). We began to emphasize seeing the need to take the lead from and work in solidarity with those most affected by capital and empire. We went through a process of experimentation, including with strange wordings (Glocalization!), with Summit-hoping without creating local base work, shifting to look at the role of structural adjustment, privatization of health care, education, and the media. A September 2001 anti-IMF demonstration was planned, with work being done to promote transnational dialogue, but the events of 9-11 led to a cancellation of that action. The question for us now: How to create a global strategy that comes from the grassroots US movement? We've overcompensated for some years on too local a focus and strategy.

Jai commented that these are the beginning of what should be ongoing conversations.

Wolfgang (Germany)

My hope is that WRI will create a new, nonviolent world. Nonviolence is a universal principle: overcoming and abolishing all kinds of violence without using violence ourselves. Hot wars are only the tip of the iceberg.

1978-Meeting in Hamburg, already discussion taking of Iraqi oil fields.

WRI speaks of dealing with all causes of war, so the movements to overcome these forms of violence should be linked together. But it won't be in one organization, but through networks. Inside WRI or IFOR, we need to make clear what we mean by nonviolence, and make clear what active nonviolence is through case studies. This could help deal with the common perceptions, inside and outside of our movement, of what we really want.

Two examples: Larzac-military camp inside of France where families were being forced to leave and refused. They took over the land. In Germany, nonviolence couldn't be reduced to conscientious objection, looking at the whole field of Gandhian action and WRI work. Local groups were created to focus on nonviolent resistance, including coordinated international actions on conscientious objection, French nuclear testing in Pacific, in solidarity with Farm workers in southern California USA, and leading to anti-nuclear power and weapons movement (Seabrook, affinity groups and nonviolence trainings, adapted and developed to anti-missile movement). It was a whole process of transnational learning and action movement. Today, there are huge blockades of transport of nuclear waste (9000 plus people), connecting to groups doing related but different work (G8). This is a way of spreading understanding of nonviolence in a transnational way but focused on the work on the local level. There are so many undecided, young people, who we would be able to bring into this work.

Rick (USA)

In globalizing nonviolence, what constructive programs are we addressing in our work? How can we build programs that bring in diverse peoples, ethnically, economically, etc. And though we've improved people's lives, I can't say that I've seen much change-especially in regard to the way capital has continued to control people's lives, even co-opting some of the movement. Simple living has been one way in which we've chosen to lives our lives more in accordance with the resources of the world. US Socialist said: As long as there is a soul in prison, so am I. In that spirit, we know that we are privileged, but we try to accept as little of that privilege as possible. There are natural links here with ecological movements, living in balance with the earth. Also, as a parent, I've seen my own kids more aware than many of their contemporaries. How to make them aware of the joys of revolutionary work? I have seen no models for this, but I think that the core of this is in doing constructive work, using ones own talents to be in the world feeling good about what one does. Constructive work must be one of the two hands of nonviolence, and must put our thinking caps on and make it part of our world.

Light (Sudan) asked about how the USA presentations fit in with the democratic processes that exist in that society, in terms of change of power every four years. What have the impact of nonviolent action on the governments of USA or UK?

Ikye (Nigeria) suggested that it is hard to make protest in the same ways in Africa as we see in the USA or UK (i.e., blockades on train tracks, or the case of prison hunger strikes in Nigeria, where guards said: We are hungry too, so we'll just eat your food!).

Sub-groups' Reports:

How to globalise nonviolence in poverty and hunger?

(Notes taken by Chesterfield)

Sub-theme: What is the nonviolent contribution to the areas of struggle in the movement of movements (differentiate between the content of nonviolence and the traditions of nonviolent movements)? How to globalise nonviolence when you are poor, hungry, illiterate and without Internet?

Objective: collect some proposals for future discussions of problems / possibilities / strategies.

Participants: IYKE- Nigeria, LIGHT- Sudan, CHESTERFIELD- Zimbabwe, MATT- USA

Discussion centred on accepting the concept of being non-violent in a situation of poverty and hunger we tended to agree that people can be motivated to become violent if they have lost all hope in life and if they are living in very difficult situations such as those we identified poverty/hunger

  • How to define non-violence so that it allows for communication

  • The need to address the root causes of Poverty/hunger that is colonialism and capitalism, Patriarchy and Racism. How continuous human suffering increases levels of violent reactions.

  • Lack of understanding of the concept of non-violence.

  • There was general agreement that hunger /poverty in a way empowers one to be violent and we coined the equation Poverty = violence. There was general consensus on the need to look into the large scale capitalist and small scale as well and examine the way they had contributed to poverty.

On what could be done

We agreed that there had to be some rising of awareness on the perspective of non-violence.

Material could be simple for many to understand such as cartoons/comics for communicating and raising awareness.

Production of an n educational CD with information on non-violence that WRI could produce.

We had agreed that WRI could produce material on framing non-violence in the context of Poverty = War

On Non-violent tools that need to be developed

To look at local initiatives of dealing with violence

Set standards for human rights that have to be considered such as the UN declaration on Human rights?

We also talked about the context in which we were globalising non-violence and asked ourselves whether it was within WRI or in the context of other movements such as the WSF

As for the WSF Kenya we were of the opinion that materials could be made available to educate people

We also agreed tat it would be ideal if there could be a forum/space for a North - South dialogue within WRI for an understanding of some of the issues above

What can nonviolence contribute to the struggle against Patriarchy?

(Note-taker: Patty).

Sub-theme: What is the nonviolent contribution to the patriarchyarea of struggle in the movement of movements (differentiate between the content of nonviolence and the traditions of nonviolent movements)?

Objective: collect some proposals for future discussions of problems / possibilities / strategies.

This was a small group and was mostly comprised of people for whom this sub-theme was not their first choice. This, in addition to the fact that the group was made up of only white folks from the Global North, made the first days' discussion very difficult in terms of knowing how to broach the issue of addressing patriarchy in the context of the Global South, which members of the group certainly communicated was key in striving towards the possibility of globalizing nonviolence in this sense. (Overall, given the nonlinear nature of our discussion and the overwhelming task of addressing patriarchy in this framework, these are less "notes" and more personal reflections of the sub-group experience which also touch on broader conference evaluations and reflections.)

Given those constraints, the first days' discussion was awkward and mostly focused on discussing the challenges of patriarchy in general--that is, a general discussion of patriarchy and some of the ways it manifests itself. The specific contexts of Africa and the US and Europe were mentioned, respectively.

In discussing the US and Europe contexts, the main issue discussed was the sex trade and the fact that it is largely unacknowledged and therefore unaddressed in our countries. Thus a good step would be giving voice to the reality of its existence which would open up the possibility for allying with and supporting those within the industry--many of whom were victims of human trafficking against their will. One specific comment relating the reality of sex workers and conscientious objectors was that both are examples of people being used as objects and thus the contribution of nonviolence to this relates to the objection of the objectification of people.

In general, there was no real attempt at addressing the problems, possibilities, and strategies in this context, at least in any coherent way.

On the second day, the group was joined by a man from Africa (he wasn't wearing a nametag and didn't introduce himself so I am afraid I cannot include his name!), which resulted in the conversation taking a very different direction and provided for a challenging dynamic. Specifically, given that the man had not participated in the theme group plenary session or the previous days' sub-group conversation--and thus there had been no prior trust or community building process among the members of the group--a more open communication was more difficult. In addition, the fact that the group had first met without the presence of anyone from the Global South was problematic, given the focus of the overall conference and the theme group, Globalizing Nonviolence.

The conversation quickly turned to the reality of "nonviolent" initiatives in the African context, what would the constructive program or grassroots work really look like given the drastically different culture and context. The man from Africa began describing what would be his ideal vision for a constructive program. However, it was clear in the course of the conversation that there were very distinct understandings of what patriarchy is, how it is manifested, and therefore how to struggle against it. More specifically, myself and another Western women in the group communicated that the man's comments and approaches were themselves very patriarchal. This created tension in the conversation, but was ultimately (by my estimation) an incredibly important piece because it was precisely the kind of "work" that needs to be done: the difficult work of unpacking our own prejudices, basic assumptions, and attitudes which clearly colour our lives and thus our approaches to this work. More pointedly, it is exactly the reason why it is much easier to discuss from a distance what may or may not be an appropriate strategy in a given context, rather then hunkering down and accepting and undertaking the very difficult work of exposing ourselves to the worlds multitude of perspectives, and the ultimate growth (and thus, growing pains) which accompany this type of engagement. And in short, the former is a very patriarchal/paternalistic approach while the latter is at least a good starting point for achieving a truly global face of nonviolence.

Throughout the conference, it has become clear that these larger conversations, of what is globalization and nonviolence, and do we globalize nonviolence, are often going on without the presence or real, authentic participation (keeping in mind that mere presence does not guarantee access to real and authentic participation) of the majority of the world's population who are operating in very different cultures and contexts. We can never hope to understand much less develop strategy around if we do not expose ourselves to those contexts and cultures.

This work of engaging across contexts and cultures can be done in many ways, some more accessible and authentic than others. That is, it seems quite significant to note that the conference in general provides a singular space, one which many of us from the North might see ourselves as generally reflected in (that is, our contexts and cultures and more or less fully incorporated into the structure and culture of the conference) and thus capable of fully participating in.

However, it is not necessarily a space which reflects the cultures of people from the Global South, and thus is not a completely welcoming, safe or open space for participation from all, or at least a wider sector, of the world's population. It is beyond the basic logistical difficulties of covering the costs, distance, and language constraint, which proportionately more folks from the Global South face in a conference like this. It is much more than that. It is the very way in which information is presented and exchanged, a very Western dynamic of presentations, plenaries, etc--a linear dynamic which most of us have been brought up to consider the most coherent or effective way of relating information, but is not necessarily the best and certainly not the only way of communicating and interacting around these issues. I would go so far as to say it is not the way many of the most significant interactions take place among folks in the Global South given the many different educations--both formal and informal/cultural--they experience. This is clear when we hear the African delegates speaking about the need to transmit information through the oral tradition, to name but one example. There are infinitely more, many of which we are likely unaware, given the overall premise that we acknowledge or value only one paradigm for this type of space of exchange.

I am infinitely grateful that the conversation happened as it did, not only for the personal growth and insight it gave me at exactly the right time in my own process, but also because it perfectly illustrated a recurring question of the conference: who are the margins and who is the centre? Is the concept of building bridges simply a refurbished form of colonialism, one in which WE in the North are initiating relationships on our terms, based on our own home contexts and cultures, and thus exporting or projecting those cultures onto those of the "other" towards whom we are trying to build the bridge.

I will illustrate this by elaborating on what was one of the most pivotal pieces of learning I experienced as a result of this exchange. Through hearing the man from Africa describe his plan for nonviolent education, he spoke of community development workshops, given on a local level and in the local language, for which the participants would be repaid for their work during the conference with food--thus addressing a basic need of many people in that context. He insisted people would not participate in anything other than a program which was working directly in their context and culture towards addressing their basic and immediate needs. This was quite a lightbulb for me, as it served to illuminate my basic assumptions about what the work of nonviolence is, and thus make clear for me how very different that looks for people in other contexts.

For me, in my privileged life in the US, many of my basic needs are met and thus the "work" of nonviolence in my mind is more of an intellectual exercise about theorizing, discussing, developing praxis around the idea of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance--work which does address some of my other needs including participation in a committed community of people in resistance, for example, but is done within my own context.

The reality of violence in many contexts is about infinitely more than the presence of war or armed conflict. As we have stated, in the global world, the violence that is most pervasive is the slow economic death being wreaked upon the world's poor through systematic exclusion from systems and deprivation of resources. Thus, clearly the constructive program of nonviolence in those contexts is from the basic needs perspective, addressing the daily violence of poverty, starvation, illiteracy, etc. This is quite likely clear to many people but is not normally how I think about the work of developing nonviolent resistance, and is certainly not something that has come out significantly in this conference. We generally mention "different contexts and cultures" but rarely concretize what we mean about the implications of developing a strategy for globalizing nonviolence when we don't have clear what the work of nonviolence already is or could be on a global scale. Again, what is lacking is the space for exchange among a true diversity and plurality of perspectives--one which goes much beyond having representation from every continent, or every global network or organizing, etc.

This diversity piece is central to the conversation of how to move WRI as a historically pacifist based anti-war network, to one which can truly be a vehicle for social change in all the cultures and contexts in which violence pervades--that is, throughout the entire world.

What is the power of nonviolence?

(Note-taker: Hans)

Sub-theme: What is the power of "nonviolence" and what is the content of that "nonviolence" which we want to globalise? (Is there other and better concepts);

Objective: collect some proposals for future discussions of problems / possibilities / strategies.

Proposals and suggestions from Group 4 ("non-violence")

  1. We suggest - concerning the term "non-violence" - to use preferably the term "nonviolent power" or "nonviolent strength" or the "power of active non-violence". It specifies more what non-violence really is about, at a personal level as well as at the level of society. It is also less righteous, because we also have violence within ourselves. It is a more positive expression too, because it stresses the positive dimension of non-violence (only to be against violence and war could be judged by others as "negative").

  2. We regard non-violence important in three main areas:

  • As an attitude of life: This means an attitude in which we want to deal with life problems, with conflicts and with society in a less violent way.

  • As an alternative way of conflict resolution/transformation: This is important, because there are always conflicts in life.

  • As a means for social change.

  1. Non-violence is not only a different technique, but it also implies an alternative vision of life or an alternative thinking. Spirituality and inspiration, or living from an inner strength, is very important in non-violence. Linking of non-violence with new spiritual movements from below should be encouraged.

  2. We propose to WRI Council to discuss and decide to adopt a broader perspective than the present name of the organisation suggests, including our emphasis on conscientious objection, how important it has been till now and will be in countries where this is a major concern. We therefore propose "nonviolent power" to be that broader perspective. Whether the name WRI should be changed as well should be a matter of discussion, but is not a priority.

  3. As we think that nonviolent power is of significant importance, we suggest that WRI - in cooperation with other nonviolent organisations - should promote it in the broader network of the "Movement of Movements" and take the initiative to start this process.

  4. Given the fact that the myths of "violence as a means of liberation and salvation" are still dominant today, we suggest that we collect examples of success stories of nonviolent power like Larzac, India or the dismantling of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. One way to do this could be to bring together representatives of such movements in order to learn from each other.

  5. Training in philosophy and strategy of non-violence (including books, visual and other materials) should be high on the agenda in WRI and also an important part of every triennial.

Addition from Stellan: There where also other suggestions of new names for "nonviolence" (from Chris): "Creative loving action for change", or; "Creative loving people power", or; "Agapaic Action".

What is our relation to the state?

(Jan Van Criekinge was note taker)

Sub-theme: What is our strategic relationship to the state in terms of globalising non-violence in the era of neoliberal globalisation?

Objective: collect some proposals for future discussions of problems / possibilities / strategies.

  • Why are we against the state? The State in the US was created out of violence, just to protect the interests of a small part of the population ; military defence is self-destructive ; concept of military defence is contra-productive: it will never work ; on the long run people will see that only non-violence and pacifism can bring them security ; non-violent resistance need a Pacifist Party (see USPP declaration)

  • following the theories of non-violent communication of Rosenberg people can resist the state without violence ; there are to much prejudices ; we must learn to understand each other through communication, also with people we do not like ; in direct actions and in confrontations with the police we will always like to get in contact with the policeman in charge to communicate

  • all the states in the world came to existence out of violence, states want to exercise power and violence to control the population ; EU is a `superstate' that is built on the German-French axis without real participation of the population, that is one of the reasons that the French population have rejected the proposal for the new constitution

  • trade unions in France were protesting in the morning to protect their jobs in the arms industry and in the afternoon they were on the streets for peace: that kind of contradictions will be inevitable when we are working with state institutions
  • Traditionally from a pacifist point of view the state was seen as an enemy, as an instrument of violent monopoly and power. That's more or less still the case, but in this era of globalisation the state itself is getting weaker and weaker, even the most powerful state (US) is more and more taken over by corporate business as Simon Harak said at Mondays afternoon plenary. In Continental Europe, where the `welfare state' was established after the Second World War (as a result of a long struggle of the labour movement in the decades before), the main results of that social protection are now under threat by liberalisation and commercialisation on the `free market': people are loosing their jobs, social security and a fair distribution of national wealth could be best guaranteed by the state

  • states should do what people really find important

  • How to communicate with the police at the direct actions of civil disobedience? Castor nuclear transports in Germany: make sure that the policemen know that you are not acting against them, communication is always very important ; organising workshops of non-violent training with the police and other government people

  • we should always make clear in our actions that a violent approach is contra-productive

  • US imperialism is needed to protect the interest of those in power and their supporters in business ; access to wealth is in the hands of a small minority, but it is not a sustainable situation

  • There is a growing competition between the EU and US arms industry to get support from the governments

  • Awareness of the power of non-violence can make a stronger position

  • We should always communicate: more and more people are convinced of the importance of non-violence and they loose their confident in the state and military

  • Be careful with the concept of non-violence: in the US it is generally accepted, also by business people and even in the US Military Academies are given courses on non-violence as a technique ; University of Chicago is one of the most conservative institutions of the US and even there non-violence is accepted ; therefore it is much better to speak about pacifism: that's much more dangerous for those in power ; non-violence could be just a technique without any political content, it's even used to motivate labourers to have better prestations.
  • Is it useful for WRI to take part in the WSF? Is it possible to convince people of the importance of non-violence at a large and broad forum as WSF? The concept of pacifism and antimilitarism is too much absent at this kind of forums.

  • We need very specific actions to convince people of the importance of our work: for ex. Members of peace movements take part in the shareholders meetings of big arms companies (Ohne Rüstung Leben did that with Mercedes) and will be able to ask critical questions on the meeting, the board has to give answers.

  • Rosenberg's theories on non-violent communication could be very useful too: peace starts in our hearts ; how can we find a way out of our thinking in terms of winners and looser, competition, prejudices and images of enemies ; trainings even in factories and big enterprises to stimulate a better communication and understanding.

  • Military industry in the US is still very dominant on the whole society: they are seen as patriotic organisations who will deliver the necessary weapons for the defence of the nation ; what arms industry is doing is a good thing for the country

  • Mentality of patriotism is somewhat changing with the ongoing war in Iraq: the more soldiers will be killed or injured, the more families will ask questions about the real goals of the US foreign policy and imperialism ; the war is undermining the military strategy and propaganda

  • Finding the best strategy for the peace movement towards the state

  • Problem with the peace movement in the US is that they are lacking a real pacifist approach, to much concentration on non-violence, less on pacifism

  • Democratic regimes will makes it easier to convince people of the importance of non-violence and pacifism
  • Importance of work at grassroots level: local and global at same time

This discussion was encouraging for the continuation of our work locally and on a more global level: structures will only changed if people are convinced of the importance to changes things.

What can WRI and "we" do?

(Note-taker Stellan).

Sub-theme: What are the links to and role of WRI in globalising nonviolence? What is the role of other organisations within the tradition of nonviolence (IFOR, Gandhians, Pax Christi, WILPF, Quakers, Mennonites, etc.). Who are "we" that will globalise nonviolence?;

Objective: collect some proposals for future discussions of problems / possibilities / strategies.

Structure of our discussion: We discuss on a general, theoretical or macro approach first and then on a practical or micro level.

Globalisation connects people and WRI already has that kind of connections. These kinds of gatherings are central. Chesterfield will be on the Council. Exec has not been good enough to activate the members during the time between gatherings. People involved in certain programs are easier to activate. The visa-rules are a central problem here (e.g. in Ireland people from 14 countries where not allowed), as is lack of economic resources. These connections need to be developed. Earlier gatherings in the south have been important. The main part of WRI is still in the North but because of the changes in the military there is a growing activity of the South.

WRI is too small and weak to act alone. A "Globalising Nonviolence" gathering of all nonviolent groups at a WSF (and/or before/after). (Avoiding becoming a rival initiative but still create our own space at the WSF-process). The organisations of the nonviolent tradition have knowledge of nonviolent theory and practice (training, campaign building etc.) but not a global strategy for nonviolence. The WSF is having the global analysis, the mobilisation of activists but not the understanding of nonviolence.

But that work is already existing. IFOR has decided to work more on global justice issues. There exist a number of groups within the global justice movement and WSF that have their own indigenous knowledge of nonviolence. E.g. at the youth camp. Many of the people are the same in these movements. Even if there are no workshops on "how to build nonviolent resistance campaigns" they might call it different things. At the regional forums there have been some workshops with some few participants. There is a need to have a proper preparation of our interventions.

Is a problem if we are convening as experts that want to train others. How we do it is important. Important we do this intervention for the peace movements at this stage. Go to the world social forums and participants and bring in the experience in the discussions. In the Netherlands SF we offered about 20 workshops to the subject of nonviolent. We could suggest that WRI is joining such SF with workshops and discussions. And many other organisations could link up, e.g. IFOR, World Council of Churches. We need committed individuals that do this. We need to find out how to look beyond just the conferences. Popularising, create alliances, campaigns etc. How can we use these events of coming together to build something of long-term?

There is a problem with informal structures. Difficult to get people that are informal leaders to recognise their position. Need to be more open to each other and challenge each others behaviour or personalities, e.g. with dominance. Any structure is only as good as the people that use it.

We need to say it very concretely: WRI should be part of the next WSF and we need to have a meeting of peace movements (IFOR, PBI, Global Partnership of Conflict Prevention, etc. looking on the Houseman's Peace Directory).

Should we invite just a few to a first gathering to consolidate the work or try to go broader to get as many as possible? The plan to participate in WSF Kenya and other social fora is there but how do we make the best use of that? Need to make it clear what are the priorities of the active individuals that would take part in the WSF. It is not organisations meeting each other but individuals. Try to make sections/affiliates of WRI to send representatives?

First we need to get together an explicit group of individuals who want to think and work more on this issue. The business meeting would be the body who would decide but there is a need to write a specific proposal. It should be mentioned in the big group and interested people could get together and write a proposal.

Any goal WRI decide on needs to adapt to the global situation. WRI need to get involved in the "movement of movement" and not fade away in history.

WRI is doing well in getting together a diverse group of people. We are not a party that is making policies. The parallel used of "new peace movement" and the "old peace movement" is unfortunate in a UK perspective ("New labour"). We should not try to make the organisation to tell all the members of sections to do this. All sections are involved anyway already. No benefit by making a declaration. We do not have commissar in our organisation.

To decide on involvement in the WSF and/or PGA in order to globalise nonviolence is not a different decision from other decisions on work/campaigns etc. in WRI. Of course the Exec. or the Council can't give orders to any members but it can and should take a decision on focus and priorities within the network.

The risk is that WRI becomes a dinosaur if it is not taking part in the ongoing discussion. We need to move away from this old kind of understanding of ourselves and the old discussion.

Is it really a movement of movements? We need to look into if it really is. WRI is a network of movements and has had a radical view for a long period. The peace movement of the 80s was not particularly radical but a big wave that everyone wanted to join at that time. WRI should be careful with joining others. There are already a number of global links within WRI that we do not think much on, which could be developed.

We also want to find other forums, not only WRI, to put this discussion further. WRI is not the force to do the change by itself.

Is not a matter of forcing a 7-point action program to all members of WRI but to foster a culture and common understanding of what we are doing and saying this is an important area of activity. People will otherwise bring it to other networks. Most of us are part of several organisations anyhow. Why are we a network if we are not making collective decisions sometimes. Why are we not just individuals then?

The problem is that WRI and others within the historical tradition of nonviolence is needed within the WSF and the "movement of movements". There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of nonviolent strategy. When the activists in Seattle used nonviolent guidelines, trainings, affinity groups etc. they thought it was their invention but it came from the nonviolent of Seabrook, Whyl etc.

I (Clare) where there and did trainings in Seattle and we did not think we where inventing the wheel. Thank God! We where inventing so much anyhow. We knew that there where a history which we linked up to, e.g. to Spain.

There are also actions done at summits which is nonviolent direct action. At G8 in Scotland people of different old and new groups where working together side by side at the Faslane blockade on the Monday. The whole thing where done on nonviolent consensus. It was a huge totally nonviolent demonstration at Gleneagles.

Yes, there are some very good examples of nonviolent actions during top-summits. But even though I (Steffen) come from a green-anarchist culture from Attac and others the knowledge of nonviolence is really poor. It should be raised.

Brainstorm on how to globalise nonviolence:

  • The movement of WRI and other movements working together.

  • Nonviolence training at WSF.

  • WSF as a place to explore on what happens by those who do stuff (Not have the gathering in the name of "globalising nonviolence").

  • When we meet those not connected to nonviolence at WSF invite them to our Triennial.
  • Less theme groups so we have time for workshops and all can have workshops without competing.

  • Searching for ideas that can renew nonviolent ideas/methods.

  • Find out how to change or join the leadership of WSF.

  • Meeting of big peace organisations on the topic (A Peace Movement Summit).

  • Explore nonviolence and other ideas to democratise WSF.

  • Bring ideas and forms from WSF that can help WRI.

  • Bring together and exchange ideas between those bringing down regime change at a special WSF-summit ("How to bring down a dictator with nonviolent resistance").

  • Engage in Attac (and other close organisations) and work for nonviolence

  • Make a global collection on what is being done in terms of nonviolence (create a central space, e.g. on Internet).
  • Including local groups that can't afford to travel in our planning and organising (It is not rewarding for them to have e.g. workshops with only four participants).

  • Supplement the Triennial with virtual conferences.

  • The connection between WRI and WSF can make it more visible with all the problems and solutions that already exist. (Would be useful to bring information more central).

  • Action research on networking (actual networking that occurs and experimenting with new ways of doing it).

  • E-list to continue the work (translation problem? Use Bokart translate?).

  • Include the work into the existing Nonviolence-program


Summary of the evaluations of the theme group done in small groups (edited by Stellan):

Positive things: +

  • Open communication and good atmosphere

  • Quite mixed group

  • Good preparation of and combination with Jai/Stellan

  • Sub-groups (big group too big)

  • Participants' presentations

  • The early response to gender concerns

  • Looking to both alternatives and critique
  • People speaking both with heart and intellect

  • Sitting in circle

Negative things: -

  • Presentations here good but took a lot of time and were not always feeding into the discussion

  • The creation of and process in small groups where not as well thought and planned as other things (it got difficult and unclear => not all groups where effective or balanced).

  • Parallel process (plenary and groups).

  • Discussions in small groups where not all the time focused
  • Proposals: P

  • Less presentations and specific instructions/tasks needed for the sub-groups in order to get concrete.

  • Small-groups need a structure and a facilitator that help the group to focus

  • Group presentations needed and then go back into groups (never any feedback which gives no impression of the whole group)

  • When there were not enough participants interested in taking part in the sub-theme on patriarchy it should maybe not have been forced into existence?

  • More time in the theme group

  • More mix of people (gender, countries, north-south)

  • Get topics before the conference by email


Mailing lists, literature and contacts:

  • If you want to continue the discussion on linking up to WSF, Peoples Global Action and the "movement of movements" within WRI, join the new mailing list for discussing/organising WRI's presence at the WSF 2007 in Nairobi! Contact the list facilitator Andreas Speck at War Resisters' International, 5 Caledonian Road - London N1 9DX - Britain, tel +44-20-7278 4040  - fax +44-20-7278 0444; email andreas@wri-irg.org: http://wri-irg.org

  • Everything about this list: http://lists.wri-irg.org/sympa/rss/info/wri-wsf2007

  • Things related to Jai Sen and CACIM India Institute for Critical Action : Centre in Movement ( www.cacim.net

    • Nayi Rajniti [Hindi edition of Talking New Politics, Sen and Saini, eds 2005]

    • Nayi Subah Ki Or ('Towards A New Dawn'), volume 1 of Hindi edition of World Social Forum : Challenging Empires

    • Are Other Worlds Possible ? Books 2 & 3 - 'Interrogating Empires' & 'Imagining Alternatives'

  • Open Space Webspace : www.openspaceforum.net
  • WSFDiscuss - an open discussion listserve on the World Social Forum and cultures of politics in movements : Send an empty email to worldsocialforum-discuss-subscribe@openspaceforum.net

  • Out in 2005-6 : World Social Forum : Challenging Empires - in German, Japanese, Spanish, and now in Hindi and Urdu !

  • January 2005 : 'Are Other Worlds Possible ? Talking NEW Politics'

    Preview : http://www.choike.org/nuevo_eng/informes/2487.html

    Publishers : Zubaan / zubaanwbooks@vsnl.net tel: +91-11-2652 1008, 2686 4497, and 2651 4772

  • In late 2004 :'Explorations in Open Space : The World Social Forum and Cultures of Politics'

    Issue 182 of the International Social Science Journal

    Editorial advisers : Chloé Keraghel & Jai Sen


  • 2004 Book : 'World Social Forum : Challenging Empires'

    Edited by Jai Sen, Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar, and Peter Waterman


    India / South Asia distribution : Viveka Foundation,

    info@vivekafoundation.org, viveka4@vsnl.com

    2005 : NOW OUT also in German, Japanese, Spanish, and forthcoming in Hindi and Urdu

  • Jai Sen

    CACIM - India Institute for Critical Action : Centre in Movement

    A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India

    www.cacim.net; email jai.sen@cacim.net

    [+ while travelling, ALSO jai_sen2000@yahoo.com]

    M 91-98189 11325

    T 91-11-4155 1521 and 2433 2451

    Italitar, Hattigauda, Kathmandu, Nepal.

    Tel 977-1-437 0019 and 437 0112

  • Stellan Vinthagen

    School of Global Studies, Padrigu: Department of Peace and Development Research, Gothenburg University

    Box 700, SE 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

    www.padrigu.gu.se (check out the Resistance Studies Network).

    Email stellan.vinthagen@padrigu.gu.se ; Mobile +46 704 763 789

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