Conscription or National Service may have died out in 60s in the UK, but for young adults war is a coming-of-age in some countries.
We talk to War Resisters' International (WRI) about how the supportive programmes they provide for conscientious objectors and pacifists are now being used to fight environmental exploitation in South America.
WRI is a global anti-militarist organisation that was founded in 1921 by a group of European pacifists after the First World War. With their head office based in London facilitators Hannah Brock and Javier Garate work with over 80 affiliates across 45 countries, sharing learnings through talks and workshops around the world; online and written. Hannah explains, “We exist as an international network to help regional networks communicate with each other. We’ve found from experience, that the mutual solidarity from being in communication with other nonviolent activists is incredibly important. For campaigners in a country where they are persecuted and marginalised, it’s very important to have that solidarity from external places to be able to keep going. More than solidarity, it’s the way people learn from each other: they learn from the experience of other campaigners and other countries.”
International learning is at the heart of WRI and at present they facilitate two successful global programmes: Right to Refuse to Kill, supporting conscientious objectors around the world; and the Nonviolence Programme that connects groups and activists using nonviolent methods for social change. “For us there are people that conscientiously object for different reasons, be it religious, personal or ethical reasons. We also see it as a form of nonviolent campaigning: it’s a strategy.”
The Nonviolence Programme provides a blueprint for individuals and groups fighting against environmental exploitation within their communities. “We see conscientious objection as a way of objecting against all war.” During his time co-facilitating workshops in Ecuador, Javier and other facilitators were able to touch base with local environmentalists who were using the WRI training to, “fight extractive industries who are freely decimating their indigenous lands.” The groups are using skills learnt during the Nonviolence workshops to push back, Hannah reflects: “The training in Ecuador bought in a lot of people from environmental movements that were really eager to learn from experience of nonviolence campaigners who normally use those skills against nuclear weapons, military spending or conscription.”
For W.R.I applying the same campaigning strategy to all conflicts, be it environmental or human rights, provides individuals with the reassurance, confidence and support to resist. “We feel like the bottom up change from grassroots activists is the way the world is going to be as it should.”
For more information and how you can get involved visit WRI-IRG.org
War Resisters International is one of many campaign groups that receive funding from Charity Pot. Find out more about the groups we fund here