Representatives of the European branches of the IFOR gathered in Bremen, Germany April 17-19, 2015. Representatives were from Branches and Affiliates in Austria, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Wales.
They were joined by Junior Nzita Nsuami from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who was forcibly recruited at the age of 10 by the rebels seeking to overthrow the Mobutu dictatorship and fought in the DRC itself and Angola for the next 12 years before finally passing through a demobilization and reintentegration programme sponsored by the international community. He subsequently committed himself to the cause of helping those who as child soldiers passed through similar traumatic experiences; he has now been appointed a UN goodwill ambassador on the subject of child soldiers.
Representatives discussed the deep concern that juvenile recruitment and the trauma suffered by former child soldiers represents throughout the IFOR community. They explored ways that European Branches in particular could impact the movement against the recruitment of child soldiers and support efforts of trauma healing necessary for their successful re-integration into society.
The representatives discussed related pressing concerns within Europe. They noted the militarization of young people in general was a persistent problem which European Branches are committed to addressing. A desire to counteract the demonization and repression of Muslim minorities within European societies which has alienated many young people, and contributes to the drive of some to seek community among violent actors. They discussed the fact that official military recruitment of persons under 18 has not been eliminated, and expressed support for the efforts of many of our branches are working to ban military recruiters from schools and generally to counteract the militarization of youth, the most pernicious part of the militarization of society as a whole.
Of particular concern to the assembly was also the continuing investment in nuclear weapons by European Governments. Representatives discussed the importance of putting pressure on governments, if they have not done so already, to sign up to the Austrian Pledge to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Many expressed hope that branches will agree to join their names as supporters of the case brought by the Marshall Islands in the International Court of Justice. Representatives expressed their support for IFOR European Representative Jérôme Peraya and the other Bombspotters activists who are being prosecuted for a demonstration at a Nuclear Weapons Facility in Belgium.
The representatives had working sessions to share ideas and discuss opportunities for collaboration. The two sessions focused on Trauma Healing and Disarmament but many sub themes emerged within the conversation.
The meeting occurred amid the Global Campaign of Against Military Spending. IFOR has signed on to a joint statement against military spending to European Governments.Opportunities to support and collaborate with this campaign were discussed.
This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the representatives looked forward to uniting in coordination with the Japanese branch of IFOR, and where possible co-ordinating actions of remembrance were possible on the 6th of August.
Representatives expressed their deep condolences to the Swedish Branch of IFOR and the family of Axel Ruhe who was scheduled to attend the meeting but whose sudden death was a shock to everyone. The Representatives expressed gratitude for his life and work in the service of peace.