The European Branches of IFOR gathered in Vienna, Austria from April 28th to April 30 to share work and collaborate on the common problems of violence in Europe. Discussions included Security and Disarmament, Campaigns for Nuclear Disarmament, Migration, Refugees, Social Inclusion, and Peace Education. They were joined by IFOR's Honorary President Hildegard Goss-Mayr who spoke with the group and offered words of counsel and encouragement.
The branches released a statement at the conclusion of the meeting...
In March of 2017 IFOR's representatives in Geneva engaged two important UN Human Rights bodies: the Human Rights Council (34th session) and the Human Rights Committee (119th session).
During the Human Rights Council session, IFOR delivered seven oral statements addressing critical concerns of IFOR members around the world. IFOR spoke to situations in Colombia, Eritrea, Turkey, and Western Sahara in particular as well as issues of torture and the forced recruitment of child soldiers in general.
Amid escalating violence, IFOR's Branch in South Sudan, the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD) joined a coalition of organizations who have responded to the call for National Dialogue issued by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The coalition of organizations is known as "The Voluntary Civil Society Taskforce on Implementation of the Peace Agreement." It is a coalition of over 20 diverse and non-partisan South Sudanese civil society organizations and networks. The Taskforce is interested in genuine and full implementation of the Peace Agreement and a quick end to the suffering inflicted on innocent citizens of South Sudan by the political crises in the country.
During the first week of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, IFOR held a side event titled “Human rights in Turkey”.
The event was moderated by IFOR Fellow, Martina Lanza and featured the following panelists:
FOR India, has a long history of work supporting young people. Amidst rapid changes in society there has been an increase in problems effecting young people in particular. FOR India offers a brief report of its experience in hopes to encourage other IFOR members in their work to support youth:
We are sharing this based on training programs and interaction with 600 school counselors over a period of past 3 months.. This training for 600 government appointed counselors at government schools. All the counselors in 14 districts all over Kerala in batches of 50 each are given intensive training for a period of 4 days in practical hands on skills and also given inputs on the application of enacted laws.
Internationally distinguished Community Mental Health Professional and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Western Australia, Dr Mohan Issac delivered the 16th Acharya KK Chandy Commemorative oration on Saturday, 28th January 2017 at the Gurukul Ecumenical and Peace Centre Hall. Thetopic dealt with was the need to help individuals develop a mind set that enables building of a violence free world. The Visitor President of Christavashram , Rt Rev Thomas Samuel , retired Bishop, presided over the function organized by the Acharya KK Chandy Endowment Trust who said in his Presidential Address that Acharya Chandy was indeed a Christian innovator who revolutionized the concept and practice of community living.
January 15-20, IFOR’s International Coordinator visited South Sudan, at the invitation of the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD). ONAD has been a part of IFOR since 2006. The visit was primarily to express solidarity with ONAD and the South Sudanese people in this period of intense violence in the country. The IFOR International Committee (ICOM) has long sought to prioritize support for nonviolent movements in Africa. The most recent months of violence in South Sudan have caused global concerned that the country was teetering towards genocide. ICOM and the International Secretariat felt it critical to express support for ONAD and find ways to amplify their efforts in the country.
Earlier this year, IFOR was pleased to receive a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to help expand it's work at the United Nations in support of conscientious objectors around the world. IFOR saw a need to grow the capacity of human rights advocates to defend C.O.s and has created a Fellowship that will allow human rights professionals to learn more about the right to conscientious objection while gaining experience working to support those whose rights are being threatened or violated. The fellows will work along side IFOR's main representative to the UN in Geneva, Derek Brett for a period of 6 to 12 months.
We are pleased to introduce our first IFOR Fellow for this project, Martina Lanza. Martina has an M.A. in Human rights and International Relations and her principal interests are Children’s rights, conscientious objection to military service and nonviolent conflict resolution.
September 30 – October 3 more than a thousand people gathered at the Technishce Universität Berlin, Germany to discuss the most pressing challenges for peace in our time. The International Peace Bureau convened the "World Congress" in conjunction with its annual meeting. The Disarm! For a Climate of Peace gathering was supported by 50 international peace organizations including IFOR. Many IFOR members primarily from Europe and North America were in attendance. Topics of discussion included: opposition to NATO Expansion, Military Recourses and the Environment, the Impact of Climate Change on Peace and Security in Africa, the Nuclear-Climate Nexus and Sustainable Peace and many more.
During the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council, IFOR Fellow Martina Lanza delivered the following statement about Ukrainian Conscientious Objectors and the situation facing young men who object to joining the fighting in Ukraine.
IFOR would like to draw the attention to the plight of young men everywhere in Ukraine who do not wish to become embroiled on either side of the ongoing armed conflict. Some face pressure to join separatist or anti-separatist militias; many more live under the threat of formal conscription into the Government armed forces, which they can avoid only by fleeing the country.