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.
February 12, is international day against the use of child soldiers. The UN campaign #childrennotsoldiers (#enfantspassoldats) is being supported by several countries around the world. Through the work of it's Swiss Branch, IFOR began to work more closely with Junior Nzita, the goodwill ambassador for the UN campaign. Now Teenergy, a small company in Montreux, Switzerland specialized in documentary films, is finishing a 26-minute film on child soldiers and the real possibility of demobilization. Parallel to the production of the film is the development of a smartphone app by the University of Geneva. This app shall help child soldiers in process of demobilization. It is about to be used in a pilot project in Colombia. The films will be featured initially by TV5 monde in French and then in English and Spanish by other TV channels. It will be distributed free world wide through UN and various NGO channels including IFOR.
This project is called Away from Arms and IFOR is proud to be partnering with Junior Nzita and Teenergy to support the project and child soldiers around the world. IFOR is represented in the project by Hans Ulrich Gerber.
On February 12, 2017 there will be the launch of the project in Montreux Switzerland. The links below introduce the film and the event. Those near and far interested in this matter and willing to support the project are cordially invited to the event on February 12. We hope many will come and/or spread the word so it finds the necessary support to run over an initial period of 36 months.
- See here the invitation for February 12: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/invitation
- An introduction to the documentary film: https://vimeo.com/teenergy/soldat password: teenergy
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence, an effort supported by several branches of IFOR, is organizing the Longing for Peace International Delegation April 18 – 27, 2017.
FOR Peace Presence provides physical safety, political visibility and solidarity by accompanying communities and organizations that embrace active nonviolence to defend life, land and dignity.
Colombia is going through an historic but uncertain period. The results of four years of peace negotiations between the government and the FARC-a comprehensive agreement on five areas related to the conflict-was rejected by voters in October 2016 by the narrowest of margins. The Colombian Congress later approved the agreement on November 30th. Amid the hope of what the agreement means concerns about the future of implementation remain.
The delegation will meet with local human rights defenders; human rights and environmental NGOs' women peace leaders; young Conscientious Objectors; Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small scale farmer leaders; and displaced communities. The delegates will learn about the impacts of corporations, and how global demand for energy is devastating communities and destroying vital ecosystems.
For more information about FORPP or the delegation please visit their website here.
IFOR's Main Representative to the UN in Geneva, Derek Brett, submitted a report on Eritrea to the 119th Session of the Human Rights Committee. The report specifically focused on matters of military service, conscientious objection and related human rights concerns in Eritrea.
From the Report:
Of all the world's states, Eritrea is the only one in which military service issues are widely considered to be one of the major human rights concerns. Both men and women are subject to conscription; since 2002, under a situation of general mobilization, the period of service has been prolonged indefinitely. Forced recruitment and abusive treatment within the military are widespread. The right of conscientious objection is not recognized; the only way to escape enlistment is to leave the country. Travel restrictions however mean that few citizens are able to do this legally, and it is believed that a “shoot to kill” policy is in place to prevent persons crossing the border clandestinely. Nevertheless, almost throughout its independent existence Eritrea has, proportionate to population, suffered one of the largest refugee outflows in the world.
To read the full report click here.
Conscientious Objector Alert
Addressing urgent need for reform
On November 19th The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, EBCO, presented its Annual Report 2016 on Conscientious Objection in Europe on Saturday 19/11/2016 in Athens, Greece. Each year, the report is carried out under the auspices of IFOR. EBCO decided to organize this Annual Report presentation in Greece because in less than a year three different international human rights instruments (the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Committee, and the European Court of Human Rights) have pointed out serious violations of human rights of Greek conscientious objectors. This highlights Greece’s urgent need for legislative reform on conscientious objection, in order to comply with international human rights law and standards.
In his foreword Friedhelm Schneider, EBCO President, points to some gleams of light amid the darkness:
- In January 2016 an amnesty was pronounced for all Greek objectors who had declared their objection before 1998 when the current law on conscientious objection entered into force. No compensation, however, was granted for all fines and prison sentences imposed to this group of early objectors.
- Supported by an international network of solidarity and lobby work the Ukrainian journalist and conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba was acquitted in July 2016. He had been arrested in February 2015 because of his appeal to refuse a mobilization that would lead to fratricide.
- In Rojava, Kurdish region where a many years long struggle is being waged against ISIS, the right of conscientious objection has been recognized by the government of the Cizre canton in April 2016.
After its General Assemblies held in London (14 May 2016) and in Athens (19 November 2016) the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection expresses once more its concern that the credibility of international Human rights institutions on the European and United Nations level will strongly be damaged if the implementation of their resolutions and judgements cannot be achieved. It will consequently stay an important task for human rights NGOs to remind national governments of their responsibility to publicize and to execute the binding requests of international Human rights institutions.
Click here to read the full EBCO 2016 report in detail.
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.
On September 17-18 MIR/IFOR Madagascar (FIEFA) held its general assembly and elected new officers. The general assembly was held in Antananarivo. 11 people were elected to serve the board for the next 3 years from 2016 to 2019.
Patrick Rakotondranaly was elected president and Luciani Jos'oint was elected vice President. Other board members include Vololona Razafindrainibe, Ernest Razafindraibe, Michel Ravoavy, Jean Aimé Randriamiantrarivo, Alexandre Ramarosandratana, Jacques Tronchon, Suzette Marie Isabelle Razanamalalanandrasana, and Assina Feno.
The International Secretariat expresses congratulations to the members and new leadership of FIEFA. The IFOR community remains in solidarity with our members in Madagascar as the continue the work of nonviolence and peace.
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.
Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of people have been displaced. This week during the opening week of the UN General Assembly, on Wednesday September 21, the International Day of Peace, IFOR is supporting the Global Day of Action and Prayer for Syria.
ACTION: Among those displaced by the war are millions of children. These children will not only need to grapple with the horror and trauma of war and displacement, their education has been disrupted which will also impact the rest of their lives. In addition to calling for an end to the war. IFOR is supporting the YOU PROMISED campaign launched by Theirworld, an effort to support the education of refugee children wherever they are.
On September 14, during the 33 Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, IFOR's Main Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Derek Brett, expressed concern for the situation of Human Rights in Turkey. In his statement, Brett noted that:
"Even before the massive detentions and new restrictions on the freedom of movement, assembly and expression which followed the attempted military coup, we were deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, and disturbed by the lack of attention which it has received in this Council. Our contacts on the ground report ongoing breaches of International Humanitarian Law and widespread human rights violations, particularly in the south-east of the country, including the targeting of civilians in military operations, extrajudicial executions, the demolition of towns and villages, leading to massive displacement, and the torture and long term detention of civilians, particularly in prisons in the cities of Urfa and Siverek."
IFOR called on the Turkish authorities to heed the repeated appeal for unfettered access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the staff of his office, particularly to the South – East of Turkey.
IFOR also hosted a side event for diplomats and others featuring Peri Hevi, a journalist who spoke about the human rights situation in Turkey after the election of June 2015 and Ramazan Baytar, independent activist who spoke about the coup attempt and the aftermath.
IFOR maintains contact with many human rights activists in Turkey, particularly conscientious objectors. Derek Brett spoke about the situation facing conscientious objectors during the side event hosted by IFOR.
IFOR's branches in the Northern Hemisphere along with the International Secretariat have been experiencing summer over the past months. Even before summer, our team at the International Secretariat fell behind on providing updates to the news section of IFOR's website. Here are some important happenings within IFOR in the past several months that we've missed:
Cultural Academy of Peace Celebrates Pearl Jubilee
IFOR's Affiliate in Kerela, India celebrated the Pearl Jubilee. CAP's newsletter described:
"it is the Day we realized the impact of 30 years of our “commitment and service” to women and children especially those in crisis situation. The large number of Social activists, professionals, secular and religious groups, Government representatives and our network Partners, almost 500, was indeed quite heartening. Many people have commended that it was an indicator of the acceptance of Cultural Academy’s mission."
The event was held in on April 9th Ashir Bhavan, Ernakulam. It was a remarkable day as they simultaneously observed NIRBHAYA DAY, in memory of the deceased victims, and survivors of Sexual abuse. Cultural Academy runs Nirbhaya Home, a project of Kerala Government. The Residents of this Home as well as Shanthi Bhavan took active part in the celebration.
The Cultural Academy also hosted a one day workshop on Gender Equity for Social Safety with Emphasis on Masculinity led by Dr. Suseela Mathew, an International Trainer on Gender and Conflict Management, on 30th July 2016 at Shantibhavan Auditorium, Ernakulam.
The Human Cost of the War on Drugs
April 19-21 there was a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Drug Policy. The International Secretariat helped coordinate the involvement of FOR-USA and SERPAJ-AL.
FOR-USA participated in the Special Session in collaboration with the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference who had assembled an international collection of clergy to give voice the damage that the War on Drugs has caused on communities around the globe: religious leaders from the United States, El Salvador, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom told of the horribly punitive and violent actions taken through the War on Drugs. SERPAJ-America Latina was represented by the presence of Carlos Martinez of SERPAJ-Chile.
Longing for Peace Campaign
FOR Peace Presence launches Longing For Peace Campaign: FOR Peace Presence represents the work of several members of the IFOR to protect communities and human rights defenders in Colombia. With the Peace Process negotiating an end to the armed conflict, there is a lot of work on a grassroots level that needs to be done to guarantee that implementation of the agreement and the continued physical and political space for communities and organizations to continue their essential work for peace as well as social, economic, cultural, and environmental justice.
In light of all this, FOR Peace Presence is organizing an interactive multimedia campaign titled Longing for Peace. The campaign is designed to coincide with the signing of the accords while highlighting the diverse voices and experiences of FORPP partners, members of Colombian civil society, and members of the international community as they share understandings of peace, hopes for a their country post-accord, and ongoing challenges to building lasting and meaningful peace. The campaign aims to broaden the physical and political space necessary for building peace and to recognize that peace is a process-oriented action, requiring ongoing and long-term participation at all levels.
IFOR's Beloved Communities Project Continues
Following the visit of Palestinian American lawyer and activist Ahmad Abuznaid, 20 May- 20 June, IFOR was pleased to welcome Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons as it's 5th speaker for the Beloved Communities Project. Dr. Simmons is a veteran of the U.S. Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. She is a Sufi muslim and a professor of Islamic Studies. She spoke to a variety of communities in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Budapest about Islam, nonviolence, feminism, the U.S. Black Freedom Struggle and many other topics.
IFOR & UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Vienna
UNODA introduced a program called "Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education Partnership". July 5-6th, the "Women Higher Education for Peace Vienna Forum" was held. It included a "job fair" for women mainly from the Global South, to be involved more deeply in disarmament affairs and also job opportunities. IFOR is one of 6 NGOs from the Vienna UN Committee on Peace who were partners of the whole program -we were invited to participate in both the Forum and the job fair. IFOR was represented by Therese Kirchner, board member of IFOR Austria and IFOR's representative to the UN in Vienna, Pete Haemmerle participated in a short video clip on the work of the NGO Committee on Peace (including IFOR) in Vienna.
Much more work for peace was done by IFOR members around the world in the past several months. We will not be able to report them all here but these were some of the highlights we thought it was important to share.
IFOR's international leadership stands with it's branch in South Sudan, the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD), condemning the ongoing political violence in the capital city of Juba. We also call for the immediate release of the South Sudanese journalist Mr. Alfred Taban.
On July 13, 2016 ONAD released the following statement:
“ONAD is disappointed with the recent eruption of armed violence in Juba the capital of the Republic of South Sudan. The fighting that erupted between forces loyal to the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Government and Sudan’s People Liberation Movement/Army SPLM/A – in Opposition started since 7th to 11th July 2016. The organization is concerned that the conflict resulted to lose of lives, destruction and looting of properties. The violent conflict has further displaced thousands and inflicted significant suffering on the civil population at a time they are supposed to enjoy the peace dividends. While, ONAD appreciates the order and call for ceasefire by the President and the First Vice President, the organization calls for compliance of commanders, genuine political will and commitment to full implementation of the security arrangements and the whole Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). While the organization welcomes the quick response of the United Nations, African Union Commission and IGAD Council of Ministers on the recent deteriorating security situation in the country. ONAD is concerned with the IGAD Ministers recent call during their 56th Extraordinary Session demanding to establish an intervention brigade and increase the number of troops from the region to inter alia secure Juba.
We do not believe having more troops will make Juba secure. More troops will only make civilians more insecure. Right now civilians need PEACE without weapons, more humanitarian and nonviolent protection responses. ONAD wishes to take this opportunity to encourage regional and international community to rather pressure the political leadership to fully implement the peace agreement in letter and spirit.”
—Moses Monday Executive Director
April 19-26, IFOR brought the Palestinian-American community organizer, lawyer and activist, Ahmad Abuznaid, to the Netherlands and Belgium for a little over a week of events, meetings and exchanges. Ahmad joins, Anthony Grimes, Derecka Purnell and Nyle Fort as the fourth organizer from the United States who has participated in the project. Ahmad serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Dream Defenders, an organization born in response to the killing of the unarmed American teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.
EUFOR – European Fellowship of Reconciliation
Wednesday 06.04.16 12:00AM
At a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 25 representatives of the European branches of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) call for a “renewed vision of Europe” based on Culture of Peace; not military might.
A new way of working in Europe is needed based on unity, solidarity and humanity to tackle 21st Century challenges.
The following areas in need of urgent and collective attention are:
- Recognize Refugees and Migrants as Citizens
- Disarmament and Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Arms Trade
- Promote Peace Education, Inter-faith Dialogue and Social Empowerment
The European Branches made the following statements:
“The European civil society has experienced on many occasions the power to transform conflicts through a firm stand for human rights, non-violence and human security. We want to build on this heritage of positive values.
Refugees and migrants are making a statement with their feet on failed policy. Europe's efforts and resources should be spent tackling the root causes of their migration as well as accepting refugees and migrants as citizens.
Europe is in a larger value crisis and it must act and shift resources away from arms expenditure, nuclear weapons, and military strategy.
There is a further need to prioritize non-violent intervention in order to foster and create a Europe of solidarity.
EUFOR calls on the people of Europe to exercise their cooperative responsibility on forming a Europe of hope not fear, and neighbors not strangers. Together we can change our communities and governments.”
- EUFOR brings together groups committed to faith-based non-violence.
- The Fellowships started in 1914 with people who conscientiously objected to taking part in war because of their religious beliefs
- EUFOR continues to work for non-violence, peace and reconciliation
- EUFOR meeting (01.04.16) consisted of representatives from Wales, England, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.
IFOR representatives in New York attended the Sixtieth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. During the session, a diverse group of young feminist advocates, gathered working for gender, reproductive, economic, ecological and social justice and political transformation. IFOR's representative to the United Nations, Patricia Ackerman was among those present for this feminist caucus.
The caucus produced a statement addressing several areas of concern: youth participation, climate change and justice, sexual and reproductive rights and legal barriers, sexual and reproductive health services, education, comprehensive sexuality education, and gender based violence.
The full text of the statement can be found here.
The IFOR movement joins the many people around the world who continue to respond to the murder of human rights activist Berta Cáceres. IFOR in Latin America (known as SERPAJ) released the following statement shortly after news broke of the Caceres assassination.
For the original statement in spanish click here.
El Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina, SERPAJ-AL, expresses their protest for the recent vile assassination of the Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres Flores, who was general coordinator of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH).
Berta Cáceres was a strong promotor of various campaigns against the construction of a hydroelectric dam meant to be built in the Rio Gualcarque, which is considered a sacred site for the Lenca ethnicity. Accomplishing with her constant campaigns that the powerful company Sinohydro, considered one of the biggest dam builders in the world, would withdraw their involvement in said project.
The project for the construction of the dam in the Gualcarque river, had the support of the International Financial Corporation, a member of the World Bank, who had strong economic investments in this ambitious project, which threatens the most of sacred places of the Lenca ethnicity.
Berta Cáceres received the Goldman environmental award, for her activities in defense of human rigths, especially those concerning the right to a healthy environment, highest acknowledgement for those that promote the protection of both nature and the global environment, both such beloved by humankind.
In view of the monstrous consequences for humanity and the whole life on earth due to nuclear explosion IFOR urges for a ban on all nuclear weapons including possession, prohibition of use and final elimination of such weapons. It is the responsibility of all nuclear states to abandon the manufacturing and development of nuclear weapons, which may endanger their own population. In order to achieve these aims we recommend first an international treaty for a prohibition of use of such weapons then a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for a total elimination.
Lead by IFOR's main representative to the United Nations in New York, John Kim, IFOR along with the Center for Global Nonkilling sent the statement below to members of the UN Security Council as they prepare deliberations in response to recent actions of North Korea.
"As concerned NGOs accredited to the UN, we are writing to urge the Security Council to take positive measures to defuse the rising military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, we would like to encourage the Security Council members to tackle the root causes of the continuing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and act in such a manner “to prevent an aggravation of the situation” in Korea (Article 40, UN Charter), in “conformity with the principles of justice and international law” (Article 1 (1), UN Charter)."