Tuesday, July 21, 2015

War Resisters International - Tactics for Combating Militarism (2013) // Stopping the War Business: SEOUL, 16-17 October 2015


Thank you for joining War Resisters International and the New Tactics community for an online conversation on tactics for combating the militarisation of education, public spaces, vulnerable communities, entertainment and culture, from June 10 to 14, 2013.

Governments and other military actors around the world target youth and other vulnerable communities for military recruitment and service. Simultaneously, the militarisation of public spheres such as space and culture promote the acceptance of the prioritising of military capability and approaches. In response, human rights organizations and other campaigners have developed innovative ways of combating increasing militarisation.

Practitioners are exploring ways to utilize international mechanisms to support the right to conscientious objection - one of the most visible ways of rejecting militarisation. Other practitioners are working to stop the disproportionate targeting of vulnerable communities for military recruitment, such as youth and people of lower income, by raising the awareness of cultural recruitment and creating “military-free schools”.

This conversation was an opportunity for teachers, students, lawyers, peace activists and practitioners from around the world to share their experiences and challenges in combating the culture of militarism in their communities. This event coincided with the International Day of Action for Military-Free Education and Research on June 14.

Summary of ConversationTactic examples shared in the conversation:
  • At Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) in Nepal, a nationwide campaign in the name of ‘youth un/employment’ was organized by an ex-combatant Maoist youth leader and now functions like a non-militant NGO.
  • In Nepal, a counter-recruitment four-point-plan was executed to ally with the local community, develop the local economy and explore the interconnectedness between human and nature.
  • Vermont Action for Peace is currently working on a comic book to show how militarism is hidden in “plain sight” in the US, the hope is to educate young people about the militarized society.
  • The Canada Student Loans Program offers students loans to attend college and trade schools, diminishing the number of recruits and suppressing the glorification of military life.
  • Confronting your opponent in adversarial ways to shame them, and ways that are more friendly and subtle to open dialogue.
  • In Finland, anti-militarists reinterpreted recruitment slogans through a series of posters of Union of CO’s to raise awareness about their militarised culture.
  • Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) uses non violence to break the linkages between gender and military, by hosting the Training of Trainers Cycle.
  • In the UK, ForcesWatch works to stimulate public debate on the presence of the military in education; Woodcraft Folk started their own ‘Military out of Schools’ campaign to combat the military in the education system.
  • Using images to reclaim military symbols and raise critical awareness of militarisation through the reinterpretation of military symbols, such as: Pink tankflower in the barrell of a gun, a rifle turned into a saxophone on WRI social media, and the white poppy in the UK.
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War suggests utilizing veterans to tell their story of their military experience and what it’s like to be in the military and the risks involved.
How can we stop targeted recruiting of vulnerable communities?
Individual participants discussed the reasons behind recruitment and the tools or steps needed to relieve these vulnerable populations in their communities. To begin, it is important to define who the vulnerable community is. The potential recruitment of criminals was discussed by one participant. Another marginalised or minority group targeted by the military may be other-than-straight people. In Egypt, where military service is compulsory, the most vulnerable group is the illiterate who didn’t finish basic education.

Next, it is important to of these communities to join the military. In several countries, the military is seen as a path for social ascent, placing the military in a privileged position with material temptations to offer. In Kenya, high unemployment rates and lack of basic education create marginalized groups that may render a group of people vulnerable. By making basic education mandatory through legislation or increasing job training, young people will be enabled to make informed decision on whether or not to join the military, another participant suggests. These changes require major lobbying of the lawmakers and mature advocacy.

In counter-recruitment, it is critical to have allies. One potential ally may be political parties or independent local social leaders. Another participant recommends utilizing the media as a mass motivator to divert youth from militant or violent psyche towards a peaceful living. 

If media houses support the idea of de-militarisation, they could provide a platform on which advocates can stand and these actions can be addressed and potentially stopped. In Egypt, potential allies include liberals who believe in freedom, tolerance and peace.

How can we raise critical awareness about the militarisation of culture?
Participants discussed how the local culture promotes the military, activities that were taken to question this militarisation and how these activities functioned. 

Participants discussed the current situations in Nepal, the United StatesPakistan (more Pakistan), FinlandMacedonia and Former-Yugoslavia and Canada. Each country’s situation is unique; participants describe cultural aspects ranging from national holidays to political money to children’s toys.

In some cultures, where religion plays an important role, some denominations have sought to demilitarize their faith traditions. The role of gender is another very important conversation topic within militarisation. Additionally, another participant commented that some multinational companies are involved in inappropriate financial relationships including payments and investments. Even if we would sometimes like to see these cultural shifts happen quickly, these cultural paradigm shifts may take longer and require a blend of tactics.

One participant commented that Direct Nonviolent Actions may be the first step to using dialogue to combat this carefully orchestrated and seemingly successful structural violence. A participant included that the best way to raise critical awareness is to focus on the youth, before they are able to enlist. This can be done through counter-recruitment by sharing information and holding community events that embrace peace or help youth see the differences between national ideals and a militaristic consciousness. 

Another participant commented that “counter-recruitment should be performed by strong tough men as well as lanky nerdy folks”, which sparked additional discussion on recruitment.

How can we challenge the military’s influence in the education system?
Participants shared their experiences of the military in educational institutions, including struggles, resources, and potential allies. Participants included the following successful tactic examples, when working in the education system, including:

  • Peace Education Programs, such as the Open Minds project or Youth Organization United Through Hope (Youth Can) in Pakistan, aim to reverse the adverse effects of militarism.
  • In Spain, an anti militarist group has published documents to orient teachers on Peace Education. They have a blog and a Facebook group (social media tools) which provide documentation to counteract the army’s offer.
  • Promoting peace through sports, such as the program “Sports for Peace,” has equipped youth sports teams with equipment and established a network of teams.
  • Open Minds Pakistan, a project run by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, aims to provide training in journalism to young people in Pakistani schools and religious schools, and to give them the opportunity to discuss, debate and publish reports on current affairs.
  • A fairly simple tool of translating existing materials or training manuals into native or national languages can help educate human rights practitioners.
  • New Profile in Israel aims to fundamentally change the education system bychanging educational material. The goal is to generate and stimulate a new public discourse and to encourage critical thinking that questions the effects of militarism on society.
  • In Egypt, there are public militaristic schools, where students must succeed in a military upbringing subject in high school to be given their basic school certificate of completion. A few students refused to partake in the militarist requirements, brought attention to their cases, and the schools gave them their schooling certificate regardless.
Participants agree that education is critical in the abolition of hatred and violence.One participant commented that a liberal democratic model of civic education in Pakistani schools is needed to promote democratic values, tolerance, gender equality, and civic participation skills. In Kenya, education and defense have a history, and with high levels of unemployment, young people began to embrace the idea of joining the military on a voluntary basis. In Chicago and Spain, participants commented that an increased enrollment in the military was directly correlated with high rates of unemployment and military presence in schools.

In general, there is a strong support for the Armed Forces in the UK, however, in 2008, the National Union of Teachers voted to support those who oppose military recruitment in schools. When working with teachers, one of the biggest challenges is getting ahold of the teachers to train them. While teachers are potential allies, their busy schedules make it difficult to work closely with them.

An additional challenge in the education system may be transparency and access to information. Peace recruiters in Chicago have used the Equal Access decision, a policy adopted by the Chicago Public Schools, to obtain the same access as military recruiters have. Often, the recruiters talk about the bright positive image of what an army can be and fail to mention war or casualties.

When looking for potential allies in the educational system, one participant commented that it is important to reach out to the “general public” and to make connections and alliances between similar movements. Additionally, many successes can be found if you are able to win over the aggressor.

Tools for combating militarisation (from campaign tactics to information websites, ENGLISH)

Participants shared the tools and resources that they have found useful.
Tools for combating militarisation (from campaign tactics to information websites, SPANISH)
  • Batidas: Illegal roundups, a tactic that the army uses to recruit youth. The Accion Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (COOC) developed a format through which a person gives information about the place, time, person and other data.
  • Escuela en Paz (Facebook).
  • Informe - OC: War Resisters’ International , information on the status of conscientious objection in different parts of the world.
  • Manual para Campañas Noviolentas: Internacional de Resistentes a la Guerra.
  • Noticias de la IRG: War Resisters’ International , various articles and resources in English, Spanish, French and German.
  • Objetoras de conciencia. Antologia: Book by War Resisters’ International.
First published in New Tactics: