The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection published its Annual Report on Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe 2022/23, covering the region of Council of Europe (CoE) as well as Russia (former CoE member state) and Belarus (candidate CoE member state).
Overall, the human right to conscientious objection to military service was higher in the European agenda in 2022, as a result of the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the courageous conscientious objectors and pacifists.
The continuation of the war itself constitutes a tragic failure of diplomacy and politicians, as well as a bloody victory of militarism and war profiteers. The military mobilisation and the prosecution of those who object the war constitutes a blatant violation of their fundamental human rights, as well as the indiscriminate European sanctions against all Russians, instead of granting Visas (type C and D) at least to those who object the war. (EBCO’s President Alexia Tsouni)
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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) newest military expenditure data for 2022 shows yet another year of increase in global military spending, up 3.7 percent from 2021 to another all-time high of US$ 2240 billion. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, increases in military spending in Europe and the Western world were certainly expected; however, with the release of this data an important question must be addressed: does the outbreak of war drive increases in military spending, or rather do the incessant, yearly increases in military spending drive conflict and work?
While there is certainly no direct or decisive answer to that question, we have to take this year’s SIPRI data in the context of the geopolitical landscape of the past decades. What is crystal clear from this perspective is that constant increases in military spending have not fostered peace or peace processes in ongoing wars and have not prevented the outbreak of new, larger, and increasingly concerning conflicts such as the war in Ukraine. Likewise, increases in military spending are completely unable to address the various security concerns at the forefront of our societies – from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation to protection from future pandemics and growing inequality and food insecurity in many parts of the world. And of course, the threat posed by countries upgrading their nuclear arsenals combined with increased rhetoric around the threat of the use of nuclear weapons and further expansion of illegal nuclear sharing to Belarus (already present in Western Europe under the US nuclear umbrella) puts our entire planet at risk.
In many other cases, from Saudi Arabia and Iran to Sudan and Burundi, and Japan and China, military expenditure increases have not helped to reduce growing tensions and violence. The United States and the NATO alliance, who together continue to account for the majority of global spending, have in particular been a source of growing global tensions. In the face of recent geopolitical developments, there needs to be an alternative to constant growths in military budgets; there needs to be a resurgence of funding for diplomatic efforts, for the reduction of global tensions, complemented by funding for peace advocacy, peacebuilding, just resolution, and just reconstruction of conflict zones. The current global military expenditure is more than enough to fund not only peace work, but also to address the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), including climate change, poverty, and hunger.
The world cannot continue on the path we are on. The International Peace Bureau, Global Campaign for Military Spending, and our global network of partners reject the logic of global leaders that preparing for war creates peace, we reject the role of the military-industrial complex in fuelling this continued growth, and we reject the view that there is no alternative. We urge the UN General Assembly to organize a special session on disarmament. We will use the Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) from 13 April until 9 May to make our message heard and promote peaceful alternatives to militarism and war.
The world’s militaries are responsible for roughly five percent of global Greenhouse Gas emissions, however, their carbon footprint, as well as the various other ways that they contribute to climate breakdown, are rarely scrutinized. Our governments currently spend more than US$2 trillion on militarization, but military expansion is inconsistent with efforts to reach essential emissions targets and will exacerbate, not stem, the climate emergency. War and armed conflict lead, not only to death and destruction but also to environmental devastation and climate breakdown. Although our governments may argue that such “defense” spending is necessary, it will ultimately render us defenseless in the face of the existential threat posed by the climate crisis.
Global heating poses a major and sustained risk to our planet’s climatic cycles and the resultant weather-related disasters often exacerbate existing injustices – and this can lead to conflict for access to land and basic resources, as well as forced displacement. Tackling Climate change must involve dealing with other structural problems such as poverty, economic shocks, and weakened institutions. This is particularly true in regions that have contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet are impacted the most by its devastating consequences.
As well as their carbon footprint, the world’s military structures also contribute to the climate crisis in other key ways:
Crucially, military spending diverts resources away from essential environmental and social spending, including initiatives to slow the speed of climate change, deal with loss and damage, and respond to weather emergencies.
Military structures in the form of national armies, militarized police forces, or private security companies are often deployed to protect the fossil fuel industry. This sector is one of the largest producers of GHG and military protection of it makes it complicit in these emissions.
Although we urgently need to protect our ecosystems from environmental destruction, all too often when environmental activists take steps to safeguard their lands, rivers and seas, they are violently repressed by militarized security structures including the police, private security companies, and, at times, the army.
The nexus between fossil fuel and extractivism, and armed conflict and war is well documented, from the colonial period to the wars of today.
More and more people are being forced from their homes due to extreme weather events brought about by climate change. In the same way that the border security apparatus currently contains people and stops them from reaching safety or seeking asylum, the military will likely be further deployed to keep out those fleeing climate-related disasters.
Moreover, the arms industry, which in many ways is the backbone of militarism, invests significant time and finance in corporate lobbying to advance its own profit-driven agenda. In recent years it has used the climate crisis as an opportunity to position itself as a key player in designing ‘greener’ weapons and has lobbied for more funding to be earmarked for that purpose. This approach prolongs and deepens the logic that drives militarism and war.
Political leadership has focused on hawkish politics and saber-rattling, stoking tension and fear, instead of cultivating international relations based on mutual trust, diplomacy, and cooperation – three components that are essential to tackle the global nature of the climate threat. Funds that could be used to mitigate or reverse climate breakdown, and to promote peaceful conflict transformation, disarmament, and global justice initiatives, are instead being spent on militarizing an already over-militarised world.
We urgently call on governments to:
Change course and focus on rapid, deep cuts to military spending, driving an arms race and fuelling war;
Demilitarize public policy, including policies designed to tackle the climate crisis;
Implement human and common-security-centered policies that protect people and the planet and not the profit-driven agenda of the arms and fossil fuel industries;
Create governance structures and alliances based on mutual trust and understanding, cooperation, and true diplomacy, where conflict is resolved through dialogue, not war.
The opportunity cost of doing otherwise just can’t get any higher.
This year of war in Ukraine has meant a huge boost for militarism and military budgets across the world, especially in countries of the Global North. But at GCOMS we believe the response should be quite the opposite: we should drastically reduce military spending and invest in common & human security instead…
The 12th edition of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending will take place from April 13 to May 9, 2023. Join us in protesting military budgets & warmongering, and take action for peace & justice!
These dates include:
April 18: Tax Day in the USA
April 22: Earth Day
April 24: GDAMS press conferences and social media storm on the occasion of SIPRI’s release of new data on military spending
May 9: Europe’s Day of Peace · Actions against the militarization of the EU
How can you get involved?
If you’re part of an organization:
Prepare your own GDAMS action or join activities prepared by other organizations near you. Once you know the details of your action please send us an email so we can add them to our map & agenda and help you spread the word. You can see examples from last year here.
April 24 will be the main day of action once again. Using new military spending data released that day by SIPRI (figures for 2022), we’ll hold press conferences and launch a Social Media Storm. We’ll send instructions for social media actions soon, and if you’re preparing media work in your city/country, we can help you plan it.
Stay active during GDAMS by sharing ideas, articles, actions and debates through your own network and social media, with other GCOMS partners, and with us (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
Join a local group working on the issue, or set one up! Here’s our list of partners.
Do Online Campaigning: join our social media storm on April 24; use your social media to protest military budgets by sharing pictures, news, materials, and actions;
Write an op-ed; Send a letter to representatives in your country responsible for defense budgets.
On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, 21st September, Connection e.V., the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the European Office for Conscientious Objection, and War Resisters’ International are calling for a signature campaign for deserters and conscientious objectors from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The #ObjectWarCampaign calls on all citizens from everywhere to join the global effort to ensure protection and asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine involved in the current war in the region. They are our hope to refuse war and let peace prevail!
On April 6, 2022, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, had called on Russian soldiers to desert and promised them protection under refugee law. So far, this promise has not been fulfilled.
Within the scope of #ObjectWarCampaign, a petition has been prepared for everyone to sign in. The petition is addressed to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, and the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. The petition emphasizes the need to uphold the right to asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine by hosting states. The petition launched on the WeMove.eu website can now be signed in German, English, French, Italian and Greek.
Ukraine suspended the right to conscientious objection and closed the border for men between 18 and 60. Over 100,000 men have evaded war involvement in Ukraine and fled abroad. Currently, Ukrainian citizens have temporary residence in the European Union. The #ObjectWarCampaign petition demands that the right to conscientious objection to military service is fully guaranteed in Ukraine.
The petition signatures are a crucial sign of support for conscientious objectors and deserters. This campaign highlights the importance of opening borders to those who oppose the war at great personal risk in their countries and calls on everyone around the world to support those who refuse to fight and kill.
Every recruit can be a conscientious objector, every soldier a deserter. Let’s support those who refuse to kill and end war together!
The launch of the petition has been anticipated by an appeal sent in June 2022, to the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe -supported by 60 organizations from 20 countries – detailing why protection and support for deserters and conscientious objectors on all sides of the Ukrainian war is necessary and moreover that it is a human right. There have already been discussions about this in the European Parliament.
More information: The appeal to the European institutions can be found here. Background information can be found here.
The UK government is sending depleted uranium shells for use in the Challenger 2 tanks gifted to Ukraine, a move CND has condemned as an additional environmental and health disaster for those living through the conflict.
First reported by Declassified UK, Defence Minister Baroness Goldie admitted in the answer to a written question that armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were included in its tank package for Kyiv. She added that the rounds “are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles.”
A byproduct of the nuclear enriching process used to make nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons, DU emits three-quarters of the radioactivity of natural uranium and shares many of its risks and dangers. It is used in armour-piercing rounds as it is heavy and can easily penetrate steel. However on impact, toxic or radioactive dust can be released and subsequently inhaled.
DU shells were used extensively by the US and British in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, as well as in the Balkans during the 1990s.
It is thought that the extensive use of these shells is responsible for the sharp rise in the incidence rate of some cancers like breast cancer or lymphoma in the areas they were used. Other illnesses linked to DU include kidney failure, nervous system disorders, lung disease and reproductive problems. However, a lack of reliable data on exposure to DU means no large-scale study on its true impact exists.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said:
“Like in Iraq, the addition of depleted uranium ammunition into this conflict will only increase the long-term suffering of the civilians caught up in this conflict. DU shells have already been implicated in thousands of unnecessary deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses. CND has repeatedly called for the UK government to place an immediate moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons and to fund long-term studies into their health and environmental impacts. Sending them into yet another war zone will not help the people of Ukraine.”
February 24th, 2023 marks the 1-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. After almost one year, weapons are still not silent. News are still dominated by new attacks and their humanitarian consequences. This cannot continue. Around the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, organizations and groups from the peace and disarmament movement organized actions all over the world to show solidarity with Ukraine and call for a ceasefire and negotiations.
We compiled many actions and demonstrations in a list made public to all:
Preliminary report on national activities in the ambit of Europe-For-Peace
Here you can find a preliminary report about activities on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Ukraine war. So far we have reports from Italy, UK/London, Belgium/Brussels, and Croatia/Zagreb. More reports from Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and also Denmark might be added soon. We thank Martin Koehler for providing us with this preliminary report.
South Korea Action regarding 1 year of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – PSPD
On February 23, on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 56 South Korean civil society organizations took action to condemn the Russian invasion and call for a ceasefire.
Our partners of PSPD in Korea are currently translating the statement into English. We thank Sooyoung Hwang for helping us with this translation.
PEACE IS OUR VICTORY
On February 23-24, 2023, the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) happened in Vienna. The meeting coincides with the launch of the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
During the OSCE session, representatives of the Austrian peace movement gather at the Vienna Hofburg and project their demand for peace in Russian, Ukrainian, English, and German on the façade of the building complex where the delegates meet: “Peace is our victory”.
We thank Katerina Anastasiou from transform! Europe with this information on the activities in Vienna.
1,000 march in Helsinki to demand peace in Ukraine
Provided by our partners at Peace Union of Finland, here we have the register made by Yle News webpage.
“Events marking the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued in Helsinki on Saturday. Following a candlelight vigil on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral on Friday, there was a procession through the capital on Saturday afternoon calling for an end to the war and supporting those suffering due to it. […] ‘There are Ukrainians, Russians, and Finns here, and it seems that some foreign tourists have also joined,’ an organizer told Yle.”
We thank Laura Lodenius from the Peace Union of Finland for this information on the activities in Helsinki.
IPB Webinar – 365 Days of War in Ukraine: Prospects Towards Peace in 2023
One year after the beginning of the Ukraine war – the International Peace Bureau in cooperation with the Peace in Ukraine Coalition (USA), Movement de la Paix (France), CND (UK) and Transform! Europe held an international webinar to bring together different voices from different countries to discuss a lasting peace in Ukraine and the way towards it.
Introductory words by Michael von der Schulenburg, a former UN/OSCE diplomat who also participated in the development of the Vatican peace plan;
Afterward, both Ukrainian and Russian activists will share their perspectives on the ongoing situation, including Oleg Bodrov (Public Council of the Gulf of Finland), Karyna Radchenko (100 Words for Peace), and Yurii Sheliazhenko (Ukrainian Pacifist Movement).
A roundtable discussion by different peace activists – including Corazon Valdez Fabros (IPB Co-President), Reiner Braun (former IPB Director, Germany), Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition, UK), Alain Rouy (Movement de la Paix), Francesco Vignarca (Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, Italy), Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK) and Kate Hudson (CND) as moderator.
Приостановка Россией действия договора СНВ-3 (the New START Treaty) знаменует собой последнюю опасную и безответственную эскалацию ядерных угроз после вторжения на Украину год назад. Быстрое ухудшение дипломатических отношений между Россией и Западом, наряду с усилением военных действий в Украине и прежними ядерными угрозами со стороны России, должно послужить тревожным сигналом для всего мира: мы ближе, чем когда-либо, к ядерному уничтожению.
Незадолго до российского вторжения, в январе 2022 года, лидеры пяти ядерных держав подтвердили то, что мы все знаем как истину: ядерную войну нельзя вести и ее нельзя выиграть. Вместо того чтобы принять это сообщение близко к сердцу, Россия и Запад продолжают полагаться на ядерное сдерживание как на фундаментальную стратегию своей внешней политики, в том числе в качестве щита для своих империалистических авантюр. Обе стороны виновны в подрыве режима контроля над ядерными вооружениями, установленного во время холодной войны — посещение ядерных объектов США в рамках СНВ-3 также было ограничено санкциями против России. Угроза применения ядерного оружия сейчас выше, чем когда-либо в истории со времен кубинского ракетного кризиса.
Международное бюро мира вновь призывает к немедленному прекращению огня в Украине и к участию всех вовлеченных сторон в переговорах, чтобы положить конец насилию и кровопролитию. Мы требуем, чтобы переговоры включали вопросы безопасности украинцев, россиян и западных правительств, чтобы они основывались на общей безопасности и немедленно возобновили действие договора СНВ-3, а также работали над восстановлением дальнейших договоров по контролю над ядерными вооружениями и об установлении доверия, на основе принципов общей безопасности.
Кроме того, Международное бюро мира призывает положить конец дорогостоящей модернизации ядерного оружия — многомиллиардному проекту, который ничего не делает для обеспечения безопасности, — и ко всем странам поддержать Договор о запрещении ядерного оружия (ДЗЯО) во имя безопасного и безъядерного будущего.
Russia’s suspension of the New START Treaty marks the latest in the dangerous and irresponsible escalation of nuclear threats since the invasion of Ukraine one year ago. The rapid deterioration of diplomatic relations between Russia and the West, alongside the intensification of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s previous nuclear threats, must serve as a wake-up call to the world: we are closer than we have ever been to nuclear annihilation.
Just prior to the Russian invasion, in January 2022, the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states reiterated what we all know to be true: a nuclear war must not be fought and cannot be won. Instead of taking this message to heart, Russia and the West continue to rely on nuclear deterrence as a fundamental strategy for their foreign policies, including as a shield for their imperialist ventures. Both sides are guilty of eroding the nuclear arms control regime established during the Cold War – visits to US nuclear sites under New START were likewise restricted by sanctions against Russia. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons is now higher than at any point in history since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The International Peace Bureau calls again for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and for all involved parties to engage in negotiations to bring the violence and bloodshed to an end. We demand that negotiations include the security concerns of Ukrainians, Russians, and Western governments to rely on common security and to immediately resume the New START treaty, as well as to work for the re-establishment of further nuclear arms control and trust-building treaties, in line with the principles of common security.
Furthermore, IPB calls for an end to the expensive modernization of nuclear weapons – a multi-billion dollar project that does nothing to ensure security – and for all nations to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for a safer, nuclear-free future.
You can download the PDF version of this Statement in English here: