During the first weekend of October the international seminar "War Profiteering and Peace Movement Responses" took place in the sunny city of Barcelona. The seminar was hosted by Justícia i Pau (Centre Delàs) and Fundació per la Pau and organised together with War Resisters' International (WRI) and the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT).
The idea of this seminar came about at the WRI International Conference, “Nonviolent Livelihood Struggle and Global Militarism: Links & Strategies” held in India in January 2010. At that conference we connected the issue of war profiteering with nonviolent resistance. However, we noted that something more was needed to connect groups working against war profiteering. WRI has been trying to do this, especially through the newsletter War Profiteers' News, and ENAAT has established an effective cooperation in Europe, but it was as if we needed to move up a gear. With the enthusiasm generated by the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, and with fresh impetus from increased public consciousness of sleazy arms deals with autocrats facing the "Arab Spring" and the swingeing cuts in social spending provoked by a financial crisis that has not brought "deep cuts" in military spending, the time seemed ripe for a face-to-face meeting. Electronic communication can be very effective in building up dossiers, but it helps if people have meet each other personally. Therefore WRI approached Centre Delas from Barcelona, a member of ENAAT, to see if they would be interested in hosting such event. They quickly said yes, especially if it could coincide with their traditional series of public meetings called Trobada. All these helped us to provide the structure for the seminar, where during the day we had the more “internal seminar” - with 50 participants from 17 countries - and in the three evenings the open conference (Trobada) which was open to the general public with up to 200 participants.
The series of activities started with the opening of the Trobada, which was opened by Xavier Masllorens president fo Fundación per la Pau and Arcadi Oliveres, president of Justícia I Pau. This was followed by a lecture by Federico Mayor Zaragoza, president of the Fundación Cultura de Paz and former Director General of UNESCO, where he saw his mission as to “build a bastion of peace in the minds of all people”. The other two days of the Trobada had participants of the seminar as the main speakers.
The second panel focused on understanding who the war profiteers are, with Frida Berrigan of War Resisters League in the USA, first speaking about the different expressions of the movement in the USA that give us hope, naming the different activities and actions that were taking place at the time of the seminar, to then move to explain who were the main companies profiteering from war in the USA and their strategies to make this profit. Then Rob Thomson of Ceasefire Campaign in South Africa spoke about both the legal and illegal ways of war profiteering in Africa before highlighting the situation in South Africa, where Ceasefire campaigns against Denel, the state arms manufacturer. Closing the second day was Lexys Rendón of El Libertario in Venezuela, who presented the general trend in South America in military spending, exposing the countries which most spend on arms and which are the main countries that export to the region and how the increase in military spending is linked with the extraction of natural resources policies in the region.
The last day of the Trobada was for looking at experiences of campaigns. Colin Archer of IPB, opened by sharing IPB's experience in organising the Global Day on Military Spending. Wendela de Vries of Campagne Tegen Wapenhandel, representing ENAAT, talked about some of the main campaigns of ENAAT, mostly focused trying to stop European arms export to countries in conflict. Javier Gárate of WRI talked about WRI's experience in campaign planning and shared stories of particular actions against war profiteering.
The aim of the seminar was to bring together people who are actively involved in this work, in particular making connections beyond Europe, and to go beyond Europe in terms of participants.
During the seminar we only had two plenary sessions. With the opening of the seminar being one of them. During this session Pere Ortega of Centre Delàs, welcomed everyone to Barcelona and talked about the importance of coming all together to talk about these issues and the need to build a stronger network of groups campaigning against war profiteering. Howard Clark, chair of WRI, started by playing Bob Dylan's song Masters of War. He especially emphasised the last lines - "I'll stand over your grave / Til I'm sure that you're dead" - because lobbyists against the arms trade had gained many new measures to restrict the arms trade, yet still these hardly hampered the war profiteers and their governments. Now when all the world could see the fruits of their cooperation with Arab autocrats, and when in many countries there were strong movements against governments cutting what people need (education, healthcare) rather than military spending, there was a real opportunity to press the case home. Ann Feltham representing ENAAT spoke about increased public receptiveness to their arguments in this current climate. As someone active in ENAAT since its formation, she spoke of her excitement at attending an event with participants from outside Europe - this really felt like a breakthrough.
Each day of the seminar, participants spent one session in "theme groups" - the same group meeting together to continue and deepen their work. There were three theme groups, each with the same structure. The first day looked at the emerging trends in each theme. The second day was for looking at past campaigns and potential new ones. The third and last day was on how to better cooperate together, what we called, internationalising the issue.
Theme group 1 New developments in war profiteering
- Need to expose more the issue of Homeland Security as a form of war profiteering
- Importance to look at how the industry is expanding for example armed ships against piracy
- Make the links of these new developments with the more “traditional” arms trade industry
Theme group 2 Exposing the bad guys
You can read a more detailed report in the following link (/node/13817).
- To create an academic chair to research the funding of war and the arms industry
- Citizens inspections of arms fairs, arm companies, etc. It might be good to have a common badge for the inspectors and official-looking inspection cards.
- An academic pledge , that I will not work on drones but will research the implications of this drones.
- To have a coordination system for doing transnational press releases
Theme group 3 War and the exploitation of natural resources
- Need to connect more with organisations already working in this field, for example: Global Witness, Survival International, etc.
- Link with the anti-mining networks
- More use of interactive maps to expose the areas where corporations are exploiting natural resources and the connection with conflict and militarism.
- Could be good to have an antimilitarist TV internet channel, where we could all post videos.
2012 Rio Conference, will be a mayor event looking at climate change and the impact to our resources. Would be good to work making the connection with military spending and the role of multinational corporations.
The other plenary session was the closing of the seminar. This session included reports from the three seminar theme groups, which was followed by some general discussions on ideas of what follow up we should have from the seminar, here we list some of the ones mentioned:
The idea of some form of loose network came up. Where we could connect the different networks, campaigns and organisations working on this. It was not decided what formed could this have, and in the end it was agreed that we should work toward strengthening email communication via the WRI email list, and through this list to see what form of cooperation we should have. We then moved to talk about the different email lists we have.
There are several email lists which serve different purposes. The idea is to use the firstname.lastname@example.org for follow up from the seminar. At the same time there is a list for ENAAT, a list for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending and several other IPB lists, as well as a list dedicated to the work on Israel arms trade. It was suggested to make a list of all lists related to war profiteering to see which can be integrated and also for people to know where to subscribe for what.
In several session the idea of how to better use online maps came up. In particular after Lexys Rendón presented the map by El Libertario of Venezuela and the connection between multinational corporations and militarism and the work on maps by Switzerland Without an Army. A group met after the closing sessions to come up with some more concrete ideas.
The seminar was closed with words from Pere Ortega and Howard Clark of how important was this event and looking forward to further cooperation.
Always one of the biggest challenges when organising international events, is the question: so what next? During these events many ideas come out, but the truth is that very few are properly followed up. However as we said earlier in this report, this seminar was in many ways a follow up result from a previous event. For WRI the main contribution of this seminar was the fact that we brought together people from different networks and organisations in many countries who are actively working in this field. This helped to feel that we are all part of a wider network of organisations working on the economic dimension of war and conflicts, and that it is very important that we can work better together. Many of the ideas from the seminar will depend in individual people pursuing them, but also WRI is committed to this work and will make sure that the seminar help us to move forward in our work. Now that we know each other it should be easier to work together.
If you want to see pictures of the seminar go to: /node/13815