Militarisation of Youth

Our Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme identifies and challenges the many ways in which young people around the world are encouraged to accept the military and military values as normal, and worthy of their uncritical support. Militarisation is a process that goes far beyond overt recruitment. It includes the presence and influence of the armed forces in education, public military events such as parades and military-themed video games.

As part of our programme, we bring together a network of activists already working on countering youth militarisation in their own settings, and encourage more people to take action on these issues. Our activities with this aim include:

Antimili-youth.net

In August 2014 we launched a website specifically on the topic of youth militarisation. It's a place where you can add your own resources - to share documentation on how young people come into contact with the military, and how to challenge the militarisation of young people around the world. Find it here: http://www.antimili-youth.net

International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth

In June 2013, we supported groups and individuals who took action as part of the first ever International Day of Action for Military-Free Education and Research, followed in 25 - 31 October 2014 by the first week of action for Military-Free Education and Research. Since 2015, WRI has been organising the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth with the participation of various groups from across the world via their autonomous actions and events. See the reports from 2015 here, and from 2016 here.

Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter

Following our international conference on Countering the Militarisation of Youth in Darmstadt, Germany, in June 2012, we published a book based on themes explored at the conference: Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter. It is available to purchase here in English, and available to read for free here.

Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation

In 2017, thanks to the support of the Network for Social Change, we have started a new project, Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation. As part of this project, we are going to organise a number of trainings with grassroots activists from across different countries, focusing on the role of gender in our campaigns against youth militarisation. The project will also include an online resource to be out in 2018, inquiring these issues further with contributions by activists and experts in the field.

 

As part of the work against the militarisation of education, since 2011, several schools in Germany have opposed cooperation with the German Bundeswehr and do not allow visits by Bundeswehr representatives to the school.

Robert-Blum-Gymnasium, Berlin: The school conference of the Robert-Blum-Gymnasium decided on Thursday, 24 March 2011, with a vote of 7 to 1 to adopt a proposal for making it a military-free school. The proposal was worded as follows:

Robert-Blum-Gymnasium – School without military

– A new area of work for War Resisters' International

In Europe, and to some degree on a global level, there are presently two trends which both contribute to an increase in the militarisation of youth. The first trend is the end (or, more exactly, the suspension) of conscription in most European countries since the 1990s. In 2011, Germany, one of the last major military and economic powers in Europe which still maintained conscription, suspended conscription. The second trend is one of an increasing “normalisation of war”. Since the war in the Balkans, but even more so since 9/11 and the announcement of the “war on terror”, the political use of military force has increased – war is no longer seen as a failure of politics, but as one of the tools of politics. This led to a radical restructuring of military forces, oriented towards mobility and military intervention. But it also brought with it new justifications for the use of military force: first “humanitarian intervention” (Yugoslavia, Somalia), then the “war on terror” (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the “responsibility to protect” (Libya). Both trends reinforce each other, and one outcome is the increased militarisation of youth from an early age on.

The most recent manifestations of the conflict in Colombia date back to 1948, when the presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was assassinated, cutting off the possibility that socialist-leaning ideas might have a place of decision and power in the Colombian state.

On 27 April the Defence Review Committee appointed by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans published its Defence Review draft report. The last time South Africa undertook a Defence Review was in the late 1990s and it was in the context of a new democratic dispensation. However, those civil society organizations who participated in the 1996-98 review were disappointed and felt compromised by the final outcome.

Article 1

States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

Article 2

States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.

Explanation

by Lothar Krappmann (member, Committee on the Rights of the Child)

Rafael Uzcátegui

In 1998 lieutenant colonel Hugo Chávez won the presidency of Venezuela, after staging a coup d’etat in 1992. For the first time in Venezuela’s democratic period (which began in 1958), a member of the Armed Forces was elected head of state. One of the consequences was that a new phase of progressive militarisation had begun in the country, initiated with a constitutional reform in 1999, which granted members of the Armed Forces the right to vote, in addition to other political rights, such as the right to be elected to public office in a public vote. Today, soldiers occupy different offices, such as ministers, governors, and mayors. Although there is a coalition of political parties that supports president Chávez, the Gran Polo Patriótico, there is a lot of evidence that shows that, in fact, the Armed Forces are Hugo Chávez's political organisation of trust to exercise political power.

When examining militarisation and young people in this country, we must necessarily look back and take into account the hundreds of years of militarism in the area's history: land occupations and violence by European colonists, construction of the 'national heroes' to motivate patriotism, legislation of obligatory military training, exponential military spending versus the social spending diet, introduction of of military training in civilian schools, and mutation of the armed forces according to the dominant economic model.

“A true Israeli doesn't dodge draft!” [1] – this slogan stands at the centre of a large-scale publicity campaign in Israel. The campaign was not run by the Israeli military, and it was not aiming to add more soldiers to the dwindling ranks of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Israel has (at least de jure) universal conscription, for both men and women. But this slogan did express, and strengthen, how most Israelis understand the role of military service in the life of an Israeli – a true Israeli.

The German Bundeswehr in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the German people

Small and ready to fight. In spite of a general reduction in personnel, the German Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) should in the future be more fit for action: 10,000 German soldiers should be able to be deployed abroad at any time, instead of the current 7,000 . But since the suspension of conscription, the German Armed Forces have to meet their recruitment needs entirely by persuading the civilian population to join in: 170,000 (career soldiers, soldiers on contract, reservists), plus 5,000 (soldiers recruited for voluntary military service), plus X (less than 10,000 additional soldiers recruited for voluntary military service) – equal less than 185,000 soldiers. This calculation was presented by German Minister of Defence Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democrats) in a policy speech in Berlin on 18 June 2011. Presently, it does not seem to be a problem for the German Bundeswehr to find 5,000 new recruits every year. But it is less clear whether they can meet the more ambitious target of 15,000 new recruits annually, because conscription was only suspended in summer 2011 and up to now not all the figures on new recruits (and drop-outs) of the last quarters are available.

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