From the Executive

Proposal for a study conference on Social Change Strategy

From time to time, WRI is approached by movements engaged in social struggle to discuss questions of strategy development and the use of nonviolence. To increase WRI's capacity to respond to these approaches, the 1995 Council meeting agreed to hold a study conference on Social Change Strategy.

The February meeting of the WRI Exec proposed a working group to develop a structure for a study conference of up to 100 people. This conference could be held some time between January and May 1997: the Executive would like to hear from groups interested in hosting such an event in their country.

Proposal for Seminar on Race and Military Recruitment

Is there a WRI affiliate interested in hosting a seminar on this issue?

The WRI Executive thinks it would be valuable to have an exchange of experience and information between affiliates on some of the race issues raised by the trend towards professionalising the armed forces. For instance, this was a major theme for the US War Resisters League in the period after the Gulf War when their video "It's Not Just a Job" was designed specifically to reach out to young people in the African- and Hispanic-American communities in the USA.

If your group would be interested, please get in touch with the WRI office saying what your specific interest in, when you would be able to host such an event, and what the costs and fund-raising opportunities would be.

Balkan Peace Team

The Balkan Peace Team currently has one project in Croatia, Otvorene Oci with volunteers in Zagreb and Split, and one in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is also investigating possible work in Eastern Slavonia.

The project in FR Yugoslavia began in Kosovo, but in April last year the team withdrew from Prishtine as they were bringing unwanted police attention to certain local people. Then began a process of registering as an association in FR Yugoslavia. This process was completed in November, and now BPT is considering how much it can do in Kosovo and what is appropriate in the rest of the federal republic.

Volunteers are asked to make a minimum commitment of six months and to take part in a 10-day training.

Contact: Balkan Peace Team, Marienwall 9, D-32423 Minden, Germany (tel +49 571 20776, fax: +49 571 23019, email balkan-peace-team@bionic.zerberus.de) if you are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to receive the BPT Newsletter.

War tax resisters support Contingency Fund

Objeción Fiscal in the state of Spain has given I million pesetas (over £5,000) to the Joint Nonviolent Contingency Fund, being managed by WRI. And that is only a third of the surplus they raised in their 1995 appeal. Each year Objeción Fiscal adopts an international project and sets a target for funds to raise. In 1994, the partner was Women in Black in Yugoslavia; in 1995, Conavigua in Guatemala. However, as they raised 5 million pesetas when their target was 2 million pesetas, the group decided to give 1 million pesetas each to the Contingency Fund, Women in Black - Belgrade, and Conavigua.

The Contingency Fund, which was adopted as a common project by the war tax resisters' international meeting in the Basque country in September 1994, has received contributions from the Canadian, Dutch and Swiss war tax funds, and Italian war tax resisters are making a large contribution (about £4,000) towards the first project developed with the Fund - the International Centre for Peace and Human Rights in Grozny.

Chechnya: European Speaking Tour

The renewed fighting in Grozny and the bombing of Sernovodsk is making it more difficult to proceed with the plan to establish an International Centre for Peace and Human Rights in Grozny. Sernovodsk (on the Chechen-Ingush border) had seemed last year as if it might be a safer base for an international observer team, but after a nine-day military bombardment, Sernovodsk itself is badly damaged with dozens of people killed.

Slepsovsk has now become the most likely base for an observer presence, and soon there should be an email connection there.

In Moscow, Civil Peace and the Committee of Solders' Mothers have called for an international delegation to go to Chechnya on &8 April, to coincide with the anniversary of the Samashki massacre (6-8 April). There are some funds to help people take part in this; knowledge of Russian is an advantage but not essential.

In May, WRI is organising a European tour for women from the Union of Chechen Women and from the Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee. The aims of the tour are to arouse European opinion on this issue, and to provide the kind of network of concerned people necessary to back up any international nonviolent presence that might later be established in the region.

Groups wanting to set up to host these women, organising meetings and other programmes for them, should contact the WRI office as soon as possible.