International Conference, Ahmedabad, India, January 22 - 25, 2010.

War Resisters' International is cooperating with Indian partner organisations – Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Gujarat Vidyapith – for an international conference investigating the links between local nonviolent livelihood struggles and global militarism, including war profiteering.

This participatory conference will bring together campaigners from all over the world to analyse the role of states and multinational corporations in depriving local communities of their sources of livelihood, and learning from the experience of nonviolent resistance at various levels – from the community level to the global level – and at various phases, from preventing displacement to planning for return.

This conference relates two phenomena usually considered separately: community struggles defending the livelihood of local populations, and global militarism, in particular the role of transnational arms producers and war profiteers. This link is of particular interest to War Resisters' International, firstly because WRI is a global network existing not only to resist war, but to promote nonviolent action - especially nonviolent action to remove the causes of war and against the misuse of resources in preparing for war. Secondly, WRI – in the spirit of Gandhi and many of those who believe in 'thinking globally but acting locally' – has emphasised the need to strengthen local communities while transcending the boundaries erected by power structures.

The theme of militarism arises because in many parts of the world militarism is a threat to local communities, and yet this is rarely acknowledged. Looking at a major worldwide problem such as displacement, in many instances, we find it to be intimately linked with war or militarism. People are displaced by war itself and they are displaced as part of a resource-grabbing that fuels conflict and often leads to war. They are also displaced by specifically military development – bases, weapons testing or training grounds – as well as by the large industrial projects that are often linked to strengthening the technological and military infrastructure of a particular country. Those displaced themselves become vulnerable to forced recruitment into various armed bands, official or unofficial.

The theme of nonviolent struggle is central because it has proved an effective means of counteracting threats to communities. Moreover, the conference will be taking place in Gujarat, the base of the inspiring local and global campaign against the Narmada dam. The Narmada campaign shows that the response to development-induced displaced has to be multi-level: a struggle that includes fighting court battles, but is based in mobilising local communities threatened by the development and awakening the active concern of those further afield who stand to 'benefit'. Narmada is the best known of a range of livelihood struggles in India, and participants in these – from both rural and urban areas, including researchers aligned with the people and campaigners – will be invited to the conference.

This conference will therefore act to bring together campaigns against militarism and nonviolent struggles to defend communities at many levels, looking especially at the kinds of cooperation, across national and even continental boundaries, that can be useful.