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The new Nonviolence Programme

At the War Resisters' International Council meeting in Ohrid, Macedonia, in June 2004, it was decided to merge the WRI programmes "Nonviolence and Social Empowerment" and "Globalisation and Militarism" to a new programme called "Nonviolence Programme".

The Nonviolence and Social Empowerment Programme goes back to the mid-1990s, and had focused on the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment Study Conference, which took place in Puri, India, in February 2001. The last main project in this programme was the Women's Trainers' Consultation, which took place in October 2004 in Thailand (see p. 2).

The Globalisation and Militarism programme goes back to the WRI Triennial Conference in Dublin. Its focus was the European Social Forum, which took place in London from 14-17 October 2004.

Both programmes were in the past "network programmes", run entirely by working groups and volunteers, with no or little involvement of central office staff. Merging these two programme areas into a staffed position makes a number of new projects possible.

The overarching aim of the Nonviolence Programme is to strengthen and deepen our understanding of nonviolence, nonviolent strategies, and nonviolent campaigning, and to develop and provide tools and support to groups using nonviolence. It builds on the former Nonviolence and Social Empowerment programme: "Social Empowerment is a process in which people find back to their own power, the power to shape their own lives and to influence the course of events around them. They start to practice this power against oppression and exclusion, for participation, peace and human rights."

The key aspects of the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment project remain valid for the Nonviolence Programme:

  • the dimension of social empowerment should be a key element in considering the impact of any social movement activity;
  • that the framework of social empowerment offers a perspective for cooperation between hitherto competing or even conflicting approaches;
  • that strategies of empowerment are intrinsic to the effectiveness of nonviolent movements;
  • that the methodology of nonviolence offers specific insights into social empowerment.

This is also reflected in WRI's approach to globalisation from below, as expressed in its 2001 statement, issued after the G8 protests from Genoa: "A strategy of nonviolence needs to involve building our own strength as a movement, and developing alternatives to economic globalisation and corporate rule. A strategy of nonviolence needs to involve making use of the rich heritage of nonviolent movements from all over the world in preparing for nonviolent confrontation, drawing from experience in nonviolence training from the US Civil Rights Movement, the Gandhian movement in India, the landless movement in Brazil, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, among many others."

Areas of work

The Nonviolence Programme will focus on three closely related and intertwined areas:

Nonviolence Resources

Development and distribution of resources on nonviolence and nonviolent strategies for use by the WRI network and the wider movement. Such resources include a handbook for nonviolent action, a collection of case studies of nonviolent campaigns, nonviolence training and campaign development materials.

In cooperation with WRI's Nonviolence Training Working Group and WRI affiliates, and building on the work of the former Nonviolence and Social Empowerment Programme, the programme will collect and develop resources on nonviolence, nonviolent action, nonviolent strategies, and nonviolent training, which draw on the experiences of nonviolent struggles from different countries and different movements. A first project could be the collection and publication of a "Handbook for Nonviolent Action", which can serve as a cross-cultural introduction to nonviolence and nonviolent action. Such a publication should be made available in print and online, in several languages.

War Resisters' International commissioned several case studies prior to the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment Study Conference. These case studies can form the base for a broader collection of case studies, and should also be made available in several languages online. The questionnaire developed for these case studies can serve as a starting point for the commissioning of more case studies of recent movements/campaigns.

Nonviolence for Change

Networking with groups interested in using nonviolence for social change, coordination of workshops at gatherings such as Social Forums, making WRI's resources available to grassroots activists doing anti-militarist and globalisation from below work.

In 2002, WRI Council member Oscar Huenchunao represented WRI at the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, as did WRI Council member Jørgen Johansen, who also participated in 2003, and in Mumbai 2004. A number of WRI affiliates and other nonviolent groups are present at Social Fora, and other major events, or are involved in major activities of the movement for globalisation from below, such as Seattle, Genoa, and others. Last year War Resisters' International coordinated a pacifist and antimilitarist presence at the European Social Forum in London in October 2004.

It will be an important aspect of the Nonviolence Programme to expand on these activities, and to network much more actively with groups from the WRI network and beyond. It is important to make resources on nonviolence available to all those willing to use them, such as WRI affiliate War Resisters League did prior to the protests at the WTO meeting in Seattle, when it printed and distributed 6,000 copies of its "Handbook for Nonviolent Action."

A Nonviolent Campaign Against War Profiteers

Development of resources for WRI's war profiteering campaign. Networking with WRI affiliates working on such campaigns, supporting and coordinating nonviolent campaigns against war profiteers.

At the World Social Forum in Mumbai Arundhati Roy called for the movement "to be the resistance to the occupation of Iraq", and to focus on two major corporations profiteering from the occupation. WRI's war profiteering campaign will take up Arundhati Roy's call, and will raise awareness for war profiteers as a cause of war, from a clearly antimilitarist point of view. The campaign needs to be based in the WRI network, bringing groups together that work on war profiteers, and providing resources and campaign materials. The Nonviolence Programme can provide some form of coordination and strategy development for the campaign, but the campaign itself will not be a mainly office run campaign.

For more information, check out http://wri-irg.org/nv-home.htm