Move from armed force to conflict prevention, government urged

Move from armed force to conflict prevention, government urged

London, 23 June 2009 The British government needs to make a clean break over the true cost and consequences of its recent military intervention policies, says the think-tank Ekklesia, which is calling for major investment in alternative, non-violent initiatives to tackle escalating global conflicts.

Recent research suggests that for every dollar spent globally on conflict prevention, two thousand are spent on military initiatives.(1)

“It would be disrespectful to those who have lost loved ones in war, and to the British public as whole, for the government to try to use Armed Forces Day on 27 June to exonerate its recent military failings,” says Ekklesia's associate director Symon Hill.

Hill, who was previously involved in the legal case to stop the Serious Fraud Office dropping an investigation into arms sales to Saudi Arabia, added: “What we need now is a remodelling of defence policy towards just-peace rather than just-war, and unarmed forces beginning to replace armed ones.”

Following concerns that the Iraq war inquiry will not address the major issues raised by the public, civil society groups and families of military personnel, Ekklesia is calling on the government to make six clear commitments towards a new foreign and defence policy. These are:

1. Telling the truth about interventionist military strategies (not least the Iraq war), including their full financial, human, strategic and security costs to us and to others.

2. Supporting active peacemaking, including the allocation of substantial budgetary resources to policy development on war prevention; training and equipping conflict transformation professionals; promoting mediators and mediation processes; reassigning and retraining military personnel for non-military roles; and developing personnel to make non-violent interventions and responses in situations of conflict.

3. Taking responsibility with others for millions of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for rebuilding and reparation in the region.(2)

4. Caring for the families of service personnel killed in conflict, for disabled or traumatised personnel, and granting asylum to those in Iraq and elsewhere who have become targets by working with British forces as interpreters and ancillary staff.

5. Promoting multilateral coalitions for just-peace, rather than armed interventions determined by unilateral or bilateral national interests. This would include the reform of NATO into a new alliance for tackling conflict.

6. Supporting and improving truth, justice and reconciliation (T, J and R) processes and commissions as part of the transition away from confrontation in post-conflict situations.

Ekklesia has also produced a compendium of resources for re-thinking Armed Forces Day on 27 June. It is encouraging churches to pray for members of the armed services and all affected by war - without being drawn into government agendas. It wants them to affirm those who are working non-violently to tackle war and injustice.

For Armed Forces Day, the religion and society think-tank is also drawing attention to the work of existing “unarmed forces” around the world - including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Peace Brigades International, and The World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which all help to build just-peace.

Christian Peacemaker Teams UK, an Ekklesia partner, is currently looking to recruit more people from Britain to work for non-violent change in situations of conflict.

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Notes to Editors:

1. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues is currently sponsoring Early Day Motion 1248 on conflict prevention which highlights this estimate.

2. According to the UNHCR’s latest figures there are 2.8 million refugees from Afghanistan and 1.9 million from Iraq. Together they account for 45 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR's responsibility.

3. Ekklesia is an independent, not-for-profit Christian think-tank promoting transformative theological ideas and solutions. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

4. Armed Forces Day will take place on Saturday 27th June 2009. This is the first time such an event will be held in the United Kingdom. It was launched following recommendations in a report produced for the government by Quentin Davies MP. The report suggested that Armed Forces Day should be a new bank holiday, but it was later reported that the CBI had lobbied the government against this, so that it will take place on a Saturday.

5. Ekklesia's resources for Armed Forces Day can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/resources/armed_forces_day

6. Ekklesia works closely with a range of peace groups in the UK, and is a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. It is a partner of Christian Peacemaker Teams UK - http://www.cptuk.org.uk/ and attends the All Party Group on Conflict Issues

7. The Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) have also joined calls for an Unarmed Forces Day - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9709

Keywords: armed forces day