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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky

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Facing our challenges?

This has turned into a bit of a funny issue really, but the original idea was to try to generate a snapshot of the “health” of the international peace movement in the “post 11 September 2001 security environment”.

Photo
ILLUSTRATION: © DAVID THOMAS 2003

To do this, we invited a wide range of activist and campaigning groups to provide fairly detailed answers to specific questions (see box).

We thought it would be useful to hear about the campaigning methods and tactics that they felt had been used successfully by their group during 2002.

We wanted to use this issue as a medium for sharing ideas, visions and concerns, to see both commonalities and differences in approaches, challenges and practical actions; to create a forum and opportunity to learn from each other.

QUESTIONS

  • What is your campaign about? How many are you? What kind of tactics do you use?
  • Since the “war on terror” was formally begun what have been your group's main activities?
  • What has been the impact of the “new security environment” on campaigners/activists locally?
  • Has the “war on terror” increased your work within coalitions/engaged you in new coalitions? And if so, what are the challenges of coalition-working/building that you have experienced?
  • In general terms what are your plans for the coming year/five years?
  • Do you think the “war on terror” has resulted in a strengthening or weakening of your group? (or) what do you feel have been the strengths and/or weaknesses of your campaigning/nvda activities over the past 12 months or so?
  • What do you think should be the priorities for the international peace movement over the coming year/five years?
  • What do you think are the main challenges at present for both local and international campaigners/activists?
  • How has the “war on terrorism” changed the agenda for the peace movement (if it had an impact at all)?

Something to share

To this end, we contacted more than 400 groups from every corner of the earth - and many responded positively, which is why we have such a great range of material in this section. From women anti-militarists in South Korea, to human rights workers in the Caucasus, and from student groups in India to direct activists in Germany. All of them have been busy and all have something to share with you.

In Gordon Clark's article on the use of a pledge to develop nonviolent direct action within the US, he raises a number of issues - such as the problems with “diversity of tactics” and the impact of consumerism on our modes of action - issues which will strike a chord with many of us.

In his article, offering a student's perspective, Subhadip Mukherjee highlights the impact 11 September has had on domestic politics in India, he comments “In the past we would never have thought of crossing the border to Pakistan to strike the terrorist training camps. But now such a demand is often vehemently voiced. The logic is simple - if America can, why can't we?”

While accepting that there has been a negative impact on civil liberties both at home and abroad, David McKenzie from Trident Ploughshares is still advocating direct disarmament type nonviolent direct action. In his article he offers action tips, including: The ethos of careful preparation and support [...] has to be balanced by a willingness to respond quickly when opportunities present themselves and to recognise that every positive action involves risks.

One topic it has been suggested we cover is the challenges of coalition working. In response, we have identified a couple of texts (which you can find in the tools/resources section) that discuss both the problems and potential of working in coalitions with a range of groups.

Subverted by war!

To a degree at least, the latest round of the “war on terror”, ie the forthcoming war on Iraq, has subverted our best laid plans with this issue! In consequence, we'd like you to appreciate it as a mixture of texts; some of which reflect on the questions posed, but in many of which our contributors, at least partially, abandoned their brief during the relentless march to war. However, we believe they all have merit in their own right - which is why they are appearing on the pages of Peace News. We hope that there will be something in this issue that will help you to develop your own campaigning work and/or activism. Whether a common theme emerges from the whole, is for you, dear reader, to judge.

Topics: Activism