The Congress which took place at the wonderful city of Barcelona October 15-17, was attended by an ICBUW delegation consisting of the two co-chairs Ria Verjauw and Prof. Manfred Mohr as well as ICBUW team member Nadine-Isabelle Kas. We were accompanied and supported by our Serbian friends from Nis, Dr. Sdran Aleksic and Prof. Velimir Nedeljkovic.
The Congress was a huge event with more than 2.600 participants (900 on the spot and 1.700 online). The Action Plan 2021-2023 of the International Peace Bureau, entitled “(Re)Imaging our World and Taking Action for Peace and Justice”, stipulates to have another Peace Congress in 2026 in the Asia-Pacific. This will be the third one – after Barcelona and Berlin (2016) where ICBUW also actively participated.
A large representation of women and indigenous peoples was present and helped determine the direction of the discussions. They drew attention to the specific problems and impact of war and violence on their communities.
The use of depleted uranium weapons (DU ammunition) is a clear example of environmental destruction by war and the military releasing toxic substances with serious harm to humans and nature. At a closer look, the impact and consequences of DU contamination is gender determined. Women, children and the unborn are more vulnerable to the consequences of warfare-radioactive contamination. Yet, official average standards used for safe limits in the case of radiation and toxicity do not take into account the situation of the more vulnerable.
Violence is always gender determined while war and conflict are rooted in social inequality, lack of justice, exploitation and patriarchal organization of society. Women worldwide are the biggest victims of poverty and violence and therefore they should stand united in the front row to strive for justice and peace. Only then will we be able to build a sustainable society.
As the organizers of the Congress stipulated: „If the recent pandemic has taught us anything, it is this: Only together can we address all those intertwined challenges humanity faces today“. This statement hits the nail on the head: only united and with joined forces we can move forward to a more peaceful world where disarmament and non-violent conflict resolution are no longer questioned.
The main contribution of ICBUW to the Congress consisted of the workshop on “Victim assistance and environmental remediation: the cases of nuclear and of uranium weapons”. While the ICBUW workshop at the 2016 Berlin Congress focused on the broader topic of environmental destruction and war as an issue for the peace and disarmament movement the workshop this year spelled out some more narrow aspects, also extending into the sphere of nuclear weapons. Doug Weir from CEOBS added a very useful input on principles for victim assistance. Finally, the Serbian case, also in the frame of ICBUW’s film event, led to intensive discussions on how DU victims really and pragmatically can be helped. Here, the effectiveness of legal arguments and procedures were tackled with, including general international and human rights law – in addition to treaty law as in the case of the new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Among many other things, we agreed with our Nis colleagues to further inquire into possible “enforcement mechanisms” in relation to human rights proceedings started in Geneva.
Moreover, a very interesting debate centered round the specific role of ICBUW and of dealing with DU weapons in the context of the wider subject of environment and war. There was agreement to have this broader background in mind, which is becoming more and more evident (also at COP 26 in Glasgow), while sticking to our specific topic(s).
The ICBWU events were held hybrid, combining a face-to-face meeting and digital participation. This required appropriate didactics, a specific technical setup, and a co-facilitator to support trainers or presenters. The hybrid scheme allowed our followers from all over the world to log in and attend the workshop as well as the film screening online. Functioning, the hybrid arrangement represents a great technique, with a lot of potentials.
Besides the “great” speakers at the plenary (many of whom young and female!) as well as the fruitful workshops hosted by the participating organizations, the World Peace Congress offered, on behalf of the International Peace Bureau Youth Network (IPBYN), a Programme with interactive workshops, a “social city tour”, and a discussion board for young peace activists. The international youth gathering with nearly 40 young people from every continent, with diverse experiences and perspectives on peace gave all of us participants the chance to discuss and share our activities focused on peace, justice, and disarmament.
Altogether, the IPB World Peace Congress in Barcelona was an amazing experience. It inspired us to look for new schemes of argumentation, organization and working techniques. The World Congress gave us the opportunity to strengthen our networks, establish new ones and renew our energy to continue our specific peace work showing us to be “on the right track”…
(Manfred Mohr/Ria Verjauw/Nadine-Isabelle Kas)