PAX means peace
Our mission is to work together with committed civilians and partners in fragile and conflict-affected areas, to protect human security, to prevent and end armed violence, and to build peace with justice.
We are happy to share a selection of significant successes of our work in 2018!
Our work worldwide
We carry out our peacebuilding work in 14 (post-)conflict countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.
Together with more than one hundred community-based and non-governmental organisations, churches and peace activists in these countries, we take steps, big and small, towards a more peaceful world.
Four Freedoms Award
On 16 May 2018, Bishop Paride Taban, who is a long-time partner of PAX, received the Freedom of Worship Award, one of the Four Freedoms Awards, in the presence of Their Majesties The King and Queen of the Netherlands.
Paride Taban received the award for his extraordinary efforts toward bringing peace to war-torn South Sudan. As a laureate of this prestigious award he follows in the footsteps of people like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Malala Yousafzai.
In 2005, Paride Taban founded Kuron Peace Village in a region flooded by modern weapons, where the age-old tradition of cattle raids has spiralled out of control. He brings people of different tribes together to learn conflict resolution skills, improve the position of women and girls, and live in peace. His tireless commitment to peace in South Sudan is helping to break the vicious circle of violence and revenge.
PAX helped establish Kuron Peace Village and remains active in supporting local peace committees. Click herefor more stories about the exceptional work of emeritus-bishop Paride Taban.
Bottom-up trust building
Two peace conferences brought Nuer and Dinka communities, who are living on either side of the frontline in Greater Upper Nile region, together in 2018. It was the first time since the outbreak of violence in 2013, which has cost 380,000 lives. Both communities signed to reopen their territories and markets for each other, let cattle graze and drink across tribal boundaries, and return stolen animals.
Our local partners brokered this milestone peace agreement. The Human Security Survey contributed to the bottom-up and inclusive process. The agreement is proof once again that the chances for durable peace in South Sudan lie with ordinary women and men who have the courage to reconcile and look to the future.
In north-eastern Congo, we support communities who suffered the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Local and religious leaders encourage the rebels to hand in their weapons. Among them are many children abducted by the LRA. Around 100 rebels left the bush. Female leaders give psychosocial support to the traumatised deserters and communities are gradually allowing them back in their midst.
For the first time in ten years, perpetrators and victims of violence together attended a large commemoration. The results of our truth finding efforts together with local partners will support people’s courageous yet painful search for justice and reconciliation.
The youngest generation in Syria has grown up in war. Children have no idea what peace is. The school system is in ruins.
Against all odds, the peace activists of our partner Kesh Malek have started new schools, where more than 1600 children are catching up on a missed childhood.
The schools practice a new pedagogy: children are taught not only to read and write, but also the skills to become tolerant, active and free citizens. Teachers engage in open conversation with their pupils, to inspire values of respect and reconciliation for Syria’s future.
Click to see the full storyof our Lessons in Peace project.
September: The Assad regime threatens to launch an offensive to reclaim Idlib province. Three million people are trapped. A humanitarian tragedy is imminent. At the last moment, Russia and Turkey impose a demilitarised zone between government forces and armed opposition groups.
In Saraqeb town, PAX supports theatre producer Ahmed. His plays and puppet shows give children an occasion to come together and enjoy in safety. There are many courageous Syrians like Ahmed. Their work matters. It shows that resisting hatred and injustice is possible.
We speak with Ahmednearly every week. He says it makes him and his friends feel they have not been entirely forgotten.
Listen to a Skype call with Ahmed.
Surood Ahmad is passionate about her human rights work in Iraq. She sticks up for girls and women who have been sexually abused. She trains the police in Kirkuk on women’s rights and she fights cultural norms that tolerate honour revenge.
"I have received many threats against my life, but I feel strengthened by those who believe in our work. The new generation of female leaders will bring the change in values and behaviour that Iraq needs more than anything."
Surood heads the Kirkuk office of our partner, the Al-Amal Association. PAX awarded her with a Peace Dove in 2018.
"Only dialogue can help us turn the page of violence", says Deyis Carmona. She leads the Peasant Assembly that represents 5,000 of the 55,000 people who were driven off their land to make place for coal mining in Cesar. PAX supports them in their search for truth, reparation and reconciliation.
In September, the CEO of mining company Prodeco spoke of truth finding and reconciliation at the commemoration of the 1997 massacre in the village of Estados Unidos. By reaching out to the victims, Prodeco is taking important steps to contribute to regional peacebuilding in a divided country.
In November, the Colombian public prosecutor opened a criminal investigation into the alleged ties between mining company Drummond and paramilitary forces that operated in Cesar. Drummond has been the focus of our 'Stop Blood Coal'campaign since 2014.
2016: A historic peace agreement ended 50 years of armed struggle in Colombia.
2018: 226 social leaders were murdered, including trade unionists, human rights defenders and environmental activists.
In November, Dutch prime minister Rutte headed a trade mission to Colombia. PAX asked him to use this opportunity to champion not only the interests of Dutch business, but also the safety of human rights defenders in Colombia.
Our campaign #GraciasMarkRuttepaid off. Deputy prime minister Schouten spoke with victim leaders and Rutte raised the importance of protecting human rights defenders at the official press conference after meeting with Colombian president Duque.
Our Youth Peace Tour for the first time had participants from both Ukraine and Russia. Fourteen young women and men travelled through Ukraine and stayed with communities of different faiths. The shared journey inspired them to overcome prejudices, widen their horizons, and handle differences in a respectful way. They practiced non-violent communication and leadership skills to help them promote dialogue in a war-torn region.
"The trip reinforced my view that resolving the conflict through military action is unacceptable. On both sides, there are people who want change and, most importantly, are creating this change already."
Bosnia and Iraq
In 2017, five Yezidi women and men visited the annual commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide of 1995. In 2018, three women from Srebrenica visited Sinjar in northern Iraq where ISIS killed and abducted thousands of women and men in August 2014. PAX facilitated both visits.
"The Yezidi women are at the beginning of an extremely difficult journey. They are determined to find the mortal remains of their loved ones. Like us, they want a memorial centre as proof of the crimes committed. We feel united in our pain and will support them in their search for justice and reparation."
Advija Ibrahimovic, member of 'Women of Srebrenica'
Lobby and advocacy
We use international lobby and advocacy as a tool to combat the causes of violent conflict and injustice and to trigger structural social, political and policy changes.
We target governments, businesses and financial institutions as well as international and multilateral organisations such as the European Union and United Nations.
We increase our impact by working in internationals coalitions with like-minded organisations, activists, researchers and survivors.
The 2018 Don't Bank on the Bomb reportby PAX and ICAN reveals that 30 companies stopped investing in nuclear weapon producers since the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017.
The Dutch ABP, one of the five largest pension funds in the world and one of the biggest investors in nuclear weapon producers in the Netherlands, decided to end these investments. Years of campaigning by PAX contributed to this historic decision.
Successes like these strengthen our ongoing campaigns to urge pension funds, banks and companies to stop investing in weapons that are a threat to humanity.
The decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine. That’s why PAX co-founded the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
• The Campaign grew to 88 members in 50 countries, increasing our impact around the world;
• Our lobby and campaigning contributed to the Belgian and the European Parliament calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons;
• PAX took part in two 5-day UN meetings in Geneva where we launched our report Crunch Timeon Europe and killer robots.
Technology is developing at a rapid pace. We urge the UN to start negotiating a ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems.
Protection of Civilians
Civilians who are caught in conflict can only be protected if military of all ranks are duly trained and understand their tasks and responsibilities. PAX helped develop the first ever joint UN/NATO PoC training. The 9-day intensive course brought together 29 officers from 11 countries. PAX staff taught the course module on ‘Learning from PoC failures.’
The UN/NATO PoC course will be part of the curriculum for officers of NATO and NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Participating countries provide about half of the troops for UN peacekeeping missions. For PAX, this training marks a milestone towards better Protection of Civilians.
A scorched earth offensive by the Syrian regime and its allies forced the fall of Eastern Ghouta in April. 400,000 people had been under siege in this opposition-held area on the outskirts of Damascus since 2013. During the offensive, 1,700 people were killed, thousands injured and 158,000 displaced. The fall of Eastern Ghouta determined the course of the war, enabling the Assad regime to claim a military victory.
Our Siege Watchproject documented the killings, chemical attacks, destruction and forced displacement that defined the regime’s military strategy. These records may one day help to do justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators of war crimes in Syria accountable.
In September, PAX for the first time met informants of the Siege Watch project who survived the fall of Eastern Ghouta, who were forcibly displaced and made it to Turkey. Like other survivors of the sieges that ended in 2018, they are traumatised and struggling to survive.
More than one million siege survivors are in urgent need of support to recover and restart their lives. The international community, which utterly failed to protect them, should step up and take responsibility within and outside Syria.
In November 2018, the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced its intention to take the CEO and Chairman of the Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum AB to court for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in what is now South Sudan. The trial is likely to start mid-2019, and would mark the first time that a multi-billion-dollar company is indicted for complicity in international crimes since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
The Swedish criminal investigation followed the 2010 Unpaid Debtreport that was written by PAX for the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan. Ever since, PAX has worked to seek justice for the tens of thousands of victims of Sudan’s oil war.
In 2008, cluster munitions were banned by the international community to protect citizens from weapons that kill and injure indiscriminately. In the decade since, PAX has published annual research reports on the ongoing worldwide investments in cluster munitions.
In early December, we cautioned investors to blacklist the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems because of its acquisition in November of known cluster munitions producer IMI Systems.
Within just weeks, major players in the global financial sector stated they would divest from Elbit Systems. Before the year closed, Elbit Systems announced that its new subsidiary IMI Systems will stop producing cluster munitions. This success is clearly linked to the persistent Stop Explosive Investments campaign, led by PAX in cooperation with the Cluster Munition Coalition.
Peace activism in the Netherlands
Our slogan ‘Peace. Are you in?’ is an invitation to everybody to join our peace work.
Thousands of people in the Netherlands actively express their solidarity with people in conflict areas and support our national and international campaigns.
The story of a refugee
5000 secondary school students listened to the life stories of men and women who fled the war in Syria. The interaction helps the Dutch students to put the media images about refugees in a different, more humane perspective.
“We shouldn’t underestimate young people. During my guest lessons, 16-year-olds ask complex questions about the political situation in Syria. This touches me every time.”
Aiham is among the 30 Syrians involved in the project Story of a Refugee, which has also trained 360 teachers to deal with sensitive subjects in class.
The 52nd edition of Peace Week showed how much all generations in the Netherlands long for connection and solidarity in response to exclusion and polarisation.
People organised hundreds of activities in their towns and neighbourhoods. 2500 people participated in 31 Peace Walks across the country. They enjoyed unexpected encounters and were welcomed in mosques, churches and synagogues.
In Srebrenica, families, students, survivors of the genocide, local politicians and the Dutch ambassador for the first time joined in their own Walk of Peace.