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PAX in 2019

Logo https://stories.paxforpeace.nl/pax-in-2019

PAX in 2019

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 look back at 2019 and are happy to share some of the stories and successes that keep our partners and us going in our pursuit of peace for everyone.
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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.
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Killer robots

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More and more people believe that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, co-founded by PAX, is the motor behind this growing global conviction. In 2019, the campaign grew from 88 to 129 members across 60 countries.

In the Netherlands, 80% of surveyed citizens want a ban on lethal autonomous weapons. The Dutch parliament adopted a motion calling for binding international rules for new weapon technologies, including lethal autonomous weapons.

PAX builds on this growing momentum with the launch of a new project that engages the private sector: reprogrammingwar.org.
  • We urge arms producers to adopt policies that rule out their contribution to the development or production of killer robots. Our report Slippery Slope ranks 50 arms producers according to the risk that they could develop such weapons. The activities of companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing raise great concerns.
  • We also surveyed 50 major tech companies and found that many are working on potentially dangerous artificial intelligence applications. Our report Don’t be evil? reveals the attitudes of companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

And what about the role of states? Research presented in the report Convergence gives reason for cautious optimism: European states increasingly agree that there needs to be meaningful human control over weapon systems as well as concrete measures to ensure this. PAX calls on them to show leadership and develop new legislation to prevent that killer robots become a reality.

PAX also keeps urging the UN to start negotiating a pre-emptive ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems. The time left to stop a whole new arms race is fast ticking away.
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A terrible war has been raging in Yemen for years. Allies of western countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, commit atrocities against Yemeni civilians using weapons made in America and Europe. The distressing Day of Judgment investigation report documents this involvement and calls on Western manufacturers to immediately stop their arms deliveries.

Investments in the arms trade must also stop. In the context of the ‘Fair Pension Guide’ launched this year, PAX investigated the investments of 10 Dutch pension funds in 14 companies that supply weapons to countries involved in conflicts such as in Yemen. Only 1 of these funds does not invest in these companies. The other 9 together invest more than 1 billion euros. And so they abundantly share in war profits.

The Dutch ABP pension fund, one of the largest investors, responded to our report suggesting it would use the information for future screening of its portfolio. PAX urges all pension funds to develop policies that ensure that the pension savings of Dutch employees never again end up on a battlefield, whether in Yemen or elsewhere.
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2019 marked two years since the UN adopted the historic treaty banning all nuclear weapons. 80 countries have now signed the treaty and 34 have ratified it. After the counter hits 50, the treaty will go into effect.

Cities around the world – from Berlin to Toronto, Washington D.C. and Nagasaki - are urging their governments to sign the treaty through the ICAN Cities Appeal. Campaigning by PAX has made Nijmegen the first city in the Netherlands to support the appeal. A poll showed that most Dutch citizens want their government to join the treaty.

28 global companies are still actively involved in the production of nuclear weapons. They are profiled by our project Don’t Bank on the Bomb in the Producing mass destruction report. Yet the stigma surrounding nuclear weapons keeps growing. Worldwide, more financial institutions than ever are refusing to invest in the nuclear weapons industry. Four Dutch institutions recently adopted policies that restrict or forbid such investments. PAX keeps lobbying the Dutch multinational bank ING as well as financial institutions around the world to follow suit.

PAX is a member of the steering group of Nobel Peace Prize laureate the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
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Helping people in areas under conflict to have more say over their own security and protection, is the purpose of the Human Security Survey. This research method was developed by PAX's Protection of Civilians team and is currently applied in Iraq and South Sudan.

Our local partners lead the information collection process. With surveys and interviews they record people’s experiences and perceptions about their security: of men and women, young and old, displaced people and host communities of all religions and ethnicities.

In 2019, a total of 2244 women and men from 3 provinces in Iraq (Salahaddin, Kirkuk and Basra) shared their experiences and perceptions about their day-to-day security. This information has been analysed and is used to initiate dialogues at local level about how citizens can be better protected. In Jubek, Eastern Lake and Payinjiar, in South Sudan, we organized dialogues where community members, local leaders and authorities jointly drew up an action plan based on the findings of the 2018 Human Security Survey.

PAX and our partners also use the insights of the HSS to advocate with UN missions and national governments, police and the military for security strategies that are more reflective of civilians’ actual needs and expectations.
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Europe as a peace project

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The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 showed what an enormous power of change is released when citizens en masse stand up for freedom. 30 years later, Europe again faces major challenges: inequality, migration, climate change, populism.

PAX believes in Europe. Not just as a vehicle for economic progress, but as a peace project. In the coming period, we will therefore investigate, together with organisations and networks of citizens, how we can breathe new life into the European values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Based on meetings in the Netherlands, Serbia and Ukraine, we developed four future scenarios for Europe in 2040. Will we see a ‘United States of Europe’, or ‘Paranoid Android’? What we know for sure is that peace in Europe cannot be taken for granted and must be both cherished and protected.

Commitment to our European values asks that we support the Western Balkan countries in the process of joining the European Union and help Ukraine to democratise and initiate a peace process. But calls for solidarity also reach us from outside Europe. We must therefore also actively support citizens who stand up for freedom, democracy and human rights in countries such as Iraq, Syria or Sudan. We cannot subordinate their legitimate longings to European concerns about terrorism or migration.
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Local peacebuilding in (post) conflict areas

We carry out our peacebuilding work in 15 (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.
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2019 marked momentous change in Sudan. In April, president al-Bashir was ousted after 30 years in power. His arrest followed months of peaceful mass protests led by the young generation as well as women of all ages. Despite deadly violence used against the demonstrators, the women kept singing “We will not remain silent for fear of an unjust ruler - the fear, oh the fear, she is nothing!”

Since 2014, PAX has been supporting and training civil activists in Sudan in skills and tools for peaceful resistance and action. These activities increasingly had to take place underground, within people’s homes. The mix of participants reflected the broad civic movement that was forming: from teachers, students and doctors to women selling tea on the roadside and taxi drivers.
One of the trainers we support participated as the only woman in the negotiations for the power-sharing deal between the military and civilians concluded in August.

The transitional government soon repealed a law that for decades had severely restricted how women dressed and acted in public. This is another step towards the change that the Sudanese people so courageously demanded: from a country ruled by a racist, violent and corrupt government to an inclusive, peaceful and democratic society.
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In October, tens of thousands of people fled Northeast Syria when - after the withdrawal of American troops - Turkish bombs started falling on villages and towns. With this offensive against the Kurdish Syrian forces, Turkey wanted to create a ‘safe zone’ to relocate two million Syrians who had fled to Turkey.

PAX condemned the offensive and quickly launched an action to support its partners in the area. They were organised and ready to provide immediate assistance to the many refugees, together with the local host population. Donations from the Netherlands helped them to quickly set up three reception centers for 750 people in school buildings in the city of al-Hassaka.

We have deep respect for our partners. Even in the most life-threatening situations, they hold on to their conviction that a free, democratic society can only be built by the people, together and from the bottom up.
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In April, the Syrian and Russian army started their war against civilians in Idlib province, the last stronghold of the opposition against President Assad. Barrel bombs, phosphorus grenades and cluster bombs were used for attacks on residential areas, markets, schools and hospitals. Half a million people fled.

In June, PAX together with 13 organisations called on Dutch Minister Blok to ask Russia for clarification about these crimes. Thousands of Dutch people supported the campaign. We also held a silent protest at the Russian embassy in The Hague and at Utrecht Central Station.

It may seem futile against the background of such a great human drama, yet expressing our solidarity did offer some meaningful moral support to people in Idlib who feel so terribly let down.

“The #StopBombingIdlib campaign by Syrians and Dutch citizens brought back the great memories of the peaceful resistance actions that we ourselves organised at the start of the revolution." Hassan Hallak from Idlib
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Ukraine

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In Ukraine, PAX supports citizens and organisations to build their capacities for peaceful conflict resolution. This is no easy task in a war-torn country, where the notion that every conflict is a zero-sum game and best to be avoided is deeply engrained. Engaging in dialogue to find win-win solutions requires a shift in culture and mind sets.

Our partner Dignity Space has started teaching a next group of 16 individuals to become ‘Peace Engineers’. The fulltime, one-year training programme includes non-violent communication, mediation and negotiation skills. Among the trainees are NGO workers, psychologists, a priest, a businessman, and people with a police background. Previously trained Peace Engineers will mentor them while they put their new skills to practice in their home regions. There they act as mediators in all sorts of conflicts: battles over educational reforms, disputes between locals and internally displaced people, or grudges over the lack of basic government services.

The training programme promotes resilience and a growing consciousness that the actions and attitudes of ordinary citizens do have an impact on the country’s future.

The project also provides short-term training to NGOs and government agencies, including the police, and advocates for peaceful dialogue with all groups of citizens to be initiated by the new government in Kyiv. Given the longstanding distrust between citizens and the authorities, it is key that people feel heard and their fears and concerns are taken seriously. This is a necessary first step towards a lasting solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
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In 2016, the FARC and the Colombian government made peace after more than 50 years of armed conflict. However, the implementation of the historic peace accords has been slow and difficult. Due to the activities of new and recycled armed groups it is still very dangerous to work towards peace in parts of the country. Social leaders, including PAX partners, are receiving death threats.

For years, PAX has been supporting the victims of the war in Colombia in their pursuit of truth, justice and redress. In February, we entered into a partnership with Colombia’s Truth Commission, as we had previously done with the Peace Tribunal. We help victim organisations, with whom we have built up a relationship of trust over the years, to document and present evidence to both institutions, and train them for their participation in official peace programmes.

With the donation we received from the Dutch Postcode Lottery in 2019, we can continue this important work in three regions that are most affected by the war and which also face extreme socio-economic inequalities and conflicts over land and large-scale mining. Despite the insecurity and threats, women and men muster up the courage to speak out against violence and injustice. Their message is clear: truth, justice and reconciliation are essential to stop violence and achieve lasting peace.
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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.
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The debate about refugees in the Netherlands is becoming increasingly polarised. This makes it harder for many young people to form a nuanced opinion, while teachers have difficulties to ensure that classroom discussions are conducted in a respectful manner. The PAX project ‘Story of a refugee’ helps both students and their teachers.

In 2019, 30 Syrians refugees who live in the Netherlands told their life stories to 6,200 students in 110 schools across the country. More than 600 teachers participated in a training course on how to approach difficult topics in class. “This one training taught me more valuable tools than ten books put together could have done,” reflects one of the teachers.

The first-hand stories of the Syrian women and men visibly affect the students: “This was the most impressive class I ever attended. Before I didn’t care much about war, but now I do… I now look at people in this situation differently and I cherish my family more because I realise that nothing can be taken for granted.”
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‘Peace connects across borders’ was the motto of the 53rd edition of the Peace Week in September.

More than 3,000 people joined the 40 Walks of Peace throughout the Netherlands. The striking growth in the number of walks is a powerful sign that more and more Dutch people feel the need to speak out against polarisation. They enjoy the walks as a perfect opportunity to discover what they share with people they have never met before.

Friends and strangers also came together during the hundreds of activities organised mostly by the Embassies of Peace around the country.

In the run-up to Peace Week, PAX presented the Peace Dove to individuals who are committed to peace and to fostering new connections between people near and far.
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People's desire for peace is contagious and unstoppable. No matter how cruel a conflict, there are always individuals brave enough to bridge the gap of enmity. Because they believe in justice, human dignity and a peaceful world.

The desire for peace also inspired Jan Gruiters during the 19 years that he led PAX Christi and PAX. He learned to look with the eyes of people who are excluded, marginalised and forgotten, and saw the power of change of ordinary people. This is why PAX supports local activists in conflicts worldwide, so that their voices are heard and their influence for peace increases.

Jan Gruiters said goodbye to PAX in October. Our peace caravan continues its journey, and will be led by Anna Timmerman from 2020.
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Credits en links

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Text Ellen Lammers

Photos Jean Marc Mojon / AFP (coverphoto Sudan), Ahmed Mustafa / AFP (Sudan), Delil Souleiman / AFP (Syria), Fouad Hallak (Idlib), Raul Arboleda / AFP (Colombia), Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (Berlin), Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989 Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0, Wim Zwijnenburg (Iraq burning oil wells), PAX (Story of a refugee, Idlib), Lize Kraan (Story of a refugee, Peace Week, Goodbye to Jan Gruiters )

Video Peace Week en Story of a refugee by Wereldgasten

Content curation Bert Abbing

More stories

Human Security Survey
Siege Watch
PAX in 2018
Lessons in Peace
Paride Taban: building peace in South Sudan
Operating under fire

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