: Article from Dagbladet Arbejderen 25. juli 2023
PEOPLE OF PEACE FROM THE NORTH GO TOGETHER
Over 30 peace organizations founded a new Nordic peace alliance in Helsingør
Peacemakers from more than 30 peace organizations in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland recently met in Helsingør to found the Nordic Peace Alliance.
Peacemakers from more than 30 peace organizations in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland met on 14 and 15 July at the International College in Helsingør to found the Nordic Peace Alliance.
The work to form the peace alliance started in 2021. The purpose is to increase contact and cooperation between the Nordic peace organizations in order to thereby promote a sustainable, non-militaristic peace and security policy.
The alliance was founded at a time when Iceland’s Cooperation Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbransson, who this year is chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has announced that in his work he will “raise the importance of peace in Nordic cooperation” and make the Nordic countries “messengers of peace” in the rest of the world. Before the meeting, he had sent a video greeting, which was played for the participants.
The peace meeting in Helsingør started with a two-day conference and ended with the founding meeting of the peace alliance. The theme was the world situation and the role of the peace movement.
The conference’s first presentation was given by Ingeborg Breiners from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Norway. She has worked for UNESCO and is currently a senior advisor to the World Summit for Nobel Laureates.
Ingeborg Breiners went to great lengths to outline the difficult conditions under which peace organizations around the world work today.
The climate crisis, the refugee situation, the health crisis, the Ukraine war and the problems with growing patriotism are some of the biggest problems that she believed the peace movement must help solve.
At the same time, we also have a task in relation to some politicians who have not understood the seriousness, but still want growth, she also said.
She stated that the peace movement has a lot of work ahead of it and advised that the obligation to tell the truth must always be central.
Sustainable security and flagging disagreements
The conference’s next theme was about peace as a prerequisite for welfare and sustainable development.
Sten Folke currently works for Mellemfolkelig Samvirke and has previously been the initiator and chairman of the conscientious objectors’ association, an activist in the campaign against nuclear weapons and a parliamentary politician for the then party “Venstresocialisterne.”
He spoke at the peace conference about the organization “No to Armament – Yes to Sustainable Security Policy” and about the pamphlet “Sustainable Security Policy – A Necessary Consideration”, which he co-authored.
The organization is concerned with the many interconnected and complexly connected crises that the world is threatened by today. Based on this, they have drawn up an alternative to the current security policy, which must both ensure welfare, seek diplomatic solutions and address the current threats and crises.
His presentation was well received by all for its recommendation of military disarmament and suggestions on how to link the population’s need for security with the demand that the many crises be resolved.
At the same time, he expressed the view that it is completely understandable when the Ukrainian population wants weapons to resist Russia’s invasion, and that he condones it when Denmark meets this wish.
He added that No to Armament – Yes to sustainable Security Policy had no common position on whether Denmark should be a member of NATO or not.
He also believed that Russia and China are a threat to the United States and that boycotting trade and economics is an understandable and effective means of meeting the threat.
The three last-mentioned points of view provoked extensive debate and clarified the disagreements that exist in the Scandinavian peace movement.
Many called for a connection between wanting sustainable development for the world’s ecosystem and the sending of weapons to Ukraine, which will lead to increased military spending and destruction, which in turn leads to increased militarization and resource consumption for reconstruction.
Others mentioned that they do not subscribe to the narrative of a world where democracies fight against autocracies and thus have the law on their side when they harm others. Steen Folke agreed with this consideration, but at the same time perceives China and Russia as aggressive, imperialist countries, which can therefore be sanctioned.
The conference’s most heated debate, which Steen Folke’s presentation led to, is about NATO, and whether you can work for peace without simultaneously being opposed to NATO and NATO membership.
The Swedish delegation had just fought but lost the battle for NATO membership for their people. The delegation found it difficult to see how peace activists can work for peace without addressing NATO’s aggressive and militaristic nature.
Others believed that there is a need for the peace movement to become broad and popular, and that revelations of the concrete aggressive actions carried out by NATO may resonate more with the population than proposals for withdrawal at this time.
The discussion made clear the need to focus on what was agreed upon in the assembly, rather than the disagreements, and also emphasized the need to develop methods and skills that promote peace and tolerance both within the peace movement, in the population and at international level. Several presentations then also focused on this and that later.
The Nordic countries and NATO
The next presentations at the conference talked about the battles for peace which are currently underway in the Nordic countries. The fight against US bases in Denmark and Norway, Sweden’s tentatively lost battle against NATO membership, and the opposition to the conduct of an air station, which deprives the Sami of parts of their lands in Nordbotten in northern Sweden, were some of the stories that were told.
Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark is law professor and director of the Åland Peace Institute, which she has led since 2007. She researches peace and minorities, indigenous peoples, self-government systems and the relationship between international and national law, among other things, with a focus on Åland.
She talked about how the Nordic region was for a long time a peaceful area with a special role as a peacemaker in other countries’ conflicts. The militarization of the Nordics has changed this image, and the Nordics now do not have the same role and conditions, she added.
Among other things, she is interested in what it means for a country or a minority to have a defense and to be defended by a military power greater than themselves. Her research contributes many angles to the question.
Sia Spiiliopoulou Åkemark emphasizes when she enters into the discussion about NATO that this alliance does not only work militarily, but also civilly. She especially recommends that you closely follow how the US bases affect the area in which they are placed.
Her presentation inspired debate about the need to put the demand for nuclear-weapon-free zones on the agenda, and to work against US bases and NATO’s “first strike strategy” for the use of nuclear weapons.
Work for peace
The next theme was about conflicts, conflict management, and what is needed to create lasting peace and security.
Karin Utas Carlsson is Swedish, a trained teacher and has for many years worked consultatively with conflict management based on the Australian researcher John W Burton’s theories. In 2022, she received the People’s Peace Prize, which is an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize (critics believe that the Nobel Peace Prize is rarely awarded to people who have actually worked in the spirit of the founder).
Karin Utas Carlsson presented a coherent, easy-to-understand theory of peacemaking, which attracted particular interest. She believes that conflicts arise when people do not get their needs met, and that security can only exist when it works for all parties to a conflict. She uses the term “common security” for what the parties to the conflict should achieve.
Karin Utas Carlsson has noted how there is similarity between the conflicts that play out locally in institutions and regions and the global conflicts.
She believes that today, for example in the Ukraine war, we understand conflicts based on a paradigm of power. Here, one party in the conflict will typically be seen as the aggressive party with a morally reprehensible agenda.
When conflicts are understood in this way, contact between the parties will often be broken and the conflict will escalate. The goal will be to win, the opponent must lose, and only one’s own needs and wishes come into focus.
The conflict has thereby become a power struggle, where the loser is probably not satisfied, but will wait for a new opportunity to resume the conflict in order to achieve his goals. The conflict is thus not resolved.
Karin Utas Carlsson sees the more constructive “emerging paradigm” as a way to resolve conflicts, which leads to “common security” and thus real conflict resolution.
Conflicts are seen with this approach as neither bad nor good and the needs of individuals, groups or countries are at the center. Deterrence or coercion is not used as it reduces the trust between the parties.
– The cause of conflicts is generally that people feel that their needs are not being met and a thorough analysis of what is at stake for the aggrieved must always be an important step, she explains.
The conflict resolution must take place in equal cooperation between the parties to the conflict and the solution must be perceived as a long-term sustainable win-win situation, where the parties feel that they have power over the situation, themselves and in cooperation with the other party, she adds.
Karin Utas Carlsson was followed on the podium by Hanna Nittymaki, who is a teacher and teaches children and adults about peace.
Hanna Nittymaki is particularly concerned with people’s values and the differences between them. She went through a long and thorough list of the values that, for her, create meaningful relationships, positive cooperation and that prevent oppression and polarization. She then asked the audience to consider carefully what their corresponding values are.
Peace and the climate movement
The peace conference in Helsingør focused several times on the climate crisis and its impact on peace. The work for peace goes hand in hand with the work to get the Earth’s ecosystem back into an appropriate balance. Peace work is also work for the climate, the participants believed.
Ove Daniel Jakobsen is a professor at the Business School at Nord University at Bodø in Norway.
He gave a presentation on sustainable economics (also called ecological economics), which can help us know how much or how little we must consume if we are to stay within the range where the Earth can sufficiently regenerate its resources.
Creating a sustainable economy is almost an impossible task, he believed. This is because our many different current crises from very different domains affect each other and therefore all must be included in the financial accounts.
Thus, the social field, the health field, biodiversity and ecology, for example, influence each other in ways that we must be able to understand and make part of the accounting.
– Everything is connected and at the same time we are becoming more and more specialised, Ove Daniel Jakobsen mentioned as an unfortunate dilemma.
He showed the assembly what a model for ecological economy might look like and thereby clearly illustrated the complexity.
He emphasized that the population of the Earth can only achieve control that we stay within a sustainable consumption if we get an intense worldwide cooperation with this goal in mind.
Palle Bendsen, who is a secretariat employee at the environmental organization NOAH and a member of Forbyd Atomvåben – ICAN Denmark, subsequently gave a presentation on how climate policy and security policy are connected.
He agreed with Ove Daniel Jakobsen that the design of a fair, ecological economic budget should take place on a global scale. He asked rhetorically how much sense there is in our current Finance Act.
Palle Bendsen’s presentation focused on the unequal consumption of the world’s resources that we see today, and listed, among other things, the difference in the amount of CO2 that countries such as the USA, Vietnam and Iraq consume for military purposes and wars.
At the end of the presentation, he called for more focus on geopolitics in the climate debate.
The outlook for the Ukraine war
Jørn Boye Nielsen from the Council for International Conflict Resolution (RIKO) presented his theory on conflicts and appropriate conflict management.
There was a great deal of overlap between Jørn Boye Nielsen’s positions and those that Karin Utas Carlssons had previously presented. For example, the two conflict breakers agree that solutions must always be perceived as positive for both parties in the conflict.
Jørgen Boye Nielsen was of the opinion that none of the parties to a conflict can claim a value monopoly, and he was rather pessimistic about how the Ukraine war will end.
He predicted that the war would end by winter, and he saw three possible outcomes.
The first was that all cooperation between Russia and the West ceases after the war. The next option was for Ukraine to defeat Russia in the war. And the last possibility was that nuclear weapons will be used.
Professor Tarja Cornberg is a Finnish researcher and deals with the themes of armament and disarmament for the Swedish research institute SIPRI.
She is no more optimistic than Jørn Bøje Nielsen regarding the prospects for peace in Ukraine. Tarja Cornberg finds it difficult to see the political will to bend to the wishes of the other party in some of the parties, and sees Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin as front figures who each personally have far too much power.
The foundation of the Nordic Peace Alliance
The conference then transitioned into the founding meeting of the Nordic Peace Alliance, which was formed with a great desire for discussion, disagreements and emotions continued to be high almost to the end.
At the same time, the participants agreed on much more than what they disagreed on. The Nordic Peace Alliance stands firm in its demands for:
- Compliance with the UN Charter and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
- That international conflicts must always be resolved through negotiations rather than wars.
- That the climate crisis and the inequality crisis both oblige the world community to take responsible action here and now.
The disagreement about how to most appropriately work with NATO resistance in the various countries was handled by setting up a working group to work on the matter.
Other working groups with other themes were also set up. Peacemakers from all over the Nordics can now, regardless of whether they attended the conference or not, participate in the work of these working groups.
It was decided that next year’s conference will take place in the summer of 2024 in Finland.