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Mon, May 15, 2006

May 15: International Conscientious Objectors’ Day

co status image Since 1985, May 15th has been designated as International Conscientious Objectors’ Day. The event is closely linked to the International Conscientious Objectors’ Meeting (ICOM). Between 1981 and 1997, ICOM was organised every year by groups affiliated to War Resisters’ International. It was held in the Netherlands, Spain, France, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Colombia, and Chad, among others. While in the first years the focus was on the exchange of ideas and international networking among active conscientious objectors, later an additional objective was added. In countries where the situation of conscientious objectors was particulary difficult (and in some cases still is), the international presence of activists lead to a strengthening of the COs living in the country and their initiatives. Not only the strategy of conscientious objection was developed, but on a very practical level the importance of the group in the country itself was increased. Focus countries have included Greece (1986), Yugoslavia (1987), Poland (1988), South Africa (1989), Spain (1990), Turkey (1992), former Yugoslavia (1993), Colombia (1995). There were thematic focuses too: forced service for women (1991), and asylum for women and men who refused military service or deserted from the army (1993).

Although the full ICOM hasn’t met for years, 15 May is firmly established as a joint day of action. In many places groups refer to 15 May in their work on conscientious objection. At the same time public meetings, vigils, demonstrations, actions, seminars, campaigns and many other activities are taking place in many parts of the world. Although nowadays many groups use the day for their own specific issue on conscientious objection, and there may be more limited joint focus, it is still a day which highlights that the issue of conscientious objection is not a national, but an international issue, and that international networking provides the special strength of the conscientious objectors’ movement.


Posted by: Bill Warters on 2006 05 15 | Filed under Conflict Resolution  

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