by Jeanne Trubek
Over 300 representatives from peace organizations from 32 countries around the world convened in Vienna June 10-11 to discuss an international approach to bringing peace to Ukraine. The conference took place despite the last minute cancellation of the promised venue by the Austrian Trade Union Federation. In just one day the organizers, Action Alliance for Peace, Neutrality and Nonviolence (AbFaNG) and the International Peace Bureau (IPB), found alternate, excellent, premises at Lorely Saal. The conference was organized by the International Peace Bureau, CODEPINK, World Assembly of Struggles and Resistances of the World Social Forum, Transform! Europe, Europe for Peace, International Fellowship of Reconciliation IFOR), Peace in Ukraine , and Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security.
Friday evening a beautiful concert presented by the Women’s Chamber Music Orchestra of Austria set a very thoughtful mood to the weekend. The program was focused on the effects of war and the need for peace. It brought the audience together, promoting greater understanding among all of us.
The goal of the Peace Summit was to publish an Urgent Global Appeal, called the Vienna Appeal for Peace, calling on political leaders to act in support of a ceasefire and negotiations in Ukraine. Respect for all points of view was the weekend’s goal and achievement. Although there was a wide range of analysis and viewpoints, the conversation remained respectful — all agreed that peace was the goal and that peace means a cease-fire and negotiations.
We heard presentations, some live, some pre-recorded and some via Zoom, from many people who had studied the background of the war and the present situation, including a strong representation from the Global South and including people from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. There were speakers who were government officials in their home countries and speakers who lead peace movements in their countries.
One who impressed me strongly was Anuradha Chenoy, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, who spoke strongly of the terrible impact of US sanctions on civilians. She said that the majority of people in the Global South blame the United States and NATO for the war. They measure the current situation of Ukraine against the many locations (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) where the US has intervened. The Global South opposes sanctions on any country as war by other means — collective punishment of the residents of a country. 75 countries have been subject to US sanctions, and 80% of them have been in the Global South. The Global South supports a multi-system and a multi-polar international world.
David Choquehuanca, vice-president of Bolivia, attended the conference and told us of the view from there. He spoke a great deal of the approach of the indigenous people, of whom he is one to conflict: they make every effort to avoid it. The official narrative from the West of this conflict has been pushing the polarity of the conflict, speaking well of Ukraine and ill of Russia.
Ann Wright, a former US colonel and diplomat, spoke of previous cease-fires. Between 1946 and 1997 there were 48 ceasefires, so there are people experienced with organizing them. The UN has a 48 page guide to THE DOS AND DON’TS OF CEASEFIRES. It spells out procedures in detail. HOW to start a ceasefire is known; it is the political will that is lacking.
This war is bringing the world closer to nuclear devastation; in addition, we are seeing nuclear power plants becoming weapons themselves. The threat of bombing one is used in the same way the threat of nuclear weapons is used.
Yurii Sheliazhenko from the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement spoke to us remotely from Ukraine, as men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not permitted to leave the country. He began with the current flood: “Even the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and flood of biblical scale didn’t convince presidents Putin and Zelensky to stop the war and cooperate in saving the victims. Apparently, the military struggle for power and the blame game matter for them more than human lives. Yurii said that in response to people asking is it not immoral to stop shipments of weapons to Ukrainians, that it is immoral to continue the war by supplying weapons. Life is more important than who rules the world. If you do not like the peace plans proposed by Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in Minsk, by the Vatican, by China, by the Global South, you are free to propose your own peace plan. Let us stand with peace.
Other speakers spoke of the need to support the victims of this war – all the victims in both Ukraine and Russia. They will need material and psychological support for many years.
In addition to the presentations, we had many break-out sessions where smaller groups of people could talk with each other. I was surprised by the diversity of the attendees, from people who have been engaged in peace movements all of their lives to people who came because they felt they had little background and wanted to learn more. People were eager to discuss issues with those from other backgrounds; breakout sessions always ran long – even when lunch was about to be served – because people wanted so much to connect with others.
A panel of diplomats, parliamentarians, and others made the point that this is the first war on European soil where both sides have nuclear weapons. The citizenry is not engaged with the issue, leaving it to politicians, think tanks and the military. The EU is sending drones and long-range missiles, as is the US. There are no perfect conditions for peace; it is most necessary during times of war. The EU and US must STOP destroying possibilities for peace.
For me, this was an inspiring weekend. It was amazing to meet people from around the world and find that our concerns and difficulties coincide. I urge anyone who is interested to try to attend the next Peace Summit.
What can we do? Future plans
There will be an on-line conference in 4-6 weeks to prepare actions in September and October.
We should all put up peace flags now.
We may have another Peace Summit in one or two years, possibly in Ireland, another neutral country.
Conference members approved a declaration which calls on civil society in all countries to join in a week of global mobilization, Saturday, September 30 to Sunday, October 8, 2023, for an immediate ceasefire and peace negotiations to end this war.