#NoWar2018 Conference Report Back

The following was written by Jovanni Reyes, a member of About Face: Veterans Against the War, who attended the annual conference #NoWar2018 organized by World Beyond War.


World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.

Their goal is to create awareness and generate popular support for ending war and to further develop that support.  They work to advance the idea of not just preventing any particular war but abolishing the entire institution. They strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed.

#NoWar2018 was a conference held at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, Canada.  This is the third year that World Beyond War holds a conference there. There were over 200 delegates present.  There were people that came as individuals or members of peace organizations from across Canada, some coming from as far as Vancouver.  Countries that were represented were the US, Cameroon, Liberia, Japan, and New Zealand. Most people there were seasoned activists, the majority middle aged.  



The Conference

The conference was held from September 21-22, 2018.  The overall theme of the conference was to explore how the rule of law has been used both to restrain war and to legitimize it – and how, as activists, we can re-design systems to abolish the institution of war and uphold human and ecological justice.   A series of plenary and workshops were programmed, with breakout sessions for individual workshops and coming back together in the auditorium for the plenaries. A post-conference women’s brunch and march down Beverly St., south of Dundas St. (a popular downtown Toronto avenue) were held that afternoon on Sunday, September 23.  


The welcoming of the conference was led by Leah Bolger and Peter Jones, and land recognition was done by Iehnhotonkwas Bonnie Jane Maracle.  This was followed by a World Beyond War chapter reports from around the world with delegates from Canada, USA, Japan, and New Zealand.

Opening remarks on Day 1 were made by Christine Ahn and Ravyn Wngz. The moderator was David Swanson.  The first plenary was Using the Rule of Law Against War. Day 2 plenary was Canada Weapons, Wars, and Indigenous Rights, and Global Governance: Actual and Potential. The last discussion panels were report backs from workshops and Energizing the War Abolition Movement in Canada and Globally. There were breakout sessions between plenaries for workshops.

An Update on the Peace Process in the Korean Peninsula

Christine Ahn spoke about the May 24th International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament march she led across the DMZ which brought together women from both sides of the 38th Parallel that divides both Koreas.  She led South Korean women and international supporters 2 miles into North Korea which facilitated the reunification of families long separated by geopolitics and a foreign imposed border. The first Women’s March was on May 2015 and meetings have been going on since between peace delegates from Pyongyang and Seoul.  Christine gave an update on how the movement for peace and demilitarization in Korea is going. She took the opportunity to announce the recent developments of a bilateral meeting that took place between South Korea President Moon Jae-in and North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un on September 19, 2018.  She announced what was known points that were agreed, bringing the 65 year old Korean Conflict closer to an end.  

Toronto BLM

Ravyn Wngz is a transwoman and member of the Toronto Black Lives Matter Steering Committee.  She talked about the challenges that the LGBTQ community, black and immigrant community faces in Toronto, how they are often targeted by Toronto police, and the measures that Toronto BLM has taken to confront systematic oppression in their city.  There has been an increase of a militarized police in Canada who mostly targets immigrants and blacks.

Using the Rule of Law Against War

The panel was about how to use the rule of law as a tool to restrict states and prevent wars.  The discussion revolved around existing laws and treaties that limits the making of war to challenge the bellicose state, such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.  Officially named the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, it makes war of aggression illegal, prohibiting war as an instrument to further national political interest.  This post First World War document was drafted by American Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aristide Briand and was signed by most independent states at the time.  Later it was codified into the UN Charter of 1945, ratified by the US Congress and made the Law of the Land. This document was used to successfully prosecute German and Japanese officials during the tribunals at the end of the Second World War.  They spoke of other legal documents and treaties such as the Convention Against Torture, which the US is a signatory to, and the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court (ICC), considered the court of last result, Convention Against Genocide and others

The whole gist of the panel was to show how domestic and international law can succeed in pressuring states into compliance.  The speaker spoke about lawsuits presented against officials in more powerful countries such as the UK for their role in the war against Iraq 2003, lawsuits that have been presented against the Bush Administration, both domestically and internationally, and how the establishment of the ICC in July 1, 2002, succeeded in pressuring Canada to leave Afghanistan June 28, 2002.  

For more content and to see this session of the first plenary of the conference, Using the Rule of Law Against War, click here to view video.

Canadian Weapons, Wars, and Indigenous Rights

Discussion delved on Canada’s militarism and role in global wars, as well as its impact on Native rights and well being.  Discussion was led by American born, author, US Army veteran, now Canadian citizen and Member of Parliament William Geimer, Doctorate candidate in Global Governance and International Relations, and Canadian Women for Peace member, Tamara Lorincz, and Canadian Native (member of the Sto: lo Nation) and award-winning author Lee Meracle.  For more content and to see this session click here.

Points of discussion:

  • Canada’s military history (1899 to present) has been fighting other people’s wars since its beginning; from fighting British wars to fighting American wars.  Canada gained independence from the UK in 1867. Has never fought a war overseas of its own initiative.
  • Canada has a myth of originating as a nation state from a battle.
  • Canadian brass envious of their American counterparts and enforce undue influence on the government.
  • Canada uses propaganda to justify wars they get themselves involved in; i.e. a Canadian Afghanistan War memorial of a Canadian soldier holding the hand of an Afghan implies that Canada went to war in Afghanistan to defend children.
  • The War on Terror has made the world a battlefield, which includes seeing Canadian citizens as potential enemies.
  • Canada is a major arms dealer.
  • William talks about the necessity of engaging in conversation with people about war.  That we have to find ways to bring up the topic of war with people. 4 strategies to engage.
    • Commit once a week to discuss war with a neighbor or friend not involved in the peace movement
    • Rely on conversation on questions, not statements.  Don’t bombard people with facts, use questions and statements instead.
    • Do not allow diversion conversation to hypothetical and generalities.
    • Don’t let a misinformed comment pass.  That is an invitation to ask a question.
  • John Bolton’s statement that the US does not recognize the ICC and threats to ban and prosecute any judge who attempts to investigate the US for war crimes.
  • ICC has been gathering claims from Afghans of war crimes, torture, rape conducted by NATO forces. 1 million claims have been gathered.  A Canadian soldier blew the whistle on Canadian war crimes and insists on an investigation. Both Harper and Trudeau have refused to look into allegations.
  • Canada new foreign policy: Canadian foreign affairs minister calls for an increase of military spending, increase in recruitment, particularly women, immigrants and indigenous people, and that Canada has to use hard power to maintain global order.
  • Canada spends $28 bn on military in 2016, expects to spend $32 bn by 2026, spends only 1.5 bn on the environment and climate change.
  • Canada has troops across Africa working alongside French, British and American troops in neocolonial projects and is working alongside with the Lima Group (Latin American states with right-wing governments) looking to overthrow the Venezuelan government, took part in the coup in Haiti in 2004, are in Eastern Europe with NATO troops close to Russian border, has troops in Iraq close to Syrian border, and is heavily selling arms to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other states.
  • Canada part of Operation Inherent Resolve since 2014 which is an American led bombing campaign over Iraq and Syria; 30 thousand bombs have been dropped since ‘14.
  • Bombs contribute to climate change. The military are exempt from reporting environmental impact.
  • Canada’s major export partner is  the US. The Canadian government does not give any details of arms exports to the US per joint agreement.
  • Great, great granddaughter of Princess of Peace. Retales the story of Princess of Peace conversation with whites coming from Toronto.  Asked what was your basic laws, the whites cited the 10 commandments. When they get to thou shalt not kill, Princess said we did not kill rival clan and we will not kill you, but we know you killed in Africa, we will not kill you, but we will not kill for you either.  
  • Sto: Loh people weren’t always peaceful. We were a warring people in the West Coast for a 1,000 years.  We realized that war was tearing our people apart, making us sick, so we stopped and became a peaceful people. War is making the American people sick.
  • Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice and absence of fear

Energizing the War Abolish Movement in Canada and Globally

Speakers for this panel were Kevin Zeese, Yves Engler, and Azeezah Kanji. This was the last panel of the conference which attempted to recap the previous panels and inspire war abolitionist to continue in their work. The last panelist, Kevin describes the elements of building a movement. For more content on to review full session of this panel click here.

Points of discussion:

  • Canadian national myths that they are gentler better people than their more belligerent neighbor to the South of them. But the truth is that they have participated in numerous wars in their history in support and maintain first of British hegemony and later American hegemony.  
  • Canadians not fully aware of the role their military play in the world. Most believe that their military is necessary as a force for good.
  • Canada second arm importer in the Middle East.
  • Canadian poll shows that Canadians place a low priority on their military.  Most Canadian put other priorities ahead of military spending. This is good because it gives war abolitionist room to work.
  • War abolitionist should push to get Canada out of NATO.
  • Words are powerful and war is a heinous word. A euphemism for modes of violence and colonial violence.
  • When laws of war were being developed it was Eurocentric and meant only for permissible behavior in conducting violence when done between Europeans, but excluded colonial possessions and did not restrict the levels of violence done against colonial subjects. However, colonial subjects are expected to adhere to these European laws and tame their level of violence against the colonists.
  • It’s important to understand that these European wars against indigenous nations around the world are colonial wars, no matter what the pretext given.
  • The illusion among everyday Canadians that Canadians live in a world beyond war obscures the fact that Canada is heavily invested in the military industrial complex that exports and sustains suffering abroad. It also obscures the fact that Canada was founded on systematic violence against the indigenous peoples of the land, violence that continues in many forms today, including militarized policing.
  • As activists, we need to be careful and critical in ways we make arguments basing on international laws.  Much of international laws are Eurocentric and presumed to be universal. International law is a double edge sword, it can be used to protect people but also to cloak colonial violence and imperial dominance.
  • United Nations is biased towards the nation-state system, created via colonization and concepts of Western civilizing missions.  The UN would critic and condemned heavily violence done by non-nation states such as Al Qaeda, but gives a pass to states like the United States when employing greater levels of violence.
  • Look into Humanitarian Intervention and Humanitarian Aid is often from a colonial framework that looks to benefit more the colonizer than the people stated to help
  • How do movement work.  
    • Need to have a mass movement.  
    • Fringe movements don’t work.  
    • Movements need diversity because you need creativity.  
    • National consensus is critical.  
    • Need to mobilize minorities.  History has shown that movement with 3.5 percent of people hasn’t lost.
    • Need to be resilient and flexible because there are lots of challenges to movements.  
    • Grand strategy:
      • 1) build the movement.
      • 2) need internal cohesion.
      • 3) group needs to show resolve
  • Understanding the power structure. Who is holding the power structure in place?  Build movement and identify fractures to weaken the power structure. As you create fractures you pull people to your movement.
  • Don’t depend on mainstream media to tell your story, create your own media. Corporate media credibility is low and building our media we weaken theirs.
  • When doing campaign look at a spectrum of allies.  Look who is your strong allies, who are those who sympathize with you, those who oppose you, and those in the middle.  The goal is to pull those who sympathize to become strong allies and those who are in the middle to sympathize with you.  
  • Do not underestimate art and music when building a movement.  It create unity and people are attracted to happy creative people.
  • Strategy to divide a social movement.  Those who oppose social movements put people and groups into categories: radicals, realists, opportunists, and idealists.  The goal is to divide them.


Workshops were conducted in between plenaries.  Out of the plethora of workshops that were offered I attended:
-Intersectionality with Greta Zarro

-Disrupting the Business Model of War with Peter Jones
-Organizing 101: Strategy, Intersectionality, and Millennials with Greta Zarro
-Divestment from War Profiteers with Medea Benjamin

Intersectionality with Greta Zarro

  • Intersectionality is cross-connections within grassroots to strengthen our movement
  • The war system is the nexus that connects social and economic issues. It impoverishes us as a society.
  • The revival of the Poor People’s Campaign places in front and center the 3 evils in society: capitalism, racism, and militarism.  Pretty much every social ill are connected to those three.
  • The PPC talks about moral fusion, which is changing the narrative our social ills and linking them to one another which is the same as intersectionality.
  • Things to remember with intersecting movements and building with other people:
    • When building with other groups focus on common grounds.  
    • When making moves and connections start with empathy and listening, see the world from the other person’s eyes, be aware of tribal mentality, who belong and do not.
    • Conduct practical connections with other movements without attempting to co-opt it.
    • When dealing with other movements it is important to know that neither have all the answers
    • Understand that most people are consumed with getting by in the world and not so much with what is going on outside their world. Avoid coming out as all knowledgeable and superior when engaging.
    • Avoid “white knighthood” when working with non-white organizations, recognize privilege, don’t attempt to impose solutions.

Disrupting the Business Model of War with Peter Jones

This workshop promoted the notion that to disrupt the MIC one has to understand the business model of war. The business model prays on public ignorance and convinces us of the quality of their product to get us to buy into it.  

To disrupt the business model one have to recognize who the players are, who is profiting, who are the shareholders, identify the many actors, from the top to medium, to lowest paid who depends on the war economy to support their families. Identify those who knowingly and unknowingly promote war.

A business model creates the product, parts, demand, and provide services. It captures a customer and establishes customer relationships.

A business model canvas was explained and groups were formed to analyze the business model and disrupt it. The elements of the business model are as follows:

  • Key Partners, key activities, and key resources
  • Value proposition
  • Customer relationship
  • Customer segments
  • Channels
  • Cost structure
  • Revenue streams

To intervene and disrupt business model, bring activity to light, full disclosure.  Find out who is getting paid, increase citizen participation. During the workshop, we were broken into groups and using a business model worksheet we had to identify each critical elements to model and discuss ways to disrupt it.  

Organizing 101: Strategy, Intersectionality, and Millennials with Greta Zarro

This workshop was a continuation of the earlier workshop that was attended concerning intersectionality, only this one delved in more on how to create strategies and bring millennials into the anti-war movement.  The nuts and bolts of grassroots organizing, with a focus on campaign development, was discussed. Movement building from the perspective of “fusion” organizing and youth activism was the focus.

An observation I made was that the majority of the participants in the conference were middle-aged long time war activists.  I was among in the younger spectrum of the crowd. People who fell in the category of millennials, apart from organizers of the event and student volunteers, could be counted with both hands.  

  • When creating a strategy it is important to identify the target, may it be a CEO of a company, a political figure, or anybody in a powerful position you are trying to sway.  
  • Three areas to consider when creating a strategy
    1. Champion strategy
      • The target agrees with you but needs the encouragement of constituency to take action
    2. Cover strategy
      • Target mostly agree with you but needs cover to act and needs group to provide cover, meaning need to use pressure from a group as to why he or she needs to do this or that.
    3. Pressure strategy
      • Target is not on our side.  Demonstrate to target that they would lose until more is done on the issue.
  • Campaign tactics:
    1. petition/ postcards
    2. Phone banking
    3. Sign-on letter/ coalition building/ leaf passing which should be taken as an opportunity to make a connection
    4. Press events/ town halls
    5. Rallies, marches, sit-ins
    6. Media -traditional and social
    7. Bird-dogging
  • For campaign building
    1. Consider goals
    2. Organizational considerations
    3. Constituents
    4. Target
    5. Tactics

Check out chart by Midwest Academy Strategy

  • Recruitment, what compels people to join?
    1. Altruism
    2. Transaction
    3. Self-interest
    4. Social needs
  • What compels people to stay in a group:
    1. Fun
    2. Constant learning
    3. Leadership experience
    4. Responsibility
    5. Winning

When organizing use Math Formula of Halves:
If you want a turn out of 20 people, target 160 names, get a hold of 80 people, expect 40 out of 80 to RSVP, 20 out of 40 will show up.

Organizing Millennials, the quintessential question: where are all the young people?

  • Millennials are motivated by tangible, concrete action steps, not so much on theory, hypotheticals or deep analysis.
  • Negative vs. Positive language
  • Young people deal with a lot of hypothetical in school, connect with them by showing tangible stuff
  • Social media allows people to be a little bit lazier, human connection never goes out of style
  • There’s a rising progressive challenge to the status quo at the moment that is unconcerned with international politics, more concerned with domestic social politics.  Another challenge that we face when getting millennials interested in abstract geopolitics.
  • Gen X came of age in Cold War transitioning into post-Cold War era and American triumphalism.  Millennials came of age in post-9/11 era and War on Terror. Media has been consolidated and capitalist interest has been homogenized.  

Divestment from War Profiteers with Medea Benjamin

This workshop delved into the tactics and strategies that Code Pink is using to divest from war.  

If you invest check portfolio to see if companies you invest in, invest in companies who are in the business of war.  Websites like opensecretes.org and divestfromwarmachine.org can help you track money and where or to whom it goes to.


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