News Archive
Jan 29, 2016 - Complexity of Militarism: Peace Boat representative at GCOMS preparatory conference in Leeds, UK
Delegates included academics, activists, practitioners and campaigners in the field
Ahead of the World Congress for the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS), one of Peace Boat's Europe-based International Coordinators, participated in the UK preparatory conference at Leeds Beckett University.

GCOMS is a permanent, global, year-round campaign to tackle the worldwide issue of excessive military spending launched on 10 December 2014, by the International Peace Bureau (IPB). It builds on over a decade of work done by IPB and others around the theme of Disarmament for Sustainable Development'. It incorporates the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), whose goals it shares. Peace Boat sits on the International Steering Committee (ISG) of GCOMS and has been involved in organising GDAMS events in Tokyo and onboard its Global Voyages.

To understand better why the world spends too much on war and militarism, the two-day conference in Leeds focused on the "Complexity of Militarism". The aim was to present the complexity of militarism as something that can be understood and tackled (in the same way as other global challenges) and to use this analysis to put forward an action agenda both building alternative structures and reducing the negative impact of militarism.

The conference, organised by Dr. Rachel Julian, Senior Lecturer in Peace Studies at Leeds Beckett University, brought together experts, practitioners, activists, academics and campaigners, each bringing information, data and experiences from their own field of expertise. David Gee, Co-founder of Forces Watch, who has written about the rise of militarism in the UK began the conference by framing militarism as firstly a system, secondly an means of control and thirdly a deception. Contributions included those from Colin Archer, General Secretary of IPB, Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, Andrew Dey of War Resisters International and Dave Webb, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Participants worked in groups to present the complexity of militarism as something that can be understood and tackled
The subjects covered during the discussions were wide reaching reflecting the wide scope of militarism and focused on issues globally and in the UK. They included war profiteering not only directly through the arms trade, but also through mine extraction in Latin America where the military is used against protestors, securitisation as a form of militarism, rise of militarism in schools through government schemes and peace education alternatives, the impact of militarism on development and the relationship between human rights and militarism. The economics of militarism was explored through an analysis of military spending in the UK on offensive weaponry, weapons manufacturing and Research and Development (R&D) in universities across the UK, as well as through an analysis of businesses dependent directly or indirectly on militarism. The group also discussed the role of culture in the military system both at a global level in relation to education, the entertainment industry, concepts of gender and class, as well more specifically in the UK context where there remains a myth of a past glories and heroism in Empire and the defeat of fascism through militarism during World War II. The discussions took place through plenary sessions and in smaller groups as participants worked to map out militarism to understand it as a complex problem and find ways in which it could be challenged, focusing on the political sphere and the social-cultural sphere.

The outcome of the conference along with an Action Agenda will be taken to the World Conference in Berlin in September. Pre-comms are being held all over the world in preparation for the World Congress in Berlin including in Tokyo. Peace Boat is cooperating with the International Peace Research Institute of Meiji Gakuin University (PRIME), in the organization of the International Symposium "World Military Expenditure and Japan's Choices" to be held in Tokyo on January 31, 2016. Colin Archer of IPB will join as a guest speaker and Peace Boat's Kawasaki Akira will present on Japanese security and defense policy.

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