Release: No to war in Ukraine

Anti-war activist groups are organizing in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and countries bordering Ukraine to confront the Putin government’s brutal military aggression. We can do much more to support local nonviolent movements and organize a global solidarity movement.

The aggression led by Vladimir Putin’s government on the Ukrainian population, and the possibility of a military escalation with devastating consequences, has the potential to push the whole of humanity towards disaster. We are observing, once again, the consequences of the current global disorder and the geopolitical machinery of the actors that sustain it: increasing military capabilities, plundering resources, expanding NATO’s power and reach, and being indifferent to Human Rights and the pain of millions of people. Meanwhile, anti-war activists are organizing in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and countries bordering Ukraine, to show the world an alternative, based on nonviolent resistance, defense of human rights and a firm commitment to peace.

From NOVACT, International Institute for Nonviolent Action, we believe that we can do much more to support these local nonviolent movements and contribute to organize a global solidarity movement, towards these actors, which puts human security at the center and flees from the current hegemonic debate, monopolized by the culture of war and support only for armed actors.

In recent years, a global human security architecture has been developed that has designed mechanisms for intervention in armed invasions with nonviolent forces, peace services and civil defense, an architecture that also gathers and systematizes the most significant experiences lived in the last century around the world. These possibilities are not receiving enough space in the current debate. For many years there have been initiatives around the world in the nonviolent transformation of conflicts, in nonviolent defense organizing corps, services, brigades, nonviolent forces, peace, interposition, human shields…The XXI century shows us that the global challenge is to adapt to a changing system of international relations, marked by climate change and global inequalities; a system in which a security focused solely on the role of states and forgetting the integral human security cannot be a valid response to the current challenges.

NOVACT wants to put these alternatives to public deliberation.

The global peace movement has the capacity, responsibility and possibility to offer nonviolent alternatives to both: the existing security model of deterrence, and the right to armed defense which, again, are solely being proposed in the case of the invasion in Ukraine.

Nonviolent civil resistance uses specific methods to respond to violence without the use of physical violence. Nonviolent civil defense includes these methods within an alternative or complementary strategy and organization, to conventional armed defense systems. From the recognition of this practice, and its use in different contexts, this positioning wants to contribute, now, to strengthen the existing initiatives of nonviolent civil resistance acting in the current conflict in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

We note that:

1. The Ukrainian people are taking an incredibly courageous stand. Across the country we are seeing the use of civil resistance tactics, such as blockades, changing road signs, boycotting Russian products, satire and viral memes, and questioning Russian soldiers. All of these could prove decisive in putting an end to Russian aggression and open the way for future reconciliation between the populations involved in the conflict. In the event that the Russian invasion is consolidated and Ukrainian cities and towns are occupied, nonviolent civilian defense with organized mass noncooperation could be an especially powerful form of resistance. These efforts will involve civilian populations organizing for ambitious action and denying the moral and material resources the occupiers will need to exert their power. We are not talking about a vague pacifist dream, civil defense through nonviolence is an integral part of Lithuania’s national defense strategy and formed an integral part of the Baltic civil defense strategies.

From NOVACT we are committed to give visibility to nonviolent actions on the ground.

2. The same tactics, with different strategies, are being implemented in Russia and Belarus and neighboring countries. We have observed how Russian and Belarusian social movements are organizing against the war, questioning the position of their government and generating channels of global solidarity essential to find a negotiated solution to the conflict. On all borders with Ukraine, civil society is organizing to provide humanitarian and emergency aid to the refugee population. People are taking to the streets to protest against the war in the streets of Moscow or Volgograd, and have been protesting against the war for the last two years, face sentences of up to 15 years and are at risk of being sent to the front lines.

Making their struggle visible, making it known and organizing a global solidarity movement seems, to NOVACT, an obligation.

3. We consider that actions aimed at promoting a nonviolent transformation of the conflict, such as nonviolent civil defense or noncooperation, are not being considered as an alternative or complementary strategy to military defense, are not receiving the attention they deserve in the media, nor in peace movements, nor in public policies supporting the Ukrainian defense.

From NOVACT we want to contribute to make these actions visible so that they can be the recipients of a global solidarity movement.

The commitment to nonviolence is not a novelty in the region. The Ukrainian people have already shown, over the last decades, an enormous capacity for nonviolent mobilization and have experience of the strength of the civilian population to face critical situations. The 2015 national survey in Ukraine, on the preferences of resistance in case of a foreign armed invasion and occupation of their country, right after the Euromaidan revolution, of occupation of the Crimean peninsula and of the Donbass region by Russian troops, showed that the most popular option of resistance among the Ukrainian population was to join nonviolent resistance: 29% supported this option in case of foreign armed aggression and 26% in case of occupation.

Considering the above reflections, from NOVACT we want to join the global efforts to make a call upon individuals, citizen’s (civil society) organizations and public institutions to position themselves with determination for a culture of peace and rights, demonstrating and getting involved in initiatives of nonviolent conflict transformation and civil resistance, showing that there are alternatives to passivity and weapons.

Although it would have been optimal to organize and prepare in advance, working with the following objectives can expand the transformative capacity of nonviolent civil resistance in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and neighboring populations:

1. To give visibility and legitimacy to the nonviolent conflict transformation actions that anti-war movements in these countries are organizing.

2. To contribute to channel and organize the demand of the citizens of these countries to support local initiatives of resistance and civil defense, as they consider and need.

3. To contribute to protect all people acting in defense of human rights, including conscientious objectors and deserters in this war, people between 18 and 60 years old who have the right to leave, to take refuge, not to participate in armed actions or to participate in nonviolent civil resistance. We know that in war contexts, people who defend human rights are often cornered and forgotten. We want to support them.

4. Support and protect women, girls and boys in all their diversity, and racialized and marginalized groups in Ukraine who have the right to leave and seek refuge, guaranteeing their rights and differentiated needs.

Map of nonviolent conflict transformation actions made in collaboration with local peace movements:

Concrete contributions and proposals to reach these goals, contact:

To know more:

Board of NOVACT – International Institute for Nonviolent Action / Barcelona, 8th March 2022