WILPF UK (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), the oldest women’s international peace organisation, is appalled at – and mourns – the suffering, devastation and lives lost in more than a year of war in Ukraine. One Irish military analyst estimates that between 800 and 1,000 young people from opposing forces are being killed every day, while the civilian dead, including children, go uncounted. WILPF calls for an immediate cease to hostilities, and for strategic and political differences to be addressed by the observation of international law and through mediation to reach a negotiated settlement.
Instead, over the last bloody and destructive year, both the Russian Government as the aggressor and the Ukrainian leaders, in their efforts to defend their position spurred on by the US and its NATO allies, have fatally chosen military escalation. They are depending on the same belligerent perspective that spectacularly failed to deliver peace after the carnage across Europe brought about by the war in Europe, named by Europeans ‘The First World War’. As WILPF has recorded throughout its history, reckless rhetoric and the absence of any meaningful efforts at diplomacy cannot deliver lasting peace.
The UN and all of its members have a compelling responsibility to act in this situation. A year has passed since the UN General Assembly resolution in March 2022 urging “the immediate peaceful settlement of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means.” The international community relies on Member States’ compliance with the UN’s efforts to solve its disputes and should not initiate autocratic responses that impact on other Member States.
Instead of initiating peace talks, or at least identifying places where parties might work together to address a shared concern, NATO alliance countries are fuelling military escalation by supplying ever more powerful weapon systems to Ukraine, in some cases as a preference to diplomatic effort, and Russia is now putting Belarus under pressure to compromise its existing nuclear obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This ill-considered and wasteful war is already inflicting on Europe ongoing loss of life, destruction of vital infrastructure, damage to the environment and colossal emissions of carbon. The effect on the climate, the environment and global food supplies will impact for far longer than the lifetimes of the world leaders who are responsible. An even more dangerous consequence of this escalation is the risk of a direct confrontation between two countries that possess about 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. The start of nuclear weapons use carries a mortal risk to the planet and everything on it as the likely end-game. Attacks on or near major nuclear power stations could be as likely a catalyst as so-called tactical nuclear weapons, use of which would make recovery from the disaster impossible.
Governments everywhere must recognise that, unless we destroy ourselves and the planet completely, peace talks will come eventually and so it makes the only sense to work to ensure that this is the option that should be escalated by all means possible. It is imperative that UN Member States take immediate actions. Here are WILPF’s four demands:
- Support, safe spaces and amnesty should be arranged for all war resisters and protestors, including those who have left their country to avoid being drafted into the army or at risk of imprisonment for speaking out against the war. This means reviewing border control and refugee policies.
- The international community could make efforts to broker a bilateral commitment to a no-go zone around the nuclear power stations to reduce the risk of inadvertent nuclear escalation (this could even bring some of the protagonists into the negotiation chamber without attaching unacceptable conditions).
- Opportunities for even limited ceasefire agreements must be sought and taken.
- Women’s voices (as the most affected victims) from grass roots initiatives must be listened to and their needs put at the top of the peace initiative, with experienced women survivors included as active agents in negotiations for ceasefires, no-go zones and other initiatives that could de-escalate the immediate effects of the war and eventually taking part in negotiated settlement.
We plead with Russia and Ukraine to enter negotiations directly, on neutral ground, and with a mutually agreeable mediator.