United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) 2015 Annual Report
2015 was action filled, with a variety of movements taking to the streets in response to issues including the deaths of African-American men at the hands of the police, militarization of the police, climate change, nuclear weapons, war, and rising Islamophobia. UFPJ’s calls to action reflected our long-standing belief that we must link the wars abroad with the assaults at home, and U.S. militarism with the corporate economic interests it serves. Our work is to see that the peace movement is the strongest possible ally to movements for social and economic justice in the U.S. and abroad.
- “Time for the Global Superpower for Peace and Justice to Rise Again!” urged organizations and activists to unite for a series of coordinated actions starting with the 12th anniversary of the massive February 15, 2003 global protests against the then impending invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- “We the People, Silent No More” sought to re-energize peace education, organizing, and mobilization to prepare activists to address military endeavors and the shifting global order that is leading to more war and conflict.
- “Deepening Anti-Racism Work in the Anti-War Movement” a statement from Michael McPhearson, former UFPJ National Coordinator and currently the Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, examined how supporting the movement for racial justice and Black liberation will invigorate our peace movement.
UFPJ will work to strengthen our alliances with the movements for racial and environmental justice as it addresses war and conflict worldwide.
In February, UFPJ was able to hire a half-time communications coordinator and organizer who, working with an expanded and highly-committed volunteer Coordinating Committee, enabled UFPJ to greatly increase our output and networking capacity. We successfully transitioned our large database and e-mail management system to a new provider, began updating the UFPJ website so we can feature more events and activities of the organizations that are part of the UFPJ network and make more resources available. We also ramped up our social media presence in a major way and began a process of systematically contacting member groups to update their information, survey their current needs and interests, and improve connectivity. These developments enabled us to do significant work in the following areas.
Iraq remains a central focus of UFPJ’s work. We see today, as we warned when we first came together in 2002 to oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq, that the “War on Terror” has only bred more violence. Iraq’s destabilization has now spread over its borders to engulf an entire region. We continue to oppose US military intervention or strategies that include the US arming and training foreign military, paramilitary, or militia fighters. In 2015, we opposed the Obama Administration’s deployment of new troops (in addition to the more that 3,100 US troops already on the ground) and the building of a new military base in Iraq. As part of our Spring call-to-action, UFPJ member groups hosted local rallies, teach-ins, and vigils on February 15th, to commemorate the anniversary of February 15, 2003, when UFPJ organized the largest global demonstration in history to say “No” to the invasion of Iraq. We also called on local groups to take action on March 19, the anniversary of the invasion, and promoted public discussions, teach-ins, and protests, including the National Spring Rising Anti-war Demonstration in Washington, DC.
The Iran Nuclear Deal
This was a huge success for the peace movement, and UFPJ was at the center of national efforts to support negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program. While Republicans in Congress opposed engaging in diplomatic relations with the country that was once labeled part of an “Axis of Evil,” UFPJ promoted a campaign, with allied organizations, to support the agreement that will require international inspections and ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. Early on, when it was still unclear whether Congress would block diplomacy and perhaps even support war with Iran, UFPJ promoted a petition drive, which gained tens of thousands of signatures, generated large numbers of calls to Congress, held a national briefing conference call, and provided educational resources. This victory for diplomacy could lead to other non-military solutions to conflict in the region. UFPJ is currently working with many of the organizations that we partnered with on the Iran nuclear deal campaign to address the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis.
The Syrian Crisis
UFPJ staunchly opposes US military intervention in Syria and maintains that only robust and truly inclusive, international negotiations will end the strife and violence the Syrian people are facing. We supported a resolution introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee and Walter Jones, that was designed to force a Congressional decision on war against ISIS, and most importantly would have brought all US troops home in the absence of a decision. Unfortunately, this effort failed. In light of recent ISIS attacks on Beirut, Paris, and elsewhere, the US, and other nations’ escalation of airstrikes, as well as continued arming and training of militants on the ground, UFPJ will be making Syria a central focus of our organizing. We recently co-hosted a national conference call on understanding and dealing with the Syrian crisis, and have joined the Peace and Planet coalition call for local actions on December 10, International Human Rights Day, focusing on the human right to peace, with an emphasis on the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
Occupation of Afghanistan
While the US military remains in Afghanistan, there will be no peace or security for Afghanistan or the US. UFPJ calls on the United States government to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan and to bring an end to the 15-year-long military debacle. The drones, bombing, night raids, and support for one of the most corrupt regimes in the world have not made life better or brought security to the Afghan people. President Obama’s October 15 announcement that the United States will retain troops in Afghanistan beyond his term in office came on the heels of a shocking US war crime, the October 3rd bombing of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecines Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which killed 22 people including doctors, nurses and children. UFPJ responded with a campaign that produced nearly 2,000 letters to Senators and Congressional Representatives calling for complete withdrawal of our troops. We will continue to lead on this issue and work to end this failed US foreign policy.
The Ukraine Crisis
The Ukraine conflict is a complex proxy war involving four of the world’s five original nuclear-armed nations: the United States, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom. The extent of support provided by outside powers was and remains unclear, obscured by virulent propaganda campaigns promulgated by all sides. The Ukraine war has also become both a cause and an excuse for the ratcheting up of tensions between the US (with its NATO allies) and Russia. UFPJ worked with many partner organizations and member groups to offer analysis, provide resources, and educate activists about the crisis. We will continue to monitor developments, especially as tensions between the US/NATO faction and Russia grow in response to events in Syria.
Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
Recognizing that the danger of wars among nuclear-armed nations is growing, UFPJ was a central partner in the Peace and Planet Mobilization for a Nuclear-free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World in New York City from April 24-26, on the eve of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The mobilization brought together anti-nuclear, peace, climate, economic, and racial justice activists from around the world. It included a two-day conference with a spectacular line-up of speakers and 44 workshops, a peace festival, a global wave, and a demonstration at the United Nations. Peace and Planet’s goals were two-fold:
To demand immediate negotiations for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and,
To strengthen and connect our movements.
It was endorsed by over 350 organizations in 20 countries, and over 7 million signatures were delivered to high-ranking UN officials who participated in our events. More than 7,000 people from many countries, particularly Japan, marched with us from Union Square to the UN. A “Global Wave” was launched at the April 26 rally in New York, with participants symbolically waving goodbye to nuclear weapons. The Wave traveled west, by time zone, with public events in Papeete, Manila, Amman, Bethlehem, Stockholm, Paris, London, Sao Paulo and points in-between, arriving back at the UN for the opening of the NPT Review Conference on April 27. UFPJ’s part-time staff and volunteers were on the ground to facilitate organizing. We also put a significant effort into evaluating the events, to gage our success and to learn from both our shortcomings and our best practices.
Please make a generous end of year donation so that UFPJ can be even more active in 2016.