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The broken rifle logo.

War Resisters' International (WRI) is an international anti-war organization with members and affiliates in over thirty countries. Its headquarters are in London, UK.



War Resisters' International was founded in Bilthoven, Netherlands in 1921 under the name "Paco". WRI adopted a founding declaration that has remained unchanged:

War is a crime against humanity. I am therefore determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.

It adopted the broken rifle as its symbol in 1931.

Many of its founders had been involved in the resistance to the First World War: its first Secretary, Herbert Runham Brown, had spent two and a half years in a British prison as a conscientious objector. Witnessing the collapse of the policy of an "international general strike against war" (adopted by the Socialist International), they decided to launch an anti-militarist international. Two years later, in 1923, Tracey Mygatte, Frances Witherspoon, Jessie Wallace Hughan, and John Haynes Holmes founded the War Resisters League in the United States.

WRI members refuse to support war or preparations for war. Their conscientious objection to war takes various forms. Some refuse to engage in military service. Others refuse to pay taxes that support the military. Still others refuse to work for military contractors. WRI has been involved in movements that have transformed these individual acts of personal witness into collective acts of noncooperation, such as draft card burnings in the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Each year on 1 December, Prisoners for Peace Day, WRI produces an Honour Roll of those imprisoned for nonviolent action against war preparations. If the name gives an image of a network mainly of young men resisting military service, the reality is much more varied. WRI cuts across age groups, drawing on the experience of several generations of organizers of nonviolent action and from a variety of cultures. In addition, it has organized four international women's conferences and has an active Women's Working Group.

WRI members also are fundamentally committed to promoting nonviolent action as a form of social struggle. WRI has provided training in nonviolence, held international conferences on themes such as "Nonviolent Struggle and Social Defense" and "Feminism and Nonviolence," and organized nonviolent action campaigns. The next planned WRI conference - in Ahmedabad, India, in January 2010 - is entitled "Nonviolent Livelihood Struggles and Global Militarism: Links and Strategies".[1]

Within the WRI network, from the Dutch anarchist Bart de Ligt and the U.S. Quaker Richard Gregg onwards, there have always been many people interested in nonviolent struggle as a means of social change. This, together with the organization's analysis that the injustice of colonialism was a cause of war, led to a keen interest in the Indian independence struggle and, later, close working relationships with sections of the Gandhian movement. Indeed one of the last acts of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in January 1948 was to attend a preparatory meeting for the World Pacifist Meeting he called, at the behest of WRI, and which eventually took place in December 1949. It took the form of 50 international pacifists meeting with 25 of Gandhi's close associates in an "unhurried conference" in Santiniketan, West Bengal (once the home of Rabindranath Tagore adjourning to Sevagram (Gandhi's home in his final years).[2]

Refugees from the Spanish Civil War at the War Resisters' International children's refuge at Prats-de-Mollo in the French Pyrenees, some time between 1937 and 1939. The warden of the home, Professor José Brocca is standing third from left in the photograph.

Peak periods of activity in WRI occurred in the 1930s, the 1960s (with the first wave of antinuclear campaigning, the U.S. civil rights movement, and the international anti-Vietnam War movement), and the 1980s. In the 1930s and 1940s, WRI helped to rescue people from persecution under Francisco Franco and under the Nazis and found them safe homes with WRI members in other countries. It paid particular attention to the plight of Spanish orphans, children separated from their parents, and widows. Under Nazi occupation, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian members of WRI played prominent roles in organizing nonviolent resistance to frustrate the occupiers' plans and to deny them the fruits of their aggression. (The secretary of the Dutch section was executed by firing squad in December 1944 for printing illegal papers and pamphlets.)

During the Cold War, WRI consistently sought out war resisters in the Soviet bloc: first individuals, and later groups. After the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, WRI organised protest demonstrations in four Warsaw Pact capitals. In the 1980s, it adopted the idea of personal peace treaties: peace activists from the Eastern and Western blocs declared their loyalty to the values they held in common and not to the machinery of state and military that divided them; they then vowed to support each other in their struggle against the militarism of their respective blocs. Other actions were less public, such as private visits where material or information was smuggled in or out of a country.

WRI has also supported the alternative press in countries in which conscription is in force, through advertising. In 1988, a WRI advert was cited as one of the reasons for the seizure of an edition of the Weekly Mail in South Africa, after the banning of the local End Conscription Campaign.

There also have been many testing times for WRI. During the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and the 1990s' wars in the Balkans, peace movements have found themselves divided. Faced by what they see as a defensive war against a brutal aggressor, many individuals have questioned their commitment not to support any kind of war.

WRI has tried to develop nonviolent strategies for effective action in such situations, trying to pose another way, an alternative between submission and taking up arms, and to find means of breaking the cycle of war and violence. In 1971, when Pakistani troops were blockading what was then East Pakistan, WRI launched Operation Omega to Bangladesh, a nonviolent direct action project to take in relief supplies. More recently, the International Deserters Network associated with WRI has offered support for people resisting the Gulf War of 1991 and, on a much larger scale, the wars in the Balkans, where it was also engaged with several other peace organizations in an experiment in international nonviolent intervention, the Balkan Peace Team, working for human rights and in support of civil society initiatives in nonviolent conflict resolution.

The WRI office's work is now divided into two broad programmes - the Right to Refuse to Kill, and the Nonviolence Programme, which in addition to producing resources about nonviolent action for social change (such as the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, 2009), also compiles information about war profiteering and action against it.


War Resisters' International is a network of member groups. A list of member groups can be found below or (with addresses and weblinks) on the WRI website [2]. An international conference takes place at least once every four years (for historical reasons, conferences since 1994 have been referred to as "triennials" despite departing from that frequency).

The chair is elected by postal vote in advance of the international conference. Since the office of chair was created in 1926, chairs have been:


  • WRI's main publication is the quarterly bulletin The Broken Rifle (in hard copy [non-standard tabloid or A4 paper size], PDF, and HTML editions, in English, French, German, and Spanish, and occasionally in other languages such as Russian and Korean).
  • The Women's Working Group of WRI produces an occasional A5 magazine, WRI Women.

Affiliated groups

Key: S = section A = Associated organisation AP = Associated publication

Country Customary name English name Affiliated as
ANGOLA Iniciativa Angolana Antimilitarista para os Direitos Humanos Angolan Antimilitaristic Initiative for Human Rights S
AUSTRALIA War Resisters' League S
AUSTRIA Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wehrdienstverweigerung und Gewaltfreiheit A
AUSTRIA Begegnungszentrum für Aktive Gewaltlosigkeit A
BELGIUM Action Jeunesse pour la Paix Youth Action for Peace A
BELGIUM Vredesactie Peace Action S
BELGIUM Mouvement International de la Réconciliation/ Internationale des Résistant(e)s à la Guerre S
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA Kampanja za prigovor savjesti u BiH Campaign for Conscientious Objection in BiH A
BRITAIN Anglican Pacifist Fellowship A
BRITAIN Brotherhood Church A
BRITAIN Conscience - The Peace Tax Campaign A
BRITAIN Greenpeace (London) A
BRITAIN Housmans Bookshop A
BRITAIN Aldermaston Women's Peace Campaign A
BRITAIN Fellowship of Reconciliation UK S
BRITAIN Peace Pledge Union S
CANADA Centre de ressources sur la non-violence A
CANADA ACT for the Earth S
CHAD Tchad Non-Violence A
CHILE Grupo de Objeción de Conciencia Ni Casco Ni Uniforme S
CHILE Grupo de Objeción de Conciencia Rompiendo Filas S
COLOMBIA Red Juvenil A
CROATIA Antiratna Kampanja Hrvatske A
DENMARK Aldrig Mere Krig S
ECUADOR Servicio Paz y Justicia del Ecuador A
FINLAND Committee of 100 in Finland A
FINLAND Sitoutumaton Vasemmisto Independent Left A
FINLAND Aseistakieltäytyjäliitto Union of Conscientious Objectors S
FRANCE Collectif des Objectrices et Objecteurs Tarnais A
FRANCE Mouvement de l'Objection de Conscience A
FRANCE Mouvement International de la Réconciliation A
FRANCE Mouvement pour une alternative non-violente A
FRANCE Union Pacifiste de France S
GEORGIA People to People A
GEORGIA War Resisters' International - Georgian Section S
GERMANY Anti-Kriegs-Museum A
GERMANY Archiv Aktiv für gewaltfreie Bewegungen A
GERMANY Graswurzelrevolution AP
GERMANY Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft - Internationale der Kriegsdienstgegner S
GERMANY Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft - Vereinigte KriegsdienstgegnerInnen S
GERMANY Institut für Friedensarbeit und Gewaltfreie Konfliktaustragung Institute for Peace Work and Nonviolent Conflict Transformation S
GERMANY Internationale der Kriegsdienstgegner/innen - IDK S
GREECE Σύνδεσμος Αντιρρησιών Συνείδησης Association of Greek COs S
HUNGARY Alba Kör - Eröszakmentes Mozgalom a Békéért Alba Circle: Nonviolent Movement for Peace in Hungary S
INDIA Gandhian Society Villages Association A
INDIA Swadhina S
INDIA War Resisters of India/West S
IRELAND INNATE - an Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education A
ISRAEL פרופיל חדש New Profile A
ITALY Associazione SignorNò! (close) A
ITALY Lega degli Obiettori di Coscienza A
ITALY Movimento Nonviolento S
JAPAN Nipponzan Myohoji A
KOREA (SOUTH) 전쟁 저항자 인터내셔널 코리아 WRI-Korea A
MACEDONIA Мировна Акција/Mirovna Akcija Peace Action A
NEPAL Human Rights Without Frontiers, Nepal A
NIGERIA Alternatives to Violence Project Nigeria A
NORWAY Folkereisning Mot Krig S
PAPUA NEW GUINEA Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency A
PARAGUAY Movimiento de Objeción de Conciencia A
PORTUGAL Associação Livre dos Objectores e Objectoras de Consciência A
ROMANIA Sibienii Pacifisti A
SERBIA Pokret za Mir Pančevo A
SERBIA Žene u Crnom protiv Rata Women in Black Against War A
SPAIN Taller de Paz Peace Factory A
SPAIN Assemblea Antimilitarista de Catalunya S
SPAIN Kontzientzi Eragozpen Mugimendua S
SPAIN Alternativa Antimilitarista.MOC S
SRI LANKA Nonviolent Direct Action Group S
SUDAN Sudanese Organization for Nonviolence and Development A
SWEDEN Kristna Fredsrörelsen S
SWEDEN Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society S
SWITZERLAND Centre pour l'action non-violente Centre for Nonviolent Action (formerly Centre Martin Luther King) A
SWITZERLAND Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee Group for a Switzerland without an Army A
TURKEY İstanbul Anti-militarist İnisiyatif Istanbul Antimilitarist Initiative A
UGANDA Jamii Ya Kupatanisha Fellowship of Reconciliation in Uganda A
UNITED STATES Fellowship of Reconciliation USA A
UNITED STATES Resource Center for Nonviolence A
UNITED STATES War Resisters League S
ZIMBABWE Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe A
international organisations International Nonviolent Initiatives A

See also


  1. ^ War Resisters' International website, accessed 21 Dec 2009. [1]
  2. ^ Prasad, Devi: War is a Crime against Humanity: The story of War Resisters' International, pp. 272-276. London: War Resisters' International 2005

General References

Clark, Howard: "War Resisters' International", in Encyclopaedia of Nonviolence, Garland Publishing 1997. See note on discussion page.

Prasad, Devi: War is a Crime against Humanity: The story of War Resisters' International, London: War Resisters' International 2005

Additional reading

  • Bennett, Scott. Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8156-3028-X
  • Beyer, Wolfram. 60 years of the War Resisters' International (WRI) - with special reference to the period 1921 - 1939. Berlin, 1985, published by 'Schriftenreihe des Libertären Forums Berlin' (English translation from German by Hilda Morris, GB - theses for diploma at the Free University of Berlin).

External links



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