IIPE, The World Tribunal on Iraq, and Transcending a Century of Worldwide Wars

Janet Gerson

Education Director, International Institute on Peace Education
Planning Committee, Global Community Forum
(Featured Article: Issue #111 March/April 2014)

IIPE2014The challenge of abolition of war will be addressed at the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE) 2014, taking place July 6-13 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Participants will inquire into how peace educators, activists, and scholars contribute to the challenge of the global war system and transcending a century of worldwide wars. In anticipation of the IIPE, I want to reflect upon three social political practices that we might more consciously engage to address the challenge of abolition of war.  These are dialogue, deliberation, and generating innovative forms. Dialogue is deeply integrated into IIPE.  IIPE itself, founded by Dr. Betty Reardon, is an innovative form for network-building among peace educators, activists, and scholars.  However, to rise to the challenge of the abolition of war, we will need to give more consideration to deliberation and how to generate other alternative forms.  These three practices will be explained followed by the example of  how they were part of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), a global civil society tribunal on the 2003 war in Iraq and, more broadly, making the case against war as an unacceptable violation of the global human community.

Dialogue is the most consciously engaged of these practices at IIPE.  On the classroom and conference level, dialogue means open and respectful communication, an interchange of perspectives, opinions and experiences.  Dialogue constitutes a way of thinking together toward new understandings.  New knowledge and understandings are necessary, since comprehensive and sustained peace remains an aspiration.  To take on the challenge of abolition, dialogue offers individuals the opportunity to delve into their sense of injustices brought out by their first-hand and indirect experiences of war, and to demand more just alternatives.  Dialogue is central to IIPE pedagogy.  Yet, in peace politics, a more intensive form of communication is needed.

Deliberation is a more intensive process than dialogue because deliberation incorporates the skills of dialogue into policy and decision-making communication. The participants must move beyond sharing and listening for understanding others, the interpersonal level; they must move the process of exchange along toward reaching a collective agreement on next steps for action for a common good.  Deliberation is a dialogic interchange of proposals, reasoned justifications/explanations, and a collective scrutiny of those proposals in order to make shared decisions toward solving problems and taking action.   In other words, decisions, agreed upon common strategies, and planned actions must be reached as conclusions of successful deliberations.  

As Dale Snauwaert describes it, deliberation “requires that everyone submit their values and ideas to open impartial scrutiny as a test of their objectivity, value, and validity.”(1) Open impartial scrutiny means that participants present proposals and their rationales. Both the proposals and justifications may subsequently be challenged by other participants.  Deliberation, then, is a form of argumentation that is submitted to the cooperative reasoning of the group involved in the decision-making.  In peace politics, open impartial scrutiny means that participants present proposals and their rationales to the processes of open public reasoning.  Deliberation as a practice in peace politics necessitates both ethical and respectful guidelines and forms that support it.  Importantly, forms for deliberation on public policy should demonstrate how to bring about inclusion and participation of those affected by the policy decision-making.  Ethical processes and inclusion of political participation are necessary criteria for a successful process for public policy and decision-making. 

IIPE is a pedagogical form for reflection and inquiry on the participants’ peace practices, but it does not engage in policy recommendations or decision-making processes.  If it is not a form for deliberation, then what models do we have? In particular, what precedents are there for ordinary citizens to engage in a challenge as formidable as the abolition of war? By learning from other models, IIPE participants can prepare to use precedent examples in their post-IIPE actions.

wtiThe World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is one recent model in which deliberation among global citizens was enacted through an experimental tribunal form. The WTI was an alternative, innovative form of a post-conflict justice tribunal.  In contrast, the Nuremberg Tribunal was an international military tribunal enacted by the Allied victor nations following World War II.  The South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission was organized to restore society and governance after the fall of the Apartheid regime and a civil war. In contrast, the WTI was organized by global civil society to challenge the 2003 war and occupation of Iraq. 

The WTI arose from the global antiwar movement that peaked on February 15, 2003 with the largest global antiwar protests ever to take place.  Nevertheless, Iraq was attacked in March 2003. In May, the war was declared over and an occupation officially commenced.  The idea for a tribunal arose in a number of places worldwide as a way to organize further contestation and rejection of the legitimacy or legality of the war. The WTI was formulated in three meetings in May, June, and October 2003.  Hearings were organized in twenty cities worldwide.  The Culminating Session took place in Istanbul in June 2005. 

The WTI’s experimental non-official tribunal form brought together social movement learning and practices of global civil society.  These movements included groups and individuals working on global justice through international law, human rights principles, economic justice, ecological justice, and diverse regional issues of injustice.  Furthermore, the WTI brought together people working on international, national and local levels. Among the participants were Iraqi, Turkish, Japanese, Mexican, Tanzanian, German, British, Tunisian, Swedish, Indian, Argentinian, Indonesian, French, and US citizens.  The networks were crisscrossed by the participation of philosophers, political scientists, medical experts, economists, media workers, ecologists, anthropologists, translators, labors, and conscientious objectors.  The tribunal project could be described as an “articulation” as Stuart Hall defined the word, that is, as an unstable unity (2), a worldwide convergence based on rejection and protest. 

What is of particular interest is how this network articulation of rejection was transformed into a constructive, collaborative, and communicative citizens’ tribunal project, one that was sustained and completed over a two-year period, 2003-2005. What I find remarkable is that these people, many of whom are professional organizers of contentious politics, i.e. highly skilled in generating critique, rejection and resistance, were nevertheless able to sustain a two year collaborative project.  How did a convergence of people raising conflict become transformed into a coordinated tribunal project? As a result of multi-participant deliberation and consensus decision-making, the WTI claimed the following foundational bases to their collective, concrete tribunal project in which they WTI aimed to reclaim justice(3):

First, the rejection of the war was the basic commonality they shared.  They agreed to broadly base their embodied sense of authority most fundamentally in the millions of people protested the war.  As Amartya Sen states, the idea of justice can develop when “people across the world agitate to get more globaljustice…for the elimination of some outrageously unjust arrangements to enhance global justice”(4).   Second, the WTI drew upon “universal morals and human rights principles”(5) to provide a common ethical framework. These were drawn from official international documents that name violations against human society generated by the war’s impact on human beings, the environment, and human society.  Third, they asserted the authority of ordinary people, “we the peoples”, global citizens and subjects of laws and governance who were using “human to human connections” (6) to demonstrate their authority to challenge war and contribute to determining how issues of (in)justice should be judged.

wti2The WTI operationalized their tribunal project through processes that attempted to include and coordinate among people who had differing ideologies, regional perspectives, aims and strategies.  Here are some of the ways they enacted the tribunal project’s form, thereby democratizing justice:

First, the WTI’s form was flexible and polycentric in that each of the local tribunal hearings could be organized as the local coordinators wanted.  Some resembled legal hearings or legal teach-ins, victim testimonials, or academic symposium and debates on particular topics, incorporating more or less of visual media evidence.  Second, the Culminating Session in Istanbul brought together the findings and people from these local hearings and diverse orientations.  This session was an intensification because the WTI would close with a final collectively written statement “The Declaration of the Jury of Conscience of the World Tribunal on Iraq”.  The need to agree and cooperate was intensified by the collective presence in Istanbul and the writing production deadline. 

Third, the WTI operationalized deliberations using principles of a democratic ethic of participation in which consensus could be reached without anyone dominating over others. The principles included non-hierarchical organizing, volunteer participation, and inclusion of diverse and pluralistic views (7) in order to even juxtapose the contradictions in proposals that arose from the deliberation. Along with empirical evidence and subjective testimony, the key accomplishment of the WTI tribunal form was to provide public space for deliberation on issues of global justice raised by the war in Iraq from divergent, even conflicting views.  The resulting proposals, reasoned justification, and argumentation did not resolve these issues. However, they were brought out and brought together in a generalized congruence of opinion that also included non-reconcilable differences. 

Fourth, the WTI’s horizontal organizing and consensus decision-making process also included a continual process of self-reflection, assessing the process of deliberation as well as the tribunal’s concrete accomplishments.  And, fifth, the WTI coordinators achieved some of their aims by leaving an alternative record of the war and occupation of Iraq, by working together for more justice, and by asserting a form that could be used as a future model for global citizen participation in bringing about more justice. The documentary text The World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War was published in 2008 (8) as was the documentary film For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (9).

In The World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War , Hilal Küey states that “If world peace is to be constituted—and this is an absolute necessity for our world to continue to exist—we need to develop the bases for a different approach to justice, judgment, and institutions.” (10) The WTI can be described as what Betty Reardon calls creative constructive contention. (11) The WTI brought together people with diverse, even contradictory expertise, experience, strategies and ideologies. The network of the antiwar movement protesters was transformed into a global coordinated project and public space for the global challenge to war. The twenty hearings on the war were locally organized according to the capacities and preferences of the local organizers. The Culminating Session drew together these local contributions into an intensified creative alternative form for public deliberation of the global community. By their inclusion, the WTI aimed to reclaim justice and to do so through democratizing principles of inclusion, diversity, and open-decision making.  Public deliberation was enacted so that a final statement could be cooperatively constructed.

If the war system is to be challenged, weakened, and/or dismantled, we global citizens must hone our capacities for not only dialogue, but also public deliberation and cooperative coordination of alternative public forms.  Creative alternative public forms based on ethical principles and human to human connection hold both hope and potential for the challenge of abolition in the 21st century.

Notes and References:

** The priority application deadline for IIPE 2014 is April 1.  Visit IIPE on the web for more information and to apply: http://www.i-i-p-e.org/2014.html

1. Reardon, B. A., & Snauwaert, D. T. (2011). Reflective pedagogy, cosmopolitanism, and critical peace education for political efficacy: A discussion of Betty A. Reardon’s assessment of the field, p. 5. In Factis Pax, 5(1), 1-14. Available at: http://www.infactispax.org/journal/
2. Interview with Stuart Hall: On postmodernism and articulation. Edited by Larry Grossberg (1996), pp. 131-150. In (Eds.) Morley, d. & Chen, Kuan-Hsing (1996).
3. These findings are drawn from Gerson, J. (2013). Democratizing justice: The World Tribunal on Iraq.  In Factis Pax  7(3), 86-112. Available at http://www.infactispax.org/journal
4. Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, p. 26.
5. Sökmen, M. G. (Ed.). (2008). World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the case against war. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, p. 474.
6. Küey, H. (2008). The WTI as an alternative: An experimental assertion, p. 476.  In M. G. Sökmen (Ed.), World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the case against war (pp. 468-483). Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press.
7. Sökmen, M. G. (Ed.). (2008).
8. Sökmen, M. G. (Ed.). (2008).
9. Dadak, Z., Ertür, B., Köstepen, E., & Lebow, A. (2007). For the record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (video documentary). Available at http://www.youtube.com/ playlist?list=PL2D0EE9948D8F5973
10. Sökmen, M. G. (Ed.). (2008). p. 476.
11. Reardon, B. A. (2001). Education for a culture of peace in a gender perspective. Paris, France: UNESCO.