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conscience TAXES FOR PEACE NOT WAR, works for a world where taxes are used to nurture peace, not pay for war.

We campaign for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war. We also campaign for the legal right of those with a conscientious objection to war to have the entire military part of their taxes spent on peacebuilding.

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General Election 2015 – Questions for Hustings

Recently at the People’s Parliament event in Westminster, the panel were asked which questions should we, as constituents, be asking our MPs to further the agenda of peace in the next Parliament.

Conscience has subsequently drafted our top 3 questions for perspective MPs to gauge their commitment to the peacebuilding and conflict prevention agenda.

Question 1:

Conflict Prevention activity by the UK government is currently undertaken jointly by Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department for International Development (DfID).

What do you think should be the split between expenditure on conflict prevention (development, diplomacy and non-military security) and preparedness for military intervention?

Fact: As of May 2015 the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) will be launched as the largest ever government fund for peacebuilding in fragile states at £1 Billion. This is equivalent to 3% of 2014-2015 military expenditure.

Question 2:

Peacebuilding (non-violent conflict resolution) is taken extremely seriously by the European Union and United Nations who have European External Action Service and United Nations Peacebuilding Commission specifically tasked with expanding and implementing policies that contribute to lasting peace in countries at risk of civil or international conflict.

The UK government has a ministry for engagement in conflict (MoD) On the basis that prevention is better than cure, do you think that  we should also have a ministry for conflict prevention ? What activities do you think such a department would undertake?

Fact: UK peacebuilding activity currently relies on several government departments working together in conflict zones to get the best results. There have been difficulties in developing standard practice, a joined up strategy and measuring results, often because the government departments operate differently, use different criteria to measure success and have different levels of transparency. There is no Minister who speaks on behalf of  all HMG’s conflict prevention work in the House of Commons.

One solution to this would be to move conflict prevention work into a separate government department which would help focus the work and ensure peacebuilding isn’t just an afterthought of other work the department undertakes.

Question 3:

Many citizens of the United Kingdom are religious or ethical pacifists.

Quakers, Baha’is, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists and Buddhists all practice conscientious objection as a matter of religious observance. For some atheists war runs contrary to their humanist philosophy.

These same individuals are coerced through the tax system into paying for equipment, training and individuals to commit violence that runs contrary to these deeply held beliefs.

Conscientious Objectors have enjoyed legal protections for over 300 years – do you feel it is fair that these same individuals, though free from bodily conscription, are forced to compromise their religious beliefs by paying for warfare through their taxes?

Do you feel it would be acceptable with a democratic state  if those who object to supporting military action on grounds of conscience were formally allowed to redirect the military portion of their taxes towards non-military conflict prevention?

Fact: The right of conscientious objection has been acknowledged in the United Kingdom for centuries. In the late 17th century, the government sought to pressure Quakers to engage in military activities. They resisted the state’s capacity to compel them into military service. In the Militia Ballot Act of 1757, Quakers as a body were excluded from military service.

The general right to refuse on the grounds of conscience to participate as a combatant in military service was included in the Military Service Act 1916, which introduced conscription for the First World War in time for the Battle of the Somme.

The right to conscientious objection has also been recognised in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the European Union Convention on Human Rights. The legal right to act in accordance with one’s conscience has been placed on the UK’s statute book by the Human Rights Act 1998.

Allowing Conscientious Objectors to be able to redirect the military portion of their taxes towards more peaceful alternatives is just an extension of the existing right for individuals not to be compelled by the state into supporting military activity that their conscience cannot support.

Feel free to download and print off the questions and take them to your local hustings – you can find out who your local MP is here and hustings should begin around the 30th of March.

You can record their replies and them send to Campaign@ConscienceOnline.org.uk or tweet us @TaxesForPeace #PeacefulParliament and we’ll make sure the Parliamentary Candidates committed to peacebuilding get some positive coverage for committing to a #PeacefulParliament.

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