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#Closepinegap: Actions And Activism To End The US-Australian Military Alliance

13 September 2016

At the end of September, peacemakers and anti-war activists from across Australia will be gathering near the red centre of the country to demand the government close the secretive Pine Gap military base and end the military alliance with the United States.

WILPF members from Australia, as well as the director of WILPF’s Reaching Critical Will programme, Ray Acheson, will be participating in the actions and the Independent and Peace Australia Network (IPAN) National Conference on 1 October.

What is Pine Gap?

Pine Gap is a “joint defence facility” of the US and Australian governments, located less than 20km from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory on the traditional land of the Arrernte people. It is used to conduct mass surveillance – including as part of the Five Eyes intelligence network, provide data that enables the targeting of US drone strikes, support communications of the US armed forces, and help detect missile launches and target US nuclear weapons.

What are the activists doing?

Citizens, researchers, and whistleblowers have called for the closure of Pine Gap for decades, but the Australian government doesn’t even like to admit the facility exists and does not exert any real control over the operations there. Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Administration (NSA) files have revealed the base’s intimate role in US acts of armed violence and surveillance.

pinegap-bomb2016 is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Pine Gap. Activists from around Australia are gathering to host a series of independently organised events and nonviolent protests in and around Alice Springs. In addition, the Independent and Peace Australia Network (IPAN) will hold a National Conference on 1 October, which will examine the role of Pine Gap in US wars and the Five Eyes network and seek to build a broad public dialogue around the demand for an independent Australian foreign policy.

Why will WILPF be there?

WILPF is concerned about Pine Gap because it is a central part of the US war-fighting machine. It facilitates the operation of nuclear weapons and armed drones, as well as mass surveillance and military communications. It is a prominent node in the global network of militarism created by the United States and sustained by its allies.

Militarism, and the threat of massive nuclear violence, is at the heart of the US-Australia alliance, which affects Australia’s engagement internationally on disarmament and arms control. Civilians are dying in Yemen from bombs sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States and major arms exporters. Australia was a champion of the Arms Trade Treaty, but has failed to challenge the US or its other allies over their active war profiteering, and is allowing weapons producers to advertise at the Canberra Airport. Meanwhile, the most destructive bombs at all, nuclear weapons, threaten all our lives—yet Australia is part of a small group of countries trying to prevent their prohibition.

pinegap-flyerWILPF members, including Ray Acheson, the director of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, will participate in actions and conference at Pine Gap. One action, organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—of which WILPF is an active partner—involves dismantling a model of a US nuclear weapon.

Ray will also speak at the IPAN conference about Australia’s role in global disarmament and arms control. She will examine how the US-Australia alliance reflects internationally on disarmament issues, including nuclear weapons, the arms trade, and armed drones.

Ahead of the IPAN conference and actions at Pine Gap, Ray will also be speaking at several other events throughout Australia:


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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