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“War “Over” Ukraine – Militarism is Killing Us All,” writes WILPF Secretary-General in an open letter to the UNSC

WILPF’s Secretary-General, Madeleine Rees, has written an open letter to the UN Security Council. In the letter, she demands that representatives of the Council should be sent to Ukraine and to the border to assess first-hand the conditions, the threats, and the needs of those directly affected and bring together the parties for mediation and peaceful resolution. 

Credit: Joel Rivera Camacho
Written by Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary-General
28 January 2022

It appears that the United States has decided to refer the deteriorating situation over Ukraine to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and this will be discussed on Monday, 31 January. We urge in the strongest possible terms that the debate is used to address the serious and underlying causes and not be abused by members of the UNSC to grandstand their militaristic rhetoric.

It is now obvious that the situation represents a massive and immediate threat to international peace and security. The Charter of the United Nations gives primary responsibility for the maintenance of that peace and security to the UNSC. Until now, the silence of the UN Secretary-General and from the UNSC has been incomprehensible. Ceding responsibility to resolve the situation to those who have proven themselves time and again to be absolutely irresponsible actors – governments that have invested billions into weapons and wage wars, directly or indirectly, around the globe – is an abnegation of the principles and purpose of the Charter. This “crisis” has been created by the militarism of these countries; their militarism cannot solve it. Leaving them to their devices enables a drift to armed conflict, potentially of nuclear war.

This is not security. This is the madness of patriarchy and militarism. A failure to act for peace in Ukraine, after the appalling failures to act on Afghanistan, will confirm that after decades of abuse by the P5, the UN system, as it is now structured, is almost irredeemable.

Since 2014, there have been thousands of civilians killed and wounded. The plundering of Ukraine through neoliberal intervention and policies has left a population in dire economic straits, with a massive impact on women, particularly in rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear that significant investments in health care and social infrastructure are needed; and yet money has been spent on weapons instead. The militarisation and co-option of the language of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda by the UN, NATO, and the Ukrainian authorities means that women have to compulsorily register for military service. Yet where is the participation of women in the current discussions? Where is the participation of the non-violent people who will suffer most from an outbreak of war?

Instead of moving for peaceful resolution and de-escalation, the members of the UNSC have flooded the region with weapons and sought to build on existing military alliances and tensions, as if 1914 taught us nothing.

This is not security. Look up. Your conflicts and war profiteering make the death of our species inevitable; militarism is literally killing everything.

All states, regardless of geographic location, have obligations. No country benefits from this war; no people ever can. Only the kleptocrats and the weak need such distractions. The UNSC must act now. Representatives of the UNSC should be sent to Ukraine and to the border to assess first-hand the conditions, the threats, and the needs of those directly affected and bring together the parties for mediation and peaceful resolution.

“I can’t understand why it’s impossible to put an end to this. Why do our children have to die there?” (Mother of a soldier shot and killed on the Ukrainian border)

Act on that. It is possible and vital that this conflict be prevented, that the root causes be identified, that the continuing dispute over Donbass be addressed with fulsome participation of those most affected, and all necessary support be given to resolving economic insecurity and undertaking confidence building measures for a path to reconciliation of interests. That overriding interest has to be peace.

If the UNSC fails to reach sensible, diplomatic means to secure peace, then we call on the UN General Assembly to take leadership. The failure of the few, with vested interests in the pursuit of war, cannot prejudice the lives of the many who seek peace.

Madeleine Rees
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

DOWNLOAD THE OPEN LETTER: War “Over” Ukraine: Militarism is Killing Us All

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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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