Frequently asked questions about PAX and the war in Ukraine
PAX works on advocacy for the Minsk proceedings.
It publishes articles about the use of explosives and the impact of the conflict on civilian living conditions. It is also active in other areas where Russia has been involved in war, such as Syria, and has seen the effects of war on civilians there too.
PAX is in daily contact with its partners in many Ukrainian cities. It provides them with support and they share their stories on our website. Together with many people in the Netherlands, PAX will demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainians by organising rallies and meetings.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions and short answers.
Q: What is PAX doing right now?
A: We are in daily contact with our partners in Ukraine, providing them with advice, moral support, connections, and financial help with practical matters. Together with our support base, we demonstrate our solidarity on social and other media and by taking part in meetings, church services and rallies. We share our partners’ stories on our website.
PAX also started monitoring the use of weapons and their civilian impact right from the start. PAX has expertise on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as well as on the impact of armed conflict on the environment and living conditions. Researchers from PAX have already given several interviews in national and international media to share our knowledge.
In this war, PAX is also investigating flows of funds and is calling on businesses and other entities to stop investing in Russian government bonds and companies largely owned by the Russian government.
Q: What has PAX done in Ukraine since 2014?
A: PAX has been active in Ukraine since 2014, when Crimea was occupied and annexed and part of the Donbas region was occupied. Together with Ukrainian people we are working at establishing local government (together with the VNG, the Association of Dutch Municipalities), inter-religious dialogue and strengthening civil society.
Q: What support is Ukraine receiving from other countries right now?
A: There has been an unprecedentedly swift and united response from around the world. This is shown by the UN’s condemnation, while the EU is united as never before. The solidarity with Ukraine is heart-warming. Humanitarian aid is pouring in from everywhere and refugees from Ukraine are being welcomed with open arms. Many organisations, such as Bellingcat, Amnesty International, but also PAX, are currently researching the use and impact of weapons. This is important in order to establish accountability later, when legal responsibilities will be examined. PAX regularly publishes articles on this research.
Q: Is PAX in favour of sanctions?
A: Yes, PAX is in favour of targeted economic sanctions because they help to put pressure on the Russian government and Russian oligarchs. Sanctions are a means of exerting pressure without engaging in direct military confrontation with Russia. But they have their drawbacks, as they also affect Russian citizens who have not asked for this war.
Q: Is PAX a pacifist organisation?
A: No, PAX is not a pacifist organisation. We are the product of a broad movement, which includes pacifist ideas. In some instances, PAX has expressed an understanding for military involvement or has even endorsed it. These are always difficult considerations in which international solidarity, human dignity and, of course, international law are major factors.
Q: What is PAX’s position on supplying arms to Ukraine?
A: Ukraine is a sovereign country that has been attacked by Russia. In this case, PAX is sympathetic to countries that supply arms to Ukraine to enable it to defend itself.
The Netherlands has announced an increase in its defence budget. What does PAX think about this?
PAX is concerned about the enthusiasm and speed with which national defence budgets are now being increased. If peace is the ultimate goal, then the world should invest primarily in diplomacy, political solutions, peace work, the strengthening of civil society and the rule of law, both domestic and international. Hastily increasing defence budgets and without any strategy will not lead to world peace. PAX calls on governments to calm down and take a long-term view on this issue. A new arms race will not help us. Only coherent investment in peace and security, based on a political vision, will do so.
Q: Does PAX support Ukraine’s accelerated accession to the EU?
A: PAX is sympathetic to Ukraine’s desire to join the EU and it supports the EU’s united stance. The EU must continue to make clear that it has genuine prospects of doing so, but also that the final decision cannot be taken hastily. The fact that the EU is welcoming refugees from Ukraine is a good thing. We hope that this generosity will continue, including in the event that financial support is needed for humanitarian aid, reconstruction and democratisation both now and for many years to come.
In parallel with such an intensive process for and with authorities and the people of Ukraine, PAX believes that the EU should also give the accession process of the Western Balkan states a boost by handling it with renewed energy and putting greater emphasis on democratisation.
Q: What is PAX’s view on the protection of civilians in Ukraine?
A: PAX does not actively support a NATO-enforced no-fly zone at this point, as it would most probably lead to an escalation in the conflict, with unprecedented consequences. We take this position with a heavy heart, as many of our partners in Ukraine do support a no-fly zone. Their position is: ‘The consequences are already unprecedented. The fact is that we’re sitting in the shelters now while are cities are being bombed.”
Nevertheless, a NATO-led military intervention seems unwise right now because a war between Russia and NATO could lead to untold civilian suffering and further escalation. Needless to say, Putin’s nuclear threat also plays a part in our position in this regard. So far, the West has responded wisely to this threat by also refusing to switch to high alert status.
The fact that a no-fly zone does not currently seem to be a sensible option forces us to keep thinking about other options to protect civilians.
Q: Which alternatives are suggested to protect civilians in Ukraine?
A: Negotiate and provide ‘off-ramps’ for escalation at all levels
Support the ongoing negotiations efforts with expertise, infrastructure where appropriate and ensure this support is provided also at local level in the case of sieges, humanitarian corridors and generally wherever civilians are threatened.
Providing humanitarian relief where possible
This includes humanitarian relief and assistance to refugees in neighboring countries and indirectly via the support of Ukrainian partners who know the situation in detail. Coordination is key to ensure humanitarian efforts reach those in most need.
Monitoring of evacuations, specifically from cities under siege
The importance of monitoring these lie in the direct use for civilians trying to escape and to ensure those who violate IHL can be brought to justice. Ideally, a third party is involved in monitoring so called ‘humanitarian corridors’ to monitor and report on the situation.
Advice based on experiences in Syria
Unfortunately, the lessons learned in Syria under siege are relevant to Ukraine today. It is vital these lessons learned are shared widely and applied. Exchange between specialists in sieges with people currently under (threat of) siege should be facilitated (See fi non-paper shared internally by Marjolein for details)
Smart sanctions target Putin and oligarchs
It is important to ensure sanctions target Putin and the oligarchs rather than the Russian population in its entirety. A human security lens is relevant here as resentments of the Russian populations against the rest of the world will not help to bring the violence to an end.
Support data collection and verification
Verified data on civilian harm can help counter the thrust of misinformation applied in this war. Verified data can contribute to evidence for accountability initiatives by the ICC, German prosecution and the ‘Hoekstra initiative’, to name a few. Organizations like Airwars, Bellingcat, PAX and many others need organizational and financial support to enable verification of information.
Monitor arms transfers to Ukraine
It remains important to have monitoring systems in place when providing armed assistance, also after it crossed the Ukrainian border. The complexities of war combined with a large influx of volunteers make all efforts to monitor where weapons end up and how they are used worthwhile. No one aims to harm civilians through military support, yet it is clear how it can contribute to harm besides bolstering the Ukrainian army during this invasion.
Monitoring the influx of volunteers
Despite the valiance of volunteering for the armed resistance against the Russian invasion it is key to understand the potential for harm. Command and control of these volunteers by the Ukrainian armed forces is key to prevent harming IHL. Monitoring can contribute to transparency and accountability, besides mitigating direct harm of the combination of many volunteers with the influx of armament.
Active program on military defection.
Russian violence in Ukraine draws in part on military who are not in all cases motivated to commit violence against the Ukrainian population. This provides opportunity for a defection campaign against Russian armed forces. The international community can support creating safe and appealing ways for defections of Russian soldiers.
Sharing intel with Ukrainian army and civilian actors in war
Relevant and timely information is key to protection civilians in conflict. Provide a coordinated effort by nations and international institutions such as UN, OECD, EU and NATO to inform Ukrainian partners.
Think through reverberating effects
Now is the time to consider the longer-term effect of this war to enable ourselves to prepare mitigating its consequences. This goes for instance for targeting of civilian structures, mapping the environmental damage caused in war and providing psychosocial support. Consequences also go beyond Ukraine with longer term assistance to refugees and the notion that both Russia and Ukraine are huge suppliers of foodstuffs to the world.
Distribute and enable technology for security
Previous conflicts taught us technology can help to save lives. The humanitarian world created many tools that are particularly helpful when accessible by those that need them most. This often requires access to communication and electricity to make use of. The White flag protocol (https://www.whiteflagprotocol.org/) is one example.
Q: Is PAX in favour of safe havens and humanitarian corridors?
A: PAX has been working with partners in Syria for many years. During the war there, it saw the negative impact that agreements on safe havens and humanitarian corridors can have. We know all too well the consequences of humanitarian corridors with Russian involvement. Aleppo is one such example. PAX reported extensively on this in its Siege Watch project. Experience shows that such corridors can only offer real protection if they are backed up by, for example, the ICRC, UN organisations, or in this case the OSCE, with robust military support from the UN, for instance. But that does not apply here.
Q: Are Russian people also protesting the invasion?
A: There are courageous Russians who are speaking out against this war and the Russian regime has come down hard on them. Thousands have been arrested or have fled the country, while repression increases every day. It is of the essence to support these citizens, journalists and activists. And to keep on targeting the Russian regime in word and deed, not the Russian people.
Q: Are there alternatives to armed resistance?
A: Yes. All over the world we see people getting together and marching the streets in protest. That is non-violent activism or resistance. Citizens can resist and show their solidarity in all kinds of ways. There are impressive examples of Ukrainian citizens standing in the way of tanks.
Q: Shouldn’t we be focusing more on diplomacy instead of arms?
A: It is vital to use any means at all that could help to end the conflict. Keeping diplomatic channels open is also very important in order to achieve a political solution. It goes without saying, however, that no decision can be made without Ukraine’s consent.
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The press is kindly requested to contact Marlous van ’t Pad Bosch, press officer +96181294339 (Signal/WhatsApp)