Sinjajevina Pasturelands, Resisting NATO Ecocide, and World Beyond War Awards

by LA Progressive, October 14, 2021

Apublic online presentation and acceptance event, with remarks from representatives of all three 2021 award recipients, took place on October 6, 2021 (the other two awards, Lifetime Organizational War Abolisher Award of 2021, went to Peace Boat, and the David Hartsough Lifetime Individual War Abolisher Award of 2021, to Mel Duncan).

Civic Initiative Save Sinjajevina (Građanska inicijativa Sačuvajmo Sinjajevinu in Serbian) is a popular movement in Montenegro that has prevented the implementation of a planned NATO military training ground; blocking military expansion while protecting a natural environment, a culture, and a way of life. Save Sinjajevina remains vigilant to the danger of ongoing efforts to impose a base on their treasured land. (See https://sinjajevina.org )

Sinjajevina Pasturelands

 

Military operations are the number one single cause of climate change, laying down the biggest carbon footprint of all human activities.

  • It is still not mandatory for signatory countries to track, report and reduce their military carbon emissions since their automatic exclusion from military action records in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate.
  • Militaries consume most of the planet’s fuel – “ the [US] Department of Defense [alone] is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world,” the Brown report states.
  • Militaries are earth’s worst polluters, destroying land fertility, biodiversity, and water and air purity.

War and preparations for war devastate the environment, making plant and animal species extinct by ruining ecosystems they depend on. Humans suffer when nature does.

Montenegro joined NATO in 2017. The following year, rumours spread of plans to impose a military (including artillery) training ground on the grasslands of Sinjajevina Mountain, the biggest mountain pasture in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe, a unique landscape of immense natural and cultural value, part of the Tara River Canyon Biosphere Reserve and surrounded by two UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is used by more than 250 families of farmers and nearly 2,000 people, while many of its pastures are used and managed communally by eight different Montenegrin tribes.

War and preparations for war devastate the environment, making plant and animal species extinct by ruining ecosystems they depend on. Humans suffer when nature does.

Public demonstrations against the militarization of Sinjajevina were organised from 2018 onwards. In September 2019, ignoring over 6,000 signatures of Montenegrin citizens that should have compelled a debate in the Montenegrin Parliament, the parliament announced the creation of a military training ground without any environmental, socio-economic, or health-impact assessments. Soon NATO personnel arrived to roll out military training.

In November 2019, an international scientific research team presented its work to UNESCO, the European Parliament, and the European Commission, explaining the bio-cultural value of Sinjajevina. In December 2019, the Save Sinjajevina association was officially launched. On October 6, 2020, Save Sinjajevina launched a petition to stop the creation of the military training ground. On October 9, 2020, farmers demonstrated at the doors of Parliament on hearing that the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement was visiting the country’s capital. The next day, the Minister of the Defence confirmed that military training on Sinjajevina was authorised and would shortly commence.

About 150 farmers and their allies set up a protest camp in the highland pastures to block soldiers’ access to the area. They formed a human chain in the grasslands and used their bodies as shields against the live ammunition of the planned military exercise. For months they stood in the way of the military moving from one side of the plateau to another, in order to prevent the military from firing and executing their drill. Whenever the military moved, so did the resisters. When Covid hit and national restrictions on gatherings were implemented, they took turns in four-person groups set in strategic spots to stop the guns from firing. When the high mountains turned cold in November, they bundled up and held their ground. They resisted for more than 50 days in freezing conditions until the new Montenegrin Minister of Defense, appointed on the 2nd of December, announced that the training would be cancelled.

The Save Sinjajevina movement — including farmers, NGOs, scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens — has continued to develop local democratic control over the future of the mountains threatened by NATO and to engage in public education and lobbying of elected officials. Members have offered their insights through numerous fora to those working in other parts of the world to prevent the construction of, or to close existing, military bases (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IMrXReb4HA )

Several representatives of the Save Sinjajevina Movement took part in the Awards ceremony. Milan Sekulovic, a Montenegrin journalist and civic-environmental activist, and the founder of the Save Sinjajevina movement; Pablo Dominguez, an eco-anthropologist who specialized on pastoral mountain commons and how they work bio-ecologically and socio-culturally; Petar Glomazic, an aeronautical engineer and aviation consultant, documentary film maker, translator, alpinist, ecological and civic rights activist, and a Steering Committee Member of Save Sinjajevina; and Persida Jovanović who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in political science and international relations, and she spent most of her life in Sinjajevina. She is now working together with local communities and the Save Sinjajevina association to preserve the traditional way of life and ecosystem of the mountain.

Sinjajevina Pasturelands

 

For over twenty years now, a growing number of scientists and lawyers have been calling for new legal instruments that would hold governments criminally responsible for war-related environmental damage,

This ties in with the global campaign to end ecocide which recently passed a milestone when the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide signed off on a practical legal definition, now prosecutable, this past June, as follows: “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.

It ties in too with ongoing efforts by the UN and a growing body of national and international laws to grant actionable rights to nature. Nature cannot be protected by destroying it.

An alternative vision of security through reform of governance bodies like the UN to demilitarise security, is spelled out in World Beyond War’s A Global Security System: An Alternative to War. While not what ‘high-tech’ arms dealers want to hear, this is the only real solution.

Opposing military bases is very difficult, but absolutely crucial to abolishing war. Bases destroy indigenous people’s and local communities’ ways of life and healthier ways to make a living. Stopping the harm done by bases is central to the work of World BEYOND War. The Civic Initiative Save Sinjajevina is practising vital educational and nonviolent activism, making necessary connections between peace, environmental protection, and local community promotion, and between peace and democratic self-governance. If war is ever fully ended, it will be because of work like that being done by the Civic Initiative Save Sinjajevina who need as much support and solidarity as possible. The movement has launched a new global petition at https://bit.ly/sinjajevina .

World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement, founded in 2014, to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. (See: https://worldbeyondwar.org ) In 2021 World BEYOND War announced its first-ever annual War Abolisher Awards.

The purpose of the awards is to honour and encourage support for those working to abolish the institution of war itself. With the Nobel Peace Prize and other nominally peace-focused institutions so frequently honouring other good causes or, regrettably sometimes, wagers of war, World BEYOND War intends its award to go to educators or activists intentionally and effectively advancing the cause of war abolition, accomplishing reductions in war-making, war preparations, or war culture. Between June 1 and July 31, World BEYOND War received hundreds of impressive nominations from which the World BEYOND War Board, with assistance from its Advisory Board, made their selection.

The awardees are honoured for their body of work directly supporting one or more of the three segments of World BEYOND War’s strategy for reducing and eliminating war as outlined in the book “A Global Security System, An Alternative to War.” They are: Demilitarizing Security, Managing Conflict Without Violence, and Building a Culture of Peace.

Caroline Hurley
PeaceVoice

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