International Peace Bureau serving peace through cooperation and conflict solving
The Permanent International Peace Bureau is the world’s oldest federation of pacifist organizations established in 1891-92.
In 1910, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ‘acting as a link between many societies of the various countries’. By 2012, eleven other members of the International Peace Bureau had received the Prize.
IPB was established after the third Universal Peace Congress held in Rome in 1891. Fredrik Bajer was one of its major founding fathers as well as the first Secretary General. Having initially had its headquarters in Bern, in 1924 the organization moved to Geneva.
The Bureau’s mission was to coordinate activities of various societies and promote peaceful solutions to international conflicts. At the onset of its activity, IPB was essentially the only link among all the peace organizations active at the time.
The Bureau focused first of all on launching international arbitration, bilateral peace treatises, and establishing intergovernmental legal institutions whose task was to facilitate international negotiations and collaboration among nations.
Wishing to promote its peace ideas, IPB held annual congresses, issued documents, and provided matchmaking for societies and organizations, as well as individual peace activists.
The Bureau closely cooperated with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the first permanent forum of cooperation among parliaments of many countries established in 1889.
IPB’s ideology in the early years of the Bureau’s activity was referred to as ‘bourgeois pacifism’, the latter focusing mainly on the development of international law, disarmament, and the establishment of institutions whose task was to peacefully solve conflicts. In the early 20th century, IPB was involved in promoting the idea of the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice, another words, the World Court.
The time of WW I and WW II are a period of the Bureau’s temporary decline. The pacifists failed at preventing wars; many peace activists found themselves on war fronts or had to replace promoting peace with the relief actions to refugees and war victims.
The Bureau, however, lived its revival as an active major organization in the early 1950s to become in the following decade greatly committed to conflict solving and preventing threats which troubled the majority of pacifists in the West: the Bureau protested against the war in Vietnam; it was involved in nuclear disarmament movements; also fighting against arms trafficking. Moreover, it lobbied for the right to refuse to perform military service due to one’s beliefs.
The post-WWII IPB continued to define its mission as ‘serving the peace cause by promoting international cooperation and peaceful solutions to international conflicts’. Its goal is to facilitate contacts among various pacifist organizations, as well as between the latter and governmental and inter-governmental agencies.
Furthermore, it constitutes a source of ideas as well as the centre to verify them, an office coordinating activism of many organizations and it does no longer aspire, just like in the first years of its activity, to stand out as the permanent representative of pacifist circles or as its ‘spokes-organization’. IPB does not make any decisions on behalf of its member organizations, while its activity continues to focus on promoting peace through international conferences and publications.
However, today’s meetings held under IPB’s auspices are no longer congresses that in the past were to draw the world’s public attention to the general idea of peaceful conflict solving. At present they take on the form of specific issue-dedicated ‘working sessions’ or seminars.
Apart from the Bureau itself, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to, e.g., two individuals holding its Honorary Secretary General position: Elie Ducommun, a Swiss political activist and feature writer, and Charles Albert Gobat, also Swiss, a peace activist, lawyer, and politician (1902); Baroness Bertha Sophie von Suttner, Countess Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau, IPB’s Honorary President, a friend of Alfred Nobel’s, a writer and journalist (1905); IPB’s Honorary President Frederik Bajer, a Dane, teacher, translator, and feature writer, an activist for peace and women’s equal rights (1908); Henri La Fontaine, IPB’s President, a Belgian, expert in international law (1913).
Marta Fita-Czuchnowska (PAP)
On the 13th World Summit of the Nobel Peace Laureates the organization will be represented by :
Peace and human rights activist in many different fields since early 1970s. Studied European Languages and Development Studies; worked in L. America and Caribbean, then directed a Third World Centre and was involved in many projects in development education, anti-racism and North-South solidarity work. Adult educator for 10 years. Active on nuclear issues since mid-1980s. Secretary-General of the International Peace Bureau since 1990. Heavily involved in the World Court Project, Abolition 2000, Hague Appeal for Peace and Global Campaign for Peace Education. Author of Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century, and Whose Priorities? A guide for campaigners on military and social spending. His most recent publication is Opportunity Costs: Military Spending and the UN’s Development Agenda. Coordinator of IPB’s main programme: Disarmament for Sustainable Development, including the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.