Activities


During this past year, Stop Fuelling War has enjoyed a year of consolidation and strengthening our base. Thanks to our fledgling size, work has been uplifting, sometimes gruelling and always challenging! Activities have spanned reviewing internal processes, updating strategic plans, building the foundations of networking with fellow peace activists, coming to grips with the complicated administrative procedures of French labour laws and focussing on fund raising. Major events of the year were marked by our presence at Church and Peace's Kirchentag, participating in the UK Roots of Resistance-led protest against the arms show DSEI, participating in events organised by established peace networks and welcoming our first French Paris-based worker, made possible by the generosity of the Joseph Rowntree Trust.


As part of our ongoing research about the French arms trade, we attended Le Bourget air show with its large military component and Milipol, the homeland security event. We are developing our future strategies about how best to inform the public about the activities being carried out in their name, largely without their knowledge. We visited the Paris Peace Forum but decided to hold off challenging, at least for the present, the absurdity of holding such a modest event in the city that also hosts the largest (and least known) land and land /air arms fair in the world.
As in past years, we have tried to overcome the problems of running an organisation with a steering committee based in five European countries. Although we have already established frequent remote meetings we still find it essential to supplement these by much-needed face-to-face meetings. Last year we met in Berlin, Brussels and Paris where we wrote our 5 year strategy and planning document together. This year, we have been joined by a new French member, Segolene Chassain, an engineer and photographer with a special interest in climate change.
The website has been revamped and data security compliance updated. Whilst this may sound a modest achievement, our work is rendered more complicated by having to make changes in three languages! Financial administration is on a firmer footing with our new treasurer, Judy Kashoff and the services of an accountancy firm Extensia on board.

Networking


Following an invitation from Church and Peace, we hosted a round table event in June called ‘How to shine a light in the arms trade’ in Dortmund, Germany, as part of the huge Kirchentag event. Christopher Hatton chaired the session with speakers Holly Spencer from SFW, Olivia Caymaex from QCEA, (Quaker Council for European Affairs),  Dr Anthea Bethge, Director of Eirene, (International Christian Peace Service) and Wendela de Vries, co-founder and coordinator of Stop Wapenhandel (Netherlands) and ENAAT (European Network against the Arms Trade). There was a lively question and answer session and it was attended by about 250 people with simultaneous interpretation into German.
Much effort was spent on creating the exhibition on 'Eurosatory and the Impact of the Arms Trade' and searching for venues for the exhibition. In addition to networking with existing peace groups, we want to reach out to the general public, most of whom are unaware of France's position as the world's third largest arms exporter.
During the year, we established stronger links with ENAAT (European Network Against the Arms Trade), which provides invaluable resources, discussion opportunities and lobbying events, especially with the European Parliament, on defence issues.
In the same way, becoming associate members of Church and Peace has widened our network. We hope to work closely with them on future events. We can't stress enough the need for increased cooperation between peace groups and this policy will form a cornerstone of our outreach. This approach has led to planning a conference and related events with a multi-faith Paris group planned to take place during Eurosatory 2020. Although the arms fair has been cancelled, we will continue to work with our colleagues in the future. Elsewhere, we have tried to raise the profile of SFW and gave presentations in Brussels, Budapest and Paris, with a presence in the World Beyond War meeting in Limerick, Ireland.
In September, SFW members went to London to demonstrate against the DSEI arms fair. We learnt how the multi-faith day of action could inspire, engage and mobilise new activists and how CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) has tirelessly worked to challenge the UK arms fair. For distribution at this and other events, we updated and published our 8 myths about the arms trade in a booklet. We printed and distributed hundreds of leaflets to encourage DSEI participants to find out more about Eurosatory, which is held on alternate years. Although the former is indeed huge, few realise that it is eclipsed by Eurosatory, which hosts nearly 50% more arms companies and attracts tens of thousands more visitors to Paris.

Staffing and resources


We were fortunate enough to receive a three-year grant from the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which enabled us to hire our first French staff member. This has allowed us to strengthen relationships with other French peace groups, notably ASER (Action Sécurité Ethique Republican) and Observatoire des Armements, ACAT (L'Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture) and Amnesty International France. We also continued to receive funding from private donors.
Much of the year was spent grappling with the intricacies of hiring staff in France. We have keenly felt the lack of a SFW Secretary who would have understood the implications of very complicated French labour laws. For example, short-term contracts are only allowed when replacing existing staff on leave or for specific events. For tiny organisations like SFW, such rigid rules have proven very difficult and a pitfall for the unwary (and ignorant!). So to ensure compliance with the French employment system and its labour laws, we have had to consult a specialist lawyer!
We refurbished our shared office at 114 rue Vaugirard, Paris and now also rent a part-time office space with Non-Violence XXI, home to multiple ngos, in Montreuil, a 'suburb' of Paris.
For us, it is essential to have Paris-based French staff to pursue vital and life-giving networking with other French organisations. So we are very pleased to have found just the right person: Naïma Soudani, who had previously worked with Amnesty International, started in November on a limited-term contract for 4 days per week. She has adjusted very well to working in two languages, organising online and real-time events. Holly Spencer continues to work as a contractor for 6 days a month.
All our hard-won achievements would not have been possible without the dedication of a small number of volunteers, our committed consultants and staff, generous private donors and, of course, YOU, our very essential individual members.

Plans for 2020


Whilst we were pleased to see that Eurosatory would not be held this year, its abrupt cancellation made all the effort spent on organising associated events redundant. As a result, we are redirecting our focus to more on-line activities and links, including working with the higher educaton institutions; at the moment we are linking up with the Sorbonne on a joint project to publish an article on the arms trade and we are observing a project with our partners ASER at Nanterre University. We hope to expand our range of supporters in order to include a strong French student base.
In addition, we are developing our resources on offer, including a workshop on Climate and the Arms Trade/Military Industrial Complex, which we expect to make available both as a webinar and in workshops. Our website resources page will be substantially increased and expanded. We will be archiving the growing media coverage of the arms trade and its implications.
We have just added two short-term staff to help us in our online outreach and Naima has moved to working full-time. We will be experimenting with podcasts and videos to reach a new and wider public.
In the longer term, we are planning to move towards advocacy: our aim is to help rethink what real national and international security would entail with the goal of challenging and reducing the current rampant, hidden and unaccountable power of the arms trade.
We have spoken a lot about the need to grow our network and co-operate with others working in the peace field. 2020 will see us devoting energy and resources to expanding and consolidating our peace links and our support community.