- Promotes disarmament and “the non-violent prevention and resolution of conflicts”
- Favors a reliance on “multilateralism” and “working through the UN system,” rather than unilateral action, to resolve international conflicts
The International Peace Bureau (IPB) describes itself as a “politically and religiously neutral” non-governmental organization that “exists to serve the cause of peace by the promotion of disarmament, the non-violent prevention and resolution of conflicts, and international cooperation.” The centerpiece of IPB’s work is its Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable Development program, which was launched in 2005 “to press for an end to the over-funding of military establishments and for the creation of new funds to tackle human insecurity and common threats to the planet.”
IPB was founded in 1891 in Berne, Switzerland, as a result of consultations at the Universal Peace Congresses, large annual gatherings that were held to bring together the national peace societies that had developed, mainly in Europe and North America, since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The organization’s original name, later shortened, was the Permanent International Peace Bureau.
During its early years, IPB was the only international group of its kind. From its inception, it advocated tirelessly for worldwide disarmament, the development of a standardized “international law,” and the creation of a League of Nations and an International Court. In 1924 the Bureau moved its headquarters to Geneva, in order to be in close proximity to the recently formed League of Nations.
IPB’s influence declined in the period between the two World Wars, and its various activities were suspended entirely during WW2. The Bureau suffered a severe blow when its longtime secretary-general Henri Golay died in 1950. Nine years later, a Swiss court awarded the moribund organization’s remaining assets to the International Liaison Committee of Organizations for Peace. In 1964 this Committee renamed itself the “International Peace Bureau,” opened a new Geneva office (which remains its base of operations to this day), and began to rebuild its membership. The first president of this new IPB was the German Protestant theologian Ernst Wolf, who led the Bureau until 1974.
The reconstituted IPB had only 17 member organizations when it began its second incarnation in 1964. That number began to rise quickly in the mid-1980s, and today the Bureau has approximately 300 member groups in 70 countries. Among the noteworthy U.S.-based IPB members are the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, the Fourth Freedom Forum, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Peace Action, Veterans For Peace, and the War Resisters League. The IPB coalition also includes non-USA branches of such organizations as the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Pax Christi.
Since the 1960s IPB has supported a host of peace-related causes, including the anti-Vietnam War movement, the right to conscientious objection, the United Nations Special Sessions on Disarmament, the Freeze and Euro-missile campaigns, the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, the closure of America’s foreign military bases, the abolition of nuclear weapons, the cessation of arms trading, the passage of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the anti-Gulf War/anti-Iraq War protest movements, and a reliance on “multilateralism” and “working through the UN system” to resolve international conflicts. Another major concern of IPB is the impact of militarism on the environment.
To promote its major agendas, IPB facilitates “communication between groups and individuals working for peace”; organizes international conferences and seminars; represents and assists the membership at the United Nations and other international forums; conducts research on peace- and disarmament-related issues; and produces a variety of publications on those same themes.
IPB has had Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council since the 1970s; has Associate Status with the Department of Public Information; and plays a central role in the Geneva-based Special NGO Committee for Disarmament.
Each year, IPB presents its Sean MacBride Peace Prize, named after the Irish statesman who was IPB’s president from 1974-1985. MacBride also co-founded Amnesty International in 1962, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, and received a Lenin Peace Prize (from the Soviet Union) in 1975-76. The Prize bearing MacBride’s name is awarded annually to “a person or organization that has done outstanding work for peace, disarmament and/or human rights.” The recipients typically are anti-nuclear, pro-disarmament activists. In 2002 this honor was given to Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to have voted against the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Currently, IPB has two co-presidents—peace activists Ingeborg Breines and Tomas Magnusson. One of the more noteworthy individuals associated with the Bureau in recent years was Cora Weiss, who served as its president from 2000-2006.