7th Annual Euro-ISME Conference 2017


“Does respect for humanitarian law and military ethics – i.e. the right intent – facilitate the conclusion of peace”

Conference Report


“Rege duce pro jure et honore” This motto reminds all students and members of the Royal Military Academy to the ultimate goal of the higher academic education i.e. committing themselves at the service of the fatherland and its King, by pursuing honour and justice.

Since 1909, the RMA is located in Brussels noble Avenue de la Renaissance, not far away from the famous Parc du Centenaire. Its infrastructure not only constituted a significant historical frame, but also a particularly prestigious scene for Euro-ISME’s 7th Annual Conference.

In addition, the conference was outstandingly backed by our hosts : Euro-ISME is exceedingly grateful to the all involved members of the Academy Staff for their active support and for giving access to the excellent facilities. All participants agreed that our association once again managed to select a very spectacular venue!

Moreover, the Board had the right touch when programming the conference theme : certain events of recent years and months, especially the ongoing civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine made it exceptionally topical!

This is why EuroISME consistently promotes the search for principles of ethical guidance in military operations.
At our very high-flying conference in Brussels we discussed questions such as – ‘To what extent does respect for humanitarian law and military ethics – the right intent – facilitate the conclusion of peace, and by implication, does such respect serve ius post bellum?’… and … Should the technical rules of ius in bello and principles of ius post bellum be reinforced through conduct based on human virtues and values, such as altruism, magnanimity and forgiveness, in order to make a lasting peace possible?’

Opening address of the President

” The questions which lie at the heart of our deliberations this year are an extension of the work of those thinkers who put their minds to complementing the first two legal frameworks of war – (jus ad bellum and jus in bello) – by adding jus post bellum, law following war.

Throughout many centuries of warfare, the theory of ‘total war’ applied by numerous strategists entailed a peace imposed by the victor. The primary characteristic of this peace was a desire to punish the vanquished. No thought was given to the establishment of a just and lasting peace. Rather, the object of the exercise was to put in place elements of an armistice intended to seek revenge for damages suffered. No thought was given to the longer term consequences, which were often cruel and unbearable for those on the losing side. This is why, thanks to ius post bellum, further principles now aim to produce peace treaties in which reparations are more limited in scope and in proportion to the damages suffered.

However, the question posed goes beyond ius post bellum, as it also relates to the manner in which wars are fought. How can the the recent history of our European continent, and in particular that of the First World War, help us to answer the question? What can we learn from the Versailles Treaty, which stipulated the conditions of the 1918 armistice? Was it in accord with ius post bellum?

Were the reparations demanded of the defeated in proportion to the wrongs inflicted on the victors? Who today would dare to determine the correct balance? We have to bear in mind the human cost – entire generations wiped from the face of the earth, entire regions made sterile and polluted, countries devastated.

Put another way: is it humanly possible to envisage an armistice less harsh than the one that was imposed? Probably not. The conditions under which the war had been fought had been unbearable, hatred of ‘the other’ had plumbed new depths and despair had gone beyond the limits of endurance.

Read the Presidents Opening Address to the end with a click here

Conference Items

During the Opening Session, the participants were addressed by Major General Lutgardis Claes who is the first woman to occupy the commanders post at the Royal Military School founded in 1834. The “inaugural speech” was given by Prof. Dr. Carl Ceulemans from Belgium entitled “Fighting Well for a Just Peace?”

The conference was also the occasion for the presentation of the recently published 3rd Volume of the “Euro-ISME Book Series on International Studies in Military Ethics” , edited by our eminently respected member Professor Dr. Peter Olsthoorn from the Netherlands Defence Academy.
Based on the results of the 5th Annual Conference in Belgrade, this volume is entitled “Didactics of Military Ethics – From Theory to Practice” in which international scholars and practitioners attempt to illustrate that “it is still good leadership that keeps soldiers from crossing the thin line between legitimate force and excessive violence.”
The 4th volume on “ETHICS in COUNTER-TERRORISM” is under preparation and shall be edited by our Board Member Dr. Magdalena Revue in spring 2018. The refined contributions to the Restraint-in-War-Conference 2017 will now be consolidated and than published in a 5th conference volume under the direction of Dr. Patrick Mileham (ed).

In his excellent Keynote Speech on “The Future of Warfare”, Jamie A. Williamson, Head of the Relations with Arms Carriers Unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), gave inventive answers to the question if “technical evolution and new diplomatic rules will offer a new interplay for law & ethics?”

After this memorable prelude, the participants continued in various plenary and parallel sessions to discuss theoretical and scientific issues related to fundamental concepts for the use of military force, as well as the role of religion, of education and reconciliation.

The official Annual Dinner Banquet was the most suitable moment for the President Benoît Royal to hand out the trophy to the winner of Euro-ISME’s prize for the best student thesis written on military ethics. The prize has been awarded for the first time and went to Ms. Samantha Hope from the United Kingdom>/em> for her outstanding work on the question “Is it possible to prevent sexual violence against women, men and children, or only to manage the after-effects?
More about the Euro-ISME Prize Rules and the laureate as well as a downloadable pdf-version of her thesis on our special “Thesis Prize” page.

The hightlight of this years international conference was the keynote speech given by the Director General of the EU Military Staff, Lieutenant-General Esa Pulkkinen, in which he gave a deep insight in EU/MS’s experience in assisting war-torn societies to turn to a just and lasting peace, addressing successes achieved, errors and mistakes from which the EU must learn, how military ethics can really be supportive and what Europe’s ambitions for the near future should be.
The DGEUMS was than rejoined by Brigadier General Franz Pfrengle from the HQ EUROCORPS, Mr. Emmanuel Jacob, President EUROMIL and Mr. Jon McCourt from the Peace and Reconciliation Group in the City of Derry, Northern Ireland. Their – partly even emotionally affecting – real life experiences in different operational and peace time situations strongly impressed all participants and animated lively discussions.

A “Special Panel” was dedicated to the ongoing Peace-Process in Colombia : moderated by Mr. Olivier Lagarde, peace-worker at the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP). Mr. Victor Barrera, researcher and team co-ordinator of CINEP, presented his views on the “Relations between civil and military personnel for the construction of peace”.
Major Wilson Guerrero, a MSc Student in National Security and Defence presented the curriculum of the Colombian Defence Academy (ESDEGUE) in the field of ethics.
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrés González Martín and Dr. Carlos Alfaro Zaforteza(from Spain/King’s College of London) discussed about “Peace or justice? Dilemmas in the Colombian peace process”
The panel was closed by a vibrant statement of the Ambassador of Colombia, S.E. Jose Rodrigo Rivera Salazar, thanking the EU for diplomatic and political support during the peace negotiations and calling for endurance and faith until the achievement of reconciliation.

The meeting again also provided the opportunity to hold “the Ordinary General Assembly”. The members unanimously approved the annual reports of the executing directors and of the treasurer and they (re-)elected the members of the Board of Directors for the next tenure of office.
But the most important item on the Agenda of this year’s OGA was the adoption of revised statutes and internal provisions, including a “Code of Conduct & Complaint Procedure (CC&CP), which got the unanimous assent under the applause of the present members You can download the Minutes of the OGA here and the Revised Statutes here.

The 8th Annual Euro-ISME Conference will take place from 14th to 16th May 2018, at the Infantry School/Academia de Infanteria in Toledo. For more details about the theme and the “Call for Papers” click here.

Programm of the 7th Annual Euro-ISME Conference

Cover of Volume 1 of Euro-ISME Book Series

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