The International Society for Military Ethics in Europe
Leadership. Ethics. Service.

6th EuroISME Annual Conference
23-25 May 2016
Akershus Fortress, Oslo

Conference Report

The venerable FANEHALLEN (Banner Hall) in Oslo’s ancient landmark Akershus Fortress not only constituted a significant historical frame, but also a particularly prestigious scene for Euro-ISME’s 6th Annual Conference.

In addition, the conference was outstandingly backed by our hosts : Euro-ISME is exceedingly grateful to the Norwegian Defence University College (NDUC) and the Norwegian Armed Forces Chaplaincy for their active support and for giving access to the excellent facilities of the Defence University. All participants agreed that our association once again managed to select a very particular venue!

Moreover, the Board had the right touch when programming the conference theme : certain events of recent months and general evolution in Europe’s security made it exceptionally topical!

In previous decades, many European armed forces have frequently had to participate in counter-terrorist or anti-insurgency operations while operating abroad. However, for many of these armed forces, counter-terrorist operations in their home country are a relatively new phenomenon. Of course, exceptions existed, such as Northern Ireland or the Basque country, but these have been relatively unusual, rather than the norm. Armed and uniformed soldiers can now be seen patrolling the streets in many European countries, doing work which is, in some respects at least, comparable to that of the civilian police.

Impressions from the conference

Conference Items

During the Opening Session, the participants were addressed by Professor Professor Dr. Camilla Serk-Hanssen, Director of The Norwegian Council for Defence Ethics and by Professor Dr. Henrik Syse, Senior Researcher at PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo)and Member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Chief Editor of the Journal of Military Ethics.

The conference was also the occasion for the presentation of the recently published 2nd Volume of the Euro-ISME Book Series on “International Studies in Military Ethics”, co-edited by Euro-ISME vice-president Prof. Dr. Thomas R. Elßner and his colleague Colonel (GS) Reinhold Janke from the Zentrum Innere Führung. The volume is entitled “Didactics of Military Ethics – From Theory to Practice” which brings together chapters contributed by international scholars and practitioners who addressed these items during the 4th Annual Conference in 2014 in Koblenz.

A special panel was devoted to the Journal of Military Ethics which celebrated its 15th anniversary in this year. Four editors who have been closely involved in the development of the Journal debated the extent to which military ethics has changed in the past fifteen years. A telling detail emerged when one of the panelists noted that the deadline for the very first issue was 9/11, 2001. Thus, the Journal came into being at the very moment that international terrorism became a strategic level reality, and was no longer limited to the tactical level.

The official Annual Dinner Banquet was the most suitable moment for the Executive Director John Thomas to present the 2015 Ethics Award to Mrs Elisabeth Decrey-Warner, President of the NGO Geneva Call, for its outstanding work in the field of dissemination of international humanitarian law to non-state actors. In her acceptance speech, Mrs Decrey-Warner sketched a broad picture of the activities of Geneva Call, in more than 20 countries, and often under difficult, if not dangerous circumstances.

The following morning a panel discussion took place on improving methods of dissemination by coupling the dissemination of international humanitarian law to military ethics. In his reply to the panelists, Mr. Jamie Williamson of the International Committee of the Red Cross underlined the fact that the ICRC is at present actively engaged in seeking new methods of dissemination, and that the legalistic approach is in the process of being modernised.

During the closing session the participants were joined by the Øystein Bø, Deputy Secretary for Defence of Norway and the Ambassador of Israel. In his closing speech, the Deputy Secretary for Defence emphasised the important place of military ethics within the Norwegian armed forces, as well as Norwegian research conducted in this field.

During the conference, a third chapter of the “ISME family” presented itself: (Asia-Pacific) APAC-ISME. The association will focus on the participation of ethicists from the nations of the Pacific rim. It plans to hold its first bi-annual conference in late 2017. APAC ISME complements the existing (North American) NAISME and Euro-ISME.

The meeting again also provided the opportunity to hold “the Ordinary General Assembly”. The members unanimously approved the annual reports of the chairman and of the treasurer and they re-elected those members of the Board of Directors, for whom the election term had expired.


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