Areas of Work

Conscientious Objection to Military Service

QUNO worked for decades to persuade the United Nations to recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service. QUNO also works with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the applicable standards in relation to asylum for conscientious objectors, draft evaders and deserters.

In May 2013, War Resisters International​, together with QUNO, the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, and Conscience and Peace Tax International, published the online interactive Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System for conscientious objectors to military service anywhere in the world who struggle for the recognition of their right to conscientious objection, or against discrimination for being a conscientious objector, and who want to use international or regional human rights systems. 

Recent Timeline Events

August 2014

A new Human Rights and Refugees Representative at QUNO Geneva

In February, Rachel Brett who has been Representative, Human Rights and Refugees (HRR) at QUNO Geneva since 1993 announced her plan to retire.  After an international selection process, Laurel Townhead has been appointed to this position from 18 August; we extend a warm welcome to Laurel. Laurel obtained her Master's degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex in 2003. She has experience, among other issues, of work on women in prison, children of prisoners, conscientious objection to military service and support to asylum seekers. She was at QUNO Geneva as HRR Programme Assistant and Project Assistant in 2005-7 and comes to us now from her position as Policy & Campaigns Manager at the UK NGO Women in Prison that she has held since 2008. Laurel has been an attender of Peckham Quaker Meeting in London for several years.

Rachel will continue to work with us part-time as Adviser, HRR during a significant transition period. Her outstanding work has improved the lives of many, changed attitudes, built understanding and led to new international agreements. Rachel has worked on the needs of child soldiers, women prisoners, conscientious objectors to military service, stateless people, and children of parents sentenced to death.

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May 2014

Meeting of the European Bureau of Conscientious Objectors in Brussels

QUNO attended the meeting of the European Bureau of Conscientious Objectors in Brussels. At the meeting, QUNO reported on recent developments at the United Nations regarding the right of conscientious objection to military service. In particular, QUNO highlighted new Guidelines on International Protection issued in December 2013 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which focus specifically on claims to refugee status related to military service. In addition, Emily Graham from QUNO discussed the practical implications of refusing military service, focusing on the lack of necessary identity documentation and discrimination. 

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