Peace & Defence

Page updated:

Major revision January 1990

Last amendment September 2014


PD100 The nature of conflict in the twenty-first century is highly complex, involving state and non-state participants at every level. Much international conflict today arises directly or indirectly from the abuse of power by rich Northern nations.

PD101 Raging local conflicts have risen up the international agenda and attempts to address the conflict between peoples have varied in efficacy and moral justification. Particularly, there has been a predominance of peace-enforcement over conflict prevention in terms of priority and expenditure by developed nations, including our own.

PD102 The United Kingdom has not been under significant threat of armed invasion since 1941 and such an event is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.

General Principles

Common Security - Building a Culture of Trust

PD200 The citizens and communities within a green society will create for themselves rewarding work, adequate housing, material security, appropriate education, accessible and sensitive public services, a secure present and hope for the future, all within the framework of a sustainable, ecologically benign economy. The world we build for our children will not depend on exploitative economic relationships or on new roles for outdated security alliances, but on the acceptance of our global interdependence. The present environmental destruction threatens our common survival; we have no choice but to build common and co-operative responses.

PD201 Warfare in the context of present offensive weapon systems, nuclear or non-nuclear, is so dangerous that it can not be regarded as a sane instrument of policy. Common security measures seek to build trust and co-operation, to prevent destructive conflict, to build a just local and global society based upon fairness. In a Common Security framework potential adversaries co-operate to enhance each other's security and well being, rather than competing for military advantage in a spiralling arms race. An important element of common security is the progressive reduction and eventual abolition by treaty of all offensive weaponry.

PD202 "Defence" is the protection of homeland against attack and does not justify pre-emptive strikes against nations and organisations. Military intervention for peacekeeping or conflict prevention cannot be justified unilaterally. It is irrational and immoral to continue activities that exacerbate threats to international and local security.


PD203 The first objective of all government policy must be to provide real, sustainable security effectively. Real security cannot be based upon a balance of nuclear terror, nor upon a global domination by a group of states operating largely from self-interest. Societies and their governments must instead address the real threats facing us, by engaging in ecological and socially sustainable practices, eradicating poverty, and by building trust between peoples.

Minimum Military Preparations; Proportionality

PD204 The defence budget needs to be adequate to ensure security, but no more so. Military preparations are a drain on our resources, as well as being a source of threat. Even peacetime military activities can have major impacts on communities, on the environment, and on a healthy democracy. All military capabilities and exercises should have specific military objectives built on real and credible threat scenarios. They should be proportional to the threat, sufficient to respond adequately, but not disproportionate.

PD205 Nuclear weapons are political weapons of terror, and are disproportionate to any threat. Further, since there is a finite possibility that the policy of nuclear deterrence will fail, and the ecological and social consequences of such a failure would be catastrophic, the deterrence system must be abandoned. The Green Party is committed to pursuing immediate and unconditional nuclear disarmament.

Minimum Intervention

PD206 Military intervention in disputes by external powers rarely solves the problem, and more often reinforces animosities. Emphasis at all times must be on forms of peaceful assistance to local and international organisations working to resolve conflict, to protect local culture and sustainable practices, to engage in genuine mediation and the building of strong democratic institutions, and to build links between the people within conflicting communities.

PD207 In those desperate situations when this becomes impossible and some form of military intervention involving UK forces is necessary in the immediate term to prevent conflict or extreme and sustained oppression, it must be under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) or within Europe under the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Legitimacy & Consistency with International Law

PD208 Any defence policy must be consistent with the values of the society it seeks to protect, or else it undermines those very values. A Green defence policy will be democratic, accountable, sustainable, and life-affirming. We are totally opposed to policies based on mass-killing or threatened mass-killing. It is contradictory to seek to defend a Green society by such means and such policies cannot form a valid and stable basis for a peaceful world. Any defence policy must be consistent with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Public accountability and active citizen participation

PD209 Defence decisions by a Green government will only be made after proper public debate based on the provision of the fullest possible information. Defence budgets must be published in such a way that the public can learn the costs of individual weapon systems at an early stage. No agreement or alliances with other nations should be entered into without prior parliamentary consent.

Short- and medium-term policies

UK Defence Policy

Peace building

PD300 The policies espoused in the rest of this PSS are all intended to build a culture of trust among peoples, as well as the primary goals they proclaim. In particular, International (IP) and European (EU) policy is intended to create a world where regions collaborate where necessary and interact peaceably.

PD301 We would promote town twinning, exchange visits, and Internet-based methods for learning about other countries and cultures by direct contact. One of the main purposes of embassies would be to learn about culture and current affairs of their host countries by immersion in a wide variety of local activities. The UN should provide significant support for building effective law and order systems that are not affected by corruption, and for support of free and democratic elections.


PD302 On inspection, there is little or no threat of direct invasion of the UK by any nation. Commitment to a large standing army, a navy of large warships around our coastline, squadrons of fighter planes and a cripplingly expensive missile defence system is therefore unnecessary. Any threat of invasion that might arise in the future is so remote that realignment of the UK military and defence preparations would be possible long before any invasion occurred.

PD303 Similarly, the unhelpful and aggressive concept of nuclear deterrence (with the inherent dangers of handling concentrated radioactive substances) is also redundant. As such, immediate nuclear disarmament would be a priority of a Green Government.

PD304 The role for military personnel in defending sensitive establishments would also be reduced by the fact that they would be severely reduced in number. At present the military has a sizeable commitment to defending itself, particularly facilities related to nuclear weaponry.

PD305 A residual role for military personnel would exist in detection and apprehension of criminals attempting to by-pass customs and immigration. Green Party policy on drugs and migration, along with its contribution to a more equitable world society, would diminish this role too. Other duties would include policing fishing quotas, piracy and oceanic environmental regulations.

PD306 Such standing forces as are retained will sign up to a formal contract, which will include the following points:

  1. In exchange for putting their lives on the line when necessary for the security of the country, or in the protection of civilians of other countries in pursuit of the UN Responsibility to Protect, the State undertakes to respect and look after injured service personnel giving  them decent living standards, whether serving or not serving due to their injury, and to their dependents in the event of their being killed.
  2. All serving personnel will be required to sign a pledge that they will not obey any order which would entail any breach of international law. In particular they will be able to disobey any order that required them to fire on unarmed civilians of their own or any other country.

Democratic control

PD307 Military action must have the mandate of the UK Parliament. To support effective military action, this need be no more than an outline of the campaign but necessary speed of response is no excuse when Parliament can be called at a day's notice.

PD308 We will therefore include in our Freedom of Information legislation, clauses to cover the provision of defence information, including a definition of what constitutes a threat to national security. We will also insist on the publication of the annual Defence Estimates in a more informative and detailed manner. Outside times of conflict, all military decisions and expenditure will be available for scrutiny by Parliament and the public.

Person power

PD309 We would reform the Territorial Army to become a body of both civilian and military volunteers, willing to contribute their services in times of domestic and international crisis. As such doctors, nurses, civil engineers, heavy plant drivers and administrators (for example) would be encouraged to make themselves available for reserve work. International volunteer work would be co-ordinated in Europe by the OSCE and further afield by the relevant body of the UN. The military component of the TA would become a larger proportion of the army's overall numbers. This is in line with the aim of having a non-aggressive stance while retaining the ability to scale up the army's strength if necessary. It would also root the army's values more effectively within the values of the wider society it is tasked to protect.

PD310 Non-conscripted soldiers (and military sailors and air-crew) will still be required for permanent defence duties and participation in international peace-enforcement. The minimum age of recruitment to the Armed Forces will be 18 or older. All members of the Armed Forces will be entitled to the same rights as any civilian employee, including the rights to refuse orders on grounds of conscience and trade union membership. The responsibility and complexity of the military role envisaged by us will require a higher level of training than offered at present.

PD311 Expertise in the UK military in disaster support will continue to be offered for UN operations and harnessed in the training of civilian volunteers. We will aim to put a standing body of unarmed units, under the aegis of the UN, ready to respond to civil disasters such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes.

Conversion of military industry

PD312 The Green Party is committed to the early conversion of economic, scientific and technological resources presently used to support the arms race, to socially useful and productive ends. Some military training areas should be decommissioned and used as nature reserves, with suitable provision for access by the public.

PD313 An imaginative programme of arms conversion could use many of the skills and resources at present tied up in military industry, to create new jobs and produce socially useful products. Conversion would also free research and development expertise and capital. New renewable energy industries, for instance, could be set up in the same area and use the same skills and resources as the existing arms industries e.g. wave power (shipbuilding), wind power (aerospace) and tidal power (power engineering).

Weapons of mass destruction and indiscriminate action

PD400 Weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons (see PD406-410) and biological weapons (see PD411-412) must be dismantled and banned by international agreement.

PD401 Mines (devices designed to be triggered by human activity, whether individuals, groups or vehicles), cluster-bombs and "booby-trap" devices cannot be used effectively without significant risk of death or injury to the civilian population, either during or after a period of conflict, and must therefore be banned international agreement.

PD402 In the absence of effective international agreements on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and indiscriminate action, a Green Government would unilaterally dismantle and dispose of its stocks, while continuing to campaign for others to follow suit.

PD403 Deterrence is a self-sustaining policy that will only lead to escalating military expenditure. Deterrence with weapons of mass destruction relies on an unconscionable threat.

PD404 What underpins the law of armed conflict, is a prohibition against any form of indiscriminate attack. Nuclear deterrence however, is based on a commitment, at some levels of escalation, to destroy 'enemy' towns and cities. International lawyers state that the use of these weapons would be a breach of international law, as embodied in the Geneva and other conventions. The General Assembly of the United Nations also declared (in 1961) that the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to international law and the laws of humanity.

PD405 Threats to commit the crime of mass murder is itself a criminal act - thus threats to use weapons of mass destruction are a crime.

Nuclear weapons

PD406 The United Kingdom has many nuclear weapons and acts as the host for many more US nuclear weapons. We cannot condemn and attack countries for wishing to obtain weapons of mass destruction as long as we still possess them.

PD407 The Green Party rejects any reliance on nuclear weapons. This rejection means that we will decommission UK's own nuclear weapons and insist on the removal of US nuclear bases. No further research will take place into nuclear weapons and the export of nuclear technology will be stopped. Ships carrying nuclear weapons will be banned from British ports.

PD408 We will mount an international information campaign explaining our non-nuclear policy. We will work for the worldwide cessation of nuclear weapons testing, development and deployment using new and existing international treaties.

PD409 US research programmes into "National Missile Defense" (NMD, or Star Wars I and II) have been an unmitigated failure. Even if the technological objectives of meeting intercontinental ballistic missiles with other missiles could be achieved, the expense and risk of continuing the arms race in this way would still make the programme unsupportable. Besides, NMD contravenes the 1992 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. We will not allow UK facilities to be used for any attempted implementation of NMD.

PD410 Some form of independent reassurance that these disarmament measures have been carried out is essential. We will reclassify the UK as a non-nuclear state under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and open the country to the appropriate international inspection agencies.

Chemical, neurological and biological weapons

PD411 Biological weapons have been banned, but stockpiling and research on chemical weapons continues. We will end all research into these weapons and work for the early completion of a Chemical Weapons' Treaty. Existing reservations concerning the 1925 Geneva protocol will be renounced.

PD412 We will provide financial support for the urgent decommissioning of chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union.

Environmental warfare

PD420 The relationship between armed conflict and the environment involves many different domains: from environmental modification as a deliberate objective in war, to the environmental consequences of particular weapon systems. The Green Party unequivocally renounces these means of waging war. We will support (and seek to strengthen) all international conventions on the issue. The horrendous damage that conflict can wreak on the environment is a strong driver toward more effective peace building (PD 300-301). The use of nuclear weapons and weaponry hardened with depleted uranium (DU) creates radioactive pollution with unacceptable long-term effects.

The Arms Trade

PD430 An acceptance of military means of defence and peace-enforcement requires an acceptance of the existence of arms manufacture. Hence, although weapons of mass destruction will not be made under a Green Government, moderate quantities of conventional weapons and vehicles will. A green Government will have less commitment to protecting either the UK or the EU arms manufacturing industries.

PD431 Sales of military equipment to other countries will be tightly controlled by a stricter licensing system involving the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development, and Revenue and Customs. Equipment exported will be of a defensive nature only, or strictly and verifiably for use in international campaigns sanctioned by the UN or its regional organisation. Such a licensing system will take proper account of social sustainability criteria, human rights and regional stability issues. There will be a presumption against supply unless an export fulfils all criteria.

PD432 We will end all subsidies to arms exports, close DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) and the Export Credit Guarantee Department, and disband service units that presently demonstrate British defence equipment. British military training overseas will be focused on sustainability and democracy issues, seeking to spread the model of a democratically controlled minimal security sector.

PD433 We will promote assertively the control and reduction of arms transfers. We will press for the extension of the UN Register of Arms Transfers to include production and stocks, and to extend significantly the number of categories in the interests of greater transparency. We will advocate the setting up of an inspectorate associated with the Register that is independent of the major powers.

PD434 The production, caching, and transport of ammunition can be more easily controlled than that of arms as it has a distinctive odour. Sniffer dogs are routinely trained to identify the presence of explosives and ammunition. Countries and agencies that invest in more sniffer dogs can more easily prevent the transfer of these lethal products across their borders. They could also use the dogs to lead searches for ammunitions caches in the interior, and for ammunition factories.

PD435 In order to produce ammunition, a manufacturer needs to obtain large quantities of certain chemicals. The Green Party will require that these chemicals to be put on a register, so that purchasers will have to give information about where and for what they will be used. In this way, the production of illicit ammunition will be made more difficult.


PD440 Terrorism is an extremely loaded term, frequently used by those in power to justify excessive use of force or the weakening of controls on the exercise of their power. Sometimes governments justify their own terrorist acts by labelling any groups that resist their monopoly of violence "terrorist". A Green government, by implementing principles laid out elsewhere in this manifesto, particularly those of self-determination and non-interventionist foreign policies, would seek to overcome the unjust divisions within our global and domestic society and address the desperate motivations that lie behind many atrocities labelled "terrorist".

PD441 However, democratic societies need to protect themselves against those who seek to use terror and violence against them and to have plans in place that mitigate against the effects of attack. In a complex, modern society, it will be a long time before we can entirely eradicate the root causes of "terrorism". Any measures to protect society should not undermine the fundamental values that shape a green society: inclusion, justice and equality.

PD442 Police and intelligence investigations of terrorist activity need to be well resourced, and given sufficient freedom to ensure their safety and efficacy. They must, though, be carried out in a transparent and accountable way, and remain within the law.

PD443 Those accused or found guilty of atrocities, or planning to commit, aid or abet in their execution, should be dealt with under the same principles as those accused of more conventional criminal activities. In particular, those accused of supporting terrorist acts should have normal rights against arbitrary arrest or imprisonment. It should not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation or have sympathy with its aims, though it should be a crime to aid and abet criminal acts or deliberately fund such acts.

PD444 We support the inclusion of crimes of terrorism in the mandate of the International Criminal Court and, in the meantime, the use of ad hoc courts under UN auspices, on neutral territory but under the law of the country in which the crime was committed.

PD445 The contribution of particular activities (such as air travel and nuclear power) to the general risk to society of massive attack should be adequately factored into public choice about their funding and future.

Shared Intelligence

PD450 Military intelligence plays a crucial role in building rational, informed decisions over the use and preparations of military resources. However, not only can it undermine many of the values of a society (see legitimacy) when exercised unchecked, but it can build up a culture of suspicion and conflict. Military intelligence would be under similar democratic constraints to other activities.

International Organisations and Treaties

The European Union

PD500 We view the European Union (EU) as the civilian organisation to which matters that cannot be dealt with more locally should be brought (see EU120ff). Our vision of the EU is not that of a global power bloc or broker. However, maintenance of peaceful external relations is a common concern of the countries of Europe and any outward facing EU policy is de-facto foreign policy.

PD501 It is deeply regrettable that the EU has taken the first steps towards militarisation, by the formation of the so-called Rapid Reaction Force. Our primary aim is to reverse this process. In doing so, we anticipate the reduction of tensions between the EU, its neighbours and other countries and the ability to strive, once again, for transparency and democracy within the EU.

PD502 We would opt out of any militarised aspects of the EU, including the Rapid Reaction Force and we will back every attempt to ensure democratic control over the Rapid Reaction Force and any other military elements.

PD503 We oppose the existence of the Western European Union (WEU) and support its abolition. (see EU620 and EU622)

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

PD504 The OSCE is inclusive of all European countries. It uses consensus decision-making and is not dominated by the larger countries. It refrains from unwanted interference in the internal affairs of member countries. It works in co-operation with Non Governmental Organisations.

PD505 We welcome the OSCE's broader view of the concept of common security, which in many ways is similar to the Green concept. The aim of the OSCE is to prevent and solve conflicts, both in the short and the long run, by addressing the underlying causes (such as human rights abuses, economic inequalities, and ethnic tensions).

PD506 The use of consensus decision making in the OSCE means that action takes time to agree and compromises have to be made, but the decisions made have strong support. We also support the OSCE's emphasis on arms control and disarmament and the provision of mutual rights of inspection into other countries' security affairs, demonstrating the value of openness and transparency in building mutual confidence.

PD507 The Green Party recognises the need to develop the OSCE to render it more effective in achieving the implementation of the Helsinki Accords. However, this must not be at the expense of the characteristics above, which attract our support.

PD509 We recognise the OSCE's role as a regional organisation of the United Nations (UN). Inter-regional peace building and war prevention must have the mandate of the UN. This requirement over-rides any perceived relationship with Commonwealth countries.

The United Nations

PD510 The United Nations is based on the principle of national sovereignty. While recognising that the old concept of sovereignty and the nation state has its limits and problems, erosion of this principle, however, carries the danger of legitimising international intervention, which is neither invited nor strictly defensive. Any erosion of national sovereignty within the UN Charter must therefore be on very limited and closely controlled criteria such as the prevention of genocide.

PD511 The current structure of the UN Security Council, with permanent seats for France, the UK, the US, Russia and China, is undemocratic and unworkable due to the right of veto. All permanent seats on the UN Security Council should be abolished, all nations should take a seat in turn, continents should be represented in proportion to their populations, and decisions should be made by a 2/3 majority. In the absence of this reform, we would accept a mandate given by a 2/3 majority of the General Assembly and by the relevant regional organisation of the UN.

PD512 Because of previous involvement in UN peacekeeping operations, Britain is well placed to assist in an international training programme on behalf of the UN, as well as to supply personnel and equipment. In Commonwealth countries, the UK's knowledge and contacts can be particularly useful.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

PD513 The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a military-oriented body, which imposes conflict cessation rather than encouraging peace building. As such, it is not a sustainable mechanism for maintaining peace in the world. We would take the UK out of NATO unilaterally. We would also end the so-called "special relationship" between the UK and the US.

International Conclusions

PD514 The Green Party sees the OSCE as the most suitable existing forum for developing peace across Europe.

PD515 We believe that increased effectiveness and development of the OSCE require a transfer of resources to it from other security institutions such as NATO and the WEU.