ForcesWatch is a UK organisation dedicated to investigating militarisation, military ethics and human rights concerns. We expose and challenge unethical military recruitment practices, issues affecting personnel and veterans, and initiatives that aim to build support for war.
The military is a powerful state institution and employer which is often insulated from criticism and warrants public scrutiny. Enormous damage is done to all those caught up in armed conflict (civilians and combatants), and there are unique risks, obligations and rights issues faced by serving personnel. It is therefore vital that there is critical debate about the military, its recruitment practices and its operations.
We aim to:
1. Raise ethics and rights-based concerns and campaign for improvements regarding military recruitment and service. This includes:
a. Recruitment practices, e.g. the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds and the complexity and restrictiveness of terms of service. This includes helping ensure potential recruits and their families are aware of the risks, difficulties and legal obligations of an armed forces career.
b. The rights of personnel, e.g. their exclusion from human rights legislation, not being allowed to form a union, the opaque system for registering a conscientious objection, and abuse and welfare concerns in the military and among veterans.
2. Challenge efforts to increase military power and influence, and encourage critical public debate about the military and its operations, in society, media and politics. This includes:
a. Military and wider defence (arms companies) influence in education and youth activities.
b. Policies and initiatives which by promoting the military in everyday life aim to instil uncritical national pride in the forces and therefore public support for their wars and overseas interventions.
What we do
- Research armed forces recruitment practices and the promotion of the military in civil society.
- Publish reports, education resources and other materials.
- Raise awareness amoung young people, the public, decision-makers and in the media.
- Support and work with others to challenge military influence on young people and wider society.
We currently working in the following areas:
Challenging military presence in education
The UK armed forces visit thousands of schools each year with activities aimed at promoting the interests of the military and long-term recruitment. The Department for Education promote ‘military ethos’ programmes such as cadet units in state schools. The armed forces and arms companies are increasingly involved in the provision of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities, and they also sponsor a number of careers-led secondary schools. The armed forces also now sponsor youth organisations like Girlguiding and Scouts. See more here
Military recruitment and service
We campaign for a change in policy to raise the minimum age of recruitment to 18. We also raise concerns about terms and conditions for serving personnel, lack of recognition of ethical issues associated with military service and conscientious objection, as well as duty of care, equality and health concerns related to military recruitment and service. See more here
The military in society
We observe and respond to ways in which the military is being promoted as a normal part of everyday life. We believe that uncritical support for the armed forces stifles concerns about how young people are recruited and limits debate on alternatives to war. See more here
Enormous damage is done to all those caught up in armed conflict. It is, therefore, vital that there is wide critical debate about the military and its recruitment practices. This concern underpins our work.
ForcesWatch is committed to:
- respect for all people, including those we disagree with
- honesty in how we approach and present the issues
- fostering critical awareness of the issues among the public and ourselves
- including and involving a diversity of people, including a range of views and skills
Who we are and how we are funded
ForcesWatch is a non-profit organisation established in 2010.
We currently have three part-time paid members of staff and our work is overseen by a Steering Committee.
Luke Starr is Coordinator of ForcesWatch.
Emma Sangster is our Researcher.
Joe Glenton focuses on our communications and media work.
ForcesWatch is currently funded by grants from trusts and by donations. Our work covers a range of activities, some of which are categorised as charitable and some as non-charitable; these attract funding accordingly.