Short Info

The GSoA - Group for a Switzerland without an Army - was founded in 1982, with the main goal of "civilizing" Swiss society by abolishing its army. Read here about the goals and ideals of the GSoA.

In 1989, over one third of the Swiss population supported this proposal in a federal referendum, shaking profoundly the country's militaristic convictions. Since then, the GSoA has launched several “popular initiatives” (leading to national referendums), aiming at downsizing the army and its budget or proposing civilian alternatives. Currently, the group has around 20'000 members and supporters.

News

  • 25/08/2010: Today the Federal Council (the Swiss government) has decided not to buy any new fighter aircraft during the next few years. This is a great success for the GSoA and the entire peace movement. We are very happy to see that the enormous dedication of so many activists has been rewarded. The pressure of our popular initiative was probably a decisive parameter in the Federal Council's reasoning. The initiative would have had good chances to be accepted on the ballots, because those new fighter aircraft would have been an absurdity from a security perspective, a scandal from a peace perspective and a disaster from a financial perspective. For years, the GSoA has emphasized that Switzerland does not need new fighter aircraft. Apparently, the Federal Council has finally realized that as well.
  • 29/11/2009: Voting day is a black day for Switzerland. 31.8% of the voters say yes to a ban on arms exports, which is a bit less than we hoped for. But worse is that a majority of the Swiss back an absurd and xenophobic initiative to ban minarets... Read our statement in English here.
  • 19/11/2009: Today, "smart mobs" took place in around 15 cities throughout Switzerland. Exactely at 6pm people fell to the ground in order to show what happens when Swiss weaponry is used in wars and to urge people to vote Yes next week. We've assembled a few pictures and videos here.
  • 17/11/2009: Even before the vote on the arms export ban is over, we can conclude that our campaign has been a success. Arms exports have become a major topic in the Swiss public. National and regional newspapers are covering the topic very intensely. New scandals with Swiss arms exports are unveiled with a rate of one or two per week. The latest are: The Iranian military apparently uses Swiss anti-aircraft artillery to protect its uranium enrichment facilities. Swiss rifles were sold this year to the state police of Chhattisgarh. According to Human Rights Watch, this police force recruits child soldiers to fight in the armed conflict against the Naxalites.
  • 12/11/2009: Religious leaders of all major Swiss congregations speak out in favor of an arms trade at press conference in the central protestant church of Berne. In addition, five out of the big six Swiss foreign aid agencies support the initiative. (The sixth does not want to take a position.)
  • 06/11/2009: Watch more campaign video clips.
  • 02/11/2009: Two Nobel peace prize laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina have publicly endorsed our campaign. (Read more in English.)
  • 01/11/2009: The "NZZ am Sonntag" newspaper has revealed that the Federal Council is still granting export licences for ammunition to Pakistan. This is a clear contradiction to previous statements of the Federal Council this year.
  • 29/10/2009: Watch this report on our campaign in the French speaking evening news broadcast.
  • 28/10/2009: UNIA, Switzerland's largest trade union, has decided to support our campaign.
  • 12/10/2009: Our fabulous campaign song has been released: "Warface" by Evelinn Trouble. Watch the gorgeous video clip. Feel free to spread the link!
  • 11/10/2009: Today, 70 university professors in law, representing all law departements of Swiss universities, published an open letter that states that the administration violates applicable law by allowing exports to countries that are involved in an armed conflict. They say that 8 of the 10 top custumer countries of Swiss arms are involved in an armed conflict and cannot be supplied with arms legally. This open letter has made headline news in all major media for several days now. Read the open letter in German and in French.
  • 08/10/2009: Our campaign is officially launched! At our press conference, additional three important organisations declare that they join our referendum campaign: Greenpeace Switzerland, SWISSAID and HEKS (the aid agency of Switzerland's protestant churches). See the German-speaking evening news here. Our coalition comprises almost 50 organisations now.
  • 08/10/2009: Further news about the infiltration attempt against the GSoA are leaked to the public. The PR agency Farner has been forced to acknowledge that they tried to spy upon us. Read more in German here.
  • 02/10/2009: Our opponents have launched their campaign against the ban of arms exports. See their website in German and in French.
  • 17/09/2009: Today, the Swiss National Council (the lower chamber of parliament) decided not to participate in the Atalanta mission off the Somali coast. This has to be attributed to a significant part to the diligent lobbying of the GSoA among the social-democratic and green MPs.
  • 21/08/2009: The company that tried to spy out the GSoA sniffed about in the foreign ministry as well, confidential documents say. Read more here.
  • 20/08/2009: == Breaking News == Arms industry tries to infiltrate GSoA. Read more here.
  • 24/07/2009: The export figures for the first semester of 2009 are published. Saudi Arabia is the third largest customer of the Swiss arms industry.
  • 29/06/2009: Justitia et Pax - the ethic commitee of the Swiss Bishop's Council - supports our initiative. It adds to a long list of other organisatons supporting our cause, e.g. the Swiss Social-Democratic Party, the Swiss Green Party, various leftist parties, peace groups, trade unions, relief organisations and religious societies.

Arms trade ban

In 2007, the GSoA filed over 100'000 signatures of citizens asking for a ban on war material export from and transit through Switzerland. A referendum is schedule to take place on the 29th of November 2009. It will be the third time for the Swiss population to vote on this issue - in 1972, 49.7% voted in favour of the ban, but in 1997 the support had faded to 22.5%.

The government opposes the ban arguing that exports are vital to the Swiss arms industry,  which in turn plays an essential role in the defence of the country, it says. Whereas it is true that without access to the international weapons market, arms production in Switzerland would be more difficult, it should also be acknowledged that the trend of integration and mergers in this sector is already pushing many Swiss firms to relocate their production abroad, and the largest Swiss weapons producers are already being taken over by foreign corporations. The national defence argument is not more realistic, as the weapons industry has shown in the past that even in times of war, it sells its products to any costumer who can pay.

Arguments Against Arms Trade

Although Swiss made weapons represent a small portion of the warfare material out in the world, they are still being used to kill people, including civilians. For example, Switzerland is world's second largest export country for small arms ammunition. Although a manufacturer is not directly responsible for the way in which its products are used, it is highly hypocritical to sell dangerous products and in the same time blame those misusing them.

Swiss foreign policy officially pursues the prevention of armed violence, conflict resolution and peace consolidation. It invests in development and cooperation, in order to foster peace and security in Switzerland and abroad. However, the negative impact of arms trade (causing human and environmental destructions, and diverting resources from civilian needs, especially in southern countries), hampers gravely such efforts. Exporting arms is incompatible with the promotion of human security and of a stable global community.

War material represents only some 0.2% of the total value of Swiss exports. If the ban is accepted, the government will financially support the civilian conversion of the armament industry. Such conversion is already taking place with the evolution of markets, so it would be wise to invest already now in sectors such as green technologies and energies that are likely to provide more sustainable jobs.

Finally, arms exports are not very lucrative for the country as they are highly subsidized (the government covers the export risk which is quite high when selling weapons to poor countries; the purchase of military equipments from foreign countries is often tight to contracts for domestic industries, implying that their economic survival relies heavily on high expenses by the Department of defence).

This last point is also addressed by another initiative of the GSoA, for a ban on the purchase of new fighter jets. This would help break the vicious circle where we need to buy new unnecessary equipments from abroad in order to sell our own lethal production.

More information on Swiss arms exports can be found here:

Switzerland - ENAAT Country Report 2008 (65.9 KB)

Switzerland - ENAAT Country Report 2008 - Presentation (734.0 KB)

Switzerland - ENAAT Country Report 2009 (82 KB)

Switzerland - ENAAT Country Report 2009 - Presentation (3.4 MB)