The Norwegian Peace Tax Fund Act of 2000

The Bill Introduced to the Norwegian Parliament 14 June, 2000,

Translation to English:

Proposal from Member of Parliament Hallgeir H. Langeland about considering an extension of the principle in the law of exemption for military service, which will open for the possibility to direct taxes to peacework.

To Stortinget (House of Parliament)

Background

In this proposal the government is asked to consider an extension of the principle in the law of exemption for military service for conscience objectors. The law is from March 19, 1965. The reason is to give taxpayers, who, because of their conscience, cannot support military activity a possibility to direct this part of their taxes to a fund for constructive peacemaking work.

A UN-report from 1996 about how wars affect on civilians, shows that in the beginning of the last century 5 per cent of the victims in wars was civilians. This share has now risen to over 90 per cent. About half of these victims are children.

Soldiers are no longer the most important instruments in wars. Today war embraces expensive high technology weapons and it is mainly a professional force that participates. That is why wars of today in the principle are more dependent on tax money from the citizens than each soldier that volunteers.

A modern war is financed through taxes. For people that do not believe in trying to solve conflicts with weapons, is it morally very little difference between pulling the trigger on a deadly weapon and to pay others to do the same.

The right to freedom in matters of religious and conscience questions is regarded highly as a human right, and is written in article 18 in UN's human rights statement and in article 9 in the European human rights convention. The Nürmberg laws also say that individual conscience stands above orders.

The aim with this legislation is not to give individual reduced taxes or economic benefits. The legislation will acknowledge the authority of personal conscience in all human beings -women and men. When it comes to crimes against humanity, will individual responsibility always stand above loyalty to the authorities.

Because the principle of free conscience already is acknowledged in the law to refuse military service, can such a right to direct the taxes differently not create precedents for other people who want to apply for similar changes in the tax system.

The clue is to establish a peace fund that is ruled by members that the government points out, and by representatives from different peace organisations. The money can be used on issues such as how to handle conflicts, peace education, peace investigations, UN's preventive diplomacy and the battle against children soldiers.

There is already a system today where 300,000 members of different religious societies get their church tax refunded. The peace fund should be able to follow the same system. One alternative can be that women and men who do not want to pay taxes to the military makes a statement in the yearly declaration.

Nils Butenschøn, the director for Institute for human rights in Norway, says that the question about establishing a peace fund is worth to be considered. He says:

After all, it is such a foundational question about participating in wars. In principle we here stand above the same choice as when you say yes or no to participate in military service. The same question of conscience will appear regarded to the tax money. In principle I do not see any reason why peace tax should be treated differently than the question of conscience objection.

In his opinion it is a huge point that we already have a possibility to refuse military service.

The peace tax movement is international through the organization Conscience and Peace Tax International that has a counseling status in UN. A proposal about law of peace tax has been promoted in a numerous countries: Germany, The Netherlands, USA and Belgium. In Great Britain it was brought up in the parliament October 19, 1999. It is worth noticing that 57 MPs from the labor party supported the Bill.

Norges fredslag (Norway's peace corps) and Norges Fredsråd (Norway's peace counseling) is two organizations that are supporting a peace tax introduction. Norges Fredsråd is a cooperative organ for 17 Norwegian peace organizations. The counsel is led by Fredrik S. Heffermehl, and is defined independent politically and shall work for peace, reduction of armaments and conflict solving.

A numerous number of people are supporting the proposal, such as Odd Børretzen, Nils Christie, Erik Dammann, Inge Eidsvåg, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Berge Furre, Ottar Hellevik, Knut Holtedahl, Jacob Jervell, Erling Kjekstad, Hanna Kvanmo, Lars Andreas Larssen, Ole D. Mjøs, Kari Anne Moe, Mette Newth, Arne Næss, Stig Utnem og Thomas Chr. Wyller.

Norway's former prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, said in his New Year speech at the entrance of a new millennium:

Norway must be a peace nation part in conflict solving and peace promoting activity. A nation who follows Nordahl Griegs strategy: If you create human dignity, you create peace. If we are remembered as a nation of peace, Norwegians has a reason to be proud.

Norway has legislated the right to refuse military service of consensual reasons and can now be the first country in the world that introduces peace tax.

Since believes and consensual freedom is one of the strongest foundational human rights it is necessary to take a law of a peace fund in consideration. All citizens, women and men, need to have the possibility to contribute to the security of the country yet avoiding a serious conflict in believes.

Promotion

On these grounds following proposal is promoted:

Stortinget (parliament) asks the government to promote house of parliament a proposal of an extension of the principle of exemption of military service for consensual reasons, and consider preparing a particular law that makes it possible for individuals to redirect taxes from military activity to a fund for constructive peace promoting work.