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The 2023 Dismantling Racism and Militarism (DRM) in U.S. Foreign Policy conference was held from January 5-7, 2023 at the Pocantico Center in Tarrytown, New York. It was jointly organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation Education Fund (FCNL EdFund) and the Center for International Policy (CIP). Diana Ohlbaum (she/her), Senior Strategist and Legislative Director at FCNL and Nancy Okail (she/her), President and CEO of CIP, co-led the three-day event, which was made possible with generous support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Jubitz Family Foundation.

In all my years working on these issues, I have never been in a room like this.

The DRM Pocantico conference was a reconvening of the Dismantling Racism and Militarism in U.S. Foreign Policy working group, which met bi-weekly between November 2020 and April 2021. These discussions culminated in a discussion paper published by the working group co-chairs, Salih Booker and Diana Ohlbaum, which defined the belief systems, economic structures, and political institutions underpinning the perpetuation of militarism and racism within the United States. The paper offered a compelling alternative vision of U.S. global engagement based on the following five principles:

  • Equality, Rights, Dignity
  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Shared Wealth
  • Sustainability

Building on this foundation, the Pocantico conference brought original and new members of the working group together to carry this important work forward. The gathering totaled 23 people, including the two organizers, three facilitators, and 18 individual participants representing 14 organizations spanning advocacy, grassroots organizing, philanthropy, research, and faith-based social justice work.
Participants came from a variety of backgrounds and locations and ranged from recent university graduates to experts with decades of professional experience. These included prominent scholars and specialists on a wide range of issue-areas, including feminist peacebuilding, economic inequality, public advocacy, climate change, and the military-industrial complex.

The conference presented a unique opportunity for a diverse group of committed professionals to unpack the issues of racism and militarism and their intersections in both U.S. foreign and domestic policy— an understudied, overlapping field with enormous implications for global human and ecological well-being.

Through plenary discussions, breakout group exercises, and mealtime conversations, the gathering provided an invaluable space to learn about our intersecting work, identify common challenges and solutions, and forge new partnerships and mechanisms to streamline and strengthen our collective efforts moving forward. The conference was an important first step to filling a critical gap in communication and collaboration within domestic and foreign peace and social justice organizing and advocacy.

As a seasoned foreign policy professional remarked, noting the exceptional diversity of the participants, “In all my years working on these issues, I have never been in a room like this.”

Organizations represented at the Pocantico DRM Conference

  • Center for International Policy (CIP)
  • Chisholm Legacy Project
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus Center (CPCC)
  • Detention Watch Network (DWN)
  • Ford Foundation
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation Education Fund (FCNL EdFund)
  • Institute for Policy Studies
  • Justice Is Global
  • Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
  • Peace Direct
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF)
  • Sojourners
  • War Prevention Initiative