The previous section D.2.b. provides a broad historical perspective on the role of conscription for military service and of how far the right to refuse to take up arms on conscientious grounds has been recognized by governments around the world, and at an international level. In the second half of the 20th century opposing compulsory military service was a major focus of peace activism in a number of Western European countries (see for example the annotated references in the Italian and Spanish sections at the end of this bibliography). The international anti-militarist War Resisters' International (WRI) supported individual conscientious objectors (COs) as well as campaigns of draft resistance. WRI also campaigned, together with other pacifist bodies, for international recognition of the right to conscientious objection. Resolutions in favour of CO rights have been passed by the Council of Europe and by the EU, and also by the UN.
After the end of the Cold War in the 1990s a total of 22 countries, especially in Europe, abandoned conscription, although it remained a part of national policy in many countries in other parts of the world. So there remained a significant role for peace activists in publicizing and opposing repressive policies of conscription, supporting COs harshly treated by their governments, and campaigning for wider and full recognition of CO rights.
The rising international tension between Russia and the west in the second decade of the 21st century, particularly since the Ukrainian Euromaidan protests of 2013-14 and the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, led a number of European countries (including ex-Soviet states like the Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania) to revert to a policy of military conscription. The rise in far right nationalistic governments has also promoted glorification of the military and encouraged illiberal policies towards COs in countries like Turkey and Russia, which have never abandoned conscription.
The treatment of COs by the Turkish government, which has never recognized a right to conscientious objection and penalizes COs in employment and access to pensions and social welfare for life (a form of 'civil death') has been condemned, by the European Court of Human Rights in many rulings since 2006. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regretted in June 2020 the lack of progress in implementing legal recognition of COs, which the Turkish government had promised.
The bitter armed conflicts which have ravaged much of the Middle East and Libya have also intensified arguments for military preparedness, while several countries in the Gulf have introduced (or reintroduced) conscription,
Some countries have, historically, seen universal military service as a central citizen duty and a means of promoting national unity, and these principles can be extended to calls for forms of compulsory civilian service. Both these principles have been invoked in the move by the French government in 2019 to reintroduce a combined military and civilian form of conscription.
This section provides a number of references that give more detail on countries reverting to, or introducing, conscription and about recognition of and provision for conscientious objection. It also includes some information about COs in particular countries and about anti-militarist protests. It notes as well the recent extension of conscription to women in Norway and Sweden.