openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Upfront NHS charges one year on - 6 reasons why they harm us all https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/ed-jones/upfront-nhs-charges-one-year-on-6-reasons-why-they-harm-us-all <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And what can we do to stop these harmful charges?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile4.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile4.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="388" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Poster in Guys & St Thomas's Hospital. Credit: Docs not Cops</span></span></span></p><p>When you’re expecting a baby the last thing you want to be thinking about is whether you can afford <a href="https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/WhatPriceSafeMotherhoodFINAL.pdf">over £6,000</a> to go into hospital for the labour. For most people in England this isn’t yet a consideration but for the past year it has been the reality for many migrant women.</p> <p>A year ago today, the government introduced upfront <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/nhs-visitor-and-migrant-cost-recovery-programme">NHS</a> <a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94"></a><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94">charges</a> for <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=2841d219-9ff0-40cf-9cf6-9eefd32d042c">certain migrants</a> as part of its '<a href="https://corporatewatch.org/the-hostile-environment-turning-the-uk-into-a-nation-of-border-cops-2/">hostile environment</a>'. Before that bills were sent after people received medical care. Primary care (i.e. GP visits), visits to accident and emergency, and treatment for some infection diseases remains free for all. However, <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=2841d219-9ff0-40cf-9cf6-9eefd32d042c">secondary care</a> (such as being on a ward in the hospital or X-Rays), <a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94">community care</a> (including midwifery and abortion services), and care deemed ‘non-urgent’ is now liable for upfront costs for many migrants.</p> <p>I’ve seen it for myself when I volunteered with <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/">Doctors of the World</a>, supporting migrants to access healthcare in the UK. One patient we saw had a stroke, and was admitted to hospital unconscious. They were not charged for their time in A&amp;E, however they were charged over £40,000 for their time in the Intensive Care Unit (secondary care). The Doctors of the World clinics in London <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/news/nhshospitalswithholdingnonurgentcare">see many cases</a> where lifesaving care – including cancer chemotherapy, surgery and palliative care – is withheld unless paid for upfront because it is classified as ‘non-urgent.’</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/windrush-scandal">Windrush scandal</a> has shown how ‘hostile environment’ policies – which are also <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/the-hostile-environment-turning-the-uk-into-a-nation-of-border-cops-2/">present in housing, banking, employment</a> and other areas – can devastate people’s lives. </p> <p>Evidence is mounting that turning medical professionals into border guards is a bad idea. Here’s why - and what we can do about it.</p> <h2>1) Lives are at risk</h2> <p>Volunteers at Doctors of the World have seen many people deterred from going to the doctor because they are worried they can’t afford the charges or that they will be reported to – and deported by – the Home Office. in this situation. People's health conditions often get worse as a result, <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=2a7fc733-ceef-4417-9783-d69b016ff74f">as research</a> by Doctors of the World has shown.</p> <p>Women have not been accessing antenatal, perinatal and postnatal care because they are found in a scared of mounting up debts or being reported to the authorities, a recent Maternity Action <a href="https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/WhatPriceSafeMotherhoodFINAL.pdf">report</a> found. This means unborn babies and mothers are <a href="http://b.3cdn.net/droftheworld/5a507ef4b2316bbb07_5nm6bkfx7.pdf">more at risk</a> of poor outcomes, including death, low birth weight and the transmission of various diseases. <a href="https://b.3cdn.net/droftheworld/5a507ef4b2316bbb07_5nm6bkfx7.pdf">Doctors of the World’s</a> research at their London drop-in clinic reached similar conclusions.</p> <p>Under current regulations, if people incur healthcare debts over £500 they can be reported to the Home Office after only two months of non-payment. Maternity Action found that women – many of whom had just given birth – were being sent threatening NHS bills and some had been chased by debt collection agencies. They also spoke to women who had been wrongly charged for their care.</p> <p>We are in the middle of the <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html">biggest refugee crisis</a> since the Second World War, partly fuelled by British foreign policy and arms sales. Do we really want the government to respond by preventing access to medical treatment to those in need, including pregnant women?</p> <h2>2) <strong>It is a </strong><a href="https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article/38/2/384/1753511"><strong>public health risk</strong></a></h2> <p>NHS charges deter and delay vulnerable migrants from seeking the healthcare that they need, increasing harm to the individual and putting the health of the public at risk, as research conducted by post-graduate students at Kings College London at a Doctors of the World clinic <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/news/new-research-shows-nhs-charging-is-pushing-sick-and-pregnant-migrants-away">has confirmed</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="393" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: On display in Ashford & St Peter's Hospital Trust. Credit: Docs not Cops</span></span></span></p><p>If people don't go to the doctor when they need to it will increase the spread of infectious diseases, including <a href="http://www.who.int/tb/areas-of-work/drug-resistant-tb/en/">drug resistant</a> strains of tuberculosis (TB). Although treatment for many infectious diseases do not incur charges under <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/nhs-visitor-and-migrant-cost-recovery-programme">the current</a> <a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94"></a><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94">system</a>, many <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jessica_Potter/publication/326155664_Tuberculosis_looking_beyond_%27migrant%27_as_a_category_to_understand_experience/links/5b3b70a2aca2720785062bac/Tuberculosis-looking-beyond-migrant-as-a-category-to-understand-experience.pdf">migrants do not know</a> that this is the case. Research in the <a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/doi/10.1093/eurpub/cky048.146/4973469">European Journal of Public Health</a> looking at 100 recent migrants diagnosed with tuberculosis, found that at least 69% of them did not know that TB treatment was free prior to their diagnosis. Another recent study in <a href="https://thorax.bmj.com/content/72/Suppl_3/A20.1">the journal Thorax</a> looking over 2,000 tuberculosis cases showed a significant association between the roll out of NHS charging and worsening delays in diagnosis amongst the non-UK born population.</p> <h2>3) It’s a false economy and will likely cost the NHS more money than it saves. </h2> <p>The Department of Health previously estimated that it was unclear whether the NHS charging system generated a <a href="https://fullfact.org/sites/fullfact.org/files/782677R%20Chap%202%20of%20Review%20pages%2055-89.pdf#page=31">net benefit or a net loss</a> in an Internal Review of the Overseas Visitor Charging System. This is in large part due to the administrative cost of charging people and running an overseas charging team. Quantifying the cost of healthcare visits requires a vast amount of administration time, taking doctors and nurses away from providing care. It requires a huge investment in time providing training in costing, determining who is eligible or not, then ongoing time allowed to cost medical interventions. This needs to be supported by administration, managerial and accountancy staff to process bills and chase payments. Billing equipment is also needed as well as training, engineering and IT support to maintain the above.</p> <p>When people don't go to the doctor early on, many health conditions can also become much <a href="http://www.rcgp.org.uk/about-us/news/2017/september/investing-in-primary-care-is-cost-effective-for-the-nhs-and-good-for-patient-care-says-college.aspx">more difficult and costly to treat</a>, especially if they worsen, become chronic and/or spread if infectious, resulting in more people turning up to A&amp;E. <a href="http://www.rcgp.org.uk/news/2017/september/investing-in-primary-care-is-cost-effective-for-the-nhs-and-good-for-patient-care-says-college.aspx">For example,</a> high blood pressure can be relatively cheap to treat and manage early on, but if left unchecked it places patients at risk of a number of conditions including cardiovascular disease. Untreated high blood pressure may end up in A&amp;E with a heart attack and require much costlier interventions – such as heart bypass surgery – with all the associated costs of stays in hospital.</p> <p>Health tourism is currently a very small percentage of NHS costs – the upper end of the government’s rough estimates are <a href="https://fullfact.org/health/health-tourism-whats-cost/">around 0.3%</a>. The cost of what little ‘health tourism’ that exists, including treatment for <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251909/Quantitative_Assessment_of_Visitor_and_Migrant_Use_of_the_NHS_in_England_-_Exploring_the_Data_-_FULL_REPORT.pdf#page=74">British 'expats'</a>, would be covered <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/paradise-papers">thousands of times over</a> if tax avoidance loopholes were closed. Everyone living in and visiting the UK also pays some tax – it is almost impossible to avoid taxes such as VAT. Bearing this in mind it just doesn’t make sense to suffer all these problems to attempt to recover a small portion of the NHS budget. </p> <h2>4) Upfront charges undermine the universality of the healthcare system and expand the infrastructure to further privatise the NHS. </h2> <p>Depending on how you measure it, around 8% of the NHS services have already been <a href="https://fullfact.org/health/how-much-more-nhs-spending-private-providers/">outsourced to private providers</a>, although privatisation is much more extensive if you include the <a href="http://www.patients4nhs.org.uk/marketisation-of-the-nhs/">internal market</a>, <a href="https://fullfact.org/health/what-nhs-paying-private-finance-initiatives/">private finance initiatives</a>, and withdrawal and restriction of services. What, or who, will be next? Introducing upfront charges for migrants has made it potentially much easier to do the same for other groups of patients and normalises the concept of upfront charging.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: On display in St Georges University Hospitals. Credit: Docs not Cops.</span></span></span></p><h2>5) It sets a terrible international example </h2> <p>The system potentially will reduce access to healthcare for UK citizens when they travel abroad. Until recently, we had one of the most inclusive healthcare systems, so why change it? The US demonstrates how large private medical bills deter the poor, vulnerable and people of colour from accessing healthcare. This is a large part of why so many women die <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-42031800/why-do-so-many-us-women-die-giving-birth">during childbirth in the US</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hostile2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="399" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: On display in Whittington Hospital. Credit: Docs not Cops.</span></span></span></p><p>When <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneurin_Bevan">Aneurin Bevan</a> – a former miner and Trade Union activist – led the creation of the NHS as Health Minister after the Second World War, he <a href="https://www.sochealth.co.uk/national-health-service/the-sma-and-the-foundation-of-the-national-health-service-dr-leslie-hilliard-1980/aneurin-bevan-and-the-foundation-of-the-nhs/in-place-of-fear-a-free-health-service-1952/">intentionally ensured</a> that the healthcare system was universal for all, including visitors to the UK. He wanted to set a positive example, in part to ensure British people are treated when abroad, but also as a positive example of what can be done internationally.</p> <h2>6) It is a racist policy. </h2> <p>This policy denies basic human rights to healthcare and asks healthcare workers and receptionists to determine whether someone can access healthcare – which is not the job they have trained for and distracts from what should be their priority: the <a href="https://www.gmc-uk.org/ethical-guidance/ethical-guidance-for-doctors/good-medical-practice">care of the patient</a>. Indeed, many NHS professionals are confused on how the new rules should be applied, with some <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/23/rules-allowing-upfront-charges-for-foreign-users-of-nhs-come-into-force">incorrectly thinking</a> that some patients are ineligible for life-saving medical care.</p> <p>‘Hostile environment’ policies can also target people with names that don’t sound ‘British’, as well as people of colour. If people can’t prove their status they may fall foul of the system. On top of that, <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160107124139/http:/www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_310441.pdf">17% of UK residents</a> don’t have a passport at all, according to the 2011 census. This has implications for some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens, including the homeless and those living in poverty.</p> <h2>What can we do?</h2> <p>There have been some significant wins for the growing campaign against the ‘hostile environment’ in healthcare. In May 2018 the government <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/peter-pannier/data-sharing-u-turn-is-welcome-but-more-to-do-to-scrap-hostile-environment-in-n">reversed</a> arrangements to share patient details with the Home Office. The government has also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/windrush-scandal">significantly backtracked</a> over the Windrush scandal. Change can happen - here are some ways you can help:</p> <p>1) Today - 23rd October 2018 - there is a day of action focusing on supporting healthcare workers that are resisting ID checks and upfront charging in Barts Health NHS Trust in London - the<a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/154192525531454/"> Facebook event page</a> has the timetable. There will be pickets at 3 Barts hospitals in the morning, a<a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23PatientsNotPassports&amp;src=typd"> #PatientsNotPassports</a> selfie twitter storm between 12 and 2pm aimed at Barts Trust, and a rally at the Royal London Hospital in the evening from 6PM. Join online or in person!</p> <p>2) Sign <a href="https://pledgeforthenhs.com/">the pledge</a> to stop NHS charges.</p> <p>3) Get involved with <a href="http://www.docsnotcops.co.uk/">Docs Not Cops</a> (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/docsnotcops/">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/docsnotcops?lang=en">@DocsNotCops</a>) or the <a href="https://www.medact.org/project/rsg/">Medact refugee solidarity group</a> (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/MedactRefugeeSolidarityGroup/">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/Medact">@Medact</a>) who are both fighting to stop the targeting of migrants in healthcare. They are open to everyone, not just doctors and other medical professionals.</p> <p>4) <a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/volunteer-roles">Volunteer with</a> or <a href="https://donate.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/page/14476/data/1">donate</a> to Doctors of the World to help ensure migrants access healthcare in the UK. You don't have to be a medical professional to volunteer – you can do clinic support, case work or other tasks. GPs, nurses and medical students are also needed.</p> <p>5) If you work in healthcare, do not ask to see ID, or turn a blind eye when you can. See who will co-operate with you in your workplace. Please bear in mind this will work better in some places than others. This is partly because patients could be identified to be charged at a later time than admission, or at a later admission, and will then still be eligible for the full cost of the care. See the <a href="http://www.patientsnotpassports.co.uk">Patients Not Passports toolkit</a> which has a step-by-step advocacy guide to help healthcare workers find a way to exempt patients, gives detailed signposting advice, and also provides support to start campaigns. </p> <p>6) If you are a member of the public, if you can, do not comply with requests to show forms of identity like passports and driving licenses when accessing NHS care. Support those targeted when you witness racial discrimination and report it to Docs Not Cops or Doctors of the World.</p> <p>7) If you work in healthcare join a union <a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k471">like Doctors in Unite</a> which vows to support NHS staff who refuse to act as ‘border guards’ and opposes the ‘hostile environment’ in healthcare. Alternatively get your current union to vow to provide such support as well as campaign on this.</p> <h2>Further reading</h2><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2018.79.6.C94">Understanding changes to NHS charging regulations for patients from overseas</a> by Dr Lisa Murphy, Dr Joanna Dobbin, Dr Sarah Boutros in the British Journal of Hospital Medicine.</p><p><a href="http://patientsnotpassports.co.uk/">Patients Not Passports</a> - A toolkit designed to support you in advocating for people facing charges for NHS care, and in taking action to end immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS. By Docs Not Cops, Medact and Migrants Organise.</p><p><a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/sites/default/files/HE%20web.pdf">A GUIDE TO THE HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT: The border controls dividing our communities – and how we can bring them down</a> by Liberty (editor).</p><p><a href="https://theconversation.com/who-has-to-pay-for-the-nhs-and-when-91344">Who has to pay for the NHS and when?</a> By Jessica Potter in The Conversation.</p><p><a href="https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/publications">Publications by Doctors of the World</a> - includes policy briefings, evidence submissions and research reports.</p><p><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/the-hostile-environment-turning-the-uk-into-a-nation-of-border-cops-2/">The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops</a> by Corporate Watch.</p><p><a href="https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/WhatPriceSafeMotherhoodFINAL.pdf">What Price Safe Motherhood? Charging for NHS Maternity Care in England and its Impact on Migrant Women</a> by Maternity Action.</p><p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327252907_Patients_Not_Passports-No_borders_in_the_NHS">Patients Not Passports – No borders in the NHS</a>! by Jessica Potter in collaboration with Docs Not Cops.</p><p><a href="http://raceequalityfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/REF-Better-Health-443.pdf">Tuberculosis: looking beyond ‘migrant’ as a category to understand experience</a> by Jessica L Potter &amp; Adrienne Milner, Race Equality Foundation Briefing Paper.</p><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/doi/10.1093/eurpub/cky048.146/4973469">Did migrants with tuberculosis in the UK know their condition was exempt from charges?</a> by J Potter, V White, D Swinglehurst, C Griffiths in the European journal of Public Health.</p><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4713">Upfront charging of overseas visitors using the NHS</a> by Lucinda Hiam and Martin McKee, in the BMJ.</p><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/10.1016/S1470-2045%2818%2930152-9">The NHS and migrant patients with cancer</a> by Sophie Williams, Erin Dexter, Jessica L Potter, in the Lancet.</p><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdy050">Implications of upfront charging for NHS care: a threat to health and human rights</a> by James Smith and Erin Dexter, in the Journal of Public Health.</p><p><a href="http://sci-hub.tw/https:/doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4091">Tougher charging regime for “overseas” patients</a> by Sarah Steele et al., in the BMJ.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/11/10/roghieh-dehghan-a-migrant-gp-on-upfront-nhs-charges/">Roghieh Dehghan: A migrant GP on upfront NHS charges</a>, in BMJ Opinion.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/whole-agitation-has-nasty-taste-bevan-on-so-called-health-tourism">&quot;The whole agitation has a nasty taste&quot; - Nye Bevan on so-called &#039;health tourism&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/rayah-feldman/pregnant-women-bear-brunt-of-government-s-clampdown-on-migrant-nhs-care">Pregnant women bear brunt of government’s clampdown on ‘migrant’ NHS care</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/ex-boss-of-england-s-nhs-blasts-nhs-migrant-policy-as-national-scandal">Ex-boss of England’s NHS blasts NHS migrant policy as a “national scandal”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Ed Jones Mon, 22 Oct 2018 23:01:00 +0000 Ed Jones 120232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The forward march of Remain? It still hasn't got out of the starting blocks https://www.opendemocracy.net/mark-perryman/forward-march-of-remain-it-still-hasnt-got-out-of-starting-blocks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Remainers need to focus efforts on Tory and Labour MPs with marginal seats, but they're too distracted by painting apocalyptic pictures.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/chuka.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/chuka.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Chuka Umunna films Anna Soubry at the Peoples Vote March, 20/10/18. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“The remain campaign, from its passion-free name and its inherent self-righteousness, is the worst campaign I have seen&nbsp;in my lifetime” – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/19/peoples-vote-march-eu-referendum-brexit">Suzanne Moore</a></p> <p>Suzanne is brutally correct.</p> <p>I voted ‘Remain’. But sheer bloody uselessness of both the original campaign and now the doomed ‘People’s Vote’ / second referendum, needs accounting for, and then some. Forward march? Remain never even got out of the starting blocks – not for the Referendum, and despite their big march, not now either. </p> <p>Back in 2016 “Labour says R-E-M-A-I-N” said it all. The campaign started off bad, got worse and has never recovered. It is not the job of Labour to ever be in the business of remain, don’t change, everything’s fine as it is. Leave that to the Tories, that’s their niche appeal (the clue is in the name; Conservative). </p> <p>Corbyn’s “remain but reform” stance during the referendum campaign was quite right. It could have chimed with millions, most of whom wouldn’t drape themselves in an EU flag in a million years. But – besieged by opposition from his own MPs and the party bureaucracy – Corbyn left the Labour Remain campaign in the clutches of Alan Johnson. Alan writes half-decent memoirs but in the crucial capacity of leading Labour’s Referendum campaign he was a spectacular flop (even his own constituency voted Leave by a large majority). Corbyn should have grabbed control of the campaign and steered it in the direction he was following himself, but he wasn’t in a powerful enough position to do so. The caution killed dead Labour’s chance of swinging a large part of its working class Eurosceptic vote. The PLP ‘chicken coup’ of the summer of 2016 then justified itself mainly by the make-believe idea that Remain losing was all down to Jeremy. Seeing off ultra-Remainer Owen Smith in the second leadership challenge and doing better than expected in the 2017 General Election strengthened Corbyn – but too late to save that vote for Europe. </p> <p>However, the post Remain campaign wasn’t buying any of this. Forget Labour’s existential problem of having both large numbers of Leave-voting constituencies and large numbers of Remain ones. Forget that in a people’s vote, they’d lost. Their solution? Let’s have another one.</p> <p>If such a venture was to be secured, or at the very least to soften the worst excesses of a Tory Brexit, the Remain camp needed to shift popular opinion. In this they have singularly failed. And yet they plough on regardless. The message has stayed the same, the EU treated as an entirely unproblematic institution, a line that convinces no one except the pre-existing adherents. </p> <p>There’s little sense of the popular meaning of Europe either. A few weeks before the march, came the one occasion that flag achieves any kind of popular purchase in the UK – the Ryder Cup, this time won by Europe. Yet the Remain crowd are entirely disconnected to such opportunities, be they golf or indeed the most Europeanised institution in British society, football. The campaign lacks any kind of popular touch. Choosing to front your eve-of-march message with Messrs Blair, Clegg and Heseltine? Enough said.</p> <p>Much more credible has been the emergence of pro-remain critical thinking including Anthony Barnett’s superb book <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit/">The Lure of Greatness</a> and from Compass their ground-breaking report <a href="http://www.compassonline.org.uk/publications/the-causes-and-cures-of-brexit/">The Causes and Cures of Brexit</a>. Both address the most fundamental error of the post-referendum Remain campaign; their assertion that everybody else apart from them misunderstood what they were voting for. This is absolutely no way to win a political argument. It’s anti-politics writ large, and the polls reveal the dire consequences. The support for Leave remains virtually unchanged. </p> <p>Of course that 700,000 gathered in London to march from A to B in time-honoured fashion is impressive. And if <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/20/peoples-vote-march-remain-protest-will-hutton-comment">Will Hutton</a> has finally found ‘a cause worth marching for’ well good on him too. Don’t lets be curmudgeonly. The extra-parliamentary Left should welcome Will and his co-thinkers to the world of protest politics with open arms. Yet Will has fallen for precisely the same illusion that too many of us have done in the past, looking out over the crowds in Parliament Square at the end of a big march. “When hundreds of thousands give up their time for peaceful protest, they are never wrong.” They may not be wrong, but social change only occurs when a march is connected to a movement rooted in localities , and so far the People’s Voters have failed to construct anything remotely resembling that. </p> <p>I can reel off plenty of marches I’ve been on over the years: Rock against Racism, CND, Anti-Apartheid, the Poll Tax, Stop the War, for Palestine, against Trump. Some smaller than Saturday’s, some bigger. But protest isn’t simply a numbers game. It’s about turning the campaign from People’s Vote to People’s Power. </p> <p>Remain has palpably failed ever since the shock of being on the losing side. A failure caused by not creating any sort of extra-parliamentary leverage. They needed to base their campaign in the parliamentary constituencies of Tory MPs holding onto marginal seats. A non-party force pressing home the case that sticking with the government will lose them their seat could have had a substantial impact. Street-by-street, block-by-block, doorstep-by-doorstep. </p> <p>Saturday proved Remain has the numbers to do this, but to date it hasn’t had either the leadership or the endurance for an effort with none of the glamour of a Saturday afternoon stroll from Park Lane to Parliament square but one that is a hundred times more effective. And the advantage of our rotten electoral system is that the number of places requiring such an effort are relatively small yet crucial to the parliamentary arithmetic.</p> <p>The Guardian writer John Harris is optimistic that Saturday was proof that such an effort may yet be possible. John <a href="https://twitter.com/johnharris1969/status/1053663648546279424">tweeted</a> “It felt like it on the first <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PeoplesVoteMarch?src=hash">#PeoplesVoteMarch</a> back in June, but now we know: there's now another mass activist movement, and it makes politics way more complicated / interesting/ unpredictable.” He shares the critical perspective of others that the causes of the vote for Brexit cannot be lightly dismissed, chronicling this case extremely well via his series of short films ‘Anywhere but Westminster’ – so John’s estimate of what is happening should be taken seriously. </p><p>I’m not convinced though. The march had all the feeling of one final hurrah of the same social forces that lost in 2016 with none of the lessons learned since. If the turn to localities, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/21/peoples-vote-tory-mps-brexit-second-referendum-london-march">as reported</a>, is to happen now, good. But we’ve had two and a bit years since the referendum already. Where’s the kind of ‘mass activist movement’ that was needed for the long haul of shifting a bloc of soft Leave voters, most especially in those key Tory marginals? Missing in inaction, that’s where.</p> <p>The Remainers’ world view is fuelled almost more than anything else by the bile they like to chuck Labour’s way. Labour has made it clear the party will be seeking to overturn May’s deal. But because Labour is also committed to respecting the result of the referendum virtually anything else it says or does is treated by the Remainers as an act of unforgiveable treachery. </p> <p>But as any final vote approaches, Labour’s position does deserve some close scrutiny – beyond the usual simple binary of left and right. Of particular interest are the Labour MPs – often of the right – who whilst not committed leavers, represent Leave-voting constituencies – MPs like Caroline Flint, Gloria del Piero, and Gareth Snell. If their votes are to be lined up against Brexit, Chuka Umunna’s time might be better spent bending the ears of his old friends on the Labour right backbenches, rather than cosying up with his new best friend, Anna Soubry.&nbsp;</p> <p>Already <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/17/time-for-remainers-to-compromise-brexit">Martin Kettle</a> in the Guardian is suggesting , “For more pragmatic Remainers the temptation to back a deal, depending on the softness of its content and the degree of compromise made by May, and which has also been agreed by the EU27, will be a serious option.” </p> <p>Blinded by their anti-Corbyn rhetoric, the Remain crowd so far have entirely missed this crucial variable. Corbyn and Keir Starmer won't be calling on Labour MPs to vote with the Tories to secure their version of Brexit. But a section of the Liberal commentariat will, in the so-called ‘national interest.’ And there are Labour MPs ready to answer that call. </p> <p>And this is crucial - because unless and until May’s deal is defeated, there is no conceivable electoral arithmetic for a majority in favour of launching a second referendum.</p> <p>The danger now, however, is that a fractured Parliamentary Labour Party will defy Corbyn to vote, for a variety of reasons, all of them wrong, with the Tories, replacing the votes of potential Tory rebels to save May.</p> <p>Will Remain see the urgency of stopping such a scenario? To date they’ve shown little interest in the dilemma of Labour MPs representing leave-voting constituencies. Instead they invest every effort in portraying an ever more extreme version of the socio-economic wasteland of Britain after Brexit. Scare tactics, combined with an idealisation of the EU, has been their retreat from politics: blaming their allies for the actions of their enemies, their blundersome tactic. Sadly, Saturday’s march didn’t change any of that, not one bit.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/people-s-vote-on-brexit-be-careful-what-you-wish-for">A “People’s Vote” on Brexit – be careful what you wish for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sunny-hundal/labour-won-t-support-brexit-their-critics-are-ignoring-all-clues">Labour won’t support Brexit, their critics are ignoring all the clues</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-campaign-for-people-s-vote-is-changing-politics-again">How the campaign for a People’s Vote is changing politics (again)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Mark Perryman Mon, 22 Oct 2018 13:23:49 +0000 Mark Perryman 120229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trying to milk a vulture: if we want economic justice we need a democratic revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trying-to-milk-vulture-if-we-want-economic-justice-we-need-democratic-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This is the concluding chapter of openDemocracy's e-book New Thinking for the British Economy. You can download the full e-book here for free. “It is not possible to build democratic socialism by... </div> </div> </div> <em>This is the concluding chapter of openDemocracy's e-book New Thinking for the British Economy. You can download the full e-book <a href="http://bit.ly/2pjYvQw">here</a> for free.</em> “It is not possible to build democratic socialism by using the ancient institutions of the British state. Under that, include the present doctrine of sovereignty, Parliament, the electoral system, the civil service, the whole gaudy heritage. It is not possible in the way that it is not possible to induce a vulture to give milk.”<a href="#_edn1" name="_ednref1">[1]</a> As the forces of entropy have continued to pull at the threadbare remnants of Britain’s empire state, Neal Ascherson’s claim in 1985 has become more potent than ever. This “gaudy heritage” includes the House of Lords where a combination of the only hereditary legislators in the world, the only automatic seats for clerics outside Iran, and hundreds of appointed cronies get a say on all the UK’s laws. This valve in the British state allows the interests of the powerful to flow freely, while holding back progressive change. When the Conservative party pushed through the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which undermined the foundations of the NHS, a quarter of its peers had shares in private health companies.<a href="#_edn2" name="_ednref2">[2]</a> To begin the building of the welfare state in 1910 the Commons first had to limit its influence, but it still has the power and desire to delay and disrupt much of what is proposed in our e-book. There’s the Royal family, and the empire-kitsch nationalism it encourages, allowing tabloids to imply that anyone who isn’t loyal to Britain’s iniquitous institutions is a traitor to their country. There’s the fact that 86% of the land, 90% of the biodiversity<a href="#_edn3" name="_ednref3">[3]</a> and an unknown but large proportion of the wealth for which the British state is responsible lies outside our North Atlantic Archipelago. Stretching from the Cayman Islands to Gibraltar, from the UK’s military bases in Cyprus to the US military bases on the British Indian Ocean territory, the Overseas Territories spin a dark web around the world, allowing the mega-rich to launder their spoils in the shadow of vestigial empire and prompting the leading expert on the mafia to call the UK “the most corrupt country on earth”.<a href="#_edn4" name="_ednref4">[4]</a> There’s the constitutional oddity of the City of London, which sits at the centre of this web, which has managed its own affairs since before the Norman Conquest with a corporate-elected council, has its own police force (dating back to Roman times) and enjoys the only constitutionally mandated permanent lobbyist in parliament, known as the “Remembrancer”. There’s the absurd concentration of power which ensures that decisions of the state are held out of reach of ordinary citizens. Local government in Britain is both less local, and has less power to govern, than almost anywhere else in the western world, helping produce a country with the most extreme regional inequality in Western Europe.<a href="#_edn5" name="_ednref5">[5]</a> There’s the mess of asymmetric devolution, the now multidimensional West Lothian Questions it delivers, and demands for more autonomy from Cornwall to Shetland. There’s the collapsed institutions of Northern Ireland; the immunity of the Bank of England from democratic influence; and the towering power of the Treasury, whose wonky models often seem to shape government policy more than the manifestos of the parties we elect. There’s an electoral system which encourages millions to believe that voting can never make a difference, that democracy is defunct. There’s a civil service whose culture and revolving doors with the institutions of British capital ensure that it would likely be as much of a barrier to change today as when it was founded as a check against the growing enfranchisement of working class men in the 19th century, on the back of the Northcote-Trevelyan report<a href="#_edn6" name="_ednref6">[6]</a>, whose co-author, Sir Charles Trevelyan, is most famous for his genocidal approach to the Irish famine, and who based its structure on the lessons of the colonial administrators of the East India company. There’s the lack of constitutional protections for human rights or civil liberties. One of the central exhibits in the Stasi museum in East Berlin is a bug inserted inside a kitchen door, which had recorded family conversations for years. But the Edward Snowden revelations showed that the UK spy agency GCHQ’s Optic Nerve programme collected images of millions of people through their laptop cameras and smartphones: a level of surveillance that the government of the German Democratic Republic could only dream of, and which poses a drastic threat to the activism and journalism needed to hold power to account. As the Guardian revealed at the time: GCHQ had a “sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff” <a href="#_edn7" name="_ednref7">[7]</a>. While the US has constitutional protection to stop the government spying on civilians without a warrant, the UK doesn’t, and the ability of structurally racist security services to collect both data and meta-data, tracking our networks and movements, gives it capacity for unprecedented social control, including new tools for undermining social movements and trade unions during protests and strikes. The UK sits at 40th in the latest rankings for press freedom, behind almost every other Western country.<a href="#_edn8" name="_ednref8">[8]</a> After Beijing, London is the most watched city in the world, while the shifting terms of citizenship as Britain has made its way from an empire to an EU member to neither – is the beaker holding the poisonous conversation about immigration. Underlying all of this is the ultimate principle of the British constitution, that sovereignty lies not with the people, but with the crown in parliament: the compromise of failed democratic revolutions, which stumbled as the bourgeoisies of previous centuries were bought off with the plunder of empire and slavery. But these questions are as relevant today as ever. Neoliberalism is the process of shifting decisions from one person one vote to one pound – or dollar or Euro or Yen – one vote. It’s no surprise that it has thrived most in those countries in which the democratic revolutions were least complete, in which people are most easily convinced that markets are a better way to make decisions than politics. Most of the policy proposals in this volume demand a different approach: that democratic institutions of various flavours take some kind of control over major areas of decision-making. And if they are to do so, it’s vital that they are genuinely democratic, that they are responsive to the needs of the population, and that they act in the interests of those they are supposed to serve. And if these proposals are to survive beyond the lifetime of more than one government, then their implementation must come alongside a process of empowering citizens to defend those policies and institutions which work. One of the many lessons from the Blair/Brown era is that much of the good they did do – Sure Start Centres and rising public sector pay – was swept away within the term of one austerity happy government. <strong>What is to be done?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3521" align="alignnone" width="979"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3521" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/CrackedWinshield-630x411.jpg" alt="" width="979" height="639" /> Image, K99.com[/caption] Britain’s constitutional debate often feels like a car owner attempting to repair a smashed-up windscreen by trying to mend each fracture separately. A much better approach would be to replace the whole mess with a constitutional convention.<a href="#_edn9" name="_ednref9">[9]</a> Specifically, the government should gather a jury of citizens – representative of different races, genders, ages, classes, regions and nations of the UK – to draw up a new constitution, and then hold a referendum or series of referendums on whether to accept it. It was a similar process in Ireland which triggered the magnificent referendums there on equal marriage and abortion rights, which have both undone huge historic injustices, and also unleashed an energy which has helped change Ireland. But while a huge amount can be learned from the Irish process<a href="#_edn10" name="_ednref10">[10]</a>, the UK, without a codified constitution to start with, begins from much further back. Of course, once such a group was convened, it wouldn’t be up to the government to decide what it concluded. But progressives should absolutely be free to advocate for particular decisions during the process, and what follows are a number of the changes I would wish to see. <strong>What rights?</strong> Human rights can be an atomising way to see morality and they are of little use in determining the most complex questions, which arise when rights conflict. However, democracy requires protection for the marginalised and minorities, for the unloved and unlovable, and for everyone against the powerful. The current set-up means that any government – especially without the framework of the EU – could quickly pass a law abolishing any right it didn’t like. This is why most countries enshrine rights in constitutions, which require deeper democratic mandates to amend. A bottom up Convention should help ensure that such rights are seen not as an imposition from some ‘metropolitan elite’ as they are sometimes described, but as emerging from a conversation among the people. Among the principles that should be enshrined is the core of the Magna Carta – equal access to the justice system, which has been so corroded by years of cuts to legal aid. Such a principle is core to any economic reforms: how, for example, can we ensure minimum wage laws are enforced or tenants’ rights are protected unless workers and renters can access the courts on equal terms with their bosses or landlords? A set of rights for women would be important in our systemically sexist society. While they should of course be drafted by women themselves, I’d include rights to equality in pay, property and political representation as well as reproductive rights such as access to safe abortions. Similarly, people of colour, LGBTQI people and disabled people face structural discrimination and their rights should be enshrined. Recent scandals around both the state and corporations spying on trade unionists and environmental activists show the need for protection of both privacy, and of collective organising. And the story that the Home Secretary will allow people accused of terror charges to be sent to the United States to face a potential death penalty shows the potential fatal consequences of elected dictatorship.<a href="#_edn11" name="_ednref11">[11]</a> The 2016 Trade Union Act drastically undermined the capacity of workers to organise collectively, and in 2018 the International Trade Union Congress ranked the UK alongside Russia and the Congo as a country where there are “regular violations of workers’ rights”<a href="#_edn12" name="_ednref12">[12]</a>. A constitution should enshrine collective rights for workers, and for marginalised groups such as the UK’s traveller community, who have been victims of cultural vandalism in recent years. Likewise, we should guarantee not just civil and political rights but also social and economic rights. It seems likely that a list of rights drawn up by a representative sample of British people would include a right to healthcare, and legal protection for the NHS as a universal service, making future attempts at eroding it much harder, and similar rights should exist to education, social care, housing, food and digital access. And when other countries have debated rights in the modern era, some have chosen to think beyond people. The constitutions of both Bolivia<a href="#_edn13" name="_ednref13">[13]</a> and Namibia<a href="#_edn14" name="_ednref14">[14]</a> enshrine protections for nature, which mean environmentalists and indigenous people have legal recourse to challenge corporate polluters and plunderers in the highest courts in the land. If the point of constitutions is the long-term stewardship of a civilisation, then it ought to build in protection for the planet. The same is true of digital rights. If data is the new oil, then asking who owns it means asking who owns much of our economy. A modern democratic revolution should have Google and Facebook in mind alongside government and finance. There are important questions to be asked about how this sort of data should be owned, stored and used. Our current governance structures have proved woefully incapable of even asking those questions – it is clueless when it comes to contemplating possible answers. And the flip-side of data protection is transparency. The 2001 Freedom of Information Act has helped sweep aside some of the deep corruption of the British state. Without it, we wouldn’t have had the expenses scandal or known as much as we do about corporate lobbying and the revolving doors between the civil service and big business. But with MPs dodging the Act with WhatsApp groups, and government departments now turning down Freedom of Information requests wholesale, with more and more of the functions of the state being privatised beyond the reach of the Act (for now) there’s a deep need for new rules – and a newly empowered Information Commission – to ensure our government is transparent. And just as the Information Commission needs to be renewed, so the Electoral Commission and the rules protecting our democracy from big money need to be comprehensively refreshed. In the 2010 election – which took place immediately after the banking crash – more than half of the donations to the Tories came from the City of London.<a href="#_edn15" name="_ednref15">[15]</a> They were paid to not regulate the banks, and they didn’t: a historic dereliction of duty. As I write this, I’ve spent nearly two years investigating where much of the cash that paid for various campaigns to leave the EU came from, and I couldn’t tell you the answer with certainty, other than that it came through tax havens and loopholes in the British constitution, from people with vast wealth who believed that Brexit was in their interests. Without either public funding for political parties, or much tougher enforcement of stricter laws on funding, British democracy is in real trouble. Similarly, the 2000 Elections Act was written before the advent of Facebook or Twitter. These are new spaces for democratic debate and they need new rules. <strong>Regulation, regulation, regulation</strong> There’s another way to look at the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission. Both emerged during the Blair/Brown years, where regulation became part of a “third way” compromise between public and private ownership, and led to a set of organisations which blur the old constitutional lines between judiciary, legislature, and executive. For the most part, though, as Anthony Barnett has pointed out Britain has regulated goods and services in an increasingly complex and globalised market by participating in the EU. <a href="#_edn16" name="_ednref16">[16]</a> And if we are to leave the EU, then we will need to rapidly take on many of these functions, and in that context, there is important thinking to be done about what sorts of regulators we want in the future. If, for example, the Food Standards Agency, or the Financial Conduct Authority, or the Care Quality Commission, or Natural Resources Wales, or the General Pharmaceutical Council, or the Social Care Inspectorate, or all of the new regulators the UK will have to create as we take on work previously done at an EU level – are to have the powers they will need to hold the powerful to account, then they will need the legitimacy of democracy in some form. Otherwise they will find themselves in the same position as the EU: facing accusations of being unaccountable legislators. And this applies as much to those who regulate democratic and non-profit institutions as it does those who oversee the market. Britain’s current regulatory structure was mostly built by a New Labour administration which was largely populated by the great and good of bureaucratised NGOs and elites from within the public sector. As such, it is essentially a new form of unaccountable governance by those elites. It will either find a way to democratise itself, or it will be torn down by those it ought to be regulating, and their allies in the media. <strong>The basic functions of the state</strong> [caption id="attachment_3522" align="alignnone" width="500"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3522" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/G4S_0.jpg" alt="" width="500" height="520" /> Image, 'inspector gadget' with thanks to Clare Sambrook.[/caption] At the very core of the state sits two groups. First, there are those who run it: the civil service. Second is those who administer its most defining power: the monopoly on legal violence. In recent years, the work of the civil service has been increasingly outsourced to the big four accountancy firms, Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG. To take just one of them, PwC has played a key role in everything from military procurement<a href="#_edn17" name="_ednref17">[17]</a> to Brexit negotiations<a href="#_edn18" name="_ednref18">[18]</a>, to the justice system<a href="#_edn19" name="_ednref19">[19]</a> to healthcare<a href="#_edn20" name="_ednref20">[20]</a> and almost any other function of the state you might imagine. The big four audit all but one of the FTSE 100 and 97% of US public companies<a href="#_edn21" name="_ednref21">[21]</a>, meaning they were responsible for signing off the books of all of the major banks which would then go on to collapse in 2007/8.<a href="#_edn22" name="_ednref22">[22]</a> PwC is also the UK’s “leading provider of tax services”<a href="#_edn23" name="_ednref23">[23]</a>, and in 2015 was accused by Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee of “promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale”.<a href="#_edn24" name="_ednref24">[24]</a> In 2018, the firm was banned from auditing listed companies in India after a company it had audited turned out to have committed a billion dollar fraud (PwC denied any wrongdoing).<a href="#_edn25" name="_ednref25">[25]</a> Ahead of the 2015 election, PwC was, after the trade unions, the biggest donor to the Labour party<a href="#_edn26" name="_ednref26">[26]</a>, having seconded staff to the offices of then shadow ministers Chuka Umunna and Ed Balls to write the party’s policy on tax and education. Given the key role that it plays in writing, shaping and delivering government (and opposition) policy, PwC, alongside the other big-four firms, should be understood as a key component of the modern British state (and of most other Western states). As the journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan has pointed out, there was until 2010 a public body called the Audit Commission, which audited 11,000 public bodies, but which was abolished by the coalition government. <a href="#_edn27" name="_ednref27">[27]</a> It’s vital that we bring back the Audit Commission, and I would suggest that as well as all public bodies, all major firms ought to be audited by it, rather than being allowed to choose who will check their sums. More broadly, any progressive government is likely to find it impossible to deliver its agenda with a hollowed out civil service, which relies heavily on the big four to deliver any major project: the reforms in this volume conflict directly with the interests of most of their corporate clients, and of the big four themselves. This means there will need to be a major project in re-building and re-skilling the civil service. Similarly, the monopoly on violence has become more of a competitive marketplace for physical force. From the G4S employees who suffocated Jimmy Mubenga to death<a href="#_edn28" name="_ednref28">[28]</a>, to the guards in our privatised prisons and the staff at the firm Maximus<a href="#_edn29" name="_ednref29">[29]</a> (who determine whether or not people are fit to work), the right to decide who lives and who dies is increasingly being outsourced to private firms. And as the NGO War on Want has revealed, this is equally true outside the country.<a href="#_edn30" name="_ednref30">[30]</a> Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the work of war has increasingly been contracted to mercenaries, whose industry has grown exponentially. The industry is now worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and is one of the few sectors in which the UK is the world leader, in part because the government allows it to regulate itself. This process had a direct impact on British and American democracy when SCL, a mercenary psychological operations contractor hired by NATO and the defence departments of various of its members, realised it could apply the skills it had developed in warzones to domestic campaigns, and set up a subsidiary called Cambridge Analytica, which secured the contract to run Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, while its close associate, AggregateIQ, effectively ran the pro-Brexit campaign. In both cases, the firms won by smearing racism across the internet.<a href="#_edn31" name="_ednref31">[31]</a> Private armies, mercenary military propagandists and social-media monopolies are drowning our democracy. We need robust independent media and democratically refreshed public broadcasters. And if prisons, the police and the military are to exist (that’s another debate), there must be a constitutional requirement that any monopoly on legal violence and the broader work of war is held directly by a democratically accountable state, not outsourced to mercenaries. <strong>Where is British?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3523" align="alignnone" width="1500"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3523" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/British_Overseas.png" alt="" width="1500" height="1240" /> British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Image, George Bozanko, Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] The geographical reach of the British state peaked in 1920 at around 25%<a href="#_edn32" name="_ednref32">[32]</a> of the surface of the earth and remains much larger than most British citizens realise – with most of it still falling in the Southern Hemisphere. There are, by my count, 18 legislatures sitting under Westminster’s wings; with varying degrees of autonomy over populations ranging from the 5.3 million citizens of Scotland to the 50 people on Pitcairn, descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty and the women they kidnapped and raped. First, there’s the five recognised nations of the UK. Recent polls in Scotland have consistently shown majorities of people under the age of 55 supporting independence<a href="#_edn33" name="_ednref33">[33]</a>, and sooner or later, Westminster will find itself facing a constitutional choice similar to the one which has been bungled by the Spanish government in Catalunya: if Holyrood demands a legally binding independence referendum, will Westminster block it? Similarly, the sickly Good Friday Agreement – the official discussion of which has been described by Robin Wilson as a constitutional re-enactment of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch<a href="#_edn34" name="_ednref34">[34]</a> – requires that the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hold a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional position “if at any time it appears likely to him [sic] that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”<a href="#_edn35" name="_ednref35">[35]</a> How the Secretary of State is supposed to divine such a likelihood is, however, left unsaid, and it doesn’t take much imagining to ponder a scenario in which disagreement about this reaches crisis point, producing further chaos in what is already one of the poorest corners in Northern Europe. In the meantime, as I write, every institution set up by the Agreement apart from the police service is not operating, and the likely imposition of border controls with the Republic risks bringing with it chaos and queues. Meanwhile, England and Wales are going through their own, different, and ongoing, processes of emergence from empire, in which England maintains the arrogance of believing it isn’t just a normal country, while Cornwall<a href="#_edn36" name="_ednref36">[36]</a> – a recognised national minority and the second poorest region of Northern Europe<a href="#_edn37" name="_ednref37">[37]</a> – normally goes unnoticed, despite strong support for devolution there. Then there’s the fourteen British Overseas Territories: Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and Turks and Caicos Islands. Each of these has its own complex stories, from the disgraceful expulsion of the Chagosians from the British Indian Ocean Territory to the child rapes on Pitcairn<a href="#_edn38" name="_ednref38">[38]</a> to the financial secrets of Cayman and Gibraltar. Finally, there’s the Crown Dependencies: the Isle of Man, which has the oldest (and only tri-cameral) parliament in the world, and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, the latter of which includes three jurisdictions: Guernsey itself, Alderney and Sark. These are the property of the Crown and have a series of complex arrangements with the British government, particularly around defence. Twice since 1980, Britain’s armed forces have fought wars in defence of Overseas Territories. In 1982, the Falklands War revived Thatcher’s ailing government and so played a key role in shaping a generation of British politics. In 2003, the famous ‘dodgy dossier’ declared that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes against Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Britain’s mini-military dictatorship on Cyprus, where 8,000 Cypriots live under the rule of an appointee of the Department of Defence. This is what provided the supposed legal justification for the invasion which triggered the ongoing disaster in Iraq, and which has helped shape much of British politics ever since. Under the protection of Britain’s armed forces, but without the scrutiny of international politics, the Crown Dependencies and many of the Overseas Territories play a key role as the world’s most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas. More than half of the companies registered in the Panama papers were listed in Britain or its Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. A distinct part of any constitutional convention would probably have to look at the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in conversation with those who live in them and their governments. Each has a different history, different controversies and by their nature, each will have a slightly different relationship with the UK. However, here is my fairly simple proposal. First, England should be given a parliament of its own and treated as the biggest in a family of nations, not the imperious parent. If the people of Cornwall wish their own, separate chamber, then they should have one too. England’s regions (such as Yorkshire) should also have their own assemblies. While this will be attacked as “more politicians” by neoliberals, a growing state, with publicly owned public transport, water, regional investment banks and other renationalised services means more work for elected officials, and such services will often be best managed at a regional level. Second, if the people of any given Overseas Territory wish to remain under the purview of the British state and to nestle under the protective wings of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, then the government should offer a basic set of rights and responsibilities, including the two or three MPs between them that their collective population merits. They should be allowed legislatures of their own, like Scotland or Wales, where they can develop their own health and education systems. But corporation tax rates, transparency laws and basic rights for citizens should be shared: no more tax havens and secrecy areas. They should not be allowed to use the British state as a protective screen as they hide wealth for the crooks of the world. Thirdly, each constituent nation of the British state – from the citizens of Scotland or England to the people of Pitcairn or Montserrat – should be given a legal right to vote for their own independence or to join with another country of their choosing, with a referendum triggered by a petition signed by a pre-agreed portion of registered voters: say, a fifth. Those who wish to remain within the UK should negotiate between them which powers they wish to delegate up to Westminster, and which they wish to retain at a national level. <strong>How to arrange our democracy</strong> [caption id="attachment_3524" align="alignnone" width="4096"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3524" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/PA-1685558.jpg" alt="" width="4096" height="3116" /> Ester Tewogbade, 3, from London, helps support her mother Dolapo show support for reform in the House of Lords. Image, Michael Stephens/PA Archive/PA Images[/caption] Then there’s the basic infrastructure of our democratic processes. The question of what to do with the House of Lords is long running. As Anthony Barnett has pointed out to me, if it were replaced by a proportional senate but the Commons left unreformed, then it would immediately become the more representative chamber and accrue more moral legitimacy. And so, both must be reformed at once. Proportional representation is both fairer and tends to produce more progressive governments<a href="#_edn39" name="_ednref39">[39]</a> – citizenries, on the whole, are more egalitarian than their establishments. Endless dull texts have pondered which system is best, and I don’t propose to mull here on the various advantages of STV over AV+ or D’Hont<a href="#_edn40" name="_ednref40">[40]</a>, but it seems clear that a switch to a system in which every vote contributes to the final result would be an important step towards restoring faith in democracy. The institution of Westminster is itself damaging to British democracy, as the disciplinarian mother of parliaments insists that its citizens are seen but not heard. Both Caroline Lucas<a href="#_edn41" name="_ednref41">[41]</a> and Mhairi Black<a href="#_edn42" name="_ednref42">[42]</a> have written well about their experiences as MPs entering a building that intimidates anyone unfamiliar with the cloisters of an old public school or Oxford college, where you are given a hook for your sword but have to fight for desk space. It is closer to Versailles – which aimed to awe subjects into submission – than it is to more egalitarian institutions, such as the Scottish Parliament. The fact that only 30% of MPs are women – 47th in the world, just behind Sudan<a href="#_edn43" name="_ednref43">[43]</a> – indicates a deep sickness in the culture of the place, and recent stories of heavily pregnant MPs being marched through the voting lobbies show that things need to change. To walk into the Houses of Parliament, I need to pass a statue honouring a man – Oliver Cromwell – whose troops murdered a fifth of the population of my home city, Dundee<a href="#_edn44" name="_ednref44">[44]</a>, and who is considered by many in Ireland to personify the slaughter of their ancestors by the British state. A simple solution would be to turn the whole palace into a museum and debunk to a city further north. Apart from anything else, Northern England’s rackety trains might finally get the upgrade they have long needed if more MPs were forced to travel on them every week. And if the two chambers were placed in different cities, the narcissism of the place might dissipate a little. At the same time, the various absurd traditions of Westminster should be replaced with clear, accountable democratic procedures, including two proportionally elected chambers with different systems, an element of sortition (which I’ll come to), and mechanisms to ensure women and minority groups are fairly represented. But ultimately, bringing power closer to people is vital if we are to build a democracy at a more human scale. For too long, local government has been stripped of power, to the point that Britain is now, by some measures, the most centralised developed country. It’s no surprise that people have paid less and less attention to disempowered local authorities with little capacity to shape their communities. But when people are given real decisions, they show up in their thousands. Across Europe, the average population of a local authority is 5,620.<a href="#_edn45" name="_ednref45">[45]</a> The smallest council area in England is West Summerset, with 34,000 people.<a href="#_edn46" name="_ednref46">[46]</a> The biggest is Birmingham – the largest ‘local’ government area in Europe – with 1.1 million people.<a href="#_edn47" name="_ednref47">[47]</a> Scotland and Wales aren’t much better, while local government in Northern Ireland has very few powers. In Germany, the average local councillor represents 600 people.<a href="#_edn48" name="_ednref48">[48]</a> In England, that figure is 7,000, with 3,500 in Wales and 4,270 in Scotland. In Norway, as Lesley Riddoch points out, one in every 81 people will stand for local election at some point, while the equivalent figure in Scotland is one in 2071.<a href="#_edn49" name="_ednref49">[49]</a> And that’s before we consider the numbers who stand for election to the broad array of other democratised institutions, like school boards. As Riddoch points out, “In Norway a small kommune of 3,000 people is still responsible for fire and police.” Moreover, she goes on to say, “Sweden has even more powerful local councils. Anyone earning less than £35k per annum pays all their income tax to the local council and none to central government; financed by higher rate earners and corporation tax.” For neoliberals, of course, none of this matters much. You’re unlikely to mind what sort of government is getting out of the way of the market, and the more ‘politics’ is confined within the walls of an obviously anachronistic Westminster, the more that the mantra “there is no alternative” wins. But once we accept that neoliberalism has failed and some sort of government intervention matters, if we believe that politics is about power everywhere, then the sort of government – and its ability to understand local differences – becomes enormously important. While there is often discussion among progressives about the Nordic social democratic model, there is little understanding in Anglo-American debate that the key to building the ‘social’ has been the ‘democracy’. Since the Beveridge Report, progressives in Britain have relied on a strategy of universalism to defend the social security system, on the grounds that public services just for the poor end up being poor public services. This, of course, remains true, and Blairism’s embrace of means-testing was a key precursor to Cameron’s cuts: see, for example, the broad resistance to fortnightly bin collection versus the ease with which housing benefit has been cut. It’s clear, though, that universalism isn’t sufficient. If future governments hope to protect parts of our lives from the brutality of the market for the long-term, that means building institutions and policies that people will be willing to organise to defend, over generations. And the best way to do that is to involve citizens directly in building and running those institutions. <strong>Beyond social democracy, to radical democracy</strong> In 1972, the Glaswegian trade unionist Jimmy Reid was elected rector of Glasgow university on the back of a work-in he led of Clydeside shipbuilders. The speech he gave accepting the post was so powerful it was re-printed in the New York Times. In it, Reid railed against both the market, and the centralisation in the local government reforms going through at the time. He opened with a stark claim: “Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problems in Britain today”.<a href="#_edn50" name="_ednref50">[50]</a> In the 46 years since he gave his speech, the extent of alienation has only got worse. The claim is even more true today than it was at the time. But three major things have changed. The first is that progressive governments at both local and national levels across the world have developed a range of techniques to support citizens to make large scale decisions through participatory and deliberative processes. Since 1989, the people of Porto Allegre in Brazil have come together every year to choose how to spend the city’s multi-million pound budget. And the scheme has been such a success – even the World Bank<a href="#_edn51" name="_ednref51">[51]</a> has accepted that it’s been more efficient in alleviating poverty than the conventional process of leaving budget decisions to political elites – that it’s been repeated in cities across Latin America, and even the world. In Edinburgh, where I live, the people of Leith have an annual process for divvying out community funds, inspired by lessons from Brazil. One of the most remarkable effects of such processes though is not just the way in which it changes how money is spent, but how it changes the people involved. As the World Bank report mentioned above says, “information disclosure through meetings involving public representatives has facilitated a learning process that leads to a more active citizenship. Citizens have become aware of new possibilities, and this has helped them to decide on civic matters influencing their everyday lives.” A study by the University of Columbia in 2005of the impact of participatory budgeting on the people of the Argentinian city of Rosario came to a similar conclusion. <a href="#_edn52" name="_ednref52">[52]</a> People they interviewed talked about how the process had helped bring together the community and give them a sense of ownership over it. The various experiments in radical democracy that have taken place around the world stretch beyond budgeting, and they don’t always involve mass assemblies: as mentioned above, Ireland’s recent constitutional referendums were the result of a citizens’ jury, and the participatory processes have been used to look at a whole range of questions. But what they have in common is that they allow space for people to have conversations about the future, outside the endlessly atomising force of the market. The second thing that has changed since Jimmy Reid railed against alienation is the arrival of the internet, and with it a series of tools to facilitate collective decision-making. While it’s important not to fall into the perils of tech-utopianism, the web can be a powerful tool for radical democracy. And the third change is the arrival of big data. Mostly, this important new tool has been used to sell us things and spy on us. But the depth of information humanity is now able to gather on how to understand major problems ranging from cancer rates to climate change is vast. In this context, the centralised British constitutional system – where 650 MPs plus 792 Lords make the vital decisions which affect all of us, is an absurd anachronism, designed more to protect a ruling elite than to unleash the collective wisdom of the country. As Peter McColl has argued, the mix of near-universal literacy, the power of pervasive and ubiquitous data to help us better understand the challenges we face, and success in trialling and developing the tools of radical democracy, means that now is the time for a participatory society.<a href="#_edn53" name="_ednref53">[53]</a> Such suggestions are often contentious among those who worry that decentralising the power of the state can be a divide-and-rule tactic which allows capture by big business. But in reality, the states which have managed to stop being entirely controlled by big business are the least centralised, because the best guardian against corporate capture is an empowered citizenry with hands-on control of public investment. In practice, what I’d propose is a mixed model of direct and representative democracy, with powerful local government facilitating participatory processes for decisions like budgeting and the production of urban plans, and national government using jury-style processes as a stage in the writing of major new laws, to oversee the work of public bodies such as government departments, police forces, regulators and the central bank, and in public inquiries as Dan Hind has proposed.<a href="#_edn54" name="_ednref54">[54]</a> <strong>Who’s sovereign?</strong> [caption id="attachment_3525" align="alignnone" width="1473"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3525" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/PA-2139273.jpg" alt="" width="1473" height="2277" /> The Queen's Speech. PA/ROTA PA ROTA/PA Archive/PA Images[/caption] Any basic politics course will teach you that such a society is anathema to the British constitution. In the UK, we’re told, the Crown in parliament is sovereign. In reality, however, this principle is already broken, as Anthony Barnett and I pointed out last year.<a href="#_edn55" name="_ednref55">[55]</a> First, there’s the question of Scotland. Here, there is a strong cultural belief that the people of Scotland are sovereign, sometimes claimed to date back to the declaration of Arbroath in 1320. In 1989, the majority of Scottish MPs (mostly Labour and Liberal Democrat) signed “the Claim of Right”, which declared “We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs”.<a href="#_edn56" name="_ednref56">[56]</a> A majority of MSPs currently sitting declared, as they were sworn in, that “the people of Scotland are sovereign” – a position taken by both the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland<a href="#_edn57" name="_ednref57">[57]</a>, but in direct contradiction to the sovereignty claimed by Westminster. And when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband signed “the Vow” ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum, they declared that the Scottish parliament is permanent: a promise restated in the 2016 Scotland Act<a href="#_edn58" name="_ednref58">[58]</a>, which bans future incarnations of Westminster from abolishing it without consent of the people of Scotland, meaning that there is a level of sovereignty greater than that of the Crown in Parliament. This principle went further in 2017. When the activist Gina Miller won her case at the supreme court determining that MPs had to vote on Brexit, two things happened. First, the three dissenting Supreme Court judges argued that they could not instruct Parliament to vote on the matter, because to do so would be to declare that the court had power over Westminster, and therefore that Parliament was not sovereign. They lost 8-3, but the very fact that three of the country’s most senior judges believe that this means that the Supreme Court – another product of Blair’s constitutional tinkering – can now overrule the Commons is vitally important. Secondly, MPs then voted, overwhelmingly, for something they believed was a bad idea, because, they said, the will of the people must be respected. They abdicated responsibility for deciding on the matter. In other words, the Brexit vote produced the best display that, in reality in modern Britain, we have no idea where sovereignty really lies. There are two reason for this collapse in the idea that the Queen-in-parliament is sovereign. First, the contemporary concept of parliamentary sovereignty dates from AV Dicey’s famous book, ‘Introduction to the study of law of the constitution’ from 1885. When he wrote that parliament is “an absolutely sovereign legislature” with “the right to make or unmake any laws”, London was the capital of the biggest empire in human history. It was a literal description of the power of a chamber which, ultimately, could enforce its will across the world. This, clearly, is no longer true, with power shifting both east and west, and capital becoming increasingly footloose. Secondly, Anglo-Britain (the Welsh, Irish and Scots have different stories), maintains a cognitive dissonance about the monarchy. On the one hand, they are at once the deities of reality TV Britain and icons of empire-kitsch sentimentality. They are the zenith of a nationalism so ubiquitous it goes unmentioned, which permeates the society of a past-it empire desperate to remain cool in the modern media market. On the other hand, the absurdity of the idea of the divine right of kings in a country where fewer than one in fifty actually attend a Church of England ceremony each week is overwhelming. We are left with a Schrodinger’s sovereignty, where the compromises of the seventeenth century are alive, until you look at them too closely. Looked at another way, at the core of the British constitution lies the creaking old class system. Only five British universities have produced a prime minister, and more than twice as many have gone to Eton as to non-fee paying schools. And at the centre of this system, reminding us all that it’s the natural order of things for posh white people to be in charge and that vast inequality is part of our national culture, is the monarchy. To clean up our current constitutional mess means therefore means resolving the question of who is sovereign. For any democrat, the answer to that question is “the people”. But that means a head-on confrontation with monarchism: whilst, of course, it would be possible (though undesirable) to maintain a Nordic style monarchy, with a role that is genuinely only ceremonial, even such a cautious move would almost certainly be treated by the tabloids as what it was: an all-out assault on British traditions, and so would likely provoke a confrontation with Anglo-British nationalism. To understand the scale of this challenge, you need to understand that the UK is currently spending around £170 billion renewing its nuclear submarines, with the support of both main Britain-wide parties, despite MPs knowing them to be technologically redundant, because it’s easier to do so than to explain to the voters of Anglo-Britain that the sop they got for losing the empire was designed in a world before maritime drones.<a href="#_edn59" name="_ednref59">[59]</a> <strong>A new economy is impossible without democracy</strong> There will be those who read what I have proposed above and feel that none of it is a priority. There are people starving on the streets of Britain, and we need to hurry on with sorting the housing crisis and income inequality. The planet is burning, and we must prioritise the transition to a low carbon economy. Others might argue that this is all a side-show: power in our system lies with big corporations, not governments. The system we should be focussing on is neoliberal capitalism, not archaic questions about constitutional sovereignty, and provoking a bare-knuckled fight with revanchist nationalism is a dangerous game. But a political system built to ensure elite rule will always mean that decisions are steered towards the interests of the elite. Powerful property owners still have huge sway. Shell and BP still have their teeth deep into the Foreign Office. And we will never succeed in taking power away from corporate elites if the only alternative is a laughably anachronistic system of quasi-democracy that is deeply in hoc to those elites anyway. Deep down, people understand this. When Scotland’s independence referendum campaign kicked off, it was the height of austerity, and the response from much of Scottish Labour was to treat it as a sideshow to ‘bread and butter’ issues. But the vote produced huge levels of political engagement, unseen in a generation, because people understood that without mending the system somehow, the bread and butter questions would never be answered. Similarly, the biggest turn out in England in recent years was the European referendum, when people voted for a campaign promising them the chance to “take back control”: the ultimate desire in the age of alienation. <strong>The future</strong> If a future UK – or its consciously uncoupled constituent countries – is to transform itself into a democracy, then it’s imperative that the rules of that state are written not by the politicians of any one party, but through a process which itself is seen as legitimate, democratic, and plural. The best evidence seems to be that mixed models work well: where a randomly selected and representative jury is interspersed with a small group of elected politicians from across the party spectrum (who are there mostly to advocate for the process in the old institutions), and given the power to determine its own direction and ask advice from the experts it chooses. Such a group, I would hope, would bring a string of proposals similar to those I’ve sketched out above, to the public, through carefully thought through referendum processes, which would lead us to democracy. Perhaps one such proposal would be a return to the EU. In the last five years, these islands have seen four iconic, culture-shifting referendums. Scotland’s independence vote shifted attitudes in the country, making them more progressive as thousands became enthused about politics once more. Ireland’s votes on abortion and equal marriage awoke a progressive spirit and helped the country cast off its conservative Catholic heritage. England’s Brexit vote (because that’s what it was) pulled in a different direction, unleashing a negative energy which often feels scary. This certainly reveals the risk of badly run democratic process in a noxious context. But the risk of progressives retreating to a belief in elite rule is much greater. National identity and national institutions help create each other. England, specifically, desperately needs to find a way to escape the prison of imperial longing, and emerge as a modern democracy. A vast national debate about how to really ‘take back control’ from those who have hoarded power for generations is long overdue. It’s time to complete the democratic revolution. <p class="p1"><em><strong><a href="http://bit.ly/2pjYvQw">Click here</a> to download a free electronic copy of 'New Thinking for the British Economy'. Hard copies of each chapter can also be purchased for £1 via Commonwealth Publishing and the Democracy Collaborative. If you would like to order physical copies, and inquire about organising author events, please <a href="mailto:dan.hind@commonwealth-publishing.com">contact Dan Hind</a> or visit the Commonwealth Publishing website – <a href="http://www.commonwealth-publishing.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">www.commonwealth-publishing.com</a></strong></em></p> <strong>Further reading</strong> Barnett, A. (2017). <em>The Lure of Greatness</em>. Unbound. Cave T, Rowell A. (2015). <em>A quiet word: lobbying, crony capitalism and broken politics in Britain</em>. Penguin. Hind, D. (2018). <em>The Constitutional Turn, Liberty and the Co-operative State. </em>Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state</a> Lucas, C. (2015). <em>Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change.</em> Granta Publications McColl, P. (2018). <em>It’s time for a participatory society. </em>Available at:<em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society</a></em> openDemocracy. (n.d.). <em>Great Charter Convention</em>. Available at: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention/constitutional-convention">https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention/constitutional-convention</a> Ramsay, A. (2018). <em>Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda</a> Reid, J. (1972). <em>Alienation</em>. Available at: <a href="https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf">https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf</a> Riddoch, L, 2017: <em>Local democracy needs a hand. </em>Available at: <a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708">https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708</a> Sambrook C and others. (n.d.). <em>G4S, Securing whose world</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world">https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world</a> Sambrook, C. and Omonira-Oyekanmi, R. (n.d.) <em>Shine a Light</em>. openDemocracy. Available at: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight</a> Shaxton, N. (2011). <em>Treasure Islands, tax havens and the men who stole the world</em>. Palgrave McMillan. &nbsp; <a href="#_ednref1" name="_edn1">[1]</a> Ascherson, N. (1985). <em>John MacIntosh Memorial Lecture</em>. Available at: https://opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-ascherson/ancient-britons-and-republican-dream <a href="#_ednref2" name="_edn2">[2]</a> Robertson, A. (2012). <em>Will private interests of peers swell the vote for England’s health bill? </em>Retrieved from: https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/andrew-robertson/will-private-interests-of-peers-swell-vote-for-englands-health-bill <a href="#_ednref3" name="_edn3">[3]</a> Rand, M and Briggs, J. 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Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement">https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement</a> <a href="#_ednref36" name="_edn36">[36]</a> HM Government. (2014). <em>Cornwall granted national minority status</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cornish-granted-minority-status-within-the-uk">https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cornish-granted-minority-status-within-the-uk</a> <a href="#_ednref37" name="_edn37">[37]</a> Smallcombe, M. (2016). <em>Cornwall is the second-poorest region in northern Europe and a quarter of children live in poverty - so what are the problems and what can be done?</em> Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-second-poorest-region-northern-617199">https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-second-poorest-region-northern-617199#</a> <a href="#_ednref38" name="_edn38">[38]</a>Hirsch, A. (2008). <em>Pitcairn victims of child sex abuse win compensation</em>. Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/oct/10/law-foreignpolicy <a href="#_ednref39" name="_edn39">[39]</a> Doring, H, Manning, P, Jan 2017. <em>Is Proportional Representation More Favourable to the Left? Electoral Rules and Their Impact on Elections, Parliaments and the Formation of Cabinets</em><em>. </em>British Journal of Political Science, 47, 1 pp. 149-164. <a href="#_ednref40" name="_edn40">[40]</a> You can read about the different systems here (I prefer STV with large numbers of MPs (8-10) per constituency): <a href="https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/single-transferable-vote/">https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/single-transferable-vote/</a> <a href="#_ednref41" name="_edn41">[41]</a> Lucas, C. (2015)<em>. Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change</em>. Granta Publications. <a href="#_ednref42" name="_edn42">[42]</a> Unknown author. (2018). <em>Westminster is a club masquerading as a parliament says Mhairi Black. </em>Scotsman<em>. </em>Retrieved from<em>: </em><a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/westminister-is-a-club-masquerading-as-a-parliament-says-mhairi-black-1-4778873">https://www.scotsman.com/news/westminister-is-a-club-masquerading-as-a-parliament-says-mhairi-black-1-4778873</a> <a href="#_ednref43" name="_edn43">[43]</a> Interparliamentary Union. (2017). <em>Women in Politics</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017">https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017</a> <a href="#_ednref44" name="_edn44">[44]</a> Dundee Evening Telegraph. (2013). <em>September 1, 1651 the day a fifth of Dundee’s population were massacred. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2013/09/18/september-1-1651-the-day-a-fifth-of-dundees-population-were-massacred/">https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2013/09/18/september-1-1651-the-day-a-fifth-of-dundees-population-were-massacred/</a> <a href="#_ednref45" name="_edn45">[45]</a> Common Weal. (n.d.). <em>We need real local democracy. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.allofusfirst.org/the-key-ideas/we-need-real-local-democracy/">http://www.allofusfirst.org/the-key-ideas/we-need-real-local-democracy/</a> <a href="#_ednref46" name="_edn46">[46]</a> LGIU. (n.d.). <em>Fun facts about local government</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.lgiu.org.uk/local-government-facts-and-figures/">https://www.lgiu.org.uk/local-government-facts-and-figures/</a> <a href="#_ednref47" name="_edn47">[47]</a> Ibid <a href="#_ednref48" name="_edn48">[48]</a> Riddoch, L. (2017). <em>Local democracy needs a hand. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708">https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-local-democracy-needs-a-hand-1-4415708</a> <a href="#_ednref49" name="_edn49">[49]</a> Ibid <a href="#_ednref50" name="_edn50">[50]</a> Reid, J. (1972). <em>Alienation</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf">https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_167194_en.pdf</a> <a href="#_ednref51" name="_edn51">[51]</a> Bhatnagar, D, Rathore, A, Moreno Torres, M and Kanungo, P. (2001). <em>Participatory Budgeting in Brazil</em>. Indian Institute of Management and World Bank. Retrieved from: <a href="http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT">http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT</a> <a href="#_ednref52" name="_edn52">[52]</a> Lerner, J and Schugurensky, D. (2005). <em>Learning citizenship and democracy through participatory budgeting: The case of Rosario, Argentina. </em>Conference paper presented at Democratic Practices as Learning Opportunities, Columbia University, New York. Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.linesofflight.net/work/rosario_pb_columbia.pdf">www.linesofflight.net/work/rosario_pb_columbia.pdf</a> <a href="#_ednref53" name="_edn53">[53]</a> McColl, P. (2018). <em>It’s time for a participatory society. </em>Retrieved from<em>: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society</a> </em> <a href="#_ednref54" name="_edn54">[54]</a> Hind, D. (2018). <em>The Constitutional Turn, Liberty and the Co-operative State. </em>openDemocracy. Retrieved from: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/constitutional-turn-liberty-and-co-operative-state</a> <a href="#_ednref55" name="_edn55">[55]</a> Barnett, A, Ramsay, A. (2017). <em>The abdication of the Commons: how article 50 saw parliament vote against its sovereignty. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its-">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its-</a> <a href="#_ednref56" name="_edn56">[56]</a> See, for example, BBC. (1999). <em>Claim of Right passes to parliament. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/06/99/scottish_parliament_opening/380989.stm">http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/06/99/scottish_parliament_opening/380989.stm</a> <a href="#_ednref57" name="_edn57">[57]</a> Church of Scotland. (2017). <em>Church responds to second referendum request. </em>Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2017/church_responds_to_second_referendum_request">http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2017/church_responds_to_second_referendum_request</a> <a href="#_ednref58" name="_edn58">[58]</a> HM Government. (2016). <em>Scotland Act 2016</em>. Retrieved from: <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/11/part/1/crossheading/the-scottish-parliament-and-the-scottish-government/enacted">http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/11/part/1/crossheading/the-scottish-parliament-and-the-scottish-government/enacted</a> <a href="#_ednref59" name="_edn59">[59]</a> Ramsay, A. (2017). <em>Trident and the very British yearning for empire bling. openDemocracy. </em>Retrieved from<em>: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trident-and-yearning-for-empire-bling">https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trident-and-yearning-for-empire-bling</a></em><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk WP imported wagtail Adam Ramsay Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:46:28 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120227 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Auschwitz and anti-racism: the past (and racism) is another country https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/aurelien-mondon-aaron-winter/auschwitz-and-anti-racism-past-and-racism-is-another-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is in the here and now that UK racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, far-right and mainstream, are situated, embedded, and do harm. It should be tackled, not displaced and denied.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-6903651.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-6903651.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (centre) and Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck (left) prior to kick-off, Villa Park, 2009. Neal Simpson/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On 11 October 2018, it was reported that Chelsea Football Club has proposed <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/oct/11/chelsea-to-send-racist-fans-auschwitz-instead-banning-orders-antisemitism">sending supporters accused of anti-Semitism and racism to Auschwitz-Birkenau</a> as an alternative to banning orders. That action was being taken by the club came as good news for those concerned about the issue in football and particularly at Chelsea, where some of their supporters are known for anti-Semitic chanting and making the ‘hissing’ sound of gas chambers when playing the traditionally Jewish supported Tottenham Hotspur and other teams. <span class="mag-quote-center">Some of their supporters are known for… making the ‘hissing’ sound of gas chambers when playing the traditionally Jewish supported Tottenham Hotspur and other teams.</span></p> <p>In terms of wider football, less than a week after the Chelsea announcement, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45884004">West Ham suspended Mark Phillips</a>, who coached their under-18 team, after he attended a march organised by the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance. </p> <p>The Chelsea plan was proposed by team owner, Roman Abramovich, who is himself Jewish, as part of the club’s ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ initiative, in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust, which runs the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ programme. According to Chelsea Chairman <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/oct/11/chelsea-to-send-racist-fans-auschwitz-instead-banning-orders-antisemitism">Bruce Buck</a>: ‘If you just ban people, you will never change their behaviour. This policy gives them the chance to realise what they have done, to make them want to behave better’. The club sent <a href="https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2018/6/6/fans-and-staff-experience-holocaust-education-visit">a delegation to Auschwitz</a> for the annual March of the Living in April 2018, and 150 staff and supporters went on a trip in June. </p> <p>At this stage, it is just Chelsea doing this, but it has also been discussed as a way of approaching the prevention of far-right extremism and de-radicalisation of far-right activists in Britain. It wouldn’t be surprising to see it become more common in the context of the revival of the far-right across North America and Europe, including countries once occupied by the Nazis. However, we are unconvinced and even opposed to the idea for a number of reasons.</p> <h2><strong>Educational ?</strong></h2> <p>While Auschwitz, as well as other concentration, labour and death camps, Holocaust museums and memorial trusts, have long served educational purposes, firstly we question the wisdom of sending racists and anti-Semites, as well as fascists, to such a place – one that is also a solemn memorial and cemetery to the victims of Nazism, and gathering place for survivors and descendants. This offers offenders a free trip to a site of sensitivity to the victims of anti-Semitism as a result of expressing anti-Semitism. </p> <p>There is also a real risk as Auschwitz is not immune to anti-Semitic acts, including a recent case of <a href="https://metro.co.uk/2018/10/10/three-girls-spark-outrage-after-doing-nazi-salutes-outside-auschwitz-8024951/">three young women giving Sieg Heil salutes&nbsp; at the gate</a>. Like many sites associated with Nazism, it is also a rallying point for the far-right to offend, desecrate or deny. Cases include Holocaust denier <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5113585">David Irving organising tours</a> there and &nbsp;visits from the <a href="http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&amp;b=6478433&amp;ct=11303191">Magyar Guada (Hungarian Guard)</a> and others. <span class="mag-quote-center">Secondly… it places anti-Semitism in the past, in the extreme and elsewhere, in a different country.</span></p> <h2><strong>Past victories</strong></h2> <p>Secondly, using the Holocaust as a reference point for understanding and addressing cases of anti-Semitism today and in Britain is not unproblematic. It places anti-Semitism in the past, in the extreme and elsewhere, in a different country, locking it into a particular time and space. This can serve to negate the very contemporaneity of the act and the continuous existence of anti-Semitism, as well as its specific history and legacy in Britain, on the far-right and in the mainstream, as well as the links to a wider racism. </p> <p>There have been ongoing issues throughout the post-war period (including at Chelsea), and earlier. It is not uncommon that racism, particularly in the so-called ‘post-racial’ era is reduced to the illiberal far-right, something ‘we’ in the liberal mainstream defeated, with the far-right reduced to fascism and specifically Nazism, something ‘we’ as a nation defeated in the past. </p> <p>Yet, even if we have to travel back into history to learn lessons about anti-Semitism, then why not look at Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and the way they were chased out of the East End at the Battle of Cable Street in Whitechapel on Sunday 4 October 1936; or the rise of the National Front in the 1970s and 80s and the British National Party in the 1990s and 2000s. We could go back even further to the conspiracy theories prominent in liberal circles in the nineteenth century, where Jews were blamed for fomenting revolutions; or even to King Edward I's Edict of Expulsion of Jews from the United Kingdom in 1290. They were not readmitted until 1655. No Nazis required. In the context of Brexit, the Chelsea trip also appears as somewhat ironic, with racism and the far-right seen as ‘a European problem’ historically. <span class="mag-quote-center">The Chelsea trip also appears as somewhat ironic, with racism and the far-right seen as ‘a European problem’ historically.</span></p> <h2><strong>Colonialism missing piece</strong></h2> <p>Thirdly, while the Chelsea situation is more clearly linked to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the strategy not only skips British fascism and anti-Semitism, but wider racism. It fits too closely with the British use of Nazism and the Holocaust as a distraction from its own historical, foundational and institutional racism, including colonialism and its legacy. </p> <p>Of particular interest is the way in which Nazism and the Second World War acts on the British popular imagination. The Blitz, D-Day and other specific battles (except Cable Street whose left-wing roots go against the national narrative and hegemonic practices) are commonly used in a hagiographic fashion on TV, in films, popular non-fiction, public ceremonies and school lessons. As such, it constantly reminds the population that ‘we’ defeated racism <em>qua</em> Nazism at a moment when the racist empire was still being held onto, and also when much of the politics leading to fascism had been tried out experimentally in our own liberal societies. The past, when it is dark, truly is another country. &nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, where colonialism is acknowledged, it is widely seen in <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/07/26/britain-proud-its-empire/">a positive manner and is celebrated</a> both in politics and popular culture, particularly in the context of Brexit, where <a href="http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/iprblog/2017/05/02/things-fall-apart-from-empire-to-brexit-britain/">nostalgia for Empire</a> played a significant role. The royal honours are still given ‘of the British Empire’ and films such as <em>Victoria and Abdul </em>(2017) are produced and screened alongside Second World War fare such as <em>Dunkirk</em> (2017) and <em>Darkest Hour</em> (2017). In the context of Brexit, Liam Fox&nbsp;<a href="http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/775399/empire-2-uk-improve-trade-links-african-commonwealth-nations-after-brexit-theresa-may">called for the creation of ‘Empire 2.0’</a>, and former Foreign Secretary <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/boris-johnson-poem-burma-rudyard-kipling-mandalay-a7975246.html">Boris Johnson recited Kipling in Burma</a> (in addition to a number of other racist comments, regularly propagated on his multiple media and political platforms). </p> <p>In the meantime, criticism of British colonialism and Empire, including its violence, is regularly dismissed and critics attacked as unpatriotic, overly repentant and, in some cases, subjected to racism. This was the case with <a href="https://www.varsity.co.uk/news/15357">Priyamvada Gopal</a> when she challenged Nigel Biggar’s Ethics and &nbsp;Empire project and Kehinde Andrews when he criticised former Prime Minister, <a href="https://uk.news.yahoo.com/piers-morgan-explosive-row-academic-122200381.html?guccounter=1">colonial racist and Nazi fighting war hero Winston Churchill</a> on GMTV. And yet one does not have to look far <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767">to find quotes such as that in 1937</a>, when Churchill told the Palestine Royal Commission: </p> <blockquote><p>‘I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place’.</p></blockquote> <p>He also defended the use of poison gas, bombing and other forms of violence to maintain the Empire.&nbsp; In the context of discussing anti-Semitism and where to find it historically, it is also worth noting <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1545287/Churchills-attitude-to-Jews-divides-historians.html">Churchill’s unpublished article</a> ‘How the Jews Can Combat Persecution’, from 1937 during the war: </p> <blockquote><p>‘It may be that, unwittingly, they are inviting persecution - that they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer … There is the feeling that the Jew is an incorrigible alien, that his first loyalty will always be towards his own race’.</p></blockquote> <p>Churchill embodies the exchange system between British racism and colonialism and Nazism, with the latter negating the former. In a similar vein, and as is the case with other colonial powers, slavery is rarely acknowledged unless to celebrate its abolition, even though the British not only played a key part in the establishment of the system, but also benefited from it massively and fought tooth and nail to uphold it. <span class="mag-quote-center">Churchill embodies the exchange system between British racism and colonialism and Nazism, with the latter negating the former.</span></p> <p>Having said all this, the Holocaust is of course part of our universal, and particularly central to our continental history, and thus should be taught in our education system in those terms as well as part of a wider education on racism and genocide. It should also be taught in communities who espouse anti-Semitic views such as the Chelsea supporters. </p> <h2><strong>Existing provision</strong></h2> <p>In fact, there is excellent Holocaust educational provision in Britain for this, including from the Jewish Museum and the Weiner Library, as well as football focused anti-racist organisations and campaigns such as Show Racism the Red Card and Kick it Out. You do not need to send offenders to Auschwitz. </p> <p>However, this is not enough if we do not also discuss homegrown fascism and the racism at the core to the colonial system, throughout much of British history actively, honestly and explicitly. We must also move beyond history lessons and engage with the present and the impact of a system built on racism and exclusion in our society. The Nazis were defeated, but fascism and racism were not. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The ‘hostile environment’ bites back</strong></h2> <p>In addition to ongoing structural and institutional racial inequality, we are currently experiencing an <a href="https://jacobinmag.com/2017/08/islamophobia-racism-uk-far-right">increase in hate crime and far-right activism</a> as well as a normalisation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/aurelien-mondon-aaron-winter/understanding-mainstreaming-of-far-right">mainstreaming of racism and the far right</a> in Britain and across much of the west. It is not a foreign, far-right or football phenomenon.&nbsp; The Tory Government sent around Go Home Vans and created a ‘Hostile Environment’ for immigrants and stigmatised Muslims and legitimised Islamophobia through Prevent. </p> <p>Refugees have also been subjected to suspicion, demonisation, accusations, medical tests and left to drown in the Mediterranean, locked up in detention centres or deported (including those belonging to the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-government-deportations-british-citizens-uk-caribbean-home-office-rudd-javid-a8501076.html">Windrush Generation</a>). </p> <p>This is occurring in a country that lays claim to the Kindertransport rescue of Jewish children from Nazism as part of its history. &nbsp;Ironically, even with the focus on the Holocaust and Nazism, the lessons have not been learned here in Britain in the mainstream. <span class="mag-quote-center">Even with the focus on the Holocaust and Nazism, the lessons have not been learned here in Britain in the mainstream.</span></p> <p>During the Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign group used a Nazi-esque image of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in 2015 with a banner reading <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/nigel-farages-eu-has-failed-us-all-poster-slammed-as-disgusting-by-nicola-sturgeon_uk_576288c0e4b08b9e3abdc483">‘Breaking Point: the EU has failed us all’</a>. More recently, only days after the Chelsea news, Farage discussed the disproportionate power of the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/us-jewish-lobby-nigel-farage-power-anti-semitism-ukip-leader-a8031191.html">‘Jewish lobby’</a> in America on his radio show on LBC, one of several mainstream media platforms, including BBC, where he has done so. </p><p>While history can teach us much, it is in the here and now that racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, on the far-right and in the mainstream, are situated, embedded, do harm, and should be tackled., This needs to be acknowledged and addressed, not displaced and denied.&nbsp; </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Aaron Winter Aurelien Mondon Mon, 22 Oct 2018 11:42:34 +0000 Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter 120225 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brazil, hijacked by post-truth https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ana-cristina-suzina/brazil-hijacked-by-post-truth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The post-truth turns democracy into an inert mass in the hands of those who dominate it. Ideas are not discussed. Truths are confronted and interlocutors are delegitimized. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ana-cristina-suzina/la-post-verdad-secuestra-brasil">Español</a>&nbsp; P<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ana-cristina-suzina/o-brasil-sequestrado-pela-p-s-verdade">ortuguês</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Screenshot 2018-10-16 09.57.17_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Screenshot 2018-10-16 09.57.17_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="349" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The fake news that associated the image used by the newspaper to the Carnaval. Screenshot.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/openMovements_0_1_0_3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/openMovements_0_1_0_3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="59" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>One of the most discussed topics of 2018 Brazilian elections has been the production and massive dissemination of fake news. This is the Brazilian contribution to the international phenomenon of manipulating information and targeting niche audiences identified with certain preferences, like what we saw in the scandal of <a href="https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-43472797">Cambridge Analytica</a>, in the context of the US elections and the “Leave campaign” in the United Kingdom. </p> <p>It is a bad contribution. In general, the dynamics of fake-news imply identifying that people living in a dry region suffer from lack of rain and then sending to those same people information that shows that a particular candidate wants to build a dam on the only river that supplies that region in formats that appeal to them. In the Brazilian version, this candidate would be involved with tribes that promote witchery rituals to move the rain clouds to another place. </p><p>Accordingly, during the Brazilian election campaign, we saw pictures of bottles with a penis-shaped mouthpiece, supposedly distributed in day care centers during the Workers Party (PT) government; manipulated photographs that placed posters with phrases supporting pedophilia in the hands of left-wing politicians; many images of Fernando Haddad and Manuela D’Avila wearing T-shirts with anti-Christ messages; &nbsp;many pictures of Manuela full of tattoos, holding a bottle of beer and carrying the presidential belt, and so on.</p> <p>This practice sets up a first problem that is known as fake news. Only in the last week, the Superior Electoral Court ordered to remove from the internet 35 <a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/10/tse-manda-remover-da-internet-35-fake-news-que-atacam-haddad.shtml">references to Haddad</a>&nbsp; and another 33 <a href="https://extra.globo.com/noticias/brasil/tse-manda-facebook-tirar-do-ar-33-links-com-noticias-falsas-contra-manuela-davila-23141190.html">references to Manuela</a>, Workers Party candidates for president and vice president. Brazilian right-wing movements have been identified as producing and disseminating fake news. Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.valor.com.br/politica/5686863/facebook-tira-do-ar-paginas-com-fake-news-e-atinge-mbl-e-flavio-rocha">Facebook removed several pages</a> identified with this kind of misconduct, including some linked to MBL - Movimento Brasil Livre, which was directly involved in the mobilizations for the dismissal of President Dilma Rousseff, and another one maintained by Olavo de Carvalho, an activist recognized by his attacks on left-wing politicians and social movements.</p><h3><strong>The post-truth issue</strong></h3><p>Fake news constitutes a serious problem and, for that very reason, is liable to a judicial penalty in Brazil, associated with the crimes of slander, libel and defamation.</p> <p>But we need to retake the discussion about another problem, which involves fake news, but it is deeper than that. It is the problem of post-truth and how it can hurt democratic culture. Post-truth is a term that refers to the construction of a broader narrative, which gives meaning and legitimacy to specific worldviews, often combating already consolidated knowledge.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Focusing on fake news to the detriment of post-truth guides the solution to the high appreciation of traditional media in opposition and delegitimization of alternative media.&nbsp;</p><p>One recent example and one that is producing quite dangerous impacts is the narrative that vaccines are dangerous, which goes against all the established scientific findings and threatens the immunization success that has been achieved to combat serious diseases in many countries. It is more than fake news, because the culture of vaccination in particular and scientific knowledge in general is being questioned. In this sense, limiting the debate to the issue of fake news has at least three important implications.</p> <p>The first is that focusing on fake news to the detriment of post-truth guides the solution to the high appreciation of traditional media in opposition and delegitimization of alternative media. Accordingly, the remedy against fake news is the good, neutral and impartial coverage made by journalists formally linked to registered and recognized media. </p><p>Even if one believed in the tale of journalistic neutrality and impartiality, it would be impossible to rely on it in a country where the concentration of media ownership is as high as in Brazil. In 2017, The <a href="https://brazil.mom-rsf.org/en/">Media Ownership Monitor</a> project evaluated the plurality of the media sphere in the country and revealed that five groups or their individual owners control concentrate more than half of the media at the national level. According to another media evaluation project, the <a href="https://www.atlas.jor.br/">Atlas da Notícia</a>, more than 70 million Brazilians live in a so called “desert of news” and popular media are frequently the only outlets permanently covering the daily life of peripheral communities.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Focusing on the fake news means disallowing social movements and citizens who spread untruths but on the other hand, it also implies a weakening of the already poor condition of the community, alternative and popular media.</p> <p>On the one hand, focusing on the fake news means disallowing social movements and citizens who spread untruths but on the other hand, it also implies a weakening of the already poor condition of the community, alternative and popular media that are often the only dissenting voices in relation to many important matters. If it had relied solely on traditional media, the immense mobilization of women in the campaign #elenão <a href="https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/um-protesto-historico-menos-na-teve/">would have gone unnoticed by the public</a> and, at best, would have been compared to a small demonstration pro-Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro. </p><p>It is also worth remembering that, in addition to concentration, traditional media in Brazil has shown that it has a clear party. Jair Bolsonaro had an exclusive interview with TV Record at the same time the presidential candidates were debating on TV Globo. This represents a clear disregard for the rule of isonomy, which Brazilian televisions should follow as long as they are public concessions.</p> <p>A second implication refers to the construction of narratives impermeable to the debate. The post-truth combines a collection of false information to deny knowledge, as in the case of vaccines, or to deny history, as in the case of the military dictatorship in Brazil or the Holocaust. According to post-truth followers, these historical facts do not exist (for instance, <a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/10/toffoli-diz-que%20-forever-call-dictatorship-military-of-movement-of-1964.shtml">a Minister of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court classified the military coup in Brazil as the 1964 Movement</a>). </p><p>The legitimation of these realities does not depend on a scientific or historical validation of any nature. Sometimes, there is a tentative one. Vaccine doubts have come from groups of researchers who have raised questions and even published test results in reputed scientific journals. </p><p>Although <a href="https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-40663622">these publications were later revoked</a>&nbsp; due to the fragility and bias of the research process, their existence continues to inform the public. But frequently public expression suffices to validate a postulate. Hence the ease with which fake news diffuses in this context. There is no need to present a source for the information being distributed. As an illustration, the increased use of ‘memes’ in comments to news articles or social networks publications has largely replaced any kind of dialogue or personal interchange.</p> <p>Post-truth dynamics associate precarious or deficient education conditions (going beyond formal education or level of instruction) with society's moral emergencies to build and consolidate worldviews. Looking at it from this perspective, post-truth is part of the exercise of creating abyssal lines, as defined by the Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">False news of PT candidates associates them with statements against faith, God and Christians. The post-truth mechanism justifies the false news.</p><p>It is the exercise that separates the existing from the non-existent, which tries to eliminate by delegitimizing everything that destabilizes structures of domination. In the case of current Brazilian society that is increasingly influenced by neo-Pentecostalism rooted in community bases, it is easy to understand why false news of PT candidates associates them with statements against faith, God and Christians. The post-truth mechanism justifies the false news.</p> <p>In a discussion with a well-known person who posted a false report on Facebook about two members of PSOL (another Brazilian left-wing party), she told me that lying did not matter because those people would be quite capable of saying what was contained in the report. This posture reveals a structure of interpretation of reality in which the fact itself has little importance in the face of convictions. In this sense, the first implication of revalidation of traditional media as a solution to the fake news becomes more severe. </p><p>Again using the case of the #elenão demonstrations, Brazil's leading newspapers did not give front page headlines to associate the event with photos of popular masses that filled streets and squares all over the country. In doing so, they corroborated the interpretation that the mobilizations did not exist and that those photos, in fact, were carnival records or other popular street events, as the fake news propagated.</p> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Screenshot 2018-10-16 09.58.57_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Screenshot 2018-10-16 09.58.57_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="588" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The cover page of O Estado de São Paulo, without a headline for the protest #elenão</span></span></span></strong></p> <p>A third implication is that post-truth is related to the naturalization of particular cultural models as opposed to collective projects of society. As Roland Barthes suggests in his essay Mythology, naturalization is an ideological resource widely used to inoculate realities that are far from natural. In this sense, the post-truth dynamics associate the postulates of the interpretation that it wants to consolidate with everyday facts, easily verifiable by the ordinary citizen, making them evident and incontestable. </p><p>Some of the voters-defenders of Jair Bolsonaro justified his homophobic, sexist, misogynist and xenophobic discourse by a "direct and sometimes kind of rude way of speaking" that would be typical of the average Brazilian. On the other hand, since many politicians in the Workers' Party have been indicted on corruption investigations, all party politicians are corrupt - something that does not even consider whether the accusations are true or the political bias of the judiciary.</p><h3><strong>From post-truth to self-truth</strong></h3> <p>Eliane Brum talks about an evolution (or involution?) of the concept of post-truth to the one of "<a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2018/07/16/policies/1531751001_113905.html">self-truth</a>". The Brazilian journalist associates "self-truth" with aesthetics in opposition to ethics. It is the realm of proclamation, of the use of the pulpit. She also relates the concept to the production of realities. The fake news is there, but the most important thing is not to contradict a version of history. It is only necessary to establish a utopia (or dystopia) that starts to govern the behavior of the person who disseminates it. </p><p>The <a href="https://apublica.org/2018/10/apoiadores-de-bolsonaro-realizaram-pelo-menos-50-ataques-em-todo-o-pais/">numerous cases of aggression</a> against leftist voters, activists of social movements, women, homosexuals and blacks, which have been reported in social networks, can be interpreted as the naturalization and incorporation of a discourse of violence that is the hallmark of Jair Bolsonaro.</p> <p>Brazilian law considers that homophobic and racist actions and statements constitute crime. Challenging the legal and moral rules, the "freedom of expression" of the candidate in making open attacks against social groups and human rights naturalizes the dystopian reality in which ordinary citizens can express their prejudices, including carrying a weapon, if they consider themselves threatened in any way.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The reality created by Bolsonaro does not solve the problems that produce this criminality, but authorizes the vociferation against the supposed enemies and allows the curtailing of rights in the name of utopian security.</p><p>The dystopia of this is justified by the utopia of most of the Brazilians that associate that freedom of speech with the protection of the family, both in terms of security, motivated by rising levels of violence in the country, &nbsp;and in moral terms, again fed by neopentecostal movement. </p><p>The "self-truth" is so potent that it leads free citizens under the enjoyment of a democracy to declare that they prefer the meddling of the Armed Forces regularly searching their pockets and houses rather than continuing to live at the risk of crime. The reality created by Bolsonaro does not solve the problems that produce this criminality, but authorizes the vociferation against the supposed enemies and allows the curtailing of rights in the name of utopian security.</p> <p>The post-truth turns democracy into an inert mass in the hands of those who dominate it. It loses its primordial values ​​to adapt to the interests of the moment and is depoliticized by the deliberate absence of debate. Ideas are not discussed. Truths are confronted and interlocutors are delegitimized. In that process, the Brazilian elections of 2018 were hijacked by post-truth. </p><p>No proposals were discussed and the concentration of efforts against a presidential candidate, although source for a historical and highly politicized mobilization, dismantled the debate for all other positions, paving the way for the election of the perhaps more conservative composition of legislative chambers in Brazilian history. </p><p>Institutionally, the effect is harmful, because the absence of debate weakens the political and ideological orientation of the government that will be established. But there is still a serious effect on the social fabric, which embodies the dynamics of post-truth or "self-truth" as a modality that authorizes the symbolic and eventually physical elimination of dissonance, of the opposed, of the other. There is no greater risk to democracy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/henrique-furtado/violence-bolsonaro-effect-and-crisis-of-brazilian-democracy">The Bolsonaro effect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/liv-sovik/fascism-and-brazil">Fascism and Brazil</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/ariel-kogan-marcio-vasconcelos/elections-brazil-2018-how-to-tackle-misinformation-">Elections Brazil 2018: How to tackle misinformation on the internet? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Brazil Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Internet openmovements Ana Cristina Suzina Mon, 22 Oct 2018 10:19:52 +0000 Ana Cristina Suzina 120222 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the United Nations security council must let women speak freely https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louise-allen/united-nations-security-council-must-let-women-speak-freely <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women’s civil society advocates were long excluded from the security council. This is changing, but they must be allowed to speak freely.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/33960074442_1d30b502e5_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hajer Sharief from Libya"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/33960074442_1d30b502e5_k.jpg" alt="Hajer Sharief from Libya" title="Hajer Sharief from Libya" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hajer Sharief from Libya, one of several women civil society advocates who have recently briefed the UN security council. Photo: LNU Photo. CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Women civil society advocates from war-torn countries now have greater access to the United Nations’ security council. This means that, at last, women with lived experiences of dealing with conflict can inform the most powerful global body addressing peace and security issues.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://undocs.org/S/RES/1325(2000)">Resolution 1325</a>, passed in 2000, requires the security council to engage women in conflict resolution. Once or twice a year, an opportunity was created for one woman representing all of civil society to speak during open debates on women, peace and security. This year, these are being held on 25 October.</p><p dir="ltr">However, outside of these annual debates, from its inception in 1946 until just three years ago, civil society representatives were not permitted to brief the security council during country-specific meetings. This has changed.</p><p dir="ltr">In the first nine months of 2018, <a href="http://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/our-work/peacebuilders/">more than a dozen</a> representatives from women’s organisations spoke to the 15 council members. Among them was <a href="http://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/peacebuilder/razia-sultana/">Razia Sultana, the first Rohingya person to ever address the security council</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Why does this matter? These briefings convey intel and perspectives that council members would not otherwise hear.</p><p><a href="http://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/peacebuilder/justine-masika-bihamba/">Justine Masika Bihamba</a> from the Democratic Republic of Congo, explained how UN peacekeeping budget cuts directly affected local populations. <a href="http://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/peacebuilder/mariam-safi/">Mariam Safi</a> from Afghanistan warned that the constitutional changes considered in talks with the Taliban would erode Afghan citizens’ rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“These briefings convey intel and perspectives that council members would not otherwise hear.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/peacebuilder-resource-un-security-council-briefing-libya-hajer-shareif-january-2018/">Hajer Sharief</a> from Libya gave a briefing in January, facilitated by the NGO working group on women, peace and security (of which I was executive director, until the end of August). Afterwards, a diplomat told us her account had persuaded some council members to follow up with the head of the country’s UN mission to ensure that her policy recommendations were taken up.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">A growing number of UN member states have <a href="https://undocs.org/S/PV.8318">publicly stated</a> that they welcome such statements by representatives of women’s organisations.</p><p dir="ltr">But the UN – an organisation that defends national sovereignty – has long been reluctant to accept civil society testimony, particularly when it challenges government narratives. Expecting civil society to fit within such narrow parameters undermines the inclusion of women’s testimony and analysis.</p><p dir="ltr">A diplomat once relayed a request from their ambassador to identify a civil society speaker who had either been raped or was born of rape, lived through the stigma of their ordeal and had then had risen to become a leader in their community. The aim was to have someone who could ‘move’ the security council with her story.</p><p dir="ltr">This type of request reduces civil society participation to entertainment – a potentially exploitative or voyeuristic kind – not a partnership. Civil society's role is not to ‘move’ the council. The council and civil society alike must take great care when working with survivors of sexual violence, in order not to sensationalise an individual’s experiences or cause further harm by re-traumatising them.</p><p dir="ltr">This request was dismissed, and a robust conversation with the diplomats ensued to explain why. However, since then, many other council members have similarly asked civil society speakers to focus primarily on their personal experiences, suggesting a preference for personal narrative over local analysis and recommendations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“This reduces civil society participation to entertainment – a potentially exploitative or voyeuristic kind.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/UNSC1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The security council, 2015"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/UNSC1.png" alt="The security council, 2015" title="The security council, 2015" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The security council, 2015. Photo: Flickr/United Nations. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On several occasions, member states have asked for recommendations of women civil society representatives who are compelling speakers, who speak English well, but are not 'too political', contentious or divisive. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">There are also frequent appeals, once invitations are accepted, for civil society speakers to focus remarks narrowly on specific areas, or not to discuss politically sensitive issues. New York-based civil society has countered this and advised that invited speakers should be enabled to give independent statements which best reflect the needs of their communities and the assessments of their organisations. &nbsp;</p><p>It takes political will in the first place for a member state to extend such invitations, as these briefings still do not enjoy universal support from all security council members.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2017, <a href="https://www.france24.com/en/20170310-burundian-peace-activist-barred-un-meeting">an activist from Burundi made headlines</a> when Russia and other members blocked her from speaking. To expect women civil society speakers to limit themselves to communicating a moving personal story is to assume that they are not political analysts and actors with urgent messages to deliver.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Powerful statements made by women civil society advocates over the past year have required real political courage”</p><p dir="ltr">The various powerful statements made by women civil society advocates over the past year have required real political courage, both from the women themselves and from the member states that invited them.</p><p dir="ltr">Sultana opened her statement in April by stating that the security council had failed the Rohingya people. She outlined essential recommendations related to the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh, accountability for the Burmese military and legal reforms required for an inclusive and equal Myanmar.</p><p>Afterwards, council members mentioned their surprise at her strongly-worded statement, but recognised that it had been vital for her to denounce inaction.</p><p dir="ltr">Such opportunities should be protected and promoted to further institutionalise women’s participation in this formal setting. Attempts to craft their statements into politically palatable messages contradict the very reason these briefings are so essential – and question whether the role of civil society is genuinely appreciated and understood.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality International politics Gender and the UN women's movements women's human rights women and power gender Louise Allen Mon, 22 Oct 2018 10:13:41 +0000 Louise Allen 120206 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #ConsultasPopulares in crisis in Colombia https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/democraciaabierta/consultaspopulares-in-crisis-in-colombia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The case of ‘consultas populares’ (public consultations) in Colombia demonstrates the existing tension between local communities and multinational extraction giants. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/democraciaabierta/consultaspopulares-en-crisis-en-colombia">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/consultapop.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/consultapop.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Panorama of the operational area of Yanacocha. La Minera Yanacocha is the business that exploits this area in which the largest gold mine of Latin America can be found. Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p><p>Public consultations as a means to determine the future of a territory is a constitutional right in Colombia, but now it’s in danger. </p><p>This mechanism of citizen participation has been designed to allow local communities to make decisions and to provide them with territorial jurisdiction. The result of the consultations must be complied with by the authorities.&nbsp;</p> <p>However now, this democratic exercise is in danger. A ruling by the Constitutional Court on the 12th of October declared that communities can’t use public consultations as a mechanism to stop mineral extraction projects and hydrocarbon exploitation.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 9 municipalities of Colombia, when asked “would you like this project to be carried out in your territory?” more than 90% of inhabitants responded with a resounding NO. It’s clear that these consultations are an enormous obstacle for those who promote extraction and mining projects.&nbsp;</p> <p>The joy of environmental activists who celebrated the enshrining of this right into the constitution lasted for a short period of time. Now, their frustration is immeasurable.</p> <p>That’s why we present 3 keys to understand the crisis of public consultations in Colombia.</p> <h3><strong>The decision to end public consultations is anti-democratic </strong></h3> <p>It’s clear that public consultations have been one of the most representative mechanisms created by the democratic system, with the desire to give a voice and vote to citizens about issues affecting their territory.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The growth in popularity of this tool among the Colombian environmentalist movement led to many consultations taking place as a means of tackling mining and extraction projects and providing less aggressive alternatives to current development models.&nbsp;</p> <p>The growth in popularity of this tool among the Colombian environmentalist movement led to many consultations taking place as a means of tackling mining and extraction projects and providing less aggressive alternatives to current development models.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putting an end to the use of such mechanisms is an attack on democracy itself, and on an empowered public that valued this constitutional right.</p> <p>One of the magistrates that voted in favour of the sentence decided to use his dissenting vote (known as voting bailout or salvamento de voto in Colombia) to protest against the fact that the court is making a regressive and anti-democratic decision given that this is an unjustified limitation on citizen participation in processes that directly impact their ecosystems.</p> <h3>&nbsp;<strong>The world’s largest moorland in danger</strong></h3> <p>A large process of citizen mobilisation came together to protect an ecosystem that is one of a kind: the Colombian moorlands. Sumapaz, a region in the south of Bogotá that hosts the largest moorlands in the world, already brought forward two consultations in two of its municipalities to detain fracking. </p><p>With the decision of the Constitutional Court, those who engage in public consultations feel that their right to active participation and the legitimate exercise of their right to define the future of their territories has been violated.</p> <p>One of the fundamental contributions of these consultations is the increasing awareness of environmental issues that has allowed many to understand the drawbacks of mining projects. </p><p>It has become evident that in many regions affected by mining projects, poverty has worsened. These projects that promised to promote development bring only tragedy to local communities and territories that are only left poorer once it has drawn to a close.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thanks to public consultations, citizens have learnt the clear social and environmental disadvantages of the macro-exploitation of hydrocarbons in the moorlands and they have rejected these projects in their majority.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>The environment and human life at risk</strong></h3> <p>As declared by an inhabitant of Cajamarca, one of the municipalities that voted no to petrol extraction in their territory on the 26th of March: “Our lives are at risk with this public consultation. We aren’t just facing a threat to the environment, but also to economic life, the legitimacy of the political regime, and the possibility of constructing a stable and lasting peace.” </p><p>It’s clear that the fundamental tension lies within the rejection of an overwhelming model of economic development that regards extraction as a method of wealth accumulation for the lucky few.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">What is really at stake in this conflict between the Colombian state and public consultations is the power of multinationals and their economic agendas up against the democratic exercise of empowered communities to defend their lives and their territories.&nbsp;</p><p>What is really at stake in this conflict between the Colombian state and public consultations is the power of multinationals and their economic agendas up against the democratic exercise of empowered communities to defend their lives and their territories.&nbsp;</p> <p>The uses of territory, economic development, institutional strengthening and protection of environmental democracy are fundamental issues at play. </p><p>In the case of Colombia, how this conflict is resolved will undoubtedly affect many other processes in the region, a region rich in natural resources yet threatened by an extraction-based economy that benefits the minority.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/democraciaabierta/what-are-two-greatest-challenges-of-new-president-amlo-in-mexico">#AMLO in Mexico: What are the two greatest challenges of the new president? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/democraciaabierta/sosnicaragua-what-you-need-to-know-about-repression-in-nicaragua">#SOSNicaragua: What you need to know about the repression in Nicaragua</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/democraciaabierta/abortolegalya-in-argentina-what-you-should-know">#AbortoLegalYa in Argentina: What you should know </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Colombia Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality DemocraciaAbierta Mon, 22 Oct 2018 10:11:58 +0000 DemocraciaAbierta 120221 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we know about alleged elite corruption under former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/satina-aidar/what-we-know-about-alleged-elite-corruption-under-former-kyrgyz-president-almazbek-atambayev <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Kyrgyzstan’s new regime consolidates power, fresh allegations of corruption by Atambayev loyalists are emerging.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-33823283.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-33823283.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Almazbek Atambayev was president of Kyrgyzstan between 2011 and 2017. (c) Roman Gainanov/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Until November last year, Almazbek Atambayev was the hugely wealthy president of Kyrgyzstan — although the sources of that wealth remain unclear. Now it seems that Atambayev is on his way out of the country, where there is talk of prosecution. Atambayev’s former prime minister is in prison and a loyal adviser has been deported. Just how did he reach the heights from which he now seems to be falling?</p><p dir="ltr">On 22 October, it was <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/381425_zachem_almazbek_atambaev_poedet_v_rossiu.html">announced</a> that Atambayev was flying to Moscow for the 10th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties on 24-27 October, as part of his role as chairman of the Social-Democratic Party of Kyryzstan. In the meantime, Atambayev has announced that he is travelling to St Petersburg for the funeral of a relative. Coming after the <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/10/20/foto-dnya-zaderzhanie-ilmiyanova-v-aeroportu-manas/">arrest and deportation of Ikram Ilmiyanov</a>, Atambayev’s former driver and presidential adviser, on 20 October, this Central Asian state is starting to talk about the possibility of the powerful ex-president facing prosecution. As Edil Baisalov, a Kyrgyz activist and commentator, <a href="https://twitter.com/baisalov/status/1054272539869044736">said</a> on Twitter: “Almazbek Atambayev NEVER, never took part in international party conferences, never represented the SDPK [Kyrgyzstan’s ruling party] at high-level meetings. Participating in this third-rate conference in Moscow is just a pretext to FLEE Kyrgyzstan.”</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, since Atambayev’s term in office ended in November 2017, the ex-president’s name has appeared in connection with cases ranging from the illegal <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2016/09/15/zemlya-i-dom-atambaeva-v-koj-tashe-chto-izvestno-iz-dokumentov/">privatisation of municipal property</a> to the embezzlement of funds from <a href="http://respub.kg/2018/06/06/yavka-s-povinnoj-atambaev-priznalsya-vse-resheniya-po-tec-prinimal-on-sam/">infrastructure projects</a>. In 2018, following presidential elections and a concerted campaign by Kyrgyzstan’s new president Sooronbay Jeenbekov to consolidate power, the allegations about the sources of Atambayev’s wealth have started to emerge. Publications implicating Atambayev and his close associates in corruption and illegal activities have started appearing in Kyrgyzstan’s mainstream media and on social networks.</p><p dir="ltr">Among the highest-profile cases, former prime minister Sapar Isakov is currently held at the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) detention centre. He is <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/the-bishkek-power-plant-saga-former-kyrgyz-prime-minister-faces-corruption-charges/">charged with corruption</a> relating to lobbying in the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant scandal. Former Bishkek mayor Albek Ibraimov is also in GKNB detention as the authorities investigate two separate cases of corruption in which he is implicated.</p><p dir="ltr">There can be little doubt that Atambayev loyalists have fallen victim of the clash between the former president and Jeenbekov, a sometime ally turned foe. In reaction to the arrests of his closest associates, Atambayev <a href="http://elet.media/ru/vlast/zayavlenie-kotorogo-zhdali-atambaev-prokommentiroval-arest-isakova-kulmatova-i-artykbaeva/">issued a public statement</a> in June this year, in which he claimed responsibility and oversight over projects associated with these new corruption investigations:&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Neither S. Isakov, former presidential Chief of Staff, nor the former mayor of Bishkek K. Kulmatov had the authority to independently take the decisions that are at the basis of these accusations. [...] All strategic decisions for the reconstruction of the [Bishkek] Heat and Power Plant and the associated loan from China, including our agreement that the Chinese side appoint the contractor, the decision to redirect foreign grant funds... were made by me as the Head of State. The key role of the President in making these decisions is due the lack of responsibility among state institutions and employees.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The same applies to the implementation of other national projects [...] including: [...] the construction of an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/satina-aidar/kyrgyzstans-north-south-road-to-corruption">alternative North-South road</a>, the <a href="https://www.upi.com/Energy-News/2013/12/12/Gazprom-buys-Kyrgyz-gas-company-for-1/21671386852086/">transfer of Kyrgyzgaz</a> infrastructure to the company Gazprom, construction of the Verkhne-Narynsky cascade of hydroelectric power plant, [...] reconstruction of the History Museum and many other strategically important facilities and activities.”</p><p dir="ltr">What follows is an overview of what is known about Atambayev’s assets, as well as ongoing investigations against Atambayev loyalists.</p><h2>Origin story</h2><p dir="ltr">Atambayev, 62, has often <a href="http://enews.fergananews.com/articles/3000">publicly boasted</a> about his wealth. In 2016, at a ceremony to receive the credentials of several foreign ambassadors, Atambayev claimed that his political career started when he was already a multi-millionaire.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2017, Atambayev <a href="https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3229271">boasted</a> (in the third person) that “Atambayev has never stolen! He made his own money! When Atambayev became a multi-millionaire, many of today’s millionaires were only starting their businesses! I was already a dollar multi-millionaire here!”</p><p dir="ltr">Atambayev’s business activity began in 1991 with the <a href="http://kyrgyztoday.org/ru/news_ru/burevestnik-uhodit-v-pike-nekotorye-podrobnosti-iz-zhizni-sotsial-demokratov-kirgizii/">Kyrgyz Writers’ Union</a>, where he gained control over the foundation’s assets. In November 1992, the Nooruz Writers’ Club – a large two-story building in Bishkek’s city centre owned by the Writers’ Union – was converted into a Joint Stock Company. Atambayev’s Forum company held 70% of the Nooruz shares, and Atambayev’s close relative Nurbek Sharshenov turned the premises into a restaurant.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Meeting_Vladimir_Putin,_Raisa_Atambayeva,_Almazbek_Atambayev.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Meeting_Vladimir_Putin,_Raisa_Atambayeva,_Almazbek_Atambayev.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>June 2017: Almazbek and Raisa Atambayev with Vladimir Putin, Moscow. CC BY 4.0 Wikipedia / Kremlin.ru. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPuj0K6hdko">2014 interview</a> from exile in Moscow, the first President of independent Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, accused Atambayev of stealing a 50 million-rouble grant made to the Kyrgyz Writers Union by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s. According to Akayev, the money was used to privatise state assets, such as a sheepskin and coats factory in Kant, a town 20 kilometres east of Bishkek, and the <a href="http://kompozitgroup.ru/eng/avtomash-radiator/">KyrgyzAvtomash</a> factory for car engine radiators, which Atambayev headed from 1997 to 2005. In 2017, in a defamation case against the Zanoza news website and journalist Naryn Aiyp, the Kyrgyz General Prosecutor’s Office <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/28586453.html">stated</a> that Akayev’s claims had been disproven in a 2014 interview on Kyrgyz Television (KTRK). According to Aiyp, when the journalist asked the Prosecutor’s Office to present this programme (or a transcript) in court, they failed to do so.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Atambayev’s <a href="http://archive.premier.gov.ru/eng/visits/world/15234/info/15243/print/">career in politics</a> began as a member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (1995-2000) – of which he was one of the founders – followed by stints as a Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism (2005-2006), Prime Minister (2007), and again Prime Minister for the interim government established after the ouster of President Bakiyev in the April 2010 revolution. In October 2011, Atambayev won the presidency in a landslide and served one six-year term (2011-2017) as stipulated in Kyrgyzstan’s constitution.</p><p dir="ltr">Atambayev is undoubtedly rich, but the origins of his wealth are less clear. For example, when, in 2017, Kyrgyz opposition politician Omurbek Tekebayev accused the former president of having business interests outside Kyrgyzstan, Atambayev argued that he had sold his stake in the Turkish company Elektromed Elektronik in 2003 for 45 billion Turkish liras (which, he <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9363">added</a>, was equivalent at the time to $35 million). When activist Edil Baisalov pointed out that, at the 2003 exchange rate, 45 billion liras amounted to $26,000, the press service of the Presidential Administration <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2017/04/12/administratsiya-atambaeva-oshiblas-v-tsifrah-ob-istochnike-millionov-prezidenta/">intervened</a> to specify that the company’s market value was much more than its authorised capital.</p><p dir="ltr">When journalists from Kloop.kg, one of Kyrgyzstan’s best investigative journalism websites, requested Atambayev’s income statements for 2005-2006 in 2017, it was <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2017/04/21/deklaratsiya-o-dohodah-atambaeva-za-2005-2006-gody-byla-unichtozhena/">stated</a>&nbsp;that the records had been destroyed. According to the State Personnel Service, the law requires public officials’ statements to be kept for six years, after which they can be disposed of</p><h2>Living the life</h2><p dir="ltr">Atambayev’s declared income is quite modest. In 2010, he earned $5,944 as prime minister in the interim government. A monthly salary of $500 is good money in Kyrgyzstan, but it doesn’t make you rich. By 2015, according to official records, Atambayev had accumulated $111,205, while Raisa Atambayeva, his wife, had $580,860 to her name. That said, the Atambayevs’ lavish properties reveal that the former first couple can count on much larger financial resources, which apparently increased significantly during Atambayev’s presidential rule and whose origin remains unknown.</p><p>One such property is the three-storey palace in the former president’s compound in Koi Tash, south of Bishkek. This site was built in 2016 and is equipped with gazebos in a luxurious private park. Before being elected president, the Atambayevs lived in a nondescript house in a dusty eastern district in the capital.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/atambayev properties.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/atambayev properties.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Before and after: the Atambayev family's houses before and after Atambayev assumed the presidency. Source: Youtube / Kloop. </span></span></span>In March 2018, Atambayev built a 300-square-metre summer villa on the territory of the official (and state-owned) presidential residence in Bishkek. The total cost of construction was reported to be approximately $1.3 million – in Kyrgyz currency, 89.3 million som. While 77.8 million som came from Atambayev’s private funds, the origin of the remaining 11.5 million <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/kyrgyzstan-atambaev-dacha/29134868.html">remains unknown</a>. Attorneys from the Jakupbekova &amp; Partners Law Firm requested information regarding this project from Kyrgyzstan’s State Agency for Architecture and Construction, which, in a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/Letter%20regarding%20presidential%20residence.png">letter</a> obtained by openDemocracy, denied having given permission for the construction. Likewise, the contractor’s name is unknown.</p><h2><span>Alleged corrupt deals</span></h2><p dir="ltr">Since Atambayev left office at the end of 2017, a serious rift has emerged between him and current president Sooronbay Jeenbekov, which has <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/07/matraimov-wins-court-case-and-reinstatement-in-kyrgyzstan/">split</a> their Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan.</p><p>Here follow several allegations of corruption that have been made following the end of Atambayev’s presidency. Former prime minister Sapar Isakov, whom Atambayev <a href="https://ru.sputnik.kg/politics/20170818/1034774193/pyat-faktov-o-sapare-isakove.html">described</a> as his “right-hand man” to visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2016, appears in connection with all these cases. In a statement to Open Democracy, Nurbek Toktakunov, legal counsel to Sapar Isakov, said that his client is being “persecuted by the new regime”: “He [Isakov] was under a ‘black media campaign’ by state media and state trolls on social media for several months to ‘justify his arrest’.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Attempted lease of helicopters to Uganda</em></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-xsmall'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_Сапар_Джумакадырович.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_Сапар_Джумакадырович.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="190" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xsmall imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sapar Isakov, former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan. CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikipedia. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>As I detailed recently in <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/was-kyrgyzstan-seriously-going-to-loan-helicopters-to-uganda/">The Diplomat</a>, in 2014 Atambayev signed off an order to lease two Mi-24V and two Mi-8MTV helicopters to Uganda under Sapar Isakov’s supervision. </p><p dir="ltr">Instead of paying through official channels, the contract committed Uganda to paying for the lease through a company based in the United Arab Emirates. After then-Minister of Defence Abibilla Kudaiberdiyev demanded a judicial review of the deal, the military prosecutor’s office declared this deal to be illegal. So <a href="https://24.kg/obschestvo/88172_vertoletyi_dlya_ugandyi_kto_nasamom_dele_initsiiroval_sdelku_veka_/">did</a> the inter-ministerial commission that looked into the case, but apparently no one has been held accountable.</p><p dir="ltr">The lease cost remains secret. In 2015 Isakov warned the chief of staff of Kyrgyzstan’s armed forces that “failure to execute the deal will cause a loss of $30 million”. In the end, the deal did not go ahead.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>North-South Road</em></p><p dir="ltr">At the May 2014 opening ceremony of the North-South Road, an artery connecting Kyrgyzstan’s two main cities – Bishkek in the north and Osh in the south – Atambayev <a href="http://www.stanradar.com/news/full/9619-atambaev-segodnja-my-perezhivaem-istoricheskoe-sobytie-v-zhizni-kyrgyzstana-nachalo-stroitelstva-dorogi-sever-jug.html">declared</a> that this was a historical event whose significance would be understood only four years later, once the road would be completed. Four years later, details have emerged of the extent of corruption that marred this road construction project.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1475551171_2.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1475551171_2.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Construction of a tunnel on the alternative route North-South Road. Source: Gov.kg. </span></span></span>In June 2018, the Fergana news portal <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/10031">published documents</a>&nbsp;alleged that the Kyrgyz authorities and the Chinese contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) colluded to embezzle funds from the Chinese government’s infrastructure investments by overpricing numerous items. Price tags on the project were inflated by several orders of magnitude, from paying $1.10 per kilogramme of cement (cost on the local market: 7¢) to paying $2,000 per month to provide office space to an engineer on the construction site. </p><p dir="ltr">Current Minister of Transport and Communications Zhamshitbek Kalilov, who, according to someone familiar with the situation is one of former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov’s protégés, oversaw the project, along with his predecessor Kalykbek Sultanov. Commenting on these allegations of embezzlement appearing on Kyrgyzstan’s online media, Kalilov <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/29313029.html">told</a> Radio Azattyk that “someone is distributing unsubstantiated information.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">According to Kyrgyz MP Almambet Shykmamatov, no investigation into this case is ongoing.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>History Museum refurbishment in Bishkek</em></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2016, Atambayev launched an ambitious renovation project for the Kyrgyz History Museum in Bishkek under Sapar Isakov’s supervision, as he himself <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/374944_eto_bydet_gordostu_kyrgyzstana._chto_sapar_isakov_govoril_o_remonte_istoricheskogo_myzeia.html">told</a> an interviewer on April TV in April 2018. “This will be the pride of Kyrgyzstan. A museum that we can be proud of,” Isakov commented. “Because during the reconstruction I was the curator, followed the progress of reconstruction and the whole process.” Two years later, opposition MP Kanybek Imanaliev <a href="https://ru.sputnik.kg/society/20180525/1039349239/bishkek-istoricheskiy-muzey-genpodryadchik-skandal-fakty.html">claimed</a> that $13 million of public funds had been stolen during the works. The museum, Imanaliev claims, was restored without a proper tender process and project documentation being drawn up.</p><p dir="ltr">As Kloop.kg website <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/05/25/mebel-za-360-tysyach-evro-kak-remontirovali-istoricheskij-muzej-i-pochemu-u-deputatov-voznikli-voprosy-ob-etom/">reported</a>, the project costs appear inflated. €394,000 was spent on consultancy and design, while €224,000 was earmarked for a bar counter and furniture for the museum cafe, among other very expensive items. Moreover, 19,000 square metres of granite and marble blocks imported from Turkey <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/378034_rassledovanie:_kyda_delis_granit_i_mramor_s_istoricheskogo_myzeia.html">disappeared</a> from the site.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Czech investor Liglass</em></p><p dir="ltr">In July 2017, the presidential administration press service circulated a statement detailing that Czech company Liglass Trading CZ, SRO, had agreed to buy 50% of the shares of Joint Stock Company Verkhne-Naryn hydroelectric power stations from Russian company RusHydro for $37 million. Previously, in December 2015, the Kyrgyz government had rescinded the 2012 agreement with RusHydro to build small hydroelectric power stations on the Naryn river due to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5cLmQFPklQ">lack of funding</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">As Kaktus media website <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/360109_chehiia_bydet_stroit_verhne_narynskiy_kaskad_ges._dokymenty_podpisany.html">reported</a> at the time: “Agreements were signed between the Kyrgyz government and the Czech company in the presence of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.” The president solemnly <a href="https://knews.kg/2017/07/10/stroitelstvom-verhnenarynskogo-kaskada-ges-zajmetsya-cheshskaya-kompaniya/">declared</a>: “The arrival of large private investments from Europe will serve as a powerful signal for potential investors from around the world.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/F53EDE07-5E9C-4318-A366-2534C1158E34_cx0_cy9_cw0_w1023_r1_s.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/F53EDE07-5E9C-4318-A366-2534C1158E34_cx0_cy9_cw0_w1023_r1_s.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="255" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Head of State Committee on Industry, Energy and Natural Resources Duishenbek Zilaliyev, President Almazbek Atambayev and Michael Smelik (Liglass). Source: Press Office of Kyrgyz President. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The deal is surrounded by questions about why the Kyrgyz government would commission a contract worth several hundred million dollars from a company in the red with a turnover in the tens of thousands of euros. According to <a href="https://www.radio.cz/en/section/business/scandal-deepens-around-liglass-trading-company-which-won-lucrative-contract-in-kyrgyzstan">Czech media</a>, no one in the Czech republic seemed to know about Liglass before the company shot to fame in connection with the Kyrgyz deal. According to <a href="https://www.radio.cz/ru/rubrika/tema/liglass-trading-cz-investor-ili-moshennik">Marat Dzhonbayev</a>, the Czech Republic's honorary consul in Kyrgyzstan, Vratislav Mynář, the head of the Czech president’s office, reportedly recommended the firm to Sapar Isakov, after which Czech President Miloš Zeman and then-President Atambayev discussed the company at the opening ceremony of Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.</p><p>And yet, why would Isakov and Atambayev still be willing to engage with Liglass when, after conducting research on the company, in March 2017 the embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Austria <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/28620788.html">had clearly recommended</a> that Bishkek discontinue any cooperation with the company as they “could not find any evidence of [its] successful implementation of investment projects abroad”?</p><p dir="ltr">The Kyrgyz Embassy added that Liglass had gone bankrupt. The deal with Liglass was eventually <a href="https://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2017/09/krygyz-republic-terminates-deal-to-build-12-hydropower-plants.html">cancelled</a> in September 2017.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The general director of Liglass Trading <a href="http://www.liglasstrading.cz/news/2-7/answers-to-frequently-asked-questions/">states</a> that the company “was specially separated from a group of companies under my control, specifically for this project in Kyrgyzstan”, and that the company has experience in hydroelectric projects in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, United Kingdom, Romania, Serbia, Chechnya and India.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Heat and power plant scandal in Bishkek</em></p><p dir="ltr">On 4 April 2018, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/kyrgyzstan-hunt-for-power-plant-corruption-continues/">brought charges</a> against a number of Atambayev officials in connection with a $386 million Chinese loan to refurbish Bishkek’s heat and power plant.</p><p dir="ltr">Former PM Sapar Isakov was among those arrested. In a <a href="https://vesti.kg/politika/item/51646-obnarodovano-pismo-sapara-isakova-na-imya-almazbeka-atambaeva-foto.html">2013 letter</a>, Isakov had reported back to Atambayev himself with details of the power plant project. While members of the Kyrgyz parliament <a href="https://www.kyrtag.kg/ru/news/pri-modernizatsii-tets-byli-ukradeny-100-mln-utverzhdayut-deputaty-">allege</a> that $100 million was stolen from the loan, at the time of writing Atambayev hasn’t been linked to the investigation.</p><h2>You scratch my back, I scratch yours</h2><p dir="ltr">While the presidency has allowed Atambayev to reap huge financial benefits, he has generously rewarded his friends and associates with posts, power and money.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Albek Ibraimov</em></p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, Atambayev catapulted his former car mechanic Albek Ibraimov to the post of Bishkek mayor despite the latter’s lack of relevant education.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-xsmall'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_ИБРАИМОВ.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xsmall/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_ИБРАИМОВ.jpg" alt="" title="" width="140" height="191" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xsmall imagecache imagecache-article_xsmall" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Albek Ibraimov. CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikipedia. </span></span></span>Indeed, under Atambayev, Ibraimov’s star had already soared. from 2010 to 2011 he was head of Bishkek Free Economic Zone; then spent a year as the head of state concern Dastan, a torpedo manufacturer, followed by a year as deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration. From 2013 to 2016 he was chairman of the board of directors at Manas International Airport before becoming mayor of Bishkek, a position he held until this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Like Atambayev, Ibraimov lived modestly prior to 2010. Journalists have uncovered the many properties Ibraimov <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/366101_imyshestvo_i_dohody_yje_byvshego_mera_albeka_ibraimova._chto_ne_napisano_v_ego_deklaracii.html">did not&nbsp;declare</a> in his income statements, including a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&amp;v=R3RyqWQR_zc">50-hectare estate with a manor</a> in Arashan village, half-an-hour south-east of Bishkek. </p><p dir="ltr">The estate is surrounded by a three-metre brick wall stretching for 3.5 kilometres around the property. Armed guards <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/377508_dve_versii_odnogo_zaderjaniia._bylo_li_maski_shoy_pri_areste_albeka_ibraimova.html">patrol</a> the perimeter.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ibraimov estate 2 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ibraimov estate 2 copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="221" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Albek Ibraimov's estate in Arashan. Source: AKI Press News / Youtube. </span></span></span>Ibraimov’s luck appears to have run out, however. In June 2018, he was <a href="http://kabar.kg/eng/news/bishkek-mayor-albek-ibraimov-detained/">arrested</a> on charges of corruption. He is accused of misappropriation and embezzlement during his tenure at Dastan, where he allegedly inflated the prices for the purchase of spare parts. A month later, Ibraimov was charged on <a href="https://kaktus.media/doc/377568_albeky_ibraimovy_prediavleno_novoe_obvinenie_v_korrypcii.html">another count of corruption</a> for the illegal allocation of municipal land south of Bishkek while serving as mayor. Currently, Ibraimov is held at the GKNB detention centre. The investigation is ongoing.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>“Voditel”</em></p><p dir="ltr">Ikramjan Ilmiyanov is Atambayev’s former chauffeur, hence the nickname “voditel’” (“driver” in Russian). Ilmiyanov had his career fast-tracked to presidential advisor due to his total dedication to his boss (legend has it that <a href="http://delo.kg/policy/prezidenta-igraet-svita/">he literally saved</a> Atambayev’s life by smuggling him into Tajikistan in the early 2000s when he was wanted by Akayev).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ilmiyanov.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ilmiyanov.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="189" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ikram Ilmiyanov in custody, 20 October 2018. </span></span></span></p><p>During Atambayev’s tenure, Ilmiyanov amassed considerable assets and even made it onto Kyrgyzstan’s <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/28650355.html">rich list</a>. In 2011, he acquired a 143.6-square-metre apartment on Bishkek’s central Chui avenue, as confirmed by a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/ilmiyanov letter.png">statement</a> from the state registry service obtained by openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, Ilmiyanov’s two daughters entered the private Sagemont school in Florida, US, where tuition fees <a href="https://www.sagemont.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2018/04/Sagemont-Upper-School-Tuition-Fees.pdf">exceed</a> $20,000 per student per year. That same year, Ilmiyanov’s <a href="http://www.mkk.gov.kg/contents/view/id/382/pid/157">declared annual income</a> was $4,500.</p><p dir="ltr">An <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/29244632.html">investigation</a> by Azattyk stated that Ilmiyanov is affiliated with the IHLAS construction company and made an allegation that he is involved in the illegal acquisition of land in Bishkek. Following the arrest of other Atambayev’s associates, Ilmiyanov <a href="https://ru.sputnik.kg/politics/20180516/1039184146/kyrgyzstan-ilmiyanov-vyezd-hadzh.html">left the country</a>. On 20 October, Ilmiyanov was <a href="https://24.kg/proisshestvija/99329_ikramjan_ilmiyanov_zaderjan_idostavlen_vbishkek/">detained</a> in Russia and returned to Bishkek to face corruption charges.&nbsp;</p><h2>Island of corruption</h2><p dir="ltr">Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyz officials have been linked to everything from <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9544">protection racketeering</a> to <a href="https://jamestown.org/program/kyrgyzstan-relaxes-control-over-drug-trafficking/">drug trafficking</a>, <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/03/19/modernizatsiya-tets-bishkeka-kak-tratili-386-mln-kredita-i-chto-sejchas-izvestno/">misappropriation of public funds</a>, <a href="https://iwpr.net/global-voices/are-kyrgyzstans-leaders-serious-about-war">bribes</a>, <a href="https://photos.state.gov/libraries/kyrgyzrepulic/231771/pdfs/KYRGYZ%20REPUBLIC%202016%20HUMAN%20RIGHTS%20REPORT_RUS.pdf">extortion</a>, <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9500">kidnapping and ransom</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Transparency International’s <a href="https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017">2017 Corruption Perceptions Index</a>, Kyrgyzstan ranks 135 among 180 countries, preceded by Iran and followed by Lao. More than an “island of democracy”, as it used to be known after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan is an <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/30/structure-of-corruption-systemic-analysis-using-eurasian-cases-pub-63991">island of corruption</a>. It is hard to distinguish where the criminal underworld ends and the official upperworld begins: politicians and criminal groups in the country <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9507">live in symbiosis</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">International criminal Kamchi Kolbaev lives cheek by jowl with public figures. As the US Department of the Treasury <a href="https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1430.aspx">reported</a> in 2012, Kolbaev is the Central Asia overseer for the Brothers’ Circle crime syndicate, which is involved in narcotics trafficking, among other things. As a consequence, then US President Barack Obama singled out Kolbaev “as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act”. The US Treasury Department states that he is “is wanted in Kyrgyzstan for organized crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons/explosives, and organized/transnational crime”. And yet, a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&amp;v=hKjLDbhhB3s">video</a> emerged in May 2018 showing former prosecutor general Elmurza Satybaldiev <a href="https://en.crimerussia.com/criminalauthorities/kyrgyzstan-ex-prosecutor-general-at-wedding-of-brothers-circle-member-and-major-international-drug-p/">attending</a> the celebration of Kolbaev’s mother’s birthday.</p><p dir="ltr">It is a well known fact that illicit funds have been moved out of Kyrgyzstan to purchase luxurious real estate. As corruption watchdog Global Witness <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/reports/surrey-mansion-used-hide-suspect-funds/">has</a> amply <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/ru/campaigns/corruption-and-money-laundering/anonymous-company-owners/grave-secrecy/">documented</a>, Maxim Bakiyev, son of former President Bakiyev, set up a money-laundering scheme that siphoned $1.2 billion through accounts in Citibank in New York, Standard Chartered in the UK and Raiffeisen Zentralbank in Austria. Eugene Gurevich, a financial advisor to Maxim Bakiyev currently serving a prison sentence in the US for fraud, confirmed these schemes in a <a href="https://rus.azattyk.org/a/29462108.html">recent interview</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">After fleeing Kyrgyzstan in April 2010, the former minister of industry, energy and fuel resources, Saparbek Balkibekov, <a href="https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Extradition+of+ex-Energy+Minister+Balkibekov+to+Kyrgyzstan+might+be...-a0248703141">purchased a small British island</a> in the Atlantic Ocean. According to <a href="https://24.kg/archive/ru/parlament/39960-2008/09/26/93579.html/">former MP Bakytbek Beshimov</a>, the alleged source of his enrichment was the illicit sale of 116 million kilowatts of Kyrgyz electricity through a company in the British Virgin Islands, causing an energy crisis in the country.</p><p dir="ltr">The conflict that has erupted between Atambayev and Sooronbai Jeenbekov, his former ally and appointee, raised hopes that the new president may steer the country towards real change. That hope was short-lived, however. Under the current government, people connected to former president Bakiyev’s administration are staging a comeback. Official posts continue to be handed out on the basis of favouritism and clientelism. A case in point is the recent appointment of <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/07/27/aziz-surakmatov-veroyatnyj-budushhij-mer-bishkeka-rasskazyvaem-kak-on-svyazan-s-zastrojkoj-i-chto-ob-etom-dumayut-deputaty-bgk/">construction magnate</a> Aziz Surakmatov as the new mayor of Bishkek, despite his long record of construction and land laws violations, and the obvious conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">Given the looting of state resources, and the rampant corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s law enforcement and judicial bodies, it seems a safe bet that Jeenbekov’s presidency will continue Atambayev’s legacy with only a different cast of actors. While the two former allies fight it out, the people of Kyrgyzstan are left with only crumbs on which to survive.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>The author would like to thank Tom Mayne and the Kazakhstani Initiative on Asset Recovery (<a href="https://kiar.center">KIAR</a>) for their assistance in researching this article.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/fergana-news/seven-moments-from-life-of-almazbek-atambayev">Seven moments from the life of Almazbek Atambayev</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/satina-aidar/kyrgyzstans-north-south-road-to-corruption">Kyrgyzstan’s north-south road to corruption</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kislov/in-kyrgyzstan-it-s-revolution-revanche-repeat-all-over-again">In Kyrgyzstan, it’s revolution, revanche, repeat all over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ulugbek-babakulov/farewell-to-kyrgyzstans-island-of-democracy">Farewell to Kyrgyzstan’s “island of democracy”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/naryn-aiyp/inciters-deceivers-slaves-kyrgyzstan-s-president-takes-aim-at-press">“Inciters, deceivers, slaves”: Kyrgyzstan’s president takes aim at the press</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Satina Aidar Kyrgyzstan Mon, 22 Oct 2018 10:09:39 +0000 Satina Aidar 120220 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After all, Iraq’s ethno-sectarian quota remains https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/zeidon-alkinani/after-all-iraq-s-ethno-sectarian-quota-remains <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>So long as the ethno-sectarian quota exists, a political class that serves foreign interests will continue to determine Iraq’s political and economic destiny.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38856051.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38856051.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sulaymaniyah: A man is looking for his name in front of a polling station on a voter register for the parliamentary elections. Picture by: Tobias Schreiner/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>In the face of historical electoral results and popular uprisings against poor governance and corruption – Iraq’s ethno-sectarian quota remains assertively in power. The official quota or ‘al-mohasesa al-ta’ifiyah’ as it is known in Arabic, is the most fundamental problem with today’s Iraq. This is due to political parties’ ability in mobilizing communities through ethnical and sectarian motives, when the battle is nothing but political. Its function distributes the top governmental positions as follows: A Shi’ite Arab Prime Minister, a Kurdish President and a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament, as a proportional representation to the country’s largest three communities. </p><p>This quota was first introduced by the US occupation during its early stages in 2003 when the occupational ambassador Paul Bremer appointed pro-invasion Iraqi exiles based on identity backgrounds in the provisional government known as the Iraqi Governing Council and continued throughout the country’s interim and transitional governments. This communally divided quota unfortunately, became a political tradition that shapes the power sharing between the identity–based political parties until our current state. Voters for most of the post–2003 Iraq period also reflected significant identity–based preferences. Alarmingly, this is arguably due to the lack of non-sectarian options that enjoy similar influences, platforms, and powers as the sectarian ones. Such ethno-sectarian share of power motivated regional players with power determinations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia to exploit Iraq as a proxy battlefield throughout the years. Consequently, it debilitated intra–societal relations as witnessed during the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2004, the sectarian conflict in 2006-2008, the war with Daesh or ISIL between 2014-2017, and the rise of Shi’ite paramilitary groups funded and armed by Iran throughout the years, and in particular during the rule of former PM – Nouri Al-Malki. </p> <p>Nonetheless, the surprising election results and the protests which swept the country’s capital and southern provinces presented the most threatening year to the corrupted regime, and in turn presented hope to many Iraqis affected by it. In spite of the low 44.5% turnout in the election results last May, the country witnessed for the first time since 2005 the fall and demise of the ruling Islamic Da’wa party and the unfamiliar alliance between the secular Iraqi Communist Party and the Shi’ite and formerly paramilitary Sadrist organisation known as the Sairoon alliance. The latter raised two signals: a secularist political rise and a growing Shi’ite anti-Iran inclination as commonly advocated by the Sadrist leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, whom is one of, if not the most powerful figure in post-2003 Iraq. Iran’s proxy games in Iraq and support to paramilitary groups with public allegiance to their Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Khameni has played a major role in destabilizing the country’s security. Later in the year, protests swept the country’s capital and mainly Southern province of Basra. Apart from the anti-Iran factor that was witnessed as protesters burned the Iranian consulate in Basra, the uprisings were mainly motivated by the poor electricity services which most of the population depend on during the humid and hot summer. It was also a reminder of the poor governance by the corrupted political class, which alongside electricity, also failed to provide clean water, secured borders, efficient education, infrastructural development, employment opportunities for the youth and other public services. </p> <p>A widespread youth-led activism also reflected a positive image of hope and determination in contrast to the pessimistic one commonly portrayed by the international media – ignoring Iraqis’ resilience, resistance, creativity and love of life in the face of hardships. In addition, the prominence of the protests encouraged both current and potential rulers to react with a sympathizing approach, as the anger on the streets was impossible to silence nor ignore. Whilst PM Haider al-Abadi sacked his Minister of Electricity and visited Basra as a way of calming violence, Sairoon surprised the post-elections governmental formation negotiations by calling for Al-Abadi’s resignation, after almost announcing the formation of a governmental coalition with him. Sistani’s call for the appointment of a PM based on merit instead of ethno-sectarian background was a turning point in Iraqi politics as the mere fact that Sistani, as the country’s most senior cleric, intervened in such a political affair with such a statement is a key milestone.</p> <p> The political discourse was filled with promises of forming a technocratic cabinet that would appoint independent ministers and officials whom are professionally suitable for their roles and not party-politically driven. Nevertheless, Iraq still witnesses another government being formed according to the ethno-sectarian quota. Sunni Arab lawmaker, Mohamed Al-Halbousi was elected as the Speaker of Parliament or the Council of Representatives on September 15th, 2018, with his party, literally using the word ‘Sunni’ when describing their share in the government. Separatist Kurdish politician Barham Salih was ’elected’ as President of Iraq on October 2nd, 2018, while advocating and supporting Kurdish independence in last year’s referendum. Rumours on the heavy regional and domestic political Shi’ite negotiations are confirming the potential appointment the ethno-sectarian quota’s veteran, Adel Abdelmahdi as Prime Minister, as a result of a national and regional Shi’ite agreement. Abdelmahdi, if elected will face the challenge of forming a Cabinet which must appeal to the different political parties, all of which are ethno-sectarian driven. </p><p>Finally, following heavy regional and domestic political Shi’ite negotiations, Salih agreed to appoint the ethno-sectarian quota’s veteran, Adel Abdelmahdi as Prime Minister. Abdelmahdi would face the challenge of forming a Cabinet which must appeal to the different political parties, all of which are ethno-sectarian driven. Nevertheless, his appointment, as previously mentioned, highlights the certainty of Da’wa’s end in grabbing the premiership – as he presents himself as an independent politician after leaving the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.</p> <p>Thereupon, not only are we witnessing the return of corrupted, unqualified, disloyal politicians, and a governmental formation by parties that did not even perform well enough in the election results, but also a repeated scenario of the ethno-sectarian quota. The continued use of this externally imposed, self-demising quota can be tied to the fact that Iraq’s most influential external actors such as Iran and the US are politically and economically benefiting from their allies in Baghdad. So long as this remains the case, a political class that serves foreign interests will remain in power and will continue to determine Iraq’s political and economic destiny.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/seyed-ali-alavi/is-iraq-entering-era-of-post-sectarianism">Is Iraq entering an era of post-sectarianism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zahra-ali-safaa-khalaf/iraq-s-protest-movement-reveals-failure-of-post-2003-r">Iraq’s protest movement reveals the failure of the post-2003 regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zeidon-alkinani/outcomes-of-iraq-s-2018-elections">The outcomes of Iraq’s 2018 elections </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/darius-kamali/iraq-and-syria-of-memory-and-maps">Iraq and Syria: of memory and maps</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq sectarianism elections Zeidon Alkinani Mon, 22 Oct 2018 06:01:18 +0000 Zeidon Alkinani 119969 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need an ecological civilization before it’s too late https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeremy-lent/we-need-ecological-civilization-before-it-s-too-late <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Promises of green growth are magical thinking. We have to restructure the fundamentals of our cultural and economic systems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JeremyLentnew2.jpg" alt="" /></p><p class="image-caption">View from lookout hill of Japanese Gardens, Cowra, NSW, Australia. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:04._Japanese_Garden,_Cowra,_NSW,_22.09.2006.jpg">John O’Neill/Wikimedia Commons</a>.&nbsp; CC BY-SA 3.0.</p><p>We’ve now been warned by the world’s leading climate scientists that we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report">has put the world on notice</a> that going from a 1.5° to 2.0° C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels would have disastrous consequences, with unprecedented flooding, drought, ocean devastation, and famine.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the world’s current policies <a href="https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/4/30/17300946/global-warming-degrees-replace-fossil-fuels">have us on track</a> for a more than 3° increase by the end of this century, and climate scientists publish dire warnings that amplifying feedbacks could <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/06/global-temperature-rises-could-be-double-those-predicted-by-climate-modelling">make things far worse</a> than even these projections, and thus <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252">place at risk</a> the very continuation of our civilization. We need, <a href="http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/pr_181008_P48_spm.shtml">according to the IPCC</a>, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” But what exactly does that mean?</p> <p>Last month, at the <a href="https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/">Global Climate Action Summit</a> (GCAS) in San Francisco, luminaries such as Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and Al Gore gave their version of what’s needed with <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/">an ambitious report</a> entitled “Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century by the New Climate Economy.” It trumpets a <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/the-new-growth-agenda/">New Growth Agenda</a>: through enlightened strategic initiatives, they claim, it’s possible to transition to a low-carbon economy that could generate millions more jobs, raise trillions of dollars for green investment, and lead to higher global GDP growth.</p> <p>But these buoyant projections by mainstream leaders, while overwhelmingly preferable to the Republican Party’s malfeasance, are utterly insufficient to respond to the crisis we face. In promising that the current system can fix itself with a few adjustments, they are turning a blind eye to <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">the fundamental drivers</a> that are propelling civilization toward collapse. By offering false hope, they deflect attention from the profound structural changes that our global economic system must make if we hope to bequeath a flourishing society to future generations.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ecological overshoot.</strong></p> <p>That’s because even the climate emergency is merely a harbinger of other existential threats looming over humanity as a result of ecological overshoot—the fact that we’re depleting the earth’s natural resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. As long as government policies emphasize growing GDP as a national priority, and as long as transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/">relentlessly pursue greater shareholder returns</a> by ransacking the earth, we will continue to accelerate towards&nbsp; catastrophe.</p> <p>Currently, our civilization is running at <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/4/1/25">40% above its sustainable capacity</a>. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm#.Wz6H5thKjUI">forests</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016">animals</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/20/insectageddon-farming-catastrophe-climate-breakdown-insect-populations">insects</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2015-09-16/half-marine-life-lost-in-40-years/6779912">fish</a>, <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/">freshwater</a> and even the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/">topsoil</a> we require to grow our crops.&nbsp;We’ve already transgressed three of the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/461472a">nine planetary boundaries</a> that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to <a href="https://data.oecd.org/gdp/real-gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart">more than double</a> by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences. By 2050, it is estimated that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/20/by-2050-there-will-be-more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-worlds-oceans-study-says/?utm_term=.4299cfb53950">there will be more plastic</a> in the world’s oceans than fish. Last year, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229">issued an ominous warning</a> to humanity that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late,” they wrote, “to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”</p> <p>Techno-optimists, including many of the GCAS dignitaries, like to dismiss these warnings with talk of “green growth”—essentially decoupling GDP growth from increased use of resources. While that would be a laudable goal, a number of studies have shown that it’s <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164733">simply not feasible</a>. Even the most wildly aggressive assumptions for greater efficiency would still result in consuming global resources <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-09-19/why-growth-cant-be-green/">at double the sustainable capacity</a> by mid-century -a desperate situation indeed, but one that need not lead to despair. </p> <p>There is a scenario in which we can redirect humanity to a thriving future on a regenerated earth. But it would require us to rethink some of the sacrosanct beliefs of our modern world, beginning with the unquestioning reliance on <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">perpetual economic growth</a> within a global capitalist system directed by transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/">driven exclusively by the need</a> to increase shareholder value for their investors.</p> <p>In short, we need to change the basis of our global civilization. We must move from a civilization based on wealth production to one based on the health of living systems: an ecological civilization.</p><p><strong>An ecological civilization.</strong></p> <p>The crucial idea behind an ecological civilization is that our society needs to change at a level far deeper than most people realize. It’s not just a matter of investing in renewables, eating less meat, and driving an electric car. The intrinsic framework of our global social and economic organization needs to be transformed. And this will only happen when enough people recognize the destructive nature of our current mainstream culture and replace it with one that is life-affirming—embracing values that emphasize growth in the quality of life rather than in the consumption of goods and services.</p> <p>A change of such magnitude would be an epochal event. There have been only two occasions in history when radical dislocations led to a transformation of virtually every aspect of the human experience: the Agricultural Revolution that began about twelve thousand years ago, and the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. If our civilization is to survive and prosper through the looming crises of this century, we will need a transformation of our values, goals, and collective behavior on a similar scale. </p> <p>An ecological civilization would be based on the core principles that sustain living systems that coexist in natural ecologies. Insights into how ecologies self-organize offer a model for how we could organize human society in ways that could permit sustainable abundance. Organisms prosper when they develop multiple symbiotic relationships, wherein each party to a relationship both takes and gives reciprocally. In an ecology, energy flows are balanced and one species’ waste matter becomes nourishment for another. </p> <p>Entities within an ecology scale fractally, with microsystems existing as integral parts of larger systems to form a coherent whole. In a well-functioning ecosystem, each organism thrives by optimizing for its own existence within a network of relationships that enhances the common good. The inherent resilience caused by these dynamics means that—without human disruption—ecosystems can maintain their integrity for many thousands, and sometimes millions, of years.</p> <p>In practice, transitioning to an ecological civilization would mean restructuring some of the fundamental institutions driving our current civilization to destruction. In place of an economy based on perpetual growth in GDP, it would institute one that emphasized quality of life, using alternative measures such as a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genuine_progress_indicator">Genuine Progress Indicator</a> to gauge success. Economic systems would be based on respect for individual dignity and fairly rewarding each person’s contribution to the greater good, while ensuring that nutrition, housing, healthcare, and educational needs were fully met for everyone. </p> <p>Transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/07/12/five-ways-to-curb-the-power-of-corporations-and-billionaires/">would be fundamentally reorganized</a> and made accountable to the communities they purportedly serve, to optimize human and environmental wellbeing rather than shareholder profits. Locally owned cooperatives would become the default organizational structure. Food systems would be designed to emphasize local production using <a href="https://agroeco.org/">state-of-the-art agroecology</a> practices in place of fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, while manufacturing would prioritize <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept">circular flows</a> where efficient re-use of waste products is built into the process from the outset.</p> <p>In an ecological civilization, the local community would be the basic building block of society. Face-to-face interaction would regain ascendance as a crucial part of human flourishing, and each community’s relationship with others would be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity. Technological innovation would still be encouraged, but would be prized for its effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems rather than minting billionaires. The driving principle of enterprise would be that we are all interconnected in the web of life—and long-term human prosperity is therefore founded on a healthy Earth.</p><p><strong>Cultivating a flourishing future.</strong></p> <p>While this vision may seem a distant dream to those who are transfixed by the daily frenzy of current events, innumerable pioneering organizations around the world are already planting the seeds for this cultural metamorphosis. </p> <p>In China, President Xi Jinping <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/02/08/what-does-chinas-ecological-civilization-mean-for-humanitys-future/">has declared</a> an ecological civilization to be a central part of his long-term vision for the country. In Bolivia and Ecuador, the related values of <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-03-24/degrowth-in-movements-buen-vivir/"><em>buen vivir</em></a> and <a href="https://www.pachamama.org/sumak-kawsay"><em>sumak kawsay</em></a> (“good living’) are written into the constitution, and in Africa the concept of <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/reverend-william-e-flippin-jr/ubuntu-applying-african-p_b_1243904.html"><em>ubuntu</em></a> (“I am because we are”) is a widely-discussed principle of human relations. In Europe, hundreds of scientists, politicians, and policy-makers recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth">co-authored a call</a> for the EU to plan for a sustainable future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritized over GDP. </p> <p>Examples of large-scale thriving cooperatives such as <a href="http://www.praxispeace.org/assets/pdf/THE-MONDRAGON-REPORT.pdf">Mondragon</a> in Spain demonstrate that it’s possible for companies to provide effectively for human needs without utilizing a shareholder-based profit model. Think tanks such as <a href="https://thenextsystem.org/">The Next System Project</a>, <a href="https://www.theglobalcitizensinitiative.org/">The Global Citizens Initiative</a>, and the <a href="https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/">P2P Foundation</a> are laying down parameters for the political, economic, and social organization of an ecological civilization. Visionary authors such as <a href="https://www.kateraworth.com/">Kate Raworth</a> and <a href="https://davidkorten.org/home/ecological-civilization/">David Korten</a> have written extensively on how to reframe the way we think about our economic and political path forward.</p> <p>As the mainstream juggernaut drives our current civilization inexorably toward breaking point, it’s easy to dismiss these steps toward a new form of civilization as too insignificant to make a difference. However, as the current system begins to break down in the coming years, increasing numbers of people around the world will come to realize that a fundamentally different alternative is needed. Whether they turn to movements based on prejudice and fear or join in a vision for a better future for humanity depends, to a large extent, on the ideas available to them. </p> <p>One way or another, humanity is headed for the third great transformation in its history: either in the form of global collapse or a metamorphosis to a new foundation for sustainable flourishing. An ecological civilization offers a path forward that may be the only true hope for our descendants to thrive on Earth into the distant future. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/steven-pinker-s-ideas-are-fatally-flawed-these-eight-graphs-show-why">Steven Pinker’s ideas are fatally flawed. These eight graphs show why.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/five-ways-to-curb-power-of-corporations">Five ways to curb the power of corporations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation ecology climate change Jeremy Lent Environment Sun, 21 Oct 2018 19:36:26 +0000 Jeremy Lent 120111 at https://www.opendemocracy.net