openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Trapped in the new Greek archipelago with no way out https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/tim-baster-isabelle-merminod/trapped-in-new-greek-archipelago-with-no-way-out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>According to the UNHCR, some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece - trapped in an archipelago of camps that stretches from the northern borderlands, to Athens and the Aegean islands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/IdomeniCmp1Axa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/IdomeniCmp1Axa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Idomeni camp, Greece. Photo supplied by authors.</span></span></span><span>‘It’s all lies,’ Massoud (not his real name) taps angrily on his smartphone screen; there are dozens of failed calls to the Skype address of the Greek Asylum service. In Greece you register an asylum claim by Skype. Massoud is from Syria and has been in Idomeni camp for 2 months and 10 days.</span></p> <p class="Body">People have been blockaded in Greece since Macedonia <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/macedonia/12188826/Macedonia-closes-its-border-completely-to-migrants.html">shut its border with Greece</a> entirely for refugees on 9 March this year. At the same time many people are finding it impossible to lodge asylum applications in Greece - and therefore have no chance of ‘relocation’ to another EU country. The EU plan to relocate refugees to other EU countries appears to be bogged down.</p> <p class="Body">By 17 April, UNHCR said some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in an archipelago of camps from Athens to the Macedonian border in the North. Meanwhile, in the islands the deportations to Turkey under the ‘one-for-one’ deal between the EU and Turkey <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/04/first-moves-to-deport-refugees-from-greece-to-turkey-underway">started on 4 April</a>.</p> <p class="Body">The core of the Idomeni camp at the Macedonian border are the four tents marked with the logo of <em>M</em><em>édecins Sans Frontières</em> (MSF) nearest to the gated railway crossing. Originally, we were told, these tents were meant to be a roof for a day or two before people set off across FYROM (Macedonia) to the northern countries of the European Union. Now they are crammed with people keeping their place in a queue which goes nowhere.</p> <p class="Body">Around ‘the gates’ - a freshly erected barbed wire fence blocking the railway which previously allowed people to cross the frontier - thousands of small tents gather with some 10,000 people waiting without hope for Europe to remember the values it once upheld.</p> <h2><strong>Children and other vulnerable people</strong></h2> <p class="Body">In Idomeni, the mother of Mahde Essaa shows a doctor’s note which explains that her son suffers from ‘high inter-cranial pressure,’ and has had brain surgery. She and her 11 year old son live in one of the vast tents at Idomeni camp at the border - the noise is constant, there is little privacy. She is in despair. She is not registered with the Greek authorities so there is no chance of relocation out of Greece.</p> <p class="Body">In Anagnostopoulou camp by Thessaloniki, Fadi Saifo, a 22 year old Syrian lies paralysed, stretched out on a bed. His father says they did a small operation to his neck in Turkey which improved things a little. He should be a prime candidate for the EU’s relocation policy (which is meant to be moving vulnerable people out of Greece), but nothing seems to be happening.</p> <p class="Body">In a nearby tent in the same camp, 10-year-old Zainab Khwan lies without movement on a bed. Her parents say she is very underweight for her age, has heart problems and a kind of early onset rheumatism. She spent three days in a hospital in Thessaloniki but is now caught in this camp. Her parents have no idea if she will be relocated to another country in the EU.</p> <p class="Body">In a carefully worded but <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/569fad556.pdf">highly critical report in January</a> UNHCR says of the EU’s relocation policy that, “Some Member States appear to have…a long list of preferences and additional limiting conditions related to language skills, vulnerabilities, etc.</p> <p class="Body">UNHCR states that member states of the EU - who should be focusing on vulnerable people in the Greek camps - may have, “explicitly excluded vulnerable cases.”</p> <p class="Body"><a href="http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/press-material/docs/state_of_play_-_relocation_en.pdf">As of April 21 </a>some 860 people had been relocated out of Greece to other EU member states. The target for relocation from Greece to other EU member states is 66,400.</p> <h2><strong>Unable to register an asylum application with the Greek authorities</strong></h2> <p class="Body">In another part of Greece, we found Ahmed (not his real name) an Afghan in the camp at the old Elliniko airport just outside Athens. We speak surrounded by fading Olympic Airways logos and ‘Arrivals’ signs. He says, “We thought the [Balkan route] was open and everybody can come and cross the border.”</p> <p class="Body">He continues, “The date we arrived to Greece was 17 February. We went to the border, to Idomeni, and then we spent like eight or nine days there and then they sent us back here.”</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PiraeusCmp5Axa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PiraeusCmp5Axa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Piraeus camp, Greece. Photo supplied by authors.</span></span></span><span>He has been in Athens for a month. He says the only way you can apply for asylum, “is through a Skype ID and it is [open] like two days per week and only one hour for each day. So you can imagine…how is it possible for us to do that?”</span></p> <p class="Body">He claims that no one in the camp here at Elliniko has been able to register through Skype. UNHCR estimates there are some 4,000 people in three camps around the old airport.</p> <p class="Body">The European Council on Exiles and Refugees (ECRE) states in a February report that: “Skype slots to book registration appointments in Attica are only available three hours per week at best…or even one hour per week for certain languages…It is highly problematic that…it is necessary to have successful access to Skype in order to be able to book an appointment to register an asylum application.”</p> <p class="Body">And what now? Ahmed says: “First they said that everybody will be deported back to Turkey. Their cases will be checked by the specialists in Turkey. But now they say that other people who came after the 20th March [when the ‘one for one’ deal with Turkey started], they will be deported but they didn’t say anything about us.”</p> <p class="Body">Lawyers? “No one. Personally myself I have tried a lot because they gave us contact details of some free lawyers that can assist us. I have tried to make appointment with them more than ten times but their only answer is that, ‘we are busy, we don’t have lawyers now, call back.’ So I gave up.”</p> <p class="Body">“Nobody knows actually what will happen,”</p> <p class="Body">We could not obtain a comment from the Greek Asylum Service.</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="/can-europe-make-it/costas-douzinas/human-rights-for-martians">Human rights for Martians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/barbara-spinelli/2016-will-be-remembered-as-eus-year-of-shame">2016 will be remembered as the EU&#039;s year of shame</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"> Greece </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Greece Isabelle Merminod Tim Baster Wed, 04 May 2016 17:30:57 +0000 Isabelle Merminod and Tim Baster 101855 at https://www.opendemocracy.net As the old parties offer dull prospects for London, what can they learn from Take Back the City? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-gilbert/as-old-parties-offer-dull-prospects-for-london-what-can-they-learn-from-take-back- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A group of young, diverse activists in London have much to teach the old parties.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/take back the city.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/take back the city.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'>Take Back The City, takebackthecity.org</span></span></span></p> <p class="BodyA">What a boring contest the local elections in London have produced. Like many loyal Labour party members, I will be voting for Sadiq Khan for mayor. He seems like a decent enough candidate. But I wish he had stood on a platform which came close to addressing London’s fundamental problems. And I wish his campaign had demonstrated half of the energy and imagination of <em>Take Back the City – </em>a new campaign group and political party which has been making some noise on the streets of Stratford and beyond (<a href="http://takebackthecity.org">http://takebackthecity.org</a>).</p> <p class="BodyA">Khan has proposed a set or ameliorative measures which might make life easier for a few poor people. But he has also made it very clear that as ‘the most business-friendly mayor’ in London’s history’, he will do absolutely nothing to alter the fundamental imbalances of power which ensure that this is a city run for Big Business, by Big Business, in which the voices of millions of residents are barely heard at all. At a time of national ferment, when Scotland has witnessed a political revolution and a wave of youth radicalisation has transformed the Labour party beyond recognition, the business-as-usual contest for the mayoralty has been like a comforting throwback to the era of pre-Corbyn politics. On the mayoral hustings only Sian Berry has sounded like someone who really wanted to address London’s fundamental problems.&nbsp; </p><p class="BodyA">But <em>Take Back the City,</em> at least, have interrupted this soporific spectacle. For the past year they been organising a sequence of inspiring cultural events – mainly attracting young people of colour from London’s urban fringes (the bits where poor people still actually live) – and a series of consultations with community groups of many different types in order to produce a ‘people’s manifesto’. Their one candidate for the GLA – the inspiring Amina Gichinga – has been campaigning in Newham on a platform devised not by think tanks or focus groups, but by a programme of intense, week-in-week-out consultation and discussion with constituencies ranging from Canning Town pensioners to Kurdish youth. Today John Harris has posted <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/may/04/take-back-the-city-london-politics-mayor-video">a superb video</a> about the group on the Guardian web-site. Last night I gave a lecture and hosted a discussion with Amina and one of the founders of the group, Jacob Mukherjee.</p> <p class="BodyA">Amongst other things, their ‘People’s Manifesto’ call for a radical extension of democracy in London including participatory budgeting to give communities a real sense of ownership over municipal projects. It calls for genuine rent controls in London – surely&nbsp; a necessary step if any sanity is to be restored to the housing market. The manifesto calls for restoration of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and a wider recognition that the right to study is different from the right jut to get a school, college or university place – probably because it has been produced in consultation with people who know that being a poor student today means having very little opportunity actually to study, squeezed as students are between high rents,&nbsp; the need to work long hours for low wages and a morbid fear of finishing their education crippled by debt. It calls for an £11.00 minimum wage for London and a 20% cut in tube and bus fares. </p> <p class="BodyA">I’ve been attending public events organised by Take Back the City over the past 6 months or so; I’ve also attended plenty of Labour events – both official party meetings and events organised by the resurgent radical left. For the most part, the contrast could not have been more striking. Attending a local rally organised in March by the Labour Representation Committee, I listened to a series of speakers rant at me about why I should hate the Tories. It was quite boring. It’s not that I don’t dislike the Tories. The thing is – I already know why I should dislike the Tories. That’s why I went to the meeting in the first place. Take Back the City events have been quite different – often focussed on musical or spoken-word performances, featuring highly participatory discussions including a genuinely diverse cross-section of Londoner of all ages, the palpable energy at the best of them has always left me with a deep sense that this is what democracy is supposed to feel like. </p> <p class="BodyA">Whether Take Back the City has any future as an actual alternative political party, I don’t know. But I do know that Labour and the rest of the left desperately needs this kind of energy, creativity diversity and commitment to democracy, if it is going to produce policies and political demands and&nbsp; which are as relevant and important as those contained in their <a href="http://takebackthecity.org/content/peoples-manifesto-london">People’s Manifesto</a>. I would urge anyone with an interest in London politics to take a look at this document and ask themselves if this – rather than the anodyne programmes being offered by the major parties – isn’t exactly what London needs right now if it is to survive as a liveable city. </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/sian-berry/why-we-need-young-people-to-create-new-kind-of-politics">Why we need young people to create the new politics</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jeremy Gilbert Wed, 04 May 2016 15:26:57 +0000 Jeremy Gilbert 101851 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Going global: the UK government’s ‘CVE’ agenda, counter-radicalisation and covert propaganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/ben-hayes-asim-qureshi/going-global-uk-government-s-propaganda-and-censorship-silicon-valley-and-cve <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts, the government tells us, "address the root causes of extremism through community engagement". But could this globalising project have counter-productive consequences?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Earlier this week the advocacy group <a href="http://www.cageuk.org/press-release/exclusive-cage-reveals-groups-and-products-involved-in-covert-government-propaganda-programme/">CAGE</a> and the <a href="http://news.google.com/news/url?sr=1&amp;sa=t&amp;ct2=uk%2F0_0_s_1_0_t&amp;usg=AFQjCNGgo8SxEiC8DYYo4azvXCkie3eQgg&amp;did=87da396eebebbeec&amp;cid=52779098950101&amp;ei=aIIpV7jbE8yv1Qbs2IDIDg&amp;rt=STORY&amp;vm=STANDARD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fuk-news%2F2016%2Fmay%2F02%2Fuk-government-covert-propaganda-stop-muslims-joining-isis"><em>Guardian</em></a> both published revelations concerning a covert propaganda programme run by the UK Home Office as part of the Prevent programme. </p> <p>We have been investigating the government Research and Information Communications Unit (RICU), the PR agency Breakthrough Media and the many 'grassroots' campaigns they worked with for almost a year with varying degrees of complicity. We have only published a small amount of the information we amassed and expect the <em>Guardian</em> and other journalists to reveal more in the coming days. </p> <p>In this article we show how those orchestrating the campaigns have global ambitions – and despite the abject lack of debate – how the UK’s "<a href="http://news.google.com/news/url?sr=1&amp;sa=t&amp;ct2=uk%2F0_0_s_3_0_t&amp;usg=AFQjCNGxM_yEqm9T1PIIC1vjlLt6H3-2Pg&amp;did=f3724e6e04e0fb1&amp;cid=52779098950101&amp;ei=aIIpV7jbE8yv1Qbs2IDIDg&amp;rt=STORY&amp;vm=STANDARD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymail.co.uk%2Fnews%2Farticle-3570777%2FBritish-anti-extremism-agencies-using-Cold-War-tactics-combat-ISIS-propaganda.html">industrial scale propaganda</a>"&nbsp;programme is already being held up as best practice by the EU and UN. </p> <h2><strong>The story so far</strong></h2> <p>Over the past five years, the Home Office and a secretive government department called RICU, the Research, Information and Communications Unit, has been cultivating a network of ‘grassroots’ Muslim voices to promote ‘counter-narratives’ that combat the appeal of an <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/03/david-cameron-terror-strategy-definition-extremism?CMP=share_btn_tw">ill-defined ‘extremism’</a> among Britain’s Muslim youth. Parliament has not been informed of these activities and the policy has been kept from public scrutiny by draconian secrecy legislation and the veil of ‘national security’. </p> <p>Working with specialist PR agencies and new media companies to target young people who fit the profile of ‘vulnerable young Muslim’, RICU’s interventions represent the first concerted foray into cyberspace by the British state with the aim of covertly engineering the thoughts of its citizens. In practice this means the chosen ‘grassroots’ organisations and ‘counter-narratives’ receive financial and technical support from the government for the production of their multimedia campaigns (videos, websites, podcasts, blogs etc). </p> <p>These state-sponsored ‘counter-narratives’ are in turn promoted to specific groups of internet users, chosen on the basis of their demographics, the websites they visit, the social media accounts they ‘follow’, and the search terms they use. </p> <p>It has now been revealed that the following ‘grassroots’ campaigns have received some kind of support from the Home Office, RICU or Breakthrough Media: <a href="http://news.google.com/news/url?sr=1&amp;sa=t&amp;ct2=uk%2F0_0_s_6_0_t&amp;usg=AFQjCNGMU67gKN_hjmSV5S-abiDgGawt9Q&amp;did=6744a53b6618836c&amp;cid=52779098950101&amp;ei=aIIpV7jbE8yv1Qbs2IDIDg&amp;rt=STORY&amp;vm=STANDARD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fuk-news%2F2016%2Fmay%2F03%2Fgovernment-hid-fact-it-paid-for-2012-olympics-film-aimed-at-muslims">My 2012 Dream</a>, <a href="http://www.theafricachannel.co.uk/africa-untold-return-to-somalia/">Return to Somalia</a>, <a href="http://www.helpforsyria.org.uk/">Help for Syria</a>, <a href="http://afma.org.uk/faith-on-the-front-line/">Faith on the Frontline</a>, <a href="http://familiesmatter.org.uk/">Families matter</a>, <a href="http://imamsonline.com/">Imams online</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjIQ0ctzyZE">Not another brother</a>, <a href="http://www.fmo.org.uk/ummasonic-radio/welcome-to-ummah-sonic/">Ummah Sonic</a>, <a href="http://fightbackstartshere.com/">The fightback starts here</a>, <a href="http://openyoureyes.net/">Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies</a>, <a href="http://openyoureyes.net/">The truth about Isis</a>, and <a href="http://www.wewillinspire.com/making-a-stand/">Making a Stand</a>. At issue is not what these initiatives stand for, or even that they are government supported, but that they are presented as independent, community-based campaigns. </p><p>While the government has defended RICU’s programme as some kind of ‘necessary evil’, we should not be duped. When democratic governments start using community groups and NGOs to disseminate government propaganda and hoodwink the public into believing they are authentic ‘grassroots’ campaigns, it damages everyone in civil society. Democracy requires clear lines between the security state and the police on the one hand, and civil society, public and social services on the other. </p><h2> <strong><span>Breakthrough Media – an official secret no more</span></strong></h2><p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/breakthrough_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/breakthrough_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="157" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fair use.</span></span></span><a href="http://breakthroughmedia.org/#home">Breakthrough Media</a> is the government’s go-to creative media agency for its “counter-narratives”. It specializes in “emotionally driven films, campaigns and other communications products” and its clients include government and intergovernmental agencies (UK, US, European Union, African Union, United Nations) and various NGOs. It has offices in London, Nairobi and Mogadishu and employs 100 people across Europe and East Africa. </p> <p class="Standard">Some of Breakthrough’s work for the UK government has been protected by the Official Secrets Act – an extraordinary use of national security legislation to conceal the activities of a government-contracted PR company. </p> <p class="Standard">Breakthrough was founded by Managing Director Robert Elliot, and originally called “Camden Creative”, which was incorporated in 2008. Camden Creative operated as a drama and documentaries production company that delivered a ten-part reality drama series for Channel 5 and a one-off documentary about the Mayor of Mogadishu for Al Jazeera English. The name of the company was changed to “Breakthrough Media” on 27 November 2012. Breakthrough’s CEO is Scott Brown, appointed on 17 August 2012. Brown was formerly an account director at M&amp;C Saatchi and Deputy Chief of Staff at Bell Pottinger (the UK’s biggest PR company) in Nairobi. </p> <p class="Standard">Breakthrough has <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/02/inside-ricu-the-shadowy-propaganda-unit-inspired-by-the-cold-war">earned</a> £11.8m from the UK government since 2012. Lest there be any doubt about the commitment of the UK government to this cause, it has just asked PR companies to <a href="http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/home-office-seeks-agency-60m-anti-extremism-initiative/1393050">pitch</a> for a further £60 million. </p><h2><strong><span>Horizon PR</span></strong></h2><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/horizonpr.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/horizonpr.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fair use.</span></span></span><a href="http://horizonpr.agency/">Horizon PR</a></span><span> was incorporated in March 2015 and is part of the </span><a href="http://mcsaatchi.com/"><span>M&amp;C Saatchi Group</span></a><span>, the international PR and advertising group formed by Maurice and Charles Saatchi after they were ousted from their original firm, Saatchi and Saatchi. Horizon has five directors: Robert Elliot and Scott Brown of Breakthrough Media, and Andrew Blackstone, Molly Aldridge and Marcus Peffers from the M&amp;C Saatchi group. Blackstone and Aldridge are senior executives at M&amp;C Saatchi, while Peffers was a senior account director who founded the company's World Services division in 2011 to bring the "experience and creative capabilities” of the agency to “help tackle complex behavioural and social issues in fragile states and developing markets”. M&amp;C Saatchi's World Services works with a range of national and international governments, IGOs, INGOs and foundations and is among the group's most successful divisions. Feffers has also worked at a senior advisory level with successive UK governments, including HMT, the FCO, the Home Office, HMRC and Number 10, and oversaw M&amp;C Saatchi’s campaign to keep Scotland in the Union on behalf of the three main UK political parties. <br /></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Horizon provides PR solutions to “ethnic, social and faith based issues” to clients including “non-government and civil-society groups who want to improve and increase the impact and scale of their activity and better reach audiences at a local, regional, national and international level”. This is achieved through “creative news generation, traditional and social media campaigns and targeted events”. In launching Horizon, Breakthrough and the Saatchis are clearly betting on a big future in communicating government messages on sensitive issues such as “terrorism” and “extremism”. </span></p><h2 class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Hand-in-hand: censorship and propaganda</span></strong></h2> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The lengths of the UK’s covert propaganda programme appear even more extraordinary in the context of the government’s mass censorship of the internet – something which can only be achieved with the cooperation of internet service providers and social media companies. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since the Edward Snowden revelations, and having realized that working hand-in-glove with the “Five Eyes” global surveillance system was not good for their reputation or business prospects, Silicon Valley appears to have enjoyed a much less comfortable relationship with western governments. Some of its biggest names have taken formal positions that distance themselves from government surveillance, and introduced corresponding procedures designed to reassure and protect their users. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>But Silicon Valley has been unable to extricate itself from the broader 'war on terror' and <em>ad hoc</em> public-private partnerships have emerged to address demands from law enforcement and intelligence agencies to block “terrorist propaganda”. In the UK, this process has essentially replicated the model developed to combat the proliferation of child pornography on the internet. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>As with child porn, states have passed laws banning the production and dissemination of terrorist propaganda, providing grounds for the state to request companies to close accounts or block websites (so-called “notice and take-down” requests) said to contravene national law.<span class="MsoFootnoteReference"> </span>In the absence of obvious legal breaches, the censors argue that the content breaches the provider’s terms of service. </span></p> <p><span>The UK has pioneered the censorship of “terrorist” content, having established the world’s first </span><a href="http://www.npcc.police.uk/NPCCBusinessAreas/PREVENT/TheCounterTerrorismInternetReferralUnit.aspx"><span>Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit</span></a><span> (CITRU) in 2010, modelled on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency. CITRU is the central contact point for police and intelligence officers seeking to block web pages or close social media accounts, and refers their requests to service providers, search engines and content platforms. By December 2015, CITRU </span><a href="https://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Counter_Terrorism_Internet_Referral_Unit#cite_note-22"><span>claimed</span></a><span> to have taken down “more than 120,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content online” since 2010,<span class="MsoFootnoteReference"> </span>with one-third </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/5-million-to-build-a-national-coalition-against-extremism-in-communities-and-online"><span>removed in 2015</span></a><span>.<span class="MsoFootnoteReference">&nbsp;</span></span><span class="MsoFootnoteReference"><span> <br /></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In practice, content hosted outside the UK (as most “terrorist propaganda” is) is not actually “taken down” – access is instead blocked by British ISPs (and can therefore be easily circumvented). Nor do these figures include independent action by social media companies. In February 2016, Twitter </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/05/twitter-deletes-isis-accounts-terrorism-online"><span>announced</span></a><span> that it had shut down more than 125,000 ISIS related accounts.<span class="MsoFootnoteReference"> </span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the EU launched a Europe-wide blocking system modelled on CITRU. The </span><a href="https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/europol%E2%80%99s-internet-referral-unit-combat-terrorist-and-violent-extremist-propaganda"><span>EU Counter-terrorism Internet Referral Unit</span></a><span> began operating in July 2015 and is housed at Europol. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>You would instinctively think that “terrorist propaganda” means the horrific videos of ISIS beheadings and such like, yet violent material is said to make up just 2% of what is blocked. Regardless, the level of censorship of terrorists and extremists has now reached levels that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But this is only one side of the story. </span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Silicon Valley and counter-narratives</span></strong></h2> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Having played ball with content take-down, the Silicon Valley behemoths have also increasingly embraced the “counter-narrative” agenda – an agenda they are of course uniquely placed to implement. In February 2015, a “</span><a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/white-house-social-media-firms-al-qaeda-isil-115301"><span>White House Summit To Counter Violent Extremism</span></a><span>” gathered foreign leaders, United Nations officials, and “a broad range of international representatives and members of civil society”.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/factsheet.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/factsheet.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/understanding.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/understanding.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Following the summit, the White House </span><a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/white-house-social-media-firms-al-qaeda-isil-115301"><span>announced</span></a><span> several new initiatives. First, the US government would organize “technology camps” alongside social media companies, which will “work with governments, civil society and religious leaders to develop digital content that discredits violent extremist narratives and amplifies positive alternatives”. Second, the US will partner with the United Arab Emirates to create a “digital communications hub that will counter ISIL’s propaganda and recruitment efforts, both directly and through engagement with civil society, community, and religious leaders”. In other words: the stratosphere that includes organisations RICU, CITRU, Breakthrough, ‘grassroots’.</span></p> <p><span>While Facebook and Google were tight-lipped, a Twitter spokesman </span><a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/white-house-social-media-firms-al-qaeda-isil-115301"><span>stated</span></a><span> that they “support counterspeech efforts around the world and we plan to participate in this effort through third-party NGOs”. Twitter has also run a series of workshops for UK NGOs concerned with countering extremism to help them enhance their presence on social media. <br /></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee in February 2016, Google </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/02/google-pilot-extremist-anti-radicalisation-information"><span>announced</span></a><span> that it was going one step further and </span><span>“piloting two pilot programmes. One is to make sure that these types of videos [counter-narratives] are more discoverable on YouTube. The other one is to make sure when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine… they also find this counter-narrative”.<span class="MsoFootnoteReference"> </span></span><span>It was later clarified that the programme took the form of “free Google AdWords” to enable NGOs to place “counter-radicalisation adverts against search queries of their choosing”. </span></p> <p><span>To be clear about what this means in practice, imagine an internet user fitting the profile of ‘impressionable young Muslim’ (as defined by Prevent), searching Google for “Syria war” (or clicking on a Facebook link about it) and being referred to Breakthrough’s </span><a href="http://openyoureyes.net/"><span>Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies</span></a><span> campaign, among others. And as we know from the Snowden revelations, these searches will be logged and investigated by the intelligence services. </span><span><br /></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The symbolism of all of this cannot be understated. Removing one kind of 'propaganda' and promoting another at the request of governments – or via government-backed NGOs or contractors – is a far cry from the free speech-cum-great leveller Silicon Valley told us to believe in. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>And as well-intentioned as their interventions may be, having embarked on this slippery slope, can or should we now expect the likes of Google to assist in re-directing would be white supremacists to #blacklivesmatter websites, or Europe’s growing army of neo-Nazis to #hopenothate? </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Your answer to this question should help you think through the legitimacy of what has been revealed to address ‘radicalisation’ among Muslims.</span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Against Violent Extremism Network </span></strong></h2><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/violentextremism.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/violentextremism.png" alt="" title="" width="360" height="157" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fair use.</span></span></span>The </span><a href="http://www.againstviolentextremism.org/"><span>Against Violent Extremism</span></a><span> (AVE) Network<span class="MsoFootnoteReference"> </span>is a partnership between Google Ideas, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and </span><a href="http://gennextfoundation.org/"><span>Gen Next Foundation</span></a><span> (GNF). GNF, which initially </span><a href="http://archive.is/p91bd"><span>described</span></a><span> itself as an “exclusive membership organization and platform for successful individuals” committed to social change through venture capital funding, “aspires to solve the greatest generational challenges of our time using a unique hybrid of private sector and non-profit business models – called a venture philanthropy model”. Its core areas are education, economic opportunity and global security.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/genfoundation_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/genfoundation_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="213" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>AVE was hatched at the 2011 </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/18/google-alphabet-jigsaw-geopolitical-games-technology"><span>Google Ideas</span></a><span> (now ‘</span><a href="https://jigsaw.google.com/"><span>Jigsaw</span></a><span>’) Summit Against Violent Extremism and is managed by the </span><a href="http://www.strategicdialogue.org/"><span>Institute for Strategic Dialogue</span></a><span>. It </span><a><span>claims</span></a><span> to have brought together “hundreds of former extremists and survivors of violent extremism to fight back against online extremist messaging and recruitment”. In 2015, AVE </span><a><span>claimed</span></a><span> to have “over 2,000 members globally”, “over 60 counter-extremism projects” and “partnerships with global technology firms including Twitter and Facebook".</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The counter-narratives projects incubated and assisted by AVE are believed to include </span><a href="https://twitter.com/myextremism"><span>myextremism.org</span></a><span>, a juvenile platform for “extremists against extremism”, and </span><a href="http://www.abdullahx.com/"><span>Abdullah X</span></a><span>, the former extremist turned ‘down with the kids’ cartoon ‘Jihobbyist’. </span></p><h2><strong><span>‘Abdullah-X’ – the counter-narratives’ poster boy</span></strong><span>&nbsp;<br /></span></h2> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Abdullah-X </span><a href="http://www.abdullahx.com/what-i-do/"><span>says</span></a><span>: “I am here to deliver awareness, develop and divert young Muslims from the path of relying solely on information that can take them on a journey towards extremism and hate. You will find me in&nbsp;content&nbsp;that is created to instil critical thinking and understanding in the minds of those who are often vulnerable to the messaging of extremist ideologies."</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The ‘street-savvy’ looking cartoon character, complete with chains and corn-rows, is given a Muslim name with the suffix ‘X’, an obvious reference to Malcolm X, and a means of co-opting a legacy that disenfranchised youth may respect. Abdullah-X’s videos attempt to take on contentious issues within the Muslim world, providing a ‘counter-narrative’ to questions that many Muslims have. In one video, he considers Palestine and the growing call to boycott Israel, </span><a href="https://youtu.be/jdS5L-hUXsw?t=49s"><span>by questioning</span></a><span>&nbsp;what it can achieve: <span>“I wonder, is all my plaque waving and shouting in anger to others a Sunnah? I mean in truth, will my ‘peaceful protest’ for Gaza truly aid the Palestinian people or does it aid my ego… What is the bigger picture?”</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For Abdullah-X, the bigger picture is not Israeli occupation and apartheid, but the failure of the Arab world to intervene in Gaza: “Because they live in the shadow of their paymasters… sadly their paymasters are not those who follow the Sunnah.”<em> </em>This ahistorical presentation is part of a wider trend in which Abdullah-X seeks to depoliticise British Islam in favour of shallower spiritual reflection. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Abdullah-X claims that he was a former adherent of Abu Hamza al-Masri and Omar Bakri Mohammed. He claims that his position as a former extremist uniquely places to deter others from following similar routes. He now has a female sidekick in </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/themuslimahx/timeline"><span>Muslimah-X</span></a><span>.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>One of the most astonishing achievements of the counter-radicalisation industry is its burial of the idea that the people best-placed to deter individuals from extremism, might actually be those who have never engaged in any form of it. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In an interview with On the Media on 19 June 2015, Abdullah-X was asked if he is funded by MI6 or some other entity. </span><span><a href="http://www.onthemedia.org/story/animating-anti-extremism-1/#commentlist">He responded</a>&nbsp;</span><span>with the claim that the cartoon is “…a self funded project of myself and a few like-minded people.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/abdullah.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/abdullah.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fair use.</span></span></span><br /></span></p><h2><strong>Going global </strong></h2> <p>The 2015 White House Summit on Combating Violent Extremism was more a product than a catalyst of the global CVE agenda, which has been developing under the auspices of the <a href="https://www.thegctf.org/home">Global Counter Terrorism Forum</a> (GCTF). The GCTF is <a href="https://www.thegctf.org/about">an informal group</a> of 29 states plus the European Union launched in no small part because of resistance to the dominant security and counter-terrorism paradigm at the UN on the part of many developing countries, which served to prevent those states most invested in the ‘war on terror’ from enhancing their operational cooperation through UN mechanisms. </p> <p>The UK co-chairs, in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, the GCTF’s CVE working group, which held its inaugural meeting in Abu Dhabi in April 2012. The minutes <a href="https://www.thegctf.org/documents/10295/18206/3-4+April+2012+Working+Group+Meeting+Summary">report</a> that “The UK opened the session by underscoring the belief common to many GCTF members: that countering violent extremism is a battle of ideas; in such a battle, altering the grounds of debate and countering radical messages are vital.”</p> <p>The following year, the GCTF organised the UN Conference on "Best Practice in Communications" in June 2013 in London. The meeting was co-chaired by Richard Chalk, then head of RICU. It <a href="https://www.thegctf.org/documents/10295/57608/Final_Summary_Best+Practice+in+Communication.pdf">recommended</a> that “practitioners must take a strategic approach to CVE communications work and articulate the totality of a government’s engagement on a given issue”; that “messages should be simple, concise, tailored, and delivered by credible messengers”; and that “policies must be aligned with messages in order to be credible”. </p> <h2><strong>Countering violent extremism… with our friends in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh </strong></h2> <p>The GCTF has also launched the <a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/">Hedayah Center of Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism</a>, based in Abu Dhabi, to which at least one British government official is seconded. Hedayah’s publications include “<a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/pdf/guidelines-and-good-practices-for-developing-national-cve-strategies.pdf">National CVE Strategies: Guidelines and Good Practices</a>”, a document that draws heavily on the Prevent school of counter-extremism. Hedayah has been lavished with <a href="http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/02/237647.htm">US</a>, <a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/pdf/e-newsletter-december-2014-issue.pdf">EU</a> and Gulf state funding, and is the obvious home for the UAE-based “digital communications hub” to counter ISIL propaganda announced by the White House last year.&nbsp; </p><p>Hedayah also hosted the <a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/pdf/global-cve-expo-report-2014.pdf">GLOBAL CVE EXPO</a> in December 2014, which stressed the need for “more effective collaboration on counter-narratives, drawing from experiences of policymakers, practitioners and industry/private sector representatives”. The month before it held an <a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/activities/featured-activities/expert-workshop-on-research-trends-in-countering-violent-extremi/">expert workshop</a> on counter-narratives which <a href="http://www.hedayah.ae/activities/featured-activities/expert-workshop-on-research-trends-in-countering-violent-extremi/">extolled</a> the virtues of using “victims, formers and ex-prisoners” in counter-narrative products. </p> <p>The irony of establishing an International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in a country whose CVE efforts include a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/uae-told-uk-crack-down-on-muslim-brotherhood-or-lose-arms-deals">strict ban</a> on the regime’s political opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood, the <a href="http://yalibnan.com/2015/03/13/uae-deports-70-lebanese-mostly-shiites/">mass deportation</a> of Shi’a residents, and hiring Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi), to form secret, mercenary armies, is <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/4/the-pseudoscience-of-countering-violent-extremism.html">not lost</a> on all observers. In advance of the White House CVE summit, Steven Hawkins, director of Amnesty International USA, <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/2/obamas-extremism-plan-lacks-human-rights-safeguards.html">warned</a> that abusive regimes could take advantage of ‘CVE-mania’ and use international funding to violate human rights in the absence of appropriate safeguards.</p> <p>The UK is also exporting its counter-narratives programme through the EU and the UN. The former has established the <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/radicalisation_awareness_network/index_en.htm">Radicalisation Awareness Network</a> (RAN) under the ‘PREVENT’ strand of the EU Counter-Terrorism strategy, which has a dedicated Communication and Narratives Working Group. The <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/radicalisation_awareness_network/about-ran/ran-c-and-n/index_en.htm">WG</a> is co-chaired by Najeeb Ahmed, a Home Office Prevent coordinator, and Guillaume de Saint Marc, CEO of the French Association of Victims of Terrorism. The RAN network also has a <a href="https://www.counterextremism.org/resources/details/id/308/ran-internet-and-social-media-working-group-proposed-policy-recommendations">Working Group on the Internet and Social Media</a>, co-chaired by Yasmin Green (Google Ideas) and Rachel Briggs (Institute for Strategic Dialogue). RAN’s Issue Paper on Counter Narratives and Alternative Narratives <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/radicalisation_awareness_network/ran-papers/docs/issue_paper_cn_oct2015_en.pdf">reads</a> as if it was written by RICU. </p> <p>Similarly, the UN had a <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/frontpage/Use_of_Internet_for_Terrorist_Purposes.pdf">Working Group on the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes</a>, under the auspices of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. This appears to have been disbanded, and its work taken-up the GCTF, but not before it had staged the Riyadh Conference on “Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence” in 2011. This in a country declared an “<a href="http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/2014/03/11/saudi-arabia/">Enemy of the Internet</a>” by <em>Reporters Without Borders</em> and notorious for the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/saudi-announces-execution-47-terrorists-160102072458873.html">mass beheading</a> of alleged terrorists, apostates and blasphemers.</p> <p>The Riyadh conference, which was co-funded by the German government and the Saudi royal family, brought together around 150 policy-makers, experts and practitioners from the public sector, international organisations, industry, academia and the media. The speakers included Christopher Wainwright (RICU) and Jared Cohen (Google Ideas). Top of the list of summit <a href="http://www.un.org/en/terrorism/ctitf/pdfs/ctitf_riyadh_conference_summary_recommendations.pdf">Recommendations</a> was to “Promote counter-narratives through all relevant media channels (online, print, TV/Radio)”. </p> <p>Under the heading “Credible Messengers as Important as the Message”, the summary of the proceedings produced by the CTITF <a href="http://mercury.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/162768/ichaptersection_singledocument/f5fd2a13-09f5-418a-b804-c80e30c4d24b/en/Article6.pdf">records</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/549501/Untitled_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Untitled_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Leaving aside the many dubious assertions in this passage, when a UN Working Group meets in Saudi Arabia to recommend that security and intelligence agencies recruit former extremists and provide them with institutional homes in fake NGOs to produce state propaganda, things have clearly gone badly awry.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Do as I say not as I do</strong></h2> <p>As we said in our report, there is nothing objectionable in principle about grassroots activism that tries to steer people away from violence and ‘extremism’ – or any form of other ‘-ism’ for that matter. Indeed, freedom to engage in whatever kind of non-violent activism one chooses gets to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy that holds freedom of expression dear.&nbsp; </p><p>But there has to be a basic degree of transparency and accountability, without which communities will not trust government, and people will not trust anyone. They need to be confident in the difference between government propaganda and genuine activism. They need to know that non-governmental organisations and grassroots organisations are independent of government and corporations, or otherwise open about their relationship to them. When civil society organisations become tools of government or business, it damages the non-profit sector as a whole.</p> <p>This week’s revelations are symptomatic of the capture of government policy by an increasingly influential counter-radicalisation industry. Yet for all the best practice and international recommendations described above, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/723244991150344/">radicalisation theory</a> is still mired in Islamophobic bunkum, with no reliable metrics through which to substantiate its claims of effectiveness, and no evidence to support the assertion that the UK’s Prevent programme has been anything other than a divisive failure. </p> <p>As a paper by the International Centre for Counter-terrorism in the Hague suggests: “Doing the right thing rather than saying the right thing produces, ideally, the stronger narrative and in that sense the interaction patterns between host community and vulnerable youth constitute a non-verbal message that might better manage to prevent extremists gaining more ground in a community”.</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="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/didier-bigo-francesco-ragazzi-emmanuelpierre-guittet-laurent-bonelli/syria-on-our-minds-%E2%80%93-fear-of-yo">Syria on our minds – fear of youth radicalisation across the European Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-thomas-ted-cantle/extremism-and-%27prevent%27-need-to-trust-in-education"> Extremism and &#039;Prevent&#039;: the need to trust in education</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk Asim Qureshi Ben Hayes Wed, 04 May 2016 15:23:38 +0000 Asim Qureshi and Ben Hayes 101846 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Maddening times https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/maddening-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The European referendum is taking place in the context of – and because of – the disintegration, and reinvention, of party politics in Britain and around the world. The next chapter of <em>Blimey, it could be Brexit!</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8VWk8mR5508?list=PL27HDLFDYbmJevaNwiISlBw_qUgeCYHqY" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf is a clear-eyed analyst of economic affairs <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/44772c4a-2e96-11e4-afe4-00144feabdc0.html">and a critic</a> of the way they are regulated. When it became clear that the British might vote Leave, <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f7c0c2ce-0609-11e6-a70d-4e39ac32c284.html#axzz47RuLZhp6">he concluded</a> that to do so would be “mad”. His judgement has echoes of the prime minister’s <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4875502.stm">description</a> of UKIP as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, shortly after he became Tory leader, and in 2013 Cameron’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/may/18/david-cameron-ally-activists-loons">close ally</a> describing the Tories who wanted a referendum on Europe as "mad, swivel-eyed loons". The two diagnoses of craziness are different. David Cameron was making a personal attack on those who “bang on” about Europe and sovereignty. Wolf was assessing the potentially imminent consequences of Brexit in terms of the UK’s economy and its role in international affairs. Cameron condemned people; Wolf, a policy on the precipice of possibility. &nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, Cameron joined the more sober approach when he co-authored an article <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/27/david-cameron-brendan-barber-europe-british-workers-brexit">in the Guardian</a> with Brendan Barber, until recently head of Britain’s Trade Union Congress, to proclaim, “For the sake of every worker in Britain, we urge you: vote to remain”. Although he is an unlikely workers’ friend, the Prime Minister used his new proletarian alliance to point out, as does Wolf, that all the main institutions and authorities of the global order share a similar sober view: </p> <blockquote><p>“independent experts, trustworthy organisations and friends of Britain from around the world. Whether it is the Bank of England, our universities, the trade unions, employers large and small in every part of our economy, the IMF, President Obama, our allies in Nato or the Commonwealth, the message is the same: Britain is better off in Europe.</p></blockquote> <p>They couldn’t, however, resist a dig at their opponents being nutty,</p> <blockquote><p>“Of course, the leavers say this must be some sort of conspiracy masterminded by shadowy international elites. All we have to say is: to have been able to bring even the two of us together today, these evil geniuses must be very good.</p></blockquote> <p>How pathetic: an insult to the intelligence of workers – and even Guardian readers. </p> <p>Two things are going on here. The first is a refusal on the part of those arguing for Remain to take seriously and confront the core arguments made by the Brexiteers about democracy and self-government, summed up in the phrase “taking back control”. I have looked at this in previous chapters and will return to it later. </p> <p>The second is historic. It is not about an argument, it is about something that ‘should’ be implausible, if not inconceivable. How is it <em>possible</em> that a great conservative country, conscious of its role in the West and deferential to authority of all kinds, might say “up yours” to all official, received and expert opinion – economic, diplomatic, and political.</p> <p>That 25% of the English, mainly retired, feeling defeated and living in retirement clusters along low-grade seaside resorts should want the UK to ‘leave the world’ is not surprising. That they should have some political voice and be able to make a loud noise is part of the cost of living, if you are a member of the elite. But that they are holding to around 45% support according to the polls; that they have the most popular ruling party politician alongside the cabinet’s most able thinker and one time confidant of the prime minister as two of their leaders; that they are supported by a good half of Tory MPs and a clear majority of Tory voters; that they might even win! This should not be remotely credible. </p> <p>Something is taking place that cannot be dismissed as “mad” or conspiratorial, as if the person asserting this is unaffected. For there is a greater madness in the air. Multiple layers of dissociation crack Britain apart (and not just Britain). At the moment, the most significant fissure runs right through the country’s historic ruling coalition: the 180-year-old Conservative and Unionist party of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is <em>gespalten</em>. I use German to signal that a deep process is unfolding. I’m going to try and assess it.</p> <p>The referendum is part of a worldwide rebellion against elites, establishments and political castes. The most striking way of visually capturing the political impact of these forces here in Britain is by bookending my assessment with two graphs: the first shows the dramatic collapse in party memberships since 1950, the second a surge in new affiliations since 2010. They are coming up shortly. But I discovered that presenting them opens a can of many delightful worms and other creatures, called the sociology of modern politics, on which there is a vast literature. Here I want to step back from the narrowness of which side of the referendum debate accused who of what to situating it in the larger ocean of today’s political sociology.</p> <p>This concerns the relationship of at least five things: <em>civil society, </em>meaning the public of different classes and interests and their social organisation; <em>political parties</em>, how they organise and recruit and represent; <em>governing elites</em>, being the leading figures in the parties, the governing administration, the political media, and key policy think tanks and organisations; <em>corporate power</em>, meaning the leading figures running the great financial, service and industrial interests; and <em>the state</em>, meaning both the civil and legal servants but also the weight of the relatively immense interests of the forces of order, education and welfare tax-raising, and the capacity to regulate.</p> <p>Across the west there has been a double-movement dissolving the relationship between the ruling parties and elites of the post-Second World War era and their public following. First, the 1970s saw the beginning of a de-politicisation that accelerated for a full generation. The impacts of this four-decade transformation, from 1968 to 2008 to give it symbolic years, are still making themselves felt. They are being overtaken by a second, explicitly ‘anti-systemic’ set of movements, on both the left and the right, since the financial crash. </p> <p>The long disenchantment was integral to the dominant process. It looks at first sight as if the sense of impotence and powerlessness it generated was a consequence of failure, a weakening of loyalty. So in one sense, it was. But it was also functional for the rise of corporate power and a measure of its success. For a transformation of the elites, a revolution in a way, took place. In Britain it saw the replacement of the old Establishment by a professional political-media caste, serving internationalised corporate power – which it felt it belonged to at least as much as the people of its own country; Tony Blair, David Cameron, are both members of this slick caste. It eased their domination to have people stay home rather than vote. It assisted their capacity to make policy from the top if their political parties were weak and hollowed out. </p> <p>By contrast, the surges of protest now bringing people into party memberships defy the fatalism and challenge the hollow legitimacy of the corporate order. Today, they are being expressed by the rapid withdrawal of support for old parties and the rise of new parties, or transformative insurgencies within traditional ones. A very early example of this double-movement of the long collapse of traditional loyalty and the rapid rise of an ‘anti-system’ replacement, has been the takeover of Scotland’s devolved parliament by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) from Labour. So early, that the SNP is now in danger of becoming a centralising party of the traditional kind (some would argue it already is). </p> <p>What happened in Scotland was distinct – the consequence of a new parliament. Last week in Austria, a fascist and a green eliminated all the other candidates to become the choice for Austrian voters in the final round of their presidential election. This is the first example of the complete elimination of all the traditional parties by external insurgencies from left and right. The phenomenon is not confined to small countries. Were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to become the presidential candidates in this year’s American election, it would be thanks to the already impressive internal insurgencies overthrowing traditional elite party supervision. </p> <p>The decoupling of the public from the public realm over forty years, followed by revolts, protests and mobilizations against the old order since the financial crash, is the double backdrop to both the existence of the referendum in the UK and the crisis of legitimacy of the Brussels system. No analysis of the possibility of Brexit, no debate about whether the UK should <em>Leave </em>or <em>Remain,</em> no decision as to which way to vote if you are a UK elector, no understanding of the range of issues in play or what is potentially at stake, is worth its salt without taking a measure of this double process: on the one hand the extensive erosion of loyalty to, membership of, support for and participation in the traditional parties, their associations and unions. This permitted the new elites to be free of old-fashioned obligations and ties that bind. On the other the sudden challenge to elite legitimacy, as economic growth slows, before which they are helpless, having discarded the machinery of loyalty that protected them. This is the environment at once poisoning and stimulating early 21st century public life. It is the context of the “madness”.</p> <h2><strong>1968-2008 The long rise of the neo-liberal cartels</strong></h2> <p>We are now living in the aftermath of the failure of neoliberal, market fundamentalism that found its most naked government advocate in the UK, and its most complete institutionalisation in the European Union. This is one of the paradoxes of the referendum. </p> <p>Today’s failure comes after remarkable achievement. At the turn of the century neoliberalism was triumphant in Europe, after winning the Cold War, breaking the Russian economy and integrating Eastern Europe into the European Union. I stumbled on a handy way to illustrate the difference between then and now in America, in a comparison of 1999 with 2016. As a homage to Prince and his track 1999, <a href="https://plus.google.com/101165663489770356505">Isaiah J. Poole</a> writing on <a href="https://ourfuture.org/20160422/an-economy-like-its-1999?utm_source=snap&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=auto&amp;fb_ref=Default">Campaign for America’s Freedom</a>, looks at the year 1999 in the USA. He glimpses a golden moment. It was before the election of George W Bush, and the collapse of the dot.com bubble. (It was also the year, just to throw in a couple of factoids, when openDemocracy was conceived and vigorous protest against globalisation took place in Seattle, for the masters of the WTO still thought they could meet in convenient, urban locations.) Poole notes that America “succeeded in creating a near-full-employment economy, wages were rising in a way that was not dramatically out of line with their productivity, and we did it without giving huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy”. The contrast with today is striking. In 1999, the economy was growing at over 5%, unemployment was falling below 4% (3.5% among whites, 7.8% for African Americans), median family income had risen 6% since 1995 with productivity up by 8.7%. Today, unemployment in the US is over 5%, median income has <em>fallen </em>to $66,632 in 1999 dollars ($1,939 less than in 1999), a massive increase in top incomes has occurred, while the number of very poor has increased significantly. </p> <p>Similar contrasts can be devised for the UK and the EU as a whole. We are all uneasily aware of the way such figures in the West register the story of this century’s first fifteen years: the absolute impoverishment of the majority; an exceptional increase in insecurity, especially for the young, along with indebtedness; a considerable increase in wealth of the well off; and a stupendous increase for the very wealthy. What is less generally recognised is that this represents an extraordinary <em>failure of government</em>. It is one thing for a market society to have slumps, downturns and crises, which will be met with stoicism by working people if they affect everyone. It is different when it extends impunity to owners, speculators and financiers so they can milk the downturn as well as profit from the previous boom. People talk of the current failure of the liberal elites. There is just as much a failure of the conservative right for allowing itself to be suborned by greed. </p> <p class="Body">A young person growing up in a western economy in the 1990s may have seen no alternative to capitalism. But the ruling democratic system preened with apparently justified vindication over its embrace of human rights as Communism fell; the good had prevailed in a re-run of the war against the Axis powers, and now standards of living would rise thanks to the integrity of market democracy. China was growing fast thanks to its embrace of the market. Clinton’s ‘triangulation’ seemed less a lasso of hopes than an opening towards a new economy, the European Union was growing, and the digital revolution was starting to pick up speed. There may have been only one future on offer but it was a future with promise. </p> <p class="Body">Compare this snapshot to the experience of growing up after 2010. Washington and London had lied about their reasons for invading Iraq. Nor had they lied in a good cause, but in the name of a ‘war on terror’ that was provoking rather than vanquishing terrorism. Paris and Berlin collaborated passively. After throwing away its moral ascendency, the West’s economic growth model crumpled with the financial system. The damage was limited by printing money, but you can’t print credibility. And then there is climate change – as the planet burns, the rich tan themselves in the glow of unparalleled inequality.</p> <p>Where did such a flawed governing processes come from that led downwards from such a vantage point? Why did governments across the west, including social democratic and Christian democratic ones, act in concert to protect elite inequality at the cost of the public? The late Peter Mair has set out a devastating account in "<em>Ruling the Void, the hollowing out of Western democracy</em>". His analysis stretches back into the seventies. He shows, with a wealth of comparative information how the last decades of the 20th twentieth century had witnessed “a gradual but also inexorable withdrawal of the parties from the realm of civil society towards the realm of government and the state”. Mair emphasizes that the “withdrawal of the elites” was paralleled by citizen disengagement, with steady falls in average turnout, decade by decade. He describes the “passing of popular involvement” in political life. With <a href="Party%20Politics-1995-Katz-5-28.pdf">Richard Katz</a>, Mair identifies this as a shift from the original mass parties who represented ‘their people’ and mediated between civil society and the state, to catch-all-parties who seek to represent the ‘whole people’ not just their class and try to combine some of this with concern for the interests of the state as such, by becoming, finally, what Mair calls “cartel parties”. These become part of the state itself and use its resources to help fund their reproduction. The process involved a downgrading of “the party on the ground” in favour of the party in parliament or government, whose leaders – this is a process he documents taking place right across Europe – opted for “responsibility” at the expense of “responsiveness”. </p> <p>As parties drew farther away from their voters, they moved closer to each other: “What remains is a governing class”. The process is supervised by the corporate media, which corrodes the belief in the kind of solidarity and social action parties depend on. As sensationalist coverage undermines political loyalties, the mainstream media enhances its own role, generating a negative feedback loop so far as democracy is concerned. As party leaderships gain a premium through their disciplined relationship with the media, a political caste is created that becomes part of the state itself. Combined with PR systems that make it hard to remove minority parties from coalitions and you have a process that creates a self-serving cartel. This then finds its most complete expression in the appointments to European Union roles untouchable by elections. Fatally, “publics and elites disengage from each other”.</p> <p>Mair and his colleagues were researching their far-sighted analysis in the mid-1990s. What <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/would-you-believe-it-boris-and-gove-defy-corporate-fatalism">I had diagnosed</a> in 1999 as Blair’s “manipulative, corporate populism”, they had already seen as an international condition. A crucial expansion of the argument was set out by Colin Crouch in a 2004 Fabian pamphlet, <em>Post-Democracy,</em> which he turned into <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=0745633153">a book</a>. He observes that although many more countries have become formal democracies benefiting from the rule of law, with elections that can change the governing party and a relatively free media, increasingly the reality is that politics is becoming a branch of a superficial entertainment industry, proffering only small differences of techno-policy between the parties. Thanks to the penetration of market fundamentalism, the decline of trade unions and shrinkage of the organised working class, politics is being hollowed out by corporate power with no significant alternative to the domination of organized capitalism on offer.</p> <blockquote><p>“While elections certainly exist and can change governments, public electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionals expert in the techniques of persuasion, and considering a small range of issues selected by those teams. The mass of citizens plays a passive, quiescent, even apathetic part, responding only to the signals given them. Behind this spectacle of the electoral game politics is really shaped in private by interaction between elected governments and elites which overwhelmingly represent business interests.</p></blockquote> <p>He summed it up as “You can always vote but you have no choice”. That was in 2004. Ten years later an issue of <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12210/abstract">Political Quarterly</a> tested the argument in the wake of the financial crash of 2008. Its authors found the process had intensified generating, as Adrian Pabst says, a “democratic despotism that maintains the illusion of free choice while instilling a sense of ‘voluntary servitude’”. Voluntary servitude, indeed. But to what? While market fundamentalism succeeded economically it could retain a legitimacy if not loyalty in this way. There is a passage in David Marquand’s passionate philippic against the domination of the market state, <a href="https://next.ft.com/content/6cc464be-df50-11e3-86a4-00144feabdc0">Mammon’s Kingdom</a>, where he discusses the dystopian nightmare of regular, quiet servitude without civic energy. </p> <p>The decisive importance of Crouch’s work was to see the rise of cartel politics as a consequence of neo-liberal marketisation. Free-market ideology explicitly repudiates the positive role of government in the creation of wealth, sees redistribution as a ‘burden’, persuades the public that tax is a form of robbery and regards state expenditure as a resource to privatise, whereupon the state can be charged rent. This permits an assault on collectivist norms and behaviour such that politics itself needs to be repudiated as an activity orchestrating the public good. In his study of neo-liberalism William Davies <a href="https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/the-limits-of-neoliberalism/book240650">calls this</a> “the disenchantment of politics by economics”. It generates quiet servitude. </p> <p>The strength of this system is also its weakness. Neo-liberalism of course valorises a strong small state for keeping order but it seeks to hide itself as a politics. Its ideology of the market presents itself as not being a political ideology at all. George Monbiot describes how he struggled with “the anonymity of neo-liberalism”, trying to resist its systemic influence when it camouflages its existence. An entertaining example of its culture was the far-right Hollywood network, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/21/secretive-hollywood-conservative-group-dissolves-trump">Friends of Abe</a>: “The group, named after Abraham Lincoln, swore members to secrecy by adopting a line from the film Fight Club: the first rule of the Friends of Abe is you do not talk about the Friends of Abe”.&nbsp;And in a network of trade agreements and above all the rules of the European Union, the predominance of the market was inscribed into ‘the rule of law’ so that it would be situated beyond politics. The flaw in technocratic power stems directly from the effectiveness of this approach – its denial of politics means it is unable to defend itself politically. Committed to an undemocratic corporate or cartel authority, it cannot advocate itself in its own name. This would require taunting people with their servitude and the passivity that it demands. You can see a version of this weakness in the inability of the <em>Remain</em> campaign to engage with arguments about democracy. It can only turn to peoples’ economic fears at the uncertainty of <em>Leaving</em> to ensure that they freely embrace their fate. </p> <p class="Body">British corporate populists, having lost their popularity – having been seen through – now find their dominance exposed to radical political challenge. What will happen after, as seems likely, they succeed in securing a vote to <em>Remain</em><em>?</em><em> </em>The shameless record of Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Cameron and Osborne, from the disastrous grand strategy and deliberate deceit of the Iraq war to the financial crash, through the imposition of growth-sapping austerity and the dishonesty of Cameron I have set out is a story of fraud and greed. In the largest sense of the word, a corruption of the political system. </p> <p class="Body">Which is why even if they see off the challenge of the Brexiteers their Emperor’s clothing will be draughty, exposed by their own side. As Michael Gove wrote in the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/12199110/Michael-Gove-A-united-Tory-party-will-make-Britain-better.html">Telegraph</a>, </p> <blockquote><p>“I can understand why there's cynicism about politics and the political class – there have been broken promises and dodgy dealing from some politicians in my lifetime which would make the Borgias blush. Insulation from the electors can breed arrogance and a sense of entitlement. Indeed one of the reasons why I'm campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union is to strengthen confidence in our democracy by making those in power more accountable.</p></blockquote> <p class="Body">The Borgias live on; only today, unlike at the beginning of the century, we know about in some detail. A key moment for this was the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_parliamentary_expenses_scandal">parliamentary expenses scandal</a>, exposed thanks to the persistence of Heather Brooke, just before the elections for the European Parliament in May 2009, as the financial crash was underway. (It led Norman Tebbit, who had been Margaret Thatcher’s campaign manager, to call for people to vote UKIP). In the UK, the historic, gentlemanly establishment, for all its old-boy privileges, prided itself in being lawful, punctilious and not greedy. Its replacement by a venal political caste, that started in the 1970s, triggered an overt toleration of abuse. Nicholas Shaxson’s exposé of tax havens <a href="http://treasureislands.org/the-book/">Treasure Islands</a> was published in 2010; and his ongoing work with the <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net">tax justice network</a> was vindicated by the Panama Papers. David Whyte’s <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745335308">How Corrupt is Britain</a>? answers that it is systemically so, from LIBOR rate-fixing to appointments to the House of Lords. Above all, Owen Jones, in <a href="https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-establishment/owen-jones/9780141974996">The Establishment: And How they Get Away with It</a> (his title’s present tense is exact), presents a sweeping account of the way British society is ruled for profit; while a more detailed account of one aspect of this, set out by Tamsin Cave and Andy Rowell of <a href="http://www.spinwatch.org">Spinwatch</a>, provides a well documented (80 pages of footnotes) account, published last year, on the UK’s £200 million a year lobbying industry (<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/05/quiet-word-lobbying-politics-britain-cave-rowell-review">A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain</a>). So while it is true that the disenchantment, fatalism and alienation encouraged by the marketization of politics can be lazy, superficial and cynical, it is justified by a growing body of careful research.</p> <p class="Body">This is the terrain of politics that has witnessed the understandable collapse of party membership. The Conservative party now has little more than 100,000 active members whereas it enjoyed 2 million in the early 1950s, illustrated in a dramatic graph drawn up last year in a <a href="http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05125">research paper</a> by the House of Commons library:</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 14.57.30.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 14.57.30.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="Body">Labour fell from over half a million at the end of the 1970s. The Tories followed with a similar collapse after the expulsion of Thatcher from No 10. </p> <p class="Body">The graph is not a picture of failure but of success: the triumph of depoliticisation and the replacement of party membership by corporate methods. The Conservative Club headquarters in Knutsford, Cheshire stands as a symbol of this process; of the ebbing of the party along with the commercial renewal of the English right. It’s a splendid listed building at the heart of the very affluent Tatton constituency south of Manchester, where George Osborne is MP. Four years ago it closed. A spokesman told the <a href="http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/10089886.End_of_an_era_for_town_as_Conservative_club_shuts_for_good/">Knutsford Guardian</a>, “It is sad, but to be honest the number of people who used it didn’t make it viable… In the olden days these clubs were at the centre of the community”. After standing empty, it has been taken over by OKA which is <a href="http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/14442590.Sam_Cam_s_mum_s_firm_sparks_row_after_taking_down_Union_flag/?ref=mr&amp;lp=1">about to open a showroom</a> in it. </p> <p class="Body">OKA is a high-end, global furnishing company co-founded by David Cameron’s mother-in-law Lady Astor. An able businesswoman she and her two partners have built a very profitable business. It created a moment of consternation when it hoisted its company flag where the Conservative Club’s tattered Union Jack used to fly. For some locals it might just as well have been the skull and crossbones. They will probably be voting <em>Leave</em>. OKA is growing fast, selling its reactionary-chic interior range to the top of the world’s housing bubble. Lady Astor is now worth many millions more than her son-in-law the Prime Minister – and will probably be voting <em>Remain</em>. In a previous, quite recent time, the landed nobility gained allegiance in every strata of British society through their place in the hierarchy of imperial loyalty, their Christianity, their military experience and then their shared war-time effort and sacrifice. Today, <a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/photos/2015/11/annabel-astor-british-noble-ginge-manor">Vanity Fair</a> reports &nbsp;she and her colleagues scour South-East Asia for well-made tables, chairs and textiles to sell to people buying holiday homes in Florida; and few equivalent loyalties are being created to bridge the growing divide. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Risings against the elites</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p class="Body">After the 2008 financial crash it was a cliché among the commentariat to observe that left-wing parties were not gaining from the ‘crisis of capitalism’. But this was because social democracy was fully implicated in it. Not least in the UK where, shortly before he became prime minister, Gordon Brown had celebrated his role in rejecting regulation of the banks and predicting the coming “golden age” of capitalism, just weeks before the first bank run in the UK for 150 years. </p> <p class="Body">Instead, a series of risings in opposition to ‘the system’ started to lay a new basis for political opposition. These anti-systemic movements began in the Arab spring, ironically as an attempt to become like the Western democracies. Cairo’s Tahrir Square inspired the Spanish <em>indignados</em> whose May 15 movement swept Spain’s cities in 2011. Here for the first time a new form of mass opposition to the austerity and facelessness of ‘Brussels’ took to the streets, for example in the striking vast anti-EU banner draped from one of the buildings in the Puerta del Sol when it was occupied by the <em>indignados</em>. I have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/long-and-quick-of-revolution">described</a> previously the inspiration of going there. The Spanish example stimulated Occupy Wall Street, which achieved a crucial success from its tiny encampment of Zuccotti Park. Although it had nothing like the scale of Spain’s 15 May movement, that saw cities occupied across the Iberian peninsular, Occupy’s slogan “we are the 99%” broke the silence that neo-liberalism had woven. It named and politicised the grotesque inequality of the American system, which hitherto had seemed ‘natural’. </p> <p class="Body">It was also a response from the US left to the rise of the populist Tea Party that had began life in 2009 opposing Barack Obama’s modest efforts to help those who lost their homes in the crash and to introduce public health care. Doing so under the banner of hating government, the Tea Party became an outspoken, anti-elitist, anti-systemic movement on the right. Without Occupy Wall Street there would not now be Bernie Sanders and without the Tea Party there would not be Donald Trump. Within five years, the early risings against the system have led to challenges to the US political system all the way to the edge of the presidential nomination. That this could happen so fast has been due to the American version of the corporate hollowing out of the party system that we have witnessed in Britain. </p> <p class="Body">In the UK the Occupy movement was small and isolated. But four parties experienced a transformative surge after 2008. UKIP’s came early and was a ‘revolt on the right’ that become an attraction for Labour working class voters with its attack on corporate power, as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/damian-hockney/ukip-is-closer-to-left-than-many-think">Damian Hockney</a> predicted. The Greens grew from 10,000 in 2010 to over 60,000 members. The SNP expanded exponentially in Scotland after the referendum and with over 100,000 members in a country of 5 million is far and away the largest party in the UK (relative to population), and may even equal the Tory party in active members fit enough to canvass. Labour then witnessed the extraordinary surge in members that swept Corbyn to the leadership, for an explanation as to why, see <em>What hope for Labour and the Left?</em> by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/what-hope-for-labour-and-left-election-80s-and-%E2%80%98aspiration%E2%80%99">Jeremy Gilbert</a>, written early in the leadership contest.</p> <p class="Body">There have been previous ‘third party’ experiments in British politics. (For example, the Liberal Democrats, who after growing to over 50 MPs thanks to their leader Charles Kennedy’s opposition the Iraq War then threw it all away with the decision to become a European style neo-liberal, cartel party in the 2010 coalition). The transformative potential of the new wave of &nbsp;‘risings’, suggests they will be different. This is signalled by the existence of the referendum. It was directly precipitated by UKIP’s challenge, which began to make significant strides around the same time as the Tea Party. In the context of the financial crash and the MPs expenses scandal of May 2009, UKIP gained over 16% of the vote in the elections to the European parliament in June that gave them 13 MEPs. They then gained nearly a million votes in the 2010 elections and as support rose again before the 2013 local elections, Cameron made his pivotal speech promising an EU referendum to stop Conservative support bleeding in their direction. (This only fed the beast; in the European elections of 2014 the BBC gave UKIP major party status and with 27% of votes they beat both Tories and Labour). </p> <p class="Body">The impact of the SNP on the referendum was indirect. In the 2015 election it became clear to English voters that the SNP could determine whether or not Labour formed the government. The outstanding performance of the SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, in the leaders debates, filled a significant number of English voters with fear that a foreign leader would hold Labour’s less decisive leader in her grip. The Tories discovered this on doorsteps and cashed the chip with gratitude. While UKIP voters ate into Labour seats thanks to Labour’s refusal to offer them a referendum on EU membership, many of its supporters voted Conservatives tactically to keep out a Labour government ‘in hock to Sturgeon’. Thus the SNP was critical to Cameron’s narrow outright win. </p> <p class="Body">Finally, after the election, Labour had to select a new leader. The rush of old Labour members to exorcise the New Labour era inspired young people to join as well. Instead of a dedicated pro-EU leader it got a long-time Left Euro-sceptic who united most of the Labour party behind <em>Remain</em> in such a low key fashion that it could prove fatal for the government. </p> <p class="Body">This triple impact means that the referendum and its politics straddle the old political system and today’s search for a replacement. Through UKIP and disappointment with what the Conservative party has become, it is rooted in the pre-corporate world of the mass party and its representation. At the same time it was instigated by Cameron, a corporate politician, as a device to squelch discontent. Finally, it is taking place at a time of uncertainty and wild swings of opinion amplified by the internet where rebellion against the corporate hollowing out of politics is in the ether. </p> <p class="Body">How will these impact on the referendum itself? The first thing to note is the shallowness of Conservative support. When David Cameron won the election with an outright majority of 17 after five years of a hung parliament and coalition, the dominant commentary hailed the return of stable government. But his support was built on quicksand, and even then got just 37% of voters. A good way to measure the Tory problem is by looking at a second graph of recent party membership.</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 14.54.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 14.54.42.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="348" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>It seems that the Tory line went down not up after 2013, or flatlined. Before looking at the steep rise in support for the growing causes consider how it is that the Conservatives managed to win at the ballot box with such a weakened membership. The answer is that they won by deploying corporate techniques. One in particular: </p><p class="Body"> UK electoral law has very strict controls over how much can be spent per constituency to ensure candidates can’t buy their election. But there is a loophole around expenditure on party propaganda that does not use any of the candidates’ names. This allows for national billboards, for example, to be used without their costs being registered as part of the expenditure of the constituency they are in. The Tories exploited the loophole with a vengeance using millions donated to them by hedge funds. They mapped and market-researched 80 or so marginal constituencies street-by-street and then house-by-house. They identified each household that was likely to swing and categorised it by the kind of concerns its occupants were likely to have. The constituencies were then “blitzed” to use the word of a government minister with seemingly generic but actually highly focussed messages. Blitzed, that is, with laser-guided, political smart bombs. Or to put it another way, the Conservative party compensated for the decomposition of its membership base through buying the election by costly, focussed marketing. </p><p class="Body">This helps explain the shallowness of support for the leadership in its political battle over Europe; the danger it faces from the fact that the referendum campaign cannot be influenced in the same way; and the desperate use of government money to send a booklet to every household advocating <em>Remain. </em>I say desperate, as the publication was so feeble, almost all meaningless pictures accompanied by weasel wording. </p> <p>A generational change is underway that is the opposite of high cost personalised mailing shots. A good description of what this is like is Adam Ramsay’s account in <a href="http://www.precariouseurope.com/power/breaking-the-first-rule-of-generation-y">Precarious Europe</a>. He describes how his generation of political activists have, after ten years of not joining parties, started to do so. This is part of an international shift and it is going to grow as ways of sharing experience are developed, especially from the Bernie Sanders movement in America. In their recent book <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1989-inventing-the-future">Inventing the Future</a>, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams criticise the anti-systemic social movements and the Occupy movement for being too focussed on the emancipatory experience of the ‘struggle’, creating a “folk-politics” unable to escape its limitations and challenge the system it opposes. They call for a much more ambitious left that can take on the modern world and its technological opportunities. This is already happening in Spain and now in the United States.&nbsp;</p><p class="Body">In 1980 Raymond Williams recognised the energy and self-confidence of what was not yet called neo-liberalism and observed that the left had lost the future. For the first time since then, there is a sense that the right is losing hope in the future and the left is gaining a forward-looking self-belief. A crucial way of understanding this is in terms of Mair’s typology of what has happened to political parties. The cartel party is clearly failing as it has lost its capacity to manipulate populist support since the financial crash and subsequent economic stasis. The young people flocking to join parties are not seeking participation in a top-down cartel run as part of the state. This must mean that a new type of party is either being created or being attempted. I’ll call it the “networked party”. It has leadership but is not hierarchical in the old way. More important the internet allows a wide variety of variable participation and does not entail the same loss of voice to discipline or collectivism that the mass party once did, while it does enable accountable representation. The boundaries of its membership are porous, with people flowing in and out at different times. In the UK the development of networked parties of the left should be able to look to a highly feminised trade union movement for support. </p> <p class="Body">A networked politics will not carry the same deadening predictability or sense of fate. This is already being reflected the rise of swingers, switching parties from election to election, as Jon Mellon of the <a href="http://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-findings/how-were-almost-all-swingers-now/#.VwbsRz_INPp%0C뼙ꆁơ">British Election Study</a> reports (hat tip <a href="v">Andrew Sparrow</a>):</p> <blockquote><p class="Body">“swing voters are no longer a small section of the electorate who are being pulled back and forth by the parties, but a substantial chunk of all voters. This helps to explain why politicians have been so surprised by the sudden rise of new parties competing for groups previously thought to be reliable supporters.”</p></blockquote> <p>In the UK’s general election last year, nearly 40% of voters switched their choice.</p> <p class="Body">This graph too is a measure of the multiple revolt against the system that is the backdrop the referendum. Perhaps it suggests why leading politicians at the pinnacle of a traditional party of government feel obliged to put themselves at the head of anti-system sentiment. Gove and Johnson may have made their decision thanks to Cameron’s failure to achieve the deal they all desired. But in addition they are feeling consent slipping away. By ‘consent’, I don’t just mean support, as in public support for their party. The ups and down of such popularity are part of the everyday life of electoral politics. I mean they felt consent ebbing from the system, <em>their</em> system: from parliament itself, from the Tory Party as such, from the House of Lords where they fancy retiring. The tide of history was on the move and they would be stranded unless they picked up their surfboards and waded in. </p> <p class="Body">I have heard Gove and Johnson being dismissed as “hacks”. It maybe that we should see being a journalist as comparable to having been in the army in earlier times (think of both Churchill and Attlee). It was not so much how to get to know the Empire but internalising the spirit and judgment of fellow officers. Today, newspapers may be dreadful but they are a way of getting to know ‘the country’. It's a business necessity to train journalists to have a sense of what the public wants and how it moves. Without this a paper loses touch and will go under. Professional politicians without such a hinterland mostly towed the government line. But Gove and Johnson drew on the experience of a more lively reality. There is a single media-political class but they are exceptional in that they straddle both. They decided to stay closer to the way the public is moving, against ‘systemic power’.</p> <p class="Body">It may look incongruous to think of Gove and Boris Johnson as anti-elitists. It won’t be if they win the referendum. Should they lose, as expected, the arguments they are making will live on refreshed even after a Brexit defeat. This will then pose a challenge for the left, and certainly the Labour party, if it finds that the most colourful and articulate figures on the right have parked themselves all over the issues of democracy, voice, accountability and self-government, while a fading Cameron government that has remained part of the EU carries on, in the words of its Business Secretary, “with a heavy heart and no enthusiasm”.</p><p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner" style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">Read Anthony Barnett's book as he writes it, along with the rest of openDemocracy's Brexit coverage, on our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/brexit2016">Brexit2016</a> page.</span></div></div><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="/blimey-it-could-be-brexit">Blimey, it could be Brexit! The whole book so far.</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 Anthony Barnett Wed, 04 May 2016 14:13:30 +0000 Anthony Barnett 101848 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ending the silence around German colonialism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/howie-taylor/telling-truth-about-germans-colonial-history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At least 300,000 people died at the hands of German colonizers during its empire. These art projects are uncovering colonial histories to understand racism in Germany today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.35.08.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.35.08.png" alt="The 'Kamerun album' that kickstarted Colonial Neighbours. Credit: Colonial Neighbours." title="" width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The 'Kamerun album' that kickstarted Colonial Neighbours. Credit: Colonial Neighbours.</span></span></span></p><p class="p1">"It started with an album, called the Kamerun album, it was given to him by the Grandmother of his wife, they found it in the attic."</p> <p class="p1">Lynhan Balatbat works for&nbsp;<a href="https://colonialneighbours.com/"><em>Colonial Neighbours</em></a><span>&nbsp;</span>, a Berlin-based art project that collects objects and stories related to Germany's controversial colonial past. Lynhan is referring to the travel journal of a colonial soldier who was based in German Cameroon. Each photo from the journal provides an unsettling insight into the world that this soldier saw and took part in colonizing.</p> <p class="p3"><span>Finding this album began a journey into the homes of many other families in Germany. Colonial Neighbours&nbsp;</span><span>is run by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.savvy-contemporary.com/">Savvy Contemporary, a Berlin art space i</a>nitiated by Bonaventure Ndikung, whose relative the album belonged to.&nbsp;The project's endeavour is to bring Germany's imperial past into the open by making people think about how it affects their daily lives and how it has lived on in the present.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1"><span>As Lynhan says: “I think it's a very good way to try to build an alternative narrative. When you accumulate different stories from different people you give this room for exchange and through that you create a kind of counter-memory.“</span></p> <p class="p1">Grassroots projects like Colonial Neighbours link the struggle to end the active silencing of colonial history to the struggle against racism in Germany today. If more people were aware of Germany’s colonial history, they argue, perhaps they would be aware of the structural processes of racial othering and alienation that continue in both Germany and its relationship to the ‘outside’ of Europe.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2"><span>“What are we doing today?”, Lyn says,&nbsp; “What were the mechanisms that allowed for the alienation of someone else and the ability to say that Germany and Europe had the right to claim: 'this is ours“</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Keeping secrets</strong></p><p class="p1"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="mag-quote-right">In 1904 in Namibia, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thelocal.de/20150428/renewed-calls-to-recognize-namibian-genocide">land of the Herero and Nama was expropriated</a>&nbsp;and thousands were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. At least 100,000 people were murdered.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><span>Perhaps you have never heard of German colonialism; it is less commonly spoken about than other colonialisms. The most common reasoning for this is that Germany lost its colonies too early for them to be of any significance (by 1918). It is often argued that the empire was short lived, and that it detracts attention from the crimes of the Second World War to discuss it.</span></p> <p class="p2"><span>Yet this narrative ignores the deep effects that the German empire had on the histories of the places that it colonized, and the extent to which Germany was caught up in racist fantasies just as every other European country was, and still to a certain extent are.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">After the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Conference">Berlin conference</a> and the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in 1884, Germany took colonies in East Africa, South West Africa, and North West Africa. It had protectorates all over the Pacific Ocean, and territory in China’s Kiatschou bay for 99 years.</p><p class="p1">At least 300,000 people died at the hands of German colonizers. In Tanzania in 1905, <a href="http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20160203/COMMENT/160209890">the ‘Maji Maji’ rebellion against German rule</a> led to retaliation by German colonists and the enforced starvation of approximately 200,000 people from various different ethnic groups.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">In 1904 in Namibia, the <a href="http://www.thelocal.de/20150428/renewed-calls-to-recognize-namibian-genocide">land of the Herero and Nama was expropriated</a> and thousands were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. At least 100,000 people were murdered.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">The descendants of white German settlers who took over Herero and Nama land are still in Namibia, and they continue to own this land, which is 70% of the most productive agricultural land in Namibia.</p> <p class="p1">Colonial rule influenced Germany long after the territories were lost. While certainly not equivalent, there are for example numerous links between German colonial rule and the Nazis. One example is German scientist Eugen Fischer, who undertook medical experiments in Herero concentration camps. He went on to train Nazi scientists and to write <em>Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene</em>, which was hugely influential for Nazi eugenic policy. Fischer also brought 300 Herero skulls back to Berlin with him. Only 40 of those skulls have been returned.</p> <p class="p1">We are used to seeing the racist crimes of the Second World War as a peculiarly German aberration in an otherwise general triumph of European civilization. By calling attention to German colonialism, that story is de-exceptionalized. We see the extent to which German legacies of race have been bound up with the colonial legacies of Western Europe as a whole. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Howie Taylor map.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Howie Taylor map.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The German colonial empire 1884-1918</span></span></span></p> <p class="p2"><strong>Telling secrets</strong></p> <p class="p1">In many major German cities, such as Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Münich, Leipzig, and Frankfurt, grassroots projects that attempt to inform citizens of that city about their colonial pasts such as Colonial Neighbours are becoming more and more prominent. <a href="http://www.berlin-postkolonial.de/">Berlin</a> and<a href="http://www.hamburg-postkolonial.de/willkommen.html"> Hamburg</a> ‘Postkolonial’, for example, conduct different tours of the city that help attendees to understand the relationship between locations <em>in Germany </em>and colonialism. Wherever you go in Germany, such traces of an actively silenced history exist.</p> <p class="p1">In Berlin, for example, a number of street names in the city are named after German colonizers. Just recently on 9 March 2016, “<a href="http://decolonize-mitte.de/">Decolonize Mitte” (Central Berlin</a>) came one step closer in the attempt to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=newssearch&amp;cd=4&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiHm5mQ4bnMAhXB1x4KHWXDBgkQqQIIJSgAMAM&amp;url=http%253A%252F%252Fwww.dw.com%252Fen%252Fbattle-over-colonial-era-street-names-in-berlin%252Fa-19136108&amp;usg=AFQjCNHiING6">change street names</a> that embody a racist and racializing past. “Lüderitzstraße”, named after Adolf Lüderitz, the founder of imperial Germany’s first colony, may finally be changed along with some other street names in the city’s ‘African quarter’.</p> <p class="p1">The government, too, is getting closer to acknowledging the massacre of the Herero and Nama as a ‘genocide’. While the UN has been calling this a genocide since as far back as 1948, the German government has never officially recognized it as such. Last year, the <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/bundestag-president-calls-on-germany-to-recognize-namibia-massacre-as-genocide/a-18571132">president of the German parliament argued that Germany <em>should </em>recognize</a> the massacre as a genocide. It has not yet done so.</p> <p class="p1">Germany is no stranger to reparations, having given large sums of money to descendants of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Yet is has not been forthcoming on the question of reparations for its colonial crimes. This does not mean that it has not been demanded. Such reparative transformation is being argued for by the direct descendants of the Herero and Nama. In 2001, the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/07/forgotten-genocide-namibia-quest-reparations-150730090349305.html">Herero Reparations Committee</a> took the German government and a series of companies to court in the US. They lost the case, but the fight for reparation continues.</p> <p class="p2"><strong>The future</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">It has become something of a cliché to say that colonialism in Europe has been ‘silenced’, ‘repressed’, or ‘forgotten.” Yet such metaphors ignore a fundamentally important element to the equation: silencing is a process.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2"><span>Every single European country that had colonies has invested energy into the process of silencing and forgetting the </span><em>scale of criminality </em><span>that was</span><em> </em><span>involved in colonialism. They know that to acknowledge the scale of the crimes committed would involve enormous compensation claims.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Yet as with any attempt to keep a secret, these processes are always stalled, there has always been resistance, and right now there is resistance in Germany and in its former colonies to the process of forgetting its colonial period.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">In today’s political climate, in which Western Europe continues to propagate the myth of itself as more civilized, more liberal, more tolerant, such resistance is an important avenue of political hope.</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/ree-x/inside-fight-to-save-berlins-wagenplatz-kanal">Are refugees really welcome? Inside the fight to save Berlin&#039;s Wagenplatz Kanal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/geoff-gilbert/freedom-side%E2%80%99s-emerging-radical-democratic-imagination">Freedom Side’s emerging radical democratic imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andrea-abi-karam-taylor-miles/berlin%E2%80%99s-system-error-free-shop">Berlin’s ‘system error’ free shop</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeff-neumann-tracy-loeffelholz-dunn/40-acres-and-mule-would-be-at-least-64-trillion-t">40 acres and a mule would be at least $6.4 trillion today: what the US really owes Black America</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Howie Taylor Transformative nonviolence Liberation Activism Economics Intersectionality Wed, 04 May 2016 09:19:50 +0000 Howie Taylor 101836 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is it utopian to argue for open borders? https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/chris-gilligan/is-it-utopian-to-argue-for-open-borders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Thousands of migrants in Europe are prisoners of border controls. They ask, 'are we not human?' Is it utopian to answer yes, and that we need to open the borders?</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-24084170_920.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Hungarian soldiers patrol the border line between Serbia and Hungary near Roszke, southern Hungary, on 13 September 2015. Matthias Schrader/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</p> <h2>Why we need to argue for open borders</h2> <p>In Europe today it is imperative that everyone who desires a human-centred world gets involved in developing, making and winning arguments in favour of open borders. The inhumane nature of immigration controls are evident in the thousands of human beings who are dying every year making the perilous journey to Europe. They do not die because the journey is by its nature perilous. They die because nation-states in Europe have made it so.</p> <p>The inhumane nature of immigration controls is evident in the thousands of human beings who are snared at border crossing points, in camps, in detention centres. Europe has enticed them with its talk of freedom and opportunity. Europe has enticed them with its abundance and its opportunities for learning. Thousands of human beings have tried to seize these opportunities. They have walked, paddled, swum, crawled and dashed towards the beacon of a better life.</p> <p>And, when they arrive at the borders, when they land in our midst, when they stand up and say ‘we want the same opportunities as you’, European nation-states say ‘these opportunities are not for you. These opportunities are for the privileged few’. Immigrants are trapped at the borders, in camps, in detention centres – because European nation-states are incapable of recognising their humanity. Nation-states are not good at recognising humanity. They are only good at recognising nationality. We need to argue for open borders because millions of people, all over the world, are demanding to be allowed their freedom of movement, and every day hundreds of thousands of people are being denied that freedom. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Hundreds of thousands of citizens in Europe are saying ‘we recognise your humanity’</p> <p>At the borders of Europe, in the treacherous seas, on the roads, in the camps, in the detention centres and in the tortuous limbo of waiting to hear the outcome of asylum claims, hundreds of thousands of people are asking, ‘are we not human?’ And, in response, hundreds of thousands of citizens in Europe are saying ‘we recognise your humanity’. They are organising rescue boats. They are providing lifts to weary migrants. They are organising soup kitchens and other food outlets. They are organising clothes collections and toy collections. They are travelling across the continent to help deliver to those in need. They are helping to comfort the grieving. They are helping to bury the dead with dignity. They are befriending people in detention. They are organising legal advice. They are helping with accommodation. And, they are helping to bring laugher, to brighten up the darkest corners of our souls, to help people to laugh and cry at the joy of being human. </p> <p>All of this activity is a testament to human kindness and generosity. All of this activity is a riposte to those cynics who think that humans are, at base, greedy and selfish. All of this activity, however, is only dealing with symptoms. We need to develop and make the arguments in favour of open borders because we need long-term solutions. Unless we develop the bigger picture we will be confining our vision to what is, rather than what could be. Unless we take control of our own destiny as humanity we will remain at the mercy of forces beyond our immediate control – the market, competition between nation-states, financial crises, the arbitrary whims of global elites… </p> <p>We need to develop, make and win the case for open borders because the issue is not just about refugees and asylum-seekers. The issue is about <em>human</em> freedom. All human beings – whether they are migrant workers, refugees, asylum-seekers, students, lovers or family members separated by man-made borders – have a right to free movement. </p> <p>We need a human-centred approach to migration. We need to develop, make and win arguments that put humanity first. Arguments that put people before profit. Arguments that prioritise free movement over free markets. Arguments that prioritise humanity over humanitarianism. Arguments that prioritise human freedom over human resource management. Arguments that put freedom before finance. If the way that we currently organise human society makes it impossible to provide human freedom, then there is a problem with the way that society is organised. This is a problem <em>for</em> humanity, not a problem <em>of</em> humanity. Migrants are not a problem; they are human beings. Migrants are not a problem; borders are. Migrants are not a problem; they are part of the solution.</p> <h2>What would happen if we had open borders?</h2> <img style="padding-top:5px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-25502447_920.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Migrants cross a frozen stream as they make their way from the Macedonian border into Serbia in January 2016. Visar Kryeziu/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The idea of open borders frightens many people in Europe (and in other affluent parts of the world). They see a world in which war and conflict is commonplace. They see a world in which billions live on less than two dollars a day. They see a world of financial chaos, job insecurity, homelessness, rising poverty. They see a world in which they live in fear of terrorist attack. They see a world in which old certainties are being swept aside in the winds of global change. They see a world where borders are a means to hold back the horror. They see borders as a bulwark against the seething mass of problems that threaten to overwhelm humanity. They want safety, and security, and certainty. Many frightened people demand that borders be fortified, policed, surveilled. States are building higher fences, pushing back the boats, denying chance for entry. If we opened up the borders tomorrow, there would be chaos they say. The streets of Europe would be dangerous, there would be homelessness, there would be poverty. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Restricting free movement will not eradicate fears.</p> <p>Restricting human movement, however, won’t eradicate poverty or homelessness, it won’t end war and violence. It will, at best, maintain the current inequitable distribution of misery and opportunity between the west and the rest. The terrorist attacks in Paris and in Brussels were horrific. They were brutal and inhumane. Similar attacks are happening every day, yes, every day, in Syria and other war zones around the world. Those who express horror at the attacks in Paris and Brussels, but do not feel anything for people who are faced with this kind of brutality in other parts of the world, are denying their own humanity. Those who refuse to recognise the humanity of others are killing off the humanity in themselves. Inhumanity begets inhumanity. </p> <p>The punitive, repressive, cold reaction that characterises much of the response of European leaders today is part of the problem, not part of any solution. Punitive state action – against Afghanistan, against Iraq, against Libya, against the emancipatory dynamic of the Arab Spring – has paved the way for horrors that people in Europe fear are being visited on them today.</p> <p>Maintaining borders will not bring a better future. Restricting free movement will not eradicate fears. We need a positive vision. Is that a utopian idea? Perhaps, or perhaps not. That vision of a better world is already with us in embryo. It is there in the hundreds of thousands of acts of human kindness and generosity towards migrants. It is there amongst those who recognise the common humanity that lies at the core of the multiplicity of human diversity. We can get to that better world by building on these positive actions. Instead of attempting to criminalise altruism, we should encourage it. </p> <h2>Freedom for all</h2> <p>Everyone wants freedom. The desire for freedom is integral to us as human beings. We live, however, in a world in which the freedom of others is made to appear as a threat to our own freedom. No one opposes freedom, at most they oppose the freedom of others. What we are witnessing in Europe today is a battle over freedom. Nation-states draw up the battle lines. Nation-states place the freedom of their citizens on one side and the freedom of foreigners on the other.</p> <p>We need to oppose their attempts to divide humanity in this way. We need to make the case for open borders. We need to make the case for a society in which an opportunity for one is an opportunity for all. By making the case for open borders we are saying ‘another world is possible’. By making the case for open borders we are saying ‘recognise our common humanity’. By making the case for open borders we are saying ‘freedom is indivisible’. Open up the borders now! Another world is possible!</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="/beyondslavery/graham-harrison/purposes-and-powers-of-utopia">The purposes and powers of utopia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/neil-howard/utopia-for-realists-review">‘Utopia for Realists?’ - a review</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/harald-bauder/stopping-border-deaths-towards-freedom-of-migration-for-all">Stopping the border deaths: towards freedom of migration for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/julia-oconnell-davidson/let-us-live-or-make-us-die-migrants-challenge-to-their-outlawr">“Let us live or make us die!” Migrants’ challenge to their outlawry</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/antoine-p%C3%A9coud/thinking-about-open-borders">Thinking about open borders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/joseph-h-carens/case-for-open-borders">The case for open borders</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Mediterranean journeys in hope Chris Gilligan Utopias Wed, 04 May 2016 07:48:55 +0000 Chris Gilligan 101830 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'The Devil is in the Details': development, women's rights and religious fundamentalisms https://www.opendemocracy.net/ayesha-imam-isabel-marler-laila-malik/womens-rights-development-and-religious-fundamentalisms-devil- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dealing with the escalation of violence against women across the world requires a wider adoption of a feminist approach to working at the nexus of development, religious fundamentalisms and women’s rights.</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/501857/Kurdish Women Against ISIS IWD 2015 Isabel Marler.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Kurdish Women Against ISIS IWD 2015 Isabel Marler.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kurdish women march against "ISIS" in London on International Women's Day 2015. Photo: Isabel Marler</span></span></span></p><p>In August 2015, the United Nations adopted the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs), the agenda that will guide global development priorities until 2030. The agenda is not without its shortcomings, but the inclusion of a stand-alone goal to&nbsp; “<a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld">Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls</a>” and the recognition of gender equality as&nbsp; “<a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld">a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets</a>” constitute a significant step up from the minimal gender commitments of its predecessor, the <a href="http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/">Millennium Development Goals</a> (MDGs). However, the widespread growth of religious fundamentalisms across the world stand as a huge barrier to achieving the transformation envisioned by the SDGs. </p><p class="normal">Fareeda Afridi, a Pashtun feminist and women's rights activist in Pakistan who criticised patriarchy and the Taliban, was shot dead on her way to work in July 2012, at the age of 25.&nbsp; Talata Mallam was one of nine women polio vaccinators shot and killed in attacks in Kano, Nigeria in February 2013.&nbsp; In November 2015, Jennifer Markovsky, Garrett Swasey, and Ke'Arre Stewart were killed by a Christian extremist at a Planned Parent Federation Clinic in Colorado Springs, USA. Attacks by fundamentalists in Bangladesh on NGOs like BRAC and the Grameen Bank, which provide health, information, education services and economic opportunities particularly to rural women, have included beating and killing NGO workers and burning hospitals.&nbsp; These are just a few examples of the thousands of attacks by religious fundamentalists of all persuasions on women’s rights and development work.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalisms degrade human rights standards, roll back women’s rights, entrench discrimination, and increase violence and insecurity.&nbsp; However, fundamentalists do not only use physical force. Fundamentalist forces are selectively using human rights language, with culturally relativist arguments, to attack existing international human rights standards, and block progress. Yet, so far, little work has been done to address the specific challenge of religious fundamentalisms to development or to formulate effective responses.</p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;<strong>A worldwide problem for women’s rights</strong></p> <p class="normal">The control of women’s bodily autonomy and the policing of strict gender norms is a hallmark of fundamentalist ideology that transcends all religious and geographical boundaries. </p> <p class="normal">And things are getting worse. In 2014, Brunei introduced a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/sultan-brunei-sharia-penal-code-flogging-death-stoning">new Penal Code</a> based on an extremely conservative interpretation of Muslim laws, which included death by stoning as a punishment for adultery.&nbsp; In the United States, the strengthening of the Christian right led to the enactment of <a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2015/04/trends-states-first-quarter-2015">more than 288 measures</a> impeding access to abortion between 2010 and 2016.&nbsp; From <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/poland-ban-abortion-women-speak-out-against-their-governments-plans-for-a-total-ban-on-abortion-a6968601.html">Poland</a> to <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/12/brazil-women-abortion-sexism/421185/">Brazil</a>, recent months have seen the religious right pushing countries closer to all-out bans on abortion. </p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1. BentoXVI-37-10052007_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1. BentoXVI-37-10052007_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti abortion banner at a gathering of youth to meet Benedict XVI at the Estádio do Pacaembu in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Agência Brasil</span></span></span></p> <p class="normal">In <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/womens-rights-activists-resist-myanmars-proposed-law-protection-race-and-religion">Burma</a> and <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/activists-reflect-rights-implications-indias-new-government">India</a>, fundamentalists use gender as a central mobilizing tool in anti-Muslim hate campaigns; stereotypes about Muslim men <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/08/17/how-life-in-india-has-changed-under-modi-and-why-some-muslims-arent-happy-about-it/">coercing women to convert to Islam</a> and rumours about <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/03/buddhist-nationalists-stoke-hatred-in-myanmar/">Muslim men raping Buddhist</a> or Hindu women are used as a basis for restricting women’s choice of partner and to provoke anti-Muslim violence.</p> <p class="normal">From the terrifying rise of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/05/jihadist-girl-marry-liberation-failed-islamic-state">Da’esh</a> in the Middle East, to the “army” formed by the <a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/Lawmaker-Warns-Christian-Fundamentalism-Growing-in-Brazil-20150318-0003.html">evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God</a> in Brazil, and the 2,500 <a href="http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/violence/violence-statistics-and-history/">attacks on abortion providers</a> in the USA between 2005 and 2013, non-state actors pose violent threats to women’s freedoms and lives.</p> <p class="normal">The violence fundamentalists are wreaking on women’s lives may manifest in different ways in different contexts, but it is clear that we are currently witnessing an escalation across the world.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>The development sector’s capacity to respond</strong></p> <p class="normal">Faced with this situation, the promises to “leave no one behind” from the development agenda feel rather far from reach.&nbsp; Some development organizations are only starting to grapple with fundamentalisms’ implications for sustainable development and their strategic approach to the issue. Others have policies and internal capacity-building programmes designed to ensure staff are aware of “gender and diversity” issues. These can offer some space for discussions that touch on religious fundamentalisms. However, discussions of diversity tend to remain superficial and often do not examine the politicization of identities, and are devoid of a strong power analysis. Instead, they simply reinforce the notions that “we are diverse, and must all respect one another”.&nbsp; Meanwhile, fundamentalists often manipulate ideas of diversity for their own gain, shutting down criticism of their brand of women’s oppression with complaints of cultural insensitivity.</p> <p class="normal">Development policy-makers’ reluctance to engage in discussions on the ways religion is being used to justify discrimination and violence, may be because religion overall is seen by many as simply too sensitive. There may be a general “risk averse” culture within some organizations, which limits willingness to take on such challenges. Moreover, they may also feel that this area is best left to others, and there may be a fear of getting in above their heads or offending local staff and beneficiaries.&nbsp; Development organizations must develop a collective capacity to recognize and collaboratively address religious fundamentalisms if they are to advance social, economic, and gender justice and the human rights of all people in sustainable development. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>A feminist approach</strong></p> <p class="normal">What is needed is something that goes deeper - assessing the root causes and power relations that underlie the rise of religious fundamentalisms. Feminist organizations have been at the forefront of documenting and analysing the problem, and building strategies for resistance.&nbsp; A wider adoption of a feminist approach is crucial for working at the nexus of development, religious fundamentalisms, and women’s rights. A feminist analysis reveals women’s bodies to be a site of control for religious fundamentalists and allows one to see gender-based violence across social levels - from the state down to the family. It is also vital for imagining ways of combatting fundamentalisms that do not create further conflict, inequality, or oppression.&nbsp; What this looks like in practice, however, can be hard to figure out.&nbsp; The <a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/final_web_the_devil_is_in_the_details.pdf">latest research</a> from the <a href="http://www.awid.org">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a> (AWID) suggests some concrete actions that can be taken in seven main areas in order to resist fundamentalisms and strengthen women’s rights. </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Act on the warning signs <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalisms do not spring up “fully grown”. Generally, there is a gradual process, beginning with control over women’s bodies - the way they dress, their presence in public space, their sexual and reproductive autonomy - along with the policing of a strict gender binary and gender roles, the valorization of a patriarchal family form, and the imposition of heterosexual “normalcy”.</p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/2.2 Gay Pride Cape Town 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/2.2 Gay Pride Cape Town 2.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'>Gay Pride march in Cape Town 2014 in solidarity with LGBT people of Uganda. Photo: Samantha Marx </span></span></span></p> <p class="normal">Often, and especially in times conflict, insecurity, or political upheaval, women’s and LGBTQI people’s decreasing freedoms are dismissed as unimportant or “not the main issue”.&nbsp; To combat the rise of religious fundamentalisms it is vital that development actors take action when these groups raise the alarm, and that they do not wait for fundamentalisms to grow stronger and more embedded in society before considering them a serious problem. </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Do away with homogenising identities <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">There is often a temptation to assume that religion is the primary identity marker of a community. However, in reality people’s identities are made up of many facets. Reducing a community to a single identity based on religion essentializes that community and the individuals who constitute it, in a similar way to fundamentalists. Furthermore, religious discourses are often used to protect power and privilege, so allowing an issue to be framed in religious terms alone can risk not only conceding the terms of debate, but also missing the chance to effect change.</p> <p class="normal">It is important that development actors do not assume that a conservative religious discourse is the only one that a community can relate to. Instead of the bounded, <em>othering</em> identities fostered by fundamentalists, development actors can help promote positive inclusive forms of identity.&nbsp; Development interventions can use non-religious language that speaks to common goals such as peace, justice, rights, quality of life, an end to violence, access to water, or better health, for example. Combining arguments from multiple sources - human rights and gender equality, constitutional law, progressive religious interpretations, empirical data - can be very effective.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Promote a feminist understanding of religion, culture, and tradition <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalists tend to claim that they are guardians of “authentic culture” and are resisting domination by “foreign” or “western” powers. However, in reality fundamentalists often introduce norms that not only destroy cultural diversity and pluralism, but which are also often neither “authentic” nor local; being modern ideologies or imported from other contexts. The myth of a single “Islamic law”, for example, has long obscured the actual diversity of Muslim laws and practices and their intersection with culture and history across the world. Appeals to notions of “African culture” in anti-homosexuality discourse obscure the reality of diverse sexualities in Africa historically and that growing anti-gay sentiment in many African countries is fuelled and funded by <a href="http://fpif.org/just-uganda-behind-christian-rights-onslaught-africa/">Christian fundamentalists from the USA</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Sometimes development initiatives appear to accept the culturally relativist arguments that curtail women’s rights, either out of a pragmatic desire to enable a project to move ahead, or out of fear of being seen as interfering in a sensitive topic.&nbsp; However, it is important that religion culture, or tradition is never accepted an excuse for human rights violations or the subordination of women, and that religious leaders are not assumed to represent an entire community.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">A positive way forward would be for development organizations to ensure that all staff are sensitized to understand that religious discourses, like all discourses, are not static, but are continually contested, reinforced, and altered.&nbsp; Furthermore, development actors can have a positive impact by supporting the local actors, often women’s organisations, who are enabling people to discuss religious discourses that are congruent with human rights and gender justice.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Address marginalization, including racism</strong> </p> <p class="normal">Fundamentalist groups capitalize on the grievances of those who feel marginalized, or who have little hope of gaining social and economic power, or being represented through democratic political means. The numbers of middle-class Western recruits to Da’esh speaks to the racism and alienation experienced in Europe and North America by non-white youths.&nbsp; In many countries “progressives” (leftists, pro-poor, anti-imperialists) have been unable to muster sufficient support to pose a credible alternative to elites in power. As a solution to marginalization and disaffection, fundamentalisms offer their followers hope, certainty, a sense of purpose and an emotional community. In some countries, Poland and Egypt for example, religious organizations have historically been persecuted as dissidents, which has given them credibility as alternatives to corrupt regimes.</p> <p class="normal">It is therefore important that opposition to fundamentalism does not take forms that reinforce racist and other marginalising discourses.&nbsp; It is also important that development interventions work concomitantly on the politics of inclusion and representative, responsive governance, the rule of law, and against corruption. Programmes should cultivate the values of and skills for peaceful negotiation and dialogue, not only for marginalized groups but also for those with power, to ensure that the various levels of governance and administration are responsive to dialogue.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Address structural inequality</strong></p> <p class="normal">As much as religious fundamentalisms relate to ideas about culture, identity, and tradition, the reality is that fundamentalist movements are also intrinsically linked to structural inequalities. Neoliberal economic policies have produced inequality, which has fed the power of fundamentalisms. The destruction of states’ responsibility for social welfare has provided fertile ground for the ascent of conservative religious actors. Where states have ceased to provide services such as healthcare and schooling, fundamentalists have stepped into the breach, reaping rewards in the form of loyalty of the populations they serve and access to new channels to spread ideology.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">It is therefore necessary that development organizations do not support programs that minimize state responsibility for providing services and social safety nets. They should add their voices to the calls for alternative economic models that focus on redistribution, state provision of services, and that place women’s rights and justice at the center of their policies.&nbsp; It is also vital that they take a role in holding states, financial institutions, and corporations accountable for the effects of their policies on human rights and gender justice.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Make the right partnerships</strong></p> <p class="normal">There is often a belief that religious organizations should be chosen for development partnerships, based on assumptions that they have better access to the population, and respect amongst the community; and also as a response to a lack of state institutions to work with.&nbsp; Not only can such assumptions can be unfounded, but it must be recognised that partnering with any organization builds their legitimacy and access to resources, and supports their ideology, including gender ideology.&nbsp;&nbsp; A desire for short-term efficacy has in some cases led to negative effects in the long-term. </p> <p class="normal">In the aftermath of Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, humanitarian partnerships led to the strengthening of Islamist groups, for example. There were documented reports of INGOs and the UN establishing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/03/islamist-groups-pakistan-aid-void">working relationships with Islamist groups</a> - even those linked to terrorist activities in Pakistan in 2005 - and channelling aid and relief through their networks. Similarly, religious groups involved in development interventions to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS have been known to “moralize” messages around sexuality and gender, causing further stigmatization of sex workers, drug users, and LGBTQI persons, while leaving the structural drivers of the epidemic untouched. </p> <p class="normal">It is important that development organizations do not choose partners based solely on short-term goals, but prioritise long-term objectives of sustainable development and gender equality.&nbsp; Prioritizing progressive positions on human rights, women’s rights, and gender equality when choosing partners for development initiatives is a key step in channelling resources and legitimacy away from religious fundamentalists. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Support women’s movements</strong></p> <p class="normal">Women’s rights organizations have long been active in challenging religious fundamentalisms. They already have the knowledge and strategies they need - but the missing factor tends to be financial backing. Women’s rights organizations remain massively under-resourced in absolute terms and by comparison to other types of NGOs, often having access only to project funding for direct service provision. Whilst new actors deploying resources have entered the field over the last five years or so, much of those new resources are directed to individual women and girls, thus “watering the leaves and starving the roots”, as described by a <a href="http://www.awid.org/publications/watering-leaves-starving-roots">2013 report</a> from AWID.</p> <p class="normal">It is important that development organizations are able to look beyond the usual mainstream groups and pursue partnerships with the in-region or in-country actors, and women’s organizations in particular, who are already working to resist fundamentalisms. It is vital that donors direct resources towards women’s rights organizations that build and support autonomous women’s movements. Given the length of time this takes, this means providing multi-year and core funding. We have recently seen moves by some donor organizations towards this approach, which is a step in the right direction. </p> <p class="normal">There is now strong evidence that the single most important factor in promoting women’s rights and gender equality is an autonomous women’s movement. Srilatha Batliwala, <a href="https://issuu.com/awid/docs/wmm_final">has noted</a> the “significant amount of evidence…demonstrating how organizations with a strong focus on women’s rights and gender equality can “move mountains” in a relatively short space of time” when they are adequately resourced over a reasonable period of time, and supported to use the strategies they have crafted rather than donor-driven approaches. Women’s rights groups have the know-how to resist fundamentalisms and - when adequately supported and resourced - hold the key to weeding out religious fundamentalisms, whilst cultivating social and equality and gender justice.</p><p class="normal"><em>The full report by AWID can be read here</em>: <a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/final_web_the_devil_is_in_the_details.pdf"><em>The Devil is in the Details: At the Nexus of Development, Women’s Rights, and Religious Fundamentalisms.&nbsp;</em></a><a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/cf-devilisinthedetails-7pointers-eng.pdf"></a>.</p><hr size="1" /><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="/5050/ruby-johnson-devi-leiper-o%27malley/young-feminists-resisting-tide-of-fundamentalisms">Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-deepa-ranganathan/defending-ourselves-defining-rights-of-girls">Defending ourselves: defining the rights of girls </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">Iraq&#039;s female citizens: prisoners of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/skye-wheeler/yazidi-women-after-slavery-comes-lasting-trauma">Yazidi women after slavery: trauma</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/preventing-violent-extremism-noose-both-too-tight-and-too-loose">Preventing violent extremism: a noose that is both too tight and too loose </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/iran-%27bloody-stain%27-on-nation">Iran: a &#039;bloody stain&#039; on the nation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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"> Culture </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Culture Equality 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice violence against women women and power Laila Malik Isabel Marler Ayesha Imam Wed, 04 May 2016 07:45:27 +0000 Laila Malik, Isabel Marler and Ayesha Imam 101789 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When national security trumps international humanitarian law, who wins? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/brad-gutierrez/when-national-security-trumps-international-humanitarian-law-who-win <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Gutierrez.jpg" alt="" width="140" /><p>International humanitarian law is not a diplomatic conversation devoid of real world implications, and ignoring it creates a free-for-all.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">As the United States moves closer to electing its next president, and the events of Paris and Brussels remind us of the horrors inflicted by those determined to terrorize populations, it is important that we take a breath. We must remember that hawkish sound bites about being tough on terrorism don’t solve the problem of terrorism. They also don’t free us from our responsibility to live and fight by the international standards we have agreed to uphold.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the clear limitations on the conduct of war chronicled in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, we still have prominent public figures advocating for policies and activities that are in direct contravention of these international standards. Calls from Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to carpet bomb ISIS controlled areas—without regard for the loss of civilian lives—and Trump’s support of waterboarding (or “even further”) and targeting terrorists’ family members should shock and horrify anyone who believes that the United States is a lawful country that stands behind its international commitments.</p><p dir="ltr">On the Democratic side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton has defended Israeli bombing of civilian areas in Gaza with the logic that Israel has a right to defend itself. Lest we believe that these views are new to the campaign rhetoric of presidential politics, we only need look back at the 2012 campaign for the Republican nomination to see that prominent candidates Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain also supported the tactic of waterboarding during interrogations of captured fighters, despite legal determinations that such actions constitute torture. </p><p dir="ltr">The bluster of campaign speeches is not the only venue for debate on the role of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the discourse of American politics. Torture is also not the only transgression of IHL that has caused concern for American policy makers. As the wars in Syria and Yemen rage on and the US presence in Afghanistan continues, the safety and security of health workers and their facilities is overshadowing the torture debate. The October 2015 US aircraft shelling of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), brought this sacred pillar of IHL to the forefront of humanitarian and political leaders’ agendas. With today’s sophisticated aircraft navigational equipment and weapons guidance systems, how does this “human error, compounded by process and equipment failures”—as <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34925237" target="_blank">described by US military leaders</a>—happen? MSF wanted the bombing declared a war crime while US authorities insisted it was a tragic accident, saying that the crew mistook the building for a government compound occupied by Taliban militants.</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Gutierrez.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Najim Rahim/Press Association Images (All rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> A Doctors Without Borders employee stands in the ruins of the organization's hospital after it was hit by a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan.</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">IHL is not an intellectual exercise to stump international law students, nor is it a diplomatic conversation devoid of real world implications.</span>The Kunduz tragedy and similar events are also influencing the larger political debate over foreign security assistance. Since January 2016, the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) fighting Yemeni opposition forces have bombed at least three hospitals staffed, in part, by MSF members. The Saudi military is one of the largest recipients of US military assistance in the world, raising the question as to the extent of responsibility the provider of arms and supplies should have. Do military arms suppliers have an obligation, moral or otherwise, to make their assistance conditional upon the assurances that the recipients will comply with IHL? And if they fail to comply, should that military assistance be stopped? We must remember that in many cases, the provision of security assistance is rationalized by the argument that it is cheaper for world powers to supply allies with the necessary arms to fight the sponsors’ enemies, potential or real, rather than bear the cost of the battle themselves. What is often forgotten is the reputational cost of having ones national security interests defended by entities that do not uphold the international norms of war. Guilt by association can have long-lasting effects.</p><p dir="ltr">As we ponder the questions here, it is important to remember that IHL is not an intellectual exercise to stump international law students, nor is it a diplomatic conversation devoid of real world implications. IHL is a set of rules by which signatories to the Geneva Conventions have agreed to limit themselves in their conduct of armed operations. The consequences of not embracing those limitations is the intentional loss of innocent civilian lives, the ruthless torture of fighters no longer in the fight, and the unconscionable threat to and destruction of protected medical personnel and their facilities as they care for the sick and wounded. </p><p>On a grander scale, ignoring IHL creates a free-for-all in the conduct of hostilities, the horrors of which led the to the adoption of the Geneva Conventions in the first place. It is the responsibility of each citizen, military member and political leader to know that the rules exist, understand their essence and be committed to their faithful adherence. The next time Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz or Senator Clinton casually dismiss the obligation of IHL for the sake of gaining a sound bite on national security issues, we need to think about what would happen if they actually walked their talk.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=" https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><img src=" https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/openPagesidebox.png " alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <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="/openglobalrights/scott-d-sagan-benjamin-valentino/use-of-force-american-public-and-ethics-of-war">Use of force: the American public and the ethics of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/poonam-joshi-iva-dobichina/in-name-of-security-when-silencing-active-citizens-creat">In the name of security: when silencing active citizens creates even greater problems</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/sarah-kreps-geoffrey-wallace/international-law-and-us-public-support-for-drone-stri">International law and US public support for drone strikes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrightsopenpage/juan-francisco-lobo/exposing-torture-virtue-of-american-hypocrisy">Exposing torture - the virtue of American hypocrisy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/theme_9-americanpower/article_876.jsp">International law or US hegemony: from chemical weapons to Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/nora-lester-murad/no-shortage-of-international-complicity-with-israeli-occupation">No shortage of international complicity with Israeli occupation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/nicola-perugini-neve-gordon/human-rights-crisis-problem-of-perception">The human rights crisis: a problem of perception?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights-blog/iain-levine/voices-in-wilderness-and-imperative-of-solidarity">Voices in the wilderness and the imperative of solidarity</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights openGlobalRights-openpage Brad Gutierrez Canada & the US Global Middle East & North Africa Wed, 04 May 2016 07:30:00 +0000 Brad Gutierrez 101774 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Towards a citizens' constitutional convention https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/paul-feldman/towards-citizens-constitutional-convention <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What will it take to create a genuinely citizen-led constitutional convention for the UK? A meeting in Parliament on May 10, convened by Assemblies for Democracy, will aim to find out.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Houses.of_.parliament.overall.arp__1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Houses.of_.parliament.overall.arp__1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Calls for a convention on the constitution, which emerged strongly in 2014 around the time of Scotland’s independence referendum, have taken on a new lease of life since last year’s general election.</p><p class="MsoNormal">They are driven by a growing recognition that system-level change is needed if we are to tackle the pile-up of policies that are attacking the citizenry from every conceivable angle. And there is a clear recognition that the process should be <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">citizen-led</a> if the outcomes of a convention are to have real significance. Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow communities minister, whose brief includes the constitutional convention, put forward a bold proposal for an independent process at a Democracy Day event organised by <a href="http://www.compassonline.org.uk/">Compass</a> earlier this year.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Trickett’s approach goes beyond the limits of the cross-party consensus struck before the 2015 election that there should be a constitutional convention with a narrow remit that focused on the House of Lords, devolution and other “internal” matters. It also takes us further than the March 2015 Commons political and constitutional reform committee’s <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/political-and-constitutional-reform/The-UK-Constitution.pdf">report on the UK constitution</a> which listed “options for reform”.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Among the general population, there is a real sense that the political process is broken, exposing the limitations of an unreconstructed system of representative democracy in a globalised, decentred world. That the present government has an overall majority although it received the support of fewer than 25% of registered voters is just one aspect of the problem.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Support for the existing political process is woeful. Just&nbsp;21% of Britons trust politicians to tell the truth&nbsp;compared with 25% trusting journalists and estate agents and 42% who trust builders, <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3685/Politicians-are-still-trusted-less-than-estate-agents-journalists-and-bankers.aspx">according to Ipsos-MORI</a>. This may look bad for politicians, but it is an improvement on last year when just 16% of the public trusted them to tell the truth.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Yet the drive for change is irresistible. A popular social movement resulted in the humiliating defeat of senior Labour figures by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign which verified the maxim that one should expect the unexpected at a time of political uncertainty. This followed in the footsteps of the tremendous mobilisation of the electorate in Scotland the year before as people sensed they could shape their own destiny and even end austerity.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Despite the narrow defeat of the independence campaign, Scotland’s ties to Westminster have continued to loosen. Increased tax and spend powers granted to Holyrood as part of the pre-referendum “bribe” have weakened the Union and thus the UK constitution itself. There is more than a sleight of hand about how these changes were ushered through by political elites in both countries.</p><p class="MsoNormal">As we approach the UK-wide referendum on European Union membership, the notion that Parliamentary sovereignty is the cornerstone of our constitution is clearly problematic and contested. The constitutional settlement made at the end of the 17th century no longer works in practice.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Much of the debate is focused on existing institutions of the state, how they relate to each other and how our rulers should rule the rest of us. We should take a more profound approach and examine where power – economic as well as political – actually lies at present and how that might be altered in favour of the people through a process of constitutional change.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Iceland’s citizen-led process of writing a new constitution in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and “pots and pans revolution” resulted in an embrace of human rights, rights of nature, separation of powers, transparency and direct democracy, for example. We should also reference<span class="author-g-pjoyci7gz122zu5g56gp"> the ways by which corporate and financial power has contributed to the loss of legitimacy of the UK political-state system. The overweening influence of corporate lobbyists on policy making, the lack of independent party funding, over-reliance on corporations and rich individuals to fund political parties and the concentration of media ownership should not be sidestepped.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://www.assembliesfordemocracy.org/">Assemblies for Democracy</a> welcomes Jon Trickett’s vision of a hands-off process, independent of Parliament and mainstream political parties, to be started as soon as possible. Yet the fact that there has been no opportunity for citizens and pro-democracy campaigners to input into the design of this process should raise flags for anyone passionate about a convention process designed to serve the public interest rather than the status quo.</p><p class="MsoNormal">As a response to this, Assemblies for Democracy has organised a public meeting at the <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/designing-democracy-for-the-21st-century-tickets-24528509432">House of Commons on the evening of 10 May</a> to open up the discussion on what kind of process is most likely to have the best outcome for the general population.</p><p class="MsoNormal">We have been studying surveys of recent convention processes suggested, for example, by the <a href="https://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/How%20to%20do%20a%20Convention%20Mar%202015.pdf">Electoral Reform Society</a> and Alan Renwick in his groundbreaking <a href="http://www.consoc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/J1847_Constitution_Society_Report_Cover_WEB.pdf">report for the Constitution Society and Unlock Democracy</a> and asking our supporters what they think. This is an ongoing process, but some points of agreement have emerged.</p><p class="MsoNormal">If there is a secretariat overseeing a convention process then that group should be drawn from a broader group of experts than just academics and university staff. Suggestions have included facilitators, democracy activists, successful participatory initiatives from other countries and participants from the many organisations concerned with defining new forms of democracy.</p><p class="MsoNormal">If there is to be a central drafting group, then there should be strong mechanisms for ensuring input from wider society is incorporated into the work of the central drafting group.</p><p class="MsoNormal">As Parliament is unlikely to support proposals for significant change, the final proposals should be put to a national referendum in order to test and hopefully secure popular support. This might need to be organised independently or be promised to the people by a "democratic coalition" of political parties ahead of the next general election.</p><p class="MsoNormal">On May 10, we will be inviting you to share your views on as many as possible of key issues:</p><p class="MsoNormal">What is the purpose of this process?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Who&nbsp;is&nbsp;represented&nbsp;in this&nbsp;process? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><ul type="disc"> <li class="MsoNormal"><span>What&nbsp;is&nbsp;the basic structure of the body/bodies that debates the options and makes recommendations?</span></li> <li class="MsoNormal"><span><br /></span></li><li class="MsoNormal"><span>Who can influence&nbsp;the&nbsp;constitution-making body’s deliberations?&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></li> <li class="MsoNormal"><span><br /></span></li><li class="MsoNormal"><span>What&nbsp;are&nbsp;the body’s&nbsp;operational&nbsp;procedures?&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></li> <li class="MsoNormal"><span><br /></span></li><li class="MsoNormal"><span>What&nbsp;happens once the&nbsp;constitution-making&nbsp;body has made&nbsp;its&nbsp; recommendations?&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></li> </ul><p class="MsoNormal">The event is part of a process of developing a collective view with other democracy campaigns and activists. There will be plenty of time for discussion and attendees can also submit written views via an online survey after the event.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>“Designing Democracy for the 21st Century” takes place on Tuesday May 10, from 6-9pm in Committee Room 5 at the House of Commons. The room is booked in the name of John McDonnell MP. Register through <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/designing-democracy-for-the-21st-century-tickets-24528509432"><em>Eventbrite</em></a> - where you can find details of the speakers - and allow yourselves enough time to pass through the security process at Westminster.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <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="/ourkingdom/alan-renwick/how-to-design-constitutional-convention-for-uk">How to design a constitutional convention for the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">Will a constitutional convention democratically refound the British state?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-england/changing-way-politics-works-interview-with-katrin-oddsdottir">Changing the way politics works: an interview with Katrin Oddsdottir</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Great Charter Convention A constitutional convention Building it: campaigns and movements Paul Feldman Tue, 03 May 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Paul Feldman 101793 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This isn’t public policy: the prelude to the BBC White Paper https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/des-freedman/this-isn-t-public-policy-prelude-to-bbc-white-paper <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Debate about the BBC’s Charter Review has been dominated by leaks and rumours that ultimately play into the hands of commercial lobbyists. Where are the voices of licence-fee payers?&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/537086/PA-25302070.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/PA-25302070.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Strictly Come Dancing is at the centre of new rumours about a 'clamp down' on competitive scheduling at the BBC. Image: Katja Ogrin/Press Association/EMPICS entertainment. All rights reserved </span></span></span></p><p>It is hard to know whether the recent rumours about the contents of the forthcoming White Paper on the future of the BBC should be seen as light entertainment or crime drama.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Three leading Sunday newspapers <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/30/bbc-faces-new-checks-into-quality-of-tv-and-radio-shows/">revealed</a> that the government plans to interfere in the scheduling of popular programmes such as <em>Strictly Come Dancing</em>, <em>Silent Witness</em> and the <em>News at Ten</em>. Even the merest hint that it would be appropriate for government to get involved in detailed scheduling decisions in order to prevent the BBC running popular programmes against its rivals would seem to have been taken straight out of the commercial lobbyists’ handbook.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>After all, this was precisely the argument in ITV’s comprehensive indictment of BBC strategy in its response to Charter Review. The 75 page-long document provides detailed evidence of how, when the BBC ran original drama against its own <em>Broadchurch</em>, this significantly cut into ITV audiences. Or rather, as ITV <a href="http://www.itvplc.com/sites/itvplc/files/BBC%20Charter%20Review%20Public%20Consultation%20-%20ITV%20Submission.pdf">stated</a>, competitive scheduling by the BBC ‘materially reduced Broadchurch’s ability to convert viewers into commercial impacts, resulting in lower revenue generating potential on a like-for-like viewing basis, substantially damaging ITV’s return on investment in Broadchurch.’<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The idea that viewers would have been pleased to have had a choice between two high quality UK originated programmes, <em>Broadchurch</em> and <em>Silent Witness</em>, does not appear to have been taken on board quite as much as the potential loss to ITV in advertising earnings. And the idea that the overall quality of television benefits from the healthy interaction between two major broadcasters seems to have been eclipsed by a commitment to the bottom line only.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Of course, the government moved quickly to <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/01/bbc-schedule-labour-maria-eagle-accuses-government-of-unacceptable-meddling">deny</a> that they had any such plans to deprive potential voters of <em>Strictly</em> on a Saturday night. ‘The secretary of state has made it clear on a number of occasions that the government cannot, and indeed should not, determine either the content or scheduling of programmes.’ But the kite had been flown and the <em>Sun</em>, for example, was quick <a href="http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/sun_says/7123391/Sun-Says.html">to commend</a> the culture secretary on his boldness: ‘It’s a nonsense that the national broadcaster goes head-to-head with ITV for viewers when the Beeb’s cash comes from the licence fee. Through silly scheduling and its over-mighty website, the BBC uses its taxpayer-funded heft to force competitors out of business. Enough is enough.’<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>What’s the real threat to the <em>Sun</em>? Is it falling newspaper sales? Declining advertising revenue? The migration of audiences and attention online? No, it’s the mighty BBC – perhaps not quite as mighty as Sky, with whom the title effectively shares an owner – which is apparently single-handedly putting at risk all the other plucky little news outlets.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It’s worth noting that the BBC certainly doesn’t appear to be putting ITV out of business given that its <a href="http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/itv-pre-tax-profits-6-641m-2015/1385771">profits</a> last year were not far off £1 billion, an 18% increase on 2014.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Anyway, this is by no means the only kite to be launched during this Charter Review campaign. In March, the <em>Sunday Times </em><a href="http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Arts/article1677767.ece">revealed</a> that the culture secretary had decided that proposals by Sir David Clementi to replace the BBC Trust with a Unitary Board, half of whom would be appointed by government, didn’t go far enough. The culture secretary claimed instead that the idea of DCMS selecting 11 out of 13 Board members would in no way ‘compromise their independence’. Others <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/mar/06/welcome-to-whittingdale-broadcasting-corporation-bbc-ofcom-trust-clementi">saw</a> it as the emergence of a ‘Whittingdale Broadcasting Corporation’.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Leaks and rumours have dominated a process that has dragged on for some ten months now. A government source told the <em><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/bbc-to-lose-in-house-programming-guarantee-under-radical-plan-to-open-up-public-broadcaster-to-the-a7002656.html">Independent</a></em> that the BBC will need to put out to competitive tender ‘up to 100 per cent’ of its programming while a ‘senior government source’ told the <em><a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ZvauV1PvkxwJ:www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/homeV2/article1688085.ece%3FshareToken%3D4ff6027ac77d6f38d91986a2a80ad6da&amp;num=1&amp;client=safari&amp;hl=en&amp;gl=uk&amp;strip=1&amp;vwsrc=0">Sunday Times</a></em> that the BBC was going to be forced to sell its highly profitable shares in UKTV and to hand over some £100 million to other programme makers. These stories, although vehemently denied by government, help to frame the Charter Review debate by putting the BBC on the defensive and cultivating the impression that the BBC is over-extended, over-ambitious and, strangely for an organisation that relies on public money, simply too popular for its own good.</p> <p>Not all of the rumours are necessarily unwelcome – for example, there is nothing wrong with demanding that the BBC is more transparent about the wages of its star talent and an 11-year charter extension would certainly generate a sigh of relief from Corporation executives.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The main point, however, is that this is not a process that can easily be described as <em>public policy</em>. It was bad enough that a licence fee deal was agreed behind closed doors last summer and that the BBC was forced to act as a proxy for <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/06/osborne-slashes-bbc-budget-pay-over-75s-tv-licences">government welfare policies</a> by being forced to pay for free licences for the over-65s. It was bad enough when it was revealed that many thousands of genuine responses to Charter Review were either <a href="http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-03-21/how-john-whittingdale-broke-his-promise-to-listen-to-every-viewers-opinion-on-the-bbc">ignored</a> or <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/12117407/BBC-charter-review-consultation-hijacked-by-left-wing-campaign-group.html">dismissed</a> for being politically motivated. And it is certainly bad enough that the whole process runs the risk of being shaped by vested interests with little time for public service broadcasting.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This is precisely the perception that has been reinforced by the latest rumours about a crack down on competitive scheduling – a move which would be a huge concession to the BBC’s commercial rivals. Those people who – having seen the government bully the BBC over the licence fee and who are increasingly dismayed by an editorial policy that is all too often <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/may/13/tory-officials-threatened-bbc-miliband-tom-baldwin-licence-fee">cowed</a> for fear of further antagonising the people who hold the purse strings – claim that the Corporation is on a slippery slope towards being a state broadcaster, will surely feel even more vindicated by this proposal.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The BBC has a remit to cater to all audiences; it does not have a remit to provide content only if it is convenient (and profitable) for its commercial rivals. It needs to provide both ‘distinctive’ and ‘popular’ programming in order to continue the ‘mixed provision’ that is at the heart of its appeal and its Charter obligations. The BBC doesn’t need to scale down its output but to ramp up its risk-taking and its feistiness. It also desperately needs structures that will allow it to exercise a meaningful degree of independence so that it can stand up powerful interests instead of being shaped by them.</p> <p>This is what the Charter Review process ought to focus on and what the White Paper ought to put into place. However, with a week to go before this document is finally published, it feels like this has been a policy debate scripted by BBC critics inside the Tory press and directed by ministers with political agendas that appear hostile to the very idea of <em>public</em> broadcasting. It’s time to hear the voices of licence fee payers – both positive and negative – and to let them shape the future of the BBC. But could our policymaking process ever let this happen?</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="/ourbeeb/natalie-fenton/whitto-time-to-show-youre-not-beholden-to-press">Whitto, time to show you&#039;re not beholden to the press</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/tony-hall/could-government-appointees-threaten-bbc-s-independence">The proposal for government appointees threatens BBC independence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/damian-tambini/can-new-charter-protect-bbc-s-independence">Can the new Charter protect the BBC’s independence?</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk Des Freedman Tue, 03 May 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Des Freedman 101826 at https://www.opendemocracy.net