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UN envoy’s report on poverty in Britain

Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, London, 16 November 2018. Summary by Mike McLoughlin.

14 million people, a fifth of the UK population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute and unable to afford basic essentials. This is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.

Many charitable groups, think tanks, parliamentary committees and the National Audit Office have drawn attention to the dramatic decline in the fortunes of the least well off, but The Government has remained determinedly in a state of denial. However, many of the problems could be solved if the Government were to acknowledge them.

In the area of poverty-related policy the evidence shows that the driving force was not economic, but the achieving of radical social re-engineering. Key elements of the post-war Beveridge social contract are being overturned and great misery is being inflicted unnecessarily. The government is determined to focus more on individual responsibility, place limits on government support and pursue a single-minded, maybe simple-minded, focus on getting people into employment. Compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach.

A key feature of Universal Credit involves draconian sanctions even for minor infringements that cause harsh consequences for vulnerable people. Despite what Ministers say, there is no clear evidence that blunt and harsh sanctions encourage better compliance with conditionality.

As well as the introduction of Universal Credit, other benefit reductions, limits on legal aid and cuts to local authorities and other services have also impoverished people.

The government says work is the solution to poverty, but being employed does not magically overcome poverty. Almost 60% of those in poverty in the UK are in families where someone works, and families with two parents working full-time at the national minimum wage are still 11% short of the income needed to raise a child.

Conclusion and Recommendations

  • The experience of the United Kingdom, especially since 2010, shows that poverty is a political choice. Austerity could easily have spared the poor if the political will had existed. Resources were available at the last budget that could have transformed the situation of millions of people living in poverty, but a political choice was made to cut tax for the wealthy.
  • The compassion and mutual concern of the British tradition has been outsourced. At the same time, many of the public places and institutions that previously brought communities together such as libraries, community and recreation centres and public parks have been steadily dismantled or undermined. The Treasury and the Government constantly repeat the refrain that policy must “avoid burdening the next generation”. The problem is that the next generation’s prospects are already being grievously undermined by the systematic dismantling of social protection policies since 2010.
  • The UK should introduce a single measure of poverty and measure food security.
  • The government should initiate an expert assessment of the cumulative impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010 and prioritise the reversal of particularly regressive measures including the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap and the reduction of housing benefit for under-occupied social rented housing (the Bedroom Tax).
  • The Government should ensure that local government has the funds to tackle poverty at the community level.
  • The DWP should conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of welfare conditionality and sanctions introduced since 2012 and immediately instruct its staff to explore more constructive, less punitive, approaches to encouraging compliance.
  • The five-week delay in Universal Credit should be eliminated. Separate payments should be made to different household members and weekly or fortnightly payments made available.
  • Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service equivalent to water and electricity, and the sector should be regulated to ensure that people in rural areas are adequately served. Abandoning people to the private market in this area affects every dimension of their basic well-being and is incompatible with human rights requirements.
  • As the country moves towards Brexit, the Government should adopt policies that ensure the brunt of the resulting economic burden is not borne by the most vulnerable.

The full statement can be seen on the UN website here


Philip G. Alston is an Australian international law scholar and human rights practitioner. In 2014, he was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. In autumn 2018, Alston did a two-week fact-finding tour of the United Kingdom where he met with people living in poverty and with civil society front line workers and politicians.

NEVER AGAIN? 1918 to 2018, 100 years of war

Sutton for Peace and Justice in association with Veterans For Peace UK invite you to a public meeting:

NEVER AGAIN? 1918 to 2018, 100 years of war

Wednesday 31 October 2018, 7.30–9.30pm (doors open at 7.00).
Sutton Quaker Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA.

11 November 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, when the slogan never again was a common rally cry – never again should the World see the suffering wrought by the ‘war to end war’. Yet a century later people continue to be killed in military conflict across the World.

This meeting will look at the military interventions of the UK since the First World War and explore the possibility for a non-aggressive defence policy in the 21st century. Come and hear from our speakers and take part in the debate as we seek to honour the true sentiment of Remembrance Day – NEVER AGAIN.


Ben Griffin – former member of the SAS and National Coordinator of Veterans For Peace UK.


Phillip Clarke – former member of the Intelligence Corps and Chair of Veterans For Peace UK.

There is no entry charge, donations will be taken.

Please confirm your attendance by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk
or by text message to 07740 594496.

Veterans For Peace UK, is a voluntary, open and democratic organisation of men and women who have served in the armed forces – from WW2 to Afghanistan. Veterans For Peace UK believes that “War is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century”. http://vfpuk.org/


The Colloquium in Carshalton Park

Sutton for Peace & Justice and Sutton 4 Sanctuary will be at the Environmental Fair in Carshalton Park on Bank Holiday Monday 27 August 2018. Visit our stall at K03 and K04 to speak to members and find out about us and the issues that we have been campaigning on.

Throughout the day at our stall we will be hosting ‘The Colloquium in Carshalton Park’ – a series of informal and open discussions on a range of peace and justice issues. Please come along and hear about these important issues, have your say and join the debate:

11.30 Refugees welcome here
Helping refugees find a welcome and establish a new home in Sutton.

12.00 The plight of Palestinians today
Human rights violations and house demolitions in the occupied territories.

12.30 Injustice by a thousand cuts
The importance of an effectively functioning justice system.

13.00 Stop war – stop the arms trade
Military investment and the arms trade encourages war – it should be stopped.

14.00 Refugees welcome here – as 11.30.

14.30 The plight of Palestinians today – as 12.00.

15.00 Injustice by a thousand cuts – as 12.30.

15.30 Stop war – stop the arms trade – as 13.00.

Colloquium – an informal gathering for the exchange of views, from the latin ‘to talk together’; a seminar usually led by a different academic or expert speaker at each meeting.


Its time for an honest conversation about migration

By Saleh Mamon (first published on http://salehmamon.com, 20 July 2018)

In the wake of the European summit on migration, it is time to debunk myths and speak out some truths.

A spectre is haunting Europe. This time it is fear of hordes of dark skinned people swamping its shores. Often it is the Muslim within and without whose alien culture is about to threaten Christian Europe. The so called ‘populist’ movements have become a euphemism for right wing nationalist political movements who are setting the xenophobic political agenda.

In June we marked 25 years of refugee crisis with a salutary reminder that at its most conservative 34,361 migrants and refugees died trying to reach Europe. Many more have drowned and many scorched to death trying to cross the Sahara. They will remain uncounted with no memorials.

Following the two day European summit to resolve the migration crisis towards the end of June, the Evening Standard editorial addressed some of the issues on 29 of June. However the arguments put forward reinforced some of the myths that are widespread.

Firstly, to argue that migration is driven by rapidly increasing population in Africa is to succumb to a long held Malthusian myth of population as the main driver of social ills. The truth is that globalisation over the last thirty years as a means for greater prosperity has in fact increased poverty across Africa. Research carried out by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative showed that across the 24 Sub-Saharan African countries, about 200 million people were destitute in 2014. The imposition of Structural Adjustment Programmes by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on African countries enforcing economic liberalisation, free trade and privatisation to service debt increased poverty and inequality.

It is popular to argue that generous benefits are attracting migrants to Europe, more so now because of access to social media and mobile phones in Africa which show how better life is in Europe. Researchers who gathered information over 1000 interviews with migrants and refugees found that there was no evidence to support this view. Claims are often made by many politicians that most refugees are economic migrants. Another survey of migrants showed that only 20 percent leave there countries for Europe for economic reasons. The majority of migrants who reach European shores are fleeing wars, violence and persecution.

The US declaration of the generational global war on terror following September 11 was a turning point. Beginning with Afghanistan in 2001, moving to Iraq in 2003, then to Libya in 2011 and followed by Syria, the war involved direct invasions, ensuing counterinsurgencies and proxy wars. As in other modern wars, bombing and airstrikes were the major cause of internal displacement and cross-border refugees. Further afield, the civil war in Southern Sudan, the ongoing war on terrorism in Somalia, the war in Yemen, the repression in Eritrea, the war on terrorism in the Sahel including Nigeria have all contributed to producing refugees. Of the 62.5 million refugees 85 percent find shelter in their neighbourhood and 57 percent of all the refugees come from three countries, Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan.

The other myth that has been promoted has been that Europe has a liberal migration policy. Frontex, the European Border and Coastguard Agency was set up in 2005 and its mandate was reinforced in 2016 in the wake of the 2015 migration crisis. It has enormous powers to intercept, control and deport migrants without any regard for their human rights. The conditions in the existing refugee camps are inhumane, cramped, and insecure leading to trauma amongst refugees.

The political fault lines that were there much earlier widened across Europe with the 2015 migration crisis. The courage of Merkel to open German borders nearly a million fleeing Syrian refugees in 2015 should never be forgotten. Other politicians in Europe began building fences. Viktor Orban Prime Minister of Hungary led the charge proclaiming himself as the defender of Hungary and Europe against Muslim migrants. East European leaders of Austria and the Visegrad four, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia have all taken his anti-immigrant politics. Since then, she has been under attack in Germany and across Europe. The rise of the AFD in Germany poses a threat to the centre and left in Germany. The refusal by Matteo Salvini the Interior minister in the populist Italian government to allow MV Aquarius carrying over 600 African refugees to dock in an Italy port was historic and equally a portent.

The migration agreement reached by EU leaders after 12 hours of night long acerbic talks was a compromise to contain the tensions within the EU. One of key proposals is screening migrants for their eligibility to apply for asylum before they reach the EU. Countries in North Africa and the Middle East would be offered EU financial aid in exchange for agreeing to set up screening centres. This is a deeply worrying extension of the outsourcing of refugees that is currently in place in Libya and Turkey.

In Libya, thousands of refugees and migrants are currently detained in camps where they suffer torture and other ill-treatment and arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, extortion, forced labour and killings at the hands of Libyan officials, militias and smugglers. Amnesty International’s findings reveal how member states of EU – and Italy in particular – have pursued their own goal of restricting the flow of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean by outsourcing using financial incentives with the slightest concern for the vulnerable people.

In creating a hostile environment for refugees and migrants, there is a growing tendency to use laws that are directed at people traffickers and smugglers to harass humanitarian organisations and individuals who are trying to save lives and support vulnerable refugees. Hungary is again at the forefront of enacting laws whereby individuals and organisations providing advice and assistance to asylum seekers could on conviction face imprisonment of one year and a tax of 25% respectively.

Policies have consequences in determining who lives and who dies. Europe can change its policies to address the concerns of the electorates and win over a new political consensus. The populist narrative must be challenged. The public needs to be persuaded that Europe can manage migration if all government work together to develop effective asylum systems. This would include honest explanation of the benefits and challenges of migration, making legal migration a credible prospect, creating a system of proper integration, and creating a system for the safe return of rejected asylum seekers. If voters understand that most people who flee their homes are hosted in developing countries and Europeans need to do their bit, they might take pride in the reduction of human suffering.

In the longer term the root causes of migration must be dealt with. The wars and conflicts should be brought to an end with systematic conflict resolution. The economic policies of the highly developed Western countries must be changed to allow the transformation of underdeveloped African countries to meet the material needs of their people for jobs, homes, food, education and health.

Hiroshima Day, 6 August

Hiroshima Day commemoration event in Carshalton, 6 August

At dusk on 6th August 2018 supporters and friends of Sutton for Peace & Justice will remember the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs at Carshalton Ponds, Carshalton Surrey.

Please join us as we remember with deep sorrow the 6th August, 1945, when the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and, three days later, on Nagasaki.

We honour the victims. And we reaffirm that we must do all we can to ensure that such barbarity is never repeated and nuclear weapons are not used again.

The commemoration will take place at 8.00pm on Monday 6 August, with readings and floating petals on the pond.

Please gather at 7.45 at the War Memorial, Carshalton Ponds, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton, SM5 2QJ.


Meeting about Palestine, Sutton, 6 July

Sutton for Peace and Justice invite you to a public meeting:

The plight of Palestinians today

Friday 6 July 2018, 7.30–9.30pm, doors open at 7.00

Sutton Quaker Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA

The killing of Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza border has recently hit the headlines. But the continuing human rights abuses of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, with the expansion of illegal settlements, demolition of villages and imprisonment of children, goes largely unreported.

Come and hear from speakers with first-hand knowledge of the situation in Palestine, learn more about the plight of Palestinians today, consider what can be done to ensure a peaceful future and human rights for the people of Palestine, and join the debate.


  • Philipa Harvey, campaigner on the rights of Palestinian Child Prisoners, member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Executive Committee and ex-President of the National Union of Teachers.
  • Doris Richards, an Ecumenical Accompanier who has visited Palestinian communities of Jaba al Baba and Khan am Ahmer currently suffering
    house demolitions.

There is no entry charge, donations will be taken on the night

Please reserve your place by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk
or by text message to 07740 594496


What the US must do to bring peace and stability to the Middle East

A response to Mike Pompeo’s 12 demands on Iran.

By Saleh Mamon

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state set out 12 demands on Iran on the 21 May at in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. It is urgent that the unending wars and destruction in the Middle East are brought to an end for the sake of its peoples, their right to life and security. The US is a paramount military power in the Middle East and it should carry out its moral responsibilities by doing the following:

1) Deal with the issue of nuclear proliferation honestly and equitably by including Israel in the process of denuclearisation. Ensure that both Israel and Iran provide unqualified access to all nuclear sites throughout their respective countries to the IAEA. Facilitate the denuclearisation of the region by removing the shadow of nuclear threat hanging over the people of the Middle East.

2) Prevail on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza and abandon its policy of violence against unarmed Palestinian civilians. Prevent the establishment of new settlements on occupied Palestinian land and help end all the administrative laws that choke Palestinian lives. Ensure that Israel releases all political prisoners. Bring all parties including Hamas together to establish peace by an equitable and just settlement for Palestinians that ensures security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

3) Restore US funding to UNRWA that provides the basic needs of millions of Palestinian refugees in the neighbouring countries. Seek in collaboration with the regional powers a long-term solution to address the needs of these refugees for homes, food, health and education, and their return to their homeland.

4) Ensure the security and integrity of Lebanon and stop Israel from violating its air space. Recognise that Hezbollah is a legitimate political force with historical roots in Lebanon and involve it in establishing peace in the area. Bring Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran together to ensure political stability and security in Lebanon.

5) Abandon the policy of regime change in Syria. Work with Russia and other regional powers for a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Stop the Saudi and Gulf states arming and supporting proxy groups and ISIS in Syria. Respect the integrity of Syria and stop any break up of its territory. With the other regional powers, Russia and the European Union, set up a mechanism for the reconstruction of Syria and for Syrian refugees to return home in the coming decade.

6) Prevail on Turkey to stop its occupation of the Kurdish region in the Northeast of Syria and oppose any ethnic cleansing of the towns and villages of their Kurdish population. Recognise the aspirations of the Kurdish people as legitimate and urge Turkey to release all political prisoners. Assist Turkey to find a political solution that is inclusive of its Kurdish citizens.

7) After the defeat of ISIS, take urgent steps with the Iraqi government to reconstruct the destroyed villages, towns and cities of Iraq with the use of the receipts from Iraq’s oil exports. Support the Iraqi government to build its non-oil economic sectors, infrastructure, health and education systems. Stop the political fragmentation of Iraq and end the occupation of Iraq.

8) Bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan since its invasion and occupation in 2001 by declaring a ceasefire and agreeing a peace process with all parties, including Taliban and the regional neighbours of Afghanistan such as Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia and China.

9) Prevail on its allies in the Gulf Coalition to stop the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade of Yemen to enable humanitarian aid to reach quickly the millions who need it. Ensure that a ceasefire is established and set up a process engaging all parties to reach a political solution leading to the withdrawal of foreign forces. Help, with the regional powers, to reconstruct Yemen’s destroyed infrastructure and economy.

10) Understand the anxieties and fears of Iran in terms of its national security. Stop demonising Iran and recognise it as a regional power that has legitimate security interests. Lift all sanctions on Iran and let the Iranian economy have full access to the world market. Involve Iran with the other regional powers such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt in efforts to secure peace and stability in the region.

11) Prevail on Egypt to stop attacking peaceful protestors and to release political prisoners and allow the freedom of expression and association for the opposition. Ensure that there is freedom from torture and security force violence in Egypt. Work towards restoring political freedoms in Egypt.

12) Work with the UN, Europe, Egypt and other relevant regional countries to implement UN plan to reconcile the different factions in Libya to establish a unified democratic government in Libya. Help with the reconstruction of Libya’s infrastructure and economy.