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In defence of development aid

S4P aid Apr17 2

Tom Brake and Graham Gordon speak in support of development aid

Reporting by Mike McLoughlin.

At a well-attended meeting hosted by Sutton for Peace and Justice at Friends Meeting House in Sutton on 28th April, Graham Gordon and Tom Brake spoke on why International aid is good for both the recipients and for us.

Both have extensive experience in the subject, Graham Gordon as Head of Public Policy at CAFOD, a leading aid agency, and Tom Brake as present and past Lib-Dem spokesperson on international development.

Tom Brake said that over the last 18 months or so there had been a concerted effort by some of the press to talk down the benefits and exaggerate the failings of aid. One success of this campaign had been the appointment of Priti Patel, an opponent of aid in general to head up The Department for International Development (Dfid) which she once said should be abolished. She has said we will promote transparency but by shifting DFID money into Prosperity, Security and Empowerment funds its use will become less transparent. The “Prosperity” fund will provide cash for private businesses, the “Security” fund probably be used by the Ministry of Defence, the most non-transparent and unaccountable ministry and the “Empowerment “ fund is for the Baltic States who are not high on anyone’s list of the world’s poorest countries. With all these moves the provision of aid will become more political and less able to fulfil its purpose to eradicate poverty in the world.

Tom Brake concluded by saying we should lobby our political parties and their election candidates telling them how much we value aid and encourage its focus on eradicating poverty.

Graham Gordon agreed with Tom Brake in that the quality of our aid was in danger from the skewing of the debate possibly leading to the reduction of our involvement to only disease eradication and responding to natural disasters. DFID was recognised as a world leader in humanitarian aid but also in development aid in areas such as the alleviation of the impact of climate change, improvement of the position of women and girls, and strengthening of civic society for long term development. He quoted several typical schemes in countries as far apart as Zambia and Myanmar whose success was apparently unknown to the aid deniers. These included provision of water boreholes which then enabled girls to attend school because they no longer needed to spend their days fetching water from great distances, providing training in cyclone preparedness so that communities were able to quickly recover from the next cyclone caused by climate change and schemes to strengthen civic society and governance enabling more transparency and so enabling governments to improve their tax take and therefore provide service to their communities.

Graham also mentioned the Commonwealth Development Company, now know as simply CDC, a part privatised arm of DFID. There was little evidence of it being successful at generating jobs by providing capital and loans to private companies. However Ms Patel planned to give it much greater funds. In fact private enterprise is not very good at working with civic society or focussing on the poor, the two most important areas if we really want to eradicate poverty.

Both speakers concluded that we should be proud of our contribution to reducing poverty across the world and being one of the first in the rich world to commit to 0.7% of GDP. Many millions of people have benefited from our generosity and many millions more rely on our continuation of this generosity.

The Colloquium in Carshalton Park

Throughout the day of the Environmental Fair, Sutton for Peace and Justice will be hosting a series of informal and open discussions on a range of peace and justice issues at the Sutton for Peace and Justice stall, M12 & M13:

11.00    The challenge of Climate Change: Action on climate change is essential for peace and justice across the world.

12.00      Equality – best for all: How a more equal society would be beneficial to rich and poor alike.

13.00     Sutton for Sanctuary: Campaigning to make Sutton a community that welcomes and supports refugees and migrants.

14.00     The plight of the Palestinians: Living with occupation, illegal settlements and house demolitions.

15.00     Equality – best for all: How a more equal society would be beneficial to rich and poor alike.

16.00     Sutton for Sanctuary: Campaigning to make Sutton a community that welcomes and supports refugees and migrants.

Please come along and find out more, have your say and join the debate.

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.

Towards a Borough of Sanctuary meeting report

Towards a Borough of Sanctuary, 27 May 2016. Meeting convened by Sutton for Peace & Justice in association with Refugee and Migrant Network Sutton to launch the Sutton 4 Sanctuary campaign. Reporting by Tessa Cornell of Sutton for Peace and Justice.

The first speaker was Katie Barringer of the Refugee Support Network.

Katie said that terms like refugee, asylum seeker and migrant are often used interchangeably and in confusing ways in the media. The first two have a legal definition, and of the recently publicised 333,000 migrants entering the UK last year, just 25,771 were asylum seekers.

There are multiple and overlapping reasons why people seek asylum – such as persecution due to a person’s race, religion, nationality, political beliefs and social group – but success in achieving refugee status can be dependent on country of origin. Of those from Syria, 87% of asylum claims were successful but of those from Pakistan just 22% have been granted (the average for all countries is 41%). However, 38% of appeals are ultimately successful, revealing that initial decisions are not accurate.

Those claiming asylum are dispersed around the country, to areas where the costs of supporting then are lower – so few end up in London and the south east. Once a claim is successful and a person has refugee status, they tend to move to an area where they have more in common with the local community and can get support. Their rights are similar to those of a British citizen in terms of work and education; but they need to ‘reclaim’ after five years and this can make settling down and making long-term decisions difficult.

Asylum seekers face many issues – language and cultural barriers, mental health issues due to trauma suffered in their own country and on the journey to the UK, poverty, lack of contact with established communities, previous skills and experience not being recognised, stress at the pace of their claim, inability to work coupled with very low benefits, the risk of exploitation, and so on.

Katie explained that the Refugee Support Network works with children who have arrived without families, generally boys aged 13-18. Education is the focus of their work, as those using the service have said it is that which provides them with hope. They are always in need of volunteers to act as mentors.

Katie was followed by Lucy Minyo of the Refugee & Migrant Network Sutton (RMNS).

Lucy outlined the work of this local group and described how they help clients with issues such as accessing health and education services, applications for benefits and immigration status renewals. They offer advice and advocate on behalf of people as well as organising drop in sessions and language classes, seeing many hardworking, resilient people every day.

Although few of those seeking asylum are initially placed in this area (currently just 11 are registered in Sutton) there will be unaccompanied children and those whose claims have been processed who relocate. We also don’t know where Syrian refugees will be housed. RMNS see around 400 people a year.

Next up, Antaneeta Ragini Jeyakumar described her experiences as a recent refugee to the UK, with the help of interpreter Evangeline Rajini Kantharatnan.

Antaneeta explained that she arrived in the UK in 2014 having fled war in Sri Lanka. She, along with her family, were initially sent to a hotel and then to Newcastle, where she knew no-one and there was no familiar community to support her. When her visa decision was received she decided to come to London where there was an established Tamil community. At first she was unsure of where to go or what she could do, but then found out about RMNS. Since that RMNS has been a great source of support, giving her help with housing issues and benefits claims, and as a result she has grown in confidence.

The last speaker was Mike McLoughlin of Sutton for Peace and Justice.

Mike highlighted some facts about the current situation for refugees around the world. There are currently 2 million refugees in the Lebanon, which is the size of Cornwall, but there have been objections to the UK taking 20,000 from Syria. Malta has taken 3 refugees for every 1000 of the population, Sweden has taken 3.1, but the UK has 1.6 per 10,000. Our economy is 78 times larger than Jordan, but they have taken 600,000 refugees.

In response to concerns raised by those who would like to reduce immigration it is worth noting that immigrants are more likely to work in the NHS than to use its services; crime rates are lower than among the native population; and with an aging population we need young immigrants; and the lack of affordable homes is a failing of successive governments. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work until their claims have been processed.

Mike then gave an outline of how Sutton could become a ‘Borough if Sanctuary’. City of Sanctuary is a national charitable body that seeks to nurture a grassroots movement that builds bridges between different organisations and between local people and refugees. To qualify as a ‘City of Sanctuary’ we must demonstrate that we have support and engagement from the wider population, and then seek the support of the local council as well.

Mike Cooper, Chair of Sutton for Peace & Justice, led a question and answer session and a general discussion of the issues and what we could do locally to help support refugees and asylum seekers and get Sutton recognised as a ‘Borough of Sanctuary’.

It was noted that there are a number of other groups around the country working to the same aim, the closest being Camden, Brighton, Chichester, and Medway, and the Sutton campaign will keep in touch with all of these.

Examples of practical ways that local people can support refugees and asylum seekers included: volunteering with local support organisations, mentoring, engaging them in local groups and empowering the through, for example sport and drama. It was also suggested that local groups could raise funds to pay for asylum seeker families to be enabled to live locally.

It was emphasised that the campaign should seek to change attitudes, dispel myths around those seeking asylum, and celebrate the contribution that can be made to the country. Hostility to refugees can be damaging and hurtful, especially for those arriving at a young age, and families can be left isolated.

The campaign would reach out to and link up with local individuals and groups, to raise awareness of the issues and share what they are doing; it should specifically seek to engage schools.

It was reported that the campaign was setting up a website and mailing lists for individuals and ‘supporter organisations’, that would be used to keep people informed about the campaign and action they can take, and to share what local groups are doing and the services they provide.

Find out more about Sutton 4 Sanctuary here.

Why Local Authorities should oppose TTIP

Local Authorities should officially oppose TTIP – and many have

By Mike McLoughlin

TTIP will be damaging to local authorities and their democratic rights. It will force local authorities to open their procurement processes to US corporations. Such interference will have profound effects on how local authorities operate – from lowering of service standards to lowering of staff pay. Councils committed to paying a living wage i.e. a wage higher than that which Mr Osborne thinks can be called a living wage, will be prevented from so doing in their outside contracts. The procurement process will be undermining as it forces the councils to sign contracts which go against decisions made by the democratically elected representatives of the council.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism will undermine an important role of local councils, that of boosting the local economy. At the moment local councils can, for example, choose to favour local produce and local suppliers. However, with the threat of ISDS litigation (which could be very expensive a local authority cannot afford) they could be forced to forgo that “favouritism” as it will be considered an unfair advantage to local farmers, one that excludes producers from across the EU and US. Such a change will have a crushing effect on attempts to build resilient communities. The EU negotiators are particularly keen on this aspect of the deal as they wish to get rid of the “Buy American” local campaigns in the USA. Therefore any Government assurance that this will not happen cannot be relied upon.

The trade deal is negotiated in secret. And that fact alone is enough for aware people to be against it – the lack of any information on the negotiations, other than what has been leaked, means we cannot trust any official comments about it.

TTIP is a vehicle for corporations to strengthen their hold on the economies of both the EU and the US. This trade deal is, on principle, a threat to our democracies since the power is all in the hand of corporations and its overarching aim is to increase their profitability. It is not about increasing employment opportunities, nor is it about helping small to medium manufacturers to export their goods. It is about corporate profits. Health, workers’ rights, the environment, even the local economy – all are of no account as long as the big companies in the US and EU can turn an even greater profit. That is why this deal should be rejected by anyone who cares about our communities, anyone who wants to live in a thriving, healthy local community.

A total of 46 Local Authorities, 36 in England & Wales and 10 in Scotland, have considered or are considering becoming TTIP-FREE zones. Of these only 4, all conservative controlled, have rejected a motion in some way condemning TTIP or wishing to distance themselves from it. 37 have passed a critical motion calling on the Government to abandon or modify the present state of TTIP and 5 more are actively considering such a motion.

Councils of many different political make-ups are included; in England mostly Labour controlled, but 11 have no overall control. In 7 the second party after Labour is the Lib-Dems. There is one conservative controlled council that has passed a critical motion.

 

March for climate change

On November 29 members of Sutton for Peace and Justice marched with 50,000 campaigners and a smattering of celebrities to demand that global leaders take urgent action to tackle climate change.

 

climatechangemarch

Stop house demolitions in Palestine

Your action can make a difference

Following huge international pressure, the Israeli authorities announced at the end of July that they would indefinitely delay the demolition and forced displacement of all of Susiya’s residents. This shows the impact all of us can have when we work together to put pressure on our elected representatives.

That pressure is now needed again, and just as urgently.

While international attention has been focused on Susiya, the Israeli authorities have ramped up demolitions and forced displacements elsewhere in violation of international law. A sudden surge of demolitions across the West Bank has seen 167 Palestinians – including 101 children – left homeless in the last two weeks in temperatures of over 40°C. For some of them this is the second time since 2013 they have lost their homes to demolitions.

With plans quickly advancing to forcibly transfer over 7,000 Palestinians to make way for the expansion of settlements, the Israeli government shows no signs of slowing down its demolition policy.

If we can bring about the same pressure that led to the delay in demolitions in Susiya, we may be able to prevent more Palestinian families from facing the cruel reality of forced displacement and homelessness.

Please write to your Member of Parliament asking them to raise your concerns with the government and take action. You can use the template letter here or available as a letter or email action here.

This action alert was initiated by the UK and Ireland office of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

For further information: http://www.quaker.org.uk/halt-demolitions-west-bank

Remembering Hiroshima

By David Murray

6th August, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the US, on behalf of the Allies, dropping a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and, three days later, a second one on Nagasaki. It also marks the ‘run up’ to the decision whether to renew the Trident nuclear system.

The bombs and consequent firestorms raised temperatures to 4000 degrees C, obliterating the cities and killing every living thing within one kilometre. People closest to the explosions died instantly, their bodies turned to black char.

Hiroshima stands on a flat river delta offering little protection, so when the bomb exploded above the crowded city centre, the firestorm ultimately destroyed 5 square miles of the city and out of a 350,000 total population estimates of deaths range from 100,000 to 180,000.

The Nagasaki bomb was more powerful so, although hills shielded the centre, the harbour and the historic district, the narrowing effect of the hills left virtually nothing standing in the Urakami Valley, where destruction was greater than Hiroshima. Overall nearly a quarter of Nagasaki’s buildings were consumed by fire, but casualty estimates of 50,000 to 100,000 are less than Hiroshima.

By 1950 over 340,000 people had died, more than half the cities’ populations and generations have been poisoned by radiation.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were acts of war. But nuclear testing in the Pacific, Kazakhstan, the US, Africa, South Asia, and China has also caused profound ongoing damage to the environment and local communities around the world.

Today, Britain, as part of its Trident system, owns 225 warheads each with the power to inflict 8 times the damage of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

So with great sadness we remember the victims who died and those who still suffer from such horrific weapons by reaffirming our determination that such barbarity should never be repeated. We also urge the British Government to honour its signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which the UK has no right to possess nuclear weapons and is legally bound to disarm, by not wasting money renewing Trident.

In May this year William McNeilly told of life on patrol on HMS Vanguard, a Trident submarine, a tale of faulty equipment, poor security and safety blunders: a weapons compartment accidentally flooded by operator error; meat dumped in a skip, loaded onto the submarine for the crew to eat; toilets and drinking water supplies not working; and Vanguard failed a critical test to confirm that it could launch its missiles.

And, according to documents provided to Nuclear Information Service under the FOI Act, a flagship £600 million construction project at Aldermaston – centrepiece of plans to manufacture the next generation of Trident warheads – has been put on hold following a series of design problems, project management failures and regulatory setbacks.

Scrapping Trident would thus make practical sense, meet the UK’s legal obligation and release money for peaceful purposes such as hospitals, schools and affordable homes.

Useful organisations and websites

Action AWE – http://actionawe.org/

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – www.cnduk.org/home

Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – http://ccnd.gn.apc.org/

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – www.icanw.org

Nuclear Morality Project – www.nuclearmorality.com

Nuclear Information Service – www.nuclearinfo.org/

Pax Christi UK – http://paxchristi.org.uk/