openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Challenges and opportunities of the unbanked and under-banked https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/carl-packman/challenges-and-opportunities-of-unbanked-and-under-banked <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Talking about access to appropriate and affordable finance is one thing but what happens when people reject those banks? What happens if some consumers never feel banks can provide for them?</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/535628/banmk554.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/banmk554.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/yaili. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It is hardly controversial to say that banks do not always serve the best interests of everyone, particularly those on low incomes. In fact, even some of those working in the financial services industry would agree that there are unmet needs which an effective industry should be addressing. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the body that regulates the financial services industry, highlighted this recently in an <a href="https://www.fca.org.uk/news/occasional-paper-no-17">occasional paper</a>, confirming that access to mainstream banking is still a major problem looking for a solution. </p> <p>The paper cites research from the Centre for Household Assets and Savings Management <a href="http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/social-policy/chasm/index.aspx">(CHASM)</a> at the University of Birmingham which states that around 1.87m people have absolutely no access to a bank account. Proportionally, younger people are more likely to be affected: 8 per cent of 18-19 year olds have no access to a bank account, and nor do 4 per cent of 20-24 year olds, or 3 per cent of those aged 25-29. </p> <p>While these figures look at the numbers of unbanked people in the UK, they don’t account for those who are defined ‘under-banked’, who compose an even larger number: the 8m people who may have a bank account but don’t actively use it, either because they feel more comfortable primarily within the cash economy or because their account feels “off limits” due to debts owed to the bank which will swallow any income through the bank’s right to “set off”. And then there’s those who have no access to services over and above the transactional, such as an overdraft facility, so supplement their mainstream banking facilities with alternative services, such as payday loans and other forms of credit. </p> <p>For some researchers looking at the financial services industry, the fact that so many people are without a bank account is a measure of their financial vulnerability. This is particularly the case because of the large quantities of research that purports to show a correlation between poor financial wellbeing and being outside of the mainstream financial services system (for instance, it has been <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/about/comein/PewDec11x.pdf">reported</a> that those who are defined as working poor and have a bank account are more likely to be saving money). </p> <p>But less research has been carried out to explore the actual lives of those who are unbanked or under-banked. There is a particularly noticeable absence of research that looks at people who are “unbanked by choice” (i.e. those who exit, or refuse to engage with mainstream financial services, on the grounds of a choice, perhaps to do with the feeling that banks don’t serve their interests or because consumers feel there is a cultural mismatch between their needs and the services). </p> <p>In the US, Pew Research Center carried out <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/about/comein/Pew.pdf">a study</a> in Los Angeles that categorised people who don’t fall into a “traditional” group for those who have access to a bank account. They put low income households into four distinct categories:</p> <ul><li>- Banked Only: households with at least one bank account that use banks for all financial services and transactions. </li><li>- Cross-Over: households with at least one bank account that regularly use non-bank providers for some financial services or transactions.</li><li>- Alternative Financial Services Only: households that do not have a bank account and rely on non-bank alternative financial service providers for financial services or transactions. </li><li>- Cash Economy: households that do not have a bank account and conduct all their financial dealings in cash.</li></ul> <p>Pew found that their survey participants said banks have more convenient locations, lower prices and better customer service than alternative financial service providers (cheque cashers, payday lenders etc.) but used those providers anyway. Location, price and customer service, it seems, are not always the most important considerations for under-banked consumers.</p> <p>In my own research I have reached similar findings. During a recent fieldwork, many of the people I spoke to saw no point in using a bank account to manage their finances. They felt they were better served elsewhere. As one person told me point blank: “I don’t like banks”. </p> <p>This provides a real challenge to policymakers and banks themselves. Talking about access to appropriate and affordable finance is one thing when assuming the onus is upon the banks to be better; but what happens when people reject those banks? How “better” can banks be at offering consumers products that they need?</p> <p>Basic bank accounts, put into effect by UK banks as well as falling under the EU payment accounts directive (PAD), are a much-needed intervention for reducing the barriers to access for those who have previously suffered from having no choice (particularly with the subsequent risk of paying the poverty premium on products such as consumer credit), but the lived experiences of those who actively exclude themselves has been less reported on. </p> <p>On the other hand, there are those that are excluded from banks without a choice. Research carried by Toynbee Hall has <a href="http://transact.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=2212&amp;itemtype=document">found that the main reasons</a> for why some people find themselves excluded, aside from self-exclusion are: capability exclusion (language); price and product exclusion (additional services like insurance or savings are too expensive to bear); ID &amp; verification exclusion; geographical exclusion (some 40 per cent of bank and building society branches have closed down since 1989); marketing exclusion; and values exclusion (such as religious values).</p> <p>The really tricky questions for us, as researchers and those interested in financial inclusion, are the following: what happens if some consumers never feel banks can provide for them? Also, what happens if banks always exclude a particular type of consumer? How can we best serve those who are financially capable, and yet defined excluded or self-excluded?</p> <p>These are questions for the future. What we do know now is that those people who are excluded need options; for those consumers who are excluded from mainstream services options can feel rather limited. Often the only options available are the ones we know are the most expensive: high cost credit. </p> <p>An interesting option is the introduction of Responsible Banking Ordinances (RBOs) in some US cities, from Los Angeles and Minneapolis to San Diego and Seattle. RBOs have their root in the Community Reinvestment Act: they assess the lending environment in a particular community, identify unmet need (i.e. financial exclusion) and make specific demands on depository banks regarding credit provision.</p> <p>A main component of the RBO is transparency: mainstream financial institutions are obliged to release information on residential lending information, small business lending, community development loans and investments, consumer loan data, branch closing policy and information regarding the number of minorities, females and city residents employed by the depository as loan officers/senior staff.</p> <p>A unique part of the RBO is the composition of a board. In addition to having representatives of local depository banks, they are obliged to have a lay member of the community as an independent observer. This brings a whole new dimension to shaping community investment plans and makes banks working in the area accountable to more than just internal shareholders. </p> <p>The Treasury is already publishing local lending data, but critics have pointed out how uneasy it is for alternative providers to use this to identify unmet need. The publication of such data needs to be consistent and include every lending organisation in a local area. This way, ethical providers can finesse their product range to the benefit of those currently outside of the mainstream.</p> <p>Essentially what a Responsible Banking Ordinance can do is make community investment and lending decisions more public and deliberative, particularly among those for whom investment decisions most affect.</p> <p>It can also ensure that lending organisations identify the unwillingly unbanked from the ‘unbanked by choice’. Financial services providers can plan around the needs of those people who fall outside of the ‘prime borrower’ category and barriers to access can be reduced even further. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><br /><strong><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/ann-pettifor/economic-change-will-not-happen-until-left-understands-money">Economic change will not happen until the left understands money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt">Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back">From austerity to indebtedness and back </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 Media activism and anti austerity Carl Packman Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:25:22 +0000 Carl Packman 104368 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Raqqa to the world: a letter https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/raqqa-to-world-letter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How might a young British adherent of ISIS, now in Syria, see the intensifying war? The latest letter in a series imagined by Paul Rogers.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/5673443204_29f55e770a_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/5673443204_29f55e770a_b.jpg" alt="Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved." title="Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Dear Brother,</p><p>Thank you for your letter and I am pleased to hear you were nowhere near central Baghdad when the bomb went off. I know we have had our differences, but do believe me when I say that war has consequences which even those involved can regret.</p><p>I must apologise for taking nearly six months since my last letter but things have been very hectic here as the air strikes – Russian as well as American – have come closer to the city.&nbsp; </p><p>At least I have now been fitted with a prosthetic arm and have been learning how to manage with it. Since I lost my arm in that American raid several years ago, I had got used to managing without, so the new arm is taking some getting used to. It was amazing to get it though, given the pressures that our hospitals are under, and while it is hardly state of the art it is certainly making a difference. </p><p>You ask again after my brother. I have some really surprising news of him. You will remember that back in February I had just heard from him in Libya, even though I knew he had been there for some months. Well I have just heard through a friend that he is now in Bangladesh! Not only that but he is part of the small team that has been involved in the rapid development of our organisation there, including the action against the foreigners a couple of weeks ago.</p><p>I understand that the operation did not go quite according to plan as they had expected to find more Americans there rather than Italians, but the effect on Bangladeshi politics has still been considerable. It has also demonstrated categorically that ISIS has 'reach'. It also coincides with our action in Kabul, which gives the lie to Ghani’s claim that ISIS in Afghanistan is finished.</p><p>You ask about my own work. It has mainly been about continuing to analyse and assess the US presidential election for our SOBRA intelligence centre. But I also still continue with my watching brief on the UK. You will remember that this was my main role around last year’s election there, and that we had been concerned that Miliband might win and bring in a less antagonistic attitude towards us. That was not, of course, what we wanted. The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/raqqa-writes-back">more</a> the Crusaders attack us the more support we can generate.</p><p>In the event the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/islamic-state-message-from-raqqa">result</a> was fine for us. We had this dream of a weak Conservative/UKIP coalition with Farage as Cameron’s home secretary, but we knew full well that it was unlikely. We were happy to settle for a rather unstable Conservative majority.&nbsp; Corbyn coming in for Labour was, as I said in an earlier letter, a bit of a worry since the last thing we wanted in UK politics was an out-and-out peacenik, but we had few concerns that he would ever get there given the quintessentially right-wing nature of the British press.</p><p>Where Cameron turned out to be an utter gift for us was his need to assuage his right-wing with a referendum on the EU. You can imagine our utter delight at the outcome – roll on Brexit and all the upheaval! All we want now is Marine Le Pen winning the French presidency next spring, followed by an even messier Frexit and the break-up of the whole Crusader edifice!&nbsp;But more of that later.</p><p>As I said, my current job is with the US election and I note that my last letter to you mentioned rather wistfully the possibility of Donald Trump getting the Republican ticket. It seemed frankly unlikely back in February, but just look at what has happened since! Not only has he got it but he looks like he is levelling with Hillary Clinton as polling day approaches. Our senior planners are currently working hard to decide how we might intervene to improve his chances and I am pretty sure there will be some interesting developments there.</p><p>What our leaders want is a convincing win for Trump and the enacting of his harder-line policies on immigration, religious freedom and the like, coupled with a reversal of his current rather curious brand of isolationism. Expect some anti-American spectaculars both before the election and even more so afterwards if he does make it to the White House. These will be designed to ensure a renewed onslaught on us by the Americans and their European Crusader allies.</p><p>You ask me to be frank with you about the current state of the war and I will oblige. You may be surprised to hear how optimistic I remain in spite of the intensity of the war being waged against us. It is true that we have lost many thousands of our young fighters as well as hundreds of women and children, and the recent acceleration in the intensity of the air raids has taken its toll. We have also lost valuable territory in Iraq, especially the fall of Fallujah. So you might think it reasonable to ask why I <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/islamic-state-view-from-raqqa">remain</a> optimistic.</p><p>Look at it through other eyes, though. In Iraq the apostate government continues to favour the <em>Shi’a</em> and marginalises our natural supporters. Some of the behaviour is grotesque, as with the abandoning of tens of thousands of refugees from Fallujah even though they were refugees only because of the government assault on their city. Then there is the overwhelming presence of the <em>Shi’a </em>militias without which the government could not maintain control.</p><p>Put these together and are you surprised that support for our cause is rising in Iraq at the very time that our prospects are apparently so dim? Furthermore, our military planners are already preparing and positioning for a long-lasting insurgency against the Americans, Iranians, <em>Shi’a</em> militias and the Iraqi government. In doing so they are sure of plenty of support from many wealthy backers in the Gulf who are horrified at the rise of Iran and see the <em>Shi’a </em>crescent from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea as evolving before their eyes.</p><p>I also suspect that western analysts have no idea about the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/from-raqqa-war-escalates">impact </a>of our round-the-clock social media reporting of the Crusader air war and of the families torn apart by the bombing and drone strikes. These reports lead to palpable anger across the world and serve most effectively to aid our recruiting base.</p><p>There is a further element, however, which helps explain my positive outlook. Let me explain. If we go back two years, just after the startling successes in Iraq, all our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/islamic-state-letter-from-raqqa">emphasis</a> was about the actual achievement of a new Caliphate out of what was previously northern Iraq and northern Syria. That was lauded as the way forward, in marked contrast to the failed policies of al-Qaida a decade earlier. But our top planners were already looking beyond this.</p><p>They correctly saw that the Crusaders would come at us with massive force and might eventually cause us huge problems, even to the extent of taking parts of the new Caliphate away from us. In these circumstances they reasoned that even the temporary existence of the Caliphate would be of huge symbolic importance, and its crushing by the Crusaders would be a call to arms in the coming years.</p><p>But they went further, in determining to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/raqqa-letter-assessing-west">take</a> the war to the Crusaders. By the start of last year we were developing a range of capabilities. Some of these were under our direct control, others subject to strong influence and some technical support, and still others were no more than inspired by our work. A few of the recent attacks were completely unrelated, even if we moved quickly to claim them.</p><p>The effect of all of this, especially in France and Germany, has been to increase the sense of insecurity, accelerate the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and increased support for extreme right-wing parties. We are most interested in Germany and France, but work is also under way to enhance our support-base in several other countries, including the Netherlands, Austria and Britain.</p><p>Even so, our main target has to be France and we are growing increasingly confident of influencing next spring’s presidential election in favour of Marine Le Pen. We may not have got Farage into the British government but Trump in the White House and Marine Le Pen as president of France will make us very happy indeed.</p><p>I have to say that even though I worked for three years in the United States and studied for a year in London, I am still amazed that senior policy people and analysts in both countries seem so unable to understand ISIS and its aims. Even after 15 years of war, the Crusader states are no more secure than they were. Yet they do not even try to learn why. For the sake of our mission, let us hope they never do.</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.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Society%20%20social%20sciences/Politics%20%20government/Political%20activism/Armed%20conflict/Irregular%20War%20Islamic%20State%20and%20the%20New%20Threat%20from%20the%20Margins.aspx?menuitem=%7BE8A98B5E-F20B-476E-8EE5-B1C4BE955AD3%7D"><em>Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins</em></a> (IB Tauris, 2016)</p><p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><span><span><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a><br /></span></span></p><p><a href="http://www.remotecontrolproject.org/"><span><span>Remote Control Project</span></span></a></p><p>Michael Weiss &amp; Hassan Hassan, <a href="http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/ISIS/Michael-Weiss/9781941393574"><em>ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror</em></a> (Simon &amp; Schuster, 2015)</p><p>William McCants, <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/theisisapocalypse/williammccants"><em>The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State</em></a> (St Martin's Press, 2015)</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="/paul-rogers/isis-after-orlando-multiform-war">ISIS after Orlando: a multiform war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-warfare-cost-of-progress">Drone warfare: the cost of progress</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mission-creep-or-mission-rush">Mission creep or mission rush?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/isis-in-action-tal-askuf-decoded">ISIS in action: Tel Askuf decoded</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/after-brussels-isiss-strategy">After Brussels, ISIS&#039;s strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-vs-isis-prospect">America vs ISIS, the prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/widening-war-isis-to-aqim">The extending war: ISIS to AQIM</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/war-on-terror-interim-report">The war on terror: an interim report</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> global security Paul Rogers Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Paul Rogers 104356 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Using technology to inject the demos back into democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/roslyn-fuller/using-technology-to-inject-demos-back-into-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Online deliberation allows us to take a leap towards much deeper democracy.</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/553846/675px-TyreAlMinaAgora.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/675px-TyreAlMinaAgora.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Agora at Tyre, Heretiq, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>The recent Brexit referendum revealed a deep societal rift about what the word ‘democracy’ means. To some, the term ‘democracy’ is inseparable from the idea of majoritarian rule, and is viewed as the revolutionary triumph of the downtrodden over a corrupt aristocracy meant to deliver freedom, equality, and a system of personal advancement based on merit and graft instead of birth and wealth. But to a surprising number of others, democracy would appear to be conceived more as an elaborate debating society, where points are politely exchanged on the issues of the day before everyone concurs in doing ‘the only decent thing’. On the rare occasions when the <em>hoi polloi</em> are given the opportunity to make a decision, as happened during Brexit, their betters should feel no compunctions in over-riding it, should it prove convenient to do so. </p> <p>This ‘debating society’ conception of democracy surfaced in a multitude of articles written post-Brexit, e.g. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/stop-brexit-mp-vote-referendum-members-parliament-act-europe">here</a>, <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/06/24/britain-democratic-failure/Mx888Cle7t6OUyuWyX8n2M/story.html">here</a>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/06/28/regarding-brexit-democracy-and-elitism/">here</a> and <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-referendum-result-latest-news-democracy-vote-consequences-a7105481.html">here</a>. Such perceptions of democracy as the mere art of noble statecraft tend to portray the common folk as ignorant dupes, incapable of assessing their own best interests and dangerously irresponsible, all too prone to shrieking ‘Give me freedom or give me death!’ in front of blood-stained guillotines, or – at the other end of the spectrum – marching in jackboots by torchlight. The debating society democrats are, by contrast, self-portrayed as intelligent, courageous and above all righteous in their willingness to save the people from themselves, or at least from making any decisions that could negatively impact a balanced stock portfolio. Debating society or bloodthirsty chaos – these are the alleged choices. </p><p>But the truth is that champagne-flute clinking ‘civilized debate’ and the classic peasant revolt are but two sides to one coin. Exclude people from having a hand in their political destiny for too long, ignore their repeated polite warnings that they’re unhappy with the decisions their self-anointed superiors are ostensibly making for their own good, and eventually their anger and frustration will boil over. The relationship is not one of alternatives, but rather of cause and effect. </p> <p>And for evidence that the people <em>are</em> excluded from politics under current ‘democratic’ practices, one need look no further than the fact that the Conservative party currently wields 100% of political power in the United Kingdom with less than 37% of the vote. Such skewed election results are the norm rather than the exception – Tony Blair’s Labour ruled even more absolutely with much the same level of popular support. And ‘ruled’ is indeed the appropriate term, because between elections, there are few ways in which the general population can participate in politics. Referenda are non-binding and, due to their extreme infrequency, tend to be dominated by moneyed interests, petitions are merely an advanced form of groveling, and protest an exercise in letting off steam. No matter how often or passionately people protested the Iraq War, for example, they did not suddenly acquire command of the United Kingdom’s armed forces with the authority to direct their activities. Consequently, the war happened.&nbsp; </p><p>As this demonstrates, possibilities to ‘take action’ under our current system may exist, but they are rarely effective. Debating-society democracy leaves the majority of people increasingly conscious of the fact that, while they may be able to express their opinions, there is no mechanism in place for translating those opinions into action. It has long been understood that it is the duty of politicians to <em>listen</em> to these expressions and act upon them, but there is nothing in our political system that actually ensures that this happens at any point, much less in a timely fashion. It depends entirely on politicians voluntarily doing their duty; when they don’t things go pear-shaped. Fast.</p> <p>If we want to correct this, we need to incorporate a legitimate and visible connection between citizens expressing their political preferences and concrete actions taken. Such a mechanism would need to involve citizens in decision-making on a continual basis, so as to allow issues to be dealt with before the tension builds. With millions of citizens in the United Kingdom, it is impossible to imagine how this could be done offline, but such a system of rolling participation could be implemented online. After all, <a href="https://e-estonia.com/component/i-voting/">Estonians</a> have being using internet voting in elections since 2005 with parts of <a href="http://www.internetvotingproject.com/learn/">Canada</a> and <a href="https://www.ch.ch/en/elections2015/electronic-voting/electronic-voting-in-switzerland/">Switzerland</a> following suit.</p> <p>More sophisticated online tools (see eg. <a href="https://placeavote.com/#!/">here</a>, <a href="http://www.ethelodecisions.com">here</a>, and <a href="http://democracyos.org">here</a>) allow citizens to vote not just in elections, but directly on specific issues, such as rent control, financial regulation, or fracking. Frequent issue-specific voting means that it is less likely for the accompanying debate to become conflated across issues, and commenting functions can allow citizens to directly engage with each other, introducing a deliberative aspect to decision-making across disparate sub-groups that is currently utterly lacking in both referenda and elections. Most importantly, online voting on specific issues allows for transparency, removing much of the guesswork from politics, and making it difficult for representatives to dismiss voters’ expressed will. The grey space between expression and action disappears.</p> <p>If we want to reset democracy, we need to put the demos – the people, that is – back in the middle of the process, and this is precisely what technology allows us to do.</p> <p>Despite oft-repeated fears of the dangers of ‘online participation’, the facts indicate that we are ready for this transition. </p> <p>When <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/the-dark-side-of-guardian-comments">The Guardian</a> analysed over 70 million comments, posted on its site over 10 years, it discovered that only 2% of them had been blocked by moderators, including comments blocked for being off-topic rather than for containing offensive content. Actual threats were described as ‘extremely rare’ while ‘[h]ate speech as defined by law was rarely seen on Guardian comment threads’. Similarly, a <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/">Pew study</a> in the United States revealed that 27% of internet users had been called an offensive name online while 6% had experienced online sexual harassment. Compare this to the 24% of women who experience sexual harassment in the <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Remus_Ilies/publication/227604263_REPORTED_INCIDENCE_RATES_OF_WORKRELATED_SEXUAL_HARASSMENT_IN_THE_UNITED_STATES_USING_METAANALYSIS_TO_EXPLAIN_REPORTED_RATE_DISPARITIES/links/09e41513cb1365a57e000000.pdf">workplace</a> and what must surely be the 100% of people who have, at some point, been called an offensive name offline. Obviously any level of harassment is unacceptable, but this data does call a narrative of an unruly online environment that is intrinsically more abusive than the offline world into question. Thus, while it would certainly be necessary to set parameters on the deliberative aspect of online decision-making, there is no reason to believe that this would prove an insurmountable task.</p> <p>When things are out in the open and people are regularly consulted in a manner that clearly leads to results, contentious situations tend to be more easily defused, mistakes more easily spotted and rectified, and debate more easily centred on the issue at hand. It is when people’s wishes are suppressed for long periods of time, that politics begins to get chaotic. The debating society version of democracy we have been championing for so long is not an alternative to, but rather a cause of, social unrest. Giving people a transparent stake in decision-making, as technology now allows us to do, is the best, and perhaps the only, way to effectively reset democracy in a peaceful manner. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</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 reset Roslyn Fuller Thu, 28 Jul 2016 12:17:35 +0000 Roslyn Fuller 104364 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The political economy of the Arab Spring: searching for the virtuous circle https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/paul-aarts-samir-makdisi/spring-is-yet-to-come <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>No matter how tragic the short and medium-term consequences of some of the uprisings, their outbreak might eventually lead the Arab world to enter steadily the trajectory to democracy and good governance. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-11221624.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amr Nabil/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-11221624.jpg" alt="Amr Nabil/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Amr Nabil/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amr Nabil/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In a recent piece in <em>The</em> <em>Washington Post</em>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/28/why-its-wrong-to-say-that-the-arab-uprisings-failed">Marc Lynch</a> argued it’s wrong to say that the Arab uprisings have failed. “Success or failure”, he contends, is not a helpful way to understand these ongoing societal and political processes. “Let’s not talk in these binary terms”, he concludes, noting &nbsp;that after five years new political systems have taken shape that must be understood on their own terms – which by the way is a correct&nbsp; though not a novel finding. </p> <p>We have seen this before as is shown by ample research on regime transitions since WWII, and more in particular after the end of the Cold War. Here, we may refer in particular to the work of Barbara Geddes and her team and to Steven Lewitsky’s and Lucan Way’s work. It was found that more than half of <a href="http://www3.nd.edu/~ggoertz/qmir/geddes_etal2014.pdf">regime breakdowns</a> were transitions from one <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/comparative-politics/competitive-authoritarianism-hybrid-regimes-after-cold-war">autocracy</a> to another. Fewer than one-quarter of leadership changes resulted in “democratization” or a move towards democratic governance (but in a majority of cases remaining short of achieving &nbsp;a consolidated “democracy” as commonly understood). </p><p>So nothing new here. There is no linear “transition” towards democracy, which is very much against the school of thought of those scholars, both inside and outside the Arab World (and – perhaps more understandably – among many activists), who may suffer from what the Germans call <em>Zwangsoptimismus</em> (translated as “forced optimism”). Of course <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137541390">other scholars</a> have been more cautious, emphasizing the implementation of inclusive &nbsp;political and socio-economic policies as pre-requisites for a successful transition to democracy.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Dignity and bread</strong></h2> <p>A basic motive behind the initial uprisings was the wish to break out of the autocratic hold and achieve some of form of political freedom. But what greatly reinforced this wish were growing levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment that came to reach relatively high levels. Subsequently three of the uprisings turned into brutal civil wars, intertwined with active foreign interventions, with all their horrific socio-economic and political consequences. </p><p>So far, in one case (Egypt) it has effectively led nowhere. Only Tunisia is a more promising case, though the successful implementation of more <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137541390">inclusive economic policies</a>, including the tackling of the issue of unemployment, is yet to be seen.</p> <p>Generally speaking, the pro-democracy protests have been less focused on the question of economics than politics. Thus, while the Arab Spring was to a large extent rooted in protest at the neo-liberal “solution”, these protests remained basically political, issues of economic injustice or dysfunction attracting lesser attention. And what indeed evolved following the uprisings was a further worsening of the economic and job situation. </p><p>Hence whereas the removal of sitting dictators could be interpreted as a sign of success for the Arab uprisings, the consequent worsening situation, including <a href="http://theconversation.com/fading-hope-why-the-youth-of-the-arab-spring-are-still-unemployed-60588">job prospects</a>, is a countersign of their non success, at least so far. Different sources give different numbers when it comes to jobs needed in the near future. But no matter which source is consulted, the numbers are staggering – in particular when looking at youth unemployment. In general, young females are three times less likely to find employment than young males.</p> <h2><strong>Consent vs coercion</strong></h2> <p>Not only have economic conditions worsened since 2011, and unemployment has been on the rise, new regimes (like in Tunisia) face the great dilemma of how to recover economically while maintaining a stable transition process. Seeking international assistance traditionally forces them to introduce market-oriented reforms (imposed by international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank) – such as slashing subsidies and laying off government employees. By doing so they risk losing support of the people that brought them to power, i.e. they run the risk of losing recently acquired legitimacy. </p> <p>The alternative of not giving in to demands from these institutions, and “listening to the people”, may lead to an even deeper economic malaise with uncertain political consequences. Hence the bottom line and paramount question: How to reconcile market-oriented reforms with social justice? </p><p>This is the great challenge facing the post-uprising MENA region: creating a balance between the need to restore economic stability while generating growth prospects and implementing more equitable socio-economic policies. This challenge has been successfully met elsewhere as in the case of Chile. In the existing conflictual Middle Eastern region this task will be much more difficult than otherwise would have been the case.</p> <h2><strong>Searching for the ‘virtuous circle’</strong></h2> <p>A lot of research has been done on the link between regime type and economic development. As Przeworski has summarized: there is no reason to believe that on average non-democracies have a higher rate of growth than democracies. Or, quoting another economist, <a href="http://erf.org.eg/publications/forum-the-newsletter-of-the-economic-research-forum/">Dani Rodrik</a>: “For each authoritarian country that has managed to grow rapidly, there are several that have struggled. For each Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, there are many like Mobutu of the Congo.”</p> <p>Whether democracies perform better economically, however, is open to divergent views. There is just one finding that is robust: It is certain that established democracies are more likely to survive in countries with higher per capita income (India is a notable exception while growing authoritarianism in Erdogan’s <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/23/why-turkeys-authoritarian-descent-shakes-up-democratic-theory/">Turkey</a> – clearly apparent well before the recent post-coup developments – might throw a spanner in the works of democratic theory). </p><p>It looks like “democracy seldom appears in economically <a href="http://erf.org.eg/publications/forum-the-newsletter-of-the-economic-research-forum/">underdeveloped countries</a>, and when it does, it does not last long.” Does this mean that, as Tarek Massoud claims, a healthy economy then is a kind of prerequisite for an inclusive policy? Does this imply that democratization must be put on hold? No, of course not, is Massoud’s reply. </p> <p>It is without doubt that democracy is important in its own right, but what might be relevant to point out is the need for an “<a href="http://erf.org.eg/publications/forum-the-newsletter-of-the-economic-research-forum/">enlightened political leadership</a> that prioritizes building competent state institutions, fighting corruption, and expanding economic opportunity.” The ideal then is to achieve a virtuous circle where governance reforms support growth which in turn leads to better governance and even faster growth. </p> <p>In this context, the growth of the middle class and the rise of education levels can have a modernizing influence that helps in creating more favourable conditions for a move towards a democratic environment. (Though this is <em>not</em> to claim that the<a href="http://www.merip.org/mer/mer277/class-politics-post-revolutionary-iran-brief-introduction"> middle class</a> always and everywhere is the “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Capitalist-Development-Democracy-John-Stephens/dp/0226731448">vanguard of democratization</a>”). </p><p>Specifically in the case of the Arab region, this has&nbsp; generally not been the case (in contrast with other regions of the world), mainly on account of the negative political influences of abundant oil wealth in already existing non-democracies (in the oil-rich Gulf region) as well as raging conflicts, including the Arab-Israeli conflict that is yet to be justly resolved. The <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/middle-east-government-politics-and-policy/democratic-transitions-arab-world?format=PB">interaction of these factors</a> has drawn in corrosive foreign interventions that further destabilized the region, thereby hindering economic development. </p> <h2><strong>A post-work, deindustrialized future</strong></h2> <p>It’s a truism to notice that in this grim context finding enough jobs will be an uphill battle – if not a mission impossible. Add to the above-mentioned specifics of the MENA region – where oil wealth has tended to retard potential economic diversification – the global trend towards a “post-work” future (with more time for leisure made possible by automation), and it will be hard to be optimistic. Rather than repel the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Second-Machine-Age-Prosperity-Technologies/dp/0393239357">advance of the machine</a>, the West ánd the MENA region need to work on a <a href="https://thecorrespondent.com/utopia-for-realists/">revolution in social thinking</a>.</p> <p>For newcomers to the world market it would be difficult to emulate the industrialization experience of the Four Asian Tigers, or the European and North American economies before them. Many (if not most) developing countries are becoming mostly service economies without having developed a large manufacturing sector – a process which Dani Rodrik has called “<a href="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/dani-rodrikdeveloping-economies--missing-manufacturing?barrier=true">premature deindustrialization</a>.” This also applies to countries in the MENA region, though it may vary per country. </p> <p>In general, however, as Rodrik argues, what the region most likely is going to miss is crucial building blocks to be able to come to some kind of a less autocratic system. Let’s remember that indeed some of these “building blocks of durable democracy have been by products of sustained industrialization: an organized labor movement, disciplined political parties, and political competition organized along a right-left axis. The habits of compromise and moderation have grown out of a history of <a href="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/dani-rodrikdeveloping-economies--missing-manufacturing?barrier=true">workplace struggles</a> between labor and capital.”&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Threat to stability</strong></h2> <p>This has serious implications, also for the relative “success story” of Tunisia: The new government may have gained “input legitimacy” thanks to its election by the people, but that does not automatically entail “<a href="http://erf.org.eg/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/928.pdf">output legitimacy</a>” in terms of policy delivery – more concretely: in particular more jobs for the massive numbers<strong> </strong>of unemployed and<strong> </strong>underemployed<em> </em>youth. </p><p>No jobs lead to disappointment. What comes after is difficult to say<strong>. </strong>Unless this problem is successfully addressed<strong> </strong>isn’t<strong> </strong>a likely outcome a massive permanent class of jobless people whom the state will see as a persistent<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/04/arab-autocrats-are-not-going-back-to-the-future/"> threat to stability</a>? This in its turn might necessitate repressive-exclusionary modes of governance. </p><p> Against this backdrop, the MENA region will most likely travel a rocky road to an unknown future. It’s against this pessimism of the intellect that we have to put the optimism of the will, leading to our belief that, no matter how tragic the short and medium-term consequences of some of the uprisings, their outbreak might eventually lead the Arab world to enter steadily the trajectory to democracy and good governance.&nbsp;</p><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> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening middle east Revolution The future: Islam and democracy Violent transitions Samir Makdisi Paul Aarts Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:33:56 +0000 Samir Makdisi and Paul Aarts 104318 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's time to disband the 'Tribe of the 48%' https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunder-katwala/its-time-to-disband-tribe-of-48 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; color: #222222;"><span style="font-size: 12.8px; line-height: normal;">We cannot ground an effective political movement on the 48% who voted Remain. Instead, we must look for solutions to the political divisions that created this tribe.</span></span></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/562227/thing.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/thing.jpg" alt="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Photo: Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All Rights Reserved.</span></span></span>Britain’s surprise vote to leave the EU, with Leave’s narrow but decisive win by a margin of over a million votes, led to a surprising outpouring of emotion on the Remain side of the referendum.&nbsp;It was surprising because there had been precious little emotion over the previous weeks of a campaign, which had been entirely focused on the pocketbook economic risks of leaving the EU. Indeed, there had been precious little emotion across the previous four decades of British engagement in the European club, largely seen as a transactional economic relationship, joining a common market without ever being entirely comfortable with the political idea of 'ever closer union' that animated the founders of the European project.&nbsp;<br /><br />Yet, in the days after the referendum, the banner was raised of a new&nbsp;tribe - the&nbsp;48% &nbsp;- with Facebook appeals to sign petitions or attend rallies and even a new “Newspaper for the 48%”. The 48% knew what they wanted: that Britain shouldn’t leave the European Union even if a majority of the country had voted that we should.</p><p>There appeared to be no shortage of ideas about how Brexit could be stopped – but none that looks at all viable. The idea of blocking the referendum in the courts lacks any sound legal basis in Britain’s uncodified constitutional system. The idea of a parliamentary rejection of Brexit is even more tone-deaf to how the public think about democratic legitimacy. Indeed, there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite who simply cannot accept the result of a democratic vote.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite&nbsp;</span>A good democratic argument can be put that a general election should take place before the UK has formally completed its departure from the European Union. But those who see this is a route to reverse Brexit seriously underestimate just how difficult it would be to elect a government on a pro-EU ticket. More than seven out of ten Parliamentary constituencies had a Leave majority.&nbsp;&nbsp;The current political turmoil within the main opposition party makes it difficult to see when the British public will next be offered any viable alternative to a Conservative government. Those who want to make the principled case for EU membership have every democratic right to keep making the argument, but they are unlikely to prevail.</p><p>From the inside, those involved saw the 48% as a vibrant new social and political movement. From outside, the shocked response looked more like the early stages of the grieving process – denial and anger after the lost vote. A new British Future report published today, ‘<a href="http://www.britishfuture.org/articles/news/disbanding-the-tribes/" target="_blank"><em>Disbanding the Tribes</em></a>,’ suggests that there are strong arguments for seeing that grieving cycle through the next stages – depression and bargaining through to acceptance – difficult though this would be for those most committed to a Remain vote.</p><p>There are important gains if they do. Those who backed Remain face a choice between trying to reverse the referendum result to prevent Brexit - and almost certainly failing - or seeking to influence the type of Brexit we get. The large, defeated minority would find that they could have significant chances to shape the form that Brexit might take, but that this will depend on their first accepting that it is going to happen.</p><p>Many people will want to engage in the debate about what changes after Brexit could mean for the causes they care about: employment rights and environmental protections; how Britain can play its full role on global issues like defence and international development; and how welcoming we are to those who seek to come here to do business, learn at our universities or work in our economy. Those 48%ers who remain fixated upon proving that we are going to hell in a handcart post-Brexit are unlikely to be part of these conversations. But their voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p>A key progressive dilemma is the tension between two different 48% tribes.&nbsp;48% of voters preferred Remain to Leave in the 2016 referendum. 48% of voters in England also voted in 2015 for parties other than UKIP or the Conservatives. These are not the same 48% – they comprise two different, shifting and temporary alliances.<br /><br />Of the 16 million voters in the Remain 48%, around 4.5 million voted Conservative in 2015.&nbsp; Calling for a ‘progressive alliance,’ made up of a united left-liberal-Green flank, to mobilise the 48% around a plan to remove the Conservatives from office is not likely to be the most effective appeal.&nbsp; Of the 15 million who voted for ‘progressive parties’ in May 2015, around a third went on to vote for Leave in the referendum, across SNP. Liberal Democrat and Green voters, as well as from Labour.&nbsp;&nbsp;So the idea of a political realignment, founded on the referendum result, may be more problematic than its proponents might think. Many of the voters to whom it would hope to appeal might not want to come to the party. In fact, that crossover vote of ‘Remain progressives’ amounts to just a third of the electorate – who themselves hold mixed views on the priority or urgency of the European Union.<br /><br />For some, it won't matter that the 48% doesn't exist, or may only be half of its purported size. Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats has spotted the gap in the market for a "Cosmopolitan UKIP", a liberal and urban mirror party to Nigel Farage's populist insurgency, responding to defeat by stealing the slogan "give us our country back". When Farron says "we are the 48%", he may well mean "we were the 8% in May 2015 and we would love to be the 16% next time that Britain goes to the polls".&nbsp;<br /><br />Those may be good Liberal Democrat party tactics. A similar approach may sometimes help to build a broader liberal base for progressive campaigns too. But liberal causes should take care to&nbsp; not become defined and confined by being part of a minority tribe. Those of us who want to defend values of tolerance and internationalism should want to succeed with majority support too. After Brexit, it will be important to entrench social values in British society, and show that a vote to leave the European Union in 2016 certainly does not entail turning the clock back to the country that we were before 1972. There is no reason why the progress that Britain has made on equal opportunities for women in society, on gay rights and on the reduction of racism in our society over those decades should not be sustained outside the European Union.<br /><br />One of the first big political decisions involved in getting Brexit right has been how we treat the 3 million EU citizens currently living in Britain. This is not an issue that sets the 16 million against the 17 million: 84% of the public are happy to say to Europeans in Britain: ‘this is your home and you continue to be welcome here’. Voters across the Leave-Remain divide can show that they are united against a toxic, racist and deluded minority who believe that the referendum vote gives them a licence for prejudice, hate speech and street racism. Yet neither the 48% nor the 52% can do this alone: we need to work together.</p><p>Some political issues are central to the contest between political parties at elections. Others are uncontested and are not at stake as the political pendulum swings – they form the foundations underpinning equal citizenship in our democratic society. If we want that to be the case for our shared support for equality and our opposition to racism, prejudice and discrimination, then it is essential to maintain broad and sustained majority support for them.</p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">This September, the issue of refugee protection will also return to the agenda, with UN and US summits, and the first anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi; the Syrian child whose body was famously photographed washed up on a Turkish beach. Our tradition of protecting refugees long pre-dates Britain’s membership of the EEC and will outlast our membership of the EU too. It is a source of pride for seven out of ten Britons. This autumn, it needs to be clear that the invitation to uphold that tradition is not going out to just one side of the referendum: everybody should feel invited to come together and stand up for Britain being a country proud to welcome refugees.<em><br /></em></p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">The 48% does contain most of Britain's graduates, but few of those who left school with no educational qualifications.&nbsp;It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest, given that the task in the referendum was to secure majority consent in a society where we have a universal adult franchise, not one restricted to university graduates.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest</p><p>The referendum illuminates the long-term, growing divergence between the politics of social justice and those of identity and belonging – and the need for much broader geographical and cross-class reach of those pursuing progressive coalitions.&nbsp;&nbsp;There will be no successful defence of liberal ‘open society’ values without engaging a much broader coalition than is achieved by the polarising frame of ‘open versus closed’, which pits the confident, liberal minority against the nativist, left-behind minority - but which also leaves most of the public unpersuaded by either camp.</p><p>A more successful strategy will require liberals to engage with both the gains&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;the pressures of ‘openness’; to be able to respond constructively to legitimate concerns about the impacts of immigration on public services, jobs and culture; and to engage with the values and interests of blue-collar and non-graduate audiences. If we are to secure majority consent for the values of an open and fair society, we need to do so together and ensure that it works fairly for everyone.</p><p>Even on a disagreement this big, we – Leave and Remain, old and young, graduate and non-graduate, metropolitan and provincial&nbsp;&nbsp;- can still find much common ground. "Build bridges, not walls" has&nbsp;long been a slogan of internationalists. But preserving and strengthening the 48% and 52% tribes will not build a bridge, it will build a wall. It is time to tear it down.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</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 reset Sunder Katwala Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:17:52 +0000 Sunder Katwala 104360 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to rethink the relationship between mental health and political violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/benjamin-ramm/we-need-to-rethink-relationship-between-mental-health-and-political-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Simplistic, sensationalist media coverage of terrorism obscures our understanding of its causes, and hinders our ability to prevent it.</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/560741/PA-28146475.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mourners near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich, after a shooting on June 23. Credit: Jens Meyer; AP/PA. All rights reserved"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560741/PA-28146475.jpg" alt="Mourners gather near the site of a deadly shooting in Munich on June 23, 2016." title="Mourners near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich, after a shooting on June 23. Credit: Jens Meyer; AP/PA. All rights reserved" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mourners near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich, after a shooting on June 23. Credit: Jens Meyer; AP/PA. All rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>After each atrocity, social media hosts the well-rehearsed rituals of mourning. News of the identification of the perpetrators is frequently followed by condemnation of the double-standard of media coverage – in relation to geography (sometimes <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/11/16/9744640/paris-beirut-media">misguided</a>), and to language, particularly regarding the word ‘terrorist’. (It’s worth reading the BBC’s <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/terrorism-language/guidance-full">guidance</a> about why it prefers not to use the term altogether). In recent months, it has become clear that there is frustration about the application of mental health diagnoses, especially in relation to white male violence, as well as confusion about the relationship between mental illness and terrorism. This is a fraught and difficult subject, rarely discussed sensitively on a platform such as Twitter, which rewards simplification and polarisation.</p> <p>After the killing of Jo Cox, there was justifiable anger at ‘de-politicisation’ of her murder: many media outlets chose not to highlight Thomas Mair’s links to far-right white supremacist groups. His act certainly fits the definition of terrorism (‘one who uses violence or the threat of violence to further their political aims’) – although this does not discount the possibility that Mair may suffer from mental illness, nor does it negate the importance of a diagnosis. Rather than a reductionist <em>either/or</em> (“Is it ideology, or is it pathology? Chemicals in the brain, or ideas in the mind?”), it’s important to acknowledge that mental illness can be a contributory factor, because violence is often a confluence of personal, social and ideological elements. There’s a public bravura that prevents politicians from acknowledging this nuance (those that dissent are forced to state the obvious: ‘to understand is not to justify’) – all of which serves as an indulgence of ignorance, a dangerous form of self-denial.<span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp; The&nbsp;<span>‘lone wolf’ evolves in th</span><span>ree key stages:</span><span>&nbsp;</span><em>isolation, inspiration, emulation.</em></span></p> <p>In 2016, amid a wave of attacks from ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, clarity and honesty is urgently needed. The&nbsp;<span>‘lone wolf’</span><span>&nbsp;evolves in th</span><span>ree key stages:&nbsp;</span><em>isolation, inspiration, emulation. </em><span>For a recent BBC documentary on the </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03vwfyp">Unabomber</a><span>, I interviewed former FBI special agent Kathleen Puckett, a behavioural psychologist who worked on the UNAbom task force. Following the capture of Ted Kaczynski, Puckett was commissioned to write a report called ‘The Lone Terrorist’, comparing the Unabomber with other high-profile cases, including the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Eric Rudolph, who bombed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Puckett told me about the report:</span></p> <blockquote><p><em>Essentially the primary finding was that all of them had an intense desire to be a part of a group <strong>– </strong>and they were always extremist groups… There are people who want to be members of groups </em><em>but can’t affiliate or can’t make the internal connections with other people well enough to become a member. The group rejects them or they reject the group. They’re angry because they’re stymied in their lack of ability to make connections that they want. If you’re not in a group, how do you matter in the world? How do you make a mark? You have to do a societal level of violence – so the connection that they make is to the ideology itself… We said years ago that what we were really worried about was the lone terrorist ideology and phenomenon being adopted by international terrorism and of course that has happened… It’s not that these people are being recruited but they’re self-recruiting because they are alienated. The Boston bombers for example: </em><em>Tsarnaev </em><em>wrote on his social media, ‘I don’t have a single American friend’.</em></p></blockquote> <p>In place of intimacy, ideology fulfils their desire for connection. <strong>Isolation</strong> and marginalization do not prohibit them from interaction, but make particularly susceptible to online radicalization. Some of them are bullied, some experience racism, and many entertain fantasies of revenge. Some, in Brian Michael Jenkins’ characterization, are <a href="https://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/rand_op343.pdf">‘stray dogs’</a> rather than ‘lone wolves’, looking for a cause that will give them meaning and make sense of their mental turmoil. Crucially, an extremist ideology offers them the possibility of transforming their identity: to re-imagine themselves not as <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/the-terrorist-mindset-the-radical-loser-a-451379.html">failures</a>, but as warriors, whose prior difficulties are not personal shortcomings, but evidence of the cultural decadence that they now disavow.</p> <p>While recognising the cognitive utility of radical ideology, we shouldn’t discount the romantic appeal of the ideas themselves, even if the creed seems dystopian to us. We live in an age that is cynical about the power of ideas, too comfortable in its conviction that people are ultimately motivated by materialism. This is a particularly modern myopia, and prevents us from comprehending the <strong>inspiration</strong> of millenarian <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/">apocalyptic</a> groups, which offer a carefully crafted script for salvation. They tempt not only troubled souls, but those weary of <a href="http://www.bartleby.com/266/81.html">drab mediocrity</a>, with the promise of comradeship (personal or virtual, in the present or hereafter), glory on the battlefield, and dominion over women, especially <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/longforms/2015/isis/portraits-of-the-yazidi-women-who-escaped-isis.html">sex-slaves</a>. Jihadism transforms the fighters from figures who feel passive into active actors shaping history. In a world of bewildering complexity, it abolishes the ‘grey zone’ and offers them purity and the prospect of hegemony. It is a mark of the parochialism and Eurocentricism of parts of the Left that any analysis of this chauvinism is treated in purely reflexive terms, as solely a commentary on the sins of the West.</p> <p>A yearning for recognition among a community of like-minded people leads to attempts at <strong>emulation. </strong>David Ali Somboly, who murdered nine people in Munich before killing himself, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/23/munich-shooting-loner-facebook-ali-sonboly-bullied-killer">sought to emulate</a> American high-school shooters, and join a roll-call of infamy. His attack was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the massacre of 77 people by Anders Breivik, whom Somboly admired, although it is unclear whether he shared Breivik’s ideology as well as his appetite for mass murder. Somboly, lacking the social skills to gain the respect of his peers, had to demand it by terrorising them. Violence is a failure of the imagination.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">the threat posed has emerged from internal and external, personal and political factors; fanaticism is born in the friction between them.</span></p> <p>After the murder of a priest on the altar of a church in Normandy, a highly symbolic act of provocation, Le Monde <a href="http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2016/07/27/resister-a-la-strategie-de-la-haine_4975150_3232.html">announced</a> that it would no longer publish images of jihadis or reproduce their propaganda. This is a welcome development. For jihadists producing slick videos of barbarism, or for publicity-hungry fascists like Breivik, competing commercial media networks have provided the perfect platform for broadcasting. In the UK, a diagnosis of mental illness is often regarded as a ‘weak’ verdict, a dishonest avoidance of punishment. In the case of political violence, however, such a diagnosis has a disarming quality: it shatters the perpetrator’s delusion of grandeur and deprives the act of ideological significance. Breivik, who fancied himself to be a Jesticular Knight of the Knights Templar, fought passionately against his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia: he argued that to be treated in a psychiatric ward is a “fate worse than death… To send a political activist to an asylum is more sadistic and more evil than killing him”. (A paranoid tabloid culture, with daily tales of <a href="https://twitter.com/josephwillits/status/738114045656600580">‘swarms’</a> of migrants, is certainly not conducive to ameliorating the problem).</p> <p>In addition – and this is uncomfortable, because it lacks a policy solution – there’s a reason why the perpetrators of almost all (98%) of these atrocities are young men. Men are not alone in wanting to die for an idea, but they are more willing to kill, and more willing to assert ideological absolutism. The desire to fight – a trait shared by many young men – may be exacerbated by the perception of emasculation, a sentiment popular on the reactionary right, which stokes a sense of cultural resentment. (In relation to Trump’s support, Clay Shirkey <a href="https://twitter.com/cshirky/status/756567987407163392">quoted</a> Franklin Leonard: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”).</p><p> Ultimately, as Ramon Spaaij <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/lone-wolf-ideology-or-pathology/article21293910/">argues</a>, there’s no simple catergorisation:</p> <blockquote><p><em>It’s not a clear-cut case of either political grievance or personal victimization – it’s often a kind of eclectic mix of these two things, so the personal is political and the political is personal. The lone-wolf narratives are often messy, they’re fluid, they don’t make sense, and they involve the more desperate and vulnerable or marginalized individuals looking for a cause – and often that cause is superimposed retrospectively, after the fact. You could ask the question of whether it’s actually their true motive. It’s also got a lot to do with these individuals seeking to become historical characters – the feeling that they’re on a mission to actually hurt an enemy or, for the Breivik types, to open the eyes of the broader population; they feel that they’re on the vanguard of a movement and the broader population haven’t caught up with their sense of threat.</em></p></blockquote><p> Such a complex and diverse set of interconnecting factors can seem bewildering – it’s not hard to understand why voters are drawn to leaders who offer them simple solutions to a frightening phenomenon. But the simplistic solutions exacerbate the problem, as they attack only a single one of the aforementioned factors, and in so doing create greater alienation and radicalisation. It is not a sign of weakness to acknowledge that the grave threat posed by lone-wolf terrorists has emerged from internal and external, personal and political factors; fanaticism is born in the friction between them. This type of nuance separates us from the manichean fanatics, and enables us – in the long run – to defeat them.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </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> openSecurity Conflict Benjamin Ramm Non-state violence Thu, 28 Jul 2016 09:29:14 +0000 Benjamin Ramm 104359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mapping global business opinions on human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marc-limon/mapping-global-business-opinions-on-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LimonJuly.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>A global survey of over 800 corporate leaders shows overwhelming recognition that companies must respect human rights, although confusion regarding the exact scope of their duties is a key obstacle to action. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">The UN Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. Though an important milestone, the debate continues on the scope, content, and legal status of companies’ responsibility to respect human rights asserted in those Principles. To gain closer insights into this debate, between 2014 and 2015, the Universal Rights Group, together with partners including DLA Piper, Eli Lilly, Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, Mazars and Telenor, commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to undertake a <a href="http://www.universal-rights.org/urg-policy-reports/the-road-from-principles-to-practice-todays-challenges-for-business-in-respecting-human-rights/" target="_blank">study of business opinions</a> about human rights. They surveyed 853 senior executives from a range of industries, and did in-depth interviews with nine corporate leaders and other independent experts. The results were surprising, showing strong support for the claim that business needs to take human rights seriously.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A large majority of executives now believe that business is an important player in respecting human rights, and that what their companies do—or fail to do—affects those rights. In the EIU survey, 83% of respondents agree (74% of whom do so strongly) that human rights are a concern for business as well as governments. Similarly, 71% say that their company’s responsibility to respect these rights goes beyond simple obedience to local laws. Finally, for each of the 11 clusters of human rights in the survey, most respondents report that their firms’ operations have an impact.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">A large majority of executives now believe that what their companies do—or fail to do—affects human rights.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This degree of agreement represents a substantial shift from views in the past. Arvind Ganesan, director of the business and human rights division at Human Rights Watch, recalls that as recently as the late 1990s, “… there was no recognition that companies had human rights responsibilities”.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Further, the survey showed companies see human rights mainly as a stakeholder and ethical issue. The leading drivers of corporate human rights policies, which are broadly consistent across industries and regions, are: building sustainable relationships with local communities (cited by 48% of respondents); protecting the company brand and reputation (43%); meeting employee expectations (41%); and moral/ethical considerations (41%). Only 21% say that a clear business case is driving their human rights policy. Similarly, when asked about the main barriers that their companies face in addressing human rights, only 15% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Business would incur costs/see profit margins reduced”.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Nevertheless, while corporate attitudes are evolving fairly quickly, concrete steps to reform company policies and to communicate such changes externally are slower to follow. For example, although 44% of respondents say that human rights are an issue on which chief executive officers (CEOs) take the lead, only 22% say that they have a publicly available human rights policy in some form.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Interpreting these results is a matter of perspective. For some, it shows progress, given the relatively short length of time that human rights have been on the corporate agenda. As one corporate leader put it, “Big corporations need time to change; processes take time to change. (...) It is just a reality.” For others, the gap between the proportion of respondents willing to acknowledge the importance of human rights to business, and the smaller proportion saying that they have taken action, is disappointing and indicative of corporate foot-dragging on human rights.</span></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/LimonJuly.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Flickr/afromusing (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Bob Collymore, CEO of the Kenyan telecommunications giant Safaricom, meets with women's rights defender Josephine Kulea. Collymore is an enthusiastic promoter of cooperation between the business and human rights communities.</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><span style="line-height: 1.5;">What’s holding companies back? Ruth Davis, head of the cyber, justice and national security programme for IT industry group, techUK, said on human rights issues businesses are “often uncertain of where to start.” Respondents list a lack of understanding of their company’s responsibilities in this area (32%) and a lack of training and education for employees (26%), as the first and third most common barriers to progress. Similarly, new initiatives that respondents are most likely to say would help them carry out their responsibilities are about providing data: public benchmarking of company performance (39%) and access to reliable, independent information on country-level human rights situations (32%).</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Current leaders in corporate action on human rights have moved ahead by embedding respect for human rights within their organisations. The 25% of respondents who believe their company’s human rights policies outperform those of their competitors have several things in common. These firms are more likely to have internalised respect for human rights: 52% say that moral and ethical considerations are a leading driver of human rights policies, compared with just 39% of other firms. The leading companies are also far less likely than other firms to say that their corporate culture hampers progress on human rights issues. Moreover, leading companies tend to have senior leadership actively involved in human rights issues. Unsurprisingly, moreover, leading companies are more likely to have human rights policies in place and to communicate externally and internally on human rights matters. Where they are similar to other companies, however, is in citing a lack of understanding as a barrier to further progress. This is not because their efforts have failed to bring knowledge—quite the opposite. They have made clear how much more there is to learn in a complex field.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">One year after the publication of the EIU’s survey and study, it remains more important than ever to strengthen engagement between the human rights and business communities. The UN Human Rights Council has controversially embarked on a process to draft a new, binding international human rights treaty on business and human rights. By trying to impose a solution, rather than choosing to engage and work with businesses, this state-centric process has already become mired in difficulties.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Rather, members of the Human Rights Council would be better advised to recall one of the main lessons learnt from the EIU survey—most multinationals are now convinced of the importance of respecting human rights, and are committed to walking along the road from principles to practice. The best way to move further along that road is by states and businesses agreeing to work together in partnership and cooperation, rather than tension and opposition.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/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="//www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><img src="/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/patrick-alley/who-will-stand-up-to-corruption">Who will stand up to corruption?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mauricio-lazala-joe-bardwell/%E2%80%9Cwhat-human-rights%E2%80%9D-why-some-companies-speak-out-while">“What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrightsopenpage/asuncion-lera-st-clair/corporate-concern-for-human-rights-essential-to-tack">Corporate concern for human rights essential to tackle climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/phil-bloomer/what-can-brexit-teach-us-about-business-and-human-rights">What can Brexit teach us about business and human rights?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrightsopenpage/sif-thorgeirsson/doors-closing-on-judicial-remedies-for-corporate-human-rig">Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/nelson-camilo-s-nchez/holding-businesses-to-account-in-latin-america">Holding businesses to account in Latin America</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights-blog/gast%C3%B3n-chillier/prosecuting-corporate-complicity-in-argentina%E2%80%99s-dictatorship">Prosecuting corporate complicity in Argentina’s dictatorship </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrightsopenpage/kevin-jennings/global-economic-scorecards-that-ignore-rights-reward-intoler">Global economic scorecards that ignore rights reward intolerance</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 Marc Limon Global Thu, 28 Jul 2016 08:30:00 +0000 Marc Limon 104329 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Torture was once 'normal' in Georgia's prisons — this is how they 'effectively abolished' it https://www.opendemocracy.net/mairi-mackay/westminster/torture-georgia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Georgia's prisons used to be dirty and dangerous<span style="line-height: 1.5;">.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Prisoners recounted beatings and NGOs reported institutionalised torture. But s</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">ince 2012, there has been an amazing turnaround.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-banner%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-banner@2x.png" width="100%" /></a> </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-14617993.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-14617993.jpg" alt="A woman cries at a prison fence as she and fellow protesters demand to see their family members during a protest rally against p" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman cries at a prison fence as she and fellow protesters demand to see their family members during a protest rally against prison abuse in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2012. Credit: Shakh Aivazov / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span><br />Georgia’s prisons once had a chilling reputation. </p><p dir="ltr">Former prisoners recount harrowing stories of institutionalised torture&nbsp;—&nbsp;beatings, simulated drowning, bones purposefully broken&nbsp;—&nbsp;at the hands of guards and other officials. </p><p><span>“[They] were beating me. They were insulting me...During torture they drowned [me] in [a] bucket full of water and threatened [me] with rape,” said one former prisoner in an anonymous testimony released by the government’s committee on human rights protection this year.</span></p><p><span>“They tore off my fingernails, damaged [my] skull, broke my leg bones, ribs, nose and teeth,” said another. “I am 43 years old, but look like an old man. I often fall down while I am walking.”</span></p><p><span>Other victims who testified in the 2016 report by the Georgian Parliament’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee on torture in the country from 2004-2012 described being hit on the head with the butt of a gun, a guard breaking their wrist with the heel of his boot, and being forced to give evidence under the influence of sleeping pills.</span></p><p><span>Indeed the problem was so widespread and severe that when Manfred Nowak, the UN’s then Special Rapporteur on torture visited Georgia in 2005, he said: “There is always the threat of violence in prison in a closed space...torture and prisoner abuse by prison staff was considered to be normal and even encouraged.”</span></p><p><span>Ten years later, in early 2015, the UN returned to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/countries/georgia">Georgia</a> to find a very different situation.</span></p><p><span>The prison population </span><a href="http://www.prisonstudies.org/country/georgia">has been cut in half</a><span> and many of the most egregious practices and punishments have effectively disappeared from the system.</span></p><p><span>“Through numerous testimonies, I found convincing evidence that the use of corporal punishment and forced confessions has been effectively abolished,” said&nbsp;</span><span>Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.</span></p><p><span>Mendez praised the government’s extensive “policy changes” and “radical changes in the mentality of its staff throughout the entire chain of command,” but added that its work wasn’t done, particularly in the area of promoting accountability for torture. Meanwhile, investigations that have been carried out have raised questions about "selective justice and politically motivated prosecutions," according to Human Rights Watch.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The early-to-mid 2000s was a time of unparalleled growth in Georgia’s prison population</span></p><p>After conducting unannounced visits to places of detention across Georgia (but not Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the country's two 'breakaway provinces') Méndez reported acceptable cell conditions, adequate provision of food and medical care and reasonable access to phone calls for prisoners with their families.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Eka Baselia is Chair of the Parliament of Georgia’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, which monitors human rights abuses. She says that Georgia has all but eradicated torture and systemic mistreatment. There have been “no cases during the last four years,” she said. “[In the] public defenders’ reports, not one case about torture.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">The extraordinary turnaround in Georgia’s prison system is part of the country's wider approach to improving human rights, catalysed by a change of government in 2012 and an ongoing desire in the former Soviet state for closer ties with the European Union.</p><h2>A revolution then a crackdown</h2><p><span>The early-to-mid 2000s was a time of unparalleled growth in Georgia’s prison population.</span></p><p><span>President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in 2004 in the bloodless ‘Rose Revolution’ and won plaudits early in his presidency for anticorruption reforms. There was a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gavin-slade-alexander-kupatadze/failed-mental-revolution-georgia-crime-and-criminal-justice">drastic reduction in crime</a> across Georgia and a successful fight against organised crime. But his 'zero-tolerance' approach to justice often led to long prison terms for petty crimes and created a “dehumanizing discourse around crime and criminals,” an Open Society Foundation </span><a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/georgia-s-disastrous-attempt-bring-prisons-european-standards">report on human rights abuses in Georgia’s prisons</a><span> found.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Life inside the prisons was dirty, undignified&nbsp;—&nbsp;and dangerous</span></p><p><span>By 2010, Saakashvili's drive to root out crime had propelled the tiny country of 4.5 million people to become the biggest incarcerator per capita in Europe and the fourth-biggest in the world. Life inside the prisons was dirty, undignified&nbsp;—&nbsp;and dangerous. More and more NGOs began to report on commonplace mistreatment and the culture of impunity that prevailed in the justice system.</span></p><p><span>Baselia, who was working as a criminal defence lawyer at the time, remembers the effect of the crackdown. “After that, [the] repression [started],” she said. “I remember when I met the prisoners, they [had always been tortured]. We defenders could not help [them], because this happened everywhere, it was [a] systematic problem.”</span></p><p><span>The problem was not just confined to prisons. The human rights committee’s report, which looked at testimonies from 400 former prisoners, found evidence that mistreatment in police custody was commonplace, including the use of harsh treatment to obtain evidence and the extraction of confessions under duress in pre-trial detention.</span></p><p><span>Perhaps most disturbing of all, support appeared to come from high-ranking officials&nbsp;—&nbsp;torture was used to create as a “tool of political persecution” and to create “fear and a sense of insecurity” in society.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The explicit videos showed inmates being kicked and beaten by guards</span></p><h2>Video that shook a government</h2><p><span>On 18 September 2012, video footage emerged that showed prisoners being abused by staff at Gldani Prison in the suburbs of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. The explicit videos showed inmates being kicked and beaten by guards, including one man crying out as he was sodomised with a broom.</span></p><p><span>The footage was broadcast that evening on opposition TV station TV9. It triggered outrage and mass protests on the streets of Tbilisi just two weeks before hotly contested parliamentary elections in which Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement Party was facing tough competition from opposition coalition Georgian Dream.</span></p><p><span>Shortly after the footage emerged, prison minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze resigned and Saakashvili condemned the abuse, announcing that he had suspended the country’s entire prison staff (although inmates reported that they were back working not long after). &nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span>Saakashvili addressed the nation, saying:&nbsp;</span>“I tell the victims of these inhuman actions and the whole nation that the Georgia we have built and we are all building together shall not and will not tolerate such behavior — in its prisons or anywhere else."</span></p><p><span>Nevertheless, his party was defeated at the elections and the power shift gave reformers the window they needed to start tackling human rights. (Saakashvili left office in 2013 after two terms, constitutionally barred from running a third time.)</span></p><p><span>Shortly after the change of government, over three months in 2012, Georgia’s government released around half the country’s 24,000-strong prison population in an amnesty. Today, Georgia ranks 96th in the world for </span><a href="http://www.prisonstudies.org/highest-to-lowest/prison-population-total?field_region_taxonomy_tid=All">prison population per capita</a><span>.</span></p><h2>A guarantee for everybody</h2><p><span>The main problem in Georgia before 2012 “was a violation of a human rights,” Baselia said.</span></p><p><span>In the years since, the government has adopted a 7-year action plan on human rights, including recommendations for new human rights standards protected by the law. Fuelled by Baselia's passion for change and oversight by&nbsp;</span><span>civil society organisations</span><span>, the government is now building a system that will "guarantee for everybody in our society” that the same systematic violence and torture never happens again.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Improvements have also been made to the way the parliament works to allow greater scrutiny&nbsp;of how the government is putting into effect international human rights standards</span></p><p><span>Part of that process involved Baselia’s committee spending two years investigating systematic violence in Georgia, looking particularly at the judicial system. Their findings and recommendations spurred legislative changes, particularly in creating stricter penalties for certain kinds of torture.</span></p><p><span>Improvements have also been made to the way the parliament works to allow greater scrutiny</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>of how the government is putting into effect international human rights standards&nbsp;</span><span>—</span><span>&nbsp;f</span><span>or example, how effectively, if at all, it is implementing UN recommendations and judgements by the European Court of Human Rights.</span></p><p><span>Boris Nadiradze, country representative in Georgia for Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which has been supporting the committee’s work over the past few years, said: “These are very important changes.”</span></p><p><span>But Georgia has many scars from its past: The country has yet to fully investigate torture before 2012 and hold those responsible for it accountable.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>The Chief Prosecutor's Office says it is making inroads and had, at last count, started 191 prosecutions including 124 against public servants from that period, "including high-ranking officials." So far 81 people have been sentenced.&nbsp;</span><span>The UN wants to see more: “Much more needs to be done to promote accountability for torture and ill-treatment, and fulfil the right of reparations for victims,” Méndez said in 2015.&nbsp;</span><span>The&nbsp;</span><span>Chief Prosecutor's Office reports that it will shortly open some new cases.</span></p><p><span>But questions remain around politically motivated prosecutions. In late 2015, the former mayor of Tbilisi, Giorgi Ugulava, a political ally of Saakashvili was put behind bars in a case that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/regis-gente/in-georgia-justice-delayed-is-justice-denied">one journalist who has covered the former Soviet Union for over a decade described</a> as showing "several signs of blatant politicisation" including "pressure on the judges, procedural mistakes and hesitations resulting in a very dubious sentence of four and a half years imprisonment."</span></p><p><span>There is hope, despite a complex political landscape, that Georgia's torture victims will eventually see justice for the crimes committed against them.&nbsp;</span><span></span></p><div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div><span>This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.wfd.org/">Westminster Foundation for Democracy</a>, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.</span></div></div><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://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img width="140" alt="howDoParls-sideBar@2x.png" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-sideBar%402x.png" /></a></p> <div style="font-size: 90%;"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mari-valdur/monoglian-elections-2016-voices-behind-votes">From yurt-dwellers to bankers, Mongolians worn out by 'corrupt' politics</a></div> <hr /><p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/alina-rocha-menocal/brexit-cost-of-bad-governance">Brexit: the cost of bad governance</a></p> <hr /> <div style="font-size: 90%;"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/claudia-simons/sub-saharan-africa-presidents-elections">'Hollow' states: the presidents re-writing the rules to stay in power</a></div> </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="/gavin-slade/georgias-prisons-roots-of-scandal">Georgia&#039;s prisons: roots of scandal </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">Georgia: the exiles’ election</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gavin-slade-alexander-kupatadze/failed-mental-revolution-georgia-crime-and-criminal-justice">The failed &quot;mental revolution&quot;: Georgia, crime and criminal justice</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> westminster Georgia Russia crime torture Mairi Mackay Thu, 28 Jul 2016 07:36:59 +0000 Mairi Mackay 104229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behind the ‘ghetto’: the path from exploited migrant labour to the supermarkets’ shelves https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/antonello-mangano/behind-ghetto-path-from-exploited-migrant-labour-to-supermarkets-s-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The #FilieraSporca campaign was established to track the orange supply chain across Italy from the fields to supermarkets’ shelves. It calls for ‘cleaning’ the supply chain through tracking and labelling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/214580785_77fd74ea27_b_920.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">A fruit and vegetable market in Italy. Karen/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by)</p> <p>People in Italy have been talking about the serious exploitation of migrant farm workers for years. Dozens of inquiries, documentaries, and news reports have told us what happens in the fields and the tent cities. These reports often frame exploitation in terms of ‘slave labour’, ‘modern slavery’, and so on. They concentrate on the victimisation of the vulnerable.</p> <p>What they don’t talk about very often is the supply chain, i.e. the path that begins in the fields and finishes on the shelves of the supermarkets. The general public doesn’t have a deep understanding of how responsibilities are distributed along this supply chain between multinationals, corporations, large-scale distribution companies, temporary agencies, transport firms, or wholesalers, and they don’t understand the many ways in which workers can be exploited at each link.</p> <p>This is why, one year ago, the #FilieraSporca (‘dirty supply chain’) campaign was established. Our goal is to trace the whole of the classic orange supply chain in and beyond Italy and thus to make clear who is exploiting who and at which points in Italian agriculture. In order to do so, we have interviewed key stakeholders, including agricultural workers, farmers, experts, trade unions, and sent a questionnaire to large retailers in Italy such as Coop, Conad, Carrefour, Esselunga and Auchan, and also to big corporations such as Coca–Cola.</p> <h2>What have we found so far?</h2> <p>The harvesting of Italian oranges, like so many agricultural products, involves many of the same things you see in a refugee camp after an earthquake: tents, sanitary kits, containers. This has led some to liken the orange harvest to a kind of ‘humanitarian emergency’. But we believe that it’s a misnomer to call something that is structural an ‘emergency’, for instead it’s a mode of production.</p> <p>The first feature of this mode of production is its intensive use of specifically migrant labour. This is because migrant labour can often be more easily underpaid or coerced, due to the vulnerabilities inherent in migrants’ uncertain legal and social status. While until a few years ago most of the exploited migrant workers in agriculture were irregular, today they are mainly refugees, asylum-seekers, and EU migrants (especially Romanians and Bulgarians).</p> <p>The second feature is that workers are often housed in sub-standard, illegal accommodation. That accommodation includes dilapidated hovels, tent-cities without heating, and shanty towns. The largest of these settlements are in southern Italy and are commonly called ‘ghettos’. But there are also small tent-cities in the north of the country. Workers there live in conditions of marginalisation and isolation.</p> <p>Why is this? In large part it’s because firms and farmers want a cheap labour force which costs little to maintain. Seasonal farm workers, indeed, receive the minimum part of the oranges’ retail price: a kilo of fruit is usually sold at the supermarket for €1.20, but farm workers are paid only nine cents on a regular contract and five cents or less when they have no contract.</p> <p>At the same time, firms and farmers need a flexible labour force that will come and go with the seasonal harvest. This is also why labour is often organised in teams and under the control of team leaders, or so-called ‘<em>caporali</em>’, who at times will be criminals and at others may be violent. Organising workers in teams makes it easier to control them. In addition, the ‘<em>caporali</em>’ provide farmers with necessary services, such as transportation and recruitment, which are often inadequately provided by local institutions.</p> <p>In this context, it is far from uncommon to find migrants controlled by violence, especially in Sicily and Calabria, suffering from injustices including missed payments, threats, physical assault, racism, and sexual exploitation.</p> <h2>A different kind of supply chain?</h2> <p>Does the supply chain have to be like this? Does it have to feature violence, illegality and a lack of transparency? A fair supply chain should be short, transparent, and all actors involved should respect workers’ rights with regard to payments, housing, and minimum wages. A transparent supply chain, where all the steps are clear to see, increases the responsibility of companies all along its length. It makes exploitation economically un-viable by making it easier to trace, on the part of the authorities and consumers.</p> <p>We believe that a ‘clean supply chain’, in contrast to the dirty one that we are studying, should involve products labeled not only with their country of origin but also with information regarding who the suppliers of the product are and where they sit along the supply chain. Mandatory tracking and clear labels could lead consumers towards the ‘right’ choice, and that could reduce the chances of products being produced by severely exploited workers.</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/letizia-palumbo-alessandra-sciurba/new-mobility-regimes-new-forms-of-exploitation-in-s">New mobility regimes, new forms of exploitation in Sicily</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/julija-sardeli%C4%87/rethinking-immobilities-of-roma-in-europe">Rethinking (im)mobilities of Roma in Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/patrizia-testai/fascist-legacies-italy%E2%80%99s-approach-to-mobility-and-mobile-labour">Fascist legacies: Italy’s approach to mobility and mobile labour</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/pt/letizia-palumbo/why-show-your-cards-problem-of-transparency-in-agricultural-supply-cha">Why show your cards? The problem of transparency in agricultural supply chains</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/pt/letizia-palumbo/addressing-severe-exploitation-critical-view-of-awareness-and-transpar">Addressing severe exploitation: a critical view of awareness and transparency initiatives</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/letizia-palumbo/need-for-gendered-approach-to-exploitation-and-trafficking">The need for a gendered approach to exploitation and trafficking</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 Antonello Mangano Can awareness-raising prevent exploitation? 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