openDemocracy en For Hallowe’en this year, I’m dressing as the economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Economics shapes the bulk of our waking hours, so how do we reclaim control of our lives from such a dismal science?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Occupy/Exopermaculture</a>.&nbsp;All rights reserved.</p> <p>As my friend <a href="">David Fleming</a> once wrote, conventional economics ‘puts the grim into reality.’</p> <p>Something of a radical, back in the 1970s Fleming was involved in the early days of what is now the Green Party of England and Wales. Frustrated by the mainstream’s limited engagement with ecological thinking, he urged his peers to learn the language and concepts of economics in order to confound the arguments of their opponents.</p> <p>By the time I met Fleming in 2006, he had practised what he preached and earned himself a PhD in Economics. But he never lost his aversion for the ‘economism’ that presumes that matters of public policy, employment, ecology and culture can be interpreted mainly in terms of mathematical abstractions.</p> <p>Worse, he noted that even the word ‘<em>economics’</em> has the power to make these life-defining topics seem impenetrable, none-of-our-business and, of all things, <em>boring</em>. Fleming’s work was all about returning them to their rightful owners—those whose lives are shaped by them, meaning all of us.</p> <p>Fleming was a key influence on the birth of the <a href="">New Economics Foundation</a> and <a href=";">Transition Towns movement</a>, but it was only in the aftermath of his sudden death in 2010 that I discovered the breadth of the powerfully-different vision of economics that underpinned his life. On his home computer I discovered a manuscript for the book he had been preparing to publish after thirty years’ work entitled <em><a href="">Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It</a></em>.</p> <p>Reminding us that our present growth-based market economy has only been around for a couple of hundred years (and is already hitting the buffers), Fleming’s lifework looks to the great majority of human history for insight: “We know what we need to do,” <a href=";pg=PR19&amp;lpg=PR19&amp;dq=%22,+to+draw+on+inspiration+which+has+lain+dormant,+like+the+seed+beneath+the+snow.%22%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=mTu7vDnGId&amp;sig=Ljh0GgNzmYnvoAfcSBdqOx0PSGA&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;redir_esc=y#v=onepage&amp;q=%22%2C%20to%20draw%20on%20inspiration%20which%20has%20lain%20dormant%2C%20like%20the%20seed%20beneath%20the%20snow.%22%22&amp;f=false">he writes</a>, “We need to build the sequel, to draw on inspiration which has lain dormant, like the seed beneath the snow.”</p><p> What he found was that—in the absence of a perpetually-growing economy—<em>community</em> <em>and culture</em> are key. He quotes, for example, <a href=";pg=PA73&amp;lpg=PA73&amp;dq=surviving+the+future+%22The+medieval+calendar+was+filled+with+holidays%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=2HjSSBg_RP&amp;sig=q3fMYT06kvU7en_0t428-TIO9WU&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;redir_esc=y#v=onepage&amp;q=surviving%20the%20future%20%22The%20medieval%20calendar%20was%20filled%20with%20holidays%22&amp;f=false">the historian Juliet Schor’s view</a> of working life in the Middle Ages:</p> <blockquote><p>“The medieval calendar was filled with holidays …These were spent both in sober churchgoing and in feasting, drinking and merrymaking …All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. The a<em>ncien régime </em>in France is reported to have guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain, travelers noted that holidays totaled five months per year.”</p></blockquote> <p>Reading this took me back to a childhood fed by TV programmes like the BBC’s <em>Tomorrow’s World</em>, which had informed me that by now robots would be doing all the menial work, leaving humans free to relax and enjoy an abundance of leisure time. So it came as a shock to realise that the good folk of the Middle Ages were enjoying far more of it than we are in our technologically-advanced society. What gives? <a href="">Fleming explains</a>,</p> <blockquote><p>“In a competitive market economy a large amount of roughly-equally-shared leisure time – say, a three-day working week, or less – is hard to sustain, because any individuals who decide to instead work a full week can produce for a lower price (by working longer hours than the competition they can produce a greater quantity of goods and services, and thus earn the same wage by selling each one more cheaply). These more competitive people would then be fully employed, and would put the more leisurely out of business completely. This is what puts the grim into reality.”</p></blockquote> <p>So in an economy like ours, a technological advance that doubles the amount of useful work a person can do in a day becomes a problem rather than a benefit. It tends to put half the workers out of work, turning them into a potential drain on the state.</p> <p>Of course, in theory all the workers could just work half-time and still produce all that is needed, much as <em>Tomorrow’s World</em> predicted. But in practice they are often afraid of having their pay cut, or losing their jobs to a stranger who is willing to work longer hours, so they can’t take the steps needed to solve their collective economic problems and enjoy more leisurely lives. Instead, people are kept busy partly through what anthropologist David Graeber memorably characterised as “<a href="">bullshit jobs</a>.”</p> <p>How, then, can we feed, house and support ourselves without working as relentlessly as we do today? Fleming’s work explores the answer, making a rigorous case that we need to get beyond mainstream economists’ ideas of minimising ‘spare labour’ if we are to sustain a post-growth economy. This ‘spare labour’ is what most of us would call spare time—a welcome part of a life well lived rather than a ‘problem of unemployment.’</p> <p>He highlights that the holidays of former times were far from a product of laziness. Rather <a href=";pg=PA33&amp;lpg=PA33&amp;dq=%22what+men+and+women+lived+for%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=mTu7tIhILa&amp;sig=I385cNRfBaggoEY7_9LwqtrCxw8&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;redir_esc=y#v=onepage&amp;q=%22what%20men%20and%20women%20lived%20for%22&amp;f=false">they were, in an important sense, what men and women lived for</a>. ‘Spare time’ spent in feasting, performing, collaborating and merrymaking together formed the basis of community bonding and membership. Those shared cultural ties hold people together, even in the absence of economic growth and full-time employment. When productivity improves, <a href="">as one of his readers put it</a>, “in our system you have a problem, in Fleming’s system you have a party.”</p> <p>Under the current economic paradigm, the only way to keep unemployment from rising to the point where the population can’t be supported is through endless economic growth, which thus becomes an obligation. So we are damned if we grow and damned if we don’t, since endless growth will eventually cross every conceivable biophysical boundary and destroy the planet’s ability to support us. That’s why, in practice, we just keep growing and cross our fingers that somehow it will all work out. <a href=";pg=PA180&amp;lpg=PA180&amp;dq=%22The+reduction+of+a+society+and+culture+to+dependence+on+mathematical+abstraction+has+%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=xSw5pBOGJP&amp;sig=nFXF4-OvCBheNWnS6KCOZcAjf4I&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;redir_esc=y#v=onepage&amp;q=%22The%20reduction%20of%20a%20society%20and%20culture%20to%20dependence%20on%20mathematical%20abstraction%20has%20%22&amp;f=false">As Fleming writes</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“The reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantilised a grown-up civilisation and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilisations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion.”</p></blockquote> <p>Technological fixes do not help, as we are all discovering to our cost. We are already working ever harder, and with ever more advanced technologies, yet the hope of a better future dwindles day-by-day. Take heart though, for when the current paradigm transparently provides nothing but a dead end, we can be sure that we are on the cusp of a fundamental shift.</p> <p>Fleming provides a radical but historically-proven alternative: focusing neither on the growth or de-growth of the market economy, but the huge expansion of the ‘informal’ or non-monetary economy—the ‘core economy’ that allows our society to exist, even today. This is the economy of what we love: of the things we naturally do when not otherwise compelled, of music, play, family, volunteering, activism, friendship and home.</p> <p>At present, this core non-monetary economy is much weakened, pushed out and wounded by the invasion of the market. Fleming’s work demonstrates that nurturing it back to health is not just some quaint and obsolete sharing longing but an absolute practical priority.</p> <p>The key challenge of today, for Fleming, is to repair the atrophied social structures on which most human cultures have been built; to rediscover how to rely on each other rather than on money alone. Then life after the painful yet inevitable end to the growth of the monetary economy will start to seem feasible again, and our technological progress can bring us the fruits it always promised.</p> <p><em><a href="">Lean Logic</a></em> finally reached posthumous publication with Chelsea Green Publishing in September 2016, alongside a paperback version edited by me called <a href=""><em>Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy</em></a>.<em>&nbsp; </em>Needless to say, both books are deeply controversial, overthrowing as they do the central paradigm of our economy. <a href="">As the writer Jonathon Porritt said at a </a><a href="">launch event for the books last month</a>, “there is no conventional political party anywhere in the world that doesn’t have economic growth as the underpinning foundation, but David Fleming developed unique, astonishing ideas about resilience and good lives for people without growth.”</p> <p>It’s increasingly clear that this is the conversation we all need to have, and Fleming’s compelling, grounded vision of a post-growth world is rare in its ability to inspire optimism in the creativity and intelligence of human beings to nurse our economy, ecology and culture back to health. I am proud to have played a part in bringing it to the world; in fact, it might just be the best thing I have done.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-hewett/transforming-finance-can-help-to-tackle-biggest-problems-of-society">Transforming finance can help to tackle the biggest problems of society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fran-boait/can-money-be-force-for-good">Can money be a force for good?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/thomas-h-greco-jr/money-debt-and-end-of-growth-imperative">Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Shaun Chamberlin The role of money Economics Wed, 26 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Shaun Chamberlin 106235 at An important new legal right is almost in reach <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recognition of Impress by the Press Regulation Panel is a significant step towards a vital new right in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="British magazines: Christian Bohr (Thommess)"><img src="//" alt="" title="British magazines: Christian Bohr (Thommess)" width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">It is not often that everyone in the country acquires an important new legal right, but just such a right is now almost in our grasp – and it is one that brings to an end a longstanding scandal in British law.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">For the first time ever, everyone who reasonably feels they have been libelled or have suffered unjustified invasion of privacy by a news publisher will have access to affordable justice. No longer will only the very rich or fortunate* enjoy the full protection of the law – every citizen will be able to do so.</p> <p class="Body">Parliament has already given overwhelming approval to this measure and it now awaits what should have been the formality of ‘commencement’ by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley. Following an important development this week (I will come back to that) she is under growing pressure from MPs and peers to get on with it. </p> <p class="Body">The key to the long-overdue reform is arbitration. Under the new arrangements news publishers (but not broadcasters) must offer low-cost arbitration to all complainants who can make a case that their legal rights in libel or privacy have been breached. </p> <p class="Body">Professional arbitrators will then handle the cases (as they do in many other areas of the law) and they will be able to hand down just the same punishments as the courts. This will not only usually be much quicker than traditional legal proceedings but it will also cost the complainant a basic fee of £75 instead of the notorious six- and even seven-figure sums of the past.</p> <p class="Body">In other words, the days when only film stars and tycoons could afford to protect their privacy or their reputations from unjustified press attack will be over. Whoever you are, providing you can afford £75, you can ensure the law is enforced. </p> <p class="Body">For all of this we have to thank Sir Brian Leveson, who made this reform central to his recommendations to tackle the collapse in press standards that made his 2011-12 public inquiry necessary.</p> <p class="Body">And one of the beauties of the arrangement is that it also brings significant benefits to newspapers and news websites as well as to ordinary citizens. They too stand to gain from cheaper justice in libel and privacy cases – for decades they have sometimes been obliged to pay outlandish lawyers’ bills to protect themselves in court, but the cost of an arbitration case for a paper will rarely have to be more than £3,500. And their libel insurance costs will also fall because of the reduced risks. </p> <p class="Body">Better still, they will be protected from ‘chilling’, the process by which very wealthy litigants (most notoriously Robert Maxwell) obstructed investigative journalism by threatening to tie up editors and reporters in long and expensive legal actions. Papers have been complaining about this for at least 30 years: now it can be brought to an end, freeing investigative journalism to do its job.</p> <p class="Body">We are finally within grasp of this win-win reform this week because something else that was proposed by Leveson has just come about. A new regulator for news publishers, Impress, has been ‘recognised’ by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) as meeting the required standards of effectiveness and independence. </p> <p>And unlike IPSO, a regulator set up by national newspapers which rejected Leveson’s findings, Impress offers the kind of arbitration service that is required if the new legal right of access to justice is to work. </p><p class="Body">So in the future if you believe that a news publisher regulated by Impress has libelled you or invaded your privacy without justification you will not have to embark on a ruinously expensive course of litigation. Instead you can pay a modest fee and insist that the publisher joins you in binding arbitration.</p> <p class="Body">And what if your complaint is against the Daily Mail or Daily Mirror, which are not regulated by Impress but by their own body, IPSO (which does not meet the PRP standards)? Would you be stuck with crippling costs if you took legal action? </p> <p class="Body">No. This new legal right is for everybody, and that includes everyone who may be written about in the Mail, Mirror, Telegraph, Guardian, Sun and other national papers.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Those papers will find that they can’t simply deny members of the public access to affordable justice. They can’t just tell them that if they want redress they must be ready to forfeit their savings and their homes to pay lawyers’ fees. That would be unjust, and it would actively encourage papers to stay outside a Leveson-standard regulator such as Impress. </p> <p class="Body">Under the new scheme such publishers would be free to insist that the case goes to court, but they would normally have to foot all the complainant’s costs, no matter who wins or loses. In other words, so long as a paper continues to accept Leveson-standard regulation and so long as it denies people access to low-cost arbitration, it must be ready to shoulder the costs of any privacy and libel cases that the courts say are worth hearing. </p> <p class="Body">And remember, if a paper takes that position it is also rejecting costs savings and protection from chilling, as well as a form on regulation in which the public can have faith. </p> <p class="Body">How soon do we gain our new legal right? That’s where the hitch is. Although parliament has passed the necessary legislation, the Cameron government found a piece of small print that enabled it to delay commencement and the new May government still has not taken the necessary step. </p> <p class="Body">Why would a government stall a measure that will give everyone a new legal right at no cost to the public purse? We know that the Cameron government had a slavish relationship with the big national newspaper groups, and particularly the Sun and the Mail, and all of those companies continue to reject the Leveson rejections. </p> <p class="Body">With Impress now ready and able to provide arbitration on Leveson lines, we must now wait to see whether the May government is ready to put the interests of ordinary members of the public before those of the big newspaper corporations. </p> <p class="Body"><em>*The fortunate are the small number of those who secure Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs), also known as no-win, no-fee agreements. These are difficult to get because solicitors tend to set the bar high to minimise their own risk, and they have been widely criticized by the press industry and others for inflating costs. </em></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> uk uk Brian Cathcart Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:28:26 +0000 Brian Cathcart 106240 at 'You can use populism to send migrants back to their home country, or you can use it to create a more just society' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An interview with Benjamin de Cleen, Assistant Professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, on nationalism vs populism, the Flemish far-right and the limits of the&nbsp;<em>cordon sanitaire</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The youth wing of Vlaams Belang on a retreat. Wikimedia. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Many researchers and commentators of populist politics tend to confuse populism with nationalism. This confusion makes the study of populism in the European context particularly difficult.</p> <p>Benjamin De Cleen, assistant professor at the VUB Communication Studies Department, argues that in order to understand the Populist Radical Right we have to start from a clear conceptual distinction between populism and nationalism. The articulation of populism and nationalism is contingent but not necessary.</p> <p>In this interview Benjamin De Cleen and Antonis Galanopoulos discuss the rise of Populist Radical Right in Europe, they try to draw useful conclusions from the Belgian case and, finally, they examine the possibility of a trans-national populism.</p> <p><em><strong>How do you understand the notion of populism? Do you perceive populism as ideology, political style or discourse?</strong></em></p> <p>The term I like to use the most is “political logic”, a term that comes from the discourse theoretical tradition associated with Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe and the Essex school. More so than the notion of discourse, the term ‘political logic’ highlights the structure of populist politics. </p><p>Populism is a particular way of formulating demands in the name of ‘the people’ and a particular way of constructing “the people”. Populism revolves around the powerless-powerful dimension, a vertical dimension - the down versus the up - where the populists claim to represent ‘the people’ against the current elite that does not represent them.</p> <p>This definition is not so far from the more minimalist ideological definitions formulated by Mudde, Rovira Kaltwasser and others. But I think that ideology is not the most helpful term. The notion of logic stresses more that populism is a way of formulating demands, rather than a set of demands. The term ideology suggests beliefs, which underestimates the crucial strategic dimension of populism. </p><p>The notion of ideology also makes it difficult to account for the sometimes temporary dimension of populism that follows from this strategic character. Ideology seems to suggest that if a party is populist, it will be populist forever, which I don’t think is necessary. </p><p>Populism is about the creation of a chain of equivalence of identities and demands against the current elite. That means that this chain of equivalence can also partly fall apart, that it can change, and that a party or movement can stop being populist. </p> <p><em><strong>In your research you distinguish clearly between populism and nationalism. Many researchers of right-wing populism tend to confuse them. Why is it important to distinguish them?</strong></em></p> <p>This distinction is important for a number of reasons. First of all, if you look at populisms they are not all nationalist, and if you look at nationalists they are not all populists. But, secondly, even if all populisms would be nationalist and all nationalisms populist, we would still be able to better understand these populist nationalisms and nationalist populism if we start from a clear conceptual distinction between populism and nationalism.</p> <p>My theoretical work on this distinction was inspired by an empirical analysis of populist radical right discourse in Belgium. Looking at the Vlaams Belang it became clear that populism and nationalism were two different building blocks that function according to different logics and that play different roles in populist radical right rhetoric.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"><em>The VB is therefore definitely a party that you can’t understand with the term populism alone</em></p><p>I think we can understand the architecture of populist radical right rhetoric better by first trying to distinguish what are the main building blocks of that architecture, and then look at how these building blocks are combined. I tried to come up with discourse-theoretical definitions of populism and nationalism that are abstract enough to cover all potential forms of populism and nationalism, but also precise enough to grasp the specificity of both populism and nationalism. </p><p>I think it helps to stress populism’s vertical dimension: populist politics construct ‘the people’ by opposing it to ‘the elite’ and claim to represent ‘the people’. Nationalism is not built around this vertical dimension, but around a horizontal dimension: nationalist politics construct and claim to represent the nation, which is discursively constructed by distinguishing between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’ of the nation.&nbsp;</p> <p>This distinction between populism and nationalism helps to understand how populism and nationalism are articulated in different kinds of politics. The question becomes how these down/up and in/out constructions of ‘the people’ and ‘the nation’ are related.</p><p> Populist radical right parties for example accuse ‘the elite’ of betraying ‘the people’ – which is a sub-category of the nation and does not include ‘ordinary’ people of foreign descent – by favouring the interests of migrants above those of the so-called ‘own people’.</p> <p><em><strong>Can you give us a brief historical background of the populist radical right in Belgium? </strong></em></p> <p>There is not really a Belgian radical right, so let me focus on the Flemish radical right, about which I know more, and which has been far more successful than its Francophone Belgian counterpart. </p> <p>The radical right in Flanders is the heir of a radical right-wing Flemish nationalist tradition. This has its roots in the nineteenth century Flemish Movement, but the radical nationalist right-wing Flemish nationalism only really came into being in the early twentieth century and would go on to collaborate with Nazi Germany. After World War Two, the Flemish nationalist radical right lived on in civil society groups and also in the more moderate Flemish nationalist Volksunie (People’s Union).&nbsp;</p> <p>The radicals in this party broke away from the Volksunie and together with civil society players founded two radical right Flemish nationalist parties that took part in the 1978 elections in a cartel called Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc). This became the name of a joint party, and that party became the Vlaams Belang in 2004, after a conviction for racism.</p> <p>The VB was, and still is, mainly a radical Flemish nationalist party. An independent Flemish state remains the core demand of the party. From the beginning, however, a rejection of immigration was also part of its politics. This demand for an independent Flanders and the rejection of immigration are both part of the party’s radical and ethnic nationalism. </p><p>Throughout the VB’s history the “foreigner’ issue” became more and more prominent, and it was very important for their electoral success. Much more important than their separatist demands, which did not and does not attract large groups of the population.</p> <p>The VB is therefore definitely a party that you can’t understand with the term populism alone. You would miss the nationalist essence of it. However, populism did become very important to the party. When it was founded it wasn’t a populist party but an elitist and authoritarian party with very little electoral appeal. </p><p>Slowly, the VB developed into a populist party, inspired by the Front National. The VB started to criticize its political opponents as elite, and that then evolved to its populist claim to speak for ‘the people’. This became a very important element of the party’s rhetoric. But the very ideological core of it is a radical and ethnic nationalism, which I think holds true for most populist radical right parties. </p><p>This becomes visible in the fact that the radical right’s populist appeal to the ordinary people mainly – but not only - revolves around how ordinary people are threatened by migrants (their jobs, their neighborhoods, etc.) and how ‘the politically correct elite’ does not do anything about it or only makes it worse.&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that nationalism is the ideological core and populism a way of formulating demands is also why, following Cas Mudde, I call these parties populist radical right. This term stresses that the populist radical right is a specific kind of radical right. There are radical right parties and movements that are not populists. </p><p>Some of them are really fringe groups that have nothing to do with an appeal to the ordinary people. Populist radical right also stresses that the radical right component and especially radical nationalism is more core to its politics than populism. But the term also explicitly includes the notion of populism to stress its importance.</p> <p><em><strong>The rise of the populist radical right is an almost European trend nowadays. Do you think that there is an important connection with the ongoing economic crisis?</strong></em></p> <p>There are of course links between economic conjuncture and the success of certain forms of politics, both left and right. But we should not reduce populist radical right electoral successes to a matter of economic crisis. In a way, we would perhaps like this to be the case because it would give us a more morally acceptable explanation for why people vote for the radical right. Of course, economic crises can increase the appeal of radical right parties. </p><p>But I don’t think that this is the core of the problem. This would mean that only people who are low on the economic ladder would vote for them. This is not true. It would mean that only people who are competing with migrants for jobs would vote for them. Absolutely not true. The Belgian case is actually a counter example. The VB’s electoral results went down during the economic crisis. They were on their peak, when things were still going very well economically. It continued to grow from the late 1980s until the mid-2000s, with a peak in 2004-2005, after which a downfall set in. Recently, the party has been going up in the polls, but it is still far removed from its earlier appeal.&nbsp;</p> <p>The economically determinist explanation also severely underestimates the agency of political parties. If electoral results were simply a consequence of economic conjuncture, we might as well stop studying political discourse. It wouldn’t matter that populist radical right political parties interpolate people as members of ‘the nation’ who are threatened by foreigners, or as members of ‘the ordinary people’ who are not represented by ‘the elite’.</p> <p><em><strong>Populism is depicted in mainstream discourse as inherently negative. Is populism per se an enemy of democracy?</strong></em></p> <p>I don’t believe that populism is inherently a threat to democracy. One of the reasons why populism is considered problematic for democracy is because it is supposedly anti-pluralist. I am not sure that this is entirely true. If you treat populism as an ideology that revolves around a homogeneous ‘people’ (that is opposed to ‘the elite’), then you have to conclude this. </p><p>But these analysts tend to forget how the construction of ‘the people’ implies the construction of a chain of equivalence of identities and demands. The formation of a chain of equivalence does not mean that differences between the different elements of that chain disappear. So a populist politics does not have to eradicate the differences between the different groups and demands that are grouped under ‘the people’.</p> <p>This idea that populism is inherently negative has a lot to do with the confusion between populism and nationalism. Usually, it is the ethnic nationalist dimension of especially right wing populist politics that leads to this homogenization of ‘the people’. The people, in this case, are one homogeneous group with one identity. That certainly is problematic, but ethnic nationalism is to blame, not populism.</p> <p>So, I don’t think that populism is necessarily a threat to democratic pluralism. It can be, of course. The moment that the particularity of the different components of the chain of equivalence becomes invisible or starts to be ignored, or is no longer being respected, then you are entering into a problematic situation. So, populism is potentially problematic but not necessarily.</p> <p><em><strong>European media tend to put under the same label of the “populist leader”, politicians like Le Pen and Orban on the one hand and Tsipras and Iglesias on the other hand. Is this a correct and more importantly a politically useful practice?</strong></em></p> <p>To certain people and groups it is obviously politically useful. It is politically useful if you want to delegitimize the Left, by putting it into one bag with the radical right. Is it analytically correct? I don’t think so. Are they all populists? Yes, they are. But it is misleading to put all of them under the simple category ‘populist’. The question is “if we have only one term to label these politicians, should that one term be populist?”. Then the answer is no. </p><p>The label for Orban would perhaps better be authoritarian; the main label for Le Pen should be radical right. Populism is not enough to characterize Tsipras and Iglesias either. You can’t understand any political project solely with the notion of populism. And to do so is misleading because it suggests deep similarities between very different political projects whilst (more or less deliberately) ignoring the profound differences between them. </p><p>The main question should always be what kind of society political projects are trying to build. And populism does not say anything about that. You can use populism to send migrants back to their supposed home country, or you can use it to create a socio-economically more just society. Delegitimizing such very different projects by using the same label of ‘populism’ is unfair at least.&nbsp;</p> <p><em><strong>You have written a series of papers regarding the relation of populism and art, focusing mainly on the 0110 concerts in Belgium. Do you think that popular culture, popular music and other kinds of arts have a role to play in the battle against populist radical right?</strong></em></p> <p>My doctoral research focused on the discursive struggle between the radical right and its opponents, and I looked at three cases in which art and popular culture played a central role: concerts against the VB, the conflictual relation between the Flemish theatre and the VB, and the struggle between the VB and more moderate Flemish nationalists for the Flemish National Songfest.</p><p>I selected these cases mainly because they were relevant cases to understand VB rhetoric and the resistance to the VB, rather than because I believe that art or popular culture is what will stop the radical right. </p><p>I do believe artists of all kinds have a role to play in the struggle against the radical right because they are an important part of civil society and because artists are people that have the channels, the imagination, the creativity and the cultural capital to say things in an attractive way. But it would be very naïve to believe that artists will stop the radical right.</p><p><em class="mag-quote-center">Populism is a very strong weapon in the hands of the radical right</em></p> <p>In my research I noticed that in terms of ideology, the struggle between the VB and artists revolved mainly around nationalism and racism. But populism played a central role as well because one of the VB’s main strategies for countering artists’ criticism of the VB is to label them as part of ‘the elite’. </p><p>What was remarkable about the 2006 0110 (1 October) concerts against the VB is that the artists who performed in those concerts included a number of artists and singers who were not the typical alternative left-leaning artists, but that they were popular artists; ‘popular’ in the sense of representing the culture of the ordinary people. That was quite a remarkable moment because it made it difficult for the radical right to criticize those concerts. </p><p>It’s easy for the VB to criticize theatre makers who make an anti radical right theatre piece. In fact, the criticism of the ‘cultural elite’ only reinforces their populist identification as the voice of the ordinary people. The 0110 concerts were a bit different. It was a moment in which the VB’s claim on the ordinary was contested. </p><p>And the party had some trouble in how to deal with this. It strongly criticized the concerts, but the popular character of the artists performing at the concerts and the mainstream media attention that came with it, made it difficult for them to discredit the concerts in their typically populist manner.&nbsp;</p> <p><em><strong>Populist radical right politicians tend to be very effective in countering criticism. How we can deal with them in a communicative level?</strong></em></p> <p>The populism of the radical right is very clever. Populism allows them to counter any kind of criticism as a matter of ‘the elite’ going against ‘the party of the people’. Whoever says something against the radical right is part of the elite. </p><p>This is very tricky, because this means that when a politician, but also a civil society organization, a theatre director, an actor, a singer or an intellectual says something it is just the elite talking badly about the ordinary people and the party that represents them. </p><p>This is very difficult to deal with. Populism is a very strong weapon in the hands of the radical right. This is also why those 0110 concerts were so interesting, because they were less easily dismissed in a populist manner.</p> <p>The problem, in Flanders and also elsewhere I believe, has been the degree of acceptance of the radical right’s claim that it represents ordinary people. This is a point made by others as well, such as Aurélien Mondon. If you start from the belief that the radical right represents the ordinary people, then the only way to beat the radical right is to move your politics in a radical right direction.</p> <p>One of the reasons why it has been so difficult to counter the radical right is that the responses to the radical right have been exactly that: <em>responses</em> to the radical right. That is, they accept the questions raised by the radical right. If you accept the terms of the debate set by the radical right, if you accept their problem definition, you are going to have a very hard time beating them. And even if you would beat the party, you would have still lost in ideological terms.&nbsp; </p><p>For a progressive politics this is a disaster. Unfortunately, social democratic and centrist parties in Europe have responded to the radical right to quite some extent by taking over the problem definitions of the radical right, rather than by formulating a true alternative.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>What is the role of mass media in the rise of populist radical right?</em>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>It is a question that often returns. And it’s an important question. But there is no clear answer to it. Do media support the radical right political parties directly? Usually the answer is: not really – but there have been cases. In fact, many media have often also strongly criticized the radical right. Beyond direct support, some research looks at issue ownership and suggests that media’s focus on the issues associated with the radical right – crime, migration, etc – has benefited the radical right. </p><p>To some extent media can be blamed for this, but it is also a matter of what other political parties are talking about. And this of course brings us to the question of <em>how</em> we discuss societal issues, or rather, perhaps, how we politicize certain phenomena and events, and turn them into societal and political issues. </p><p>Here we come back to the question of problem definitions. For example, if we discuss the refugee crisis mainly in terms of threats to Europe – as a crisis caused by refugees - then of course that is going to create opportunities for radical right parties.&nbsp;</p> <p>Obviously the media play a role in the rise of populist radical right parties, but certainly they are not the only reason for that. It’s much more complicated than that, and we should be careful to avoid this kind of media determinism. The VB, for example, started to attain high election scores long before the party was normalized in the media. </p><p>In a way, it is their continued presence in the center of the political debate that slowly (and only partly) normalized them. It is not as if they were normalized by the media and then they started to gain votes. It was more of a reciprocal process. It is too simple to blame media for the success of the radical right. </p><p>Again, it would be a convenient and reassuring explanation for the rise of the radical right. It would be reassuring – in a way - if people were just indoctrinated by the media. It is less reassuring to think that a part of the electorate has very problematic sentiments and beliefs, or that progressive political projects in most European countries do not manage to attract large groups of voters, even in times of economic crisis.</p> <p><em><strong>What is your opinion about the cordon sanitaire? Is this a really effective strategy against populist radical right? Is there a risk to strengthen their image as anti-establishment parties?</strong></em></p> <p>The answer to both questions is yes. Sometimes people said “let’s put them into the government so everyone can see that they are like the other parties and then their appeal as outsider will disappear”. </p><p>But the damage you can do while you are in government is huge. It is important to keep this kind of parties out of governments, I believe. But almost unavoidably, this also risks strengthening their underdog appeal.</p><p><em class="mag-quote-center">Social democratic and centrist parties in Europe have responded to the radical right to quite some extent by taking over the problem definitions of the radical right</em></p><p>More importantly, keeping out people or parties is not the same as keeping out ideas. To some extent the fact that the VB was kept out of government, the fact that the party was behind the cordon sanitaire, actually helped their ideas to become mainstream. If you put one party, some people behind the cordon sanitaire, you risk implying that everyone who is not behind that cordon is acceptable, whatever they say. </p><p>So, it is important to keep radical right parties out, but it is more important to keep their ideas out of the mainstream, and this hasn’t happened in Belgium and many other European countries. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>In the post-democratic context of our era, in which many issues and decisions have been removed from the public arena</em>, <em>how can the people be heard? Is trans-national populism a possible solution?</em></strong></p> <p>Nowadays, decisions are to a significant extent made partly by European institutions, partly by non-elected political bodies, and partly by actors that have nothing to do with democratic politics, big companies etc. The Greek referendum was quite an important moment, because it showed that a people expressing a clear “No” has very little impact on what happens afterwards. Clearly there is a problem there. The question is what can we do about this? </p> <p>There is a lot of debate about whether the left should focus on the nation because the nation is the only place where the people still have something to say. The DiEM25 movement of Varoufakis, for example, has raised this kind of questions. Giving up national sovereignty wouldn’t be so smart for the left at this moment. </p><p>In terms of public debate and democratic representation things are still very much based around the nation state. But decision making has been partly taken out of that level. We have to think how we deal with that evolution, what it means for progressive politics.</p> <p>In thinking of whether there is a potential for a transnational progressive movement one of the obvious questions is: “is there a potential for a transnational populist movement?” If you look at populist politics, they are often explicitly nationalist – the populist radical right for example. But even those that are not, almost always operate in a nation-state context. </p> <p>So, is a transnational populism possible? Theoretically the answer is clearly yes. The only thing you need is a transnational people versus transnational elite, and the claim to represent that transnational people. But in reality such a transnational populist politics is not so easy. </p><p>It is not so easy because of how important nations are in our world, especially in terms of democratic representation and public arenas. Where do you represent this trans-national people, and where do you exercise the power of that people? And also, which transnational media and communication channels allow you to construct that transnational people? </p> <p>For this reason, a network of nationally organised populisms seems more obvious than a truly transnational populism. We could make an analytical distinction here between <em>inter</em>-national populism and<em> trans</em>-national populism. Inter-national populism is a sort of linkage between nationally organised populist movements. A truly transnational populism would construct an actually transnational people against a trans-national elite, where ‘the people’ extends across national borders. </p> <p>The DiEM25 movement is interesting from this perspective. On the one hand it clearly has transnational ambitions and opposes a transnational elite. But on the other hand it speaks about the “peoples” of Europe, in plural, and not of one “people”. The question is whether you can go beyond such an inter-national populism, and whether that would be politically wise. </p><p>Theoretically it’s certainly possible to have a truly transnational populism, but the question is how such a transnational populism would relate to the still strongly nationalist organization of our societies in terms of democratic representation as well as, for many people, identity.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/populism-in-europe-primer">Populism in Europe: a primer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/grahame-thompson/populism-biggest-winner-from-uk-referendum">Brexit and the rise of populism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Belgium </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Belgium Benjamin de Cleen Antonis Galanopoulos Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:11:33 +0000 Antonis Galanopoulos and Benjamin de Cleen 106233 at Schools to drive democracy change in Ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">The Ukrainian Schools for Democracy Programme will be at the <a href="">World Forum for Democracy 2016</a>, demonstrating how it supports democratic reforms in secondary education. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//" /></a></p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Wergeland Centre photo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Amidst economic turmoil, security threats and war in the east, Ukraine is facing times of social change. Three years ago Ukrainian society voiced a demand for a modern state based on democracy, human rights and rule of law. Since the historical winter of 2013-2014, the country has been investing much effort in introducing democratic reforms into its society.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Democratic culture and education</strong></h2> <p class="Body">How does a country in transition succeed in democracy? Ukrainians learned their lesson during 25 years of independence. The Soviet mode of thinking cannot be shaken off by modern legislation and new institutions alone. Democracy is not imposed by cabinets from on high. Respect for human dignity, equality and participation is an everyday personal choice shaping a societal culture as a whole. It is the people’s mindset, values and practices that drive change. </p> <p class="Body">No wonder that Ukraine is now talking about the centrality of education. There are over 20,000 schools in the country and most of them struggle in an insufficiently democratic learning environment. Yet schools do not only reflect the norms prevailing in society, they can model its future too.</p><p class="Body"><span class="mag-quote-center">Yet schools do not only reflect the norms prevailing in society, they can model its future too.</span></p> <p class="Body">As the initial institution of socialization, school fosters democratic change by raising new generations that share democratic values, participate in democracy and respectfully interact with others. More and more school systems in the world recognize democratic competences as key learning outcomes, as reflected in the <a href="">Council of Europe recommendation</a> and its new <a href=";lang=EN&amp;search=Y2F0ZWdvcnlfc3RyX2VuOiJBZG9wdGVkIHRleHQi">Framework for democratic competences</a>. In <a href="">2018, the new tests</a> of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment will also be looking into such competences as respect, responsibility, and openness to cultural diversity.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>The New Ukrainian School</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Ukraine is keeping pace. The government has declared school reform one of its top priorities in the coming years. The recent New Ukrainian School concept outlines a revolutionary vision of secondary education with a focus on school and teacher autonomy, the development of competences for life, a value-based education, and a partnership between students, teachers and parents. The draft Law on Education has been approved in its first reading, and opens the way for the decentralization of governance and a new structure of schooling, with new content. <span class="mag-quote-center">To facilitate these reforms, the European Wergeland Centre and Ukraine’s Ministry of Education jointly launched the Schools for Democracy programme.</span></p> <p class="Body">To facilitate these reforms, the European Wergeland Centre and Ukraine’s Ministry of Education jointly launched the Schools for Democracy programme. It is aimed at democratic change in schools by strengthening the culture of democracy. The programme offers training, school workshops and support for school transformation projects. It is currently bringing 32 schools into this programme, and will expand to over 100 next year.</p> <p class="Body">One of the goals is to grow from a programme into a new philosophy of schooling. For these purposes, participants are encouraged to embed democratic citizenship education into the whole planning and development of their schools. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>A ‘whole school approach’ to democratic citizenship education</strong></h2> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Wergeland Centre photograph. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For almost a year now the round table has become the symbol of the programme. As one of participants noted, the school planning workshop was “the first time we all sat together and discussed our problems and interests openly”. Before this, all decisions were taken behind closed doors. </p> <p class="Body">The participation of all stakeholders in school life, including students, teachers, administration, parents and local community, is critical. Stronger ownership makes changes more sustainable. Stronger ownership makes changes more sustainable. </p> <p class="Body">Democratic values may remain empty slogans if they are not translated into practice. Everyday experience is the best way to learn democracy. So schools are supported as they assess their needs, plan and introduce changes in most areas of school life, from policies and procedures, governance, curriculum, teaching methods to relations with the local community. A special <a href="">Tool for School Development</a> has been drafted to help structure this process. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Democratic transformations bottom up</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Influential parent, teacher and other grassroots initiatives have become leaders in best practise for the democratic development of schools. Many will admit that the lack of comprehensive democratic citizenship education has triggered some of the considerable challenges Ukraine is facing. <span class="mag-quote-center">Some people call for a postponement of such “soft” issues as a democratic school for better times.</span></p> <p class="Body">Paradoxically, there is huge resistance to change both at the grassroots and state level. Some people call for a postponement of such “soft” issues as a democratic school for better times. Whereas, a safe inclusive environment is needed now as never before, when 60,000 internally displaced children go to school, many suffering from psychological trauma, including 1798 children who have lost their fathers in combat. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Wergeland Centre photo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Distrust in democratic institutions is one of the deep-rooted grievances nurturing resistance to change. Schools for Democracy confronts this resistance with empowerment. It gives schools a practical vision of how to address real life problems and it equips learners with democratic competences. </p><p class="Body">The programme’s baseline research shows that half the schools did not have functional school self-governance. After half a year in the programme, a range of schools have introduced new procedures to involve students and parents in decision-making, giving more voice to student councils.</p> <p class="Body">The same study reveals that most schools use codes of conduct, mission statements and even planning documents for reporting only. Participating schools have chosen to fight against their “cosmetic democracy” by drafting school documentation anew, this time designing “living” instruments. Melitopol school, for example, has changed its Statutes, involving all its stakeholders in this process.</p> <p class="Body">Another challenge is admitting problems, rather than sweeping them under the carpet. Nearly all the schools participating in the programme chose to claim that their students do not face discrimination. Whereas, according to the Children Ombudsman, every second child is bullied at school, and around one third of school children regularly <a href="">experience violence</a>. Programme trainers hold awareness-raising trainings on bullying, hate speech and violence in schools, to encourage the introduction of anti-discrimination procedures. <span class="mag-quote-center">According to the Children Ombudsman, every second child is bullied at school, and around one third of school children regularly experience violence.</span></p> <p class="Body">Also the lowly status of teachers has been found to be a barrier preventing change. In the baseline study, we found out that 68% of teachers seldom applied interactive teaching methods. Now many of them report that trainings in a democratic classroom approach have strongly increased their professional motivation.</p> <p class="Body">Schools inspire through their grassroots innovation, influencing policy-making. They have taken the first steps in responsibility for their own development, thus building the new Ukraine school by school themselves: not from above, but from within.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Solidarity across regions </strong></h2> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Wergeland Centre photo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Another goal of the programme is to strengthen cohesion between the different regions in Ukraine. A poor economy and post-colonial habits still curb Ukrainians’ mobility. According to the 2015 <a href="">KIIS</a> survey, 77% of Ukrainians have never travelled abroad, and 36% never visited other regions in Ukraine. This, in turn, nurtures myths, stereotypes and prejudices.</p> <p class="Body">Joint trainings and online networking in the programme are designed to unite participants from all over Ukraine and provide safe arenas for dialogue. Participants get an opportunity to see that all of them struggle with the same challenges. In the course of the programme they support each other and become inspired by those who succeed. <span class="mag-quote-center">“The programme is creating a democratic snowball effect, which eventually will reach every school in Ukraine.”</span></p> <p class="Body">For example, one school head from Slovyansk proudly speaks of their achievements in democratic governance, and then shows the traces of bombing still on the school building. Or a small school in Desna's newly amalgamated community, their hands full with administrative reform, nevertheless pushes local authorities into youth co-governance and establishes a new Youth Council. </p> <p class="Body">Next year our schools will gather for a conference to team up as democratic multipliers, bridge local initiatives and share best practice across the country. As Tetyana Filipenko, teacher trainer from Donetsk region, put it, “the programme is creating a democratic snowball effect, which eventually will reach every school in Ukraine”.</p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner" style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy with a citizens’ newsroom. <a href="">Register here</a>.</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=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy (see the <a href="">programme</a> for more details). </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>The Ukrainian Schools for Democracy Programme is carried out by the European Wergeland Centre and Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science, in cooperation with the Council of Europe and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body"><em>The European Wergeland Centre is a resource centre in education for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural understanding. Based in Oslo, it was founded by the Council of Europe and Norway to build capacities of individuals, institutions and educational systems to develop democratic culture. In 2016, the Center’s activities extended to 27 members of the Council of Europe with projects focusing on three overarching topics: competences for democratic culture, democratic institutions and inclusive societies. Find more at </em><a href=""></a><em> </em></p> </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> World Forum for Democracy 2016 Iryna Sabor Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:16:27 +0000 Iryna Sabor 106230 at How to make peace with the forest: development and war in Colombia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This launches a series of articles looking at the relationship between environmental and human rights, to unpack one of the world’s longest-running wars, the Peace Agreement and its seeming collapse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot"><img src="//" alt="" title="Screenshot" width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot / Fair use.</span></span></span>On September 26, the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP was signed with a pen made from a bullet, while the Air Force “fumigated” the colours of the Colombian flag over a crowd all clad in white. These planes are all too similar – if not the same – to the ones that up until very recently sprayed down chemical herbicides over vast areas of the Colombian countryside.</p> <p>Six days later, in a referendum designed by the Santos administration to be the final form of approval for the agreement, 51.2 per cent out of the Colombians who turned out to vote, a mere 38 per cent, issued a ‘NO’ to the agreement. The difference was <a href="">55,651 votes</a>.</p> <p>The divisions that have separated the ‘no’ from the ‘yes’ are much deeper than the current Uribe vs. Santos model that the media is now spinning. In fact politically, ex-president Alvaro Uribe and the current, Juan Manuel Santos, who was Uribe’s minister of war during his presidency, are not actually that different. </p> <p>But the fractures in Colombian society are historically entrenched. Since its independence and the formation of the modern state, Colombia has had six civil wars largely caused by divisions along class lines and political ideology. In particular, around land ownership. What the referendum has made increasingly obvious is that these divisions&nbsp; – at the same time geographical, ecological and social – cannot be repaired by a closed Peace Process between the government and a single armed group, a process by definition excluding the participation of wider civil society. </p> <h2><strong>Bullets and toxins</strong></h2> <p>Now, with the country gripped by <a href="">mass protests</a>, there is a great uncertainty over the fate of the Peace Accords – a 297-page document that has taken four years to draw up. But amidst the confusion, devastation, anger and – for certain individuals – joy, it is worth thinking about something that has <em>not</em> changed, despite the referendum result: the critical role of the environment in the Colombian conflict, in which bullets and toxins are the weapons.</p> <p>This series of articles will look at the relation between environmental and human rights in order to unpack one of the world’s longest running wars, the Peace Agreement and its seeming collapse.</p> <p>The Accords, and their proposed reforms, had the potential to open up the debate around the structural issues behind the war, in particular, agrarian reform and economic development. Originally a <em>campesino</em> organisation, the FARC-EP has had agrarian reform as their main pillar since their foundation in 1964: the first chapter of the Peace Accords focuses on this. Paradoxically however, while debating issues directly intertwined with economics, such as rural reform, the negotiations were not allowed to address the current Colombian ‘economic model’. Germán Vélez, director of <a href="">Grupo Semillas</a> – an agricultural and environmental rights organisation, explains, “Santos made clear from the beginning that anything was up for discussion, except the economic model. So, I believe we have to recognise our starting point as a place where the topic of structural problems in rural areas is not being discussed in depth.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“Santos made clear from the beginning that anything was up for discussion, except the economic model.” </span></p><p>A major criticism of the accords has been their inability to address the structural problems of the conflict. If Colombia is to ever achieve a real, meaningful peace, economic development and its role in fuelling much of the violence in the countryside needs to be recognised. A very clear, direct example of this has been the contracting of paramilitary groups by multinational companies to “provide security” for their extractive industries. These often involves the intimidation, kidnapping, torture, and in some cases, the assassination of union leaders and <a href="">environmental rights advocates.</a></p> <p>The gap between the economic vision of the government and that of Colombian social movements can be seen as a clash of different visions of the Colombian territory itself, where according to the national development plan, nature poses as an infinite resource that can be dug up, cut down, harvested, shipped off or burnt as fuel without caution or end in sight. Biodiversity in this long-standing model is seen solely as potential capital, <a href="">yet another mode of investment opportunity</a>. On the other side, indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and <em>campesino</em> groups insist that this model of development does not include them, their world-vision or their beliefs. Therefore the fight for the environment is seen by these groups as an existential struggle. Which is why many different social movements, such as the <a href="">Liberation of Mother Earth</a> in northern Cauca, assert their collective and cultural rights through the preservation of biodiversity and traditional agricultural techniques.</p> <h2><strong>Window of opportunity</strong></h2> <p>For movements like these, the Peace Agreement presented a window of opportunity, held narrowly ajar, giving the public the chance to reshape regional policies, such as those concerning economic development. </p> <p>But now that the agreement has been rejected, that opportunity, however slight, appears to be closing. In the ensuing political uncertainty it is likely that the debate about the environment will take a backseat as everyone turns to the issues of impunity and accountability. High-level, systemic impunity has been an on-going feature of Colombian politics for some time now. Many supporters of the ‘No’ vote were against the degree of legal immunity that would be granted to the officers and foot soldiers of the FARC, while many high level government officials and those involved in paramilitary groups have enjoyed <a href="">real impunity</a> for decades. But the referendum results don’t change the fact that the natural environment and those who depend on it for survival are the primary victims of this pervasive and systemic impunity in Colombia. <span class="mag-quote-center">The natural environment and those who depend on it for survival are the primary victims of this pervasive and systemic impunity in Colombia.</span> </p> <p>Throughout the war, the environment has been a victim of the activities of both the state and the various armed groups, perpetuating both legal and illegal economies. A very clear example of this dual illegal/legal destruction is the case of gold mining, where illegal gold mining has often paved the way for legal forms of extraction – contaminating local environments to such an extent that no other activity is possible, as can be witnessed in Chocó, a region on the Pacific northwest coast, now experiencing mass environmental devastation due to mercury poisoning from <a href="">illegal gold mining.</a> </p> <h2><strong>Development as displacement</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illegal gold mine in northern Cauca, Photo: Juan Gabriel Salazar Gaviria. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The legal experts working in the environmental rights and advocacy organisation <a href="">Tierra Digna</a> see this pattern emerge in their work with communities facing displacement due to large-scale industrial projects. Take Cesar, a department in the north bordering Venezuela with the most coal mining in the country, whose community arrived there at the turn of the century and has lived and worked throughout the intrusion of cotton and palm industries. However when the coalmine moved into the area about 25 years ago, life started to become impossible. </p> <p>No one bothered to calculate the toxins that would be released into the air and water over time, so after two decades of operation, the soil is infertile and the air and water toxic. The government is using the legal framework of human rights to force displace the community, claiming that it is in their best interest to move in order to protect their health, and claiming that the environment is no longer fit for human life. </p> <p>Developmental activities have thus far been sustained by the forced displacement of <a href="">over 6 million people</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">Developmental activities have thus far been sustained by the forced displacement of over 6 million people.</span></p> <p>Mass displacement in rural areas has permitted the concentration of land in fewer and fewer hands. This model of concentration via land-grab underpins the whole economic model, allowing the creation of extensive zones for cattle ranching, monoculture, and mining. </p> <p>Another devastating environmental impact of the war has been the aerial fumigation of coca, marijuana, and poppy crops with the herbicide glyphosate – classified as a probable carcinogen by the <a href="">World Health Organisation</a> &nbsp;– on about <a href="">1.75 million hectares</a> of Colombian “wilderness” – in fact areas both lived and cultivated. </p> <p>Other impacts of drug eradication include increased deforestation to create new areas of cultivation for illicit crops. Aerial fumigation has also led to yet more forced displacement, as crops die, land becomes infertile and families and communities can no longer survive. The land affected often has a specific pattern of post-abandonment occupancy, and in most cases it is ultimately taken over by large-landowning individuals, sometimes associated with paramilitary groups who then sell it on to <a href="">extractive industries</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is ultimately taken over by large-landowning individuals, sometimes associated with paramilitary groups who then sell it on to extractive industries.</span></p> <h2><strong>Worrying post-accords scenarios</strong></h2> <p>Of course there were already concerns for a “post-accords” scenario, namely the potential rise of violence in areas previously controlled by the FARC. </p> <p>In these zones the potential for other armed groups to move in and cause further environmental damage through drug trafficking and illegal mining are incredibly high, not to mention the danger this poses to communities in these areas. </p> <p>And when legal industries such as mining or oil companies enter, under the legal frame, the environmental destruction will be significantly worse. This <a href="">process has already begun</a> with the expansion of the petroleum and hydrocarbon industries in the department of Caquetá after the FARC left certain areas. The president of Ecopetrol, one of the world’s largest petroleum companies <a href="">stated explicitly</a> that “Peace will allow us to take more oil from areas previously closed by conflict.” </p> <p>Vélez echoes this concern in relation to the expansion of <a href="">ZIDRES</a>, or Zones of Interest for Economic and Social Rural Development, a plan that renders all ‘unoccupied’ or ‘uncultivated’ land as national property that can then be sold on to multinationals: “what the government is looking toward is how to bring investors to rural areas, so the land will end up in the hands of foreign investors and then our land is once again in the hands of few. There is going to be a new concentration of land.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“There is going to be a new concentration of land.” </span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fumigated field in Putumayo. Photo: Author’s own.</span></span></span>In the wake of the referendum, the question of the environment remains fundamental, even more so considering the new interests and actors that have grabbed a seat at the negotiating table alongside the leaders of the “NO” vote. This has shifted the peace process to what civil society is calling ‘<a href="">a pact between elites</a>’ seeking to impose certain revisions on the accords. </p> <p>The proposals coming from the far right (aligned with Uribe) would be devastating to the involvement of social movements in environmental issues. </p> <h2><strong>Uribe’s contribution</strong></h2><p>Uribe’s proposed “<a href="">revisions</a>” to the accords, for example, suggest taking away the right of the public to challenge development projects happening near their communities, known as the <em>consulta popular</em>. This right has already come under attack. In the days following the referendum, a <em><a href="">consulta popular in Ibagué</a></em>, a city located in the department of Tolima, was cancelled and activists continue to receive <a href="">death threats</a>. The Accords offered the potential for citizen participation. Now that any such progress has been thrown off course (temporarily or permanently we are still to see) the far right is doing everything it can to ensure that communities cannot stop destructive regional development plans. </p> <p>The coming months will be crucial. As the government begins its negotiations with the other major guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (the ELN in its Spanish acronym), and the media shifts its focus, it will be very telling to look at the pattern of land grabs, forced displacement, and <a href="">activists targeted</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">It will be very telling to look at the pattern of land grabs, forced displacement, and activists targeted. </span></p> <p>So often in the past these attacks have increased during times of ‘political uncertainty’. Between the agreement in late August and the final signing of the peace accords in September 13 activists and social movement leaders were killed, with right-wing paramilitary groups as suspects. According to a report by <a href="">Somos Defensores</a> “the majority of the cases of aggressions against human rights defenders in the first half of 2016 are suspected to be perpetrated by paramilitary forces, followed by the state, and lastly the two guerrillas.” In particular, incidences of aggression from state security forces have doubled since 2015. </p> <h2><strong>Peace and truth</strong></h2> <p>‘Peace’ must be seen as synonymous with social and environmental justice. Before the referendum, a coalition of different social and environmental movements was calling for an <a href="">environmental truth commission</a>. Its purpose would be to examine the long-term devastation of water resources, biodiversity and ecosystems as a symptom of the war, and thus a key point to address in the road to peace. </p> <p>Recognising the ways in which the violence of the war has impacted the natural environment means that we can also start to see many different sectors of society, including Afro-Colombians, indigenous peoples and farmers as victims of development caught in the crossfire. Acknowledging such diverse groups as victims of a form of development perpetuated by war is the first step to remaking the economic model that was marked as off limits in the peace negotiations. </p> <p>Calling for an ‘environmental truth commission’ at this juncture is politically urgent especially as development and its connection to irreversible <a href="">environmental destruction and grave human rights violations</a> is now drawing the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC).</p> <p>But this vision of peace – a peace made with the forest - is not the vision of the government.&nbsp; The following articles will examine how social movements are challenging this perspective – from water, soil, and air – asserting that the environment has always been at the heart of the Colombian conflict, and that the future of ‘peace’ in the country depends very much on it remaining a core issue in the debate. </p> <p><em>(Next up: Journalist Gina Spigarelli explores the struggles over water resources in the department of Antioquia... )<br /></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Colombia Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Hannah Meszaros Martin Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:04:04 +0000 Hannah Meszaros Martin 106210 at Democracy is dying of success <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Are we governing ourselves? Daniel Innerarity argues that societies have seldom been governed, in a handful of issues and only at certain times. <em><strong>Interview</strong>. <strong><a href="">Español </a></strong><strong><a href="">Português</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daniel Innerarity. Photo: all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Manuel Serrano</strong>: Referring to your discussion with Pia Mancini here in Lisbon, what would you say the state of health of democracy in the world is today?</p> <p><strong>Daniel Innerarity</strong>: I believe that democracy is dying of success. Democracy is an increasingly accepted system of government, there is a growing number of countries that have adopted systems that can be said to be democratic, despite their shortcomings. The problem we are facing has more to do with politics than with democracy. I try to explain this in my last book: we are living now in a democracy without politics, in a post-political era. Democracy works quite well as a space for discussion, mobilization, protest - for exercising the functions of what I call the <em>negative sovereign</em>: asking things, protesting at things. What is not working is the ability to frame these protests and turn them into an exercise in positive sovereignty: building, transforming, implementing. This is my general diagnosis.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">We are living now in a democracy without politics, in a post-political era.</p> <p><strong>MS</strong>: What do you think, specifically, of the health of Spanish democracy and the political impasse that has resulted in nearly a year of a caretaker government? What is your analysis of the crisis of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE)? Is Spain a good example of what you just described?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: Spain is a very clear example of what I just said. Since 2008 we have been through a long string of protests, challenges, social movements, pledges against evictions - that is, a series of exercises in negative sovereignty. Civil society has managed to paralyze public works, hospital privatization processes, many things, but we have failed to set up an alternative majority, which would have required reaching a compromise and finding common ground between very different political agendas – the Socialists’, Podemos’, the nationalists’. The end result is that we will be having more of the same.</p> <p><strong>MS</strong>: What do you think is the future of the nation state as we know it? Does it have one? Is the refugee crisis a symptom of its decline?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: It is indeed. Regarding the refugee crisis, Europe and the cities have had a more daring, and bold position than states, much more commensurate with the nature of the problem. I live in a city that has made plans for hosting refugees, but it has not been able to carry them out because there are no refugees - because the bottleneck for their arrival is controlled by the state.</p> <p>I think that Europe in particular, and the world in general, is being transformed through networks - linking cities, regions, nations -, global agreements being forged, and contributions from a huge number of institutions and experts. The instance standing in the middle - the instance that has been traditionally associated with the sill of the electorate - is the one that is going to suffer the most. It is also the one that holds back progress the most, not so much due to a problem of administrative law, but to the fact that the electorate is scared to death and has short-term interests. We are quite unable to agree on the common good.</p> <p><strong>MS: </strong>But, why are the states blocking the arrival of refugees? Are the political elites to blame? </p> <p><strong>DI: </strong>Well, we have here a very difficult problem to solve. As we have seen in Germany, when Merkel has been tough with the countries in the South of Europe, preventing what she has called "too much solidarity", she has done very well in the polls and in the acceptance ratings. But when she has adopted a responsible position on refugees, she has lost. It is not so much the elites who are to blame – this would be an oversimplification. Quite often, the elites behave in the way they do because they know that we, the voters, would not put up with certain situations.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Quite often, the elites behave in the way they do because they know that we, the voters, would not put up with certain situations.</p> <p><strong>MS</strong>: You published a book last year entitled <em>Politics in times of indignation</em>, an overview and an analysis of society’s idea of what politics is. Is there a risk, as you yourself said in an interview, that politics will become irrelevant?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: Politics is, partly, incomprehensible to people, partly a group of persons who decide on what is accessory, and partly a social system invaded by logics that are not its own: the logic of the media and the logic of the finance economy. So, sometimes, when I hear people refer to good politics or good government, I always ask a previous question: are societies being governed?</p> <p>Throughout the history of mankind, societies have been governed on very few issues, and only at certain times. Usually, there has been chaos, the law of the strongest, and the sheer inertia of tradition. We humans have taken control of our destiny in political terms only rarely. The situation we are now going through in Spain is a very good example: there is no government, there is no capacity to govern. I would say that governing is the exception rather than the rule. We are probably heading towards a more chaotic world, where the legitimacy of increasingly less relevant governments is questioned, and where politics is not the place where the greatest wisdom and knowledge is to be found – though this is exactly what is needed to govern.</p> <p>Either politics recovers some of its configuration capacity in environments where the chain of command no longer applies, and manages to regain some degree of strategic capacity, or it will become something that will not even have to be knocked down – it will become not relevant.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>São Luiz Theather, Lisbon, during the conference "What Democracy". Nuno Ramos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>MS</strong>: But are we not facing as well a problem of personal errors and values? Or is it purely an institutional problem?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: I do not think it is a problem of people making errors. I believe we make two types of mistaken approaches: one, by thinking that people are very important in politics, and the other, by adopting a regulatory approach - that is, thinking that values are very important. I am not saying that values and individuals are not important, but the systems, structures, institutions and government procedures are more important. This is what we need to watch, rather than the preparedness of whoever takes up the posts – which is important too -: whether the rules, the procedures and the structures are up to the challenges we are facing.</p> <p>On the other hand, we must understand that most of the problems to be addressed require a mobilization of knowledge. Issues such as climate change, financial regulation, the fight against inequality, the use of technologies that involve great risks, must be addressed with the right values and not dismissing the high degree of knowledge needed in dealing with these matters. These are two errors which are weakening politics very much.</p> <p><strong>MS</strong>: What is your opinion on the rise of populism and what <em>The Economist</em> calls Post-truth politics?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: Well, in politics the criteria for truth are very different from those applying in other areas. When someone suggests otherwise, he or she conveys a very wrong idea of politics - as if politics had to do with factual objectivities. Politics has to do with words, with mobilization, with making sense, with moods, and due importance must be given to it all. In Trump’s case, for instance, his contempt for factuality is hard to believe. But it seems to me that this is not as relevant as the fact that we are not governing affections, the intelligibility questions. The politicians’ truth is the truth that mobilizes, that makes things understandable. The truth concerning the facts is a very small aspect of truth in politics.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The politicians’ truth is the truth that mobilizes, that makes things understandable.</p> <p><strong>MS</strong>: Let us go back to Spain for the last question: what do you think about the situation in Catalonia? Is the issue being addressed in the right way?</p> <p><strong>DI</strong>: I think there has been a vicious circle of actions and reactions that have led to a situation where the numbers for unilateral independence are not there, but the numbers are not there either for those who believe that this is a mere effervescence. No, it is a serious problem that could be addressed so that a vast majority of population would find itself represented in the solution, but at this stage this can no longer be done without a profound recognition of Catalonia’s subjectivity.</p><p><em><strong>This interview was conducted on October 7, in Lisbon, at the conference "<a href="" target="_blank">What democracy?</a>” organized by the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation</a></strong>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/pia-mancini-manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/democracy-for-internet-era">A democracy for the Internet era</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/rebecca-abecassis-manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/journalism-in-times-of-crisis">Journalism in times of crisis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Portugal </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Spain Portugal Civil society Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics europe Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Daniel Innerarity Tue, 25 Oct 2016 12:49:05 +0000 Daniel Innerarity and Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 106207 at A common man on the road to power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The new film&nbsp;<em>An Insignificant Man </em>narrates the startling rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Indian politics – a riveting story of outsider charisma and audacity confronting power and inequality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Arvind Kejriwal (right) and his party colleagues. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="lead lead lead lead " title="Arvind Kejriwal (right) and his party colleagues. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arvind Kejriwal (left) and his party colleagues. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Delhi, India. A scrum of men struggle for space with strained voices and pained expressions. Squirming hands clasp at limbs and clothing, or snatch idly into the air. “The table is about to fall!” Soldiers in green uniforms and berets push back at the crowd, protecting a rack of press microphones that encircle a small podium. Journalists, clinging to their cameras and notepads, press themselves inwards. “Mr. Kejriwal!"&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">The sea of bodies parts and a man, seemingly unremarkable, takes position in the centre of the frame. The camera shakes and the shouting increases. Hands and voices reach out to him from all sides, but Arvind Kejriwal is solemn and unflinching, fixing his gaze outwards.</p> <p class="p1">This short scene is one of many powerful moments in <em>An Insignificant Man</em>, a striking new documentary that chronicles the startling rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Indian politics, set in the restless metropolis of Delhi. Evolving out of a high-profile anti-corruption movement, the AAP – or ‘Common Man’s Party’ – became a serious political force in 2012, promising to break the mould of stagnant, opaque politics that has been shared by India’s major parties for decades.</p> <p class="p1">First-time directors Vinay Shukla and Khushboo Rankla have made a impressive debut of their own with this compelling film, a crowdfunded project that saw them work meticulously over two turbulent years in Delhi, gathering over 400 hours of footage. The final result is a distinctive combination of sweeping cinematics, conscientious editing and unrivalled access to the AAP that makes for a remarkable level of intimacy and drama. With the birth of India’s newest party as a point of departure, tension accumulates organically and relentlessly throughout <em>An Insignificant Man</em>, enthralling viewers and bringing them to the protagonist’s side with little obvious effort.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">This protagonist – the ‘insignificant man’ – is Arvind Kejriwal, a former tax official whose exposure to India’s unscrupulous political culture led him to quit his job in 2006 and plunge himself into the chaotic world of anti-corruption activism. With a clear aptitude for leadership, Arvind’s honesty, dedication and stoicism won him a loyal following during 2011’s Jan Lokpal movement, during which he played a key role in mobilising civil resistance against kleptocratic practices in the world’s largest democracy. Since then, the momentum of anti-establishment politics has carried Kejriwal, now a divisive figure, to lofty heights.</p> <p class="p1">But in retelling this extraordinary journey, Shukla and Rankla are careful not to lose sight of Kejriwal’s status as an ‘outsider’ in Indian politics. As the film opens, we are quickly familiarised with a diminutive, middle-aged man who carries an earnest, pensive air as he listens to the grievances of his supporters. We see Kejriwal – a determined activist but long estranged from politics – command the attention of huge crowds and the admiration of volunteers. “Such a small man exposing such powerful people!” As India’s political elite reels from the corruption scandal, it is not long before Kejriwal finds himself pressed from all sides into forming a party.</p> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Arvind Kejriwal delivers a speech. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="" title="Arvind Kejriwal delivers a speech. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved." width="460" height="249" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arvind Kejriwal delivers a speech. Courtesy of Memesys Lab. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>An immediate hero for many, Kejriwal wins the veneration of more and more as his style and approach becomes clearer. His supporters follow him as he rejects charity work in favour of system change, nurture and celebrate him when he goes on hunger strike, and swear oaths to him that they will never again be bribed for their votes.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">The insignificant man becomes a notorious personality and unmistakable leader; soon Kejriwal is at the centre of the political drama film <em>Satyagraha</em>, played by Ajay Devgan. On the streets,&nbsp; thousands follow Kejriwal’s example by donning the famous <a href="">Gandhi hat</a>, a co-option of Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy that shames the ruling Congress Party, represented in Delhi by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Watched by millions, the emboldened leader of the AAP speaks truth to power, exchanging hard blows with Dikshit, whose seat Kejriwal sets his sights on.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">But the character of Kejriwal is complex, and one of <em>An Insignificant Man’s </em>strongest points is its even-handed portrayal of a man who has both vice and virtue. His single-minded approach to politics can become stubborn and parochial, holding back his transition from activist to political leader. Often this comes down to a trade-off familiar to ‘outsider’ politics: idealism versus pragmatism. As the AAP takes institutional shape in Delhi, it stumbles on questions of participation and devolved power, leading Kejriwal to assert his authority at the expense of his party’s promise for participatory democracy.</p> <p class="p1">Shukla and Rankla have not shied away from depicting these difficult moments with consideration. More than anything, they serve as an important reminder of the challenges that energised social movements must overcome on the road to empowerment. Kejriwal and his colleagues are visibly torn by the tough choices that are forced upon them, by the political establishment but also by citizens who have become wary of debate and sceptical of democracy. As the film progresses, it is hard to escape the sense that compromise is their only viable route past the high walls of Indian politics.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">Though Kejriwal is the film’s anchor, he is brilliantly offset by a range of colourful characters, whose roles in the rise of the AAP are certainly not undervalued by the directors. Early on we are acquainted with Yogendra Yadev, a high-profile political analyst who was key to the party’s formation. Tall, bearded and sincere, Yadev is perceptive and measured where Kejriwal is emotive and forthright. He speaks with lucidity and assurance, giving the AAP an academic rigour that underpins its distinctive approach to democracy and the common good.</p> <p class="p1">The industry and charisma of Yadev and Kejriwal is shown in marked contrast to the complacency of Sheila Dikshit and the Congress Party. Chief minister of Delhi for 15 years, Dikshit leads a campaign that looks solely into the past, rejecting the AAP as a viable party of government. Along with the AAP’s energetic young candidate, Santosh Koli, Dikshit represents one of few women in the political landscape of Delhi, and in the film overall. In fact, there is a noticeable lack of women in Arvind Kejriwal’s movement, not only at the top rung of his party, but also in the crowds, which are frequently dominated by adult men. This apparent imbalance is perhaps the key issue that <em>An Insignificant Man </em>leaves unexplored.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p class="p1">Shukla and Rankla’s documentary is in many ways a fascinating showcase of what makes Indian politics unique, but it also shows striking parallels to other contemporary social movements, especially those that offer a critique of political elites and corruption. This duality resonates strongly with viewers and is certainly a source of pride for the directors. When I spoke to Shukla, he was keen to highlight the huge spectrum of political movements and crises that viewers have called upon, ranging from Egypt to Cambodia, and even to the western world. For him and Rankla, it is these points of convergence that make Arvind Kejriwal’s story so resonant for a diverse array of viewers. These parallels also offer important lessons on the practice of democracy and power in a claustrophobic political landscape, from which almost any social movement could learn a great deal.</p> <p class="p1"><em>An Insignificant Man</em> is probing and arresting, compelling its viewers to be swept along with the highs and lows of the AAP’s journey. We are bewildered by the movement’s mistakes, but also by its astonishing success in a city fraught with corruption and political apathy. As his journey twists and turns through triumph and crisis, through tragedy and jubilation, Arvind Kejriwal is unchanged in his dedication to the cause of the common man. His resolution, in spite of his apparent insignificance, is perfectly captured in this captivating documentary, itself an extremely valuable reminder that even the ‘outsider’ can have a meaningful impact on democratic progress.</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="/pradeep-baisakh/power-to-people-open-letter-to-arvind-kejriwal">Power to the people: an open letter to Arvind Kejriwal</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> openIndia openIndia Billy Sawyers Tue, 25 Oct 2016 11:49:37 +0000 Billy Sawyers 106216 at The filibuster of the Turing Bill reminds us that homophobia is alive and well in Britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Conservative justice minister filibustered a bill to pardon the thousands of men convicted under legislation that criminalised homosexuality. This act lays bear the discrimination still faced by LGBT people in this country.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A statue of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park"><img src="//" alt="" title="A statue of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A statue of Alan Turing, for whom the bill was named. Photo: Jon Callas. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Licensed.</span></span></span>The failure of the Turing Bill is a stark reminder of the homophobia embedded in British society. A staunchly undemocratic filibuster, led by none other than justice minister Sam Gyimah, ensured that no vote could be taken on the Bill. The Turing Bill, named after WW2 code breaker Alan Turing, was intended to pardon the gay men prosecuted before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967.</p><p>Although Gyimah was met with loud shouts of shame from other MPs, there is little doubt that the failure of the bill to pass will only further disenfranchise an already at-risk section of society. It is precisely this sort of behaviour which reinforces the alienation of homosexual men, leading to disproportionally high levels of mental illness, self-harm and suicides within the LGBT community.<a href="https://c/Users/callum/Documents/Turing%20Bill%20Article.docx#_ftn1">[1]</a>&nbsp;societal pressures resulting in an internalised discomfort with oneself and constant fear of ridicule have created a crisis where a staggering 52% of LGBT youths have self-harmed and 44% have considered suicide.<a href="https://c/Users/callum/Documents/Turing%20Bill%20Article.docx#_ftn2">[2]</a>&nbsp;That is simply unacceptable. The government, especially the justice minister, must lead the way in creating an environment where homosexuals are equals, and not a minority to be disregarded as soon as a politically point-scoring manifesto has fallen from the public eye.</p><p>We live in a society where homosexual characters on TV shows all fit one description. A society where to be gay and play sport means to be habitually <a href="">treated with scorn and contempt</a>. A society in which a quarter of LGB people hide their sexual orientation for fear of being the victim of a hate crime, and 38% of transpeople have experienced physical threats or intimidation.&nbsp;<span>And now, a society where the justice minister refuses to pardon men of the defunct crime of being gay. To live in the United Kingdom as an LGBT person is to live with a relentless awareness that you may well be treated like a second-class citizen, to live paranoid that you may be subjected to verbal or physical abuse on any given day.</span></p><p>Mr Gyimah explained his decision on the basis that he feared a blanket ban would lead to those convicted of actions still illegal today - such as sex in public bathrooms - being pardoned. Whilst few may advocate sex that sex in a bathroom is acceptable public behaviour, the reality is that there were few private places available for homosexual men to spend times with their loved ones. In the vast majority of cases, one certainly could not take a partner to one's family home. Gymiah insists that detailed investigations must be carried out by the Home Office so that offences which involved a party under the age of 16 were not included. Nonetheless, a pardon should be considered the pure minimum for those who had their lives ruined by a draconian and homophobic law. </p><p>Consider that before 2003, workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was legal. Due to the notorious <a href="">Section 28</a> legislation,in place from 1988-2003, local authorities were not allowed to “promote” homosexuality, or teach that it was acceptable for a “family relationship”. LGBT sex education was therefore illegal, and LGBT children were given the clear message that their lives were less valuable than those of their straight counterparts. The British government’s history with the LGBT community has destroyed lives. As a minimum, it triggered swathes of mental health issues and made sexual education which could have helped combat the AIDS crisis impossible. Progress has been slow, and it is a sorry state of affairs that potentially life-saving sexual education is still appallingly absent on a state-wide level.</p><p>This bill was an effort to return some dignity to dead men, and provide those survivors with justice, and will live long in the minds of the LGBT community; but for all the wrong reasons. The government cannot bring itself even to grant simple pardons that would have caused no harm and sent a clear positive message of acceptance. But even this gesture would not have been enough. To truly bring the LGBT community in from the cold, there must be a no holds barred apology for the treatment of homosexuals by the British state. 49,000 men were prosecuted for homosexuality in the 20th century alone. When will we admit they deserve justice?</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> uk uk Callum Phillips Tue, 25 Oct 2016 11:40:00 +0000 Callum Phillips 106215 at Tackling economic inequality with the right to non-discrimination <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Inequality may be compatible with human rights, but not if it violates the right to non-discrimination. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on <a href="">economic inequality and human rights.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Samuel Moyn</a> recently argued that even “perfectly realized human rights are compatible with radical inequality.” Indeed, while realizing human rights often involves the redistribution of resources to the poorest individuals in a society, these resources do not necessarily need to come from the richest individuals in that society. But the rising problem of inequality does require an examination of how such a small percentage of people became so rich in the first place, and systemic discrimination is arguably a key factor. What are the mechanisms in place that allow the rich to get richer while the poor stay as they are, or worse? While, as Moyn argues, redistributing money from rich to poor may not be required to realize human rights, the human rights community still has an important role in tackling economic inequality by protecting the right to non-discrimination.</p> <h2>The rise of economic inequality</h2> <p>As all the contributions in this debate have made clear, economic inequality is at record levels globally. After the United States, the United Kingdom has the second highest level of economic inequality in the developed world. <a href="" target="_blank">According to Thomas Piketty</a>, the top 1% of earners in the UK receive 15% of income and the top 1% of capital holders hold around 25-30% of capital. These top earners have their salary set by boards composed of individuals with similar characteristics, perpetuating the inequality: 62% of Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 companies have all-white boards and only 22.8% of FTSE 100 board members are women. </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-right">An&nbsp;<em>additional &nbsp;</em>800,000 children and 1.5 million adults will be living in poverty by 2020 as a result of the UK’s austerity policies.&nbsp;</span>Capital inequality, on the other hand, has arisen partly due to weak regulatory and taxation regimes established by governments. For example, the UK Government has cut both the top rate of income tax and corporation tax, meaning that the richest 10% of society lost the least during the recession (5% of wealth compared to 38% for the poorest 10%). As with the FTSE 100 companies, members of the government possess similar backgrounds both to each other and to the wealthiest individuals in the UK, creating a feedback loop in which the powerful stay powerful and rarely let outsiders come in. In fact, <a href="" target="_blank">a Sutton Trust report</a> found that 60% of members of the 2010 Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition government attended a private school (compared to 7% of society) and 50% attended Oxford or Cambridge.</p> <h2><strong>The benefits of diversity</strong></h2> <p>The problem with these decisions being made largely by individuals with similar characteristics is that they are likely to have been exposed to (and thus share) a limited range of background assumptions, beliefs and experiences. In relation to board room diversity, <a href="" target="_blank">research shows</a> that an increased representation of women brings a wealth of advantages, as women are more willing to encourage greater discussions over board decisions and to champion difficult issues. Women are particularly effective monitors of management and are much more willing to challenge CEO and senior management pay levels—key in tackling economic inequality.</p><p>In relation to public official diversity, successive UK Governments have been, like many other governments, pursuing austerity policies, drastically cutting welfare. As a result of these welfare cuts, in the future the poorest individuals in society will be unable to keep pace with rising incomes and consequently poverty levels are predicted to rise: the <a href="" target="_blank">Institute for Fiscal Studies</a> estimates that an <em>additional </em>800,000 children (which amounts to a quarter of all children) and 1.5 million adults will be living in poverty by 2020 as a result of the UK’s austerity policies. This forecast begs the question: would a more diverse government—with a proportionate number of members that had grown up in poverty—be so willing to drastically increase poverty levels while cutting taxation for the richest individuals?</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="//" width="444" /> <br />Flickr/Neil Moralee (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Substantive equality requires ensuring disadvantaged groups have equal opportunities. This means improving the schooling of the poorest children to ensure they are equipped to perform elite jobs in the future.</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <h2>The right to non-discrimination</h2> <p>The right to non-discrimination has an important role to play in achieving greater diversity in boardrooms and in government, which in turn can contribute to reducing economic inequality. There are three aspects of equality, formal equality, substantive equality and transformative equality, all of which are incorporated within the right to non-discrimination. Formal equality requires that identically suited individuals, apart from a protected characteristic, should be treated identically—for example, a prohibition on laws that prevent women from being board members or standing for public office. Substantive equality requires real equality by ensuring disadvantaged groups have equal opportunities and/or obtain equal results. This could necessitate measures to improve the schooling of the poorest children to ensure they are equipped to perform elite jobs in the future (equality of opportunity) or require quotas to increase the number of women on boards (equality of results). </p> <p>Finally, transformative equality recognises that there are barriers (e.g., practices and cultural attitudes) that prevent well-qualified members of disadvantaged groups from succeeding. For example, currently the poorest children in the UK <a href="" target="_blank">need to be more qualified</a> than individuals who attended private or selective schools in order to obtain an elite job—often due to employers only recruiting from a small number of elite universities and utilising prejudiced middle-class recruitment criteria such as drive, resilience and “polish”. Transformative equality requires efforts to remove these barriers, by requiring employers to recruit from a wider range of universities and to question whether all the recruitment criteria are essential for the role</p> <p>Arguably, rising salaries and lax tax and regulatory regimes are contributing to rising inequality, and these decisions primarily come from a very narrow class of individuals. More diversity in senior positions, both in the public and private sector, is important to challenge and counter these decisions. The human rights community could pursue these changes in a number of ways. First, organizations could undertake campaigns to bring about positive legal change (for example, the introduction of boardrooms quotas as in Norway). Second, they could encourage political parties to select more diverse candidates (e.g., in the UK the Labour Party utilises all-women shortlists in order to increase the number of female MPs). Third, organizations could conduct and utilise research to draw attention to the barriers in society and encourage the relevant actors to take positive action to remove these (such as pressuring the government to improve the schooling of the poorest children and employers to remove prejudicial recruitment criteria). In this way, the human rights community could utilise the right to non-discrimination to require influential bodies in society to ensure greater diversity in their composition, which in turn should reduce rising inequality. The right to non-discrimination is thus a potentially powerful weapon in the fight against economic inequality.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" 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=""><img src="//" 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="" target="_blank" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src=''" onmouseout="document.Imgs.src=''"> <img src="//" width="140" name="Imgs" border="0" alt="Economic Inequality and human rights – Read on" /></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/samuel-moyn/human-rights-and-age-of-inequality">Human rights and the age of inequality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/juan-pablo-jim-nez/uneven-playing-field-inequality-human-rights-and-taxation">An uneven playing field: inequality, human rights and taxation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/savio-carvalho/everyone-does-better-when-everyone-does-better">Everyone does better when everyone does better</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/koldo-casla-jamie-burton-alice-donald/uk-government-cannot-reconcile-austerity-meas">The UK government cannot reconcile austerity measures with human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/todd-landman/inequality-is-more-than-just-problem-for-developing-countries">Inequality is more than just a problem for developing countries</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/gaby-or-aguilar-ignacio-saiz/tackling-inequality-as-injustice-four-challenges-for-h">Tackling inequality as injustice: four challenges for the human rights agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/uwe-gneiting/inequality-business-and-human-rights-new-frontier">Inequality, business and human rights: the new frontier?</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 David Barrett Global Western Europe Economic Inequality and Human Rights Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:30:00 +0000 David Barrett 106203 at Councillors must look before they leap into secret NHS cuts plans <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Hunt can no longer pretend he's following 'the NHS's own plan'.&nbsp; Expect fierce local battles ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Image: Simon Stevens, NHS England</em></p><p><span><span>It’s all going horribly wrong for Simon Stevens. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>Theresa May has not taken kindly to the NHS boss’s belated admission that he had originally asked for considerably more than £8billion “extra” for the NHS <strong><span>(even as that £8bn figure was itself criticised as “misleading” by</span><span> </span></strong><span><span><a href="">Sarah Wollasto</a><a href="">n</a></span></span><strong><span> MP, who points out the true amount given to the NHS is considerably less than the government claims, </span></strong>and the <strong><a href=""><span><span><span>Nuffield Trust</span></span></span></a></strong>, which argues the £8bn may in reality be just £880m<strong><span>).</span></strong></span></span></p><p> <span><span>On Tuesday, Stevens told MPs that “we didn't get the funding that the NHS had requested [for 2017-2020]... So as a result we have got a bigger hill to climb.”</span></span></p><p> <span><span><strong><span>Jeremy Hunt was forced to stop claiming that he has given the NHS “all the money it asked for” and admitted to MPs it was only enough to </span></strong><strong><a href=""><span><span><span>“get going”</span></span></span></a></strong><strong><span> on a restructuring plan.</span></strong><strong><strong> </strong></strong></span></span></p><p><span><span><strong><strong></strong></strong><strong><span>Indeed the new prime minister reportedly told Stevens where to go when he went back again to ask for more cash. May has made it clear there will be </span></strong><strong><a href=""><span><span><span>no extra cash</span></span></span></a></strong><strong><span> in the Autumn Statement.&nbsp;</span></strong></span></span> </p><p> <span><span>So it’s local NHS bosses – and local campaigners – who are now staring in despair at that hill – or abyss.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Last Friday local NHS bosses had to submit their “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” to NHS England, to show how they are going to realise the impossible dream of realising £22bn of “savings” to balance the NHS books by 2020.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>This will – supposedly – <span><span><a href="">“integrate” health and social care</a></span></span> to support more frail older people in “the community” and in their own homes, reduce demand on A&amp;E and hospital services by creating healthier populations and speeding the discharge of those who are admitted.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>But it’s a triumph of hope over experience. And it will mean hospital services being run down.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Senior NHS England director Julia Simon has jumped ship and denounced the STP process as “shameful”, “mad”, and “ridiculous” and the plans <span><span><a href="">as full of lies</a></span></span>. NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson points out that just <span><span><a href="">one in six NHS finance directors</a></span></span> believe they can deliver on STP plans, and that there is just not enough money in the pot.</span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>Behind the lies, the STPs savings basically centre on new cuts. A new Health Service Journal survey of 99 CCGs has found almost <a href=";contentID=15303">one in three reporting that their STPs proposes to downgrade or close A&amp;E or urgent care services</a>, almost half planning to cut hospital beds and more than half planning to close or downgrade community hospitals. One in five also wanted to cut acute service staffing.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span>There are rumours that Stevens may even be pushed out or walk away as he sees his pitiful “Transformation Fund” eaten up by deficits, and the Health and Care Taskforce that was set up under Cameron to promote the idea of integration of the NHS with social care <span><span><a href="">scrapped by Mrs May</a></span></span>.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Up and down the country he knows STPs assume the ready availability of capital for new investment – despite clear and public warnings that there is <span><span><a href=";contentID=20097">virtually no capital available</a></span></span>. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>A storm is brewing. In <span><span><a href="">Devon</a></span></span>, <span><span><a href=";lp=5">Oxfordshire</a></span></span>, <span><span><a href="">Yorkshire</a></span></span> and East Anglia local Tory MPs and even councillors are being forced to stand up with protestors and challenge hospital closures and service cuts in their constituencies. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>Trade union leaders and professional bodies have warned that the pace of change planned for STPs means it’s impossible to negotiate on any of the issues affecting the workforce – at a time of chronic staff shortages.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>As the whole issue comes to the boil, now is the time for campaigners to pile pressure on local councillors and council leaders to take a stand. They must speak up for local people, and demand these cuts-driven plans are <em>published</em>, not just secretively rubber-stamped. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>Birmingham and Camden councils have now given the lead on this by publishing their full STP drafts.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Councillors must now also demand the evidence for far-fetched claims of “demand reduction” and “prevention”, which seems to boil down to “reducing access”.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>They need to demand answers on how patients can be expected to travel up to 50-60 miles in some areas to access hospital services, or how their relatives can be expected to visit them: and how ambulance services will cope in <span><span><a href="">Cumbria,</a></span></span> for example if services at the District General Hospital in Whitehaven is closed and patients have to travel to Carlisle. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>There are many similar examples where closures are being accelerated by STPs, with little or no consideration of the transport and logistical problems, or the lack of capacity at the remaining hospitals.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>In <span><span><a href="">North West London the plans cover 8 boroughs</a></span></span>. Only 2, Ealing and Hammersmith, demanded to see the full draft of the plans. They found all of the financial pages were still missing, and that the document specifically proposes to speed through the “reconfiguration” of Ealing Hospital, which both boroughs have consistently opposed.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>But by then the other six NW London boroughs had already signed the incomplete draft, without even seeing it. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>They were eager to get their hands on minimal extra funding (“transformational investment”) for social care – just £21m a year between 8 boroughs in 2017/18 rising to £34m a year in 2020/21. </span></span> </p><p> <span><span>Such sums hardly compensate for the continuing <span><span><a href="">cuts in central government funding</a></span></span> for social care, the increase in the vulnerable elderly population, and the list of cost-saving measures social services are expected to deliver in return.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Yet this is the type of plan that council leaders all over England have been pressurised to sign up to. In each case the tiny pot of future additional cash for social care is used as the lure, and the loss of it the stick, to draw them in.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>If councillors want to be re-elected, they must show their commitment to local services. Let’s press now in every area to make them stand up and challenge the cuts and the cash freeze that is squeezing the life out of our NHS.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>As in North West London, it’s clear that many of the boroughs and counties that have signed up in support of STPs have done so without reading them or understanding their consequences. They must be forced to think again.</span></span></p><p> <span><span>Instead of blindly signing off STPs, councils should be invoking their powers through Health Oversight &amp; Scrutiny Committees to hold NHS managers to account, and block controversial changes pending a decision by the Secretary of State. They should trumpet their refusal to collaborate in plans for cuts, closures and “efficiency savings” that won’t work, but will put health care at risk.</span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/carol-ackroyd/nhs-managers-are-being-forced-to-lie-to-public">NHS managers are being forced to lie to the public </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-cuts-are-we-in-it-together">NHS cuts - are we in it together?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/deborah-harrington-madeleine-dickens-and-caroline-molloy/hunt-and-stevens-leaving-their-dirty">Hunt and Stevens - leaving their dirty footprints all over the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/colin-leys/sustainability-and-transformation-plans-kill-or-cure-for-nhs">Sustainability and Transformation Plans - kill or cure for the NHS?</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> ourNHS uk ourNHS John Lister Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:14:45 +0000 John Lister 106206 at