News & Views

What does Brexit mean for International Peace and Security?

The European Union was established as a direct result of a war torn and broken continent that was suffering as a result of two World Wars. The EU was created to stabilise and unite these countries that had been at war with one and other for nearly half a century. The union began with six main members and has grown to a strong 28 country unit.

The EU is a model that demonstrates continents can live in peace with one and other, and it proves that even despite years of conflict the countries can move forward and live in a peaceful coexistence. This could be said that this reconciliation has earned them the right to be a respected influence internationally, particularly with peace building and security issues across the globe.

As a large 28 country strong unit, the EU has to ability to promote peaceful causes and prevent international conflict effectively. Following Brexit, and the loss of the UK, both the EU and the UK may both separately struggle to make an effective difference to global peace without the full support and funding of one and other.

Global Peace Index reported that 92 countries deteriorated from peace between 2016-2017. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia are the least peaceful countries in the world, with many other countries remaining in protracted warfare. The funding, expertise and general peace and security that the EU and UK together could help provide to these countries is indispensable.

What does the EU do for International peace and security?

The EU together with its country members is the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid.

The group has taken part in many overseas operations, that seek to keep peace, prevent conflict and strengthen international security. The organisation helps over 120 million a year worldwide, as a result of manmade and natural disasters. 

Beyond this, the EU has an immense global influence. One set of research argues that “highly structured international organisations – of which the EU is one example – becomes an important actor shaping the choices of conflict parties, in civil wars and interstate disputes alike”.

Could it all be that bad after Brexit?

Although it is possible that Brexit could leave a damaging hole in the upcoming EU budgets and could lead to some cuts on existing programmes as a result. It doesn’t look all that bad. The Financial Times has reported that due to a predicted increase in Gross National Income meaning it will be higher between 2121-27 compared to 2014-20, remaining nations can stay within their 1% pay rate to the EU, without too much hassle following the loss of the UK funding support.

Any ongoing EU Projects within the current budget up until 2020 will continue to include the UK in of all EU funds. There is also a possibility that the UK can receive funding and general participation in future projects which allow for non-EU member support.

More so, the UK will continue to be able to apply for development cooperation instrument funding, as one Bond employee highlights, for programmes in the world’s poorest countries even after Brexit. However as they go on to say, this only goes so far as this does not make up for the lack of shared expertise between the UK and EU.

What now?

There is no denying that losing the collaboration between the UK and the EU is going to cause some serious changes. However, similarly to Brexit itself, what will happen within international peace following Brexit is unknown.

What local activist and support for peace groups can continue to do in order to promote UK’s views of promoting international peace and refuge where possible, is stay united throughout the process and continue to voice their opinions for a passive and peaceful world.

16 days of Activism - Fighting Against Gender Based Violence

This week saw the annual 16 days of activism against Gender based violence. The campaign is still as large as it's launch in 1991 by the Women’s Global Leadership Campaign, which has since been supported by the United Nations.

The message of the campaign is to remove all forms of violence against women internationally and gender being used as a means to undermine, exclude and attack someone.

One in three women experience gender based violence internationally, in all forms of ways, from being systematically raped or excluded from the vote. The campaign seeks to shed light on these injustices.

The campaign theme this year was inspired by the global #MeToo Movement among other similar movements in which women are standing up and speaking out against these gender based violations. Coupling this with the colour orange which has been used by the 16 day campaigners in recent years to symbolise a brighter future which turns away from gender based violence, this years campaign was titled: Orange the World: #Hearmetoo

What did the campaign do?

The campaign encouraged a variety of activist groups, communities and public figures to utilise the Orangetheworld: #hearmetoo title throughout the 16 days whilst supporters ran events, published blogs, stories, shared tweets and ran public talks all as a means to spread the campaign message and support the cause.

During the 16 days, over 600 activities took place in support of the campaign across 90 countries. Some countries also lit the landmarks of their cities in orange as a mark of support for the campaign, including countries such as Myanmar, Egypt and Mexico where women are particularly vulnerable.

The UN women shared stories of the “Shereos of Human Rights”, who have stood up for themselves and women internationally. They aim to share the stories that you don’t but should be hearing. One story follows 15 elderly women, who are respectfully called the abuelas, who took their cases of systematic rape and enslavement from the military during the Guatamala civil war to the highest courts in the country and saw the military men prosecuted. Another talks of Justice Anisa Rasooli who is the first female to be seated in the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. With the UN sharing these powerful stories of these incredible women it reminds women and girls all around the world how powerful they can be even in the most difficult of situations.

International Alert done a similar thing having shed light on the #hearmetoo movement by sharing the voices of women and activist internationally who have made substantial change as a result of being targeted by gender based violence in the most brutal of ways.

Many also took to social media to share the hashtag and talk of their message.

Why is it important that we address Gender Based Violence Issues?

As peace builders, Saferworld share views that Gender Based Violence drives violent conflict and prevents creating sustainable peace and they express how gender norms can be manipulated by those in power to drive a particular political agenda.

In one report, it states that women are frequently excluded from peace processes, and that gender based violence is not traditionally considered conflict related and can as a result filter into peacetime and can in turn become drivers of further conflicts.

The stories shared above by International Alert and UN women demonstrate that GBV can occur to all types of women in all forms of life from all across the globe. GBV can often be misunderstood and undermined, campaigns such as this highlight the enormity of the issues internationally.

How can you help?

Although this specific campaign is over for this year, the work never stops and you can continue to help fight for equality for women and girls and protest against Gender Based Violence across the world. Every year, on their main website the 16 days of activism website provides a tool kit. Where they provide resources, goals and tips and support for you to run your own local event in name of the campaign. Take a look to get some ideas for similar upcoming campaigns or to begin prepping for next year's 16 days!

Why Do the General Public Lack Interest in International Conflict?

Last month, Human Appeal and YouGov reported that 42% of the UK do not even know there is a war going on in Yemen even when considering the UK government is supplying the arms to Saudi Arabia whose coalition are responsible for much of the current bombing on innocent civilians. How can there be so much ignorance and lack of interest, not only with Yemen, but with all international conflict?

An American psychologist argues that there is a limit to human compassion as the human mind cannot empathise with millions or billions of people, he argues that such large statistics simply become incomprehensible and the idea that these are individuals become lost in the numbers.  The murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggie sparked international discussions and led to global leaders questioning their relationships with Saudi Arabia, it took that one individual to trigger this skepticism, rather than the masses of victims who have been being targeted by the Saudi coalition and forced into famine.

Beyond struggling to find compassion in statistics I found five main reasons for the lack of interest in global conflict:

  • Complicated warfare – Conflict does not have a universal template and often has many contributing factors that led to the outbreak of war. The fighting may be taking place in a country that a person is not familiar with, a minority group they have not heard of or the violence may be a result of a complex history of grievances in a region which has resulted in years of on and off again conflict. This complicates the outcome for peace and further perplexes the situation. Unless you were studying a relative degree or had a general interest beyond the basics, the general public wouldn’t spend their time trying to understand these complications and therefore wouldn’t have any long term invested interests.
  • No Definitive Good and Bad guys - If there is no obvious team to side with then there is no immediate interest in warfare. Without a clear Hollywood narrative of a victim and Villain and a conflict that follows the general dynamic of war, there is often a lack of interest due there being no obvious winner and support for making a solution to the war is detached.  
    No Direct Connection from the UK/West -  If a conflict does not directly or at all affect the average westerner why would they care? Few cared about the refugee crisis until it hit Europe, beyond our own borders there is little compassion for refugees. There is lack of interest in international conflict and concern for the conflict is only offered if it works in favor of the national interest, which means many cases of war in African countries go untouched.   
  • No Direct Connection from the UK/West -  If a conflict does not directly or at all affect the average westerner why would they care? Few cared about the refugee crisis until it hit Europe, beyond our own borders there is little compassion for refugees. There is lack of interest in international conflict and concern for the conflict is only offered if it works in favor of the national interest,  which means many cases of war in African countries go untouched.
  • Lack of Media Coverage - this is too often the case, with no or minimal media time for international conflict. There are more relevant stories, such as Brexit which take center stage, forcing these global acts of violence to be benched and wait for their time in the spotlight. During the 1994, Rwandan Genocide, the tragedy was played down as “ancient tribal disputes”, when in reality it was a brutal extermination of a minority group that had not been done on such a scale since the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This follows similar today, with the brutalities in Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and many more being minor end notes, rather than full coverage stories expressing the true scale of the tragedies.
  • Too Much Media Coverage - On the other side of the spectrum, repetition and recurring news story can convince a news viewer into thinking that they have heard it all before and that they know all they need to know, in this case the coverage can simply become boring and irrelevant. The initial shock horror and original interest can wear off easily. For example, with regards to Brexit most people are tired of hearing about, and instead are actively choosing to avoid reading up about it, the same happens with other general negative news, and instead of engaging an audience, the audiences become fatalistic. The general public begin to see the same pictures, similar titles and stories and are no longer drawn in but instead can become plain exhausted from hearing about it.
     

How can we counteract this and engage the public more?

Discuss! Debate!  - By simply having a conversation with a friend of attending a public meeting, debating about the issue, keeping the topic relevant basically, you can spark and maintain others interest.

Inform and Promote - Maybe write your own articles or blogs about an issue, or promote and share a piece that does address the cause.

Why we must show support for South Sudan!

 Following decades of brutal civil war, the future looked prosperous for South Sudan, as they were finally granted the separation from Sudan they had been fighting for and had taken many years.

 


So what has happened since South Sudan gained independence in 2011?

Just two years after the birth of its nation, South Sudan fell into Chaos after President Salva Kiir  accused his deputy, Riek Macharm, of plotting a coup. This followed with a brutal five - year long conflict which has seen ethnic killings, recruitment of child soldiers and horrific sexual violence on women and children

In 2017, the UN declared famine in parts of South Sudan, in what they described as a man-made catastrophe caused by civil war and economic collapse. The Guardian estimates that  almost 400,00 people have died in the five year long conflict and that over 4 million South Sudanese have fled the country.

What about the September 2018 peace deal?

Fighting parties, Salvir Kiir and Riek Macham, signed a peace deal at the end of last year which saw a formal end to the domestic conflict. However, previously, ceasefires have failed to uphold in the country, leaving many unsure about the deal. The South Sudanese refugees are also sceptical of the peace deal after seeing the collapse of the 2015 peace deal and the continued killing and fleeing of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

They have reasons to have doubt as Chatham House reported just two months after the September deal that fighting continued in many areas, humanitarian workers were targeted and political detainees remained in prisons. The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan also reported to Sky News that groups are still forcibly recruiting child soldiers.

(Picture credit: UNICEF Ethiopia)

What now?

Saferworld are hoping to promote peace and security in South Sudan by working closely with local communities to understand their economic needs and safety procedures. Saferworld are also tackling gender within South Sudan, as they seek to transform the gender roles that sustain and create conflict. They are also working to amplify young voices, in an attempt to encourage new generations to become active members of a peaceful society.

Aljazeera reported on workshops ran by NGO’s such as USAID and World Vision that are working on healing the mental health of those South Sudanese who have seen trauma – the workshops seek to address and identify trauma through various exercises such as re- enactment.  

The UK needs to be supporting these organisations and supporting the South Sudan peace deal as much as possible in a bid to restore security and stability to millions of South Sudanese.

Despite the high amount of skepticism surrounding the recent peace deal, it still offers an opportunity for peace that we can only hope will be upheld for the sake of the victims of this brutal conflict – we must show our support for a peaceful South Sudan.

How can you help locally?

Write to your local MP’s to take your views to parliament, the government needs to understand both the urgency and that UK citizens want to help.

Write or Tweet directly to the UK Parliamentary Group for Sudan & South Sudan. Who raise issues of peace, social justice and human rights in both countries. Twitter

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Campaign and Discuss the issue with those around to ensure that the message of the horrors in South Sudan are spread. This will help ensure the message of support is conveyed to as many people as possible.

Black Friday Chaos - What is it all about

Black Friday, the first Friday after Thanksgiving in America, which sees the dramatic temporary drop in prices across stores in a bid to force people to panic buy just as Christmas approaches. Black Friday began in 2006 and has been a growing international craze in recent years, but the sales are no longer limited to Friday, with many retailers continuing the sales over the weekend and recently rising Cyber Monday. Where the huge sales hit exclusively online, following on from the Black Friday madness to create a full weekend of bargains.

So what is the result of Black Friday?

The reality is, our relentless consumption is ruining the planet  “Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: are all driven by rising consumption.”

Beyond this, it sends consumers crazy, with customers camping outside stores the night before just to get that bit closer to the sales in the morning. The injuries and deaths that have occurred for the sake of a bargain is insane!  A website titled Black Friday Death Count keeps track of all the deaths and injuries which occurred on this given day since Black Friday began in 2006.

Exploited workers remain victims during Black Friday

Amazon says that Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 was the biggest shopping day in their history.  However the Amazon warehouse workers felt differently as the overworked employees in Europe protested against poor conditions and low wages - during Black Friday the circumstances do not change for these workers who have to handle these products at an immense speed. This is just the grievances of one company and one set of employees, I imagine that the effects of Black Friday hit workers internationally.

How much money are you really saving?

Which? spent a year looking at the price of products sold six months prior to Black Friday and six months following Black Friday and found that 87% of the Black Friday deal items were available at the same price or cheaper during other periods of the year, with a whopping 46% products found to be cheaper on at least one day in the six month following Black Friday.

 

Can you ease the problem?

Buy Nothing Day is campaign group that encourages you to “Lock up your wallets and purses, cut up your credit cards and dump the love of your life - shopping”, on the same day the Black Friday hits the stores. They promote the motto ‘ShopLessLiveMore’ and encourage minimum spending for economic and environmental reasons. Check out their website linked above to find out more!

Before you hit the sales in Black Friday next year, question whether you actually need too or not. If you do feel you want to indulge in your shopping habit, why not hit up one of your local independent chains? Amongst the chaos, small business suffer as they struggle to match the ridiculous price drops of larger chains, help locally while you can!

 

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