India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Conflict: Making Progress through International Law

By Georgia Marks

On the 27th February Dr Aman Hingorani came to the Temple of Peace to give a talk about the Kashmir conflict and suggest solutions with reference to his book ‘Unravelling the Kashmir Knot.’ John Harrington for the Law and Global Justice Research Group in Cardiff Law School introduced the speaker. Harrington gave some context to the speaker and his work, describing Dr Hingorani as an advocate of the High Court in Delhi. It appears that work in human rights is a family affair, with Harrington referring to Hingorani’s parents as the mother and father of public interest litigation.

Hingorani began his talk by explaining that his research into the conflict in Kashmir began as part of his PhD research. Hingorani described Kashmir as a strategically placed area, as geographically it is to the side of both India and Pakistan. He went on to establish that the two latter countries both want more territory and have both dug their heels in Kashmir, at the expense of lives. The two countries are at a stalemate as they both want to keep the territory that they have.

After a brief introduction, the speaker stressed that unless we understand the narrative we cannot understand the way forward. A member of the audience questioned how the historical background has shaped the current situation. To this the speaker answered that neither domestic not international law can resolve it, the issue is based in politics, but it is important to use law to adapt political discussion. He went on to say that the current phase of radicalisation is buried in the subcontinent. The situation described by the speaker as the creation of a situational environment of mutually hostile nations with heightened sense of nationalism. I think this is a really good point as we cannot find a solution to the conflict if we do not understand the history that led up to it.

The speaker then went on to establish the history associated with the conflict which gives a good overview of the reasons behind the current situation highlighted above. 1857 marked what Britain referred to as the Mutiny in India, but what Indians call the War of Independence. As a result the government became centralised and the Queen declared that no more provinces were to be acquired and certain sovereign aspects were given to other countries. Hingorani made the point that before 1857 Muslims were seen as the enemy of Britain, but after 1858, middle class Hindus were established as the new enemy. The official British policy was communalisation, where Britain gave India the freedom, however the country was incapable of resolving the Muslim-Hindu conflict. Britain then used this to enforce its influence, as it created the perception that India needed Britain to resolve such conflicts. In 1939, the beginning of the Second World War meant India was declared as a country in war. Hingorani stated that according to the British archives the partition was decided then and not in 1947. At this point, Britain knew that they had to leave the subcontinent but wanted to keep part of it, so India used Islam as a geographical boundary, with Kashmir falling within this. However, the speaker made clear that Indians did not want the partition. When the partition was refused, violence was used as direct action to force congress to agree; they eventually did which resulted in the Independence Act 1947. Britain used Pakistan as a means of gaining power and assumed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan, so when it did not, it led to the Kashmir issue. Hingorani described the Kashmir issue as being based on British interest on the subcontinent. This is an interesting comment to make as it suggests the detrimental effects British colonialism had on other countries. In this sense, I think it is debatable whether intervention on an international level would do more harm than good in this context unless intensely supervised by the UN.

The speaker then went on to explain why Kashmir did not go to Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir was Hindu and did not want to be part of Pakistan, a country with an Islam majority, and instead wanted to be independent. However, Pakistan wanted Kashmir, but the ruler of Kashmir was difficult and so Pakistan forced the ruler to exceed to Pakistan through the use of weapons given by Britain. Therefore, from what Hingorani has established up to this point is that Britain have been an integral political part of this conflict and have contributed greatly to the violence in this area.

Hingorani then went on to describe it in terms of international law, if Kashmir exceeded to India then it cannot be vetoed. Kashmir was deemed by the speaker as an international issue that needed Pakistan to comment on it. He then went on to say that the minute that India refers to the UN, a ceasefire will be demanded. In my opinion, this would be the best possible option from a human rights perspective as it would help to prevent the violence inflicted on civilians in Kashmir. The UN Security Council expressed the desire for the future of the state should be decided under UN supervision and presented the idea to take Kashmir issue out of the domestic context and give it an international platform. Another member of the audience asked if there were any serious efforts of countries to refer to the issue on an international level. Hingorani said that there had been no effort on the part of these countries. Kashmir has always been seen as a political issue and we need to distinguish it from law. However, India is going against legal policies and law is seen as abstract and we do not have military, political or diplomatic solution. The main problem is that India is not sure about what the Kashmir issue is, so a political will needs to be created. I think to take the issue to an international level will benefit Kashmir as it will provide an international check and balance on the actions of India, Pakistan and other countries involved such as Britain, and would hopefully influence positive change in this area, particularly for the people of Kashmir.

The speaker then established that New Delhi had disowned the part of Kashmir owned by Pakistan while retaining their part, however part of Kashmir was owned by China. So clearly Kashmir is split dramatically which is detrimental for their national identity. In addition to this, the Chinese were investing money and wanted the deeds from Pakistan but an issue arises here that if Pakistan agreed to give over the deeds then they agree to the partition which is not what they wanted. India had a control constitution but in 1973, in order to seek territory, India needed to amend their constitution because there was a constitutional limit to give up territory and while there is a constitution, India cannot disown territory or people.

So after a dispute spanning seventy years, India wants a partition but Pakistan wants a whole state. Hingorani then went on to stress the need to depoliticise the issue by making it subject to legal analysis. I think this is a valid point as if the countries are currently at a stalemate then it seems right to change tactics and focus the discourse on a different analysis to see if a solution can be found. We do not know how successful it will be, but the conflict has been going on for so long, it seems that any alternative is worth trying.

The narrative was established by the speaker as a constitutional framework. Both Pakistan and India were created by controlled constitutions, so the question is where India got the power to grant the wishes of the people. The same law that created Pakistan made Kashmir part of India. The main question presented by Hingorani was this, how did New Delhi have the power of accession when the law did not give them the power. The speaker went on to express that as a first step to depoliticise we should let the International Court of Justice test who has the title. John Harrington asked whether reference to the International Court of Justice would have any effect on the serious human rights violations in Kashmir. Hingorani responded by saying that in such conflict there are bound to be violations, and in India there has been reference to the domestic court- people want to see results.

 

At the point in the talk, Hingorani referred to his book that has been the basis of his discussion. He wanted to make clear that he wrote the book as an Indian. He then emphasized that law cannot resolve the issue but it can change political discourse. I think that this is powerful as if law is capable of changing the current discussion then the countries involved can attempt to get themselves out of the stalemate they have got themselves in. Hingorani was asked if he had visited Kashmir and he said that he deliberately had not visited as he did not want to be swayed by emotions as he written the book as a lawyer. The speaker expressed that he did not want to take sides as his book is from a jurisdictional perspective. I think this aspect is also important as it provides a rational view of how the conflict can try and be solved.

The speaker then established the current situation; Pakistan feels cheated and Kashmir feels backstabbed, and these are ingredients for terrorism. That is why, Hingorani said, that the political discourse needs to be changed. The problem is that there is unequal bargain power between India and Pakistan because if Pakistan disputes legal propositions then there is no Pakistan. Nonetheless, the UN has recognised Pakistan and India as sovereign countries, however Kashmir was recognised as part of India but not part of Pakistan.

The speaker concluded by relaying the realities of Kashmir. As a result of the partition it is a violent society, with part of the country being disowned by India. However, the country just wants to be independent and away from this 70 year old conflict. There has been terrible trauma as a result of the partition and all countries involved need closure. When a member of the audience asked Hingorani how he classed what is going on in Kashmir. The speaker reaffirmed that Kashmir want independence because they were promised it. The people of Kashmir are expressly being denied their human rights, these people are stateless.

Overall, I found Hingorani’s talk insightful as it offered a fresh perspective on how to resolve the ongoing conflict. Using law as a way to bring about change although uncertain in its effect, is an idea that is bound to help with relations between the countries by giving the discourse a different platform. In addition to this, it is really important to establish the history behind the conflict in order to understand the narrative that we need to address. It cannot be argued that this issue is not pressing as the current situation is having a detrimental effect of the human rights of the people of Kashmir.

 

A Welsh spanner in the works? Brexit: the story so far

By Rosa Brown 

Today the Supreme Court has revealed that Mrs May’s government will face another hurdle in their quest for Brexit. This comes after Gina Miller and her team won a legal challenge against the government’s formal exit negotiations without the presence of a parliamentary vote.

The national media has only just recovered from the legal development in the Brexit story- attentions were turned further afield and questions were asked whether civilization would even exist under a Trump presidency. But now the Supreme Court has been at it again, with the revelation that both Scottish and Welsh governments will be allowed to have their say over the triggering of Article 50 and its notice period.

Neither Nicola Sturgeon nor the Scottish people have held back on their Brexit opinions. All 32 Scottish councils voted in favour of remaining in the EU, as Sturgeon has promised to do all in her power to ensure the voice of the Scottish people is heard in Westminster.

However the picture in Wales has been slightly more convoluted. Despite receiving an annual net benefit of £245m as a result of the UK’s current relationship with the EU, 52.5% of the Welsh electorate voted to exit the EU. In the aftermath of result, attention was drawn towards the political disillusionment in Wales along with the proximity of the Welsh assembly election to the referendum and the consequent lack of campaigning.

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The Debating Chamber of the Senedd. Image: Julian Nitzsche.

The impact of Brexit on the Welsh economy has been made startlingly clear from very early on. The question of Welsh funding and the gaping hole that will be left by that EU support remain unanswered, whilst Welsh universities have also felt the effects of Brexit. Aberystwyth University revealed 100 prospective European students withdrew applications from the university, over half of which occurred the day after the referendum.

A poll conducted by ITV Wales/ Cardiff University YouGov in July 2016 revealed a swing in Welsh opinion, with 53 percent voting to Remain whilst 47 percent voting to Leave. Though we all know that polls should not be overvalued or taken for granted, especially when there is so little in it. Time and time again people have felt unable to share their true voting intentions, which is a problem in itself.

At the time of writing, First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones has yet to comment on the Welsh involvement in the Supreme Court ruling. The First Minister has implored May’s government to take more of an interest in the Welsh steel industry and securing transitional trade arrangements for Brexit. Whether Mr Jones’ message will ring clear given Wales’ role in the Brexit legal debacle remains to be foreseen. This is an exciting time for Welsh politics and offers an intriguing twist in the Brexit tale.

If you are interested in hearing more about Brexit and its impact for Wales, Cardiff University and the WCIA are hosting the following events:

The Devaluation of European Values After Brexit’, Tuesday 29th November 2016, 1-4.30pm.  

What Does Brexit Mean For…?’, Wednesday 30th November 2016, 7-9pm.

 

 

 

Aid is a moral obligation

By David Hooson 

With globalism and the UK’s place in the world having become extremely hot topics in the wake of the EU referendum, it is of little surprise that debate and media coverage of international development and foreign aid have skyrocketed. The new Prime Minister’s decision to install a leading Brexiteer, Priti Patel, as International Development Secretary, has only served to push the issue up the agenda and fan the flames of controversy.

Ms. Patel has a track record of being outspoken on the area of government policy she now leads, at one point having called for the Department for International Development to be abolished and its work integrated into the Department for Trade and Industry. That theme continued with her recent comments about ‘wasteful’ and ‘superficial’ aid projects, as well as suggesting foreign aid could be used to help negotiate future international trade deals when the UK leaves the EU.

The use of the UK’s aid budget should be based on nothing more than our moral obligation to help those in need around the world. To attach political strings to aid money or to use it as an economic bargaining tool contravenes the point of its existence.

RAF C17 Lands in Nepal with Vital UK Aid

Picture: Sgt Neil Bryden/ RAF

The UN goal of dedicating 0.7% of gross national income to foreign aid was first suggested in 1969, and a succession of British politicians have pledged their commitment to meeting that target, with Ms. Patel the latest to do so. The principle of this goal is for developed countries to work together to tackle poverty around the world and to respond adequately to humanitarian crises – not to further their own economic objectives. The 0.7% pledge is a rare opportunity for a government to be selflessly outward-looking, and it should be relished as such.

Furthermore, the fate of those bearing the brunt of social or economic injustice should not be determined by the ability or whims of politicians and businesspeople, whose actions they have little or no influence upon. Indeed, it may be the failings of those politicians and businesspeople that have led to such injustice. The availability of aid should always be determined by need, not by backroom deals and political expediency.

The direction Ms. Patel proposes for international development policy is part of a worrying wider trend that could see the UK turn its back on our global moral obligations. We in Wales should be pushing against this trend by remaining inclusive and outward-looking, as well as campaigning and raising awareness on global issues like international development.

From war to Olympic glory, the Refugee Olympic Team are competing for tolerance

Rio2016.jpg

By Fflur Jones

“We were the only four who knew how to swim. I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water.” This is 18-year old Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini explaining how her Olympic sport of swimming, saved her life whilst crossing the freezing Aegean Sea as she pushed a sinking dinghy to sanctuary saving 20 other lives.

Among the 200+ countries and territories competing in the Olympic Games in Rio, Mardini’s team stands out: Refugee Olympic Team (or ROT). The International Olympic Committee announced in March the creation of this team, the first of this kind, made up of 10 members who fled from 4 different countries: South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The IOC’s open minded decision to include these athletes in these games comes at a period when refugees have been breaking records and not Olympic ones. Today, according to the UNHCR 63.5 million people have been displaced by conflict and persecution with 15 million refugees worldwide. 60% of these refugees come from 5 specific countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

Each member’s road to Rio has been an uphill battle from the start, having to flee persecution whilst at the same time completing the gruelling training needed to secure a spot at the Olympic Games. Yet in the face of rising anti-immigration and xenophobic feelings in many developed countries can this team really change attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers?

Anti-immigration and racist sentiments have been growing in parts of Europe and the United States. Last year a renovated shelter destined for asylum seekers in the town of Vorra in Germany was subject to an arson attack, and many eastern European countries have used tear gas to prevent groups of refugees from crossing their borders. Time and time again we have heard the growing concerns over the mass of asylum seekers “flooding” the UK. In reality, refugees represent 0.19% of the UK’s population, whilst in Lebanon, a country 23 times smaller, 1 in 5 people are refugees. But despite these relatively low numbers, some British citizens still feel threatened by a mass influx of refugees, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council reporting significant increases in hate crimes nationwide since the Brexit vote. On the other side of the pond, Donald Trump’s angry rhetoric on Muslim communities and immigrants is also spreading like wildfire. This toxic mix of anger, hate and xenophobia has seemed to dominate recent headlines. But the Refugee Olympic team are hoping to challenge people’s views and opinions on the millions of refugees worldwide at this year’s Olympics.

IOC president Thomas Bach said that “By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, [he wants] to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world. Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem.”

This message has been embraced by all the team’s members; Popole Misenga, a ROT member from Congo (Judo) said that the team were “fighting for all the refugees in the world”.

Mardini, when asked if her experience of pushing the dinghy was traumatic responded with her trademark positivity: “Not at all. I remember that, without swimming, I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.” Very few Olympians can claim that their sport has saved their life.

She’s also stood up in defense of the refugees across the world saying that she “want[s] [Olympic fans] to think that refugees are normal humans that had to leave their homelands. Not because they wanted to, not because they wanted to be refugees or run away or have drama in their lives. They had to leave. To get a new life. Get a better life”.

Hers is not the only story of survival in the team. James Chiengjiek fled South Sudan at age 13 to avoid being forced into service as a child solider. Popole Misenga’s mother was murdered when he was a child in Democratic Republic of Congo; Yonas Kinde feared for his life in Ethiopia and eventually fled to Luxembourg. Each of member of the team bring their own story, their own culture and their own message to these Olympics. As Yusra Mardini said:  “We don’t have the same language. We’re all from different countries. But the Olympic flag united us together, and now we are representing 60 million [people] around the world. We want to show everyone that we can do anything. Good athletes. Good people.”

The Refugee Olympic Team are not only the flag bearers for millions of refugees across the world but are also carrying a message of hope and tolerance at a time when it is so desperately needed.

North Wales Women’s Peace March 1926

Stephen Thomas
Volunteer – Wales for Peace
Peace March

Following the horrors and destruction of the First World War (1914-1918) many women around the globe became activists in the campaign for arms reduction and for the end of war as a means of settling international disputes. Across Britain a variety of women’s groups came together to organise a peace pilgrimage to London for a mass demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926. In north Wales, under the leadership of two tireless peace activists, Mrs Gladys Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts, a procession of peacemakers travelled for five days through the towns and villages of north Wales to reach Chester. Eventually 28 north Wales’ pilgrims joined the 10,000 women at the Hyde Park demonstration.

World War 1 unleashed unimaginable levels of death and destruction across the whole planet. Millions of people, both military and civilian, were killed or suffered serious injury – estimates for casualties run from 30 million upwards, but the true number will never be known. From Britain alone over 723,000 service personnel were killed in the conflict and over a million more were seriously injured. The war had destroyed the lives of so many young men on the battlefield that by 1921, there were one million more women in Britain than men, aged between 20 and 39. It meant that many women were unable to find partners in life or have children and raise a family. The impact of the war on Britain was devastating both socially and economically.
As early as 1915 there were organisations of women around the world calling for mediation between governments to end the war. By 1919 the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) had become a permanent committee with a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism, supporting the US /France Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, as the basis for creating a peaceful world order.
The women of Britain were very much involved in these quests for peace, freedom and equality. (Remember, in Britain, it was only in 1918 that all males over the age of 21 finally won the right to vote. And it wasn’t until 1928, and the Equal Franchise Act, that the same rights were applied to women over 21 for the very first time). In light of this struggle to have their voice heard, under the slogan ‘Law not War’, a variety of women’s groups from across Britain came together in 1926 – as wives, widows, mothers, sisters and friends – to organise a huge peace pilgrimage to London.
The women peacemakers of north Wales began their march in May 1926 with a meeting in the village of Penygroes, just south of Caernarfon. As was reported at the time “To the first meeting at Penygroes in South Carnarvonshire on May 27th came five streams of pilgrims winding their many blue flags down the hill-sides, and over 2000 persons were gathered in the little market square from villages far up in the hills.”
The pilgrimage continued across the towns and villages of north Wales for five days until, some 150 miles later, they reached Chester. At the time, a newspaper reported “There were on the main route 15 meetings and 16 processions besides many meetings on side routes…Through the villages the pilgrims in six cars and charabancs went along the Caernarvon Road, and at one place after another they found crowds across the road which insisted on speakers getting out and addressing them from the steps of the local war memorial… Everywhere they were welcomed, everywhere there was interest and enthusiasm, never once was there a single hand raised against the resolution.”
Without modern ‘social media’ to help, it was a great enterprise to spread the news of the pilgrimage to all the remote villages and hamlets of north Wales in the 1920s. They would rely largely on newspapers and post to carry their message. But it all needed effective organisation and for this the north Wales pilgrimage can be thankful for Mrs Mary Gladys Thoday from Llanfairfechan.
Mrs Thoday (nee Sykes) was born in Chester in 1884. She was a botanist having studied at Girton College Cambridge, which had been established as the first Cambridge college to admit women in 1869. In 1910 she married at Wrexham David Thoday, who later became Professor of Botany at Bangor University. Gladys was an intelligent and determined woman of her time and became a tireless activist for the abolition of war. She wrote in 1926 “We realise that the great success of the pilgrimage is due to the many helpers who in every place had done their part because they believe that it is full time that REASON shall take the place of FORCE and arbitration be tried first in every international dispute before there is resort to WAR.”
Among the 28 north Wales pilgrims who finally took part in the peace demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926 were Mrs Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts. These two women addressed the crowd of 10,000 that day in central London – Mrs Roberts spoke in the Welsh language. Following the peace pilgrimage these two women later became the English speaking and Welsh speaking secretaries of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council (NWWPC).

Cartoon
In 1928, under the professional guidance of Mrs Thoday and Mrs Roberts, the voice of women in north Wales was linked to other parts of Britain and the wider international peace movement when the NWWPC became affiliated to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Although the North Wales Women’s Peace March had ended, a Welsh women’s voice had been added to the international call for disarmament and world peace. Their actions played a part in the eventual signing by 62 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an agreement in 1928 which hoped to outlaw war between nations and prevent another World War.

What kind of Europe do we want?

By Stephen Thomas

As the intensity of the European Union ‘in/out’ referendum debate increases across the UK, I had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Brussels this month for the first time.

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

I was invited with a group to visit and explore the institution by the European Free Alliance (EFA), a grouping of elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from stateless nations, regions and minorities. In the 2014-2019 parliamentary term EFA MEPs have been elected from Catalonia, Galicia, Latvia, Scotland, Valencia, Wales and the Basque Country. Within the Parliament, MEPs work in political groups. EFA members have formed a common alliance in the European Parliament with the Green Parties since 1999.

The European Parliament

The largest of the several political groupings within the Parliament are the European People’s Party [Christian Democrats] (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).  With a total Parliament of 751 seats the EPP currently hold 219 and the S&D 191. EFA have 50.

Each MEP is chosen by an electorate from each of the 28 member countries of the European Union, representing a constituency of over 500 million people. Seats are also distributed, by and large, according to a Member State’s population. Germany, the largest country in population terms, has 96 MEPs whilst the smallest states of Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have 6 MEPs each. Of the larger Member States after Germany, France has 74 MEPs and the UK and Italy 73 MEPs each.

As such the European Parliament is the only directly elected body in the EU and plays a key role in electing the President of the European Commission. It shares power over the EU budget and legislation with the Council of the European Union.

Council of the European Union

The Council represents the governments of the individual Member States. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the Member States on a six-month rotating basis. For the six months to December 2015 the Presidency is held by Luxembourg. The Presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states. To do this, the Presidency has to act as an honest and neutral broker.

The European Commission

Another major EU institution is the European Commission, the executive body. The Commission is responsible for proposing and implementing EU laws, monitoring the treaties and the day-to-day running of the EU. It represents the interests of the EU as a whole (not the interests of individual countries).

A new team of 28 Commissioners (one from each EU Member State) is appointed every five years. The politically important post is that of President of the Commission.

The candidate for President is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Council who decide on candidates by qualified majority, taking into account the elections to the European Parliament. The Commission President is then elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members (which corresponds to at least 376 out of 751 votes).

Following this election, the President-elect selects the 27 other members of the Commission, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States. The final list of Commissioners-designate has then to be agreed between the President-elect and the Council. The Commission as a whole needs the Parliament’s consent. Prior to this, Commissioners-designate are assessed by the European Parliament committees.

The current Commission’s term of office runs until 31 October 2019. Its President is Jean-Claude Juncker.

Justice, Financial Management & Banking

The Court of Justice; The Court of Auditors and The European Central Bank are the other influential institutions that make up the European Union.

In defence of Liberty and Democracy?

The European Parliament is a unique example of multinational and multilingual democracy at work. The elected members (MEPs) engage in public debates and play a crucial role in shaping the policy of the EU. The principal areas of their work include the following:

Laws

The Parliament decides jointly with the Council of the European Union on laws that affect the daily lives of all EU’s citizens. These include topics such as freedom of travel, food safety and consumer protection, the environment and most sectors of the economy. Member States still have a veto right in areas such as taxation and foreign affairs/defence. Some areas require the Council to obtain the European Parliament’s assent before making a decision.

Budgets

Budgetary powers are the key prerogative of every Parliament — whoever allocates the funds has the power to set political priorities. At EU level, this power is shared between the Parliament and the Council. Together they adopt a multi-annual financial framework every 7 years, and scrutinise and approve the annual budget for the next year, as well as the spending from the previous year. The EU’s multi-annual budget 2014-2020 is €960 billion (yes, billion!).

Control

The European Parliament monitors the correct use of EU funds. The results of parliamentary elections are taken into account in the nomination of the President of the European Commission, but Parliament also has to elect the President and approve the appointment of the Commission and can force it to resign. Commissioners are often asked to defend their policies before the Parliament, and the president of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy regularly appear in Parliament to brief the MEPs and answer their questions.

Over the last couple of years, Parliament has considerably increased the discussions it holds with all leading decision-makers involved with the euro in a bid to shed more light on the way monetary decisions are being taken. In this sense, the Parliament has become one of the only forums acting to improve the transparency of the governance of the euro area.

European Union – why?

Out of the ruins of 1945, there grew an idea amongst Statesmen that, in fostering economic cooperation between countries rather than pursuing imperial and nationalistic rivalries, the risk of another appalling conflict between major sovereign states in Europe would be reduced.  Cooperation based on free trade in several key resource areas (coal, steel and iron ore) was its starting point in a hope that it would build a peaceful and prosperous future for all the peoples of Europe. To a large extent this idea has worked and Europe, indeed the world, has avoided horrors on the scale of the 20th Century’s two world wars.

Few believe however that nirvana has been created with the growth and development of European integration, far from it. The last 70 years since 1945 has continued to witness global tragedies, wars, famine, death and destruction on an appalling human scale. Walking around the European Parliament’s Visitors’ Centre brings these events very much to the mind in a poignant, interactive virtual trip through Europe, its history and its impact on the peoples of the world.

Meeting some MEPs and hearing their ‘stories’ left me feeling that the Parliament does contain elected representatives with strong ideals and a real belief in the concepts of fairness, justice and effective democratic government. They didn’t believe the current European institutions were by any means perfect but were seen rather as a continuing ‘work in progress’ that had evolved far beyond their origins as the European Coal & Steel Community of 1952.  Institutions that continue to engage people and politicians of many persuasions, nationalities and languages in debate, for a peaceful common cause. Controversial topics such as TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership with the United States); the impact of austerity policies resulting from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the democratic predicament raised by the events in Greece pose real challenges for the European Union and its future.

Achieving fairness and justice while maintaining our liberty and freedom is never easy, particularly in our 21st Century multi-layered system of government. It can appear confusing, difficult to understand and sometimes repellent. Yet, as individuals we each carry a responsibility to defend our hard-earned democratic rights and take every opportunity to stand peaceably against the forces of regression who will work to undermine them. An essential first step, surely, is to find out more about how our democracy really works and how we can support it. This has, perhaps, never been more important than right here, and right now.

Learn more about the European Parliament, and the EU in general, here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/visiting/en/parlamentarium

Between hope and coercion: Greece’s support for the EU and the unforeseen Consequences of the Euro

Pola Zafra-Davis The Greek referendum of 2015 has been watched eagerly by the world. But essentially critiques of fiscal responsibility to Greece’s future transcend mere economic analysis. The real question is if Greece’s present debacle stems from an ill-guided hope when first entering the European project or if its bailouts are a result of political coercion into an ill-suited currency many decades’ ago. The economic issues and answers to be provided are both explicit and implicit. Explicitly, the referendum vote was on whether Greece should accept the latest in bailout packages from Brussels. This would entail budget cuts and another round of austerity. Implicitly, many media reports murmur that the consequences of the referendum are around Greece’s political standing in the EU and its economic fate of staying or leaving the Euro and the Eurozone. One report is that in anticipation of a “no” vote on consenting to the new bailout terms, the EU will proactively take away Greece’s membership of the euro. Economic analyses of the euro and how Greece was doomed are commonplace on the internet. Essentially, the argument is that the Euro as a single currency relies on a widely varied economies [1]. The economies that make up the EU include the powerhouses such as Germany with an unemployment rate of 5% compared to Greece’s 2015 unemployment rate of around 27%[2]. The inflexibility of a single currency basically impairs a weak state like Greece to be in control of inflation and the purchasing power of its population. The rationale for the Euro is that while countries with a lot of the currency exhibit high stability and low inflation, those that need to earn more (such as Greece with the austerity packages) would actually benefit form a less strong Euro via external international investment through the now cheaper currency.But when investment is low and there is low confidence in an economic system known for its tax evasion (Source) and corrupt finance system[3] as is the case of Greece, the benefits of the euro are lost. Questions of fairness have become apparent. Is Greece being irresponsible or is the EU being unfair? Is the EU under the control of Brussels and/or Germany in its influence and is this influence earned? Is Greece responsible for its own economic destiny and did it have a choice in joining the euro (no)? To help us spectators get to the roots of these questions is to get to the heart of the motives of development of the eurozone. This includes roots of the 1970s economic monetary system (EMS) up to Greece’s 1999 adoption of the euro. The story of the creation and adoption of the euro by non-great power states should be seen as a historically-based experience between political hope and coercion. One that is in a sense European as well as Greek. Hope in a sense that the EMU and the Euro was a European project that promised integration and an increased voice for smaller states as well as much needed regional aide. Coercion in the way that economic terms were agreed upon without immediate consultation for the bargain of immediate, and not future, Greek economic and political entitlements. Hope: Economic Monetary Union and Political Integration Economic crises in the geographic area of the eurozone isn’t new. What is new is Greece’s popular response holding political clout as the EU continues to search for a cohesive identity. This may be due to the history of the EU and Economic Monetary Union (EMU) being a discussion outside of the purview of a majority of its members in a show of high politics. In response to the collapse of the Bretton Woods System due to unstable exchange rates, the 1979 EMS formed the European Currency Union (ECU) as a means to combat inflation. In times where one country may fall too behind or one country would advance too far, a divergence indicator was implemented. The divergence indicator allowed supranational authorities to practice diversified intervention policies. The structure of ECU, while convergent in a sense that it included a multitude of currencies to calculate its value, it was not wholly integrated. The EMS has acknowledged that Germany formed an anchor to the system under the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). All currencies were to be pegged with a fixed exchange rate from the Deutsche-Mark in order to import the Bundesbank’s low-inflation successes[4].  The nature of ERM strengthened domestic political actors to further control their domestic economies with anti-inflationary policies. Yet domestic control of economies was not enough to stem the tide of crisis. The ERM crises of 1992-1993 was a result of political externalities rather than purely economic mismanagement or market-reading-errors. This was indicative of an increased sense of interdependence between economic and political integration. The push for the euro came after the fall of the Berlin Wall and was proposed by Francois Mitterand as a means of deepening German economic integration into Europe[5]. The purpose of EMS to EMU was to cut off domination of the Bundesbank in other states’ economic policies in favor of a more collective sovereignty in steering European wide economic policy. France in wishing to secure political integration in the future, made a proposal during the Intergovernmental Conference that the final Stage III of the Delors plan was to begin in 1999 and Germany would be unable to opt out. This combined the political motivation of EMU with the economic guidance of German low-inflation. As a testament to political factors in determining the structure of the EMU, it was accepted that it would have to satisfy German concerns, meaning that the European Central Bank (ECB) in structure would have to resemble the Bundesbank. The ECB would acquire protection from political interference and concentrating on price stability[6]. The actual imposition of the ECB signaled the coming of true EMU, especially since it would have a single currency to work with. The creation of EMU was economically motivated due to the simplicity of demands as a mode of Regional Integration. Yet, the European project is political in nature since its days of the Economic Coal and Steel Community where the belief of economic integration was a key feature to bringing a lasting peace upon Europe following the devastation of the world wars. EMS and EMU were therefore hopeful in their initial ends despite their high politics means of keeping smaller states out of the bargaining table. Coercion: Political and Economic Bandwagoning for Survival At the time of Greece joining the EU, Greece was experiencing a period of political instability in between 1981-1989. This was paired with a deep economic failure that resulted in the EU Commission President, Jacques Delors to express that Greece’s problems were becoming a serious cause for concern on the development to EMU [7]. Greece entered the EU during the second wave of enlargements in 1981. When the Euro was adopted, Greece along with Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, saw their interest rates immediately drop. Every state that was in the EU by 1999 were obliged to join, except the UK and Denmark whom had special exemptions.  Yet since 1984, Greece’s stance has been pro-European despite their economic difficulties. Greece has viewed the EU as a forum where different discussions and ideas can be brought together[8]. This had led to Greece adopting a pro-European stance on most issues except foreign policy. After its membership into the EU, immediately Greece gained a financial flow from the Community budget topping almost 5% of its GDP[9]. Politically, gains were also felt as its political bargaining power increased and it acquired a regional voice. But in the context of the late-1980s EMU, Greece was and was politically weak and economically dependent[10]. There were thus in no position to make any suggestions to the process. Greece’s acquiescence to the process was based on avoiding isolation as a result of EMU, the allowance of negotiating a cohesion fund for poorer regions and hopes to gain influence in other matters such as foreign policy[11]. Considering how the EU was designed, it is of no surprise that present media analyses of the Greek Referendum have become hairy with Germany’s participation as key. The ECB was designed through political negotiations and entails elements of the Bundesbank being adopted. A sense of betrayal is then evident as for a small state, Greece has been in favor of the European project despite the economic integration difficulties that befell the country during the early years of its admission into the European club. It is an instance of “buying the whole cow” when Greece was not part of the initial EMU talks but rather a state trying to prove its worth to gain membership amidst political and economic turmoil in the 1980s. A Barometer of a Generation Yes and No votes have been cast along generational lines. Those that consent to the package are willing to weather out the storm and delay inevitable economic collapse. Contrast members of the ‘No’ camp who are young voters that feel that they have nothing to lose, are risk taking, and are aware that they will remain as the true consequences of their choices unfold in the next coming decades. However, the hindsight of historical experience may not be what is needed in the latest round of EU financial packages. What is being experienced now in Greece is similar to what Europe has experienced in its long hard road to EMU amidst crisis after crisis from the collapse of the Bretton Woods System tied to the US. Only this time, Greece contents with a block of countries rather than a united country (like the US) that stands at a precipice on if it acts as one voice, or follows on the voice of the “powerful” countries. What we must remember is that the EU and the development of the Eurozone especially was a Franco-German project with considerations of the role of Europe, and not its individual member states, on the world stage. This mismatch in history between scenarios and priorities showcases the problems that occur when Greece and any small country finds itself as part of a unique case that fits unwell with recent history and experience of the EU. The start of Maastricht in 1992 and later EMU in 1999 was a signal that in order to function at an equal level, it was necessary for Europe to take part in political integration with the convergence of state infrastructures not only in cooperation but the recognition of a new supranational entity, the ECB. Experience in the flaws of the ERM further spurned decisions towards a supranational EMU to better coordinate and spread stabilizing economies than relying on exchange rates in the hands of individual state governments. The rise of the euro is a story laced with hope but tempered by the weight of political compromises towards Germany. It is thus not surprising that Greece’s “no camp”, in a globalized economy, is feeling tethered to a plan not of their own making. [1] http://www.vox.com/2015/7/2/8883129/greek-crisis-euro-explained-video [2] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics [3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/03/greece-corruption-alive-and-well [4] Artis, Mike and Bladen-Hovell, Robin “European Monetary Union” in Artis, Mike and Nikson, Frederick ed.s The Economics of European Union: Policy and Analysis 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)  Pg 299 [5] Apel, Emmanual “European Monetary Integration 1958-2002” (London: Routeledge, 1997) Introduction: An Ever Closer Union, Pg. 15 [6] Verdun, Amy, “The Institutional Design of EMU: A Democratic Deficit?” Journal of Public Policy, 18, 2, 1998, Pg 112 [7] Featherstone, Kevin. “Greece and EMU: Between external empowerment and domestic vulnerability.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 41.5 (2003): 923-940. [8] Hanf, K., & Soetendorp, B. (Eds.). (2014). Adapting to European integration: small states and the European Union. Routledge. Pg.94 [9] Plaskovitis, I. (1994). EC regional policy in Greece: ten years of structural funds intervention. P. Kazakos and PC Ioakimidis, IEF Working Paper, (9). [10] Op. Cit. Featherstone Pg. 925 [11] Ibid.

Pola Zafra-Davis recently received her PhD in International Politics from Aberystwyth University and is based in Aberystwyth, Wales. She currently teaches core modules at University College London’s European Social and Political Studies Department. She can be reached via twitter @PolaZafraDavis or her personal website polazafradavis.co.uk

UK defence policy – under any political party – risks being penny wise and pound foolish

Iwan Benneyworth

For a brief time before the General Election campaign commenced, it seemed that UK defence policy was quietly making its way up the news agenda. What was generally regarded as a lower tier issue crowded out by more pressing concerns such as health, education and the economy, started to gain traction, which will tend to happen when you have Russian nuclear bombers buzzing our airspace.

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Seeing the Vision

By Matt Buxton

I volunteered with the WCIA for two weeks as part of my university course, under the idea of work based learning. What drew me to the WCIA was the idea of active global citizenship, which is part of the WCIA’s vision of “everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world”. These are big words and I hoped by spending some time at the offices I could understand what this was and how to make it a part of my daily life. My responsibilities have been varied and have included working with communications, organising feedback forms and attending meetings. This variety has gifted me a wide range of skills and enabled me to understand how the charity works and how the work I was carrying out fits in. For example the use and worth of the feedback forms I put into spreadsheets contributes to improving future events and are used as evidence of outcomes for funders. What initially feels quite small adds up to something a lot larger. How every action taken has to be logically proved and justified, with nothing being taken for granted; as a result planning, monitoring and evaluation are important parts of day to day work. The majority of my days were concerned with creating paths of communication with the public, whether through Facebook posts or publicising events. The importance of reaching people was continually felt, how creating a fair and peaceful world was not tied down to physical events but required continual conversation and debate.

At the meetings I attended I was able to witness a different type of debate which is usually hidden. One stand out was a meeting with a coalition of charities, who were coordinating a future event regarding refugees and human rights. What struck me about this was the thought which went into this initial planning stage, how tone and representation to both the public and refugee communities was very important. The idea being pushed forward was a Nation of Sanctuary status for Wales, within this was an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences. When I consider the idea of everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world now, events like this come to mind, how participating, meeting new people and learning can be powerful methods in creating change. The paths individuals follow are shaped at multiple levels and interactions, when looking at such a system it is easy to become overwhelmed by focusing on world trends and international failings. Creating a meaningful change seems impossible but by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions; it can become manageable. Having worked in the WCIA offices the vision has been realised and understood through the work carried but more so by the people who work here. The friendliness of everyone has been amazing along with the passion for the work being undertaken. It was good to see how education and learning was an important pillar of the WCIA, not only within the projects but for the staff as well. How there are always new ideas, skills and techniques to be learnt which are shared amongst any who care to know. Over my time here I believe I have acquired several new skills which will improve my employment prospects but more importantly I have learnt skills to help improve my outlook and the lives of others around me.

Gareth Owens Advice for Humanitarian Aid Work

A visit to the Holocaust Memorial/ Ymwelaid a chofeb Holocaust

By Nia Evans

Recently I visited Berlin for a weekend. Having spoken to a few friends I was advised that the Holocaust Memorial was a must visit. So on our first full day that’s where we headed, thinking we would spend an hour or so paying our respects  before leaving to explore the city further.

I can’t begin to express how much this memorial touched me, by the time we left it was dusk, having spent the whole day at the site. Time stood still as we were taken on a step by step journey following the stories of families across Germany and Poland.

The memorial is situated between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect as we turned the corner and saw the ‘Field of Stelae’ in front of us. Designed by Peter Eisenman and situated above the subterranean Information Centre, we saw in front of us a vast collection of what is described as concrete slabs (stelae) which have been placed in a form of grid on uneven, sloping ground.

We were able to access the ‘field’ from four sides and walk in-between the around 2,700 concrete structures. The wave like form of the ground in which they stand means that each steale is of different height and from the outside it seemed that the structures were sloping upwards.  In walking between them however, it became obvious that the ground sinks down in the centre, as you walk further into the centre the increasing hue of the concrete blocks creates a feeling of being claustrophobic of suffocating and of isolation. This was incredibly effective.

Having spent time taking in the field of Stelae, we decided to enter the memorial itself, which is situated underground beneath the field.

Starting at the beginning of the exhibition with Hitler’s rise to power we were given an insightful context as to how  Nazism started, progressed and escalated. This included learning about the political and social climate of the time. As we moved forwards in the timeline, there seemed to be an obvious shift from setting the scene to focusing on the stories of the people targeted for persecution. We were guided through a section which included letters written by individuals, some were of hope that things would improve, others, even by children, were that of acceptance of their imminent death. One example that comes to mind is that of a postcard which was thrown out of a train carriage on the way to a death camp, expressing final goodbyes to loved ones, the author clearly knowing what was waiting for them. Someone had found the postcard and had posted it onwards.

We were introduced to families, learning about their lives before the war, and learning about their fate afterwards. This made the whole experience more personal, especially by the fact that the main element of each family section was that of a photo of the whole family together. Usually a large family, which records show were then decimated and the few remaining survivors separated and scattered away from their home to different areas of he world.

By the end, I felt like I couldn’t take any more in: the scale of personal stories, of testimonials, of suffering was almost too much to fully comprehend. One of the last rooms in the exhibition contained a large map of Europe highlighting each location and camp where exterminations took place. There seemed to be no country which wasn’t used to play a part in the persecution of the Jewish community. The organisation and structure in carrying out such horror absolutely astounded me.

As we were making our way to leave, I heard a female voice talking in one of the rooms. We stepped inside and realised that a video was playing of an interview with a woman who had featured in one of the family portraits as a young girl earlier in the memorial. I remembered from having read about the family that she had managed to survive the holocaust, the only member of the close family to do so. The name of this woman was Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. In just popping into the room to see who was talking, we continued to wait and listen to the interview, five minutes passed, then ten and before we knew it, over an hour had past in hearing about the life of this woman and the writing of her biography Destined to live. It was such a powerful account of her life, it really was capitvating.  Her personal story of survival allowed the journey through the memorial to finish on a thought inspiring note.

In the future, I potentially won’t remember many facts or figures. It is the gut wrenching feeling of the scale and reading personal stories which will stay with me.

Of course, we only learnt about a handful of families and individuals. Some millions of stories will never be heard. This was murder on an industrial scale. I find, still, that the scale of such an attrocity incomprehensible. It all started with one person rising in power. In having attended, I have been left with a much better understanding of what exactly happened to lead to this horror during WW2. In increasing my understanding I have been left with a real determination to work for peace and to ensure that the world that I live in now is a world based on unity, happiness without any form of discrimination.

Es i am benwythnos i Berlin yn ddiweddar. Wrth drafod lle i fynd a pha atyniadau i’w gweld, soniodd sawl ffrind y dylai’r gofeb Holocost fod ar flaen y rhestr. Ar y diwrnod llawn cyntaf felly, dyna lle’r aethon ni, gyda’r bwriad o dreulio tua awr neu ddwy  yn talu teyrnged cyn gadael ac archwilio’r ddinas yn bellach.

Anodd iawn yw esbonio gymaint yr effeithiodd mynychu’r gofeb a’r arddangosfa arnaf i, erbyn gadael roedd hi wedi cychwyn nosi, ar ôl i ni dreulio diwrnod cyfan yno. Arhosodd amser yn ei unfan wrth i ni gael ein cymryd ar daith yn dilyn storiâu teuluoedd wedi eu lleoli ar hyd a lled yr Almaen a Gwlad Pwyl.

Mae’r gofeb ei hun wedi cael ei leoli rhwng gât Branderburg a Potsdamer Platz. Rhaid cyfaddef, doeddwn i ddim yn hollol siwr beth i’w ddisgwyl wrth gerdded at y safle, ond cyn pen dim dyna lle’r oedden ni, gyda’r ‘Field of stelae’ o’n blaenau ni. Maent yn cael eu disgrifio fel casgliad o ‘slabiau concrit’ sydd wedi cael eu gosod mewn grid anwastad. Peter Eisenmen sydd yn gyfrifol am ddylunio’r ardal, sydd wedi ei leoli uwchben y ganolfan wybodaeth danddaearol.

Mae pedwar mynediad i’r safle, un o bob ochr. Roedd modd i ni gerdded o gwmpas a rhwng yr o ddeutu 2,700 o strwythurau concrit. Roedd arddull anwastad y ddaear yn golygu bod pob strwythur yn ymddangos fel eu bod o faint gwahanol. Ar yr edrychiad cyntaf, roedd y ddaear yn ymddangos fel tonnau, fodd bynnag, wrth gerdded rhwng pob strwythur daeth i’r amlwg bod y llawr ar raddiant gyda’r pwynt dyfnaf yn y canol. Wrth gyrraedd at y pwynt hynny doeddwn i methu help a theimlo fel fy mod, bron iawn, yn mygu, o fod yn glawstroffobig ac yn unig.

Ar ôl treulio amser yn crwydro’r ardal yma, gwnaethom benderfynu mynd dan ddaear i’r arddangosfa ei hun.

Dyma gychwyn yr arddangosfa gyda hanes cynnydd pŵer Hitler, rhoddwyd cyd-destun craff ynglŷn â sut y dechreuodd, datblygodd a fwy na dim, sut y gwnaeth Natsïaeth ddwysau. Roedd hyn yn cynnwys dysgu am hinsawdd wleidyddol a chymdeithasol y cyfnod. Wrth symud ar hyd y llinell amser, gwelwyd newid amlwg wrth i’r ffocws symud o osod manylion cefndirol i rannu storiâu am y rheiny oedd yn cael eu herlyn. Mewn un ystafell roedd arddangosfa o lythyrau oedd wedi cael eu hysgrifennu yn ystod y cyfnod, roedd rhai yn negeseuon gobaith, eraill, hyd yn oed gan blant, yn amlwg dderbyn eu ffawd. Mae un enghraifft yn dod i’r meddwl lle’r oedd cerdyn post wedi cael ei daflu o drên oedd yn trafaelio at un o’r gwersylloedd marwolaeth, roedd y neges yn neges oedd yn ffarwelio gyda chyfoedion agos, roedd yr awdures yn amlwg wybod beth oedd o’i blaen. Roedd rhywun wedi dod o hyd i’r cerdyn post ac wedi ei bostio.

Cawsom ein cyflwyno i deuluoedd, gan ddysgu am eu bywydau cyn y rhyfel, a’u ffawd ar ei ôl. O ganlyniad, roedd y profiad cyfan yn un fwy personol, yn enwedig gan fod darlun o bob teulu yn hongian o’r tô. Mae cofnodion yn dangos bod teuluoedd cyfan, ac mi roedden nhw’n deuluoedd mawr, wedi eu chwalu, gyda’r ychydig rai oroesodd wedi cael eu gwahanu a’u gwasgaru ar draws y byd.

Erbyn y diwedd, doeddwn i ddim yn teimlo bod modd i fi weld na chlywed mwy o’r storiâu. Roedd lefel y dioddefaint, y storiâu personol ar tystebau yn ormod bron iawn i’w hamgyffred yn llawn. Yn un o’r ystafelloedd olaf roedd map o Ewrop, roedd y map yn dangos lleoliad pob gwersyll gan gynnwys lleoliad pob distryw. O edrych ar y map, roedd hi’n amlwg bod pob gwlad rhywsut wedi chwarae rhan yn erlyn y gymdeithas Iddewig. Heb os, ges i fy syfrdanu gyda lefel y trefnu a strwythur cyflawni’r  hunllef yma.

Wrth baratoi i adael, clywais lais dynes yn siarad yn un o’r ystafelloedd. Wrth gamu i mewn i’r ystafell, sylweddolais mai fideo oedd yn cael ei chwarae o gyfweliad dynes oedd yn aelod o deulu oedd wedi cael eu portreadu yn gynharach yn yr arddangosfa. Cofiais mai hi oedd yr unig aelod o’i theulu agosaf  oedd wedi goroesi’r holocost. Enw’r ddynes yma oedd Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. O fod wedi picied i mewn i’r ystafell i fusnesu a gweld pwy oedd yn siarad, gwnaethom benderfynu aros a gwrando am gyfnod, pasiodd pum munud, pasiodd deg munud a chyn pen dim roedd dros awr wedi pasio wrth i ni sefyll yn dysgu am fywyd y ddynes anhygoel yma ac am ei phrofiad yn ysgrifennu ei bywgraffiad ‘Destined to Live’. Dyma gofnod pwerus o fywyd unigolyn  oedd wedi byw trwy gyfnod yr Holocost. O ganlyniad, daeth ein taith yn yr arddangosfa i ben ar nodyn ysbrydoledig.

Yn y dyfodol, mae’n bosibl iawn na fyddai’n cofio llawer o’r ffeithiau neu ffigyrau. Yn sicr, bydd y  teimlad trwm yn fy stumog ac emosiwn dysgu am hunllefau’r cyfnod yn aros gyda fi am gyfnod hir.

Yn naturiol, dim ond dysgu am fywyd llond llaw o deuluoedd ac unigolion y gwnaethom ni yn yr arddangosfa. Mae miliynau o storiâu na fydd byth modd i ni eu clywed. Dyma lofruddiaeth ar lefel anferthol. Hyd heddiw, dwi’n ei chael hi’n anodd dirnad maint yr erchyllterau. A’i gychwyn, gydag un person yn codi i bŵer ac yn defnyddio’r pŵer hynny i ddylanwadu ar y bobl o’i gwmpas. Mae gen i well dealltwriaeth erbyn hyn o’r hyn ddigwyddodd i arwain at yr erchyllterau yn ystod yr ail ryfel byd. O gynyddu ar fy nealltwriaeth dwi’n benderfynol o weithio at heddwch er mwyn sicrhau bod fy myd yn un sydd wedi cael ei seilio ar undod ac o hapusrwydd heb unrhyw fath o wahaniaethu.

 

Show solidarity with Women’s March on Washington- 21st January 2017

By Rosa Brown

On Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Even if Mr Trump’s political inexperience, his inability to commit to clear policy outlines and those appallingly constructed tweets are overlooked, his ascension into one of the most prestigious positions in the world remains problematic.

Though it may be kinder to ourselves and our sanity to block out the US Election campaign trail, let us revisit that point in which 2016 reached new lows of shadiness. As of November 2016, there were seventy-five active lawsuits against the President Elect, ranging from fraud, unpaid bills and sexual discrimination. However, the presence of these lawsuits failed to damage the candidate’s campaign for good. As did the stories from women who claimed to have receive unwanted sexual advances from Trump, some of whom waivered their right to anonymity. Even Trump’s imitation of a disabled news reporter did not stand in his way to the White House. In summary, Trump ran a campaign focused on hate, mockery and lies and no one cared.

But they did. On Saturday 21st January 2017, there will be a Women’s March on Washington to stand against the demonising rhetoric of Trump’s campaign. The march is an opportunity to celebrate diversity as a strength of the community rather than a weakness. It is an opportunity to reject the fear of those who may look or sound differently, a fear that Trump’s success and certain figures in the UK is dependent on. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to recognise women’s rights as human rights, regardless of race, age, sexual identity or religion.

In solidarity with the event and its objectives, there are Sister Marches organised across the globe, two of which are scheduled in Wales: Cardiff and Bangor. Both marches encourage the participation of anyone and everyone to safeguard the freedoms that have been threatened by recent political events.

If you would like further details about these events please follow the links. More information about the global movement can be found at #breakthesilence.

Cardiff Sister March

Facebook page.

Bangor Sister March

march

 

Albert E Rudall

By Seren O’Brian

Albert Rudall is the only Newport man mentioned on a commemorative stone in Tavistock Square, London, which records the names of the 69 Conscientious Objectors who died as a result of mistreatment during the First World War.

Albert was born in late autumn 1887 and christened in St Mark’s Anglican Church, Newport on the 2 November. He is mentioned in two censuses; in 1901 he was living at 145 Shaftesbury Street with his parents Tom and Emma, his older brother Thomas and his younger sister Rose, and in 1911 he was living in 25 Wheeler Street, Newport with his parents, and sister. By this stage, Albert was already working as a brewer’s labourer. Otherwise we know that he was one of eight children, of whom five were still alive, and his family was English speaking.

Albert was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) both of which were opposed to war.  As a single man aged 28 he was one of the first to be called up under the Military Service Act which came into force on the 2 March 1916.  He refused to serve and was arrested as an absentee on the 30 April 1916, tried on the 1 May by Newport Magistrates, was fined 40 shillings and handed over to the military authorities. His case was refused by the Military Service Tribunal in Newport and the County Appeals Tribunal so he was drafted into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Cardiff where yet again he refused to obey military orders.

The No-Conscription Fellowship kept records of what happened to every member and published information in sympathetic newspapers such as the Pioneer. On the 20 May 1916 we can read a report from Emrys Hughes, himself a member of the NCF:

South Wales Conscientious Objectors. THEIR POSITION UNDER THE MILITARY NOTE FROM EMRYS HUGHES.

The following summary of the South Wales Conscientious Objectors has been prepared by the Wales Division of the N.C.F. for us, and is complete up to the 10th inst. We have had a letter card this week from Hughes, in which he mentions that […]  G. Dardis, C. James, R. James, E. James (Risca); P. Pope, A. Rudall, A. J. Hewinson, H J. Davies, B. G. Davies D Herbert (Newport); I. Shepherd, J. Shepherd, and W. Jones (Pontypridd); [were] transferred 10/5/16 from Garrison Artillery Barracks, Cardiff, to Kinmel Park Camp, Abergele..

In Kinmel Park, which is situated near Rhyl, Albert was brought before yet another court martial on the 25 May and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with hard labour, commuted to 112 days with hard labour. The Pioneer picks up the story on the 10 June 1916:

NINE SOUTH WALIANS SENT TO WORMWOOD SCRUBBS. Comrades Percy Pope, Albert Rudall, Arthur J. Hewinson, G. Reynolds, Dorian Herbert, J. H. Davies, Trevor C. Griffiths (all of the Newport Independent Labour Party and No- Conscription Fellowship Branches), Joseph Shepherd (Pontypridd), and W. T. Jones (Treforest) were on Friday removed from Kinmel Park to Wormwood Scrubbs to commence their period of two years’ hard labour for “disobeying in such a manner as to show willful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.”

Once prisoners arrived at Wormwood Scrubbs they were allowed to send an “official letter” to their families. The whole form was printed, and all that had to be filled in by the prisoner was their state of health, and how long it would be before they were allowed to write another letter home. We don’t know just what Albert wrote but one of his fellow Newport prisoners is quoted by the Pioneer:

In this case the words, “My sentence is two years,” were added in writing: H.M. Prison, Wormwood Scrubbs, June 3rd, 1916. Dear Father, I am now in this prison, and am in usual health. If I behave well I shall be allowed to write a letter about 7 weeks time and to receive a reply, but no reply is allowed to this. My sentence is two years.  Signature, ARTHUR HEWINSON.

After two months Albert went before the central tribunal at Wormwood Scrubbs and finally was accepted as a ‘Class A’ i.e. a genuine conscientious objector. Under the auspices of the Home Office Scheme he was found ‘Work of National Importance’ mending roads at Clare in West Suffolk.

The Pearce Register doesn’t tell us any more about Albert’s war service but just one month before the end of the war he sadly died as a result of his poor treatment as a conscientious objector. On the 19 October 1918 the Pioneer reports:

In Memoriam. DEATH OF ALBERT RUDALL, C.O. We regret to announce the death of Albert E Rudall, of Newport, Mon. Comrade Rudall was an old I.L.P.er, and one of the original C.O.’s to be arrested under the Military Service Act. After his imprisonment he was released on to the Home Office Scheme and worked at Keddington, Warwick and Dartmoor.

A short while ago he was allowed to proceed home to find work under the H.O. new scheme of Exceptional Employment and, owing to the time-limit imposed in such cases, was compelled to undertake work for which he was entirely unsuited. The result is he has left us for good. His Newport comrades are filled with grief at the loss of so sincere, unassuming, but enthusiastic a supporter of freedom and international brotherhood – a grief which we feel sure will he reflected throughout the whole C.O. movement.

A reflection on the positive developments the world has seen in 2016

By David Hooson

 Every year, December encourages us all to look back on the year as it comes to a close. In 2016 perhaps more than ever, upsetting events have dominated and can naturally dominate our memories of the year. However, there were also plenty of positive events this year, as well as things that can give us hope that the world is still progressing towards peace and understanding between all people. Let’s recall just a few of these positive developments.

The Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which was drafted at the end of 2015, was signed in April and came into effect in November. As the most comprehensive international agreement on climate change, with the most international signatories, it has been hailed as a historic step towards tackling the environmental challenges of the future.

The terrorist group Boko Haram, one of the greatest threats to peace and security in West Africa in recent years, was further weakened this year and now appears to be on the brink of total extinction. The January release of 1,000 women held hostage was a big moment, and a further 600 people have been freed in December. The group are still holding many of the Chibok schoolgirls they kidnapped in 2014, but some have been returned to their families throughout this year.

The 52-year conflict in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced, was resolved with a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group. Negotiations had been ongoing for four years, and the first draft of the deal was rejected by a referendum in October. However, a revised peace agreement was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders in November and the Colombian Congress voted to approve the deal. President Santos was also presented with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to his country.

In June, the United Nations’ 47-member Human Rights Council voted to appoint an independent expert on LGBT rights to monitor violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally. Past attempts to make progress on LGBT issues at the UN have been frustrated or defeated by opposition from countries where the law actively discriminates against LGBT people, so this decision represents a significant breakthrough. An attempt to overturn the decision through the UN General Assembly was defeated in November, giving this new role an even more solid basis to campaign for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ – known as the Istanbul Convention – was finally ratified by 22 countries, having been signed five years ago. In some of these countries, the Convention is now the strongest protection women have against gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse. The UK is now in the process of becoming the 23rd country to ratify the Convention.

In stark contrast to divisive media rhetoric and concerning hate crime statistics, refugees from Syria arriving in Wales were warmly welcomed by local communities. The number of refugees allowed into the country is determined by the UK Government, but Local Authorities across Wales have been more than willing to help families and individuals fleeing violence, with refugees being settled all across Wales.

Examples of refugees being welcomed:

Aberystwyth

Wrexham

There will be many challenges for the international community to address in 2017, some new and some continuing, but stories like these should give us hope that we can and will continue to make progress. Hopefully next year the stories of hope and progress will dominate, and 2017 will keep the world on track towards a peaceful future of justice and equality for all.