Multiculturalism: facilitating unity, not division

Elise Rietveld

Extreme irregularities only divert our attention away from the strengths of multiculturalism, which has helped us a lot  over the decades

Extreme irregularities only divert our attention away from the strengths of multiculturalism, which has helped us a lot over the decades

Leading figures in academia, politics and the media, including British Prime-Minister David Cameron, have accused multiculturalism of being divisive. But closer inspection shows that actually, it offers the most coherent way of reconciling unity, equality and diversity in multicultural societies.

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Negotiating Climate Change: global to local

Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor and UN Messenger of Peace, addresses the opening of the Climate Summit 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor and UN Messenger of Peace, addresses the opening of the Climate Summit 2014.

Last weekend and early this week, two big events on climate change action took place in New York. Yesterday, September 23rd, the UN Climate Change Summit took place on the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 122 heads of government attended. However, a few key leaders were missing such as those from China, India and Germany.[1] Two days earlier, the streets of New York and other major cities across the world were flooded with the People’s Climate March which the organisers call “a weekend to bend history.” In Wales, the next meeting of the Climate Change Commission for Wales is aiming to move the climate change policy refresh of the Welsh government further. An ideal occasion to take stock of what is happening.

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A good enough alliance?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, center right, speaks during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels June 4, 2013. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other NATO leadership attended the meeting. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Released)

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, center right, speaks during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels June 4, 2013. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other NATO leadership attended the meeting. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Released)

To read some of the press around the NATO Summit earlier this week, you would think that Wales was about to host either a giant traffic jam or the world’s biggest trade fair. Not entirely unfairly, social media was abuzz with the sheer awkwardness of it all, and the Guardian chose to follow suit with the headline “Newport locals unimpressed as world leaders arrive in Wales”. Elsewhere, there has been a jaunty ‘sell Wales’ angle, with trade deals, tourism and the nation’s general standing in the world all apparently set to soar in the wake of 60-odd world leaders barricading themselves behind a steel fence in a hotel off the M4.

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Hillary: The Next US President – Why It Is More Likely Than You Might Think

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The second term of any re-elected US President has its perks and pitfalls, however a poorly conducted second term can hurt the president’s political party as much as their own individual political career post-Presidency. The Democrats and Republicans tend to kick the ball of Executive control back and forth fairly evenly, Republicans holding more consecutive streaks (the last back to back Republican streak lasting from Reagan to Bush Sr., last triple streak running from Harding to Coolidge to Hoover), and the Independents, well, they last held office in 1845.

So, after two terms of a Democrat as President, what is next for Washington? We are now two years away from the next Presidential ballot. The Republicans have yet to name a contending candidate, and the Democrats are facing criticism that the current Commander in Chief is a second term ‘Lame Duck’. While Obama sets a strong note of change coming into the Oval Office, the prematurely delivered 2009 Nobel Prize (for doing…nothing, sans winning a Presidential race, which does not exactly warrant peaceful behavior) seems to have set a solid standard for his scale of effectiveness-versus-praise.

So who is the only political contender with enough experience, publicity and reputation for tangible results? Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton. Her resume is nothing to scoff at: first female Senator for New York, Secretary of State, Juris Doctor law degree from Yale, and she has served on the board of numerous fostering and child-orientated programs and acts. Her time as First Lady of Arkansas and of the United States wasn’t all smooth sailing as we can recall, but she weathered it better than most and pulled off some daring pantsuits in the process.

But it’s more than her bravado and experience which impacts the public’s opinion of Hillary – no candidate that the Republicans could throw against her would have the amount of social media presence, Oval Office familiarity, and sheer volume of media-presence, dating all the way back into the 1980s, to draw upon. The American public is an extremely diverse landscape of race, culture, language and politics – however, the unifying feature of all successful Presidential nominees has been their media wherewithal; and Hillary has a formidable lead against any other candidate – from any party.

Her policies and stances on the Iraq war should be noted, as military know-how is a pivotal factor in America’s choice of President, particularly as Middle-Eastern disputes are not going away anytime soon. After the September 11th attacks against the US, Hillary supported (as Senator,) the initial military intervention in Afghanistan and the Iraq War Resolution (the 2003 Iraq Invasion); however, she was very open about her discontent with the Bush Administration’s conduct within Iraq and the domestic policies that blatantly broke US citizen’s Constitutional Rights.

She continued her involvement with military disputes as Secretary of State and openly (and quickly in political terms,) took responsibility for the Benghazi Attack on an American Diplomatic Compound in Libya, which (while a physical and political cluster-muck,) was a sound move for her office and the US’s disposition in the region at the time. She is the most-traveled Secretary of State in US history, and was one of the first female politicians in Washington to employ social media outlets to engage with her constituency and beyond.

While anyone of enough caliber and clout to run for President must have a solid resume, political ties and experience and preferably a decent bill-fold (which Hillary has, for better or worse, thanks to her engagements with Wall Street), the fact that Hillary Clinton, a Democratic politician, has been in the public forefront for so long could be the make-or-break of her 2016 Presidential race. Even if the Republican Party can rally a candidate that has a fraction of her Capitol Hill experience, the fact is the Republican Party is currently a very wounded and fractured entity.

It would not be surprising if the party faced a very prolonged and indecisive candidate selection process, and if factions of the party split during the nominee process, no experienced political analyst would think twice.

It is not that Hillary will not have some competition from a Republican Candidate, however, the American public, as heavily-media-influenced as it is, will, more likely than not, mirror each candidate’s media presence (both contemporary and retrospectively) in the voting booths. Hillary is so disproportionately represented in the media that some might say, this race is already over.


Devon Mitchell Simons is a PhD student at Aberystwyth University. Her main research interests include terrorism policy after 2001 and during the Iraq War and the media-to-government relationship.


Better late than never: Britain goes to outer space

Galaxy_history_revealed_by_the_Hubble_Space_Telescope_(GOODS-ERS2)

“We’ve got to have this… I don’t mind for myself, but I don’t want any other Foreign Secretary of this country to be talked at, or to, by the Secretary of State in the United States as I just have with Mr Byrnes. We’ve got to have this thing over here, whatever it costs. We’ve got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it.” – Ernest Bevin, 1946[1]

In April 2014, to little fanfare, the British Government released its first ever National Space Security Policy (NSSP). This document is the first official and publicly accessible statement of intent from the British Government on activities in outer space with regard to defence and security planning. What gained more traction on release, and more recently in debates over Scottish separatism, was the ‘Space Growth Action Plan’, and more specifically, the fantastical and glamorous visions of air-launch capabilities for micro-satellites and sub-orbital tourism. Despite some well-earned success stories, Britain as a state is lagging behind much of the rest of Earth’s developed countries in terms of publicly visible state policies and programs for outer space across the military, intelligence, commercial, diplomatic, and scientific sectors.

After decades of ignoring outer space, the British state is beginning, at least officially, to understand the mundane, every day, but lucrative values of outer space activities across the board.[2] Popular consciousness has a long way to go, however. Space tourism is a fashionable zeitgeist that is not representative of where the lion’s share of the money and resources of the global space sector goes. Most of the uses of outer space, in value and volume, are in telecommunications, missile detection and early warning, weather satellites, and navigation systems. These systems have military and civilian applications – what is called dual-use. Our financial systems use satellites to verify time on transactions – large or small. Aircraft use satellite navigation to land precisely in difficult conditions. Without space systems our ‘just-in-time’ economy will grind to a halt before it can revert to the pre-satellite way of doing things. Outer space has become so integral to our modern economy it is startling how little of everyday space activity in orbit is known. Popular images of space still rely on fantastical, but practically irrelevant,[3] nostalgia of the Apollo missions and manned exploration of other worlds. When governments speak of investing in ‘space’, it is often a matter of creating competitive rockets for the global satellite launch market (as in SpaceX or France’s case), or making better satellites and space services (as in Britain’s case), or developing national economic development through having reliable access to data on natural resources (such as in Nigeria’s case) and other economically profitable data.

Military space issues, sometimes referred to under the guise of ‘space security’,[4] reach the headlines from time to time. However, it is usually on the premise of state officials trading accusations that someone is threatening the world with ‘militarising’ space or in researching practically useless space-based weapons.[5] Outer space was a military realm from the start of human activity above the atmosphere. The United States and the Soviet Union pursued rocket and satellite technologies in the 1950s to be able to more effectively rain nuclear fire upon each other and to develop satellites that could locate each other’s key facilities and nuclear forces to provide more accurate targeting data for strategic bombers. Space science missions were dovetailed to the military and propaganda competition between the two superpowers, whilst using idealistic notions of the uses of outer space for ‘peaceful purposes’ as a useful ruse to accuse the other side of being ‘needlessly’ militaristic.[6]

In essence, not much has changed. Declarations and public diplomacy statements made by officials that a particular country is ‘militarising’ space are rhetorical devices designed to mislead a space-uneducated audience to rally support for a state’s own military space policies.[7] Space has always been militarised since humans began using it, and shows no sign of changing course. Earth’s major military powers continue to invest heavily in space systems for military modernisation and spying purposes, or purposes that are inherently dual-use, whilst paying lip-service to using space for peaceful purposes. Space-based weapons take centre stage at stalled propagandistic and turgid discussions on space arms control at the United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament. Ultimately, space-based weapons are a remote possibility and distract attention from existing space warfare methods, as reflected in the NSSP’s refusal to discuss the topic, whilst listing the already existing ways that countries have to wage space warfare on each other without space-based weapons.

Many countries’ policies and activities demonstrate remarkable hypocrisy in their supposed belief that space should be used for ‘peaceful purposes’[8] whilst continuing to invest in necessary militarily-useful space systems.[9] Britain can now be added to that list because of the NSSP[10] – bringing into line with common strategic wisdom that British space dependence necessitates British awareness of how to handle threats to its space sector.

The NSSP is long overdue. The United States, China, Australia, France, and Russia have long published official policy documents or strategic plans for their uses of outer space, be it military or civilian, or both. In itself, the NSSP is unremarkable. However, in its context, the NSSP is a watershed for specialists interested in the UK’s role in outer space activities. UK military publications have appeared irregularly about outer space and the dangers the UK may face on account of unintentional and intentional threats to the space systems it depends upon. But now there is official recognition from the British Government that there are areas where the Britain needs to do more to capitalise on potential profits from the global space economy and to address and minimise the risks to the space systems the British state relies upon.

British space activity has not been non-existent prior to recent policy releases. The British military has used the Skynet communications satellite constellation for a few decades to provide the most essential satellite communications to deployed forces around the globe. However, Britain has to depend on commercial and allied satellite communications services for most other uses – including for its armed forces’ navigations and precision munitions. In the past few years, we have seen a core of official documents and activities come together – such as the consolidation of Government and industry’s links into the UK Space Agency. The UK Military Space Primer, and the latest UK Air and Space Doctrine, to show greater official-level awareness within the military about the uses of outer space. These two more recent documents shows the rest of the Government beginning to realise the role Government can play in pushing the already-vibrant and globally attractive British space sector.

Whilst the British state is a pygmy in space, it has room to grow with its high-tech manufacturing base. Economic space activity in Britain has performed well under what could be seen as benign neglect. Astrium makes satellites in Stevenage for many major European projects – including for the European Space Agency’s Galileo navigation system.  Surrey Satellites is a world leader in small satellite design and manufacturing. London is home to Inmarsat, a major maritime satellite communications provider. Numerous smaller companies manufacture parts and components for the global space industry. University departments develop new satellites and services for testing and possible market releases for a world that demands ever more space-based services and data. ‘Commercial space’ is another fashionable idea – but most demand for space services and data, globally, come from the Government sector. Furthermore, space tourism is expected to remain a marginal aspect of the commercial aspects of space activity.

However, Britain still has to enact a United Nations mechanism for the release of space-based imaging and sensing data in times of national emergency or disaster, like it did in the winter of 2013-2014 to be able to better co-ordinate rescue services and emergency responders, as Britain had no national capability to get such information, while many other states do, including Britain’s European peers. As parts of Britain lay underwater or in tatters from coastal storms and exceptional flooding, the UK government had to either buy essential satellite data or rely on the good will of other states and corporations.

Taxpayers and leaders across the world, not only in Britain, need more information on how space services have modernised the world economy – and India’s usual high praise for the economic development potential of outer space systems is not idle talk. The world’s publics need to go beyond the popular conceptions of space activity as American footsteps on the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The most important and consequential things to happen in human space activity thus far have been when our satellites began to look back down on Earth and provide troves of useful data – for both military and civilian purposes – or when space is used as a medium through which threatened nuclear war may be delivered.

Finally, the UK Government has recognised that the regions and devolved countries can take an active role in outer space. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can take part in space activities, especially when considering the potentials for economic development with space services. For example, rural police services benefit greatly from space-based data, especially when managing field units with navigation systems and tracking and managing unmanned aerial vehicles. Agriculture, too, has a potential benefit from consistent and timely space-based remote sensing data, which is of obvious value beyond the centre of gravity of London. A high-tech economy, as we know it, needs space systems. Size does not matter as much when it comes to purchasing space-derived data or manufacturing and operating satellites – other countries and companies will launch a satellite for a fee.

Small European countries can target their niche capabilities in space into a collective effort at the European Space Agency, as well as into economic development plans suited for home. A Welsh or Scottish space economy development plan based on creating a locally taxable space sector to provide services and business to agriculture, tourism, hi-tech manufacturing, and resource management[11] is not ungrounded when targeted in conjunction with wider economic plans. However, a spaceport plan based on unproven concepts – either technologically (e.g. the Skylon spaceplane) or economically (e.g. Virgin’s space tourism and air-launched microsatellites) – should be seen as a more risky endeavour. However, more risky endeavours tend to have much larger potential rewards – both economically and politically, in a land threatening secession.

It seems that the British state has realised that there’s more to outer space than planetary exploration and manned flight; that it isn’t an expensive folly for the biggest states on Earth. It wants a space sector “with the bloody Union Jack on it.”[12] Better late than never.


bleddBleddyn E. Bowen is a doctoral candidate at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University. His doctoral thesis examines space warfare and strategic thinking about outer space. His general research interests include the politics of outer space, the military uses of outer space, military history, military theory and philosophy, maritime strategy, nuclear weapons, and geopolitics. Twitter: @bleddb


Footnotes

[1] The Foreign Secretary at the time, referring to the atomic bomb in frustration at the American decision to exclude Britain from previously cooperative nuclear weapons research in 1946. Taken from: Peter Hennessy, The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst 1945-2010 (London: Penguin, 2010) pp. 50-51
[2] Meaning military, economic, scientific, and political-
[3] This does not discount the merits of arguments for human exploration of outer space – merely an observation on the highest priorities of governments in space budgets.
[4] On a discussion of the various meanings of ‘space security’ and its consequences, see: Bleddyn E. Bowen, ‘Cascading Crises: Orbital Debris and the Widening of Space Security’, Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics and Policy (12:1, 2014)
[5] The technologies that would make space-based weapons practical are not likely to arrive in the foreseeable future, and are easily circumvented by already-existing weapons based on Earth to achieve the same effects – what the NSSP refers to as ‘counterspace’. This means the targeting of satellites with missiles, lasers, jamming and cyber intrusions that are based on Earth.
[6] See the entirety of: Walter McDougall, …The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997)
[7] A case in point is Xi Jinping’s comments on the rationales behind Chinese military space policy: Ben Blanchard, ‘China’s President Xi urges greater military use of space’. Reuters, 15 April 2014, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/15/uk-china-defence-idUKBREA3E03G20140415 (accessed 21/04/2014)
[8] Note that, in practice, most countries adhere to the American definition of ‘peaceful purposes’ to mean non-aggressive, allowing military space systems to be deployed.
[9] See: The White House, United States National Space Policy, Washington, D.C., June 28 2010. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf; The White House, National Security Strategy, Washington, D.C., May 2010, p. 31. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf; United States Department of Defense, ‘National Security Space Strategy: Unclassified Summary’, January 2011, Washington, D.C., p. 1. Available at: http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2011/0111_nsss/docs/NationalSecuritySpaceStrategyUnclassifiedSummary_Jan2011.pdf  (accessed 21/04/2014); French Government, ‘The French White Paper on defence and national security’, Paris, 2008,  Sections 12, 13, 14. Available at: http://www.ambafrance-ca.org/IMG/pdf/Livre_blanc_Press_kit_english_version.pdf; French Government, ‘French White Paper: Defence and National Security 2013’, Paris, 2013,  pp. 44, 70, 81, 118. Available at: http://www.rpfrance-otan.org/IMG/pdf/White_paper_on_defense_2013.pdf; Australian Department of Defence, ‘Defence White Paper 2013’, Canberra, 2013, p. 15, 24; Australian Government, ‘Australia’s Satellite Utilisation Policy’, Canberra, 16 April 2013, pp. 12-15, 18-19; Chinese Government, ‘China’s National Defense in 2010’, Beijing, 2010, Chapter X,  http://www.china.org.cn/government/whitepaper/2011-03/31/content_22263885.htm (accessed 23/4/2014); Chinese Government, ‘China’s National…’ Chapter III, http://www.china.org.cn/government/whitepaper/2011-03/31/content_22263445.htm (accessed 23/4/2013); Jana Honkova, ‘The Russian Federation’s Approach To Military Space and Its Military Space Capabilities’, Policy Outlook, November 2013, George C. Marshall Institute, esp. pp. 5-9
[10] HM Government, UKSA/13/1292, ‘National Space Security Policy’, London, April 2014, esp. pp. 5-10
[11] Including wind, tidal, minerals, water.
[12] Devolved economic and science activities encroaching on the UK space sector may cause some symbolic issues with Celtic flags in space.

The Abu Qatada Show: Prejudice and Hatred versus the Right to a Fair Trial

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Abu Qatada, public enemy number one, on trial by public opinion for over a decade, was last month acquitted of terror offences by a Jordanian court. The verdict was met with members of the British government and the opposition clambering to issue sound bites to the media about how vital it is that, despite being found innocent of this charge, Qatada would not be allowed back into the UK.

In one such desperate example, deputy Prime Minister and lame duck Nick Clegg has said that ‘What is absolutely clear to me is this man needed to face justice and needed to do so out of the United Kingdom and that’s what this government finally achieved.’

And despite his shameful attempt at defending the decade long campaign by the British government to deport Qatada by equating the government’s actions with justice, Clegg has unwittingly said something quite true. Qatada needed to face justice and needed to do so out of the United Kingdom – he certainly wasn’t going to face justice whilst he remained there. As Clegg said, the government has indeed finally achieved justice for Qatada by deporting him in order to face a fair trial after over a decade of attempts to unjustly deny him his freedom.

The whole fiasco was never, as the government claim, about justice. The real issue was that, if they failed to deport Qatada, the political establishment envisaged the unwashed masses, agitated by the sensationalist gutter press, lethargically marching to their local church hall to vote UKIP in the next election. The Qatada problem had captured the minds of the proles and they were annoyed. Things got political and it became a priority for the government – get rid of Qatada at all costs. The public agreed – out with Qatada or out with the politicians.

But the public’s judgement of the government’s actions had been skewed by underlying simmering prejudices which lead to the search for a scapegoat, an outlet at which the public could direct their anger and bile, a stereotype, pantomime villain type that encompasses all of what they see as wrong and ugly with Britain. The media tapped into this demand and obliged in building up such bogeymen as Qatada and Abu Hamza. Immigrant Muslims on benefits, the latter sporting an eye patch and hooks for hands for good measure, being kept in our green and pleasant land by another perpetual annoyance of the British public – European human rights laws.

Even though you would be hard pushed to find someone who has actually read up on Qatada’s views, the allegation that Qatada ‘hate’s Britain and British values’ was often erected as a façade to justify the deportation calls, yet even this was to miss the most important point of the whole affair, no matter how vile and depraved the clerics words.

Whilst there are legitimate arguments to be had over immigration, state benefits, the teachings of Islam and international human rights, in setting up this hate figure and calling for his deportation, along with the media, the British public are complicit in the political establishments attempt to erode what was until recently held as a fundamental right to all those residing in the United Kingdom. Whilst the public focused on the hate figure, under the shroud of detestation the British government did their best to circumvent the right to a fair trial.

Qatada astonishingly spent the best part of the 10 years up to 2012 at her Majesty’s pleasure despite never even being charged with any criminal offence, let alone being put on trial. Not content with this worrying and flagrant denial of basic rights of liberty which a British judge labelled ‘lamentable … extraordinary … [and] hardly, if at all, acceptable’, the British government then attempted to deport Qatada to Jordan to face trial over a terror plot despite the danger of torture being used by the Jordanian authorities to obtain evidence.

Not only did Qatada face standing trial with the use of compromised evidence but the judge reviewing Theresa May’s decision to deport Qatada to face trial in Jordan over a terrorist plot said that the evidence against Qatada was ‘extremely thin’. The Jordanian case against Qatada rested solely on the fact that he once bought a computer for another alleged terrorist. ‘If that’s the only evidence in the case’, said Justice Mitting, it’s difficult to understand on what basis… [Abu Qatada] could be prosecuted’. Despite such a damning ruling, it was the lawyers of the Home Secretary that disreputably claimed Qatada was ‘scraping the barrel’ in his attempt to avoid deportation when it was plainly apparent that it was the Government who were the barrel scrapers in their zealous case against Qatada.

After Qatada’s rights to a fair trial were secured by the UK and Jordan signing of a treaty containing assurances against torture evidence, Qatada was finally deported. With the final scene drawing to a close, our heroine, Theresa May was congratulated on finally defeating the pantomime villain, exiled to the east, never to stain our green and fertile land again. Yet, under much rejoicing from the British subjects and their news tellers, the real victor was ignored, or even blamed for delaying our home secretary’s triumph.

After the curtain falls on the tale of Abu Qatada, the audience should be leaving the Qatada Show feeling dirty and shameful. They experienced themselves screaming at the stage for the government to disregard basic human rights. In their hatred for the villain they booed and hissed at the British justice system as it, against public and government demand, stood firm and upheld the right to a fair trial. As the victorious wheels of justice turned, forcing the false heroine to sign fair trial guarantees into Qatada’s deportation treaty, in what should have been a humiliating climb down the public witnessed a home secretary and a government shamefully take credit for deporting a man they had spent over a decade attempting to illegally deny his freedom.

As the British public emerge blinking into the light, away from the seedy darkness of the media theatre that stirs up feelings of contempt and revulsion in its audience, one would hope that in the hard light of day they would see that they have acted shamefully and that Theresa May and the British government are not the heroes of this story, but are instead a real danger to our rights, not just those of the European Convention, but our British legal rights. One would hope but on the lessons of the Qatada affair, the prejudices of the people of the UK mean they will have to rely on the independence of the justice system to ensure their rights they seem so hostile against and so willing to squander.

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Benjamin Francis Owen is a regular contributor for WCIA Voices.


Housing First? Approaches in Wales and Europe

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The Welsh Government has recently passed its first ever housing bill. The Housing (Wales) Bill outlines a number of measures put in place to strengthen the rights of vulnerable groups in society in terms of housing, and to improve the provision of services for those experiencing homelessness.

The Bill, however, is a shadow of the radical changes outlined in the preceding white paper Homes for Wales. Amongst other reasons, this has been attributed to the influence of local government who would have to deliver these services, and the increasing scarcity of resources has played a part in diminishing the white paper proposals into more realistic reform. In this article, I will give a brief overview of the Bill within the context of the Housing First approach to homelessness which is gathering momentum across Europe.

The Housing First, or Pathways Approach to homelessness, was first developed in the USA by Dr Sam Tsemberis in the late 1980s. Unlike the typical ‘staircase approach’ to housing for those who are experiencing homelessness, the Housing First approach is not based on housing readiness but the idea that housing is a basic human right.

The fundamental concept is that once housing has been provided, support for other issues can follow, with the result being that solutions are more sustainable. Wide-spread across the United States, this approach is now being adopted or trialled across Europe, most notably in Finland. Although constructed differently in different areas, the approach has four main features as described by a report into the scheme by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2007:

  1. Direct or nearly direct placement of targeted homeless people into permanent housing
  2. Participation in support services by the individual to remain in housing is not required
  3. Assertive outreach is used, with a low demand approach taken to individuals within the programme
  4. Continued effort to provide case management and hold housing if an individual is away for the programme for a short period

This aims of this approach are based on the belief that once housing has been put in place, individuals are much more able to address other issues in their lives in a more sustainable way. The outcomes therefore are better both for those who are experiencing support, and those funding this support. Central to this programme is the need for housing to be established in order to enable individuals to take control of other aspects of their lives.

I suggest that the white paper Homes for Wales also supports these aims through its two stage ‘Housing Solutions Approach’ to reforming homelessness legislation. The white paper promised an agenda which is “distinctively Welsh, based on our long-term commitments to social justice, tackling poverty and sustainable development” (Homes for Wales, p.2). The proposed homelessness approach allowed individuals who had nowhere safe to stay to have access to immediate temporary accommodation.

Unlike the tests on vulnerability which are currently in legislation across England and Wales, the criteria for help and support at this stage was a lack of safe accommodation. This proposal was to be supported through an increased emphasis on prevention of homelessness within both third sector and statutory services. The individual in this circumstance would be supported for 6 months while a solution to their housing need was resolved, and if a solution had not been found by the end of 6 months the Local Authority would carry out tests on vulnerability, intentionality, and local connection. Although this proposal was resource heavy, it did provide a fair and equal approach – something clearly emphasised by the Welsh Government in both the white paper and more general rhetoric.

Although this is clearly different from the Housing First Approach due to its emphasis on temporary accommodation, the incentive for change was similar – people need to be in housing before a sustainable solution to their housing, and broader needs, can be found.

The Housing (Wales) Bill introduces a holistic set of measures aimed at improving the housing sector in Wales, and the ability of the sector to meet the increasing needs of individuals. Included in this reform is the introduction of the regulation of landlords and letting agents, an increase in council tax on empty homes, and the duty for Local Authorities to undertake, and deliver on, needs assessments for their Gypsy and Traveller communities. As previously mentioned, there is a marked difference between the duties outlined in the white paper prior to the Bill, and the Bill itself which is most obvious in terms of the Bill’s commitment to reforming the approach to homelessness in Wales.

Instead of the ‘Housing Solutions Approach’, the Bill retains the tests of vulnerability, intentionality, and local connection at the first interaction of individual with Local Authority – or first presentation as homeless. Individuals are therefore assessed as to whether they are ‘vulnerable enough’ for the Local Authority to have a duty to house them. This consists of a test as to whether an individual is ‘more vulnerable that the average homeless person’, a bar that seems very low. Individuals with severe depression, or substance misuse problems, have been found not ‘vulnerable enough’ as these conditions are those that ‘the average homelessness person’ could expect to experience.

The approach taken in the Bill, then, does not immediately recognise the need for individuals to have housing as a basic human right. Nor does it support the Housing First approach by which sustainable solutions are found fundamentally by providing accommodation.  I argue that this change from a Housing First influenced approach in the white paper, to one still based on priority need, undermines the Welsh Government’s claim to an approach based on social justice as they promote in the white paper. Across both the US and Finland the Housing First Approach is seen to have positive results in providing more sustainable, and more cost effective, solutions to chronic homelessness. More importantly however, as shown so clearly in this @home video, it allows people to feel “human again”.


Helen Taylor is a PhD candidate at the Wales Governance Centre, and Department of Politics and International Relations, at Cardiff University. Her thesis looks at developing a test for social justice in contemporary social policy, using the Housing (Wales) Bill as a case study. She can be contacted @practademia or at taylorh16@cf.ac.uk.