The Children of Syria: Dealing with the Impact of War

By Georgia Marks

On 21 March, Gareth Owen, the Humanitarian Director for Save the Children, came to the Temple of Peace to give a presentation on the impact of the war on the children of Syria. The Chief Executive of the WCIA, Martin Pollard, introduced the event by expressing that the war in Syria is a pressing issue. He then went on to establish Owen’s background in civil engineering and his pivotal role in Save the Children and has been awarded an OBE in 2013 for his work in emergency crisis.

Owen started his presentation by showing us a video about the children of Syria, with statistics of the injuries they have suffered and the effect that the war has had on their mental health. The information in the video was horrifying. Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict, however Owen reiterated that the theme for the presentation was hope. I think this is a really refreshing stance to have because with the all of the horrific news that we hear about the conflict, it is easy to fall into a state of negativity. Also, a sense of positivity will create a more open space for change within Syria.

Owen then described Save the Children’s newest report, ‘Invisible Wounds’, which depicted the impacts that the war in Syria has had on four hundred and fifty Syrian children interviewed and showed the devastating psychological effects of the six year conflict. The study found that the majority of the children interviewed were suffering from toxic stress which can result in the increase of heart disease, drug abuse and mental health issues. The speaker stressed that the most concerning element of this is that the issues in childhood manifest in adulthood, so the effects of the war will resonate forever.

The report found that 71% of the children interviewed suffered from bedwetting, which is a sign of toxic stress. Also, 80% have noticed that they are more aggressive than before the war, and 50% of the older children interviewed have turned to drugs. The children interviewed emphasized that they will never feel safe at school. The statistics given in the presentation have made it clear that the war in Syria is affecting the children in a detrimental way, and I share the opinion of many when I say that we cannot let it continue. This brings me back to the main theme of Owen’s presentation: although the situation in Syria is horrific, there is still time to act, many children can heal, there is still hope.

Sendai Tsunami

The next section of Owen’s presentation asked how Syria got to into this situation. He established a brief history of the situation in Syria; the 15 March 2011 marked the start of the Arab Spring which began in Syria, and the world was terrified that it would spread. Last year marked the record amount of deaths for children. Before the Arab Spring, the population of Syria was around two million, but now half of that number have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe. The speaker went on to establish that those who have stayed behind, including children, are forced to fight work and into young marriage. The situation in Syria was described as a medieval siege like position, using starvation as a way to control the population. There have been 4000 recorded attack on schools, there is a critical need for water and healthcare, and many are living in poverty. This once again reinforces the need to intervene. A member of the audience asked what action was being taken to help children who have been forced to be in the army. The speaker responded by saying that Save the Children will soon be 100 years old. He expressed that the organisation works with factions to stop using children, but Syria is a nation of impunity, with inability to protect the children. Owen emphasized the problem of people forgetting that the United Nations was created to eradicate war. Therefore, Save the Children have taken it upon themselves, as they reach 100, to try and mobilise and change the picture. Another member of the audience questioned how Save the Children prioritises their aid given their scarce resources. The speaker responded by stating that the organisation makes practical choices but they are difficult choices to make. Save the Children always seek to help those who are hardest to reach but that is not always possible; the organisation tries to be impartial and ethical but they cannot always succeed.

Owen then talked about one of his visits to Syria in March 2013. He expressed that he had to have an alias when he visited, which shows how dangerous the country is. The speaker stated that Syria is the most frightening war that he has ever experienced. He then went on to say that the world does not care enough because otherwise we would not allow this to happen. I think that in a sense this is true; there is a feeling of complacency in society right now, if the crisis has not majorly reached our country then we do not feel the urge to act. This is a major problem because we will only make an impact once it is too late. A member of the audience asked how Owen thinks Britain have handled the situation. The speaker replied that we have utterly failed and that the United Nations are not acting to its potential. However, Owen stressed that it is always going to be difficult, but it doesn’t mean that the United Nations isn’t trying.

Owen then went on to provide examples of the positive progress that has been made in Syria, schools have been built and aid had been given, along with psycho-social support. The speaker emphasized that the conflict has meant that the Syrian civil society has to fend for itself to create organisations and work with other countries. This is one of the only positive aspects of the war, and reiterates the theme of the talk of the hopeful attitudes that we should have towards the conflict.

The speaker then went on to discuss the countries that are taking in millions of refugees such as Lebanon and Jordan, and questioned whether Britain is pulling their weight. I think this is a valid question, in comparison with other countries Britain is not taking in that many refugees. This reinforces the point established above that we appear to not care too much unless we are directly affected. In this sense Britain most definitely could make more effort in contributing to help the people of Syria. A member of the audience expressed their concerns with the plight of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and asked whether they are able to take in so many. Owen expressed that politicians respond to the electorate, so in that sense it is in the public’s hands. The speaker then appealed to the young generation, asking how we want our future to be. We need to do something; we need political activism that doesn’t necessarily exist today. We need passion. There are no humanitarian solutions, only political.

The situation in Syria is so horrific, that the way Save the Children tell the children’s stories is so important. A member of the audience asked about the misleading information surrounding Syria and what information can we trust? Owen replied by saying that we live in a culture where facts are disputable, and there is a problem with propaganda and verifying information as a lot of information is propaganda. There is also the issue that the narrative of war is always written by the victor. However, the testimonies of the children cannot be disputed as that is their reality, and it reminds the world that we need to find a solution. The key element to the children’s stories is that of hope. Owen established that the power of hope lives in the refugees, so it is their job at Save the Children to keep the hope alive and help Syrians on a practical level as well.

Owen then showed us the example of Ahmed and the Exodus film and how Britain helped to get his family over to the UK. I found this story refreshing as it shows Britain’s potential to help the people of Syria, and how our aid can have a positive impact. Another video was then shown, a ‘Don’t Bomb Children’ advert which has been televised quite frequently recently, and depicted a British school child being under attack from terrorist forces and having to flee her country. The main message of the video was that just because it isn’t happening here, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about what is going on in Syria. This video in particular was very powerful in conveying that message. It appears that the shock factor is one of the only ways to get us to respond to the crisis in Syria. This is really disappointing, but at the same time at least we are starting to respond more to the war. The war has spurred responses among well-known figures, Owen exemplified Stephen Hawking’s contribution to Save the Children. Hawking fronted an appeal, giving voices to the children of Syria. I think this is really positive, because if influential figures advocate a more active stance in regards to Syria then hopefully it will encourage others to protest to help Syrian people. The last example Owen depicted was the search and rescue in the Mediterranean, where thousands of refugees drowned attempting to cross the border. The speaker explained that 4700 died in the Mediterranean and 800 of those were children. From all of the examples given, it is clear that we need to take more action to help the people of Syria, as we cannot continue to sit back and let this happen to innocent people.

Owen concluded by talking about the future. There have been talks of safe zones and peace talks which can only be viewed as progress. He went on to express that the price of humanity is whatever it takes to keep the people of Syria alive. According to the speaker, we will be judged harshly in history in terms of how we have helped Syrian people. He ended by asking which side we wanted to be on.

Overall, I found the presentation really insightful and I think it was really effective in motivating the audience. I think we are in a really important period right now which will hopefully influence change in attitudes towards Syria. We need to think positively, but in order for there to be results, we need to take action. There is no doubt that more can be done to help the situation in Syria, and we need to get out of the mind-set that it is someone else’s problem.

 

Gareth Owens’ Advice for Humanitarian Aid Work

On Tuesday 21st March, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and Hub Cymru Africa hosted an evening with Gareth Owens, Humanitarian Director at Save the Children. We have created a short summary of Gareth’s advice for pursuing a career in humanitarian aid that we hope you will find useful.

With Gareth’s educational background in civil engineering, he made clear that you don’t need to physically train in humanitarian work, rather you can get involved from any career angle.

Working in humanitarian aid is not glamorous and it involves dealing with a lot of raw emotions and different people. It is not for everyone but is best viewed as a selfish job. You will be away from home for months at a time, often in very dangerous places so must understand the worries your family back home will have.

Passion and persistence are key! The more passionate about something you are the greater chance you have of seeing it through and making change happen.

Gareth Owens 21st March

Continually possessing a good character where you don’t let things get personal is important.
If you’re a difficult person this is not the job for you, you must be humble and energetic as well as being able to embrace different cultures and share compassion for the people whom you are helping.

Gender does play different roles when working in humanitarian aid, sometimes you will work in countries that are uncomfortable for women and at other times being a woman can be an advantage.

Speaking additional languages is always a bonus, especially French and Arabic as these are most widely spoken in developing countries.

Try to volunteer in your home country if you are starting out; there are many refugees now here in Britain and charities are always looking for help.

Also, volunteer projects abroad are good. The more you can get on your CV from little projects like these, the better chance you have at making contacts and stumbling onto your big break.
You may find it takes several years working on little projects here and there before you manage to go abroad and help on the big disasters.

If you are interesting in volunteering with the WCIA, see our website for further details about how you can get involved   http://www.wcia.org.uk/volunteer.html

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.

 

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

 

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.

Annual Law Lecture: How global trading rules are contributing to Africa’s deindustrialization and what we can do about it

By Georgia Marks

On the 21st November 2016, the WCIA, in partnership with Centre for Law and Society/ Law and Global Justice Programme, Cardiff University, held the fifth annual law lecture by Professor James Thuo Gathii at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff. John Harrington, the chairman of the Board of Justice for the WCIA, chaired the event. He introduced the speaker and the discussant, Celine Tan. Overall, the event was insightful and gave the audience a range of solutions to think about in terms of global trade.

Professor Gathii began by defining deindustrialization as the movement of workers from industry and then went on to give a brief context. He stated that Africa’s economy has been growing, but this has brought deindustrialization. In the 1970s, the governments had policies focusing on agriculture, but wanted to be like the West so produced industrialised economies, with structural adjustment programmes set up to reduce the role of the state in the economy. In 1990, the World Bank and the IMF drove for reform which the speaker says had a debilitating effect on industries. For example, in Senegal, the manufacturing and processing of sugar decreased in the past 20 years.

Next, Gathii highlighted the problems behind deindustrialization. He said that bad economic governments contributed. Many governments are corrupt, as well as the fact that the African elite have been able to source products, that can be made in Africa, outside of the continent at the expense of local producers. He then went on to use the supply of palm oil to reinforce his point. He then went on to talk about the phenomenon of consumption cities where workers are moving from manufacturing as there is less work. This is exacerbated by the lack of sustainable effort to create work in industry, and thus the problem grows. This seems to be a valid problem in these countries which in turn create a variety of different problems, particularly to local businesses.

The speaker continued by proposing solutions which he referred to as ‘big ideas.’ Firstly, he suggested making technology transfers a key component of the trade system, for example with Japan and China. Emphasis was placed on Africa’s need to go for innovation seeking investments and utilise other countries’ need for resources. He also gave importance to the fact that the availability of these contracts allows the transfer of knowledge between countries. I think that this is important as it allows for African countries to develop which will hopefully enhance their position within trade. Gathii stated that there is a lot of potential in this idea as exemplified in South Korea doing business with Britain over the manufacturing of rail cars. Countries can gain leverage in order to get what they want instead of just selling off resources. In his belief, African countries have the capacity to do this. This idea is a good one as it encourages African countries to be more assertive in trade which appeared to be one of the main themes in the talk, but it is also interactive for Western countries as they will participate in this trade.

The next proposed solution was improved regional trade among African countries. This is perhaps one of the strongest solutions as it promotes self-sufficiency in Africa. Gathii expressed that there is currently an unequal system in international trade as the ways trading rules are interpreted are consistent with bias because big countries will make sure that their view prevails. This solution is within Africa itself, so does not address part of the talk which askes what we can do about it, but despite this, it is still a strong solution. The speaker gave the shocking statistic that inter-African trade is only 9% of their overall trade, with Africa importing $35 billion worth of food each year. What is worse, according to Gathii, is that it is the sort of food that Africa grows! He went on to say that famines in African countries were because of no trade, not because of lack of food. This stresses the importance of inter-African trade. He stated that commitments to reduce the trade barriers are all there. If there have been things put in place for this solution then there is no reason why it should not be successful. A member of the audience from Cardiff University asked how we could focus on south-south cooperation to reduce dependence on the western world. In response, Gathii expressed that southern countries were doing a bad job of trading with themselves. In order to improve this we could make evident these blind spots as there is a possibility to build a vibrant market in rural Africa with the right policies. How we could make them see the blind spots was not made clear, however the speaker is right in the fact that good policy making will help to boost trade.

Third, Gathii suggests productivity enhancing initiatives, which could be done without the other two proposals. He goes on to recommend basic processing of natural produce and simple but critical farming technology. All of this centres on product development, but also ensures that the changes are realistic and work for regionalists. Whilst this proposal is the simplest of all the solutions, it is a positive that it can work independently of the others given, and may also be the most realistic recommendation.

Overall, the proposals made by Professor Gathii were good as they would be effective if carried out properly. However, the emphasis is not on what the West can do about it. Yet, I do not think that is a bad thing, as a lot of discussions have the tendency to be too focussed on the West, which can sometimes mean that the issue at hand can get forgotten. So I think the fact that the main subjects are the African countries strengthens the proposals given by the speaker, but also gives a more innovative perspective to these solutions.

The discussant, Celine Tan, then analysed the proposals made by Professor Gathii, stating that they were excellent. This I totally agree with. She took on an Asian perspective as a child of Malaysian industrialisation. She spoke of the lack of regulation which made industrialisation problematic in Malaysia, however despite this it is undeniable that industrialisation was the driver in the country’s economic growth. The discussant claimed that in Africa, external factors are constraining the continent’s industrial development, and expressed that Gathii was too generous to the external sources. The main question surrounding Tan’s talk was how much of Gathii’s proposals does he think is achievable? Particularly in terms of current constraints. She went on to say that external factors were not barriers to other countries such as Malaysia, particularly that they did not have pressures from external places to get funds. Malaysia’s transition from agriculture to industry was gradual because they had the policy space to do so. However, according to Tan, African countries have lost their autonomy of the constraints, whereas Malaysia maintains their scope for determining what to do with their economy. I think this highlights one of the key constraints on Africa which is unique to them, and emphasizes that as a continent they need to try and address these limits. Also, bringing in a different perspective on industrialisation made for a really effective comparison, so that the audience could see the realistic limits on African countries.

Tan highlights three key issues that Gathii’s proposals may encounter. Firstly, there is the issue of Africa’s dependence on external finance, as some of the speakers’ proposals were predicated on public finance. But where is this finance going to come from? I think that this is a really crucial question to ask, as how can we see any of these solutions put into place if there is nothing to fund them. Secondly, there is a question of international regulation as it hinders the finance available. She stated that multi-national firms threaten countries’ revenue. This is the downside to processes with foreign investors as how can we ensure that African countries keep onto the revenue. Again, I think that this is a point worth addressing as there is a risk of exploitation here. In the Q&A session after the talks, a representative from Fair Trade Wales asked what the solutions can be provided to support farmers and ensure that they have a choice a choice on a global scale. Gathii responded by saying that we shouldn’t leave things the way they are if they are corrupt. Investment programmes are the solution. The speaker acknowledged the limits as inevitable, but everyone says that this is the right thing to do. On basic necessities trade could be improved, but the time scales need to be more visible. There are interesting policies already existing. He went on to express that if trade does not benefit the people then there is no point. Western ideas do not truly know about African issues, so aid is not going to help as much as trade. I think this makes a good point in that instead of the West attempting to help, we should be taking a step back and let Africa retain control of their own policies so that they have more influence in trade as Africa knows what will benefit them the most.

Lastly, Tan emphasised the constraints of investment rules in global trade. These trade rules mean that countries like the UK generate value from raw materials. Additionally, the discussant also highlighted the constraints that treaties bring to African countries, such limits are not faced by countries in south-east Asia. She continued by saying that the rules are so stacked against African countries, it is doubtful as to whether the proposals given by Gathii will work. This is point is very valid as it shows the problems as exclusive to African countries, which only emphasizes the problems of trade in these countries. It is also an important aspect to consider when asking whether the proposals would realistically work.

Ms Tan concluded by saying that a more holistic outlook was needed. Overall, her rebuttals to Professor Gathii’s proposals were all persuasive and acted for a good academic discussion. These proposals appear to be an ideal, but more thought needs to go into how these could be developed in practice, linking to the context of the current situation in African countries.

Gathii then summarised his stance, addressing the points made by Tan. In terms of the last point, he stated that the discussant was right in that there were huge barriers imposed by the West that prevent many of his proposals. He claimed that this problem was escalated by the fact that African countries fail to negotiate and end up settling with deals that do not benefit them. This is reinforced by the point that the Southern African Customs Union is the only region to reject a template for trade. He continued by stating that the systems often favour developed countries and that he wishes that African leaders were more proactive in deciding not to participate in trade with challenging affluent countries. In the Q&A session, a practicing lawyer in the audience questioned the retaliation system in terms of compensation. Gathii responded with the statement that the treaties are a reflection of interests of the people who wrote them which is unfair as it is favour of developed countries. Developing countries as a collective have the opportunity to take trade into a different direction. This, again focuses on what Africa can do rather than how the West can contribute. Yet the point made that African countries should take power into their own hands is still a strong one and promotes self-sufficiency.

John Harrington concluded with the idea of ‘aid vs trade.’ The current Secretary of State suggested that we should increase aid to promote trade, but this is only to improve British trade. From a Welsh context, Wales is to act in a globally responsible manner. This is a strong conclusion as to be responsible and aware of how are actions affect other countries in terms of global trade is significant in order to ensure that we do not hinder Africa’s development by rigid rules and bias policies. So, a sense of being conscious about the problems of non-western countries is one of the most important things that we can do in order to improve industry in Africa.

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.