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What's new

Nonviolence News July 2017

Editorial: Northern Ireland - Wrong deal, no deal

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: Lessons from Grenfell Tower

Readings in Nonviolence: Alternatives to Violence Project impact

Billy King: Rites Again

Editorials

These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 143: October 2006

Also in this editorial:

Aid, trade, betrayed?

The Irish government's White Paper on overseas aid, launched during September, is a welcome document, and was certainly welcomed by Dochas, the umbrella body for aid agencies. Aid will reach the 'magic' figure of 0.7% of GNP by 2012, or an estimated €1.5 billion (€1,500 million), and for the first time a rationale for Irish overseas aid has been set out which, inter alia, declares that Ireland has no "political and strategic motives" influencing decisions on the allocation of development assistance.

The move means Irish government aid will nearly double over the next 5 or 6 years. A billion and a half Euro can achieve much in countries where a Euro is much more than the small change it is in Ireland, and Irish aid will continue to concentrate on Africa, the continent which is most in need of a leg up but faces many problems in even running to stand still with HIV/AIDS as a major factor in a considerable number of countries, and trade still run in favour of the rich.

But if we analyse what €1.5 billion is worth in Irish terms, the answer is actually 'not a lot'. A modest house in a not-too-fashionable area of Dublin would now be half a million Euro. In other words, the Republic will be giving away the equivalent of 3,000 modest houses in its capital city each year. Generous? Yes by world standards but it is hardly earth-shattering. In the UK, overseas aid in 2005 will be around 0.48%, slightly above the Republic's current 0.41% (though talk in the UK of an 'ethical foreign policy' at the start of "New Labour's" term in office is but a distant memory, and a grim one in the light of what has proceeded since). Norway and Sweden manage over 0.9% of GNP, followed by Luxembourg, Netherlands and Denmark at over 0.8%. Why could Ireland not give a nice, round 1%?

However, let us consider another aspect of Ireland's contribution to the world. Greenhouse gases. These have literally gone through the roof since the Celtic Tiger did its thing. Result? The Irish contribution to global meltdown has also gone through the roof and is far in excess of even the modest Kyoto figures. In a century which will see many countries half drowned at sea level it is gross irresponsibility not to tackle to the fullest extent possible Ireland's role in global warming. Another aspect of this is drought, and elsewhere storms. Drought affecting poor countries brings starvation. But rising sea levels could mean a country like Bangladesh alone has ten or twenty million climate change refugees this century as low-lying land becomes salinated or flooded, and certainly also prone to those storms or other natural disasters. Global melting is the greatest threat of additional structural violence (injustice) in the 21st century.

Ireland's contribution to overseas aid is totally negated by its role in global meltdown. It really is like throwing a few coppers to a beggar but being responsible for the beggar's penury through actions you have taken. Who is going to welcome millions of climate change refugees? The rich countries who caused the bulk of the meltdown? Never.

There are now many initiatives on climate change and one recent plan from the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN - see http://www.ecen.org) entitled 'Climate Justice Now' points out that "In ecological terms, the [global] North owes a huge debt to the South. The rich countries are using up more than the entire capacity of the Earth to absorb carbon dioxide, emitting 24 billion tonnes of C02 every year. This is twice the amount the earth can cope with...." A core idea they are promoting is that each person on the planet has a 'fair share' budget of two tonnes of C02 a year if the Earth can absorb 12 billion tonnes and there are somewhat over six billion people. A quick web search will give you various sites to help you work out your own emissions.

If Ireland is really concerned for the wellbeing of the poorest in the world, and the White Paper shows its heart is in the right place (after a previous heart-breaking reneging on a promise to reach the 0.7% by 2007), then action is needed. All new building should be virtually independent of fossil fuels and a massive programme of insulation be introduced for all existing houses. Large subsidies for renewable energy should be introduced. Planning and building will need to ensure people live and work in the same communities and are not long-distance commuters (unlike Dublin which is now a case-book example of how not to allow urban sprawl to develop). Action needs to be taken to curb car travel and seriously promote public transport, cycling and walking. Air travel needs to be seriously curtailed which means new airport terminals should be ditched in favour of money spent on better overland and sea links to Britain and the mainland of Europe. These are just some of the radical measures which are needed now.

Ireland is projecting itself as an altruistic player on the world scene. But its relationship to the production of greenhouse gases, at a time when the urgency of change is not only apparent but becoming more and more stark, shows that it is refusing to take proper action in the most important matter affecting the globe in these times. The next generation may regard the meeting of the 0.7% target for aid as a case of fiddling while the world burns.

Green and Orange for go?
Northern Ireland enters a crucial period over the next month or two as the deadline (24th November) approaches for making or breaking local government at Stormont. The ball is in the DUP court and while it has looked very much like they are still unwilling to play ball with Sinn Féin, a positive Independent Monitoring Commission report on IRA activities has added to the pressure for change. This IMC report said that the IRA is not involved in 'terrorism' and has been disbanding various aspects of its structure.

Ian Paisley has never been a man to say 'yes', and whether at this late stage he will do so remains to be seen. Or he may keep shifting the goal posts to avoid going into government with Sinn Féin. It is certainly generally accepted that others in his party would go for it but he may still pull the plug.

If he does go for government at Stormont, irony of ironies, he will claim that it is the DUP which has achieved peace, whereas the truth is that the DUP has resisted change all along, but been quite prepared to take political advantage of situations as they arose. But the DUP is the majority party within unionism, as voted for by people within Northern Ireland, and it has the make or break power; it has meanwhile conveniently forgotten about its promises to overthrow all the trappings of the Good Friday Agreement.

As stated often before in these pages, we are not keen fans of the governmental system set up by the Good Friday Agreement (because of the restrictions which some of the guarantees set on Northern Ireland moving beyond sectarian politics). But it is far better for a new system to be hammered out sometime in the future, with years of government at Stormont under the belt, than to try and return to some drawing board now, with wrangling leading to a not dissimilar result to what is already in place.

So, let us hope the green light (for 'go') gets stronger and there is no red light while Northern Irish politics negotiates this junction or juncture. If it does get through then it will not be plain sailing but the journey can begin. If not, then Northern Ireland will remain in political limbo until the next 'last chance' comes around.

WRI Conference Report: Globalising nonviolence

Mark Chapman represented INNATE at the WRI 'Triennial' conference of Globalising Nonviolence in Germany in July. Here is his report:

The overall theme of the 2006 WRI Triennial, held in Germany was 'Globalising Nonviolence'. This was WRI's 24th international conference and was held over 4 days at the end of July at Schloss Eringerfeld, a rural residential conference centre near Paderborn. The background to the conference was the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and Hizbullah rockets landing in Israel. A statement on the Lebanon crisis was agreed by the conference and is available at http://wri-irg.org/statemnt/lebanon06-en.htm

More than 200 participants from 30 countries including South Korea, Sudan, Columbia, India, Israel, Palestine, Zimbabwe and Georgia attended the gathering and we were encouraged to get involved with organising workshops, contributing to the daily bulletin titled 'The Wise Elephant'! (Available online at http://wri-irg.org/from-off.htm ) and volunteering for various duties including working in the bar.

The structure of the event worked well with a plenary session each morning followed by theme groups, and workshops and another plenary in the afternoon. The cultural programme in the evenings provided another chance to relax, chat, unwind, plot some nefarious war resisting activities and learn new tricks from DVD's and videos brought along by others.

The vision of the conference organisers was to bring together practitioners and representatives of two worldwide movements. The first is the anti-globalisation movement which opposes the neo-liberal economics of organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, World Bank and G8. It's a relatively recent movement having come to real prominence in the 1999 Seattle protests against the WTO. The other movement promotes war resistance through nonviolence and its origins stretch back to the socialist internationalist opposition to the first world war. This movement opposes militarism in all its forms and seeks to develop active nonviolence for social justice and against systems of domination. The conference provided an opportunity to examine the connections between the new economics and war and build a more effective counter culture to these dysfunctions.

One of the speakers, Maria Mies, a retired sociology professor and veteran globalisation resister, spoke of the economy being the driving force for war and said that neo-liberal globalisation leads automatically to war because war is a necessary feature of this order and this order needs war so that it can exist.

Stellan Vinthagen, a peace researcher and activist spoke of the Charter of Principles of the World Social Forum rejecting party politics and armed struggle and suggesting nonviolent social resistance. He also pointed out that the Peoples' Global Action, as one of the biggest players in the WSF is the one nearest to a nonviolent position.

The seven theme groups on offer were: Global Military Intervention, Militarisation of Civil Society, Nonviolent Citizens' Interventions, Nonviolent Strategy & Globalisation, The Right to Refuse to Kill, War Profiteers, Nonviolence Training for Beginners. It was a hard call to choose one theme group but the 'market place' system let the leaders of each theme group sell their ideas to us punters. The Nonviolent Citizens' Interventions theme group had a wealth of experience of different types of initiatives in unarmed peacekeeping by groups such as Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Christian Peacemaker Team, Gulf Peace Team, International Federation for East Timor (IFET). The 1999 IFET East Timor independence referendum observers project was a fascinating case study in which 125 volunteers monitored human rights abuses in all 13 districts of East Timor for some time prior to the vote. One small group exercise in this theme group was for us to come up with 10 ideas of what we could do as a team if we were in one of the rural districts during this project given that there was a real threat of violence in the event of a pro-independence vote.

In fact after the overwhelming vote for independence the pro-Indonesian militias killed about 1500 East Timorese in two weeks, displaced 75% of the population and destroyed most of the buildings in the country. The IFET volunteers were rounded up in the capital, Dili, and escorted by the military to the airport. The volunteer recounting this experience thought that the internationals had made the situation worse by downplaying the threat of violence made by Indonesia.

The workshops on offer each day provided opportunities for small group discussion on particular countries, regions or issues and often broadened the angle that theme groups were taking. Given the international mix at the conference, an interpretation system was essential and the team of professional interpreters fulfilled their role admirably.

Overall the conference was a terrific opportunity to network, renew old contacts, establish new ones and learn of the opportunities and difficulties of these two worldwide movements working together. Check out the next WRI Triennial!

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column

Lessons from a roadside

Recently my wife, five-year old daughter and myself were stranded in our car by the roadside late at night as a result of one of our back tyres getting a puncture. Although we had a spare wheel we did not have a jack. Needless to say this was an unwelcome situation, as it seemed that we might have to stay the entire night in the car, and possibly a great many hours the following day before we could get back on the road. Fortunately I had a torch and flashed at the stream of passing vehicles for assistance, after a short time a driver stopped and went to considerable effort to help us but was unable to, before departing he entrusted us, perfect strangers to him, with his AA membership card. With the hour even latter, and few vehicles on the road, I once again flashed the torch, not expecting any positive results. But after a short spell another driver gave up his time, and perhaps overcame his suspicions, and stopped to help. Within fifteen minutes of him doing so, we thanked him heartedly and were on the road for home.

The experience reminded me of two important things. Firstly, although it often seems that the world is mainly populated by the selfish and self-serving there are undoubtedly a great many people in the dark, formless would just beyond our vision who are willing to be good neighbours, to put themselves out to help others without expectation of anything in return other that the satisfaction that they were able to be of assistance. The other important reminder is that hope is a more productive than despair. Hope spurs one to take positive action to resolve a problem, despair leads to passivity and defeat.

These two lessons have environmental implications. If we despair over global warming, we will never do anything to address it, and thus the scientific predictions will in the course of time become reality. Hope can lead to changes in our behaviour, which although too late to prevent global warming, is likely to mitigate the effects. The fact that people are willing to help others at a cost to themselves suggests that we do have the ability to make 'personal sacrifices' for the common good. Thus what is perhaps needed to successfully address our environmental as well as social justice problems is to tap into this benevolence through a comprehensive, continuous and cross-institutional awareness-raising program about the commonality of the problems, and the necessity to do something about them. A clear and firm belief that good can be achieved will motivate many to achieve that good, for in the end no one wants to have lived in vain.

Copyright INNATE 2014