Brexit vs Bremain has gone too far

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Flickr/Abi Begum

When did almost 53% of our society become so nauseatingly narrow minded? At what point did we start to justify prejudice, when did we start discriminating against our neighbours and friends and why has Racism become the norm? We need to ask ourselves why intolerance and deep rooted suspicion of the ‘other’ has become the cornerstone of British Politics in recent months?

Our elected representatives are fighting like feral animals, pointing fingers, crying lies upon lies and hurling insults. Is it just me, or has the entire EU Referendum debate brought to the fore what is base about our polity?

If you want know why I’m asking such a tirade of questions, look no further than Nigel Farage’s unveiling of the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign poster. When Michael Gove told Andrew Marr he ‘shuddered’ at UKIP’s Brexit propaganda, he can’t undo it now, can he? You cannot justify the blatant absence of any white faces on the borders of Europe (Slovenia, 2015).

Farage’s stance is starkly reminiscent of Nazi Propaganda branded about in the 1930’s, he is absolutely opposed to the free movement of people, and justifies his argument in the most barbaric way possible, by making a mockery of the refugee crisis.

Dividing lines

Undoubtedly since the hail of the Brexit campaigns and its counterpart ‘Bremain’, we have become ever more divided. Whichever margin of the debate you support, or even if you’re simply sitting on the fence, praying for a miracle that will guide you on June 23, our society has become deeply suspicious and paranoid.

In the face of what is set to be the most important and far-reaching decision we will make in years to come, why is the debate focusing on immigration? Why has the far-right been allowed to grasp the agenda.

It is far more noticeable, less than 24 hours away from the Referendum Vote that we are now living in a climate of hatred and cynicism, one that we have built! Doesn’t anyone else think that we’ve gone too far?

I apologise if I offend, but I just don’t buy the ‘English as a persecuted minority’ argument, one echoing Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood speech’. Why are Brexiteer’s trying to con us with phrases like ‘Make Britain Great Again’? I’m sorry, but I didn’t receive the memo to say that we’ve lost our greatness in the first place!

After watching a recent BBC Documentary, ‘The Immigration Question’ presented by Mishal Husain, I feel like I need to respond.

I say this with the greatest respect to Mrs Chowles who is going to have to wait 15 years for a Council house to accommodate the needs of her disabled husband, but Brexit is not a silver bullet! Clacton, despite having unemployment above the national average, has relatively little immigrant influx compared to other cities in the South of England, it actually houses few people who were born outside the United Kingdom.

Where the problems truly lie

The truth of the matter is, that core issues with the NHS, housing, unemployment, social security and education can’t and won’t disappear overnight. They will be present on June 23 when we vote, and regardless of which way we decide to vote, we will wake up to these issues once again on June 24.

Unfortunately, Mrs Chowles’ determination to vote Brexit, and others also motivated by the same concerns, will undoubtedly realise that their legitimate concerns, have never been the fault of immigrants, rather the failure of successive governments to provide sufficient funding and resources to these areas.

If the NHS is stretched, why can’t we give them more money, more Doctors and more Nurses, don’t scrap the bursaries! If we don’t have enough homes and Council houses, then why aren’t we building more? If there aren’t enough jobs, are you sure you’re looking properly?

Eastern European immigrants are being exploited by British businesses who abuse their work ethic for low pay, don’t insult immigrants for a problem that doesn’t lie with them. These issues have little to do with our membership of the EU and more to do with the fact that during the 2015 general election, the majority of us, voted in a Conservative Government to run our country.

Immigration has never been, and will never be the problem. As a second generation British national, I am greatly offended by the divisive tactics used to scaremonger our society. In the face of threats like home-grown terrorism and climate change we should not delude ourselves that standing isolated is standing strong.

Unity is the bedrock of British success and progress; standing united with Europe is the only chance we have to fight the threats we face today. We all know deep down, that Brexit flies in the face of British values, values that countless generations before us have fought tooth and nail for. Why should we dishonour them now?

Don’t be impressed by nostalgia and notions of exceptionalism, let’s show men like Farage that we don’t need to succumb to prejudice and discrimination, that we can build a better future with tolerance, respect and unity, one hopefully within the EU.

Demystifying the Brexit fear campaigns

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament – Pietro Naj-Oleari:

The campaign for ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ has been a long drawn out process, one which has captivated the nation for all the wrong reasons. Seemingly, the new way to win a political campaign is to scare everybody with any given excuse. As a soon to be Politics graduate, I find this a sad and sorry state of affairs.

In this two part series I shall seek to demonstrate what these political campaigns have failed to do, provide fair debate and factual statements.

Admittedly, I am a supporter of the European Union and I will be voting to remain. However, I will not seek to scare you, I simply intend upon feeding you the truths that I believe to hold firm through my own research. As such, I implore you to read on, what I say next may well change your minds, for the right reasons.

In this first part I will cover three main topics, the environment, the NHS, and the economy and sovereignty.

The climate

Even if you dislike some of the EU ‘red tape’ the media perpetually talks about, it is hard to argue with arguments surrounding the environment.

Climate change and the environment more generally will without a shadow of a doubt be the challenge of our generation. It shall not be – as some might have you believe – terrorism, Corbyn becoming prime minister or about any of us finding a job.

If you decide to vote to stay in the EU even if it’s just for the one reason, I would encourage you to make it a climate reason.

The EU climate and energy package was adopted in 2009 to implement the 20-20-20 targets endorsed by EU leaders in 2007 – by 2020 there should be a 20% reduction of Green House Gas emissions compared with 1990, a 20% share of renewables in EU energy consumption, and energy improvement by 20%.

It has also implemented a single EU-wide cap on emission allowances from 2013 onwards, with a linear annual reduction until 2020 and beyond.

To deal with climate change we need transnational organisations. Climate change is not confined to borders, it is worldwide and to fight it, prevent it and save ourselves we must be part of bodies such as the European Union.

The NHS

The next topic for scrutiny is the much talked about NHS issue, perhaps the best and most incredible British institution. Much is being made about staying in the EU costing our NHS because of ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and the money spent on the EU which could be better spent ‘elsewhere’.

For starters, the money we get from being part of the EU to fund research and development is huge. Furthermore, the EU promotes joint action for cancer research and control where member states work together. There is also a large body of evidence suggesting that the NHS is also critically reliant upon the U.K. economy, which as we know would suffer no end if we ‘Brexited’.
Much of the furore surrounding the NHS regards the issue about TTIP, which many people are worried about. The NHS is currently being negotiated out of a deal for this transatlantic trade agreement and would therefore not affect the workings of the NHS.

Equally, the main advocates for leaving the EU, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have all spoken about their desire to privatise the NHS, so when they claim they want to give it more funding or whatever else they may say, you may want to challenge that.

EU migration also makes up around 10% of NHS doctors and 4% of nurses.

The economy and sovereignty 

Both campaigns have also fed the general public questionable figures. Ipsos Mori have carried out a non biased research analysis into the EU, the following were some of the central findings.

48% of the UK’s total international investment comes from the EU and 44% of our total exports are sold to EU countries – china only accounts for 1% of investment and 5% of exports respectively.

23% of those intending to vote leave don’t think that MEP’s are elected. Much of the general public as well as the media also peddle the sovereignty argument regarding Britain not having control over its own laws and regulation.

Instead of persistently looking at the negative portrayal of the EU, why not take a positive stance and view what regulations and laws the EU has brought into place which have benefited us all; trade agreements to reduce tariffs and agree increased trade between EU countries, a cap on the amount of hours an employee can make an employer work for, price caps on mobile roaming charges, ban on tobacco advertising, a minimum of 4 weeks holiday per year and a cap on banker’s bonuses.


Ultimately, in a globalised world of interconnectedness, one which we ourselves pushed and furthered, it makes no sense whatsoever to now become isolationist. Yes, certain aspects of the EU need reform but the wider, transnational issues at hand need to be dealt with collectively. You go and look back at history and tell me how successful and peaceful the Europe and the world more widely has been a) when it has been split up into individual bodies and b) when it has been held together by multi-nation bodies. The proof is pretty clear.

The great immigration game

European Union 2013 - European Parliament ---------------------------------------- Pietro Naj-Oleari: European Parliament, Information General Directoratem, Web Communication Unit, Picture Editor. Phone: +32479721559/+32.2.28 40 633 E-mail: pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament
—————————————-
Pietro Naj-Oleari:

Here in part two of my Despatch Box mini-series I aim to demystify the scaremongering and ludicrous claims surrounding EU immigration.

It’s as if everyone has developed Tourettes syndrome and immigration is used as an excuse for just about everything. ‘I have no money’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘I don’t have a job’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘There is traffic on the motorway’; ‘its the immigrants’. So let’s get a few things straight on immigration and the current debate in which it is engulfed.

For part one, which explores the EU and the NHS, the environment, the economy and sovereignty, please click here.


First and foremost, a study entitled ‘the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK‘ found that, ‘European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011’.

We can also see that EU migrants claim far less in benefits than UK nationals, ‘In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals’. Similarly, a study carried out by UCL said immigrants ‘were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain’.

Immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2% more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed. Over the same period, British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.

The report also showed that in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21% of the British adult population.

Last but not least, within the NHS 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU and many more from outside the EU. From personal experience of both my mum and dad being treated by the NHS I know just how important this immigration is to keeping it functioning.

Why the immigration fury?

Well, the public and much of the media seems to have conflated and misunderstood the whole idea behind the ‘free movement of people’.

This applies to the 28 EU member states, in other words, you have to be a part of the European Union to gain the free access of movement. Therefore, people living outside those 28 states cannot just freely move to the UK as they please – evidenced by the UK government’s decision to turn away the 3,000 unaccompanied children who were alone in Europe without a home.

This is where the confusion seems to lie and the positioning of blame is very wrong. The current ‘migrant crisis’ we see is not to do with EU migrants putting a ‘drain’ on our services or the ‘Romanians coming over here and taking our jobs’. It has much more to do with the mass devastation that we see spread across the world, particularly the Middle East, by war.

People are fleeing the crisis in search of a better life, not because they want to kill us or take our jobs or ruin our ‘nationality’. The ‘security threat’ of ‘uncontrolled migration’ which ‘increases the threat of terrorism’ is also an absolute Houdini act from the media and Leave campaign.

The inter-service security networks we receive from being part of the EU are second to none, more noteworthy is the fact that recent terrorist attacks in the EU have been carried out by naturalised European citizens and not immigrants, citizens who feel alienated and left out by many policies.


If we are truly interested in reducing immigration figures then we must deal with the crux of the issue, instead of pinning the blame on the ‘undemocratic EU’ and the ‘bureaucracy of Brussels’.

It is far too easy to place the blame elsewhere and play the blame game. However, the issues we currently face in the EU have a huge amount to do with the financial crash of 2008 and ineffective foreign policies in the Middle East.

The financial crisis was perpetuated by an unregulated and irresponsible capitalist world and much of the unrest and displacement in the Middle East has to do with Western meddling in the area.

I am not saying that immigration does not need to be controlled but to leave the EU will solve none of our issues, it will simply mean that we brush them under the carpet and turn a blind eye.

The breakdown of the Saudi-US ‘special relationship’

Flickr/Tribes of the World - U.S. President Barack Obama greets Saudi's Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy

Flickr/Tribes of the World – U.S. President Barack Obama greets Saudi’s Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy

In November 2015, the P5+1 signed an agreement with Iran to resolve the nuclear crisis that had caused a great deal of consternation across the Middle East over the past decade. Yet in signing the agreement, another serious issue would come to the fore that could have an equally damaging impact upon regional relations that are becoming increasingly frayed.

Regional security in the Persian Gulf has been shaped by competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose rivalry after the revolution in 1979 has shaped the nature of politics in the Middle East. This rivalry, while occurring along sectarian lines is predominantly driven by geopolitical – or national – interests. One area of difference is over the organisation of regional security. While Iran sees itself as uniquely qualified to ensure regional security, Saudi Arabia relies upon the US to guarantee its security.

Moreover, following the fragmentation of state-society relations across the Middle East after the Iraq War and the Arab Uprisings more broadly, both states have attempted to increase their influence across the region, believing that the other is manipulating events. This is perhaps best seen in Riyadh’s attempts to speak to the US and suggest that Iran is behind unrest across the region.

Indeed, in US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, Saudi efforts to securitize the threat posed by Iran feature prominently. As one cable notes:

the King’s frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program.  “He told you to cut off the head of the snake,” he recalled to the Charge’, adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.

Yet despite Riyadh’s efforts to frame Iran as a threat to the US, Washington has avoided the type of military action that many in Jerusalem and Riyadh would have desired.

Moreover, in an article for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg sets out ‘the Obama doctrine’, which outlined Obama’s vision of foreign policy. The article also touched on how the president viewed the organisation of Gulf security:

The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace. An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.

Given Saudi Arabia’s long-standing reliance upon the US to guarantee their security, such suggestions are a cause of much concern.

In addition, the suggestion that 28 pages of the 9/11 report would be declassified – allegedly detailing foreign complicity in the attacks – coupled with the threat of litigation against Saudi Arabia from the families of victims, would further fracture relations. In response, Turki Al Faisal, a Saudi prince argued that “America has changed, we have changed and definitely we need to realign and readjust our understandings of each other.”

Al Faisal also spoke of the need to recalibrate “our relationship with America — how far we can go with our dependence on America. How much can we rely on steadfastness from American leadership? What is it that makes for our joint benefits to come together.”

In an effort to mend relations between the two states, Obama visited Saudi Arabia in April. In a press conference after meeting King Salman, Obama stressed

the friendship and cooperation that exist between the United States and the Gulf countries has been consistent for decades […] so what is true between the United States and the GCC, as is true with all of our allies and friends, is that at any point in time, there are going to be differences in tactics.

Yet if Al Faisal is correct then perhaps changes have shifted the structural nature of the relationship, which may be beyond the normal hurdles in diplomatic friendships.

Quite how much either side has changed – and is ready to listen to the other – is, of course, a question to be answered in time.

 

What even is the EU?

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When 23rd June finally rolls around we will all be ten times as bored of hearing the words EU and Brexit, as we are now. But the problem which has already become starkly apparent, and I am sure will not be resolved by that date, is that it appears the majority of the UK hasn’t got a clue what the European Union really is – and as a result whether or not to vote to leave or remain.

Many of us may have read an opinion piece, listened to a news headline, watched a 3 minute viral video, had a Facebook debate or even none or all of the above – but has any of this really made us the wiser? From topical debate shows, to news broadcasts and general chat to friends and work colleagues, it’s clear the referendum is being dropped from a heavy height on the public, with little or no independent facts being provided.

As a history and politics graduate, I’m not ashamed to say I don’t know the full facts or functions of the EU, so how does the Government expect the entire British public to be clued up on the inner workings of this multi-national organisation?

Mystified by the media

The media is churning out all kinds of think pieces from independent experts and political analysts, but it seems there is an obvious gap in their reporting. I have seen little to no basic, uniform and unbiased media explaining in layman’s terms what the EU actually is and what is does – rather than the endless pro and against lists.

This article isn’t here to tell you how to vote, because that’s not what the discourse around the debate should be. No one should be telling others how to vote, rather we must all be helping each other make informed and accurate decisions. Yet so far, both the leave and stay campaigns (which encompass all sides of the political spectrum) have done nothing except add to the already muddied confusion of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

Despite the Government’s recent attempt to educate the public with a leaflet stating why we should remain, this has faced further backlash. The leaflets cost the tax payer £9million to produce which has angered many, and not just those on the out campaign. But wouldn’t we all be just as angry if they produced nothing, and instead left the debate to the vast array of pro and against groups which have sprung up in the last year?

Clearly there is no logical answer on how a country should stage and execute a referendum of such high importance. But one thing is clear, there needed to be more independent information on what this multi-national institution even is, before the public is supposed to vote on our future within it.

What is the EU?

Essentially the EU is group of states across the European continent who combined together to ensure economic prosperity, security and peace. The concept began after WWII in an effort to prevent further wars, and in 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC) was created which became the foundation for the EU today.

The UK joined in 1973 under conservative PM Edward Heath and today the Union has 28 member states with a total population of over 500 million.

The point of this collective of countries is to create economic co-operation – which means that countries which trade together, stay together (or at least are less likely to go to war with one another).

The other main principle of the EU is that it is a single market, which entails goods and people are able to freely move around the member states, as if we were one country – similar to the UK with England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for example.

Each member country contributes different amounts every year to be part of the EU, in 2015 the budget was 145bn euros. Germany contributed 21.36% of this and the UK 12.57%, approximately £8.5bn. It has been estimated the cost of being part of the EU is just £260 per house hold, per annum.

How does it work?

Like a country the EU has a number of institutions which keep it running, the four main ones are:

The European Commission:  Similar to the UK civil service, the Commission makes the whole EU tick. It is headed by 28 Commissioners, one from each country, who propose and enforce laws, set objectives and priorities for action, manage policies and the EU budget, as well as representing the EU outside of Europe.

The European Parliament: The parliament is directly-elected by EU voters every 5 years, we last voted in 2014. Similarly to the Commission, the 751 MEPs have legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities. Effectively, it is the Westminster of Europe, you can see a full break down of what it does here.

The European Council: This is where governments of the member countries have their say and define the general political direction and the goals of the EU. Heads of state meet at the council to make deals, compromises and hold summits, for example this is where Cameron made his deal about the UK’s new relationship with the EU.

The Court of JusticeThe court essentially ensures everyone sticks to the rules and follows laws set out by the EU, particularly that they are interpreted and applied the same way in every country. It also settles any arguments and legal disputes between governments and EU institutions.

How does it affect you?

The EU has an influence on all kinds of issues which affect the UK as a whole, as well as us as individuals, here are just a few aspects the EU has influenced in the UK.

Jobs: The EU has ensured as workers we have universal rights in the UK. From fair and equal pay, to the right not be discriminated against, to fair working hours, rights for working parents, the right to paid holidays and a regular lunch break. Moreover, it has been estimated that as many as 3 million British jobs are linked to the EU, due to our exports.

Economy: The EU is the UK’s single biggest export market, where around half of the goods produced in the UK are sent. This means being part of the EU helps our economy to grow here at home, making the UK better off financially. If we were to leave the Union these export deals would have to be renegotiated, which could potentially result in damage to our economy.

Environment: One of the most significant aspects of EU legislation in recent decades has been their influence on the environment, the EU has the strongest wildlife protection policies in the world and has enhanced animal welfare in food production. Moreover, as part of the EU UK companies must conform to certain regulations regarding pollution and waste management, which benefits the environment.

Consumer protection: The EU Charter for Fundamental Rights ensures all shoppers receive fair treatment as buyers, their products meet acceptable standards and we have the right to return items if something goes wrong.

Food labeling: The EU has also been instrumental in ensuring that food producers correctly label their products. This relates allergy information, nutritional information, as well as origin information of where food is produced.

This article didn’t set out to tell you how to vote, but simply to remind you that we all have an important decision to make. Ensure you’re going to the polls as an informed citizen on June 23rd, not having been swayed by Nigel Farage’s “the immigrants are coming” sound bites, or David Cameron’s power trip speeches. It must be a decision you have reached on your own accord, don’t let a few make a decision for the many.

For more comprehensive articles detailing what the EU has done for the UK and how it affects us please look here, here and here

Are international talks on global warming just hot air?

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Flickr/Khuroshvili Ilya

Research by: Phillip Baker, Sam Fletcher, Jonathan Parker, Josh Kneale and Abi Simons.

Global Warming is a term rife throughout media – be it mainstream, counter-cultural or social. Coverage of issues surrounding climate change is as such that nigh on everyone has an opinion. Its ever-presence in the political world is seen, in one Guardian article, as a means of ‘fear mongering by governments’. Yet scientists have inarguably learned that there are several Greenhouse Gases responsible for warming on our planet.

Discussing the issue in detail would require conjecture of great depth. Regardless, attention seems to have turned to how best to respond. This article will focus instead on Climate Agreements and how they’re (mis)represented in many fields of media.

Political posturing in Paris

As it stands, extensive scientific observation and attention from political sects lead to a yearly convention that consider responses to the ongoing issue. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emerged in 1992, and each year the represented countries gather to evaluate and update development plans. The convention that took place in Paris in December 2015 was the 21st such meet and is referred to as COP21. It resulted in The Paris Agreement, the goals articulated in the Agreement are:

  • Limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius, with further hope of this number being 1.5 degrees
  • Achieving 0 net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by second half of 21st century
  • To increase the capability of countries to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • For developed nations providing $100bn annually to developing nations to help them combat climate change

The third objective there seems like a wholehearted, unoriginal, over zealous and over-hopeful generalisation of the previous two, when achieving them seems to be in question. The global temperature rise in relation to pre-industrial levels reached the 1 degree mark in 2015. Internationally, we have passed the half way mark for a goal set out by numerous COP agreements. Considering the delay on implementation of these deals, limiting the rise may be insurmountable by the time COP21 comes into action.

The Paris Agreement received widespread and largely favourable media attention following its announcement. The fact is that these are not a legally binding set of goals that the ‘World’, or at least the collective 196 countries that participated, are obligated to achieve by a certain time.

The Paris Agreement, as it is now, is little but a hollow threat of action; it’s little more than loosely pursued numbers and tasks. Until 55 countries that constitute 55% of the world’s emissions agree to ratify the agreement, there exists no strict control over their pursuit. For this to occur, as can be seen in the image below, the U.S and China’s ratification will be required. Although President Obama and General Secretary Xi Jinping ‘agreed’ to limit greenhouse emissions in 2014, the stark industrial re-shaping that this would require in the short term is scarce imaginable.

the top 40 CO2 emitting countries and related in the world in 1990 and 2012, including per capita figures. The data is taken from the EU Edgar database.

The top 40 CO2 emitting countries and related in the world in 1990 and 2012, including per capita figures. The data is taken from the EU Edgar database.

Each country that contributed to the agreement (if not its ratification) submitted a Nationally Determined Contribution: a voluntary climate plan specifying their own goals and targets. Once again, these are not binding and are likely that way to have ensured the participation of major emitting countries. As of February 2016, only Fiji has formally ratified the Agreement.

A history of inaction

It’s worth exploring briefly the results of previous Climate Committee meetings, and how they have developed into the most current set.

The Kyoto Protocol, agreed at COP3 in 1997, has to this date amassed 192 signatures of ratification. Actual implementation of the agreed changes did not occur until 2005. That’s 8 years of lag-time between promise pledge and firm framework. This has continued. China ratified and agreed to the protocol’s cuts. The U.S. however, did not.

It seems to corroborate comments that judge Kyoto as a failure, down primarily to “countries not actually living up to their commitments or staying with the Agreement”.

Revisions of the protocol and general Climate responses, in terms of application and monitoring at least, have been in a state of perpetual delay. This includes The Doha Amendment, which was similarly troublesome. The ratification of the Paris Agreement will occur from 2015-2020, and only in 2021 will it come into action. At the Doha conference (2012), executive director of the UNFCCC, Christina Figueres, noted the “ever increasing gap between the actions of countries and what the science tells us”. Her words mark the insignificant changes that occur – post UNFCCC’s pledge – to reduce and stabilise anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gases, and limiting their effect, has been and continues to be a major aspect of geo-political relations ever since COP was established. Since then, despite each Conference being termed a ‘last hope’ of global response, the progress of the pursuit has shifted merely from unspecified desires to specified desires – without at any point implementing a plausible framework for completion. What we were subjected to in mainstream media was the crest of a powerful wave, a promise of imminently implemented change. The wave itself seems to be less assured.

As of now, we can only hope that the UN are right – they claim over 130 countries (including the U.S and China) are poised to sign in late April, thus ratifying and legally binding their involvement in the agreement. If this rings true then the perpetual delay regime of prior agreements may be overturned.

This post is written in collaboration with The Richardson Institute. 

Why does the West turn a blind eye to Eritrea?

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Flickr/Roberto Maldeno refugee camp at Tsorona Eritrea

 

Research by: Phillip Baker, Sam Fletcher, Jonathan Parker, Josh Kneale and Abi Simons.

Eritrea is a country that seldom makes the headlines, indeed it is a state that most Europeans haven’t even heard of, but Eritrea currently has huge implications for the future of Europe. Amidst the migrant crisis that is bringing millions to the shores of the continent, it is often overlooked that a large proportion of the refugees are not fleeing form the more widely known crises in Syria, but from the incredibly oppressive and brutal regime that governs Eritrea – a state from which 5,000 of its citizens flee from each month.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea forms a long strip of coastal land bordering Ethiopia, a country which it was governed by for many decades. A 30 year long war of independence devastated the country until the final victory over Ethiopian forces in 1991. Independence was recognised by the international community in 1993, and the Eritrean struggle for freedom has been hailed as a “major feat of a people’s fight for self-determination.

But in the years since independence no national elections have been held. They are repeatedly postponed, and the country has fallen under the grip of an oppressive regime in which only one political party is allowed to function – the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice – and all independent private media was closed down.

This has meant that the rest of the world is subject to an information blackout about the country, and independent accounts of what is happening there are incredibly hard to come by. What little is known about the country’s internal affairs indicate the existence of what has been described as a ‘totalitarian state’ that carries out constant surveillance of its people, causing the population to live in constant fear.

Human Rights Watch reports that the abuses committed against the Eritrean people include; “forced labor during conscription, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances. Other abuses include torture, degrading treatment in detention, restrictions on freedoms of expression and movement, and repression of religious freedom”.

There is no freedom of movement, and permits are required for people to move out of their communities. Religious persecution is also rife. The government officially recognises four religions; the Eritrean Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the Lutheran church and Sunni Islam. But followers of all other religious beliefs are subject to harassment by the state and can be subject to arbitrary arrest, which is not a pleasant fate especially considering the appalling conditions reported in Eritrean prisons.

But the main cause of the mass exodus of Eritreans is usually held to be its system of conscription. While many European nations still practice conscription, this is only a few years national service. But Eritrean conscription is in reality a form of slavery; most of the population spends their life on national service with no given end date. A scathing UN report on the subject stated that conscripted Eritreans are subject to “the systematic violation of an array of human rights on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world.”

There seems to be little prospect of the situation in Eritrea changing, the President has explicitly denied democracy will be introduced and in 2014 he stated that “[I]f there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or [a] multiparty system in this country … then that person can think of such things in another world.

International criticism of the Eritrean regime has not been especially forthcoming, if western nations think of the country at all they think in terms of the unwanted asylum seekers it brings to their borders. The European response so far has been to try and stem the flow of asylum seekers by preparing a large aid package to develop the country, and not to try and dismantle the repressive government which is causing the exodus. Meanwhile the tragedy that is the plight of the Eritrean people continues unabated.

This post is written in collaboration with The Richardson Institute.