Archive for the 'Equality and Diversity' Category

Murder, bloodshed, dictatorship and resistance: becoming a woman in power

Torild Skard

Torild Skard

Policy Press author and guest blogger Torild Skard reflects on what it has taken for women to be the political power in their countries in the 50 years between 1960 and 2010.  

Torild Skard is a Senior Researcher in Women’s Studies at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, specialising in women in politics. A pioneer in the women’s movement nationally and internationally, she was formerly a MP and the first woman President of the Norwegian Upper House. She has also been Director for the Status of Women in UNESCO Paris, Regional Director in UNICEF West- and Central Africa and Director General in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has written numerous books and articles on women’s issues, particularly women in politics and travels widely studying and promoting the status of women.

Her book, Women of power, written from a position of ‘insider knowledge’, charts the lives and careers of women as they finally moved onto the central political stage, published at the end of July.

 

IN THE COURSE of 50 years 73 women have become presidents or prime ministers globally. As newcomers to political leadership, who fought opposition and prejudice to get there, many also came to power in times of crisis.

Unrest and armed conflict, transition from authoritarian to democratic rule and depression with poverty and social distress were all challenges many of the women national leaders had to deal with in and as part of coming to power.

LIDIA_GUEILER_TEJADA

Lidia Güeiler Tejada

Facing the military in Bolivia

In 1979 accountant Lidia Güeiler Tejada became president of Bolivia. Bolivia was one of the poorest countries in Latin-America with a record in military coups. Güeiler had had a long career struggling for human rights, fought in the underground resistance, was active in party politics and in 1956 was the first woman elected to Congress. When the military took over, she spent years in prison and exile, but did not give up. In 1978 she was re-elected and became president of the Chamber of Deputies

In 1978 the long-time dictator finally accepted that he must hold elections, and a chaotic period followed. An interim government was formed, but it was soon overthrown by the military. People protested and Güeiler became the country’s first woman president.

In spite of the turbulence and insecurity, Güeiler took on the role of interim president and pressed ahead with firm determination. But it did not last long. The military seized power again and Güeiler had to flee the country.

Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina

Fighting for democracy in Bangladesh
At its independence in 1971, Bangladesh was overpopulated and devastated by war. Agriculture was primitive and the land was ravaged by floods and storms. In spite of extensive development efforts, dissatisfaction was growing and Mujibur Rahman, the ‘Father of the Nation’, responded by declaring a state of emergency so that he could rule with greater authority. But this provoked negative reactions, and in 1975 he was killed by military in his home. General Zia took power and gradually moved towards a more democratic system. But then he was murdered by a group of officers. General Ershad replaced him and re-imposed a state of emergency with authoritarian rule.

Khaledia Zia

Khaleda Zia

The two politicians who, more than any others, took up the struggle for democracy, were women. Sheikh Hasina became leader of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National Party. They struggled for years organising demonstrations and strikes and both were imprisoned several times. But they persisted, even though Muslim leaders claimed that female leadership was in conflict with Islam, and close relatives of both of them were assassinated: Sheikh Hasina was the daughter of Mujibur Rahman and Khaleda Zia was General Zia’s widow. Finally in 1991 elections were held and the two women became prime ministers, one after the other.

Sylvie Kinigi

Sylvie Kinigi

Ethnic tensions in Central Africa
Central Africa was marked by intense conflicts between Hutus and Tutsis and two women were brought in as national leaders to promote reconciliation. Until the 1990s the regimes in Burundi and Rwanda were authoritarian with violence and mass killings. Then efforts to democratise started. In Burundi in 1993, a Hutu president was elected and he appointed Sylvie Kinigi as prime minster. In addition to being a capable economist, she was Tutsi. But three months later while massacres took place in the countryside, Tutsi paratroopers stormed the palace and killed the president. Kinigi sought refuge in the French Embassy.

Suddenly Kinigi was both president and prime minister. After 11 days she left the embassy to talk with survivors and army factions. She managed to create some order and the Parliament elected a new president. But ethnic violence continued and she was the subject of criticism, threats and attacks from all sides. She resigned as prime minister and went abroad. She survived; her female colleague in Rwanda did not.

In 1990, Tutsi refugees in exile created the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF, and invaded Rwanda. They demanded an end to the authoritarian regime of the Hutu president Habyarimana. He established a coalition government with members from the opposition, among them Agatha Uwilingiyimana. She was a teacher and Hutu. First she became minister of education, then in 1993 prime minister. She managed to negotiate a peace agreement with the RPF, but before a new government could take over, the presidential airplane was shot down. It is not clear who fired the shot, but the incident led to widespread murders of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi and both Agatha Uwilingiyimana and her husband were killed.

Brutal sexism in France and Australia
Over the period 1960 – 2010 economic and political crises were most frequent in developing and Eastern industrial countries. But even in ‘stable’, ‘calm’ Western democracies women leaders experienced challenging situations.

Edith Cresson

Edith Cresson

In France in 1991 President Mitterand appointed Edith Cresson as the first woman prime minister. He wanted to be radical and modern, but the male ‘barons’ in the party were furious, refused to support her and opposed her initiatives and policies. Before she even said a word, the media labelled Cresson a ‘media bluff’ and a ‘poor puppet’. She was Mitterand’s ‘sexy slave’ and was ridiculed because of her ‘frivolous’ jewellery and high-pitched voice. Cresson fought back, but before a year had passed, she had been dismissed by the one who appointed her.

Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard

In Australia twenty years later the situation was no better. The first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, became the object of cruel sexist attacks. The media called her a ‘bitch’ and a ‘liar’. There was hate speech against her on Facebook and cartoons were published depicting a naked Prime Minister wearing a dildo.

Women of Power by Torild Skard, author of ‘Women of power’, published by Policy Press on 30 July.

Why it’s the right time for a Citizen’s Income

Malcolm Torry

Malcolm Torry

By Malcolm Torry, author of Money for everyone, new this month

A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, nonwithdrawable income for every individual as a right of citizenship. It’s unconditional: that is, any two working age adults would receive exactly the same amount, no matter how different the amounts they earn, the assets they own, or the households in which they live. Every person over retirement age would receive the same larger amount. And every child would receive the same as any other child. A Citizen’s Income is nonwithdrawable: that is, if you earn additional income, your Citizen’s Income remains the same. And it’s for every individual: so it’s not reduced if you’re living with someone else, or the person you’re living with earns some additional income.

In all of these respects a Citizen’s Income is the opposite of our current means-tested benefits. Means-tested benefits are conditional: on looking for work, or on being ill, on how much you earn, on who you’re living with, and on how much they earn. Means-tested benefits are withdrawable: so if you earn some additional income then your benefits are reduced – and you will often receive only 15p of any extra £1 you earn, or sometimes only 5p. And means-tested benefits are not always paid to the individual, because for a couple living together only one of them receives the means-tested benefit, whether that’s Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, so-called Tax Credits, or, in the future, so-called Universal Credit.

Is Citizen’s Income affordable? Details of costs can be found at http://www.citizensincome.org. For example, the FAQs on the website include a report on a feasible revenue-neutral Citizen’s Income scheme that grants a Citizen’s Income of £51.85 weekly to every child and every adult up to the age of 24, £65.45 to adults older than 24 and younger than 65, and £132.60 to everyone over 65 years old (a Citizen’s Pension).

Several recent books have suggested that a Citizen’s Income would be an important part of the answer to the growing inequality and other problems that our society faces today: but the last book to offer anything like an exploration of the subject as a whole, and of the arguments for and against a Citizen’s Income for the UK, was published over ten years ago. Money for everyone fills a significant gap. It argues for a Citizen’s Income on the basis that this is the kind of benefits system that we would invent if we were starting from scratch, and on the basis that a Citizen’s Income would solve many of the problems facing our society and our economy. It would provide a greater incentive to seek additional earned income (because it wouldn’t be withdrawn as earned income rises); it would be efficient and cheap to administer, it could attract almost no fraud, and there would be almost no errors in its payment (unlike our current benefits system); no stigma would attach to receiving it (because everybody would receive it); it would increase social cohesion (unlike our present tax and benefits structure, which divides us into benefits recipients and tax-payers); it would set us free from bureaucratic intrusion (whereas the present benefits system imposes cohabitation rules on us, meaning that civil servants need to know who is living with whom); and the radical simplicity of a Citizen’s Income would future-proof it (unlike our present benefits system, which belongs in the 1930s).

Money for everyone surveys the history of our benefits system, and of attempts at reforming it, and it suggests different ways of implementing a Citizen’s Income. It describes the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, Iran’s new Citizen’s Income paid to households, and pilot projects in Namibia and India. It constructs a list of criteria for an ideal benefits system, and finds that a Citizen’s Income would satisfy them but that our current largely means-tested system does not. The book asks the important question: Would people still work if they received a Citizen’s Income? – and finds that they would. Further chapters describe a Citizen’s Income as an answer to poverty, inequality, and injustice; ask who should receive a Citizen’s Income; study financial feasibility; discuss political feasibility; and ask which problems a Citizen’s Income would not solve.

Changing society and changing economy need a Citizen’s Income; Money for everyone shows that a Citizen’s Income is both desirable and feasible.

Money for everyone is available to buy with 20% discount at www.policypress.co.uk

 

The Day After

World Report 2013

World Report 2013

by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Excerpt from the introduction to Human Rights Watch’s twenty-third annual World Report. The complete introduction is available at http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/essays/day-after

Two years into the Arab Spring, euphoria seems a thing of the past. The heady days of protest and triumph have been replaced by outrage at the atrocities in Syria, frustration that the region’s monarchs remain largely immune to pressure for reform, fear that the uprisings’ biggest winners are Islamists who might limit the rights of women, minorities, and dissidents, and disappointment that even in countries that have experienced a change of regime, fundamental change has been slow and unsteady. Difficult as it is to end abusive rule, the hardest part may well be the day after.

It should be no surprise that building a rights-respecting democracy on a legacy of repression is not easy. The transitions from communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union yielded many democracies, but also many dictatorships. Latin America’s democratic evolution over the past two decades has been anything but linear. Progress in Asia and Africa has been uneven and sporadic. Even the European Union, which has successfully made democratic reform and respect for human rights conditions of membership, has had a harder time curbing authoritarian impulses once countries—most recently Hungary and Romania—became members.

Moreover, those who excelled at overthrowing the autocrat are often not best placed to build a governing majority. The art of protest does not necessarily match the skills needed for governing. And allies in ousting a despot are sometimes not the best partners for replacing despotism.

But those who pine for the familiar days of dictatorship should remember that the uncertainties of freedom are no reason to revert to the enforced predictability of authoritarian rule. The path ahead may be treacherous, but the unthinkable alternative is to consign entire peoples to a grim future of oppression.

Building a rights-respecting state may not be as exhilarating as toppling an abusive regime. It can be painstaking work to construct effective institutions of governance, establish independent courts, create professional police units, and train public officials to uphold human rights and the rule of law. But these tasks are essential if revolution is not to become a byway to repression by another name.

The past year offers some key lessons for success in this venture—as valid globally as they are for the states at the heart of the Arab Spring. There are lessons for both the nations undergoing revolutionary change and the international community.

[...]

The Arab Spring continues to give rise to hope for an improved human rights environment in one of the regions of the world that has been most resistant to democratic change. Yet it also spotlights the tension between majority rule and respect for rights. It is of enormous importance to the people of the region–and the world–that this tension be resolved with respect for international standards. A positive resolution will require acts of great statesmanship among the region’s new leaders. But it will also require consistent, principled support from the most influential outsiders. No one pretends it will be easy to get this right. But no one can doubt the importance of doing so.

The Arab Spring has inspired people the world over, encouraging many to stand up to their own autocratic rulers. As its leaders act at home, they also set an example for the world. Much is riding on making this precedent positive—one that succeeds in building elected governments that live by the constraints of rights and the rule of law.

World Report 2013 is now available to buy from www.policypress.co.uk

Why do we need a Census?

Image

Danny Dorling

by Danny Dorling, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield

The Census held in 2011 could well be the last of its kind. There is currently a review underway, but already government has proposed that there be no traditional Census held in 2021. A two-century-old decadal tradition, interrupted only by World War Two, is currently ear-marked to end.

I do not believe it, but I am told that if the current government decision is not reversed during 2013, then there will be no budget for another Census and too little time to reinstate it in the planning, even if there is a change of governing party in 2015. What is so odd about all this is that the Census is a cheap, old-fashioned, rather conservative survey. A Coalition that believes in small government would normally be expected to favour a Census over most of the workable alternatives, unless it would rather there were no reckoning at all.

Other countries have population registers so they know how many people there are and how they are coming and going, but the current UK government is opposed to ID cards and hence a population register. Several Scandinavian countries put their registers on-line including information on the tax paid by each individual so that everyone is able to check and ensure there is no evasion. I don’t think this is what the UK government had in mind when it announced the end of the Census, but maybe I am too pessimistic.

The Census allows social scientists to determine in what direction the trends are going. Within a week of the 2011 results being published, Ludi Simpson and Stephen Jivraj, on behalf of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at The University of Manchester, had analysed the results and determined that every single ethnic minority group within England and Wales had become more dispersed geographically despite rising in numbers in most cases. The same was true of every religion group except for the Jewish religion [1]. These findings can be downloaded here.

In the week before Simpson and Jivraj’s analysis was complete, the UK press had already decided that the rising numbers of many groups of people born outside of Britain meant that there had to be ethnic polarization within Britain. They were wrong, and because we had a Census and hence data for every local authority, it was possible to show that they were wrong. Without a Census we would not know.

Without a Census we will have no idea about how our towns and cities are changing. We will not know whether we are more all in it together, or if we are polarizing yet more economically while still mixing more by ethnicity. If there is not even an adequate replacement for the basic counts of people by age and sex in small areas then we will not be able to determine whether life expectancy has begun to fall in any area in the years to come. It last fell in particular places for particular groups during the 1930s depression.

Without a Census in 2021 there will be no graphs of the kind shown in the University of Manchester report. The shrillest voices will win over the most informed. Without a Census we will not know if there are actually enough bedrooms for all to be housed and where they are, we will not know who is working at more than one job, for too many hours, and who has too little work. We will not know where children are doing worse at school in a way that allows us to take account of all children (not just those at school and in the state-schools records) and we will not know where their prospects are most favourable when measured more widely. We will not know what it is that we are all together in, and how it has changed.

1.    From ‘ More segregation or more mixing?’ briefing document from The Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). A pdf can be downloaded here http://www.ethnicity.ac.uk/census/

The only real alternative to the exploitation of migrants is genuine grassroot organising

Vittorio Longhi

Vittorio Longhi

To mark International Migrants Day (18th December), Vittorio Longhi, author of The immigrant war, discusses the exploitation of migrants and how to overcome this.

Every day an average of two coffins arrive at the international airport of Kathmandu.

They are bringing back the corpses of Nepali migrants who went to work in the Middle East or in the Persian Gulf.  According to the authorities they die in accidents, particularly on building sites or in road accidents. But many are murdered by traffickers, and many others, especially women, commit suicide because of sexual abuse and harassment.

In the Americas in the last ten years, about 2,000 people have died trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. These deaths are usually due to exposure or dehydration – as the migrants cross the deserts of Arizona – but also drowning, in the case of those trying to cross the rivers. The most striking number, however, refers to Latino migrants who are kidnapped by criminal gangs and killed because they fail to pay a ransom.

As for those who have tried to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean, it is estimated that since 1990 at least 20,000 people have died.

These are not the numbers of mere accidents, these are the numbers of an actual war: a war against immigrants.

And the conflict does not relate only to the undocumented nor does it stop at the borders. Even when migrants succeed in obtaining a legal work permit, pulled by the labour demand of richer countries, they are still faced with violation of core rights. Historically, the worst jobs with the hardest working conditions and the least pay are reserved for migrants. In addition to this, they often face discrimination and exploitation,  and even  xenophobic and racist attacks.

This happens even more frequently in times of economic crisis, when migrants are seen as competitors in the local labour market and therefore a target and an easy scapegoat for public anger against widespread unemployment.

How sustainable is the current migration system in the long term? What is the international community doing about it? How can we manage migration realistically, giving people both dignity and safety?

The migration question has certainly not been resolved by militarising borders further or by reducing visas and permits, often following domestic political agendas, instead of a realistic evaluation of actual social, labour demand and development needs.

The global phenomenon of contemporary migration cannot be left to the decisions and solutions of individual states.

There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to develop effective cooperation through regional agreements within the scope of multilateral relationships between industrialised countries and developing countries.

However, the governments of receiving countries are reluctant about the possibility of global migration governance. They are unwilling to transfer the power over border control and the conditions under which migrants stay on their territories to some supranational body.

Oddly, the governments of sending countries also do not seem keen on enforcing a binding regulatory system that would interfere with their ability to supply cheap labour to richer countries and benefit from their remittances.

As for the international community, none of the UN agencies and other international bodies that deal with migration issues, from the ILO to the IOM, now has the role of coordinating national or regional policies, let alone carrying out a function that is binding on individual states.

The existing international treaties that try to regulate labour migration and ensure safety and dignity along the whole migration route, have been ratified and implemented by a relatively small number of states, and rarely from richer receiving countries.

Therefore, the only concrete, immediate, alternative to further exploitation and violation of human rights is genuine grassroots organising by migrants.

This phenomenon has come to the surface in the last few years, and this has happened in different manners and places. A new generation of migrant workers is revealing all its potential for conflict, as migrants change from being passive victims of exploitation to become new, conscious social agents, capable of fighting for their own rights and contributing to the revival of a wider protest.

Whether it is the struggles of Asian workers in the building sites of Dubai, of the Mexican farm labourers in the fields of California, of the undocumented African cooks in the restaurants of Paris or of the Moroccan metalworkers in Italian factories, migrants are more and more determined to bring labour back to the centre of contemporary societies.

These struggles, although spontaneous and uncoordinated, are connected to the multitudes of the Occupy movement and the Arab uprisings; all show people wanting to restore dignity to labour, social justice and a future to new generations – of migrants and locals together.

Vittorio Longhi is the author of The immigrant war, available to order with 20% discount from the Policy Press website.

New directions in research and policy ‘with’ and ‘for’ Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

Andrew Ryder

Andrew Ryder, co-editor of Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society

by Andrew Ryder, co-editor of Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

In the past, academia and Gypsy Lorists have conducted research ‘on’ rather than ‘for’ and ‘with’ Gypsy, Roma Traveller communities. Since Acton’s groundbreaking publication Gypsy Politics and Social Change in 1974, there has been a growing movement away from such hierarchical approaches. The publication of Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society provides a platform for current UK ‘voice scholarship’ on Gypsy, Roma Traveller issues.

Many of the book’s authors have fused research with practice and activism. The book demonstrates the values of such emerging research approaches and their validity in policy formation at a national and European level. Such processes are, in theory at least, set to be given greater impetus through the establishment by the European Union of a Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. The EU Roma Framework places an emphasis on engagement and deliberation with Roma communities, within which inclusive forms of research can play a pivotal role in facilitating dialogue, policy design and measuring progress.

Another point of importance is that academia in this field is coalescing within the European Academic Network on Romani Studies . This is being sponsored by the EU and Council of Europe and aims to “…facilitate intercultural dialogue and support efforts towards the social inclusion of Romani citizens in Europe. The project raises the visibility of existing research and fosters cooperation with policymakers, by providing evidence for better conceived policy initiatives”. Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British Society seeks to achieve similar objectives not just in reviewing the progress of social inclusion agendas at a UK and European level but also in adopting an intercultural approach facilitating debates on identity and diversity.

The book argues that inclusion may necessitate a paradigm shift in the UK and Europe from neoliberalism, and from what has been described as the ‘race to the bottom’. This is where nation states reduce welfare and intervention to make themselves more competitive and attractive to investors but where, through notions of the ‘small state’, they increasingly stand on the ‘sidelines’ and fail to intervene or challenge inequality. Evidence suggests that the adoption of neoliberal economic policies has come at a high price for Roma communities now confronted with the legacy of deindustrialisation, namely mass unemployment but also the role of scapegoat.

An alternative is presented in ‘global responsibility’, which is embedded in social justice and human rights. It is a worldview that seeks to promote responsible citizenship worldwide, based on the principles of solidarity and the dignity of the human person and the common good, and offers a global counter-hegemonic discourse.

Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society, edited by Joanna Richardson and Andrew Ryder, published on 12 September 2012 and can be ordered now at 20% discount from the Policy Press website.

Are Gypsies and Travellers likely to be more included in local communities following the introduction of new planning policy by the Government?

Gypsies and travellers book cover

‘Gypsies and travellers’, published this week

By Joanna Richardson, co-editor of Gypsies and Travellers and Principal Lecturer in housing at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Councils across England are looking at the impact of new planning policy introduced earlier this year by the Government. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its accompanying document the new Planning Policy for Traveller Sites requires local authorities to have an up-to-date body of evidence on need for Gypsy and Traveller sites and also to have identified a rolling five-year supply of land that could help in the deliverability of sites.

A decision made by the Planning Inspectorate in Hull that, due to a lack of up-to-date evidence, the development strategy was ‘unsound’, as reported by Inside Housing, has already created some anxiety amongst those councils who have not updated their Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments, or identified land to include in core strategies. There is nervousness that planning decisions will be appealed in the future unless updated evidence is included in strategies now.

It is right that local authorities should concern themselves with planning and deliverability of sites, as the NPPF does create this impetus to ensure evidence on accommodation need and land supply is included in strategies. However, the challenge does not stop here; there is a need for councils to be concerned about actually delivering sites; and not just private sites but also affordable sites too.  Deliverability of sites is a hugely contentious issue as I found in my Joseph Rowntree Foundation research back in 2007 and this has not eased much since then.   

However, there are many more issues facing Gypsy and Traveller communities which flow out of a lack of accommodation, not least the seeming hostility to Gypsies and Traveller in many communities. There are health problems, challenges in accessing education and employment and seeming tensions in the justice system played out to the world during the eviction at Dale Farm. The media and politicians have a role too and the discourse in our newspapers, television and online has not got any more responsible and balanced than examples demonstrated for some original research I carried out for my book The Gypsy Debate published in 2006. 

The recent research undertaken as part of writing Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society,  a new book co-edited with Andrew Ryder and including a number of renowned experts including from the Gypsy and Traveller communities, demonstrates that objection to new sites is still strong in many local communities. One co-author, Maggie Smith-Bendell, has lived this experience for decades and provides a compelling first-hand account in the chapter on accommodation needs and planning issues. Another primary eye-witness account from the Gypsy community comes from Richard O’Neill who discusses the challenges he faced in trying to monitor press representation of travelling communities and hold them to account. Other chapters in the book include an examination of health, education, social work and employment issues written by academic experts in their fields. My co-editor and author Andrew Ryder writes with Iulius Rostas on the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies so that the wider view can be taken and reflections made on progress for Gypsies and Traveller empowerment and inclusion in British society.

Our book shows that whilst there have been many changes in the political and economic context for Britain, the challenges faced by Gypsies and Travellers in this country are still severe and action is needed, now.

Gypsies and Travellers: Empowerment and inclusion in British society, edited by Joanna Richardson and Andrew Ryder, is published on 12 September 2012 and can be ordered now at 20% discount from the Policy Press website.


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