Policy Brief Issue 5: December 2021

SECTARIANISM IN PAKISTAN: COUNTERACTING RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Reimagining Human Rights at home

December 10 is Human Rights Day, a date which celebrates the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s theme is reducing inequalities and advancing human rights.

In Britain, poor human rights are widely regarded as an issue that other nations face rather than a domestic issue. David Cameron declared in 2012 that Britain had a long history of respect and advocacy of human rights, citing the Magna Carta and referencing British involvement in Libya as further evidence of British support for human rights

This widespread perception of human rights as a solely foreign issue fails to confront the fact that Britain is not, either currently or historically, a paradise for human rights. Cameron referenced abolition of slavery as evidence of Britain’s respect of human rights, neglecting to mention Britain’s extensive role in the slave trade and history of colonialism, both of which can be considered to be such extreme violations of human rights that they continue to have devastating impacts to this day. 

Modern day Britain also is the site of repeated human rights violations. Refugee and migrant rights in Britain, especially the right to freedom of movement, have been repeatedly undermined by the British government. Home secretary Priti Patel is currently planning to ‘pushback’ refugees on small boats in the Channel, a policy which if it takes place will arguably violate the refugee convention. The Immigration Act, passed in November 2020, ended free movement and created a points-based immigration system.  

Human rights violations are also evident in the British police force. Discrimination in policing is rife, with Covid-19 lockdown fines disproportionately targeting Black and Asian Britons

In May 2020, London police carried out nearly 44,000 stop and searches related to Covid lockdowns, of which 10,000 were aimed at young black men. Black people in Britain are not only more likely to be stopped and searched, but they are also significantly more likely to be victims of police brutality, with black people eight times more likely to have a Taser used against them than white people in 2018 and 2019. The British government is not only guilty of allowing and causing human rights violations domestically, but also abroad. £17 billion of UK arms were sold to human rights abusers over the past decade, including the sale of £9.3 million of rifles to Libya, and the sale of over 50% of the combat aircraft used by Saudi Arabia against Yemen. This figure does not include the sales of arms to nations which are British allies, but which have also used these arms to commit human rights abuses, such as the American use of British arms to use excessive force against Black Lives Matter protestors

While the UN Human Rights Council visited Britain and criticised racial discrimination in 2019, this criticism has seemingly been the full extent of the UN’s action. The UN’s recommendations for action on racial discrimination have not been enforced. Nor has there been any substantive effort from the British government, who are sometimes the perpetrators of human rights violations, to improve the nation’s human rights record. The British government has failed to challenge perceptions of the UK as a human rights haven, or confront its own complicity. 

On Human Rights Day (and always), it is vital to challenge any understanding of human rights which does not acknowledge that human rights abuses can occur anywhere, and can be committed by governments who may view themselves as proponents of human rights abroad.  Human rights abuses can take place close to home, and we need to recognise this in order to truly support human rights globally. 

Image Wikimedia

Toxic Waste Mountain: How The Occupation Also Harms Israelis

Israel is explicit about the objective of its supposedly sustainable projects: to achieve full sovereignty over “the lands of Judea and Samaria” by whatever means necessary, i.e. present-day Israel combined with its occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. Let’s imagine this objective were to magically be achieved overnight: Israel would literally have a mountain of toxic waste on its hands. 

Israel uses the West Bank as a dumping ground for its own waste and the waste from illegal settlements. Israel also systematically denies Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza suitable access to resources and infrastructure for the responsible management of their own waste. This has led to the widespread adoption of unsafe waste disposal practices in the area. Israel is attempting to circumscribe both the Palestinian people and all of the waste in the region within its eight meter walls, and it will eventually fail on both counts. The ongoing imprisonment of the Palestinian people seems to thus entail the ongoing degredation of the lands by Israelis; both practices continue to harm their intended Palestinian victims as well as unintentionally backfiring on Israelis.

Let’s be clear– the occupation of Palestine is a war crime violating a seventy-three-year-long list of human rights; it is wholly inappropriate to compare the suffering of an Israeli to that of a Palestinian. In addition to our awareness about the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation harms Palestinians, it is also important to pay attention to the ways that the occupation harms Israelis: when a bare foot in the grass crushes an unsuspecting bee, the bee is killed– but not before leaving a nasty sting. 

Israel and Palestine are enmeshed in a relationship of coloniser- colonised “stuckedness” as explained by Ghassan Hage: they are bound to one another, destined to be doomed or flourish collectively. Hage states that no matter what, they are in fact “stuck with each other.” Building on this concept of stuckedness, the June 2020 UN report illustrates that Palestinians and Israelis are stuck with their collective toxic waste as much as with each other.

Achille Mbembe’s conceptualization of the “racist affects” of borderwork explains that the Israeli borderworkers are expected to inflict injury on the Palestinian ‘other.’ The omnipresence of “racists affects” within Israeli society have not only perpetuated the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians, but has also led to widespread trauma and chronic mental illness among the Israeli population of indentured soldiers. But there is a third loser in this war: the ‘sacred’ land on which it’s waged. Mbembe shows us that Israelis are encouraged to undertake unsustainable environmental practices (like the mass dumping of toxic waste) as one of many tools for inflicting harm on the Palestinians. These practices are backfiring: poisoning the neighbours’ garden harms yours too, especially when you’re actively stealing their land.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech on stage during a meeting at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Obsessive anti-Israel bias': Erdan rips up human rights report at UN podium  | The Times of Israel

Two events last month encapsulate the hypocrisy of Israel’s greenwashing. Israeli PM Bennett was outspoken at COP26 about Israel’s green-tech ‘innovations’ and its self-declaration of ‘successfully’ having implemented the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Elsewhere, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN tore up the annual human rights report on the podium at the UN General Assembly. By using the global stage at COP26 to greenwash Israel’s inherently unsustainable practices, the international community itself is not just greenwashing but also gaslighting the continuation of Israel’s human rights violations and war crimes. Israel’s allegedly “successful” implementation of the SDG’s serves as an offensive cover-up for their policy of genocide and environmental degradation, and also as state approval for the continuation of unsafe practices like toxic waste disposal in the West Bank. These Israeli efforts to destroy Palestinian land are destroying all the lands for all those in its midst, and eventually the toxic waste will be the last one standing.

Environmental Peacekeeping – the Future of Diplomacy?

We know that global warming is accelerating volatile weather and putting a strain on natural resources. But do we really know the true breadth of its implications? 

Environmental peacekeeping is a relatively nascent field, emerging at the start of the 21st century. It offers a new, ‘green’ lens for examining peacebuilding in conflict zones and is attracting the attention of practitioners and academics alike. This dynamic interdisciplinary field has huge practical value, exploring how environmental resources can empower and unite conflicting groups. Its exciting and inclusive approach is opening up new dialogues and fresh perspectives on conflict resolution. Although research into environmental peacekeeping still has further to go, it already implies that solving armed conflicts and the climate emergency go hand-in-hand and are by no means insurmountable. 

Extreme weather is particularly problematic in what is often referred to as the Global South. This is an appellation for some of the most economically poorer regions which were exploited by former colonial regimes and the neoliberalist systems persisting today. The countries which contribute the least to the Earth’s rising temperatures are disproportionately the most impacted by its effects. For instance, increasing drought frequency, water scarcity, illness and food insecurity; all threaten people’s livelihood and security, which in turn can cause disputes that become violent. 

Even if a conflict isn’t directly caused by the climate, it still disrupts humankind’s ability to depend on the natural world. The use of arms and weapons pollute the air, soil and water, often releasing hazardous substances. Failing to address these after-effects can aggravate human suffering for years after. During the gulf wars, Western forces used depleted uranium for their weapons. A by-product of this radioactive material was poisonous dust which, through wind, polluted agriculture and local waters. More recently it has been linked to rising cancer rates, highlighting how environmental justice is tied to human health. Meanwhile, Daesh has committed crimes against both humanity and the environment. It has targeted rural areas, including the irrigation wells of farmers. In Al-Faw, a city in Southern Iraq, many blame the water and farming problems on the felling of date trees by the military during the Iran-Iraq war. Society has to recognise the link between our environment and armed conflict, as well as how the climate emergency is increasingly influencing the nature of conflicts. Ecology is an inextricable aspect of our lives. It is not enough to alleviate the symptoms of conflict in the short-term, we need a diplomatic approach that is more durable, equitable and which tackles the root cause.

A peaceful and prosperous world can sometimes seem beyond reach. The recent failure of world leaders at COP26 to commit to keeping warming levels below 1.5C has further dampened hopes. Our survival, the future generation’s, and that of our planet are intertwined. It is dangerous for us to become complacent and dismiss the environmental challenges with which our planet is grappling. When it comes to mediating conflict, the environment isn’t usually at the top of peacebuilding agendas; instead, de-escalation, humanitarian relief, political reconciliation and economic redevelopment are prioritised. Without a shadow of a doubt, these are vital priorities. Nevertheless, conflict-resolution should additionally account for how our environment shapes our experiences and quality of life. There is a need for us to apply our understanding of the climate crisis to managing natural resources and post-conflict rebuilding. Long-lasting solutions which factor in our planet’s health can help us break cyclical patterns of violence. Enter: environmental peacekeeping. 

For example, in the Sundarbans forest, the largest mangrove forest in the world, we see nature can foster interreligious and interethnic harmony between India and Bangladesh. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on ‘Conservation of the Sundarbans’ to streamline cooperation on the management and conservation of resources, ecotourism and sustainable socio-economic development.

In southern Africa, Peace Parks integrate natural conservation, economics and politics. These parks help manage large protected areas and migratory species, as well as producing alternative sources of income. As such, they play an important role in addressing the conflicting economic interests of local inhabitants as well as environmental conservation. Cooperation in respect to shared natural resources can forge common bonds which prevent violence, especially in climate-vulnerable and conflict-sensitive areas.

Climate change ultimately fans the flames that can ignite conflicts. When ecological degradation disrupts people’s access to the basic necessities of life, it can push people to join terrorist or armed groups for an alternative source of income and ‘stability’. Recognising the causal role of the climate in certain conflicts will enable us to tackle it more effectively. Through environment-oriented diplomacy, we can heal our relationship with the natural world. By pushing for local, national and international governments and peacekeeping bodies to develop a conflict-resolution toolkit we can save lives and livelihoods. Some of us may be extraordinarily privileged not to be directly affected by Earth’s temperature rise at the moment, yet it would be wrong to dismiss the gravity of global heating. If we don’t act, our own children may end up waging wars for water, food and other commodities. While this may make grim reading, the principles of environmental peacekeeping give us much room for hope. 

Image credit : Unsplash

Deeds, not words: Delhi gasps for breath

Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 400 units in October 2021, which is considered severe as per the scale developed by the Central Pollution Control Board. It is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Over the past few years, the discussion has centred on the health issues of its 30 million residents. Medical experts are clear: poor air quality leads to a number of respiratory problems, especially among the most vulnerable – children and the elderly. Dust particles from stubble burning in the farmlands of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana flow towards Delhi with a push from the North-western winds. This report by Vox explains the problem in detail and raises questions on the environmental importance of efficient agricultural practices. This continued issue highlights a critical lack of coordination between the state-level and central governments which is directly impacting the quality of life for Delhi residents.  

The Supreme Court of India had to step in to force the governments to chart a long-term plan to reduce the AQI. As a result, the Central Government has been ordered to devise an emergency plan in consultation with the Delhi and neighbouring states’ governments. The court heard the matter of Delhi’s pollution for the third time in 2021 alone and stated that ad hoc measures will not work to curb this problem. The court was responding to a petition filed by an 18-year-old environmental activist, Aditya Dubey who is seeking judicial intervention for measures to control worsening air quality in the city.

In response, the Delhi State Government introduced a 5 point plan to curb air pollution. The plan identified four key sources of air pollution and proposed solutions such as an anti-dust campaign, water sprinkling across areas with high dust emission, a ban on diesel generator sets, stopping open-burning of waste at landfills and spraying the bio-decomposer solution on 4000 acres of farmland within Delhi. It also proposed measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), such as banning coal furnaces, a key contributor to the city’s air pollution. Six of eleven coal powered plants in a 300 kilometres radius of Delhi have been temporarily shut and schools have been on a week-long leave as a part of the response. 
While these measures demonstrate an acknowledgement and an improvement in the response of the state government, they are not sufficient to address the critical issue which transcends state borders. The Delhi government has limited jurisdiction and is bound by geographical boundaries. The Central government must immediately intervene and, working with Delhi and surrounding state governments, generate a comprehensive and coherent emergency plan. Air pollution is an annual crisis for the city, making national and international headlines and impacting the health of an estimated 30 million people in the city. As the Supreme Court remarked, “This is the national capital. Look at the signal we are sending to the world”. It’s time for the Government of India to show leadership on reducing air pollution to protect the residents of Delhi and set an example for the rest of the country.

Photo Credit: Sajjad Hussain / AFP / Getty

Policy Brief Issue 4: November 2021

Ethiopia Needs Long Term Healing, Not Just a Ceasefire

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.