Archive for ‘Human Rights’

May, 2014

Migrant integration in an era of superdiversity

Professor Jenny Phillimore

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The advent of superdiversity has in the past few years been juxtaposed with several other trends. Perhaps most importantly there is the global recession and associated austerity cuts introduced in many of the world’s leading countries of immigration. These global developments occur in an environment already unfavourable to immigration and integration. Developments including the re- politicisation of migration, the rise of new right-wing and xenophobic movements, growing use of welfare rationing, and increasing levels of negative media and public opinion, all of which impact on migrants’ ability to integrate. Claims have been made that the increase in diversity has reduced levels of social solidarity in society, and with it support for the welfare state, as the general population are prepared only to contribute to welfare measures for people with whom they share an affinity.   In the combined eras of superdiversity and austerity the successful integration of migrants is more important and more challenging than ever.

Today’s article focuses on the findings of a large scale review of local and experiential aspects of integration undertaken as part of the European funded KING project which is working to help shape the Common Basic Principles on migrant integration for the European Commission. Gary Craig, Rachel Humphris and Marta Kindler were collaborators on this project.

Academics have long outlined the two-way nature of the integration process . True integration can only occur when majority and minority communities adapt to a new reality. This is barely if ever acknowledged by politicians and thus rarely translates into policy and practice. The need for mutual adapation is reinforced by the evidence that shows the extent to which both individual and institutional racism impacts upon migrant and minority communities. Racism prevents minorities from achieving their potential, impacts on social mobility and reduces social confidence restricting social networks. The current anti-migrant, anti-multiculturalism ideology perpetuated by politicians and the media prevents migrants and minorities accessing all integration domains, impacts upon mental and physical health and social mobility. Such ideology legitimises racism while supporting moves to restrict migrants’ access to welfare which then enhances their vulnerability and exclusion.

The KING review provided clear evidence that migrants experienced poor outcomes in the arenas of health, housing, education and employment. Whilst many of these outcomes improve over generations some long-established minority groups have yet to reach parity with the general population. The review also demonstrated that social mixing with non-migrant communities was difficult to achieve because migrants lacked the opportunity to mix or were fearful of racist harassment. Instead migrants relied heavily on peer groups and civil society for support.

Lack of knowledge about institutional structures and systems and local behavioural norms prevents migrants accessing services and interaction with local people. Superdiversity brings challenges associated with newness and novelty of cultures, experiences and problems both for providers and migrants. A key gap in integration initiatives is developing the skills that professionals need to adapt services in an ever-changing, fast diversifying, environment.

Ability to speak the host community language emerges from many research projects as being essential to enable migrant/minority access to services, support the development of social relations with others and to enable participation in networks and forums. Language enables conversations with ‘others’ that have the potential to resist racist sterotyping, at least at individual and local community level. Language enables access to education about how to engage with the system and better quality employment that can help support social mobility and thus reduce exclusion.

Austerity measures have led to a reduction in support for migrant focused initiatives to the point that many EU countries are able to provide little support with integration and adaptation. Scandinavian countries standout in stark contrast to much of the rest of Europe in providing extensive integration programmes that support migrants to access language and citizenship classes which have been demonstrated to impact positively on migrants’ access to employment.

Exclusion and deprivation have enormous impact upon the ability of new migrants and existing minorities to integrate and meet their potential. Furthermore given the economic imperative used as the main justification for migration, migrant down-skilling, poor education outcomes and economic activity levels have an economic, as well as social, opportunity cost. If we continue our laissez-faire approach to integration placing the onus on migrants to integrate without considering the role of the state and its citizens it is likely that we will see the super-exclusion discussed yesterday given that it is predicted that by 2050 around 30% of the UK’s population will have a migrant background.

Professor Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

Other useful links:

May, 2014

New migration, poverty and super-exclusion?

Professor Jenny Phillimore

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Yesterday I described how the advent of new migration had led to the emergence of superdiversity.  Today I outline how a combination of state responses to migration and the UK’s de-regulated labour market are combining to bring wide-scale and in some case extreme poverty which might be described as super-exclusion.  In this article I bring together data from a recently published re-analysis of the Survey of New Refugees undertaken with Dr Sin Yi Cheung and from two Joseph Rowntree-funded reviews of poverty that will be published in the next few weeks.  The first looks at the situation of asylum seekers (with Dr Nando Sigona and Jenny Allsop) and the second economic migrants (with Dr Simon Pemberton and Professor David Robinson).

Poverty is often portrayed as the main reason that people migrate.  Of course we know that this is not always the case.  Spousal and family migrants come to join an existing migrant and forced migrants seek sanctuary from persecution although they are often depicted as being drawn to industrialised countries by generous levels of welfare.  Our recent research shows that the rhetoric around migration offering people a better life may be misplaced and that high levels of poverty are the reality for many living in the UK.

Asylum seekers are totally dependent on asylum support because they are not permitted to work.  In 2011-12, an asylum seeking couple with children received 59% of Income Support and a lone parent just 52% – around £36 a week. Evidence shows these levels are so low they struggle to meet everyday needs such as paying for food and transport.  Indeed recently a judicial decision confirmed that freezing rates at such low levels was flawed – a review of support rates will now be necessary.

The need for such a review is re-enforced by the re-analysis of the Survey of New Refugees that showed how asylum seekers experienced a range of health and employment problems even 21 months after they gained refugee status.  In particular it was clear that the living conditions imposed upon asylum seekers impacted upon their ability to integrate into a new life as refugees.  More about integration on Thursday.

But what about economic migrants?  They come to work so their economic situation should be better than asylum seekers and refugees.  The evidence from our review, which included new analyses of the Labour Force and Understanding Society Surveys, found low-paid migrant workers were more likely to experience poverty than UK nationals in low paid employment.  Low-paid, sometimes exploitative work impacted upon their health and well-being and left them more dependent on in-work benefits than the general population.  Their vulnerability to poverty was determined by their place in the labour market, lack of employment rights and the precariousness of their work.  There was clear evidence that they accessed poor housing, and this and long-hours and the dirty, dangerous and difficult nature of their work impacted upon health.  Migrant workers tended to live in areas where resources were already under duress.  They were frequently blamed by local people for living in over-crowded conditions and not maintaining properties when they had little choice about where to live.  Working long hours migrant workers had little time to socialise or engage in education including language classes which had ramifications for their ability to integrate.  Indeed we identified a vicious cycle of poverty that emerged from consequences of de-regulated work and policy responses to anti-migrant sentiment.

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So high levels of poverty are evident within the refugee, asylum seeker and economic migrant populations.  Yet these are migrant statuses that are likely to be in the more favourable economic positions.  JRF has just commissioned a detailed study of destitution which will hopefully shed some light on the lives of those migrants who are not permitted to work and have no access to public funds.  Work in progress for the KING migrant integration project is already beginning to show that family and spousal migrants are living in extreme poverty – not permitted to work, attend college and thus learn English, or access benefits leaves them particularly vulnerable to poverty and exploitation.

Given the extent of migration associated with the emergence of superdiversity it is likely, particularly if governments continue to pursue restrictionist welfare policies and support labour market de-regulation, that we will see poverty on a scale not seen for many decades perhaps the emergence of super-exclusion that may affect the lives of generations of migrants.  Tomorrow I focus on the experiences of migrant women using the maternity system and show how existing approaches to support and care are having tangible effects on infant and maternal mortality and morbidity.

Professor Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

Other useful links:

May, 2014

If integration is the answer – what was the question?

Professor Jon Glasby

Over time, governments of all persuasions have sought to achieve more integrated health and social care. This ranges from the Joint Consultative Committees and joint finance of the 1960s and 1970s to care co-ordination in the 1990s, and from New Labour’s emphasis on ‘joined up solutions to joined up problems’ to the Coalition’s promotion of ‘integrated care’. The latest version is a series of ‘integrated care pioneers’ (which the University of Birmingham helped to select), with learning from these sites shared with other areas of the country to promote more holistic care.

Despite all this, we continue to have a very divided health and social care system (even if we have found ways of blurring the boundaries from time to time). Deep down, our approach is based on the assumption that it’s possible – and possibly even desirable – to distinguish between people who are ‘sick’ (who we see as having ‘health’ needs met free at the point of delivery by the NHS) from people who are merely ‘frail’ or ‘disabled’ (who we see as having ‘social care’ needs met by local authorities and subject to means-testing and significant user charges). This may once have made sense – but feels increasingly unsustainable and counter-productive with an ageing society. At best, it causes frustration, duplication and inefficiency; at worst it can lead to people with complex needs falling through the gaps in the safety net which services are meant to provide. Whether it is child protection scandals, mental health homicides or older people discharged from hospital before community services are ready for them, the consequences of not working together can sometimes be catastrophic.

In response, the emphasis on ‘integrated care’ is welcome – but the problem is that this can mean so many different things to different people. It is also becoming something of an automatic policy response (just as ‘partnership working’ did under New Labour) – put forward as a solution to a range of different ills. All too often, this leads to a situation where we use warm words, but where everyone ends up frustrated because no one way of organising could ever deliver all the potentially mutually incompatible aims that individual partners may want to achieve.

As a result, a key contribution which HSMC when working with policy makers and front-line services makes is to ask: if integration is the answer, what was the question? Although this sounds basic, we need to know what we’re trying to achieve before we decide how best to go about organising our service responses. While some sort of co-ordinated effort may be required for some outcomes, a single agency working by itself might be just as effective for other issues. Being clear what success would look like is also a crucial first step to being able to evaluate ‘what works’. However, we often fail to do this – partly because public services have such multiple accountabilities that being clear about what success looks like is really difficult; but also (slightly cynically) because if we aren’t able to be clear about what success looks like, it’s also hard to be clear about what failure looks like. Joint working is also very time-consuming and it takes significant commitment to build long-term relationships. Reserving such a labour-intensive way of working for situations where it will have maximum impact feels crucial.

In the current financial context, it is even more important to work together than ever before – but calling something a ‘partnership’ doesn’t make it so. If we’re not careful, then concepts such as ‘integrated care’ could become an end in themselves, rather than a means to an end – and people using health and social care deserve more than this.

Jon Glasby is Director of the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) and Professor of Health and Social Care.

For further information, see Glasby, J. and Dickinson, H. (2014) A to Z of inter-agency collaboration and his new book with The Policy Press on Partnership working in health and social care: what is integrated care and how can we deliver it?

Other useful links:

What is integrated care?

Integrated care: A position paper for the WHO

Integrated delivery networks: a detour on the road to integrated health care?

Patients need to be the focus of integrated health care

 

March, 2014

The imagery of burns

Dr Jonathan Reinarz

Burns are visually distinct and emotionally overwhelming. They are horrific and iconic. Think only of Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk whose self-immolation was filmed and photographed in a carefully orchestrated protest against Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Sitting in the lotus position, the elderly monk was doused with petrol by fellow monks before he set himself alight. The act, not surprisingly, ended in his death, but the events of 11 June 1963 also sparked a dramatic escalation in the conflict between Vietnam’s dictatorship, which favoured the country’s Catholic minority, and its Buddhist community. A description of the event by American journalist David Halberstam manages to add drama to the haunting photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne by emphasising more than just visual spectacle.

‘Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shrivelling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh…Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think.’ (D. Halberstam, The Making of a Quagmire, 1965, 211) 

Sociologist Michael Biggs has argued that the power of this extreme form of protest comes from the likelihood that self-immolation will end in death (70% of cases are fatal). Hunger strikes may be averted, but in cases of self-immolation, death is not conditional. Not surprisingly, responses to such images are dramatic.

‘The Napalm Girl’

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Napalm

My second example captures another moment in the history of Vietnam (8 June 1972), nearly a decade after Guang Duc’s self-immolation. It was taken minutes after inhabitants of Trang Bang, a village north of Saigon, experienced a napalm strike, and it shows children running towards a wire roadblock on Route 1, the main highway between Saigon and Cambodia. As described in the first pages of Robert Neer’s recent history of napalm, earlier these children had been huddled with their families in a temple under the protection of South Vietnamese soldiers, when the building was mistaken for a North Vietnamese target. A group of injured and frightened children subsequently escaped the site and fled to a nearby checkpoint, where a waiting journalist noticed a naked nine-year-old girl who had been stripped by napalm, which continued to burn. It was then that Associated Press photographer Huynh Cong ‘Nick’ Ut captured his Pulitzer-Prize-winning photo. To many, it dramatically depicts the impact of war on non-combatants, and the day after it was taken, the photo appeared in newspapers alongside the heading ‘The Terror of War’. ‘Napalm Girl’ has become the best known image of the Vietnam War and is credited with bringing about a shift in the American public’s attitude towards the conflict.

Although burns have the potential to erase a person’s identity, by literally scorching away their features, the ‘Napalm Girl’ now has a name, Kim Phuc, and her story has been told in a film and a well-known biography. After capturing this pivotal image, Nick Ut took Kim and her brother to a South Vietnamese hospital. She subsequently spent 14 months in the Barsky Unit in the American hospital in Saigon. Kim’s burns, which covered 50% of her body, were grafted by American surgeons and, after two years of treatment and rehabilitation, she was able to return to her village. Like many burns victims, her life was fundamentally transformed, only, in this case, it was further altered by the particular political context. Forced to leave school, she was regularly interviewed and became a ‘national symbol of war’. Eventually defecting from Vietnam while en route to Cuba, she now lives in Toronto, Canada with her family. In 1997, she established the Kim Foundation International, a charity that assists child victims of war.

‘Mohamed Bouazizi’

As unique as Kim’s story may appear, many burns casualties have resisted remaining individual tragedies. Like the fiery death of Guang Duc, some have inspired imitators, or galvanised collective action. More recent cases of self-immolation have demonstrated this yet again, with the suicide of Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi recognised as a catalyst of the Tunisian Revolution, if not the wider uprising in the Arab world; in Panara and Wilson’s The Arab Spring (2013), he is the butterfly of chaos theory whose fluttering wings continue to cause storms around the globe. While burns units in the West continue to treat cases of self-immolation (two were admitted to the Birmingham Burns Unit over the Christmas holidays), many more patients, past and present, share similarities with Kim Phuc. As in the past, approximately 50% of burns victims are children. Their stories, like that of Kim, are also more often heard, not just in the popular press, but at burns conferences, such as that mentioned in yesterday’s posting, in order to better understand the experiences of patients.

Dr Jonathan Reinarz is Director of The History of Medicine Unit and a Reader in the History of Medicine at the University of Birmingham.

February, 2014

World Government: Not Quite an Idea Whose Time has Come, but No Longer So Far from the Academic Mainstream

Dr Luis Cabrera

I can say without much reservation that I am one of the most avid students of world government alive today. Of course, I’m careful when and where I say that…

Actually, even in my relatively brief academic career (12 years, if you count from the PhD award date), there has been, if not a sea change, certainly a surprisingly strong trend toward serious academics taking the world government ideal seriously again.

Consider this: when my lead PhD supervisor and I were trying to put together a doctoral supervisory committee in the mid-1990s, we approached a staff member at the same US institution who had a solid global reputation as an international relations theorist. He was known for his cutting edge theorization of relations between nation-states. Yet, when approached about helping to supervise a thesis exploring the contemporary case for world government, he came back with a very rapid ‘no.’ It just wasn’t a topic he saw as meriting serious scholarly consideration, he said.

Now, such a response would likely be much harder to give. The past two authors to win the International Studies Association’s prestigious ‘Book of the Decade’ award, Alexander Wendt (2000) and Daniel Deudney (2010), have made world government enquiry a clear part of their work. Wendt, who is enormously influential for his work on how ideas and ideology can shape nation-states’ behaviour, has argued for the ‘inevitability’ of a world state – in 200 years or so. Deudney argues that the continuing threat from nuclear weapons remains so great that world-government creation is a necessity, though a weakly empowered one narrowly focused on weapons control.

Wendt and Deudney are only two of a range of IR scholars, economists, international sociologists and moral theorists who have recently explored the feasibility and desirability of full global political integration. Many others have taken up international institution building on a smaller scale, but still one that would require states to cede significant powers upward.

This might, in fact, be thought of as a second ‘heyday’ in world government thought. The first can be dated roughly from 1945-50. It was spurred by the US nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945. What had been unimaginable in war was suddenly cold reality. This prompted many to think that political realities must be reconceived as well.

This wasn’t  just a fringe few, either. Leading academics – including Albert Einstein – authors, jurists, political figures and civil society leaders around the world called for, or at least expressed openness to, a world government capable of meeting the awful new threat.

The following quotation from Birmingham-area MP Henry Usborne gives a sense of the urgent rhetoric of the time. In his maiden speech to Parliament in 1946, Usborne outlined a plan for Britain to lead the way to a security and political union with like-minded democratic countries that could evolve into full world government:

‘I imagine that this proposal would meet with a great deal of opposition. That I do not mind. I am quite certain that if we doubled the opposition we should get 10 times the enthusiasm from the common people all over the world in support of a proposal such as that. Is the proposal fantastic? Is it Utopian? Yes, it is both fantastic and Utopian. It is just as fantastic as the atomic age in which we now live; it is just as Utopian as the hope of world peace.’

They ‘heyday’ period ended almost as quickly as it had begun, with the advent of the Cold War and fears of Soviet global domination.  Though some academics and others continued to make the case for world government, they remained mostly on the fringes for about the next 50 years.

Today’s resurgence of academic literature on world government, spurred in part by globalization, is distinguished by the range of disciplines involved and the prominence of some of those involved. Their arguments tend to fall into three camps. In the first, authors such as Deudney highlight continuing threats from world government, as well as terrorism and other security issues, as reason to pursue comprehensive forms of integration between nation-states.

The second camp is concerned with democratic rule. Here, ‘cosmopolitan democrats’ argue that, in an age of intensifying globalization and global economic integration, domestic democracies are losing their powers to live under laws of their own making. Thus, democratic decision making should be shifted upward, generally to include all of those who are affected by specific processes of globalization, or by the decisions of global bodies such as the World Trade Organization. Few of these authors would claim the world government title for their work, but several do advocate the creation of powerful, binding global institutions with broad powers to tax and spend for the common good.

A final camp is concerned with the promotion of justice and human rights globally. Here, authors argue that state sovereignty throws up predictable barriers to actually realizing justice or securing the rights of all persons, so forms of integration should be pursued between states. My own work would be situated here. I have argued in a couple of books and several articles that the current global system will routinely underfulfill individual rights: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/government-society/cabrera-luis.aspx That’s because it leaves states as the final judges in their own cases about obligations. Imagine if we were all left to judge which rules or laws we would prefer to follow, or especially how much tax we’d like to pay. We’d mean well, but chances are we would see other priorities repeatedly getting in the way of ‘donating’ the tax voluntarily that would be needed to maintain social institutions.

Like most students of world government, I take a very long term view. If it ever will be possible to create global institutions capable of routinely protecting the rights of all persons, I have suggested, we shouldn’t expect to see them develop for many hundreds of years. My recent work has been concerned with the kinds of integration and related changes that might be possible in the near term, and yet would conceivably contribute to the long-term aim. I have considered in particular some potentially rights-enhancing forms of regional integration.

I have enjoyed being able, as this week’s Saving Humans ‘guest blogger’ to share some thoughts on recent developments in democracy and human rights. To recap: on Monday, I discussed a new organization, Academics Stand Against poverty, that is dedicated to strengthening the academic voice and direct positive impact on poverty issues globally. On Tuesday, I discussed my own work on global citizenship and immigration, with emphasis on field research among unauthorized immigrants, and with anti-immigration and migrant-rights activists.

On Wednesday, I talked about current work on human rights and prospects for, or possible reasons to purse, trans-state democracy. I looked there at how India’s National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights had sought to reach out to the global human rights community to bring pressure on its own government to do more against caste-discrimination. Thursday’s entry drew connections between the theoretical concerns there and in the struggle by opposition leaders and activists in Turkey to maintain a free, open democracy, against the backdrop of possible accession to the European Union. Today’s entry took the much longer view on rights and integration.

Luis Cabrera is Reader in Political Theory, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham.

February, 2014

Democracy, Rights and European Hopes in Turkey

Dr Luis Cabrera

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of individuals being able to both chasten and challenge political leaders. Constitutionalized liberal democracy, I suggested, is valuable primarily – though not solely – as a means of doing this. The right to vote in regular elections, along with rights to assembly, speech, protest, and closely related rights to bring formal challenges in courts, all are means of holding those who govern us to account.

Today I want to shift the focus from India and the Dalit (former untouchables) human rights struggle to Turkey. The two may not be obvious cases to treat in the same book or blog series, but in fact, some important issues intersect in both. In the Dalit human rights case, activists struggling on behalf of a category of persons within a country assert that those persons’ rights are being systematically violated. They believe that India’s democratic institutions and courts remain stacked against Dalits, despite anti-discrimination laws on the books. At the same time, the Indian government strongly resists ‘outside interference,’ or outreach by such activists to global human rights actors. It reserves the right to interpret rights standards and rights fulfilment to itself.

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Protestor, Turkey, July 2013

In the Turkish case, similar claims are heard about democratic institutions and leaders who are increasingly unresponsive to opposition voices. Turkey has long been noted as a secular country, observing strict separation between state and Islam, the religion ascribed to an overwhelming majority of its population. One of the consistent complaints from opposition and activist leaders has been that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced ER-doh-WAN) has been incrementally introducing religious values and behavioural restrictions into law. Activists also complain of a creeping authoritarianism, on which more below.

The Turkish case, like the Indian one, has a significant international, or supranational, angle. Where the Dalit human rights activists have sought to reach out to the global human rights community in the absence of anything like a Global Court of Human Rights, Turkey has long held hopes of joining the still-expanding regional governance project just beyond its own borders.

For me, the Turkish case has been of great interest for the ethical questions it raises about obligations across borders. My basic presumption has been that Turkey stands to receive the same human rights benefits as other less-rich countries had on joining the European Union in the last several decades. These would include particularly Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece. Spain and Portugal were not only relatively poor countries at the time of accession, but they also faced steep challenges to democratization and democratic consolidation. Many observers see European Community membership as an important factor helping them develop stable, rights-respecting democratic institutions.

Of course, few would suggest that membership in the now-European Union is a cure for all political ills, or that the EU itself has developed into a fully defensible set of democratic institutions. EU leaders are still dealing with the fallout from the global economic crisis, which revealed some cracks in institutional design that may need more than a quick plaster-over. Yet, longtime EU observers will note that this is far from the first crisis, and that in fact the EU’s demise has been predicted many times.

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Istanbul Police lined up, July 2013

In relation to Turkish accession, my presumption remains that it would deliver significant additional rights benefits to Turks. It would further integrate the country into the EU common market, give it a much stronger political voice in helping to shape and set the direction for that market, while enhancing economic opportunities for individual Turks, not least free movement across borders. It also should help to better ensure robust democratic rights.

I went to Istanbul for the first time last summer, to interview government officials, activists and think-tank representatives about prospects for Turkish accession. Full accession for Turkey has long been a controversial issue in some EU states, of course. This is because first, important issues remain unresolved around EU member state Cyprus. Turkey holds half of Cyprus’ territory in circumstances that continue to draw protest from several quarters. Turkey also would become the second largest EU country, behind Germany, giving it instant political clout in the union. And, a factor which is generally whispered about except by far-right factions, which tend to shout about it, Turkey would be the first Muslim-majority country in the EU. Even so, there is significant support for Turkish accession within the EU, along with opposition, notably within Germany and France.

When I arrived in Istanbul, after an earlier trip to Brussels to interview Turkish and EU officials, I found that few had EU accession foremost in their mind. Rather, they were focused on the flashpoint of Gezi Park. That park – an urban oasis in a city notably lacking in greenery – had become the focal point for demonstrations against the Erdogan regime, stemming from plans to let developers raze it for a shopping plaza.

I took a hotel near the park, which had been cleared of activists not long before in a police crackdown which saw three protesters and one police officer killed. The government response brought harsh criticism from the European Parliament. That was rejected by Erdogan, who questioned the Parliament’s legitimacy and blamed the protests on outside influences.

I spent several days interviewing leaders of activist groups that were focused on democratic governance, with emphasis on those which also interacted with EU institutions, as well as some political party and policy officials. On two nights, I joined the protesters who still filled the streets of the posh shopping district near Gezi Park. In interviews, they expressed their anger at what they saw as authoritarianism and religiosity gradually but relentlessly taking over their political institutions. Few mentioned the EU without prompting. Support for accession in polls of Turks has steadily dropped in recent years, as frustration has grown over the slow pace of accession talks – even while Croatia, which was given permission to move toward full membership at the same time as Turkey, was admitted. Yet, when asked, most saw EU membership as providing additional resources to challenge the government.

After a few dozen interviews, and being water cannoned and tear gassed by police, I decided I had collected enough from the protesters themselves (!) I did, however, join them another night, after they had quietly walked back into Gezi Park, police standing by, and turned it again into a site for singing, chanting, and expression of views.

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Protestors filling Istiklal St., July 2013

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Woman in goggles, July 2013

Now, six months later, EU leaders are again laying charges of authoritarianism, this time in response to a stringent law pressed by the Erdogan government on internet usage. Critics charge that the law amounts to bald censorship. At the same time, there were hopes for progress on EU accession talks, after years of virtual standstill. The struggle to shape the country’s democracy undoubtedly will continue, though it remains to be seen whether it will be conducted more firmly in the EU context.

Police and billboards, Turkey, July 2013

Police and billboards, Turkey, July 2013

Luis Cabrera is Reader in Political Theory, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham.

February, 2014

Applying Global Pressure to Domestic Justice Issues: India’s National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights

Dr Luis Cabrera

Yesterday I wrote about field research I had conducted among unauthorized immigrants in the US and Europe, as well as with immigration authorities and activists. I thought it could be appropriate to follow that up with a brief discussion of some current field research which intersects in some significant ways with the concerns of the Saving Humans initiative.

This work has involved interviews and site visits with Dalit-rights activists throughout India and in the UK. Dalits (former untouchables) make up about 16 percent of the Indian population and are among the most historically oppressed groups in that society, and perhaps worldwide. Dalits traditionally have been barred from all but the dirtiest and most dangerous trades – disposing of human waste by hand, collecting animal carcasses from roads, cleaning, doing outside manual labor. Though situated within Hindu culture, they have customarily been barred from worshipping inside Hindu temples, and even now are most often forced to live on fringes of most villages, working for higher-caste Hindus but rarely mixing in communal life.

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IMAGE: Fish seller in a slum neighbourhood of Chennai whose residents are mostly Dalit persons.

The Indian constitution of 1950 formally bars caste discrimination, and further anti-discrimination measures have been passed since, including some mandating affirmative action in education and the public sector for Dalits and ‘other backward castes’, in the official parlance. Still, discrimination remains widespread, and Dalit activists say that actual protections are all too often weakly implemented.

I became interested in researching the Dalit struggle for an ongoing book project focused on individual rights, diversity and democracy. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. This campaign joined Dalit activist groups around India in an effort to reach out to the global community through the United Nations human rights regime. They sought to bring global pressure on the Indian government to do more toward eradicating caste discrimination.

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IMAGE: NCDHR staff member Sanjeev Kumar in the Baljeet Nagar neighbourhood of Delhi. The area is home to Dalit families who do not hold title to their land and have been forcibly removed by the city and subsequently rebuilt. Kumar is part of a legal campaign seeking to help them stay.

The struggle is of keen interest to me as a student of cosmopolitan or trans-state democracy. In the account I have been developing, I adopt a primarily instrumental approach to democracy. This means that the basic justification for a system where the majority’s representatives set the rules, as opposed to the dictator, the wise few, etc., is that it promotes important individual rights protections.  Democracy, meaning not only voting rights but also rights to speech, assembly, protest, provides important tools for chastening leaders. After all, they have to get elected to lead, and re-elected to keep leading.

Such an approach naturally also places a good deal of emphasis on constitutionalized rights – corresponding to those human interests that are so vital that they simply do deserve protection, whatever a given majority might think. This corresponds to individuals being able to challenge leaders and democratic majorities in courts and court-like bodies. It provides a crucial complement to the chastening function of electoral processes and transparent governing processes.

The argument is naturally sympathetic to cosmopolitan democracy, or the expansion of democratic rule across state borders. If protection of rights is the key, that is, then the primary aim is to ensure that the rights of as many individuals as possible are protected. There is no natural presumption that democratic rule should be limited to a pre-existing ‘democratic people’. In fact, it turns out to be very difficult to show that there is some strong reason in democratic theory or rights-based approaches to limit shared rule to existing borders.

Enter the National Campaign. Here was a coalition whose members had concluded, from long struggle, that they could not achieve the equal rights protections they sought at the domestic level. India is often held up as a democratic exemplar – a country with extensive poverty that still has managed to maintain liberal-democratic institutions and robust participation. Yet, Dalit leaders with whom I have spoken around the country tell much the same difficult story: the rights are on the books, but when it comes to a Dalit person seeking police aid after a caste-motivated attack, or seeking justice in the courts, or responsive and fair governance from elected leaders, actual rights fulfilment remains out of reach.

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IMAGE: Two tutors who help Dalit children with their homework each afternoon discuss their work at a community center in the city of Madurai in southern India.

So, National Campaign members sought to reach beyond India. After being rebuffed by some prominent rights NGOs, they were able to ally with Human Rights Watch. That group allied with Dalit groups to conduct a major study of ongoing caste discrimination in India, published as Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables,” in 1999. The book generated a great deal of attention globally, and it set the stage for National Campaign representatives to reach out more personally.

In 2001, the National Campaign took some 200 Dalit activists to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, sponsored by the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Durban, South Africa. In interviews, numerous NCDHR leaders have cited the Durban conference as a key moment for raising international awareness of caste discrimination in India. By 2005, the then-UN Human Commission on Human Rights (from 2006 the UN Human Rights Council) had appointed two special rapporteurs on caste-based discrimination. The National Campaign’s efforts also were central in the European Parliament’s resolutions criticizing the treatment of Dalits in 2007 and 2012.

Yet, all such efforts to see caste discrimination formally recognized in international law have been vigorously resisted by the Indian government.  Consider that, as early as 1996, the government rejected a UN committee’s decision to include caste discrimination in the category of ‘descent based’ discrimination covered by the UN’s major discrimination treaty. In interviews, numerous NCDHR activists have noted that at the Durban conference a number of countries’ delegates were at first willing to support them openly. After being taken aside individually by India’s representatives, however, all withdrew their support. Trade access, activists believe, trumps a human rights stand every time.

The Indian government’s position has been that it is taking all needed steps to address caste discrimination, and generally that outsiders shouldn’t interfere. At present, the struggle could be described as at an impasse, where a few other countries and some UN representatives are willing to offer criticism, but the Indian government has given little indication that its position could change.

In the National Campaign, there is ongoing discussion about emphases moving ahead. Some, such as NCDHR Convenor Paul Divakar, who regularly travels to Geneva and other international sites to press the Dalit rights case, are firm that international outreach should continue. Some others believe more can be accomplished through intensifying the local and national struggles.

Whatever the ultimate shape of the resistance, the National Campaign’s efforts stand as a crucial case for the study of democracy, including democracy beyond the state. As one NCDHR leader told me, if they had been able to take their grievances to a Global Court of Human Rights, that’s precisely what they would have done. Proposals to create such a court date at least to the development of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a court to interpret and implement the rights proclaimed for all persons. There is little momentum for such a court today, but the NCDHR case should give us strong reason to think that any advocacy of extending democratic rule beyond the state should include advocacy of extending human rights courts as well.

Luis Cabrera is Reader in Political Theory, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham.

February, 2014

Studying Global Ethics in its Lived Contexts: Unauthorized Migration and Global Citizenship

Dr Luis Cabrera

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IMAGE: Migrant rights activists calling attention to the deaths of migrants on the border crossing by bearing signs that say ‘presente’, signifying that those whose lives have been lost are not forgotten.

I started my professional (post-university) career as a journalist in Seattle for The Associated Press, the global newswire service.  Wire service work has a reputation in the trade as a bit of grind, and there were indeed plenty of overnight shifts spent rewriting local newspaper copy for the wire. There were also many exciting assignments, though. The best part of the job was always getting out into the field, interviewing people from all walks, covering forest fires, earthquakes, floods, massive demonstrations and, my favourite, the occasional NBA Seattle SuperSonics game…

I never went on assignment without feeling like I was getting a window into another world. And I missed that once I had taken my first academic job. I had trained as a political theorist, meaning my tasks now mostly involved hours of trying to get to the bottom of often very complex moral argumentation. It was satisfying work, and exactly the kind of intellectual engagement I wanted after being limited to the often very brief wire service journalistic form. But something was definitely missing.

My first academic post was at one of the four Phoenix-area campuses of Arizona State University. Arizona was then, in the early-mid 2000s, at the epicentre of US tensions around unauthorized migration. US Border Patrol strategy had dramatically shifted migrant routes from California to Arizona, and enforcement and civil society efforts – pro and con migrant – had become intense. I was keen to go when colleagues began inviting me along on experiential education trips to the border with their classes. We learned about migration and border politics from those who lived them daily.

I began to see how it might be possible to incorporate some of what I was learning in the desert into the moral arguments I was developing around global justice and human rights. Ultimately, the project became an exploration of global citizenship, with extensive field work along the border and at related sites. Once more, I felt like I was getting that window into others’ worlds.

It was thrilling, and inspiring at times. I spent a great deal of time interviewing members of two groups in particular: No More Deaths and the Minutemen. No More Deaths members were my exemplars of global citizenship. They fit well into a Saving Humans blog entry, since that was the express mission they had taken on. They conducted patrols of many miles through the southern Arizona desert, seeking out migrants who had become lost or left behind by their human smugglers, to bring them food, water and first aid. The group had arisen in the early 2000s, in response to increasing numbers of migrant deaths as the Border Patrol clamped down on the relatively easy urban crossings and sought to use the desert itself as a deterrent to crossing. The death toll is now in the thousands.

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IMAGE: A booth operated by No More Deaths in Nogales, Mexico, on the Mexico-US Border. Volunteers offered first aid and related assistance to migrants who had been apprehended and returned by the US Border Patrol.

On the other side, often literally, were members of the Minuteman Project. They sought to deter crossing themselves by physically standing vigil – often with sidearms holstered — at the border or farther north, on heavily traveled routes, and reporting any suspected unauthorized migrants to the Border Patrol. They were my exemplar enactors of national citizenship, trying, as they would put it, to protect their country from people who had no right to be there.

Migrants themselves, I came to understand, were also acting as global citizens, and perhaps in the most concrete and most important ways. They crossed borders in search of better life opportunities for themselves and their families in much the same way that people within countries move between cities – or as citizens of the European Union often move between member states. They acted as though we already lived in a world where that was broadly possible, though of course where their lack of citizenship entitlements often meant a life in virtual hiding in the host state.

Interviewing and living side by side with unauthorized migrants – very much the norm in Arizona – for several years eventually persuaded me that they were acting as global citizens in a more proactive way. They were, I thought, engaged in something like a ‘global civil disobedience’ movement.  They were crossing borders without permission in order to better secure broad economic rights for themselves and their families. Most nation-state have formally committed to recognizing and working to ensure such rights for all in the binding UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Most rich countries, of course, would reject the idea that they have a responsibility to feed the world, provide employment, etc. But here migrants were, claiming such rights through actions that, though covert, could easily be viewed in a frame of principled resistance.

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IMAGE: Migrant men walking to board a train in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Like many Central American migrants, they will ride the top of the trains to near the US-Mexico border, where they will try to walk across.

That particular argument has been controversial, and I recently had a chance to revisit it in a critical exchange (they critique, you defend) for an academic journal.  I do think there’s something to it. And, I believe the insight never would have come if I hadn’t been able to get back into the field, speaking to people about their daily struggles, getting that window into their world and, most of all, hearing moral arguments in their lived contexts. The method is still a tough sell with grant funding agencies, but I find it invaluable for enriching the ethical arguments I seek to make.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about more recent field work involving Dalit (former untouchable) human rights activists in India, and democracy activists staging street protests in Istanbul.

Luis Cabrera is Reader in Political Theory, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham. 

February, 2014

Academics Stand Against Poverty: Professional Association Helps Researchers Enhance their Impact on Poverty Alleviation

Dr Luis Cabrera

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For my first entry on the project blog, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a newish academic association that shares many of the same interests as those affiliated with Saving Humans.

This association is Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP). It’s a non-profit, voluntary initiative designed to enhance academics’ impact on poverty alleviation. The driving idea is not so much to get academics out of the ivory tower, but to get those who’d never think of locking themselves up in such a place to share their ideas and experiences, collaborate where it makes sense, and generally just join forces to do a more effective job influencing poverty alleviation policy and practice.

ASAP was the brainchild of some relatively junior academics – political philosophers, in fact – working in Australia in 2009. They wanted to be able to play a more active role in some of the issues of global justice they were researching, and to help the global academic sector worldwide play as strong a direct role as possible on poverty and related issues. Their organizing efforts got a big boost from Thomas Pogge, the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, who was intrigued by the idea and ultimately agreed to serve as president of a formal organization.

Pogge is known as anything but an ivory tower philosopher. He has helped lead a team to investigate the most sound methods for actually measuring poverty. He also has a major project underway to develop the kinds of monetary incentives that would entice big pharmaceutical firms to develop treatments for diseases that mainly afflict the world’s poor – and to be paid by how many of those treated actually get better.

Under Pogge’s leadership, and with a great deal of behind-the-scenes work from the nine members of the ASAP Board, a 19-member advisory board comprised of very prominent poverty-focused academics and a single paid staff member (the indefatigable Rachel Payne), the organization has greatly expanded its presence. It has staged conferences at Yale, Birmingham and the University of Delhi, as well as at universities in Mexico, Spain, Germany, Australia, Norway and elsewhere.

ASAP also has launched or sponsored a number of projects aimed at enhancing academic impact on severe poverty. These include one focused on ensuring that the best research insights inform the global poverty alleviation goals which will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. They also include projects concerned with economic rights and global climate change, the ways in which insights from psychology might inform poverty alleviation efforts, and a project aimed at helping poor persons in India become better informed and able to claim their government-backed entitlements.

I serve as vice president of the ASAP Board and head of a project called Impact: Global Poverty. It features profile articles on academics seeking to go beyond their straightforward research work to have a direct positive impact on poverty alleviation policy or practice. I have been amazed by the kinds of impact projects people have taken on in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities at their universities or as doctoral students.

Profiles have included one on Sukhadeo Thorat, longtime Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who has had enormous influence on Indian government and private sector policies on integrating dalit persons (former untouchables). We have profiled Prof. Alan Fenwick at Imperial College London, who heads a project that has treated millions suffering from neglected tropical diseases. We also have profiled Bijayalaxmi Nanda of the University of Delhi. She works with groups in the city focused on the worth of girl children and  ending sex-selective abortion. Other profile subjects have included Birmingham’s own Paul Jackson, for his work advising the Nepalese government on re-integration of former rebels into society; and Nicolas Lemay-Hébert, who has worked with Haitian academics and students suffering in the aftermath of that country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

I have found all of these academics’ stories inspiring, and we have many more similar profiles in the works. If you know of an academic who is engaging closely with NGOs, policy makers, or is generally seeking to make an impact in addition to standard research work, we would love to know about her/him. Please send a note to me at a.l.cabrera@bham.ac.uk 

Many things are planned for the future with ASAP overall. The organization is growing rapidly, with a number of country chapters forming globally. We are now in the midst of a developing a long-term plan aimed at fully incorporating the chapters and opening more volunteer and related opportunities for ASAP’s 800-plus members worldwide. I am happy to answer any questions about the organization, and I would encourage all academics with an interest in issues of poverty to join.

Luis Cabrera is Reader in Political Theory, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham. 

October, 2013

Reflections on using an interdisciplinary lens

The blog posts this week have explored different aspects of international human rights. My research interests include the United Nations human rights machinery, political processes around human rights and the developments occurring at the international level. Human rights are not static. They evolve as global society changes. The field constantly adapts and responds to new challenges. Understanding the mechanisms and processes involved requires a bridging of the gap between scholars of international law and international relations. International law depends heavily on politics, diplomacy and international relations. Using an interdisciplinary lens to view the UN and international human rights enables a greater understanding of what ought to occur and what actually happens ‘on the ground’.

One main area of my work is on the United Nations Human Rights Council. My book on that body,  The United Nations Human Rights Council: A critique and early assessment,  explores the extent to which the Council is fulfilling its mandate. I use international relations theories to understand the political processes that affect the Council undertaking its duties. It is only through an understanding of the politics that occurs within that body that we can find solutions to enable the Council better to protect and promote human rights.

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My second book (to be published in May 2014) is entitled ‘Failing to Protect: The United Nations and Politicisation of Human Rights.’ The UN has three human rights mandates – to develop, promote and protect rights. The book focuses on the protection mandate. It explores how and why the UN fails adequately to protect human rights. While the Organisation does wonderful work in developing and promoting rights, it is the systematic and grave violations that make the headlines; and rightly so. In order to find solutions, there needs to be greater understanding of the problems. Aimed at a non-specialist audience, the book explains the overlap between international law and politics and how that impacts on protecting rights. It demonstrates the need for stronger protection mechanisms and for ways of enforcing human rights.

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Sparking conversations and discussions about the UN and human rights is crucial for ensuring that the system continues to be refined and honed in such a way as to afford better protection to individuals. Those conversations ought not to take place solely at the academic level. Nor is it sufficient for them only to take place between scholars of law and political science. Involving policy-makers, activists, the media, the wider public and other interested parties will enable more effective protection of rights. Academic research informs those discussions. My aim to ensure that my research is disseminated to as wide an audience as possible in order to fuel ongoing debates.

Rosa Freedman @GoonerDr

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