All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
African voices shine at global UN forum in Fez, Morocco
Calls for more African representation in international affairs at the UN Alliance of Civilisations 9th global forum
“Let us talk, laugh and be happy like an ordinary African discussion,” the chair of one of the breakout sessions proclaimed before moderating the conversation.
Victor Ochen was one of the many African voices championed at this international conference which brought together diplomats, charities, youth, faith and world leaders to discuss what ‘living as one humanity’ meant.
Born and brought up in a refugee camp in Uganda, Ochen is now an official advisor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and heads up a non-profit youth programme in Uganda.
Voices like his lit up the conference.
Fez, Morocco: An ambitious venue
The 9th United Nations Alliance of Civilisations Global Forum was held in Fez, Morocco over the course of a two-day celebration of African voices and calls for the continent to have a greater role on the world stage. Having the conference in an African nation for the first time was a good start, as it meant participants from Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and others didn’t have the usual visa barriers when such forums are held in European countries.
A message from the King of Morocco, His Majesty Mohammed VI, launched the event in the historical city of Fez, which as the king emphasised, held great spiritual significance. He mentioned how it was pertinent this event is happening at a place which produced Muslim & Jewish scholars from Al-Quarawiyin, known as the oldest university in the world.
Organisers considered the logistical struggles of this location well worth the trouble. Facilities and infrastructure had to be put together in 55 days for an event which is normally prepared 9 months in advance. Few flights go directly to Fez and finding a venue to host an event of this size was not easy in a city unused to hosting such grand global gatherings.
Participants from South America or northern Europe had to change flights up to 3 times just to get to Casablanca. From there, another 3-4 hour trip awaited them to get to Fez. The city was an ambitious venue for a two-day event where most participants would go from hotel to conference to hotel and then back home.
The parallel youth forum held at EuroMed University was where this location bore real fruit. Young participants felt the warm hospitality of Moroccan students who were helping run the event. They kept things lively with their local knowledge and enthusiasm for the mix of nationalities converging in their country. Participants were given a tour of the historical Fez Medina – which is the main tourist attraction of the city – but the Al Quarayyin University, which inspires interfaith and religious harmony to this day, was closed to visitors due to repair works.
Representation of countries
Back at the main conference taking place at the Marriot Hotel in central Fez, noticeable absentees included Canada and the United Kingdom, but according to the spokesperson for the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Nihal Saad, this didn’t represent indifference to cultural and interfaith efforts on their part.
“The UK just had a change of government and we do understand they are putting their strategies and priorities together. The past few months have been very tough for the UK.”
She pointed out that the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief was hosted in London in July 2022 so “Britain does pay attention to these matters”.
Nihal highlighted how there was a strong representation of African youth and African women at the event, which she called the “forgotten peacemakers”. An Egyptian herself, she says African representation is “getting better” but sometimes more prominence is given to European countries and those from the west. “We always keep in mind that we have to have this African representation.”
Powerful African voices
African voices delivered the most passionate and outspoken statements during the two days, where cliches and platitudes can become common at such events. The most interesting set of speeches came at the first session ‘Voices of the Wise’ where former prime ministers were able to candidly share their thoughts on issues affecting the world.
Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal captured the room’s attention with a rousing call for an apology and reparations by colonising countries, having started by saying she wouldn’t be “very diplomatic” in her speech.
She urged the UNAOC to send “a strong message” so colonising countries apologise for slavery & colonialism & say ‘we regret it’.
“This message will bring together African & Western civilisations,” she said.
Aminata Touré continued by encouraging historians to document the contributions of African nations to science and humanity and reminded the audience that the “wrongs in history done to our continent still have consequences concerning racism.
“Mutual respect starts with the recognition that Africa has suffered the most.”
Africa should stand on its own feet
Youth representative Magdalen Fatima Amony had a different perspective when I asked whether countries should apologise for colonising African nations. She cares more about the “decolonisation of Africa by Africa.”
“There are things brought into the Africa system which continue to happen within the African system even in the absence of colonisation so what is the word ‘sorry’ going to help with that?”
“It’s just healing, that’s what people are looking for”
Magdalen works with former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) child soldiers to rehabilitate them. She was outspoken at this conference for the role of more youth voices on the global stage and was even commended by the Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres during the opening session for her work.
She feels neither reparations nor apologies are the solution. Instead, Africa needs to pick itself up and not rely on handouts or be “vulnerable”. “It’s not sustainable”, she says.
“I’ve been at some forums where people are talking about poverty issues in Africa and it looks like it’s all about ‘relief, relief, relief’ but relief isn’t sustainable. You have to train the people to provide what they need.
“It’s all about us, reshaping our thinking, using the different values we have to create the Africa we want. It’s not about somebody saying sorry because they colonised you. The interests they had then is not the interest now. You’re responsible for your own change.
“I think it’s just healing, that’s what people are looking for. Uganda was colonised for a long time and we received our independence in 1962. So from 1962 up to now why are we still looking for the word ‘sorry’? We picked up our pieces and moved on.”
Young people “lack the forum on the international stage”, she says about the youth not having a serious voice or seat at the table at such global conferences. Something the UNAOC is rapidly changing with young representatives beginning to have opportunities to speak directly to UN member states and policymakers. This event alone had numerous young voices on the various panels.
Apology for colonisation is just the beginning
The following day, former Senegal PM Aminata Touré told us there were “some strong moments of truth” over the two days of the conference and it was important to talk about the “damages, barbarism and aggression” that Africa went through and that Africans were still living through the impact of it.
She accepted that apologising for colonisation was “not enough”, instead it was “the beginning”. Recognising it and making sure the general public and school children were taught it was essential so it never happens again. She rejected the notion that reparations would increase the dependency of Africa on the west.
“Part of the money is Africa’s money to begin with. Land grabbings and all these things. We have to build solidarity. Solidarity doesn’t mean we are begging. We are asking for our money back somehow. It’s not an extremist message, by the way, it’s about justice. We are living through too many injustices again. If civilisation wants to dialogue we have to recognise that things are wrong, were wrong, are still wrong and we have to make them right. Through fair trading, fair commerce, exchanging technologies, buying at a fair price our resources. It’s a compact that we need to discuss together.”
Asked whether Africa should forgive all the injustices, she replied: “We all forgive but when somebody takes your money you forgive as long as he gives you your money back. So that’s what it is.” Toure reiterated the need for colonisers to accept their wrongdoing, apologise and look at how they can help support the development of Africa.
“I’m sure Africa will develop itself. Build upon its own resources and resilience – that’s what we’re doing, by the way.”
Aminata Touré added that African voices will be taken seriously when it has a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, considering that collective African economies would represent the 8th biggest economy in the world.
“One of the challenges is us getting our act together as one and having a stronger leverage at the international scene,” she said.
“Listen to Africa, listen to Africans.”
Foreign Minister of Senegal Aïssata Tall Sall was equally as vocal as her former prime minister in standing up for the continent.
“Africa is not present where decisions are made” she said while criticising how a ‘shock of civilisations’ happens when countries try to impose “unilateral values as being universal that we cannot accept”. She urged for more dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect. “Listen to Africa, listen to Africans.”
A culturally rich conference
UN Special Advisor Mr Adama Dieng ended a panel discussion of faith leaders with an impassioned monologue.
“All conflicts we are facing today around this world, we could have prevented, he lamented.
“The world cried ‘never again’ after the Holocaust, but unfortunately, ‘never again’ became time and again.
“We are failing. We failed the people of Rwanda in 1994. We failed the people of Bosnia in 1995.
“The world cried never again after the Holocaust, but unfortunately, ‘never again’ became time and again.
“We have been seeing with happened in Myanmar. We have been witnessing the atrocities committed in Syria. And yet we ask where are the religious leaders? What role have they made to prevent this?
“I wish one day that all religious leaders join their voices together when there is a situation and express concern together.”
The cultural references and history at the conference were as rich as they were perhaps centuries ago. In the morning a verse of the Qur’an was being quoted. In the afternoon you might pop into a session and hear the famous Muslim explorer Ibn Batutta being talked about. In one session, a Rabbi took an anecdote from the Talmud to explain why we should learn just as much from our students as from our friends and teachers. The female Sufi Rabia Basri was mentioned in another session.
Spiritual and cultural discussions are perhaps the last thing you’d expect from a UN conference consisting of diplomats, ambassadors and political leaders. It might have been a formal suit and tie affair, but you could’ve easily mistaken yourself as sitting in Al-Qarawiyyin in the 12th century, hearing tales of religious wonder and living as one humanity.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
Qatar’s migrant workers: A World Cup of exploitation?￼
As criticism mounts against the Qatar World Cup, AnalystNews spoke to Amnesty International about the place of human rights in global sporting tournaments.
Qatar is the first Muslim nation to host the World Cup. But what’s made it the focus of headlines everywhere is not the title that could bring this small Arab country onto the world stage. Instead, accusations of labour exploitation and a disenfranchisement of the mosr basic of human rights through an Islamophobic lens, mires its reputation in the global eye.
Its migrant abuse can hardly be overlooked. Behind a curtain of reforms, infernal working conditions, long hours and little pay, are an everyday reality to the thousands of foreign workers who travel across the continents of Asia and Africa, in search of work and a slightly better life to the one they know.
Qatar’s migrant labour exploitation
85% of Qatar’s 3 million population is made up of foreign workers. Of those, 30, 000 built its eight World Cup stadiums. For a country like Qatar, which is expected to record a GDP of US $195. 000 by the end of 2022, the approximately 6, 500 – 15, 000 deaths that allegedly occurred in the decade before the World Cup (although not all related to it) leaves a grim picture.
Yet, the same could be said of the UK, which hosted the 2012 Olympics amid controversy over its partnership with Dow Chemical and its allegedly unpaid liabilities to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal Crisis. The same could be said of this year’s Winter Olympics in China, which happened despite evidence of its grave human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims. The same could be said away from the spotlight of major tournaments, in the tangles of the UK’s legal system, where allusions to Qatar’s Kafala system are found. A change in its Overseas Domestic Workers Visa Scheme in April 2012 inextricably bound domestic migrant workers to their employers, an apparent step to clamp down on its misuse, but a delve into data revealed few such cases existed.
“Unfortunately, human rights are not always at the heart of decisions.”Amnesty International
When no state’s hands are clean, sounding a thunderous horn for one country casts doubt on whether all of the uproar is ever for the victims. Analyst News put that question to Amnesty International’s Ella Knight, a migrants’ labour rights researcher.
In the years leading up to the World Cup, the Qatari government has been making strides in establishing legislation to protect its foreign workers. The United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Qatar signed an agreement in 2017, aiming to reform the Kafala (or sponsorship) system by promising migrant workers better access to justice apparatuses. It ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, not without objections relating to its internal laws, however. It introduced the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund in 2020, and the Supreme Committee Universal Reimbursement Scheme started in 2020. In 2019, the government abolished the ‘exit permit’ requirement for migrant workers, who, by law, no longer needed to seek permission from their employers to leave the country. By 2020, Qatar dismantled the Kafala system. But a backdoor one remains.
“On paper, the laws are much better than they were. Problematic parts of the Kafala sponsorship system have been dismantled,” Knight tells us. “But in practice, many legal loopholes remain and the government is just simply not enforcing those laws effectively enough. So, the employers continue to have vast control over their migrant workforce. They will have difficulties changing jobs.”
But FIFA, whose former president, Sepp Blatter labelled his decision to award the hosting title to Qatar in December 2010, a “big mistake”, is complicit in the troubles the construction workers in Qatar are faced with.
Knight adds: ““FIFA is an international business effectively, it’s bound by international standards on human rights. But it’s not always the main consideration and unfortunately, when we saw Qatar being awarded the right to host the World Cup, FIFA didn’t take into consideration human rights when it did that awarding it didn’t place any demands on Qatar to reform its labour system or to better protect the workers that would be integral to building it. And there have been lots of missed opportunities. Unfortunately, human rights are not always at the heart of decisions and of the pressure that organisations and countries decide to bear on Qatar.”
She highlights neither were those human rights taken into account when it handed the Club World Cup hosting title to China. In 2019, FIFA said it was not its “mission” to “solve the problems of the world”. The tournament went ahead in 2021 but without the magnitude of criticism that Qatar has garnered. In Qatar’s case, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the national body which oversees this year’s games, gives additional protections only to 28, 000 of its migrant workers, making up less than 1.5% of its total migrant population. It excludes workers who built transport and accommodation infrastructure, as well as those working in its hospitality sector.
““FIFA should be using these human rights criteria in every tournament It hosts or it awards to host countries. It has committed to do so and at the minute it’s not been fulfilling its own policies,” she adds.
But the problems extend beyond both Fifa and Qatar, in the global reaction to migrant rights. Reports emerged that hundreds of construction workers died whilst constructing Russia’s $48 billion Fisht Stadium for its 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Between 2010 and 2015, almost 18, 000 Uzbeks, and Human Rights Watch noted their dire working conditions, which were in breach of national and international law.
Double standards around the world
Qatar’s human rights record cannot be galvanised, as Knight remarks:
“What we have to look at is that in Qatar and some of the other Gulf countries, the vast majority of the migrant workforce is migrant workers and so the mere hosting of the tournament in Qatar was going to rely absolutely on these workers who were coming to the country and being encouraged to come to the country while there was a very exploitative labour system.”
But where Qatar is taking steps to improve its migrant workers’ circumstances, distortion of facts is unhelpful. Qatar’s Labour Minister Ali bin Saeed bin Samikh Al Marri criticised the “competition” brewing in calculating the death toll of World Cup construction workers, and insisted official figures from the ILO are quoted. No one denies those deaths, but the widely misreported 6, 500 and 15, 021 death figures do not all link to the World Cup. The former, reported by British newspaper, The Guardian, stems from statistics obtained from the governments of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, where many of Qatar’s migrant workers are from. The latter is a reference to the number of foreigners who died in Qatar in a ten-year period.
Compared to the UK’s 2012 Olympic record of no reported deaths, it seems worse. But for those games, foreign workers made up nearly half of the 46, 000 workers, the London Olympic Delivery Authority said. And as early as 2008, human rights groups like Amnesty International were raising concerns that London construction workers, 40% of whom come from Central and Eastern Europe, were exposed to abusive recruitment agencies, being offered low wages for working excessive hours. Even today, where Qatar’s non-discriminatory minimum wage is criticised for being set too low, at QR1000 (equivalent to US $275), an investigation by the UK newspaper, The Mirror, found Thai factory workers who made England’s £155 shirts for the World Cup were paid only £1 an hour.
It leaves one question – is the measure of abuse, death?
“If similar abuses were found in connection with the hosting in other countries, then I would hope that it would also get significant international coverage and that pressure would come to bear to improve that human rights situation,” Knight adds.
Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani condemned the double standards of Western nations: “There is a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks, which ignore all that we have achieved.” On rumours that many people would boycott the tournament, he goes on: “Among the ten countries that bought the most tickets, we find European countries like France.”
Those double standards go far back. Today, Qatar might be a repressive state, but British imperialism has a hand in it. Used as a protectorate against France and the Ottoman Empire, the British trained its military, pooled in money and made use of its oil reserves. It left Qatar in 1970, but remnants remain.
The UK’s Department for International Trade reported British companies had profited £940 million in the World Cup, with a projection of another £1.5 million before it started. It isn’t alone. China, which hasn’t sent a team to compete in it, has invested $1. 395 billion.
“When you talk about blaming a company, I would say, rather than focusing on what other countries might do or what might be said in other countries, Amnesty would urge the government to hold those companies to account because until the companies are effectively penalised for treating their migrant workers badly and exploiting them, then, there’s no reason for these abuses to stop. So, of course, Qatar has got a lot of media attention, particularly in the last year. But, that’s not a reason to shy away from doing what is needed for migrant workers and protecting them,” says Knight.
What does the future hold for migrant workers?
Max Tuñón, head of Qatar’s ILO Project office, highlighted the World Cup had “accelerated the labour reforms”, and anecdotes of improved lives exist. Amnesty International, which hadn’t called for a boycott, acknowledges this. But will the world learn?
She emphasises the need for sustained international attention: “Amnesty International will continue pushing for reforms, because there has been some progress and we see that there is an opportunity for the government to push this through and make it really meaningful for all the migrant workers in the country. But, of course, international media and international sports media may well move on,” says Knight.
She adds: “But I think what is important to say is that even though the construction of the infrastructure that’s needed for the tournament might be finished, on the 18th of December, most people disappear. There are 1000s of migrant workers who over the years have never been remedied for the abuse they’ve suffered, they’ve never received compensation but unpaid wages, or those migrant workers who have died unexplained deaths in the country. Their families have never been offered the chance of remedy. And so yes, the tournament might be done, but there is a legacy of abuse that must be remedied and so we and we hope others will continue to push both Qatar and FIFA until they commit to effectively compensating all of those who have suffered abuse over the last 12 years or more.”
Yet, already history might repeat itself. The next World Cup hosts, USA, Canada and Mexico, have themselves exploited marginalised peoples. The 2028 Olympics might be held in Dubai, which still has the Kafala System – one might wonder, is this awful foresight or a blind eye to abuse that does not come cladded in advantages?
Qatar has a long way to go, but when the cameras close, and the spotlight turns off, accusations of sports washing painted with Islamophobia, and migrant abuse may well disappear. Because not just in Qatar, not far from our own front doors, a similar story is heard. As FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, puts it: “For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.”
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
Qatar, a host of World Cup controversies
Why is the Qatar World Cup so controversial?
The FIFA World Cup will begin in Qatar on November 20th. Lasting for four weeks, the eyes of the world will be on this small Arab nation. Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to hold the football World Cup.
Instead of being a moment for celebration, it has brought a torrent of criticism, mainly from European countries, due to the laws in Qatar.
The criticism follows allegations of human rights abuse towards migrant workers who built the event’s large infrastructure. Its laws prohibiting homosexuality have also been scrutinised.
This has resulted in calls from human rights organisations, and public figures – including the former head of FIFA Sepp Blatter – and ordinary people from across the globe to boycott the event.
The Australian football team, despite still participating in the tournament, published a video condemning the human rights violations in Qatar. While Ukraine called for Iran to be disqualified from the tournament, due to their weapons supply to Russia.
But amid the backlash, there were reassurances from Qatar and those who reside there, that it is indeed a welcoming nation.
So, what’s the controversy all about?
There are reports that migrant workers, mainly from the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh have been victims of inhumane treatment while building the stadium. Deaths from work-related accidents and squalid living conditions have been reported. Recently around 60 workers protested outside Al Bandary International Group in the capital of Qatar – Doha – against unpaid wages, however, most of them were deported. Since 2017, the country is trying to improve the condition of migrant workers but a Human Rights Watch report in 2020 said that the workers had still not been paid.
As a result, many countries are expecting that their players will make a political stance against alleged human rights abuse in Qatar. Already, many countries have taken a stance against the country. For example, Denmark will be wearing a playing kit with a plain red home shirt and an all-white second kit instead of their colourful uniform.
“We wish to make a statement about Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of the migrant workers that have built the country’s World Cup stadiums,” said kit provider Himmel.
Similarly, Australia’s squad released a video statement that included 16 players asking Qatar to decriminalize same-sex relationships and remedy the migrant issue. England captain Harry Kane will wear a OneLove armband against the anti-homosexuality laws and this initiative is supported by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Wales, and Switzerland.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and it could result in a punishment of up to seven years in prison. According to a survey conducted by The Guardian, 62% of British people believe Qatar’s stance on gay rights alone should have been enough to prevent it from hosting the World Cup. Although, during the World Cup, Qatar will invite people of any sexuality, race, and gender. The visitors, however, are advised not to show any public affection or wear rainbow flag t-shirts and bands outside of the stadium.
There has also been controversy surrounding other laws in Qatar. Such as restrictions on public drinking, although visitors can drink inside the stadium, wearing clothes that reveal skin is also prohibited, especially thighs and shoulders.
Due to these reasons, France will not screen the matches in public places. But, at the same time, the French news outlet, Le Canard Enchaîné printed a racist image, in which players were depicted with knives and guns playing football.
As a response, FIFA’s leadership wrote a letter to World Cup teams that stated: “Please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”
Adding, “At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity.”
Earlier this year, when China conducted the Winter Olympics, there was a similar outcry due to human rights violations in the country. Mainly the country’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and Beijing’s silencing of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star who accused a government official of sexual assault. However, the Winter Olympics still took place there despite the controversies.
Being the host for a World Cup is a huge opportunity, as it opens doors to an influx of tourism, media coverage, and revenue for the country. Hosting the World Cup can improve the economy of the country, as well as its reputation.
Countries must participate in a bidding process to win the right to host the world cup, and the country with the most votes will ultimately win. The bidding process starts very early on, around seven to ten years before, so that the country can be prepared for the event.
The initial pool of bids is shortlisted if the county does not meet the infrastructure and commercial criteria. After that, a country is selected through a bidding and voting system.
There is a controversy regarding the selection of Qatar as well. When Qatar was selected, there was an investigation into possible fraud and money laundering by FIFA which resulted in several indictments as senior FIFA members admitted to accepting bribes. Therefore, it may be alleged that Qatar could have bribed FIFA members to get selected, but there is no proof of this.
Qatar is the first country to host the World Cup in November instead of in the middle of the year like previous World Cups. This is because the country is very hot during the middle of the year and gets cooler in November. So some players are upset as the schedule change has disrupted the training schedule of the footballers.
Despite all the controversies, Qatar is gearing up to host the World Cup. The governing body of the international tournament estimates that globally, five billion people will tune in, compared to the 3.5 billion people that tuned in during the 2018 games.
Aside from the controversies, politics, and venue, it still is a tournament to look forward to.
Climate scientist condemns “political sabre-rattling” over nuclear weapons
Better leadership could thwart the risk of nuclear war, Dr Stuart Parkinson from an independent organisation: ‘Scientists for Global Responsibility’ tells us.
Concerns are mounting that the world could see a nuclear war erupt. As the war in Ukraine intensifies, Chinese President Ji Xinping warned Russia’s President Vladimir Putin not to resort to nuclear weapons, as he urged the international community to take steps to prevent a “nuclear crisis.”
A study conducted by Rutgers University warned a nuclear war could lead to global famine, starving five billion people in its wake. Analyst News spoke to climate scientist, Dr Stuart Parkinson SGR – from an independent organisation: ‘Scientists for Global Responsibility’ – to understand its tangible risks and how the world could thwart it.
What does the study say?
Commenting on the purpose of the study, Dr Parkinson tells us: “This latest study backs up the findings of numerous previous studies published since 2007 which have used the latest climate models to understand the potentially catastrophic environmental impacts of regional and global nuclear wars. These studies build upon early research in this field – carried out in the late 1980s – which first alerted the world to the threat of nuclear winter and helped end the Cold War.”
It used the latest climate models to understand the potentially catastrophic environmental impacts of regional and global nuclear wars.
But on how the spread of highly radioactive material could affect humans, he goes on to say:
“The quality of life in these circumstances would be reduced substantially leading to poor air quality in bombed-out regions. Electromagnetic pulses from nuclear explosions would fry electronic equipment within a few kilometres of each bomb site which would impact phones, internet, medical equipment, cars etc and would cease to work in those areas. The ozone layer protecting the Earth’s surface from damaging ultraviolet radiation would also be severely damaged allowing for ecosystems to collapse. In short, we would be looking at the potential collapse of human civilization.”
In May, the UN warned the world was at the brink of total societal collapse if urgent action was not taken to de-escalate the risk of natural disasters. Human activities, it stated, were interfering with planetary boundaries. These are systems that allow for the safe operation and development of the human race over generations.
What nuclear war looks like from space based on data from peer-reviewed science papers. A Nature Food paper today suggests that over 98% would starve to death in the US, Europe, China & Russia. pic.twitter.com/J0dtegXen4— Future of Life Institute (@FLIxrisk) August 15, 2022
Future of Life organisation provides much-needed hope in ensuring that such a life-destructing event does not occur again. The organisation’s concerns lay in making sure that advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biotechnology along with nuclear weapons do not have detrimental effects on the world.
With influence across the United Nations, and European Union as well as other organisations in the United States including federal agencies, Congress, security agencies, and think tanks, Future of Life has supported the creation of policies that minimise the risk advanced technologies may pose to human life. The non-profit, independent organisation also provides grants for and conducts ethical research around AI.
A report from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute earlier this year found that increasing tensions between Russia and Ukraine have put countries on high alert. The worldwide arsenal of nuclear weapons since the cold war, it warned, is expected to drastically rise in the next few years.
Weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said he thinks not much is being done by the British government to prevent the escalation of a nuclear war. We asked Dr Parkinson what Britain and the West can do to prevent its escalation.
“The first step could be to end the political sabre-rattling about nuclear weapons and the institution of ‘no first use’ policies,” he said, citing a pledge by nuclear powers to formally refrain from the use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
He further said that countries should take nuclear weapons off the short notice ‘launch on warning’ status as well as remove US nuclear weapons from European soil.
He added that the US and Russia could extend the START treaty to cover a longer time period, as well as to make deeper warhead cuts with more nations following suit. They could also engage with the NPT, which stands for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, disarmament commitments in a serious manner along with Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) negotiations.
But whether such treaties have been respected in recent times is a point in question. Amid the advancement of Russian troops into Ukraine, unprecedented attacks on civilian nuclear facilities like the Zaporizhzhia power station, have reinforced the need for stronger international agreements in the event of a nuclear war. On whether such treaties have been effective in limiting the threat of such a war breaking out, Dr Parkinson stated:
“Currently, there are only 9 nuclear weapons states which are markedly less than the number predicted to be when the NPT was agreed. So it has significantly limited the threat. But nations are failing to implement Article 6 on disarmament and hence there is a need for the TPNW.” – The NPT stands for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
According to him, some of the legal instruments and frameworks that could be used to limit the threat include reinstating the treaties which have been abandoned or curtailed which include INF, ABM, and the Open Skies Treaty. Additional legal instruments which could be agreed upon include a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and the TPNW must be fully implemented to remove the threat of nuclear war.
Which countries would see the worst if a nuclear war were to occur?
He said that at first the nations which were hit by nuclear weapons would be hit severely and then their neighbours and finally the other most vulnerable nations around the world will also be able to feel the impact.
Last month, President Joe Biden pledged that the US “prepared to use all elements of its national power” to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But what could the US itself do?
Dr Parkinson told us he thinks the country “should return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and fully implement the agreement as this would greatly reduce the risks of nuclear programmes in Iran”.
The JCPOA, dubbed Iran nuclear deal, was an agreement signed between Iran and some world powers, including the US. The aim of the accord was to ward off a revival of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which could have seen potential conflict between it and its regional opponents.
The agreement was called off under the Trump administration but there have been indications from Biden to revive it whilst ensuring the security of Israel. This month, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian called on the US to show “goodwill and genuine resolve” in talks to bring back the agreement.
Is it realistic to think countries would pay heed?
The UN Secretary-General called for countries with nuclear weapons to commit to “no-first-use” of them, but how likely is it that nations will listen?
“It’s a reasonable ask, but national leaders are not hearing it at the moment. We need more mass protests in support of nuclear de-escalation/ disarmament,” said Dr Parkinson.
Given the current political climate, “it was very difficult” that we could see a world free of nuclear weapons, stated Dr Parkinson. But changes in leadership could bring much-needed “rapid political change.” He pointed to Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s to illustrate how a change in those at the top could “profoundly change the debate.”
Mysterious Chinese police in foreign countries raise concern
Foreign police presence is not unheard of, but a recent report about Chinese Police in Australia is concerning for some. This is not the first time China has been accused of setting-up illegal police forces in foreign countries with an ambiguous agenda. Investigations by a Spanish-based human rights group, Safeguard Defenders, have found stations in Dublin, Madrid, USA and the Netherlands.
These stations or ‘contact points’ claim to help Chinese immigrants with diplomatic services like passport, visa lodgment and other legal matters. Whilst the Chinese Embassy has not made any comments on the issue, it is widely speculated that the police’s aim is to encourage Chinese migrants to return home for a number of reasons including punishments and feuds. This is hugely concerning for the well-being of foreign Chinese residents and the law of the countries they are based in. The ambiguity surrounding the motives and expansion of Chinese police could have safety implications and rupture the political relationships between nations. Chinese police seem to be specifically targeting fugitives and have resorted to dubious measures to achieve their goal. This includes harassment and surveillance of Chinese nationals in New York City. It is this fear that troubles human rights groups and has garnered their attention.
In Australia, there have been calls to make the process transparent and legal. Owing to Australia’s deeply entrenched trading and political alliances with China, perhaps the hope to find a harmonious and legal path to operate foreign police in the country is not far-fetched. From previous investigations in the Netherlands, China has been urged to adopt diplomatic measures and should it need to pursue fugitives it should seek the cooperation of hosts and respect their regulations. In Australia, the Chinese contact point is linked to the Wenzhou region but upon investigation no clear links were found. Chinese investigations could potentially be used to track dissidents or individuals involved in corruption and political crimes, but no official statement has been issued by the Chinese Embassy to confirm or contradict this conjecture. However, Chinese state media defend their ‘110 Overseas’ system as a means for protecting their citizens abroad. But it still leaves considerable doubt about the elusive nature of these contact points.
The non-governmental organisation, Safeguard Defenders has noted the forced return of at least 8 Chinese-Australian residents to China. Australia’s inability to note and keep track of similar cases has elicited concerns from minorities and ethnic groups who may become the next targets of these operations. This has increased pressure on the government to instil measures that can rightfully protect their citizens whilst also appeasing the requirements of other countries.
7 Key points from Putin’s annexation speech
At a ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St George Hall, Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed the treaties to annex the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, claiming that millions of people have, “made their unequivocal choice” to join Russia and “have become our citizens, forever.”
His subsequent speech revealed deep distrust of the west, its culture and hegemony. Invading Ukraine wasn’t about territory alone, it was about a clash of cultures and civilisations, and standing up to a West which was bent upon “enslaving” the world. Here are 7 key points from the speech which will give you an insight into the mind of the Russian premier.
1. Regret over the collapse of the Soviet Union
When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, those in power didn’t ask, “ordinary citizens what they wanted, and people suddenly found themselves cut off from their homeland”, Putin complained. “This tore apart and dismembered our national community and triggered a national catastrophe.”
He said that decision, “destroyed our great country” and while recreating it isn’t his ambition he claims, there is a determination by millions linked by “culture, religion, tradition, and language”, who consider themselves part of Russia and want to “return to their true historical homeland.”
Russian is widely spoken in Eastern parts of Ukraine including the newly annexed areas and is the most common language. People there tend to view Russia and its past in a more positive light. But in 2018 the Ukrainian government made it compulsory to use Ukrainian in all media, schools and public spaces, whilst previously – since 2012 Russianwas permitted to be a regional language in regions where at least 10% of the population spoke it. However, while Putin claimed the majority of people in Eastern Ukraine voted to join Russia, in the referendum which the West described as a “sham”, polls from previous years show that a very low number of people wanted to join Russia. International observers were present at the referendum but there are concerns that they were biased towards Russia. As with anything during such conflicts, nothing is clear.
2. Anger over Western policies
President Putin blamed the West for their continuing hostility towards Russia. He said, “the West continued and continues looking for another chance to strike a blow at us, to weaken and break up Russia, which they have always dreamed about, to divide our state and set our peoples against each other, and to condemn them to poverty and extinction. They cannot rest easy knowing that there is such a great country with this huge territory in the world, with its natural wealth, resources and people who cannot and will not do someone else’s bidding.”
President Putin emphasised that the West wants to control every other country. He said, “in certain countries, the ruling elites voluntarily agree to do this, voluntarily agree to become vassals; others are bribed or intimidated. And if this does not work, they destroy entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies. They don’t care. All they care about is their own benefit.”
3. Russian nationalism
President Putin considers the four regions annexed as part of Russia, taken by force, by Ukraine in 2014. People of these regions were Russian and have decided to remain with Russia and their choice must be respected.
President Putin made it clear that this is not just a plea to uphold justice and respect the choice of people of the regions, rather, “we will defend our land with all the forces and resources we have, and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people. This is the great liberating mission of our nation.” Not only defence, Russia will rebuild infrastructure of new regions.
A question that must be in every Russian mind is that there has been a significant loss of lives of Russian soldiers, was it worth it? President Putin acknowledged the sacrifice of soldiers and paid respect with a minute of silence. He, also explained the reason for who he considers the enemy of Russia.
4. Western hegemony seen as a threat
President Putin presented the West as the real enemy of Russia. Expansion of NATO is seen as a threat which the West has been deceitfully dealing with Russia and the world.
“The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon.”
President Putin said that the domination of the United States is unjustly enforced on the world for currency or technology. Like if any country wants to trade in currency other than US dollars or develop a technology like China developed 5G communication equipment before the US, then unjust sanctions on trade or technology are placed.
There is no free competition of trade and technology in the world, according to President Putin, he said that the West shows aggression towards independent states. “It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States.”
5. Crimes of the West
President Putin mentioned the crimes of the West and said that the Western elites are blaming Russia whereas the West is responsible for many crimes like, “the worldwide slave trade, the genocide of Indian tribes in America, the plunder of India and Africa, the wars of England and France against China, as a result of which it was forced to open its ports to the opium trade. What they did was get entire nations hooked on drugs and purposefully exterminated entire ethnic groups for the sake of grabbing land and resources, hunting people like animals”. He added “this is contrary to human nature, truth, freedom and justice”.
Crimes of the US include using nuclear weapons twice on Japanese cities. Being the only country that used nuclear weapons, they created a precedent. President Putin also mentioned the destruction during WWII as crimes of the West.
6. “Satanism”, morality & traditional values
President Putin called the attitude of the West towards the world against standard human morality and traditional values, rather it is “religion in reverse, pure Satanism”.
He quoted Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And said that the poisonous fruits of actions of the West can be observed in Russia and other countries including the countries in the West.
Addressing all citizens of Russia, Putin asked, “do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, “parent number one, parent number two and parent number three (they have completely lost it!) instead of mother and father? Do we want our schools to impose on our children, from their earliest days in school, perversions that lead to degradation and extinction? Do we want to drum into their heads the ideas that certain other genders exist along with women and men and to offer them gender reassignment surgery? Is that what we want for our country and our children? This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own.”
7. Fighting for Russian survival
Putin quoted the words of Ivan Ilyin calling him a true patriot “If I consider Russia my Motherland, that means that I love as a Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak as a Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. Its spirit is my spirit; its destiny is my destiny; its suffering is my grief; and its prosperity is my joy.”
Mentioning the thousand years of Russian statehood, he said “today, we are making this choice; the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the residents of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with their Motherland, to share in its destiny, and to be victorious together with it. The truth is with us, and behind us is Russia!”
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