First Fruits of BREXIT: Toxic Trade Deal with US (pt 2)

Post-Brexit stage 1: Surrender British sovereignty to the USA in shockingly one-sided trade deal.

{This is only part 2 of my rant.  To see part 1 click here: First Fruits of BREXIT part 1 }

Are you concerned about climate change?  

Donald Trump moved quickly as president, to pack his cabinet with climate change deniers.  So, now that the US-UK trade deal is being thrashed out at full speed, behind closed doors, how might we in Britain be hampered by American climate change denial?  One risk, already seen in other deals, is a clause forbidding the discrimination between one kind of fuel and another.  If the UK government then moved away from coal, oil or gas, supporting green technology instead, we might be subject to a trade dispute with an American fossil fuel company … which leads me to the biggest threat of all: Corporate Courts.

thunderstorm coming

Corporate Courts (formerly called ISDS)

This is nightmarish and really hard to believe – but big private companies are allowed to sue nation states, if they introduce policies which might impact their profits.  It has happened: Lone Pine Resources Inc. sued Quebec for imposing a moratorium on fracking, and Veolia tried to sue Egypt for introducing a minimum wage.  The average legal costs imposed by Corporate Courts is $5 million, with some as high as $30 million – but that’s just the legal costs!  Some big corporates claim for loss of future profits, which can run into tens of billions.  In total, up to 2018 Corporate Courts have imposed $88 billion in claims and legal costs..

Lone Pine Resources Inc. logo
Veolia logo

Now lawyers and investors have been informing each other of opportunities to sue states where their corona lockdown measures have breached the terms of some trade deal.  The USA loves corporate courts because their multi-national companies are the biggest, richest and most litigious of the lot.  Britain could be sued, if, for example keeping the NHS out of private hands prevents a big USA health insurer from its intended new market; or a move towards green technology does the same for big plastic or big oil, or even if our corona lockdown measures reduce sales or bookings.  Corporate courts would completely bypass our own British judicial system, using instead the bespoke ‘justice’ framed by the trade deal.  Again – is this what we meant in the Brexit referendum when we voted to ‘take back control’?

Ways to Respond

Follow the links shown below, to learn more.  Write to your MP, local newspaper, the Prime minister, rejecting the hasty and secretive way the US-UK trade deal is being forged, and especially rejecting Corporate Courts.  Tell your friends.


Big oil, big plastic:–/



First Fruits of BREXIT: Toxic Trade Deal with USA

Post-Brexit stage 1: Surrender British sovereignty to the USA in shockingly one-sided trade deal.

Inflatable Chicken Mimicking Donald Trump photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Why chlorine-washed chicken?  

US farmers keep their costs down by avoiding the welfare and hygiene regulations that rightly apply in the UK.  Chickens farmed in the USA suffer more cruelty and insanitary conditions, and therefore are more prone to carrying human pathogens.  To put that in plain English, American food producers are allowed to have small quantities of rodent filth or insect parts in their product.  Washing them in chlorine as a final stage of meat production is one American way of reducing the threat to human health.  In fact there are several ways in which UK farmers offer us something better than we would get from the USA.  Think antibiotics, hormones and genetic modification.  Before the last election the Conservative Party promised in their manifesto: “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”.  But at the first snarl from the USA’s negotiators they have rolled over and capitulated.

chlorine washing
poultry farming in USA
Cows in barn and hand with syringe
British cows grazing

What else?  The NHS.  

The USA negotiators are after three things: access to the NHS internal market, privatisation of public services, and raising the prices the NHS pays for drugs.  Republican senator Todd Young said he was “always looking for opportunities to open up foreign markets”.  One risk from the trade negotiations is ‘ratchet clauses’ which would mean that any public service, once privatised, can never be returned to public ownership.  You might think the British Government would fight to protect the NHS during trade talks with the USA, but judging by past experience they will not.  During TTIP – the trade round between the US and the EU our Government did not explicitly protect the NHS.

NHS rainbow
nurses in PPE

So far so horrible.  We are in the grip of a global pandemic of an infectious disease, quite possibly caused by poor animal hygiene; we rely more heavily on the NHS now, than at any time most of us can remember.  Meanwhile our own Government is selling out to a trade deal that sees the UK as a low-standards market ripe for US ownership and profiteering.  I haven’t even begun to write about the ways the US Trade Deal will kerb our attempts to tackle climate change, and rob us of our sovereignty through Corporate Courts – to read about these see: First Fruits of BREXIT part 2 … Is this really what we wanted when we voted to “Take Back Control”?


Global Justice Now’s Think Global for June 2020: and their“rodent filth & insect fragments”:

On the merger of DFID with FCO

Yesterday’s announcement that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) is to be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is a backward step in global development.  The world is quite badly broken still: billions lack drinkable water, food, personal safety, education, healthcare etc.  If we are to develop we need to do so as a human race.  One or two wrong ideas have emerged today in social media, which I want to challenge here:-

Please can people stop calling DFID unaccountable.  It’s the exact opposite of the truth.  DFID is – by some margin I think – the most transparent and effective department in the UK Government.  Please see this recent article:

Please can people not blame poor countries’ governments for extreme poverty.  They are less to blame than we are.  Huge western multinational companies extract wealth from the poorest and most vulnerable, channelling it to their own CEOs and our pension funds – far more-so than flows of aid in the other direction.  Rich country governments + the World Bank & IMF implement trade agreements that lock this inequality in.  And that’s why it’s taking so many decades to eradicate extreme poverty.  I recommend “Should Rich Countries Help The Poor” (2015) by David Hulme OBE

Boris Johnson Shy and UK Press Freedom

Boris mugshotBoris Johnson, you’re turning into Vladimir Putin, please stop it. Today’s Times reports that yesterday (3 Feb) “Lee Cain, the prime minister’s director of communications, … refused access to representatives of publications including The Daily Mirror, HuffPost, The Independent and the i newspaper”. No!! Too sinister! We need our press freedom!.
We are already into week 7 of our Prime Minister’s boycott of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. That disagreement all began in two ways. First Boris refused to take part in televised debates ahead of the general election. The BBC’s Andrew Neil criticised this – well it does seem unstatesmanlike. Second, on a tour of a hospital, Boris was surprised by a 4-year old boy with suspected pneumonia forced to sleep on the floor. Boris’s behaviour in that scene – which included him stealing a phone from a journalist – was shameful, and rightly televised by the BBC. Is Boris Johnson really going to behave this way … like a spoilt child, who goes all huffy if people aren’t nice to him?
Britain depends on its proud independent press. Statesmen and women must be subject to public scrutiny. How else will any of us know anything?
Putin mugshotBullying the media into self-censorship and pushing ‘look at me I’m great’ messages is what Vladimir Putin does brilliantly. That’s one of the things Donald Trump admires about him, and has tried to emulate. On 24 Feb 2017 Trump excluded several media outlets (known to be generally critical of his presidency) from the regular White House press briefing.
Trump mugshot Is Boris Johnson really of the same school? If so we, the riff-raff, need to stand up for our free and independent, fearless journalists willing to speak truth to power. Otherwise, give it a generation, we’ll be reading about President Johnson the Well-Beloved while we queue with the other climate-refugees for a crust of bread and a de-lousing.

A visit to rural Mozambique

In September I was part of a church visit by Holy Trinity Hurdsfield (or HTH as we call it) to Tearfund partner the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique. One of the best things about the trip was the others in our party,: Alec, Alice, Pauline, Geraldine, Jenny, Rachel, Mike and Rachel, Karen my wife, James the vicar, Laura from Tearfund – including several who had never been to the developing world before.

I have written this kind of ‘warts-and-all’ blog to give a real account of where we visited, Tearfund’s influence, and the work of the Diocese of Niassa, which Tearfund supports with funds, but also in prayer and practical ways. Sunday morning, two hours on a very bumpy road to church in Mambucha. Mile after mile of brown scrubby land, the maize had been harvested, there was cassava, pigeon peas, bamboo (which is used for building), some vegetables, bananas, mangos and oranges. We passed mud brick huts with thatch, and markets along the roadside.

Time and again we saw people labouring along with bicycles gigantically overloaded, sometimes with maize or charcoal, occasionally with live chickens hanging upside-down from the handlebars. Later we stayed for a few days in Morrumbala, where much of the land was not cultivated; some of it had been burnt and the fires appeared to have got out of control. Houses were small and in poor condition, there were fewer solar panels outside them, pumps and schools were far apart. Fewer people had bicycles or shoes and there was less activity. It had been depopulated somewhat during the civil war, and it’s also possible that Morrumbala was suffering from government neglect, since it was an area of support for the opposition party.

St. John’s Church, Mambucha

This church was a prime example of a Tearfund-supported process called Umoja (technical explanations later). The deacon, Franco, explained how the church had started in the small house next to the present church in 2007. Members began a savings group which provided the funds for the roof (i.e. it was corrugated iron, not thatch). The building was also used as a pre-school, so young children didn’t have to travel so far to the nearest primary. Memory – a diocesan fieldworker was working on combatting the effects of HIV in the community. People’s attitude to HIV had changed and they were more willing to be tested, with mobile clinics sometimes coming round. Counselling always accompanied testing and those found positive got treatment. Abstinence until marriage was taught. Sick and old people received support from the church with transport, soap, salt; and also advice on a healthy diet.
Mary, the secretary of the savings group, told us that the group now has 15 members. She had recently bought 18 chickens, which she will raise to sell or eat. She wanted to buy a goat next and planned to increase her regular savings amount.
These were all expressions of Umoja, as was the church’s supply of drinking water. In this area there was a shortage – some locals called it the desert of Niassa, though Niassa means “lake” and it was not by any means a desert. the shortage is of safe drinking water. The church requested help through the Diocese and were supplied with the materials and technology to build a rainwater tank behind the church. We saw their large tank of drinkable water which local people could buy, affordably, though it was prohibited to use it for anything other than drinking. There was a well for other uses. Unfortunately the tap on the water tank was leaking. All it needed was a pipe of the right length and gauge, but so far (for months) it had not been possible to get one (really ? in Milanje, over the border in Blantyre)?..
We next visited a lady with one leg for whom the church was building a house nearer to her neighbours so she could receive assistance more easily. Bricks were piled up for burning (burned bricks make for much stronger houses) and the thatch was ready. She had a wheeled prosthetic which some neighbours made for her, and she still farmed a little.

Umoja – And Making Things

Umoja is a Church Community Mobilisation model. It starts with bible studies, takes up to three years, brings a change of focus. It breaks down the old dependency culture, people begin asking what resources they themselves have, and find ways to reduce their reliance on donated financial support.
Very often the result is an explosion of making things. This community had invented a fuel-efficient stove that reduced the amount of firewood required by 75%. Some men made one in front of us, from the soil on the ground, water and a heap of straw, in about ten minutes. At the same time this woman made a beautiful clay pot. Elsewhere people made various types of enriched porridge using dried fish, ground nuts, greens and eggs.

Economic and Social Development
One of the workers told us there is a big weakness in the economics of a poor area like this relying on agronomy. There are no good roads, silos or warehouses, so people have to sell any surplus. If you’re lugging maize to market, precariously balanced on a bicycle, and someone in a pick-up offers you a very low price for it, you sell your maize on the spot – because you don’t want to lug it any further. If you want to keep maize it’s expensive: you’ll need security (a guard or a dog) & pest control; you’ll probably still lose some.
Umoja, the church and community mobilisation programme developed by Tearfund and operated by the diocese, was encouraging the growth of savings schemes and self-help groups. The savings groups are about business only and help individuals. Self-help groups are more about helping each other and the whole community. In savings groups members save money each week and are allowed to borrow from the pot to start or expand small businesses. Money is repaid with small amounts of interest. At the end of the year the money is shared out between the members. It can be seen as a small local bank. We heard from lots of people who were members of savings schemes – often women – who had set up stalls selling soft drinks, doughnuts etc. One lady was a member of four groups and was rapidly managing to build a new house. The mutual support and business training was an important part of the groups. People started to think that they could do something when before they were sitting around at home doing little.
In self-help groups the money was not being shared out at the end of the year but as time went by the amount in the pot was growing, making it possible to take bigger and bigger loans and do bigger things. The bigger loans available through self-help groups had the potential for starting businesses that really create wealth and employment, rather than just giving an individual a better life. Tearfund was developing manuals for savings and self-help groups, and Umoja materials being translated into some local languages when the call for them was established. Another coming initiative was market linkages, aiming to help members of these groups establish whether there is a market for what they plan to produce, and even how they can fit into a supply chain. Ethiopia is where Tearfund’s models have really taken off, and it is being used as a pattern for other countries’ training.
click here for Tearfund article on self-help groups in Ethiopia (pdf)Two challenges:
• Field workers, support workers and counsellors in the diocese’s various programmes would eventually realise that there is no money forthcoming, whereas from an NGO there might be (Save the Children were at work in this region, with expensive land cruisers, but the Diocese workers were volunteers travelling by bus or bicycle).
• The transition from savings schemes to self-help groups was clearly difficult. We did not see mature self-help groups. What we saw looked more like forming and storming.
The diocese outreach teams said they always seek the consent of the village chief before starting work. If the chief is not interested they go elsewhere but sometimes, when the chief saw what was happening in another community he or she would ask the Diocese workers to come back. Bishop Vicente told us that the church in the diocese of Niassa is growing but growing faster than its resources can cope with. He sounded like he had work-place stress. Most churches were out-stations, led by catechists (trainee priests). Some people would simply start a church, then declare it Anglican, because they knew the Diocese was good at helping its churches. Bishop Vicente said: the Diocese vision is to be a community of communities in Christ – “we are loved, to love others; blessed to bless others”. He said it was important that they were a church, not an NGO, their focus being people, not assets.

On 7 Sep it was a day of celebrations: Peace Accord Day, commemorating the end of the civil war in 1992. But better than that – Karen and I stayed at the welcoming home of Earnesto and Lucia Chocana.
We arrived mid-morning and Lucia immediately involved us in her daily life. We accompanied her to pick cassava leaves (I got told off for picking the older, shinier leaves) and fetch water.
Lucia carried something resembling a washing-up bowl, full to the brim, on her head, all the way back from the water pump. She then took us to the market to buy bananas and I bought a sugar cane about three times my height.

Lucia was very quiet but our interpreter, Morrissio was a garrulous, inquisitive young man. His style was to talk with us at length in English till he understood something; then go and talk at length with Lucia; then come back and tell us what’s going on. He was a delight. While the cooking was happening he and I played dice and talked.
Earnesto was a priest. The bishop turned up for a church meeting. Earnesto was looking after two parishes, which were enormous, so he had two churches and … 63 outstations (i.e. 63 more churches in his two parishes. The distances were enormous, the roads terrible and Earnesto’s motorbike was broken. The outstations were run by catechists (trainee priests).
Karen and Lucia worked hard: Lucia made two charcoal fires. She showed Karen how to pound and cook cassava leaves; and how to cut up an onion, and goat meat, in the open, without a chopping board.

The children played with a tennis ball Karen brought. Karen demonstrated to Lucia and some other women how to make English patchwork mats. Lucia eventually completed a mat. The women admired it and the Bishop said mats like these could be sold as a source of income.

Late afternoon and Lucia served lunch: and it was delicious: nsema (maize stodge), mataka (greens, beans, seasoning), goat.
In the early evening we went to dig some sweet potatoes. When we got back there was a pile of dry pigeon-peas, still in their pods, on the ground; and some short wooden sticks. I joined in bashing the pods. Pigeon-peas are tiny, shiny hard things, each one black, white or red. After a good bashing you can sweep empty husks off the top of the heap, and people scoop peas into broad shallow wicker baskets – the same ones we’d used when picking cassava leaves. Then you do some gentle shaking, swaying, jogging, till the remaining husks can be removed.

Suddenly we were told it was time for Karen & I to wash. Earnesto and Lucia’s house was upper middle class by local standards, their toilet was excellent – but if I were to live there it would be this room that would give me nightmares. It was a smelly short corridor with the toilet (I think a fancy seat above a long-drop, but not that long) part way down it. At its end was a low shelf to step over, and someone had furnished it with a bar of soap, a bucket of piping hot water and a little dish. Beside the loo was a huge bucket full of cold water. You could keep clean but it was that malevolent loo, busily stinking.
Later, outside, we listened to the noisy partying at a nearby Pentecostal church, and local beer shops. We ate bananas and fried up pigeon-pea pods. A drunk bloke turned up who sounded like a woman. He knew a little bit of English & pestered us for a bit. Lucia and some others washed dishes and boiled rice. Suddenly, with some ceremony, we were invited inside to watch telly in English. This was a brilliant day all through. I kept having to stop and ask myself “is this really happening”? I watched a documentary on Chinese opera, in English, in a room full of Lucia, Earnesto and their family, who were excited to give us this treat, but who could understand not a word of it. They served us more delicious food.
Our bedroom was small, sweaty, dusty, with scary-looking electrics. But it had a proper bed with a mosquito net. I slept really well. When I woke up at 5am there was still (already) loud party music going on around town.

There were plenty of colourful markets.

All the women liked these caplanas. Karen bought several. Here’s Geraldine trying one on.

In the village of Monguye we met Catherine: we interviewed her under a beautiful thatch on thick poles. She left Mozambique during the war, lived in Malawi, married there, moved back here (both of them) after the war; had 1 living child & 6 ghosts. Catherine grew sesame, pigeon-pea, did well (chinese and Indian companies source sesame and pigeon-pea here for export, but I’m not sure whether Catherine sold to them). Catherine and her husband began making bricks, saved money for corrugated iron, built house; house blew down in a storm & now they’ve saved again & replaced the roof. The house was a reasonable size, well built with an outside toilet and kitchen.

Our lunch of chicken & rice was cooked there. It was a low thatched kitchen with a tiny door. We all went in. A woman was frying chicken feet & offered one to Geraldine.

There was evidence of another charity: ALMA: Anglican Link Mozambique and Angola (something like that). They had paid for the building of this school.

Because of the school four teachers had moved to Monguye and built their own houses. There were 609 pupils, taught in classes of 75, in half-day shifts, from age 6 thru to 14, in theory. The problem as ever, was the region’s extreme poverty. Any very bright kid should really have been going to a college in Milanje for further education – but the cost of that, including rent in the town, was way beyond anyone’s means. Much more likely was that girls would enter an arranged marriage, some from as young as 11; and boys of 14 would begin work: almost certainly pushing an over-laden bicycle to the market. Other evidences of development included: The community had cleared the road so that, though the road was still very rough, lorries could get through; this meant the teachers, mobile clinics and vendors could come to Monguye. The floor inside the church was made by the women from a mix of cow dung & sand, it was a really nice hard smooth floor. One man described going to the mountains to make bricks, burn them and bring them back for the church building work. Why? “Because of the love & the power of God”, he said.

They wanted space to dance in the church. Next they wanted a concrete floor, windows & a door; a hospital and a school.

Catechist Training
Two things inspired me to think that training the catechists was (is) very worthwhile. Firstly it was the church network across the Diocese of Niassa that was bringing Umoja and the various economic and social developments to these poor, remote, rural communities, and the Gospel. Secondly the church was over-stretched. priests could barely keep in touch with their dozens of churches, so they would appoint a catechist (trainee priest) who’s probably no more than a young church-goer who’s both committed and literate) to run the church. 21 catechists and deacons came for our training day; with fewer than half a dozen Bibles between them. The nearest place to get a Bible in Chichewa (the local language) was Blantyre in Malawi. Nobody, not even priests, had any Bible commentaries or concordances. Prior to 2009 ALMA, who funded the school in Monguye, had been paying for some basic training: how to lead a Bible study; but their fund-raising has dried up now. A priest who’d benefited from any training, was a rare thing.
The catechists were Joao, Louish, Stephano, Bernardo, Rodriguez, Earnesto, another Louish, one woman, called Foster, and I didn’t get the others’ names. Raphael was our interpreter.

We began with the assumption that they would expect a boring, lecturing style. We played an ice-breaker where they had the names of famous people, or animals, written on a post-it stuck to their fore-heads. They had a lot of fun, talking with each other. But the game failed (technically) because A) they had never heard of the ‘famous’ people: Bart Simpson, Queen Victoria; B) Karen and I forgot about the language gap and wrote the names of the animals in English! Oops. We got the catechists to share phone numbers with each other; and we sat them at tables where they all came from the same town. In the future they will (we hope) be each other’s best support.
Literacy was low. I asked the catechists to line up in alphabetical order of home town. About half their home towns began with the letter “M”; they weren’t able to sort on the second letter.
I must admit it was difficult. I am comfortable in teaching mode, in front of a flip-chart; but I soon had the catechists looking stressed, confused, tired. This exercise in making the catechists fall over, was one way of bringing them light relief.

James (our vicar) by contrast was a natch. Karen has experience teaching non-native speaking adults, and she gave me lots of tips. To revive the catechists at one point we stopped for a word game, Joao (who’d been the first to volunteer his phone number) had a game: he wrote “P”s on the board & then had a long sentence in which every word began with a P, something like Padre Pablo, please can I have passage to Portugal via Paris (it works in Portuguese). The game took off, and all the catechists had great fun, laughing, joining in, but James, Karen & I were none the wiser.

This poverty and inequality is not right. It makes us uncomfortable. We need to accept that discomfort and let it change us. How can poverty and inequality be dealt with? On the ground – by local partners, not ex-pats anymore. By changing mindsets and practises – here and at home, but in different ways
On the Tearfund Connected Church website, Umoja in Mozambique has an annual funding target of £40,000, currently it is funded to £5084 by 4 connected churches. click for Tearfund Connected Church page Another part of the site recommends that a UK connected church aims to pledge £10,000 a year for 3 years. It is clear that none of the 4 churches connected with Mozambique is reaching anywhere near that suggested amount.
As a church that has gone to the commitment and expense of having large groups visit Mozambique more than once, we (HTH) should be able to support our Connected Partner more, I think.

Restorative Economy

I have just finished reading Tearfund’s report: Restorative Economy; and am struck by its ambition, and practical sensible level-headed stance. Tearfund is a specifically Christian charity, but around the world are people of every belief system who share Tearfund’s commitment to the view that a different, more humane, more effective way is what we urgently need – and who have bold ideas about what that way may be. We all need to work together; and as we do, our heart and soul, our various beliefs about right and wrong are essential. This report outlines a Biblical motivation for addressing poverty and justice globally; it is Tearfund’s inspiration, and mine, and I am interested to know how this report sits with others who are seeking the same goals.
The full report is 50 pages. Here I have given a lite summary. But if you want to skip to the most exciting bit it’s at the end: a list of 10 big policy ideas.

Rather brilliantly Tearfund begins the report with a quote from Charles Dickens – a Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
Between 1988 and 2008, the proportion of humanity living in extreme poverty was halved. More than 100 million fewer people go hungry now than at the turn of the millennium. Since 1990 the total number of children under five who die each day has halved and the number of mothers dying in childbirth in East Asia, North Africa and Southern Asia has declined by two thirds. The proportion of children around the world who make it to primary school now exceeds 90% – and disparities between boys and girls are narrowing all the time. The political participation of women and marginalised groups is also increasing, ensuring that their voices are heard and their interests reflected in government policies.
Improvement is not the same as problem-solved. 1.2 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day. 1.6 billion people are poor on multi-functional measures which include things like education and neutrition. For the most part, these people are either geographically or politically marginalised and, by 2030, they will be heavily concentrated in the world’s war zones and ungoverned spaces, and at severe risk of violence or displacement. At the same time, as more and more formerly-poor people become able to adopt the high resource-consuming lifestyles as those of us in the West, so the strain placed on finite resources increases massively. By 2025, up to two thirds of the world’s people will be living with ‘water-stress’. Some of the world’s great rivers – including the Colorado, the Yellow River, the Indus – now often run dry before they reach the sea, while the Aral Sea, once one of the four largest lakes in the world, has ceased to exist. Vulnerable indigenous communities face ruin as multinationals carry out land-grabs for bio-fuels, timber or other purposes. Right now, the world is on track for a 3.6°C to 5.3°C long-term temperature rise, though 1.5º we are told, is the safe limit. The world’s poor are by far the most exposed to extreme weather, to food price spikes, to agricultural land grabs, and to the ‘consequences of consequences’ that come with these changes, such as armed conflict.

We Need a Bigger ‘Us’
Who can take charge? Nation state governments and even bodies like the United Nations are not all that well placed to address today’s concerns. Issues are complex and straddle different ministers’ and departments but are dealt with as if the opposite were the case. Issues are divided up into finance, development, environment and so on, and left to the ‘relevant’ tribe of ministries and international agencies, populated by single issue ‘experts’ rather than people who can join the dots. The toughest issues increasingly get escalated upwards – to heads of government at home and to bodies such as the G7 or G20 internationally – where there is too little capacity to do much more than react. Governments thus often manage symptoms rather than tackling root causes: cleaning up after floods rather than getting serious about reducing emissions, bailing out banks rather than putting in place a new approach to financial regulation. Strong governance, by international bodies, with contribution by nation states, is essential; but it’s hard to make it stick. To make matters worse it is hard to reach wisdom, either in public debate or policy, with so many well funded, vehement vested interests. By one estimate, billionaires in the US channelled almost $120 million to groups casting doubt on the science of climate change between 2002 and 2010. One thing this points to, is that nowadays public opinion – your opinion – really matters.
Tearfund believes one of its basic functions is to develop alternatives to existing policies, and to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.’ Think in terms of 7 billion ‘us’ – recognising that we are more interdependent than we have ever been, that the consequences of our individual actions and lifestyles can ripple across the world as never before,, for good or evil. And think in terms of a longer future.
Our political leaders rarely have the luxury of thinking beyond the next election; our business leaders, the next financial quarter; our journalists, the next 24-hour news cycle. But we, the rest of us, the so-called ordinary people, in every country in the world, have the privilege, the duty, of thinking in a long term way – one that encompasses human need. Our children and grandchildren in Britain face a far more uncertain future than their parents, with unaffordable housing, costly higher education and student debt, and the end of ‘jobs for life’. Globally, meanwhile, the next generation faces a future of increasing climate change and resource scarcity. I don’t think these are two separate spheres. If the world’s poorest suffer disproportionately as inequality increases, this will not yield a safe affordable future for our grandchildren.
A 2010 report from Tearfund, CAFOD and Theos, argues, ‘Human creativity and productivity, our relationships and responsibility, our participation and contribution to society, our environmental stewardship, and, crucially, our generosity are all fundamental to flourishing as human beings.’ So Tearfund’s approach to movement building is based on a conversation: between different kinds of Christians, between Christians and people of other religions, between those of faith and those of none. All of us have something to bring, and this kind of conversation isn’t designed to lead to us all having a shared faith. Inequality and climate change are the threats to our common future. If we’re to avert a tragedy, we urgently need some common values and reference points. And I think the ideas in this tract can make a unique contribution to that conversation.

God, Relationships, Peace and Jubilee
One of the oldest and deepest ideas in the Bible is God’s intention for right relationships. The creation account situates human beings in three distinct but interrelated relationships: with God, each other and the environment. In the bible the Hebrew word usually translated ‘peace’ is ‘Shalom’ – but it means much more than merely an absence of violence: instead, it incorporates ideas of wholeness, completeness, balance, well-being, tranquillity, prosperity, security and justice: again it is an idea full of right relationships. It does not allow for an exploitative attitude towards each other or nature.
The Bible describes a system called jubilee (in Deuteronomy 15 and Leviticus 25). Every 7 years debts are cancelled and the land has a fallow year; every 49th year all slaves are freed and land, if its been sold, is returned to its original owner. If anyone becomes poor “you must not sell them food at a profit or lend them money at interest. Farmers were to leave some of the harvest aside for the poor. The timing of jubilee years every half-century prevented wealth inequality from building up over generations. Land ownership was reset to its initial, per capita distribution: for as business leader and Christian author Kim Tan explains, ‘When the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, the country was divided up in an equitable manner.The territories were divided up in proportion to the size of the tribes.’ This provided equality of opportunity. Kim Tan again: the idea of a jubilee was that ‘every fifty years each family [would have] an opportunity to start afresh – free of debt and in possession of their own land’. Jubilee was also a kind of fallow season for all nature, and a recognition that we have enough, really, and can be gentle to our world.
The Jubilee 2000 Campaign was based on these principles and achieved extraordinary results: low income countries’ debts fell from nearly 75% of their national income to 25%.
Jubilee looks like the political and economic expression of God’s idea of peace and right relationships.
At the very beginning of his work, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah:‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favour’ (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus’ death and resurrection begin the ultimate jubilee in which all things can be released and restored. He calls us to a radically different way of living, taking the Old Testament teaching to a whole new level: ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’’” but I tell you, love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:43-44). As Margaret Barker puts it, the Bible has a ‘beautiful and sophisticated account of the creation and the role of human beings within it. It is, in a very real way, a theory of everything: politics, economics, social cohesion, justice, the integrity and the security of the creation.

Tearfund’s Vision: Restorative Economy

Broadly, a restorative economy will depend on restorative living – with all of society engaged in repairing nature, using opportunities to be producers rather than just passive consumers, building resilient communities that are creative and fun to be part of, and restoring bonds of fellowship and friendship. First, it would ensure we live within environmental limits. Second, it would ensure that everyone was able to meet their basic needs. Third, it would keep inequality within reasonable limits
Environmental Limits
In practice, I think (based on what Tearfund says) we have to shift to a ‘zero-carbon’ economy, with global emissions peaking well before 2020 and developed country emissions falling to zero before 2050; we need to shift to a circular, rather than linear, materials economy, in which everything gets reused or recycled and nothing goes to waste, exactly as happens in nature; and we need a new Green Revolution in the way we grow our food, making agriculture twice as productive but half as resource intensive.
Basic Needs
While the income needed to meet basic needs such as food, healthcare, education, energy, clean water and housing clearly varies from one country to another, the bottom line is that every person on earth should have enough for a life with dignity.
Trade on the international and internal markets is crucial to meeting these needs, much more-so than aid,, if you think purely in terms of the amount of cash transferring. . So governments need to put in place the right enabling environment: no one above the law, contracts enforced, impartial courts, customs systems that work, educated workforces, dependable infrastructure, from roads to internet connection, and so on. Influencing and enabling these kinds of institutional changes around the world is in large part the role of aid. Tearfund also advocates policies to address market failures and for public funding to plug the gaps. Successful countries have done exactly this: using policy to design markets intelligently, fund basic services and provide a social safety net available to all.
Limit Inequality
Just because the world’s poorest and richest families may live on opposite sides of the world doesn’t mean that the gulf between their life chances matters any less. A growing number of countries have shown that sustained action to tackle inequality can go hand in hand with strong economic performance, from developed countries such as Denmark or Norway to emerging economies such as Brazil which has recognised the challenge of high inequality and started to take serious steps to tackle it. In practice, we think a good benchmark for the UK to aim for would be the kind of low inequality levels that we see in countries such as Denmark (which has a Gini score of 24 per cent, on a scale where 0 per cent is perfect equality and 100 per cent is absolute inequality), Sweden (25 per cent) or Norway (26 per cent) – as compared to 34 per cent in Britain, 42 per cent in China, 48 per cent in the United States or 63 per cent in South Africa. Inequality is poisonous to society: increasing crime, reducing educational attainments and life expectancy (‘the Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’ by Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. Published by Allen Lane, London in 2009). Inequality creates an ‘us and them’ culture, breeding resentment, envy in which even the super-rich are worse off than in equitable societies. Inequality makes it less likely we can reduce climate change or poverty.
Making Change
Politicians often assume, on the basis of polls, focus groups and so on, that most of us vote on the grounds of narrow economic self-interest. But if a sufficient critical mass of people are vocal and visible in demonstrating that this isn’t the case, and that there is real demand for a restorative economy that lives within environmental limits, allows everyone to meet their basic needs and keeps inequality within limits, then change will follow.
At the same time, there’s much that we can achieve through the power we exert when we make decisions about what to buy and how to invest. Many companies are increasingly focused on reputational issues. Given their own power as purchasers, they themselves are increasingly able to drive change throughout supply chains – if they perceive that there is strong demand for it from their consumers. So buying ethically does matter-from Fairtrade-approved items such as coffee or chocolate, to environmentally certified goods such as Marine Stewardship Council-approved fish or Forest Stewardship Council-accredited wood and timber.
Socially responsible investment, meanwhile, is also becoming increasingly significant. In the United States, for example, total assets in ‘socially screened’ portfolios were worth $5.67 trillion at the start of 2014 – a 76 per cent increase since 2012. One in six dollars under professional management in the US is now involved in socially responsible investing. You may be able to help build on this with a push on pension fund managers to pull out of fossil fuel investments. Start by writing to your pension fund manager and asking how much of your pension is invested in coal, oil and other fossil fuels, and how much is invested in renewables, as this information is not always publicly available.
We can all do our part restoring the broken relationships we see around us. In his book, Walking with the poor, experienced development practitioner Bryant Myers talks about the deepest form of poverty being not lack of money, but a distorted sense of identity – about how people living in poverty come to see themselves. This often results from the daily grind of material poverty, but is not solved through giving money. It requires relationship. This form of poverty is not limited to poor countries: it is also found right on our doorsteps. But the reality is that many of our day-to-day interactions with those who need help do more to reinforce broken identities than restore them. Instead, we all need to watch how we interact with our fellow humans: beware pity and condescension. Treat all people with respect and dignity.
Tearfund (and I) would also like to set out ten big, transformative policy ideas of the kind that we think could help to bring about a restorative economy in line with jubilee principles. While we recognise that shifting to a restorative economy has to be a worldwide undertaking, our main focus here is on what we can do in the UK – whether in how we organise our own economy, or in how we address our global impacts (for both good and ill), or in ways that the UK can lead internationally. The following help to meet an unmet demand for big ideas, and we think all of them are worthy of careful consideration.
10 Big Policy Ideas
1 Create a circular economy – through powerful incentives for resource efficiency and ensuring that nothing goes to landfill and that instead everything is reused over and over again, in keeping with God’s design principles in nature.
2 Double food production and halve resource intensity with a 21st-century Green Revolution – above all in Africa, where crop yields are far lower than the rest of the world – by making the sustainable increase of agricultural productivity a top priority in Britain’s international aid programme.
3 Accelerate the shift to a ‘zero-carbon’ economy – in particular by banning coal-fired power generation by the early 2020s, ending fossil fuel subsidies including the reduced rate of VAT for electricity and gas, and introducing mandatory carbon stress-testing for pension funds and institutional investors.
4 Agree a carbon jubilee by defining a safe global emissions budget that keeps the world to 1.5°C of warming. This budget should be shared between countries in proportion to their populations, on a per capita basis – recognising that the sky belongs to everybody, and all our descendants (or it belongs to God, whichever way you want to look at it). This would create a major new source of development finance – from trade, not aid.
5 Allow poor people everywhere to meet their basic needs by introducing a global social protection floor, including healthcare, education, nutrition and basic income security. In the case of the poorest or most fragile countries, the funding for this will need to be raised internationally.
6 Make the UK a world leader in ensuring markets work for poor people around the world. While retaining the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid, buttress this with a stronger focus on helping developing countries create environments in which the private sector can flourish.
7 Go much further in tackling international tax avoidance – increasing developing countries’ capacity to finance their own development from their own tax revenue, and doing much more to help them recover stolen assets from abroad.
8 Adopt a jubilee stance on inequality, by implementing measures that give modern-day expression to the principles behind the jubilee reset of land ownership. For example, this could be through stronger and fairer taxation of property (via a land value tax) and of wealth transfers (via replacing traditional inheritance tax with a wealth receipts tax).
9 Ensure that the financial sector contributes to shared prosperity – and doesn’t jeopardise it. In particular, we need to reduce the capacity for unsustainable levels of debt (or leverage) to build up, for example by radically raising reserve requirements for banks, or creating a new maximum leverage target for the financial system as a whole.
10 Rebalance the tax system in line with jubilee principles, by shifting more of the burden of taxation onto activities we want to discourage (such as carbon emissions, pollution, waste or the excessive concentration of wealth), and away from those activities we want to encourage (such as work).

Full report available here

Aid and Humanitarianism: a Critique

Click on the above link to open or download the essay. I wrote this as part of the course I’m on, and I think it might be of general interest. International aid and humanitarian interventions: maybe they reinforce inequality rather than reducing it. If so what?
This is the ‘deluxe’ version of the essay. 🙂 There were a few interesting passages I had to remove, to get it under the word-count limit for university essays, but I’ve put them back in for this version. Enjoy! And I’d be really interested in anyone’s comments.

Can Big Business Eradicate Extreme Poverty

Who can deliver the Eradication of Extreme Poverty? Amongst the main players will be:

    Governments, including the G20
    the United Nations
    Big Business

But how will money-grabbing, blood-sucking, exploitative, evil fat-cat bully-bossing cigar-puffing big business be persuaded to help eradicate extreme poverty? Here are some ideas.

    Civil Society Pressure. Here is a paper by a group called Trade Justice Scotland – with some genuine influence and a lot of right ideas about how companies should set their priorities. Principles of Just Trade Deals
    Flagship Sustainability Programmes. Astrazeneca (where I used to work) had a lot of social responsibility programmes including supporting charities and promoting healthy lifestyles for young people etc.  Then they decided to consolidate into a single “Flagship Sustainability Programme”: Healthy Heart Africa.  At the same time Kellogg’s decided to consolidate their sustainability programmes into something called “Breakfasts for Better Days” and give away a billion breakfasts, mostly in the developing world.  “Flagship Sustainability” it seems is the order of the day.  Flagship programmes might form a meaningful part of the G20’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG’s) which in theory are supposed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.  The United Nations Global Compact is the mechanism for marshalling big business into helping with the delivery of the SDG’s. See this link: UN Global Compact
    And finally: Indoces. My favourite is the Access to Medicines Index run at very little expense by the Access to Medicines Foundation. They publish indices of how well the pharmaceutical companies do at developing medicines which are relevant in the developing world, and making them available to the poor. As soon as the AMI existed Astrazeneca wanted to be on it, despite being quite low in the rankings at first; and having joined the index Astrazeneca is extremely keen to improve their ranking (as, presumably are the other pharmaceutical giants). This could be how medicines and health-care come available to the poorest people in the developing world. See Access to Medicines Foundation

Trump Log

picture of Donald Trump
Donald Trump.

Donald J Trump has been the scary orange president of the USA for [almost] 6 months at this point.  There are various ways in which his style of leadership and the things he does are just unacceptable, and we need to remember at least some of them, and not allow this approach to become normal.  So here is the list for the months of his presidency so far …

Day 3: Jan 22

Donald Trump and his aides spent an extraordinary first weekend in office falsely claiming that his swearing-in ceremony on Friday had been attended by a record number of people.  The crowds for both of Barack Obama’s inaugurations were clearly much bigger & there are photographs to prove it.  When challenged White House Secretary Sean Spicer made several statements confirming Trump’s assertion, but contradicted by the photographs and transit data; and when confronted Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House aide, told NBC press the White House  had “alternative facts”.

Day 6: Jan 25

Donald Trump signed an executive order to start the Mexico boarder wall.

Day 7: Jan 26

Donald Trump announced his opinion that torture works and his willingness  to use water boarding.

Day 8: Jan 27

Marking a draconian shift in US policy, Donald Trump issued an executive order  denying refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries entry to the United States. This indefinitely closes US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria.

Day 11: Jan 30

Over the weekend (28 & 29 Jan) the travel ban executive order was overturned in US courts.  Also US Attorney General Sally Yates blocked the travel ban; and has now been sacked by order of Donald Trump.  But the travel ban was lifted & now (30 April) is still not in place.  From memory I think it was effective for  less than 24 hours.  Nonetheless Donald Trump, during the week commencing 30 Jan, described it as great, and working really well

Day 28: Feb 17

Donald Trump gave a 77 minute almost uninterrupted press statement in which he described his presidency as a well tuned machine, running really well.  In truth of course, he has:

  1. governed by executive order, a kind of legislative last resort which previous presidents have hardly ever used.
  2. governed by tweet.
  3. Not managed to get anything at all implemented so far; been roundly criticised by other world leaders; failed to form a cabinet.

Day 34: Feb 24

Trump excluded several media outlets (known to be generally critical of his presidency) from the regular White House press briefing.  The Q&A session took place off camera before only an ‘expanded pool’ of journalists in Sean Spicer’s West Wing office.  While prior administrations have occasionally held background briefings with smaller groups of reporters, it is highly unusual for the White House to cherry-pick which media outlets can participate in what would have otherwise been the press secretary’s televised daily briefing. The briefing has become indispensable viewing for journalists trying to interpret the often contradictory statements coming out of the Trump administration.

Day 42: 4 March

Trump accused Obama of phone surveillance during the 2016 presidential campaign.  It would be illegal for a sitting president (Obama) to order a wire tap.  Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic member of both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees, told CNN she had not seen any evidence that Obama had tapped Trump’s phone.

“It’s all rather shocking to me that a sitting president” (Trump) @would make this kind of an allegation about a former president without any proof whatsoever,” she said. “I believe it’s patently false.”


There was definitely a Trump quiet period during March.  To fill the gap while we wait for more news here are my three favourite observations.  Trump’s physical appearance: either the plughole in an orangutan enclosure, or maybe the winner of a Cheesy Wotsit Look-a-like contest (Ross Nobel, June 2017).  More interestingly someone said during last year’s election campaign: those who dislike Trump take him literally but not seriously; while those who vote for him take him seriously but not literally.

Day 67: Mar 29:

Nepotism:  Trump makes a new appointment: “Assistant to the President”.  It’s his daughter, Ivanka Trump.  Her appointment came after a number of ethical concerns had been raised about Ivanka being a member of her father’s ‘inner circle’ & having access to sensitive material without the usual controls that apply to Federal Officers.    Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, is already “Senior Adviser to the President”, his appointment was in January.

Day 75: Apr 6

On 4 April President / dictator Bashar al-Assad carried out a devastating chemical weapons attack in Northern Syria, killing large numbers of civilian men, women and children with – it is now widely accepted – sarin nerve gas.  Two days later the US used 59 Tomahawk missiles launched from two destroyers in the Eastern Med to destroy one of Assad’s bases, taking out aircraft, storage facilities, ammunition, fuel, air defence and radar systems.

Day 81: Apr  12

Trump announced “an armada”: the USS Carl Vinson (aircraft carrier) + a destroyer, a cruiser and a submarine, dispatched to North Korea.  There seemed to be some confusion as, a week later, the ships were said to be in Australia.  Nonetheless they were eventually routed to North Korea and on 18 April were joined by two more aircraft carriers, bringing the total to 270 aircraft.

Day 82: Apr 13 

MOAB : Massive Ordinance Air Blast (known in the US Air Force as “Mother of all bombs”) – at 21 thousand pounds it’s the biggest non-nuclear weapon – was dropped on an extensive complex of caves, bunkers and mine fields set up by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.  About 36 suspected militants were killed.  There is a statement that the intervention had been in the planning stage for months, but no confirmation that it was initiated by the Barack Obama presidency.

Day 109: May 10

“You’re fired” says Donald Trump to James Comey, head of the FBI.  The disturbing thing is that Comey was leading an investigation into links between Donald Trump’s election campaign & Russia.  Any intervention into any American presidential election by any foreign power is illegal.  Donald Trump’s assertion that James Comey’s dismissal is not related to the investigation is undermined by a statement Trump wrote in the letter officially informing Comey of his dismissal.  He wrote: ‘appreciative of Comey informing him on three separate occasions that he is not under investigation by the agency’ (that’s Donal Trump himself, not under investigation, his campaign team certainly was).  The Whitehouse’s reason for sacking James Comey was that he was ‘not able to effectively lead the Bureau & a new leader was required who could ‘restore public trust and confidence’.  N.B. on 12 May Donald Trump denied the FBI any access to Whitehouse recordings of meetings; & on 20 May Trump says “that Russian thing” is off his back, he’s under a lot less pressure.  See also Day 201.

Day 132: Jun 2

Donald Trump withdrew USA from the Paris Accord on Climate Change.  The only three countries in the world not signed up to the Paris Accord are now USA, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia.

Day 136: Jun 6

Following an Islamist terrorist attack in London on Saturday June 2, Donald Trump has criticised Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Muslim of Asian descent, for his response.  Khan tweeted on Sunday that there was ‘no cause for alarm’ – in reference to the increased police presence on the streets – also a reference to Londoners’ determination to carry on with life despite the terrorist attack.  Trump attacked that statement in a tweet of his own in which he suggested London’s Muslim Mayor thought that terrorist killings were not a cause for alarm.  When Khan’s press office responded Trump tweeted again, using the phrase ‘pathetic excuse’.

Day 201: Jul 11

Donald Trump Junior (the president’s son) has been forced to release  emails as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.  The emails reveal he eagerly embraced what he was told was a Russian government attempt to damage Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.

The stunning disclosure raised questions over whether campaign laws were broken and why senior Trump associates failed to report a hostile act by a foreign power.  British-born music promoter Rob Goldstone brokered a meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya & Donald Trump Jr.  Goldstone wrote in the exchange of 3 June 2016: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”  Seventeen minutes later, Trump Jr welcomes this with the reply: “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.”  So the meeting was set up.  But this week, describing that meeting, Donald Jr said that as soon as he realised there was no information coming to him that would incriminate Hilary Clinton, he terminated the meeting.

Day 207: July 17

Trump is bringing in a new law which forbids the police from ‘non-cooperation’ with the immigration authorities.  What this means is that from September, the police will be required to check the immigration papers of anyone they suspect of being an immigrant.  For decades this has not been the case – with the result that Texas alone now has 10 million Hispanics, not all of whom have immigration papers, but many of whom have American spouses and American children.  There has been a crackdown on undocumented immigrants for many years – Barack Obama deported over 3 million.  But Obama’s policy put criminals at the top of the priority list, while Trump has recently issued an executive order putting non-criminals on the same footing as criminals; and the number of non-criminals deported this year is more than twice as many as the same period last year.  In Texas there are now police road-blocks with boarder-control officers.  Joseph, a schoolboy, and a US citizen, is now afraid to go to school.  “I tell him: ‘It’s OK love, you go to that bus,'” said Maria, his mother. “But he’s told me I’m scared I’m going to come back and you’re not going to be in the house.”

End of Log for now:

It’s clear the frequency of newsworthy things is dropping off.  Perhaps that’s because Donald J Trump is finding it harder to do crazy stuff; perhaps because he’s getting more sensible; perhaps because the news media is not focusing on him quite so much as it did in January & February.  I will continue to post Trump Log blogs whenever he, or his team does anything particularly striking.