Hit them where it hurts – in the wallet

The climate change movement has been saying for a few years that a very effective way to achieve their aims is to get people to move their bank accounts and pensions away from mainstream providers to ethical ones instead.  This is now paying dividends – literally! – and is also resulting in the ethical investment funds having enough clout to change the behaviour of carbon-producing industry.  For example:

18 May 2021 “Shell faces shareholder rebellion over fossil fuel productionThe GuardianLink.

Shell has faced a significant shareholder rebellion on a vote calling for the oil company to set firm targets to wind down fossil fuel production.  A shareholder resolution calling for the Anglo-Dutch company to set binding carbon emissions reduction targets received 30% of votes at the oil company’s annual meeting on Tuesday.

The result represents an escalation of the pressure on Shell to commit to meaningful decarbonisation, after a similar resolution last year received 14% of votes.

The Shell rebellion sailed past the 20% threshold that means the oil company will be forced to consult shareholders and report on their views within six months, under the UK corporate governance code.

The resolution was put forward by Follow This, a campaign group that uses activist investment to put pressure on oil companies into decarbonising in line with the limits set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

26 May 2021 “ExxonMobil and Chevron suffer shareholder rebellions over climateThe Guardian.

Exxon loses two board seats to activist hedge fund.

Exxon failed to defend its board against a coup launched by dissident hedge fund activists at Engine No. 1 which successfully replaced two Exxon board members with its own candidates to help drive the oil company towards a greener strategy.

Meanwhile, a majority of Chevron shareholders rebelled against the company’s board by voting 61% in favour of an activist proposal from – Dutch campaign group Follow This – to force the group to cut its carbon emissions.

Mark van Baal, who founded Follow This, said Wednesday’s shareholder revolts mark an investor “paradigm shift” and a “victory in the fight against climate change”.

3 Jun 2021 “Activist fund expected to win third seat on ExxonMobil boardThe Guardian.

ExxonMobil expects to lose a third board seat to an activist hedge fund, Engine No 1, adding to the pressure on one of the world’s largest oil companies to introduce a more effective climate transition plan.

CarbonDirect, LowCarbon and Morgan Stanley are examples of companies who have decided that actively investing in carbon reduction industries is more profitable than in the oil and gas extraction industries.

Green shareholders change the world!  Follow This is a campaigning organisation set up “to change oil companies from within – as shareholders. Follow This unites responsible shareholders to push Big Oil to go green.”  Also:

The Follow This Online Symposium 2021, which took place on April 21, brought together investors, the oil and gas industry, academics, and media to discuss how investors can support oil and gas companies to take a leading role in tackling climate change.

This may be relevant for the peace movement worldwide.  By adopting the same approach, it may be possible to move funds away from the arms industry.  More likely is that the arms industry will start to develop conflict transformation programmes so as to claim they are ethical too.

Perhaps this is something the peace sector should mobilise toward: all advising their members and supporters to move their current accounts, savings, investments and pensions to ethical providers.  It is something we can all unite behind: a common message with a common purpose.  One which we can see can work to save the planet – perhaps it can save humanity from war too.

 

A few words on governance and mission statements

This needs expanding, and could be expanded into a number of degree level courses.

There are a number of legal structure options. The most popular are:

  • unincorporated organisation – a bunch of people doing stuff. How most campaigning groups start out. Members are totally liable for debts and for the crimes of each other. Campaign Against the Arms Trade is one of these. So is War Resisters International (although it comprises not people but organisations).
  • company limited by guarantee. Like Conscience. Protects the founders to a large extent should someone do a Bad Thing. Means you can’t break the law.
  • Community Interest Company. Created for the good of a community and not suitable for campaigning. Meant for allotment associations or a village school run by the residents.
  • Charity. Very heavily regulated and controlled. Cannot get involved in political campaigning (in theory – the rich ones do it all the time).

The above are listed on gov.uk which has really good information on the options.

Regarding the purpose, vision and mission statement, you need to look inside your heart for those. They must be expressed in a way that is understandable by others and are goals that could be achieved. It might be one thing, such as COMT (like Conscience) or wider ranging such as campaigning for people being harmed by their government (similar to Amnesty International). It can be hugely wide, like the World Wildlife Fund, or as narrow as the Faslane Peace Camp.

When someone says “Who are you?”, “What are you campaigning for?”, “Why does it matter?”, “Why should I care?”, “What do you expect me to do about it?” those answers should be there already. (We ought to have a page of those on the Conscience web site.) It is worth coming up with a list of those questions and keeping them somewhere to hand and as answers occur to you, write them down. If you can’t answer them, you can’t get others to follow. It might mean changing the purpose, narrowing it down, until you can come up with questions and answers that work.

UK aid from 0.7% to 0.5%

There has been a UK government announcement about reducing aid from 0.7% to 0.5%.

The argument is that since the economy is struggling1, we ought to spend less on aid (“charity begins at home” and all that). But the idea of paying a percentage is that is goes down when the economy is suffering anyway. So reducing the percentage reduces the amount twice over. Also, since the economy has shrunk, reducing the %age spent on aid claws back less money than it first appears, it claws back 0.2% of less that it would have.

Of what is it 0.7% or 0.5%?
It is a %age of the Gross National Income (GNI). What is GNI? That is the new term for Gross National Product (GNP) which is in turn a slightly tweaked version of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GNI is as near as damnit the same as GDP. The GDP is all the goods and services we make in the UK, so the aid budget is a proportion of that. GDP is about £500 billion, so the aid budget is about

In 2016, the UK spent £13.4 billion on overseas aid.
In 2019 the aid budget was about £15.2 billion.

Why 0.7%?
0.7% is the UN’s target for all developed countries and has been since 1970.
That was a commitment from nine members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s development assistance committee.
The UK government signed up to the target in 1974 but it only achieved it for the first time in 2013.
In 2015 it was put into UK law.

How much is it going down?
It is expected to go down by £2.9bn due to the decrease in the economy, to £12.3 billion and the reduction to 0.5% will bring it down to about £8.8 billion. An overall reduction of about 42%.

What has the government said?
The government announcement said that aid will be combined into diplomacy. That suggests it will not be spent on the items it was spent on. Instead it will go to:

  1. fund climate change related activity in developing countries;
  2. spending on Covid-19 measures in developing countries;
  3. education of girls;
  4. an umbrella of measures in health (is also item 2), education (is also item 3), resilience (is also item 5), low carbon tech (is also item 1), agriculture [probably what everyone thinks of as sustainable aid], economic development (is also item 7), conflict (is also item 6) and poverty [the other view of aid as unsustainable];
  5. democracy and governance;
  6. international collaboration;
  7. trade and investment opportunities.

That sounds like some aid will be diverted to climate change, some to the Covid-19 expenditure, some to supporting other governments, some to supporting large international charities and some to compensating for leaving the EU.

They also said there will be performance assessment. This has been called for in the past but it is not yet clear how performance will be measured.

In his speech he talks mostly about the money going on climate change, military peacekeeping, cybersecurity,Covid-19 and education.  So there won’t be anything like so much spent on what people consider as ‘aid’, and what there is will be mostly diverted toward national security measures.

There was no reference to the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, nor to the Stabilisation Unit.

Useful info:
– Full Fact UK spending on foreign aid 15 February 2018 fullfact.org/economy/uk-spending-foreign-aid

1  “The UK is facing the worst economic contraction in almost 300 years, and a budget deficit of close to £400 billion – double that of the last financial crisis” https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/official-development-assistance-foreign-secretarys-statement-november-2020

We need more data on peace-making

Accept repentant Boko Haram fighters or they go back to terrorism, presidency urges Nigerians

This is a news story about young men who had been members of a terrorist organisation being allowed to repent, and the national leader asking people to allow them back into their communities.

19/09/2019 “the establishment of ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ in Gombe State has been described as a global model in combating insurgency in the world” link.

11/06/2020 “No repentant Boko Haram Terrorists combatant who has been reintegrated into the society will evade arrest if he reneged on the pledge” link.

Anyone who thinks one cannot negotiate with terrorists and one must fight fire with fire could do worse than look at Operation Safe Corridor. The deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration (DRR) process of ex- Boko Haram members seems to have been a remarkably impressive demonstration of best practice in tackling extremist violence.

General Olonisakin: “the Armed Forces of Nigeria is not only trying to win the war but to also win the peace”.

It must be incredibly tough on those still displaced or still in areas affected by Boko Haram. Forgiveness does not come easily.

It’s quite an example though of how violent groups recruit and kidnap young people to do their fighting for them, and how such fighters themselves can also be the victims.

I’ve written before about trading justice for peace. Punishing these young men would have been injustice on injustice and not resulted in any peace.

Violence is complicated. Peace is really hard.

I do hope all this gets researched and documented. An observation:

“The operation Safe Corridor is good, but how much have been invested in communities to bolster their resilience capacities, heal their grievances and give them back their lives to enable them embrace these formers? What is the post deradicalisation programme that can effectively monitor these formers to track their progress in reintegration or further resurgence in their old tracks? What has been the role of formers in the process deracalisation or PVE? These and many more should be reassessed and appraised.”

Absolutely – data is needed and needs to be published about conflict interventions and resolution as a bigger picture. This was a major conclusion from my Master’s in Peace Studies – a lack of off-the-shelf case studies fro those new to or outside the field.

Essentially we have the Oxford Research Group’s ‘War Prevention Works : 50 Stories of People Resolving Conflict’ from 2001 and High Miall’s ‘The Peacemakers: Peaceful Settlement of Disputes Since 1945′ from 1992.

I think there is a desperate need for Practitioners’ Manual for Peace based on evidence from past interventions, which requires that consolidation of data to underpin and inform it.

I do find it interesting it appears to be being led by the Armed Forces of Nigeria. How’s that for defence diversification?

Nobody talks about peace

A recurring theme when studying international relations and diplomacy is the need for secret talks between parties in conflict.  This allows concessions to be discussed without the leaders on either side losing face.  So we do not hear about moves made toward peace-making, what the methods are, how many are involved, how much work gets done and how successful it may or may not be.  This gives us the impression that there is no peace-making going on, merely a cessation of hostilities.

It also came up when I was researching The Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The ‘politics of research’ means information on security matters is not researched, not talked about, not documented and not publicised.  So we do not hear about the successes and achievements toward peace making.

I am now going through a list of case studies called ‘War Prevention Works’ published by the Oxford Research Group.  They say in their book that finding out about interventions in conflict is hard because they are kept quiet.

It is no wonder the general public think peace is an impossibility, war is inevitable and that peace-making does now work.  It receives no publicity for multiple reasons, whereas war is newsworthy every day.  And if you don’t talk about something, it does not exist.  There needs to be evidence for people to learn from and believe in.  If you don’t study your history, you can’t learn from it.  Keeping peace-making secret may be a short-term requirement, but it is a medium and long term hindrance.

We need to publicise methods and successes somehow, somewhere.  Which takes me back to where I started in 2012: where is the manual on how to do peace as a practitioner?  What are the methodologies?  What is the learned journal for peace?  What is the code of conduct?  What is the professional body?

Global spending on…

Annual global cost of removing all extreme poverty in the world (link): US$ 243 billion.

Annual global spending on ice cream in 2017 (link) US$ 54 billion.

Annual global cost of oceanic marine parks (link): US$ 12-14 billion.

Annual global military spending (link): US$ 1,700 billion.

 

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

Finally found some wise words on Facebook

I can’t work out how to embed a Facebook post properly.  I was hoping to get this post to show all the text, but failed.  It says:

Apparently, if you want to have a failed policy on an issue or more of something, you should declare war on it.
War on drugs created more drug addicts, war on terror helped create ISIS which makes Al Qaeda look like kindergartners, war on poverty has led to the greatest imbalance of resources in the history of America.
Perhaps we should have a war on common sense, a war on love and a war on education so we can have more of these.

 

Fight fire with fire

On the 11th November, yesterday, an angry man said: “you have to fight fire with fire“.  That would be news to the fire brigade.  Anyone who has done their workplace e-learning about fire will know you put out fires by breaking the fire triangle: starve it of fuel, heat or oxygen.

To starve a conflict of heat, you do so by fairer distribution of resources, by not imposing cultural imperialism, by combating corruption, by not unfairly stripping countries of their resources and by not funding proxy wars.

To starve a conflict of fuel you do so by not retaliating, by not escalating, by not creating widows and orphans, by not training civilians to be militia, by not providing the arms for proxy wars.

To starve a conflict of oxygen, you go for the oxygen of publicity and stop copy-cat behaviour and slow expansion.  But the media do like to show what bombs work best and where to put them, how to decapitate, how to drive  a vehicle through a crowd.

No, you don’t fight fire with fire.  You usually use cold water.  Hopefully that angry man will remember that, this Remembrance Sunday, when the rest of us are trying to remember:

never again.

Scientists for Global Responsibility

At some time in 2016, for rather convoluted reasons to do with supporting the Peace Tax Seven,  I started getting emails from a Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) mailing list.  Today’s was a job ad for them.  I can’t apply because I don’t have the essentials in the person spec., but their web site is interesting.

The ethics around the technology developments required of modern warfare are a major part of their raison d’etre, and they were formed from peace groups merging.  They are affiliated with a number of peace organisations, each of which I need to investigate as both sources of information and as potential employers.  They are concerned about the military influence on science and technology research.  They have information booklets on ethical careers.  They have a list of potential ethical employers in the peace sector.  They have resources on security and disarmament.  They produce reports and briefings including security.  They have dozens of newsletters I need to go through.

I have joined their mailing list proper.  I have joined their LinkedIn group.  Today I post my membership off to them.

Their Wikipedia page is a bit thin.  Here’s someone else’s words about them.

They do get articles published like this one in the Guardian.

I firmly expect a bunch of committed scientists can provide me with loads of data for evidence-based peace.

I had not heard of SGR before – this highlights the problem I found at the start in 2012: where is the peace industry? The arms industry has a fantastically high profile, the peace industry is barely mentioned other than to criticise white poppies.