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Government accused of military propaganda in the classroom

Tue, 2015-03-03 10:05

The Government's material for schools about the armed forces has been criticised today by the human rights group ForcesWatch and Quakers in Britain.

The Government's material for schools about the armed forces has been criticised today (3 March) by the human rights group ForcesWatch and Quakers in Britain.

In a written report and a graphic animation, the organisations explain why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in September 2014 by the Prime Minister's Office is a poor quality educational resource, and expose the resource as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and 'military values' in schools.

The document is framed as a History, English and Citizenship resource for children and teenagers from as young as five years old. Endorsed and promoted to all schools by the Department for Education, its stated aim is to 'to educate children about the work of the UK armed forces'.

The critique includes responses from a number of educationalists worried about government and the armed forces producing materials for schools inappropriate for use in education.

Don Rowe, Citizenship Education consultant and former Director of Curriculum Resources at the Citizenship Foundation, stated that the Resource is "demonstrably biased" and has called for its withdrawal. He says, "Culturally, this is the kind of resource one gets in countries with less-than-democratic structures where civic education is used by governments to manipulate citizens into an uncritical attitude towards the state. In the UK we used to have a system of education which was 'at one remove' from the government and one of the reasons for this was precisely to prevent the possibility of authoritarianism through control of the education system."

The critique also accuses the government of overblown rhetoric to promote the military in classrooms, glorifying 'military values' and sanitising war. Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, claims in the Resource that, "The military ethos is a golden thread that can be an example of what is best about our nation and helps it improve everything it touches."

The report, A critical response to the The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014, concludes that the educational and ethical concerns strongly indicate that: "The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014 should not be used in schools as a learning resource, or should only be used in conjunction with alternative materials, and it should not be promoted as a learning resource by third parties."

The animation, The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? presents an engaging exploration of why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource blurs the necessary distinctions between government, the military and the education system.

Owen Everett from ForcesWatch, said, “We consider that the document amounts to political interference in children's education and that the Department of Education is failing in its legal duty, under the 1996 Education Act to safeguard education from politicisation.”

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain, said, “Quakers reject the notion that war is inevita ble. Holding that each life is sacred, we put resources into nonviolent ways of solving conflicts and averting wars. That leads Quakers to say militarism has no place in our classrooms. This resource is ideologically-driven and should be withdrawn.”

Key concerns:

- The resource was initiated by the Office of the Prime Minister and has key sections written by government ministers including the Prime Minister. Other sections are written by current or former high-ranking military personnel. Its content is politically-driven, seeking to generate public acceptance of government policy and the use of military intervention, and it presents personal and political opinions as fact.

- It is poorly conceived as a tool for learning. For example, the language it uses and the complexity of the subject matter make it unsuitable for many of those it is aimed at. Many of the questions that it asks are introduced in a leading way and the material that would be required to explore them fully is not provided.

- The resource makes a one-sided case for the existence of the armed forces and the arms industry and provides no room for debate on alternatives to armed conflict. It presents a sanitised view of war and glorifies “military values”.

- The resource includes material that promotes recruitment to the armed forces and champions the government policy of promoting military-led activities in schools.

- It presents a partial and uncritical history of British involvement in war, ignoring debate over the morality and legacy of such conflicts.

* Read a critical response to the The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014 here:http://www.forceswatch.net/armed-forces-learning-resource

* Watch The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? here: http://youtu.be/wB9JD6P1RCM

*Forces Watch http://www.forceswatch.net/

* Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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Faith in Politics

Tue, 2015-03-03 07:20
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Nearly 100,000 children affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14, say churches

Mon, 2015-03-02 14:47

A new report from a coalition of major UK Churches has revealed that around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14.

A new report from a coalition of major UK Churches has revealed that around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14. It also shows that in the same period a total of nearly 7 million weeks of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants. The new data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening's (2 March 2015) episode of Channel 4's Dispatches, entitled 'Britain's Benefits Crackdown.'

The report, entitled Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under Welfare Reform, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James (not his real name) who have had their benefits sanctioned:

"During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to. By the fourth week however I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly."

"Those who already have the most difficult lives are those most likely to be sanctioned", said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church and one of the authors of the report. "Sanctions impact disproportionately on young people, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, the mentally ill and those with long term illness. This system causes problems for the very people that most need help.

"But sanctions don't just have a financial impact. The people we've spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity."

The Churches are calling for a full and independent review of the regime and for urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger. In the meantime, they are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems. Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.

"If you commit a crime, no criminal court in the UK is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment", added Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty. "But if you're late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed you or your family for weeks at a time. Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently."

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: "The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time. Most worryingly, it appears from DWP guidance, quoted in the report, that deprivation and hunger are knowingly being used as a punishment for quite trivial breaches of benefit conditions. Employers would not be allowed to stop someone's wages for a month the first time they were 10 minutes late for an appointment, but this is the kind of sanction that is being imposed on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including those with mental and physical health problems.

"We are concerned that the problem may be even worse in Wales, recognising the higher levels of poverty in this country. No Welsh data, however, is included in the report because despite submitting a Freedom of Information request to the DWP three months ago, we are still waiting for a reply. There is supposed to be a 20-day turnaround period for Freedom of Information requests. We are pursuing this."

* The report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions can be downloaded here: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/rethink-sanctions...

[Ekk/4]

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Workers contribute £32bn to UK economy from unpaid overtime, says TUC

Mon, 2015-03-02 10:28

UK workers gave their employers nearly £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year, according to new analysis published by the TUC.

UK workers gave their employers nearly £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year – an average of £6,050 each if these hours had been paid, according to new analysis published on 27 February 2015 by the TUC for Work Your Proper Hours Day.

The TUC analysis also finds that one in five (20.3 per cent) of the workforce regularly work extra hours for no pay.

The TUC’s 11th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day marks the point this year when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start getting paid if they worked all their unpaid hours first at the start of the year.

To mark the day, the TUC called on workers to take a proper lunch break and leave on time. Managers are also encouraged to lead by example, and to think about how they can move away from over-reliance on their staff’s unpaid overtime.

The study of official figures from 2014 shows that unpaid overtime was down only slightly from the previous year, by 0.9 per cent. The TUC believes this is partly due to employment growth taking some of the pressure off hard-pressed staff in some workplaces.

But with an army of more than five million people still working an average of 7.7 unpaid hours a week, there is still a lot to do to get unpaid hours down to reasonable levels.

The TUC study also reveals that men make up 51.1 per cent of those working unpaid overtime and work a total of 1.2 billion unpaid overtime hours a year, compared to 0.9 billion for women. The TUC believes this difference results from the disproportionate number of managers who are men (66.4 per cent). Employer expectation that managers will do more unpaid overtime may contribute to excluding women from managerial jobs.

Unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector (27.4 per cent of employees) than the private sector (18.5 per cent). The public sector is benefiting from £11.6 billion worth of free hours a year.

Education benefits from the most free work, with more than 1 million people doing unpaid overtime, followed by health and social work (770,000), the scientific and technical sector (500,000), manufacturing (490,000) and wholesale and retail (418,000).

The most free hours per overtime worker are in the education sector (9.7 per week), followed by the hospitality industry (9.3), mining and quarrying (9.2), the finance industry (8.7) and scientific and technical (8.4).

People in their 40s are most likely to do unpaid overtime, with 26 per cent in this age group putting in unpaid hours, compared to 20.3 per cent for all UK workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Staff across Britain are continuing to work among the longest hours in Europe and are not even paid for much of the extra time they put in.

“Millions of workers go the extra mile every week, boosting the profits of companies across the country while they lose out on thousands of pounds from their pay packets. And this is on top of the fact that one in five jobs already pays under the living wage.

“Bosses who encourage long hours in the office should re-think their approach as stressed, over-worked staff are often unhappy and less productive.”

* https://www.tuc.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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Did God make snails? Diversity in creation

Mon, 2015-03-02 10:10

Some Christians believe the Hebrew bible clearly rules out same-sex relationships and emphasises distinct roles based on sex at birth. Savi Hensman suggests this may be interpreted differently and considers how the first chapters of Genesis could be read as recognising and rejoicing in the diversity of living beings.

In debates about gender and sexuality, particularly the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in church and society, the beginning of the Hebrew Bible is often quoted. Some Christians believe this clearly rules out same-sex relationships and emphasises distinct roles based on sex at birth. But it can be interpreted in different ways. Indeed the first chapters of Genesis, in the light of the Bible as a whole as well as through observation and reason, could be read as recognising and rejoicing in the diversity of living beings.

In the beginning

The opening chapters of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, have fascinated readers for thousands of years.

Today they are often read by Christians as largely symbolic: while the world did indeed arise from God’s loving creativity, the precise sequence of scientific and historical events is not the focus. For instance in the creation account from Genesis 1.1, plants are created before humans, while in the second story in Genesis 2 humans before plants.

However, what readers might understand these narratives to symbolise, especially with regard to sexuality and gender identity, is hotly disputed.

This is in part because they were written in ancient Hebrew thousands of years ago, in a civilisation remote from our own, and probably drew on even older oral traditions. These chapters are also read in the framework of different belief systems: Jewish and Christian approaches for instance may differ.

In addition, the cosmic scope and poetic quality which gives these narratives such power – and variety of ways in which people perceive and relate to God, who is at the heart of it – increase the ambiguity. Perhaps, most of all, readers approach these and other biblical stories in the light of social and personal expectations and experiences.

It may be useful to take another look at contrasting interpretations in the light of other biblical passages and modern knowledge, and examine how Christians today might draw on these ancient stories in understanding gender and sexuality.

Abundant life and the image of God

The first creation story can be read as emphasising reproduction and sexual difference. God creates “plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” When sea creatures and birds are created, God blesses them, saying “Be fruitful and multiply,” after which land animals are formed. The author repeatedly affirms, “God saw that it was good.”

Then humans are created: God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness...’

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blesses the humans and tells them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God attends to the need of all these creatures for food, giving them plants to eat. Then “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” and rests.

Yet, even as the narrative celebrates the diversity and abundance of life on earth, perhaps even more remarkably it highlights what human have in common. All are made in the image of God and are interconnected with other creatures, who also benefit from the generosity of the Creator.

This was in stark contrast to the creation myths of surrounding nations, including Babylon. There, a murderous power-struggle among gods was the backdrop to creation, while in Genesis the ‘us’ who creates humankind (later sometimes regarded by Christians as pointing towards the Trinity) is peaceful and promotes harmony. Admittedly sometimes the passage has been used to justify ruthless misuse of the earth and other creatures by humans, yet this has resulted from failure to follow the lead of a Creator whose dominion involves taking responsibility for others’ wellbeing. Responsible stewardship is called for, not a smash-and-grab attitude.

In Babylonian mythology, the subordinate gods were set to work but rebelled, so humans were created to carry out manual labour, serving as well as worshipping the gods. This and other empires were deeply hierarchical, with the king – sometimes portrayed as being in the image of a god – at the top and peasants and slaves at the bottom.

In contrast, in the Genesis account, all humans are made in God’s image, nor are most made simply to be exploited. Even today, if taken seriously, this is a startlingly radical notion. Christian belief takes this even further, with God working as a carpenter in an outpost of another empire, then facing the death of a criminal before rising again and ushering in a new way of being.

Even more is known today about the complexity and wonder of nature and the capabilities of our own species, when allowed to develop and flourish.

It is now known that many types of creatures cannot be neatly divided into two sexes. For instance most snails – which play an important role in various ecosystems (even if they can occasionally be a nuisance to gardeners) – are hermaphrodites, with both male and female reproductive organs. Many species of coral are hermaphroditic too. Coral reefs enable numerous other species to breed and eat, protect coastal areas from storm damage and in other ways contribute to wellbeing: it is estimated that half a billion people are reliant on these.

Some might wish to claim that this must be a consequence of the Fall, that depiction in Genesis 3 of the fact that the universe is not entirely as it should be. Certainly nature at its cruellest is far removed from the idyllic scenes at the beginning of the book, where there is no violence. But I think the onus is on anyone wedded to the notion that animals should always be straightforwardly male or female to make the case that such useful and (at least in the case of coral) beautiful creatures are not part of God’s good creation.

It has also become apparent that, in numerous species of land animals and birds, same-sex sexual behaviour is not uncommon, nor is engagement in behaviour characteristic of the opposite sex. This may at first seem puzzling from an evolutionary perspective but there seem to be various benefits which go beyond the individual. Examples include a male penguin couple in a Kent zoo caring for a chick abandoned by its biological parents, and female bonobos having sex to promote bonding and reduce the risk of aggression during intergroup encounters.

Of course ethical guidance for people cannot be derived directly from the behaviour of other kinds of animals. However it is important to note that – from early times – surviving and thriving has involved far more than having as many babies as possible. A childless person with the skills to identify which plants were safe to eat, heal the sick or negotiate with another clan and thus avoid war might contribute more to collective welfare than even the most fecund man or woman, while romantic or erotic relationships might serve a range of purposes. It is possible that communities in which a minority of people was different from most others in sexual orientation, biological sex or gender identity possessed certain advantages.

Today, thanks largely to modern medicine and disease prevention measures, humankind has indeed multiplied and filled the earth, to the point that responsible stewardship may not be properly exercised and the survival of some species is imperilled. While it is vital that some people continue to bear children, there is no compelling reason for everyone to do so, especially if this frees up more time for such tasks as the care of sick and frail older people, fostering and adoption, tackling mass poverty and the risk of war using weapons of mass destruction.

The New Testament adds a further dimension, inviting readers to be part of a new kind of ‘family’ not based on blood ties but setting an example of compassion, justice and generosity. Almost everyone was expected to marry in the culture described in the Hebrew Bible and eunuchs were outsiders, as made clear in Lev 21.20 and Deut 23.1. To quote the latter, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” Yet Jesus remains unmarried and affirms eunuchs, however these are understood.

There is no reason to suppose that people who are intersex, transgender or disinclined or unable to conceive are any less made in God’s image or part of God’s good creation than anyone else.

Loving companionship

In the second account, in Genesis 2, God creates the first human from dust, breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, and sets him to till and care for the earth in the garden of Eden, full of beauty and fruit good to east. God recognises that it is “not good that the human should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

Jesus later refers to this passage in his teaching on marriage (e.g. Matthew 19.3-5). Some believe that, taken together with Genesis 1, it emphasises male-female complementarity, the notion that men and women are essentially different and this is at the heart of marriage and society.

Yet other read the account as emphasising divine respect for human autonomy, as well as deep concern for wellbeing. The beasts and birds are brought, one by one, and the human names them, but finds none of them suitable to be his partner.

Then God creates a second human from the rib (or side) of the first, so that the androgynous being becomes male and female. The reaction is one of delight at the meeting of a profound need: the companion is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”.

Yet this is not as prescriptive as it may seem. If God had decided that it was not good for humans to be alone, and there were only one way to fix the problem – marrying a member of the opposite sex – celibacy would be ruled out. This is clearly not the case in the New Testament and Christian tradition, in which many have entered into religious communities offering a different kind of family life.

This does not necessarily mean that same-sex partnerships are also an acceptable way of being not alone, but the notion of a divinely-ordained one-size-fits-all pattern is not supported by the passage when read in a wider context.

For a small but significant minority, meeting a person of the same sex can bring the same sense of delighted recognition which heterosexual marriage, at best, brings, as well as involving the same challenge to overcome selfishness and grow spiritually through faithful self-giving love. Unlike most of the Babylonian gods, to whom ordinary people are merely a means to an end, God is not indifferent to human need and suffering and is acutely aware of each person, different but equally treasured.

Diversity and sexuality

In the rest of the Bible, even when humans betray God’s trust, are expelled from the garden of delight and find themselves at odds with one another and other living beings, God does not abandon them. Life on earth falls short of its full potential, but through prophets and sages people are recalled to a better way; and in Christ there is hope of renewal and transformation for creation as a whole.

In a world not yet fully redeemed, human relationships – including the most intimate – are all too often tainted by power imbalances, egotism, greed and cruelty. This applies whether people are male, female or a combination of both, and attracted to the same or opposite sex, both sexes or neither.

Yet Genesis 1-2 perhaps offers a vision of diversity in which God delights and at the same time a radical challenge to all societies which refuse to acknowledge that all people, whatever their ancestry or identity, are made in God’s image. The invitation to join in protecting the environment, justly sharing the earth’s abundance and filling the world with compassion and peace is not only for a select few.

------------

© Savitri Hensman is a widely published Christian commentator on politics, welfare, religion and more. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the equalities and care sector.

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Legal analysis finds tribal peoples persecuted for ‘wildlife crime’

Sat, 2015-02-28 12:12

British human rights lawyer Gordon Bennett has issued a damning legal analysis of the negative impacts of wildlife law enforcement on tribal peoples.

British human rights lawyer Gordon Bennett yesterday (28 February) issued a damning legal analysis of the negative impacts of wildlife law enforcement on tribal peoples in Botswana, Cameroon and India during a symposium organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and others on 'wildlife crime'.

Mr Bennett presented a paper which argues that wildlife law enforcement almost always harms tribal communities because the wrong laws are being enforced by the wrong people against the wrong people – with examples from Botswana, Cameroon and India.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, points out that the Kalahari Bushmen’s right to hunt for food is a fundamental human right confirmed by Botswana’s High Court. President Khama has illegally banned all hunting in the country – except for wealthy trophy hunters. Bushmen caught hunting are arrested, beaten and tortured.

Bushman spokesperson Jumanda Gakelebone said, “We are still hunter-gatherers. We want to be recognised as hunter-gatherers. If you say don’t hunt, it means don’t eat. If you are going to ban hunting, you have to consult us. You’re going to turn us into poachers. But hunting for us has never been about poaching. We hunt for food.”

In India, efforts to save the tiger have led to the illegal eviction of countless communities. In Cameroon, Baka 'Pygmies' have been beaten or tortured by anti-poaching squads and now fear going into their forest, with devastating consequences for their health, livelihoods and indigenous knowledge.

Mr Bennett called on conservationists to implement a radically different approach which listens to tribal peoples’ voices as the “eyes and ears of the land,” and to respects their rights.

The symposium in South Africa precedes a major intergovernmental conference on the illegal wildlife trade in Kasane, Botswana, in March 2015. Governments, as well as the consortium of conservation organisations United for Wildlife have been criticised for failing to publicly acknowledge that tribal hunters are not poachers .

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said: “Tribal people and Survival International are calling on the conference in Botswana and United For Wildlife organisations to issue a statement on tribal subsistence hunting: 'Tribal peoples shouldn’t be criminalised for hunting to feed their families.'”

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

[Ekk/4]

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Christians in nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment

Sat, 2015-02-28 10:51

Members of Pax Christi will be among hundreds of others taking part in a nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield from 7.00am on 2 March 2015.

Members of Pax Christi, the international Catholic movement for peace, will be among hundreds of others taking part in a nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield in Reading from 7.00am on 2 March 2015

AWE Burghfield is one of two factories involved in the loading of nuclear warheads. AWE Aldermaston produce the components and AWE Burghfield assembles them. Nuclear warheads move up and down between AWE Burghfield and Faslane submarine base in Scotland.

The whole event is the initiative of Action AWE who hope that this will be the beginning of
a more sustained blockade of the work of AWE Burghfield.

Pax Christi is coordinating a Christian presence at one of the entrances to the site where there will be formal
prayers offered on the hour and silent prayer every half hour to take account of the varying traditions of those taking part.

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi said, "This is the third witness we have made since January
in our on-going challenge to the UKs nuclear weapons policy and Trident in particular. This is a critical time – the run-up to a General Election and also a time when decisions will be made in the months ahead
as to whether to replace the existing Trident nuclear weapons programme.

"Christians must act now to make it clear that nuclear weapons have no place in maintaining true security for our country or our world. We write letters, we sign petition and sometimes we need to take direct
action to interrupt the 'business as usual' of nuclear war
preparations ".

Support for the blockade and witness has come from a variety of Christian leaders including Pax Christi's International General Secretary, Jose Henrique;
from Bishop Thomas Mc Mahon who says: "In my view it is obscene to contemplate spending £100 billion on replacing Trident when there are so many other pressing needs"; from Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes writes, "Christians are called to speak clearly, calmly and powerfully for peace. From time to time we are also called to stand up for peace, or to sit down for it. The replacement of Trident is a matter for national discussion and decision."

Pax Christi will be joined by members of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Fellowship of Reconciliation and
others.

* Pax Christi http://paxchristi.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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Quakers aim to spark alternative General Election debate

Fri, 2015-02-27 20:18

In the run-up to the General Election, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality.

In the run-up to the General Election on 7 May, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality. Quakers have a long history of engaging in politics and seek to get people involved, not to tell people how to vote.

Quakers are hosting hustings with the main political parties, around Britain and at Friends House, Quakers’ central office in London. Webinars, blogs and a new website www.quakervote.org.uk will bring voters together online.

Parliamentary Engagement Officer, Jessica Metheringham says: “This general election will set the scene for politics in Britain for the next five years. The next few weeks are an opportunity to shape the debate. Quakers live their faith by speaking out; it compels us to challenge the status quo and to seek to change the world for the better. The actions that faith motivates us to take can be inherently political.”

More than a dozen Quakers are standing as parliamentary candidates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Quaker election guide has proved so popular it has been reprinted. A handy conversation-starter, also online at www.quakervote.org.uk the guide offers an overview of more than 20 subjects over seven themes, including suggested questions for candidates.

The 28-page booklet offers guidance on how to run hustings (when all the candidates are invited to answer questions) and a panel discussion (when a group of experts are invited to answer questions and does not involve the candidates), as well as many other activities.

The website at www.quakervote.org.uk has facts and figures, themes and issues, to facilitate letter writing, discussions and debates. Planned webinars on peace, housing, sustainability and economic inequality can be watched again online

Briefings suggest many questions to candidates, including these:

- Do you think that faith should play a role in politics?
- Do you support voting rights for prisoners?
- How would a British Bill of Rights, as proposed by some political parties, differ from the Human Rights Act?
- What role would you play in tackling prejudice, whether in terms of poverty, class or gender?
- How would you increase the range of good quality, well managed and genuinely affordable housing?
- Many people find it hard to pay for funerals. What would you do to make them more affordable?
- Do you think the UK should continue to sell arms to Israel?
- (On Trident) Do you feel it is a proper use of public funds to sign contracts for up to £100 billion for a project that could be declared illegal under international law?
- Should parents have a say in whether their children are exposed to greater military involvement in their education?

*Register to attend hustings at www.quakervote.eventbrite.co.uk Friends House, opposite Euston Station, on 31 March, 9 and 21 April. Doors open 6.30pm. All welcome.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

Categories: News syndication

Quakers aim to spark alternative General Election debate

Fri, 2015-02-27 20:12

In the run-up to the General Election, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality.

In the run-up to the General Election on 7 May, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality. Quakers have a long history of engaging in politics and seek to get people involved, not to tell people how to vote.

Quakers are hosting hustings with the main political parties, around Britain and at Friends House, Quakers’ central office in London. Webinars, blogs and a new website www.quakervote.org.uk will bring voters together online.

Parliamentary Engagement Officer, Jessica Metheringham says: “This general election will set the scene for politics in Britain for the next five years. The next few weeks are an opportunity to shape the debate. Quakers live their faith by speaking out; it compels us to challenge the status quo and to seek to change the world for the better. The actions that faith motivates us to take can be inherently political.”

More than a dozen Quakers are standing as parliamentary candidates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Quaker election guide has proved so popular it has been reprinted. A handy conversation-starter, also online at www.quakervote.org.uk the guide offers an overview of more than 20 subjects over seven themes, including suggested questions for candidates.

The 28-page booklet offers guidance on how to run hustings (when all the candidates are invited to answer questions) and a panel discussion (when a group of experts are invited to answer questions and does not involve the candidates), as well as many other activities.

The website at www.quakervote.org.uk has facts and figures, themes and issues, to facilitate letter writing, discussions and debates. Planned webinars on peace, housing, sustainability and economic inequality can be watched again online

Briefings suggest many questions to candidates, including these:

- Do you think that faith should play a role in politics?
- Do you support voting rights for prisoners?
- How would a British Bill of Rights, as proposed by some political parties, differ from the Human Rights Act?
- What role would you play in tackling prejudice, whether in terms of poverty, class or gender?
- How would you increase the range of good quality, well managed and genuinely affordable housing?
- Many people find it hard to pay for funerals. What would you do to make them more affordable?
- Do you think the UK should continue to sell arms to Israel?
- (On Trident) Do you feel it is a proper use of public funds to sign contracts for up to £100 billion for a project that could be declared illegal under international law?
- Should parents have a say in whether their children are exposed to greater military involvement in their education?

*Register to attend hustings at www.quakervote.eventbrite.co.uk Friends House, opposite Euston Station, on 31 March, 9 and 21 April. Doors open 6.30pm. All welcome.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

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Quakers aim to spark alternative General Election debate

Fri, 2015-02-27 20:10

In the run-up to the General Election, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality.

In the run-up to the General Election on 7 May, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality. Quakers have a long history of engaging in politics and seek to get people involved, not to tell people how to vote.

Quakers are hosting hustings with the main political parties, around Britain and at Friends House, Quakers’ central office in London. Webinars, blogs and a new website www.quakervote.org.uk will bring voters together online.

Parliamentary Engagement Officer, Jessica Metheringham says: “This general election will set the scene for politics in Britain for the next five years. The next few weeks are an opportunity to shape the debate. Quakers live their faith by speaking out; it compels us to challenge the status quo and to seek to change the world for the better. The actions that faith motivates us to take can be inherently political.”

More than a dozen Quakers are standing as parliamentary candidates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Quaker election guide has proved so popular it has been reprinted. A handy conversation-starter, also online at www.quakervote.org.uk the guide offers an overview of more than 20 subjects over seven themes, including suggested questions for candidates.

The 28-page booklet offers guidance on how to run hustings (when all the candidates are invited to answer questions) and a panel discussion (when a group of experts are invited to answer questions and does not involve the candidates), as well as many other activities.

The website at www.quakervote.org.uk has facts and figures, themes and issues, to facilitate letter writing, discussions and debates. Planned webinars on peace, housing, sustainability and economic inequality can be watched again online

Briefings suggest many questions to candidates, including these:

- Do you think that faith should play a role in politics?
- Do you support voting rights for prisoners?
- How would a British Bill of Rights, as proposed by some political parties, differ from the Human Rights Act?
- What role would you play in tackling prejudice, whether in terms of poverty, class or gender?
- How would you increase the range of good quality, well managed and genuinely affordable housing?
- Many people find it hard to pay for funerals. What would you do to make them more affordable?
- Do you think the UK should continue to sell arms to Israel?
- (On Trident) Do you feel it is a proper use of public funds to sign contracts for up to £100 billion for a project that could be declared illegal under international law?
- Should parents have a say in whether their children are exposed to greater military involvement in their education?

*Register to attend hustings at www.quakervote.eventbrite.co.uk Friends House, opposite Euston Station, on 31 March, 9 and 21 April. Doors open 6.30pm. All welcome.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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Quakers aim to spark alternative General Election debate

Fri, 2015-02-27 20:07

In the run-up to the General Election, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality.

In the run-up to the General Election on 7 May, Quakers in Britain aim to stimulate an alternative conversation on topics like justice, democracy and peace, Trident, sustainability and economic inequality. Quakers have a long history of engaging in politics and seek to get people involved, not to tell people how to vote.

Quakers are hosting hustings with the main political parties, around Britain and at Friends House, Quakers’ central office in London. Webinars, blogs and a new website www.quakervote.org.uk will bring voters together online.

Parliamentary Engagement Officer, Jessica Metheringham says: “This general election will set the scene for politics in Britain for the next five years. The next few weeks are an opportunity to shape the debate. Quakers live their faith by speaking out; it compels us to challenge the status quo and to seek to change the world for the better. The actions that faith motivates us to take can be inherently political.”

More than a dozen Quakers are standing as parliamentary candidates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Quaker election guide has proved so popular it has been reprinted. A handy conversation-starter, also online at www.quakervote.org.uk the guide offers an overview of more than 20 subjects over seven themes, including suggested questions for candidates.

The 28-page booklet offers guidance on how to run hustings (when all the candidates are invited to answer questions) and a panel discussion (when a group of experts are invited to answer questions and does not involve the candidates), as well as many other activities.

The website at www.quakervote.org.uk has facts and figures, themes and issues, to facilitate letter writing, discussions and debates. Planned webinars on peace, housing, sustainability and economic inequality can be watched again online

Briefings suggest many questions to candidates, including these:

- Do you think that faith should play a role in politics?
- Do you support voting rights for prisoners?
- How would a British Bill of Rights, as proposed by some political parties, differ from the Human Rights Act?
- What role would you play in tackling prejudice, whether in terms of poverty, class or gender?
- How would you increase the range of good quality, well managed and genuinely affordable housing?
- Many people find it hard to pay for funerals. What would you do to make them more affordable?
- Do you think the UK should continue to sell arms to Israel?
- (On Trident) Do you feel it is a proper use of public funds to sign contracts for up to £100 billion for a project that could be declared illegal under international law?
- Should parents have a say in whether their children are exposed to greater military involvement in their education?

*Register to attend hustings at www.quakervote.eventbrite.co.uk Friends House, opposite Euston Station, on 31 March, 9 and 21 April. Doors open 6.30pm. All welcome.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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Churches aim to bring truth and justice to politics with latest resources

Fri, 2015-02-27 11:00

Four UK churches have produced a set of election resources to help Christians to view and interpret the policies and promises advanced by political parties ahead of the General Election.

Four of the UK's major churches have produced a set of election resources designed to better equip Christians to view and interpret the policies and promises put forward by political parties in the run up to May's General Election.

The Love your neighbour: think, pray, vote resource pack, produced by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland, includes short films, with accompanying Bible studies, prayers and postcards, all focusing on four key themes of truth, justice, peace and wellbeing.

Commending the resources, the Rev Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader of the Baptist Union, said: "The aim of this pack is not to put forward any particular political view, but to offer the four lenses of truth, justice, peace and wellbeing which Christians can use to view and interpret the messages and promises we receive from candidates and canvassers. While not exclusively Christian terms, we believe these get to the heart of God's purpose for human society. Our hope and vision is that every member of our churches will enter the polling booth on Election Day, conscious that above everything else, they are called to be followers of Jesus."

"The words 'truth' and 'politics' are rarely used in the same sentence nowadays", added Dr Andrew Bradstock, the United Reformed Church's Secretary for Church and Society: "A recent poll suggests there's been a massive erosion of trust in politicians in recent years, making it more important than ever that people of faith engage in the political process and challenge candidates and parties about their commitment to truth-telling, keeping their promises and holding themselves accountable. We're encouraging voters to ask candidates what their party would do to ensure that there is honesty and integrity within places which exercise power in our country – in the worlds of business, finance, the unions, politics and the media, for example."

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "Last year's Scottish referendum showed that voters do fully engage with politics when the outcome is important to them and they believe their voice will be heard. We are hoping that this election will similarly engage voters: this election matters – and when we enter the polling booth as Christians, it is an opportunity to live out the gospel bias for the poor and vote in the interests of the common good."

Other election resources, including JPIT's Faith in Politics briefing – on a range of issues from housing to the economy, and from religious freedom to democracy – and the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland guide to holding hustings, are available from the JPIT website.

* The Love your neighbour: think, pray, vote resource packwhich was launched at the conference of the same name 0n 21 February, costs £7.50 (plus postage and packing) and is available to buy here: http://www.methodistpublishing.org.uk/books/ab016-ct-15/love-your-neighb...

*Joint Public Issues Team http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/

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* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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Victory for campaigners as 'pay to protest' authorities back down

Fri, 2015-02-27 10:23

Authorities who had demanded climate change campaigners pay to march peacefully in London have bowed to pressure from Liberty, protesters and the public.

Authorities who demanded climate change campaigners pay thousands of pounds to march peacefully in London have bowed to pressure from Liberty, protesters and the public and staged a dramatic u-turn.

In January, the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) were told that they should hire a private security firm to man their Time to Act march – at a cost of several thousand pounds – after the Metropolitan Police refused to facilitate the temporary closure of roads along the agreed route.

But, in the face of pressure from civil rights campaign group Liberty, the CACC and other campaigning groups, the authorities have now backed down and agreed to take steps to allow the protest to go ahead on 7 March.

Article 11 of the Human Rights Act states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly – and places a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate that right and to protect participants from disruption by others.

Liberty’s Legal Director James Welch, who has been working with CACC to challenge the authorities’ decision, said: “Finally the authorities have seen sense – but it should never have gone this far. Authorities should have sorted this weeks ago, not kept the Campaign Against Climate Change jumping through unnecessary hoops.

“When the public wish to exercise their fundamental right to protest, police, councils and traffic authorities should be saying ‘let’s make it happen’ – not asking ‘how can we do as little as possible?’. We’ll be ready to help keep them right in future.”

A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Climate Change said: “We are obviously very relieved that the authorities will be facilitating this demonstration after all. Now we can focus on making our protest a really powerful message to those in power about the urgency of the climate crisis, an event bringing together families, faith groups, trade unions and all parts of society.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us on this: the solidarity of other campaign groups experienced in organising mass demonstrations and civil liberties experts, as well as members of the public, 63,000 of whom signed the Avaaz petition against the privatisation of protest.

“We hope that in the future the right to protest will be protected without campaigners being put through the stress and uncertainty of potential costs beyond the reasonable responsibilities of protest organisers.”

The CACC has worked with police and other agencies to stage several safe and successful large-scale marches over the past decade. Large protests require a temporary traffic regulation order – but in this case Westminster City Council told the CACC it would issue an order only when they had produced a traffic management plan and hired a private company to manage traffic.

Westminster City Council and Transport for London (TfL) have now confirmed they will arrange road closures to allow the march to go ahead.

* Liberty https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

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'Draconian' Northern Ireland abortion law harshest in Europe, says Amnesty

Thu, 2015-02-26 17:05

The laws in Northern Ireland relating to abortion are “draconian” and in urgent need of reform, Amnesty International said today as it published a new report on the issue.

The laws in Northern Ireland relating to abortion are “draconian” and in urgent need of reform, Amnesty International said today (26 February 2015), as it published Northern Ireland:Barriers to accessing abortion services, a new report on the issue.

Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe – life imprisonment both for the woman undergoing an unlawful abortion and for anyone assisting her. That sentence even applies in cases where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest, or in cases of fatal foetal impairment

Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws are in significant breach of the UK’s international human rights obligations, the report warns.

Amnesty’s research also found that, due to restrictive laws, harsh criminal penalties and a lack of guidance from the Department of Health, medical professionals are fearful of providing even lawful abortions, leading to a 'postcode lottery' for women trying to access abortion advice and services across Northern Ireland. This has resulted in women in certain health trust areas, such as western and rural areas, being unable to access termination of pregnancy services.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigner, said: “Northern Ireland’s draconian abortion law is the harshest in Europe. That grim distinction should be a wake-up call to politicians.

“The shameful lack of political action on this key issue has helped to create a climate of fear for medical professionals.

“Hundreds of women are forced to leave Northern Ireland every year just to access health care to which they should be entitled. That only adds to the trauma the women experience.

“Northern Ireland’s politicians have shirked their responsibilities to women’s health for too long. The Department of Health needs to fulfil its duties to women and girls in Northern Ireland by publishing proper guidance for its frontline staff, while the Assembly must act without further delay to reform abortion law.”

Dawn Purvis, Programme Director for Marie Stopes Northern Ireland, said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly forces any woman who is pregnant as a result of rape or incest and wants an abortion to continue with that pregnancy against her will. This is degrading and inhumane treatment.

“Politicians have the power to change this situation and to prove to women that they do care about them, they do value them as equal citizens and they trust them to make choices that are right for them. Until that happens women in Northern Ireland will continue to remain second-class citizens in the United Kingdom.”

Donagh Stenson, British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: “59614 women since 1970 from Northern Ireland have had no other choice but to travel to England to seek abortion care.

"No politician in a civilised country should force a woman to leave her family and loved ones to make a journey to another jurisdiction for abortion treatment. Taking the decision to end a pregnancy is journey enough for any woman.”

* Read the report Northern Ireland:Barriers to accessing abortion services http://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/eur_45_0157_2015_northern_...

* Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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'Faith in politics?' hopes to inspire creative and reflective political action

Thu, 2015-02-26 10:52

Christian Aid, The Children’s Society and Greenbelt are hosting Faith in Politics?, a day of talks, discussions and workshops to inspire voters in using their democratic voice.

Christian Aid, The Children’s Society and Greenbelt are hosting Faith in Politics?, a day of talks, discussion and workshops to encourage and inspire people to use their democratic voice in the hope of changing the world for the better.

Christian Aid Chair Dr Rowan Williams is giving the keynote address. Ahead of the event he said: “Politics isn’t just about parties and elections, it’s about the way that we live together and includes a whole range of decisions about the society that we build. It will take all of us, and all of our faith in each other, to build the world God intended.

“I’m delighted that Christian Aid, The Children’s Society and Greenbelt are bringing people together to think about whether we’re putting our faith into action in all areas of our life – including our politics. So I’m very much looking forward to being a part of the day and I hope others will join me in cherishing this opportunity to pause, reflect and get ready for action in the year ahead.”

Some of the other speakers taking part alongside Dr Williams include Chaplain to the House of Commons, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, journalist and parish priest, Canon Giles Fraser and the Rev Suzanne Metale, General Secretary of the Zambian Council of Churches.

Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective will lead a workshop showing how activism can be about more than just petitions with people acting politically in a creative, reflective and non-threatening way.
Staff from Christian Aid, The Children’s Society and Greenbelt will also discuss topics including the politics of money, how to campaign more effectively, and ‘would Jesus vote’?

The Children’s Society’s Director for Church Participation Nigel Varndell said: “This is a crucial year. The general election in the UK and a number of key global decisions will have a major impact on people’s lives, both here and overseas.

“Very often it is churches who end up responding directly to the fallout, witnessing the impact of these decisions on people's lives. We are compelled to sit up, take notice and get involved. We simply can't afford to leave the big decisions to other people.”

Paul Northup, Greenbelt's Creative Director, said: “For creative organisations, motivated by faith and certain that a more just world is possible, now is the time get together and explore what role we have to play in shaping a world where everyone has the potential to live life to the full.”

* The all-day event takes place on 28 February, at City Temple Church in central London. Tickets cost £15 and include lunch. For details and booking visit www.christianaid.org.uk/faithinpolitics.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.u/index.aspx

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New report says executive pay decided by 'out-of-touch, overpaid elite'

Thu, 2015-02-26 10:29

A new report from the TUC says executive pay levels are being decided by an overpaid elite who are desperately out-of-touch with ordinary workers.

Executive pay levels are being decided by an overpaid elite who are desperately out-of-touch with ordinary workers, says the Trades Union Congress (TUC), based on analysis published today (26 February 2015).

The TUC’s report A Culture of Excess finds that FTSE 100 remuneration committee members were paid on average £441,383, which is 16 times more than the average worker’s earnings. Furthermore, the highest paid committee member was paid over £9 million, a staggering 339 times more than average earnings.

Executive pay in listed companies is set by a remuneration committee drawn from a narrow constituency, consisting mainly of board members of other companies. The report looks at remuneration committee members’ earnings from all their positions on different company boards, including their remuneration committee membership.

The TUC report finds that:

- Nearly two thirds of remuneration committee members (64 per cent) held at least one additional board position on another company. The majority of these were non-executive director positions on other company boards.
- 33 people were members of more than one FTSE 100 remuneration committee during 2014.
- Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies shared one member of their remuneration committee with another FTSE 100 remuneration committee.
- Over a third of FTSE 100 companies have an executive director from another company on their remuneration committee.

A Culture of Excess recommends that remuneration committee membership should be broadened out to include company workers. This would bring a wider perspective to the issue of executive pay and it would help companies take pay and conditions of other company workers into account in their decisions on executive pay – as they are required to do by the UK Corporate Governance Code.

Since the financial crisis there has been widespread public concern about the growing gap between executive pay and the pay of ordinary employees. Company directors have seen their pay increase, whilst regular workers have suffered the longest real wage squeeze since Victorian times.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The excessive earnings of remuneration committee members demonstrate just how far removed they are from the rest of Britain – especially as in most cases it does not even amount to full-time work.

“Ordinary workers need to be included on committees to add some common sense and reality to boardroom pay decisions. It should not be a closed shop for an elite who are only interested in looking after their own.”

* More information about low pay, pay inequality and the need for higher pay settlements in the public and private sector: www.fairpayfortnight.org

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/

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Amnesty International publishes Global Report on human rights

Wed, 2015-02-25 16:00

Amnesty International has published its flagship report ‘State of the world’s human rights 2014 / 2015’.

World leaders must act urgently to confront the changing nature of conflict and protect civilians from horrific violence by states and armed groups, urged Amnesty International as it published its flagship report ‘State of the world’s human rights 2014 / 2015’ today (25 February).

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said: “2014 was a catastrophic year for millions caught up in violence. The global response to conflict and abuses by states and armed groups has been shameful and ineffective. As people suffered an escalation in barbarous attacks and repression, the international community has been found wanting.

“The United Nations was established 70 years ago to ensure that we would never again see the horrors witnessed in the Second World War. We are now seeing violence on a mass scale and an enormous refugee crisis caused by that violence. There has been a singular failure to find workable solutions to the most pressing needs of our time.

“The global outlook on the state of human rights is bleak, but there are solutions. World leaders must take immediate and decisive action to avert an impending global crisis and take us one step closer to a safer world in which rights and freedoms are protected.”

In Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Israel and Ukraine, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has failed to deal with crises and conflict, even in situations where horrific crimes are being committed against civilians by states or by armed groups, based on vested interests or political expediency.

Amnesty also called for the five permanent UNSC members to renounce their veto rights in cases of genocide and other mass atrocities.

Salil Shetty added: “This could be a game changer for the international community and the tools it has at its disposal to help protect civilians. By renouncing their veto rights, the five permanent members of the Security Council would give the UN more scope to take action to protect civilians when lives are at grave risk and send a powerful signal to perpetrators that the world will not sit idly by while mass atrocities take place."

Amnesty International also found that the UK has seen a worrying assault on civil liberties, with reduced access to justice and ever more invasive surveillance in the last 12 months.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The UK is going in the wrong direction on rights, protections and fairness. Public safety is paramount, but not at the cost of basic civil liberties.

“Twice this year GCHQ spies have been rumbled breaking the law. Just last week, the government was forced to concede its regime for intercepting lawyer-client communications was illegal. We should all be concerned about waking up in a surveillance state, without having a proper public debate about it first.

“The UK talks the talk on the global stage on human rights but this year’s summary shows they need to tend to their own garden.”

The UK report entry catalogues the human rights developments over the last year. It notes that the UK government has rushed through legislation without adequate time for parliamentary debate, including anti-terror measures and new ever more invasive surveillance powers.

In two cases involving Amnesty which are being heard at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court which investigates complaints against the Intelligence services relating to surveillance, it was revealed that the intelligence services had been operating unlawfully. Most recently the government agency was forced to concede their regime for intercepting lawyer-client communication was illegal.

The UK entry also notes the continued failure to institute a judge-led public Detainee Inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition.

The report notes that Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that a Conservative Party government would repeal the Human Rights Act if elected in May, and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, with a view to limiting the influence of the European Court of Human Rights. The annual report warns that those draft proposals threaten significant restrictions on rights.

Charities and campaign organisations have warned that the introduction into law of the Lobbying bill reduces their ability to speak freely. The report also states that cuts to legal aid made in recent years, combined with restrictions to judicial review, have significantly reduced access to justice in the UK.

The report notes that the UK has offered resettlement places to 500 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict, but that so far only 90 have been resettled in the UK to date.

* Amnesty International State of the world's human rights 2014/2015 report: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/amnesty_international_glob...

* Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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