As a part of the Strategic Leadership course on Edinburgh’s MBA programme, a group of five students organised a social event to help draw awareness to the Syrian refugee crisis. In this guest post, Debjani Paul offers an overview of the event, which centred around the the personal life experiences of three Syrians now settled in Edinburgh – Aamer Hanouf, Hussen Al Ajraf, and Amer Masri.
With the rising global concerns including climate change, an increase in global population, poverty, and terrorism, world leaders have much to focus on. It is becoming a new norm for companies to be socially responsible by promoting sustainability and contributing at least in one of the global concerns, also known as Corporate Social Responsibility. This is the ethical way to do business that every future leader should practice.
This was the question Professor David Miller from Oxford University addressed on 4 February 2016 in a well-attended lecture hosted by Edinburgh University’s Global Justice Academy and Just World Institute.
Professor Miller began his talk by noting the 2014 UK government decision not to support Triton, a search-and-rescue operation proposed by the EU that could have potentially saved the lives of sea-crossing migrants, or “boat people”. The main reasoning behind this decision was the claim that search-and-rescue encourages people to attempt dangerous sea crossings in the greater expectation of being rescued, and therefore, in the long term, will bring about more deaths. This seems to be a consequentialist argument that considers effects of alternative ways of using resources in order to minimise the loss of lives overall. Meanwhile, critics argue that European states have stringent obligations to protect rights of migrants. But is it true that the critics’ argument occupies the moral high ground while the UK government’s argument is morally defective? The answer Professor Miller gave us was: ‘Not necessarily’.
Rebecca Smyth is a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador for 2015-16. In this post, Rebecca reflects on the third in our series of Rapid Response Roundtables on the current refugee crisis. Rebecca also report from the second roundtable, ‘Is the Global Refugee Regime Fit for Purpose?’.
Chaired by Dr Patrycja Stys of the Centre of African Studies, this event was the last of three organised by the Global Justice Academy in relation to the current refugee crisis.
It began with a screening of LIVED’s Learning to Swim, a short documentary that aims to share something of the everyday lives of displaced young Syrians in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, the village of Zaatari, and Amman in Jordan. It’s a very special piece. Through seemingly disjointed snippets of interviews and footage, it gives a sense of the inner lives and daily routines of children and young people caught up in the Syrian conflict. We meet a girl who loves football, kites and fried food, and whose favourite place is Homs, a place of roses and affectionate people.
Rebecca Smyth is a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador for 2015-16. In this post, Rebecca reflects on the second in our series of Rapid Response Roundtables on the current refugee crisis. Rebecca will also report from the final roundtable, ‘What Can Scotland Do?’.
This panel discussion was a follow-on event from the first panel discussion held at the beginning of October on the roots of the current Syrian crisis. The panel was comprised of Professor Christina Boswell and Dr Lucy Lowe from the School of Social and Political Science; campaigner Amal Azzudin of the Mental Health Foundation; and Jamie Kerr, Partner at Thorntons Solicitors specialising in Immigration Law. It was chaired by Dr Mathias Thaler.
“The international refugee regime is spectacularly not fit for purpose”
Drawing upon her academic research and own experience working with the UNHCR in the mid-1990s, Professor Boswell demonstrated the ways in which the origins of the current global refugee regime have combined with EU policy to create an unsustainable system for dealing with the current refugee crisis.
Rosie Ireland is a student on this year’s LLM in Human Rights at The University of Edinburgh. This is Rosie’s second report as a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador – from the 2015 Montague Burton Lecture, which was delivered by Frances Guy on 2 November. Frances Guy is the Head of the Middle East region at Christian Aid. Rosie’s report outlines the key points made during the lecture, which was entitled ‘Serving women in Iraq and Syria: has UNSCR 1325 made a difference?’.
It is nearly the fifteenth anniversary of the UNSCR 1325; the first ever resolution aimed to enhance the role of women in peace building. Frances Guy analysed the effectiveness of the resolution in the context of Iraq and Syria in relation to four key areas: participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery.
As a contemporary and prominent topic, a panel event discussing the roots of the Syria crisis was always going to be well attended. In front of a packed lecture theatre, on October 6th 2015, Dr. Thomas Pierret, Dr. Manhal Alnasser, and Arek Dakessian presented their points of view on the causes and changing shapes of the crisis in Syria since the popular uprising in 2011, chaired by Dr Sarah Jane Cooper Knock. Each speaker brought their experiences as academics, practitioners and personal stories to the event.
Internal issues, not proxy war
Thomas began the discussion by raising the two prominent explanations for conflict in Syria: the first, which he subscribes to, that it was a domestic problem which became internationalised; and the second, that it was a proxy war from the outset. He argued that the conflict started with the popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime, in which the power lies in family patronage networks rather than institutions. The immediately repressive state response, sectarian-social divides between police and protestors, and subsequent defections, all led to the formation of a crowdfunded armed movement against Assad, which was a well-established force before international actors became involved. Finally, he claimed that the regime is now compensating for its lack of manpower with increased firepower, and that this has led to mass displacement through the total destruction of rebel-held areas, especially cities.
In 1994 and early 1995, I was working for a small British charity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We, like the United Nations and many other agencies, had been trying for months to make our way through Eastern Bosnia to get food and medicine to the isolated enclave of Srebrenica. We all knew that many thousands of people had fled to the town from surrounding municipalities as a consequence of a brutal policy of “ethnic cleansing”.
The United Nations had a military presence in the town. NATO member states gathered intelligence on what was happening and the status of the enclave was consistently raised at the highest levels, by international peace envoys from the UN and the EU. Continue reading →
On 26-27 February 2015, the Post-Conflict Research Center from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the University of Edinburgh to present its award-winning “Ordinary Heroes” project. “Ordinary Heroes” won first place in the 2014 UN Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group Intercultural Innovation Award in a ceremony hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Bali, Indonesia. The Global Justice Academy at the University of Edinburgh sponsored PCRC’s travel to Edinburgh.
Mina Jahić is a widowed octogenarian from Rogatica, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose husband and two sons lost their lives in the wars that followed the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. She lives by herself in an upper floor of a prefabricated apartment block not far from the capital Sarajevo. A devout Muslim, Mina’s hope for the future of her country lies in the youth, who she believes still have the power to change the ethnocratic system that has blocked any attempts for reconciliation and reform since the end of the war in 1995. What Mina’s wartime experiences separate her from her neighbours, however, are the risks she took to save a stranger escaping his execution. Mina is an ordinary hero.
Ferid Spahić, a gas station attendant in Ilijaš, a small town to the northwest of Sarajevo, was in his mid-twenties when the first shots were fired in Bosnia by Serb paramilitary forces bent on “cleansing the land” for a “Greater Serbia” under the guise of preserving Communist Yugoslavia from dissolution. A Bosniak Muslim, too, he and his neighbours were targets of ethnonationalist destruction that quickly engulfed Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups – Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. One day in June 1992, a Serb man from his village, whom he had seen as a trusted neighbour, rounded the local Bosniak men into buses, telling them as they were separated from their wives and children that they would be transferred to Skopje, Macedonia, and later reunited with their families.
This guest post is by Sean Molloy,a Principal’s Career Development Scholar in Law at the University of Edinburgh. Sean completed his LLB Law at Queen’s University Belfast, continuing to read for an LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice at the Transitional Justice Institute. Following a period working as a research assistant for a human rights solicitor, Sean began his PhD research at Edinburgh in September 2013. He edits the monthly Global Justice Academy Newsletter, and is a founding member of the Global Justice Society.
Freedom of Conscience in Northern Ireland
In December 2014 DUP MLA Paul Girvan introduced a Freedom of Conscience Bill aimed at allowing businesses to refuse services to a customer if they feel it is against their religious convictions. The Bill arose following the announcement of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission that they would be issuing legal proceedings against Ashers Baking Company for their refusal to accept an order for a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
Professor Toby Kelly is Head of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and Deputy Director of the Global Justice Academy.
Northern Ireland MLA, Paul Givan has proposed a Freedom of Conscience Bill. Invoking a three hundred year tradition of freedom of conscience and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Givan calls for greater toleration of different beliefs. Yet, Amnesty International has said the bill was ‘not welcome and is not needed at all’. Indeed, it went so far as to say ‘what is proposed is not a conscience clause, it is a discrimination clause’. At first glance this appears a little surprising, given that Amnesty first came to public prominence as an organization that campaigned explicitly for freedom of conscience, and Prisoners of Conscience still play a significant part in Amnesty’s activities.