Cherif Bassiouni obituary


Legal academic and human rights activist whose work led to the creation of two international criminal courts

Cherif Bassiouni speaking in Bahrain in 2011. He conducted no fewer than 22 UN inquiries and commissions. Photograph: Hasan Jamali/AP

Geoffrey Robertson (The Guardian)
Sunday 22 October 2017 18.33 BST

The Egyptian law professor Cherif Bassiouni, who has died aged 79, made an important contribution to the struggle for global justice and to the revival of the Nuremberg legacy. His work, both academic and in his UN reports from war zones, led to the creation of two international criminal courts.

In 1992, he was appointed by the UN to chair a commission of experts to examine war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. His report delivered a searing verdict on the behaviour of all parties to the Balkan wars, but especially on the Serbs under Slobodan Milošević. It argued, in a novel development of the law of war, that through using rape as an instrument of ethnic cleansing, the Serb commanders were guilty of a crime against humanity.

The UN had to act and, over the objections of British diplomats (who believed that peace could be negotiated without justice), accepted Bassiouni’s recommendation to set up a war crimes court – the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY– in The Hague. Bassiouni, whose report and lobbying was instrumental in establishing the court (the first since Nuremberg), was an obvious choice as prosecutor, and was nominated by the US. He was blocked by Britain, for no good reason, although perhaps for a bad one – he was a Muslim. The court, in time, delivered justice on Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić and other Serbian and Croat mass-murderers; Milošević died half-way through his trial.

Bassiouni was appointed instead by the UN to report on the conflict in Afghanistan, where he upset the Bush regime by exposing the excesses of its military. He went on to lobby for a proposal he had long supported, when it was just a professorial pipe-dream: an international criminal court. He dominated the Rome conference in 1998 that established this court, the ICC, chairing the drafting committee that produced its statute and lobbying behind the scenes to obtain a large measure of agreement until it began operation in 2002. It now has 124 state parties.

His work won him nomination for the 1999 Nobel prize (which went, instead, to Médecins Sans Frontières). More recently, however, he had spoken despairingly of the UN security council’s failure to permit ICC involvement in Syria, and of the continuing damage to the court by the refusal of Russia, China and the US to sign up to its statute.

Bassiouni was born in Cairo, into an elite family: his grandfather had been president of the senate, and his father a senior diplomat – ironic, given Cherif’s long battle against diplomats who preferred to give tyrants expedient amnesties rather than to put them on trial.

His upbringing was unusual – a Muslim youth sent to be schooled by Jesuits in Egypt and thence to study law in France. He returned to fight for Egypt during the Suez Crisis in 1956, and was wounded and decorated for his courage. His patriotism did not stop him from speaking out about the brutality of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s security forces, and he was placed under house arrest (it would have been prison, had his family not been well connected). After seven months of confinement he fled, smuggled himself on board a ship sailing for the US, and continued his legal studies.

His conspicuous brilliance soon led him to be appointed professor of law at DePaul University in Chicago, where in 1990 he set up an International Human Rights Law Institute, as one of the first academics to teach this subject. It remained the base for his outpourings of books (he published 27) and lengthy essays in learned journals (270). He established a European base at the Siracusa Institute in Italy, where he trained quite a few of the judges who now sit on war crimes cases. They speak of him as an inspiring teacher, a role that he never neglected despite his UN work and frequent trips to war zones.

As well as this intellectual output, he conducted no fewer than 22 UN inquiries and commissions. Although he never served as a UN judge or prosecutor, his reports carefully weighed the evidence, some of which he had collected himself at risk to his own life (his light aircraft was once hit by sniper fire over Sarajevo, his hotel in Bosnia was attacked and he narrowly escaped a suicide bomb in Fallujah). Despite the fears of British diplomats, he did not display bias, other than against the authors of the atrocities he examined. His reports had the particular merit of expedition – he usually produced them within six months or so of his mandate.

In 2011 he chaired a commission of inquiry set up by the king of Bahrain to investigate the killings and torture of protesters. His 500-page report, produced in five months, pulled no punches and condemned the culture of impunity that had come about through failures in the local judiciary and in military courts. Several thousand detainees were released as a result.

Bassiouni was, in private, an ebullient man, witty and sophisticated, who loved fine wines and classical music and (at least when I met him) was never without a fine cigar. He was a clever, insistent lobbyist for his projects behind the scenes at the UN, and an advocate for truth who never took money for slanting it. When the UN underfunded his inquiry into the Balkan atrocities he did accept money from the Soros Foundation to pay for some investigations – a matter that the Serbian government criticised, but he believed it was the only way to complete the report, and the funds came without strings attached.

Although some states were cautious over suspicions of his Muslim background, this should have been seen as an asset: he was one of the first scholars to examine the concept of jihad in books and articles and to nuance Islamic teaching in a way that disfavoured violence. He did speak out against the discrimination that Muslims were suffering in the US, and defended the Gaza flotilla after it was attacked by Israel.

Bassiouni watched the developments in his native Egypt with concern and some despondency. He shared the values of the protesters but knew the power of the army too well to think that the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 would pave the way to freedom. He was, of course, correct.

Bassiouni’s first wife, Rosanna Cesari, and second wife, Nina Delmissier, both predeceased him. He is survived by his third wife, Elaine Klemen-Bassiouni, and by a stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, legal scholar, Born 9 December 1937; died 25 September 2017

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North Korea and the Issue of Nuclear Culture

Paul Rogers
31 October 2017


With President Trump disavowing the Iran deal, about to visit South
Korea and mulling a Nuclear Posture Review widely expected to
introduce new lower yield warheads and a lowered threshold for use,
the issue of nuclear weapons ‘usability’ looms larger than at any time
since the 1980s. This briefing explores the persistence of ‘nuclear culture’,
or the idea that a nuclear war can be survived and won. Despite the
prevalence of talk of strategic deterrence and mutually assured
destruction, the resurgence of nuclear culture is driving an interest in
‘usable’ nuclear weapons in several countries.


When Scilla Elworthy founded Oxford Research Group in the early
1980s, the focus of the work was to understand how nuclear decision
-making worked in the major nuclear powers and, wherever possible,
to open up dialogue with them. In due course, and especially after the
end of the Cold War, the concern with dialogue broadened out to
encompass other issues of international security. A major element of
this was, and remains, conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa
and this was also extended in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to have a
particular emphasis on the war on terror and the many problems
that have arisen with its conduct.

Within these areas of work in ORG, the issue of nuclear weapons
remains, less at the level of the Cold War confrontation, even if
relations with Russia are fractured, and more with the potential
for the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and
East Asia. The nuclear issue that has come to the fore in recent
months has been the potential for Iran and North Korea to
acquire a nuclear capability. Both these states are causing
considerable concern for the Trump administration, which has
signalled its intent to withdraw from the Iran deal negotiated
by the Obama administration and insists that it will not allow
North Korea to develop a nuclear capability that could target
the continental United States.

Meanwhile there is serious talk of nuclear war amidst reports
that the US Air Force may raise the alert status for its nuclear-
armed strategic bombers. Furthermore, Mr Trump has just
received details of his planned Nuclear Posture Review,
which is reported to include the development of new nuclear
weapons, including low yield ‘tactical’ warheads and the
re-introduction of nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise
missiles, and the lowering of constraints on their use.

Nuclear Culture

It is in this context that this briefing examines the issue of
nuclear culture – the belief in the usability of nuclear weapons
extending to the potential to survive a nuclear war. One caveat
is that the examples discussed here are drawn primarily from
thinking in the United States but what applies here is an indication
of more general attitudes among the eight other nuclear powers
and, presumably, the five other NATO states that still host US
tactical nuclear weapons.

Although security analysts may retain knowledge of the development
of nuclear weapons policy, posture and targeting, knowledge in the
public arena is far lower than thirty years ago, with nuclear weapons
typically viewed in terms of a reliably stable state of deterrence through
the risk of mutually assured destruction. At a general level there are two
problems with this attitude that should cause concern. One is that since
the start of the nuclear era, the nuclear posture has been much more
about the potential use of nuclear weapons, including the idea of limited
nuclear wars that do not escalate to global catastrophe. This was the
subject of August’s briefing. The second is the history of nuclear
accidents and crises, covered in a recent Open Democracy article and a
more extensive analysis from Chatham House.

The Global 95 Wargame

Overlying all of this is the more general idea of usability. Back in July 1995,
four years after the end of the Gulf War, the Global 95 Wargame at the US
Naval War College was a “twin crisis” exercise centred on Korea and the
Persian Gulf. Within the terms of the exercise both crises escalated to the
use of chemical weapons against US forces, but a resurgent Saddam Hussein
regime in Iraq went further, using biological weapons to devastating effect
against US military forces and Saudi civilians. The United States responded
with a nuclear attack on Baghdad, ending the war. The wargame was reported
in the US military journal Defense News, (28 August 1995) as raising a number
of critical issues:

“The United States has virtually no response to the use of such potentially
devastating weapons other than threatening to use nuclear weapons,
a Joint Staff official said Aug. 22. But it is unclear whether even nuclear
weapons would provide a deterrent, unless the US was willing to take the
difficult moral step of destroying a city, he said. On the other hand, if the
United States did launch a nuclear attack in response, ‘no country would
use those weapons for the next 100 years’ the official said.”

In practice, many independent analysts would argue otherwise, taking the view
that any such nuclear use would make further nuclear attacks more likely. In
particular, if the United States had used nuclear weapons against a country
in the Middle East it would be wise to expect that at some time in the following
years, or perhaps even a decade or more, a covert nuclear, chemical or biological
assault would be mounted on Washington, New York or another major US city.

The point here is that the attitude represented by that report suggests something
different and is indicative of a wider culture that extends to long-term thinking
going back right to the start of the Cold War. By the 1950s the United States and
the Soviet Union already had nuclear arsenals and there were complex plans for
fighting nuclear wars. Planners on both sides argued that it might be possible to
strike first in an escalating crisis and nuclear targeting analysts were tasked with
target selection. In essence, these were people within a wider system that saw
nuclear weapons as just one part of a much wider arsenal of essentially usable
weapons. There are worrying signs that this view extends to elements of the
current Trump administration specifically in relation to North Korea.

The Bureaucratization of Homicide

Some indication of thinking at a lower level of organisation was given nearly
forty years ago in a hugely informative article, “The Bureaucratization of Homicide
published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (April 1980) and written by
Henry T. Nash. For most of his career Nash was a professor of political science
at a liberal arts college but before that he was an analyst with private companies
contracted to the Pentagon. Part of his time was spent in a nuclear target analysis
centre in Washington and he describes in detail the culture of the place and the
motivation of those whose job it was to advise on the importance of military,
political and other targets in the Soviet Union.

Part of this was down to routine bureaucracy, hence the title. Take, for example
an analyst working to assess the political and economic importance of a major
communist party headquarters in a regional capital. The task might have involved
utilising information from open and classified sources to rank the significance of
the centre in relation to other such sites across the Soviet Union. If there was
evidence that the centre could be of importance in an attempt by the Soviet Union
to recover from a major nuclear exchange, then the recommendation might have
been that it should be assigned two intercontinental ballistic missiles with their
H-bomb warheads instead of just one. If the recommendation from the targeting
analyst was accepted, then it might have been an occasion for a celebratory drink
with other analysts after work. More importantly, such success might have led to
a higher level of security clearance and the possibility of promotion.

In a sense this is similar to just about any organisation, whether it is the armed
forces, police, civil service, retail outlet, school, university or other. However, Nash
argues that this is not enough to explain why people in that nuclear analysis cell
were prepared to work on a system that promised millions of deaths. His assessment
is that it was a combination of patriotism and the sense that there were people on the
other side who were doing exactly the same thing and were the enemy. What is perhaps
the most valuable aspect of Nash’s article is that it combines this overall sense of need
with the routine behaviour of bureaucracies.

Protect and Survive

This also comes through in the UK government’s Protect and Survive pamphlet
of May 1980 which seriously promoted the idea that an all-out nuclear attack on
the UK was survivable. In practise this was subject to much ridicule, not least in
E. P. Thompson’s campaigning booklet Protest and Survive, published later that
year which served as a powerful catalyst for the emerging anti-nuclear campaigning
of the early 1980s. Many years later government sources did show that UK post-nuclear
war planning was based on the probability of 40 million people killed out of the
population at the time of 56 million.

In Robert Scheer’s 1982 book, With Enough Shovels, about the nuclear attitudes
of the Ronald Reagan era, the author cites a conversation with a senior Pentagon
official who believed strongly that, provided civil defence systems were adequate,
the United States would survive a central nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union,
recovering within two to four years “with enough shovels”.

For its part, the Soviet Union also seems to have believed not only that nuclear
warfare in Europe was survivable but that it was a near inevitable phase of initial
combat which could be absorbed and overcome by a rapid conventional forces
offensive. From Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow to the Battle of Stalingrad, this
deeply engrained idea that Russia can absorb more damage than other countries
and emerge victorious is a particularly worrying counter-weight to the idea of
strategic deterrence in Europe.


Cause for concern over the risk of a crisis with North Korea or, indeed, Iran,
stems basically from the outlook of President Donald Trump and his
administration, especially towards North Korea, which is already a
nuclear-armed state. This must be seen in the wider context of a
long-lasting nuclear culture which goes far beyond the public perception
of the function of nuclear weapons solely as a means of deterring war.
Add Nash’s analysis to the persistent idea that limited nuclear wars
can be fought, with all the experience of mistakes, accidents and untoward
crisis escalation and we see added reasons for arguing as forcefully as
possible that alternative approaches to the North Korea confrontation
should be sought as a matter of urgency.

Image credit: Uwe Brodrecht/Wikimedia.

About the Author

Paul Rogers is Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. His Monthly Global Security Briefings’ are available from our website. His new book Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threats from the Margins will be published by I B Tauris in June 2016. These briefings are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.

Copyright Oxford Research Group 2017.
Some rights reserved. This briefing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Licence. For more information please visit

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Michael Fallon Finally Tells the Truth About Britain’s Deals With Saudi Arabia

Written by Tracy Keeling on 28 October 2017. Posted in News & Comment

Fallon’s revelations should topple the government.
Image:By Chatham House licenced under CC BY 2.0

Michael Fallon just made an atrocious plea to parliament. The Defence Secretary essentially asked MPs to cut out criticism of Saudi Arabia in order to ‘help’ secure an arms deal with the country.

Saudi Arabia faces condemnation from MPs because of its brutal attacks on Yemen. Its actions in one of the poorest countries in the world see human rights groups regularly accuse it of war crimes. And as a result of the conflict, over seven million people in Yemen now teeter on the brink of famine.

But for Fallon, a Typhoon fighter jet deal appears to trump Yemeni lives. And he’s so certain arms sales should take priority over human rights and international law, he’s openly advocating for other MPs to do the same.

It really couldn’t be clearer that Fallon and his fellow ministers are unfit to lead the country. At least, not to lead it in a direction that anyone can be proud of.

The truth

Fallon made the admission during a Commons Defence Committee session. Labour MP Graham Jones had asked about an as yet unsecured BAE Systems “batch two” deal to sell Typhoon warplanes to Saudi Arabia. The Defence Secretary responded:

I have to repeat, sadly, to this committee that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia in this parliament is not helpful and… I’ll leave it there… But we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two.

The Defence Secretary also said the government has been “working extremely hard” trying to get the deal through. As an example of that hard graft, he told the committee that he had travelled to Saudi Arabia in September. He signed Britain up to a new ‘Military and Security Cooperation Agreement‘ with the country during that visit.

The fallout

Naturally, those who prioritise people over BAE’s profits criticised Fallon’s call for MPs to do “everything possible” to secure the deal. Campaign Against Arms Trade’s Andrew Smith said:

These comments from the Secretary of State for Defence are disgraceful. He is calling on other parliamentarians to join him in putting arms sales ahead of human rights, democracy and international humanitarian law.

The director of human rights organisation Reprieve, Maya Foa, also condemned Fallon’s “chilling” comments. Meanwhile, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry argued:
The sale of arms should never be prioritised over human rights, the rule of law, and the lives of innocent children in Yemen.

The choice

And there’s another glaring issue with his comments. He “sadly” tells the committee about what ‘unhelpful’ criticism has done to the deal. That’s what apparently moves him. In that moment, he doesn’t express sadness for the 5,144 Yemeni civilians documented as killed in the conflict; 1,184 of them children. Nor does he declare sorrow for the 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid in the country.

No, the UK Defence Secretary says he’s sad that concern for Yemeni lives is inhibiting our ability to make money.

Still proud to be British?

Source: The Canary

Tags: , arms-trade, united-kingdom

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Quakers in York

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The story of revolt at the
heart of the  British Empire

The mutiny at Etaples in 1917 was the subject of a massive British establishment cover up. The lid was lifted on the revolt by the book ‘The Monocled Mutineer’ and the subsequent TV drama written by Alan Bleasdale.

In this meeting Chris Fuller, a long standing supporter of York Against the War, will explore the scale of the revolt and its significance.

Thursday 28th September – 7.30 pm

Penn Room, Friends Meeting House
Friargate, York, YO1 9RL

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Justice 4 Glenfell – Wednesday 13th September 2017

Dear Supporter
An important meeting is taking place at The Crescent Community Venue, 8 The Crescent, York  YO24 1AW  on Wednesday 13th September from 7.30pm. “Justice 4 Glenfell, end austerity, scrap the 1% pay cap” will feature speakers from the Justice4Glenfell Group, a striking Durham Teaching Assistant and local speakers from York Trades Council and Unison.

The Glenfell Fire tragedy exposed the systemic racism at the heart of both local and national government from the placing of the most vulnerable in housing that was patently unsafe to the derisory one year immigration amnesty for the survivors.

It should be an excellent and important event. York Stand Up to Racism will have a stall so please come along and say hello to us while you are there.

York Stand Up to Racism
Wednesday 13th Sept 2017 at 7:30 pm
at the Crescent Community Venue,
8 The Crescent, York YO24 1AW
Judy Bolton, volunteer coordinator with Justice4Grenfell,

Striking Durham teaching assistants,

Cllr Danny Myers (Labour, Clifton

Striking Durham teaching assistants,

Cllr Danny Myers (Labour, Clifton)
along with speakers from York Trades Council and Unison

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Back from the Brink: How to stop nuclear war in the Pacific

Stop the War coalition
Newsletter – 7 September 2017
Public meeting
Back from the Brink: How to stop nuclear war in the Pacific
Tuesday 12 September | 7-9pm
Friends Meeting House (George Fox room)
173-177 Euston Road
NW1 2BJ London

The North Korean hydrogen bomb test earlier this week was a further confirmation that the threat of nuclear war is real. Trump has underlined this in various tweets and statements about the increasing possibility of war. The US has also been carrying out major military manoeuvres involving an estimated 17,500 US and 50,000 South Korean troops near the border of North Korea.

South Korea is meanwhile seeking to develop what have been called “frankenmissiles” which could destroy North Korea’s underground bunkers, and is also planning to develop its own missile defence systems and to build nuclear-powered submarines. Japan is also strengthening its military arsenal and reverting to a militarist stance.

This week it has been announced that Britain will conduct joint exercises with Japan early next year, a further indication that the stand-off between North Korea and the Trump administration directly concerns us as well. We are calling on all groups to set up emergency meetings on this topic.

The world needs to step back from the brink of nuclear war. Join us as we discuss the options.


Tariq Ali is a noted writer and filmmaker. A veteran of the movement against the war in Vietnam, he has for decades been one of the most prominent critics of Western militarism and imperialism.

Owen Miller is a Lecturer in Korean Studies at the School of African and Oriental Studies. He was previously a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, and is a leading expert on Korea.

Lindsey German is the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and one of its founders. She is the author of a number of books, including How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women (2013). She regularly appears in the media.

Kate Hudson is the General Secretary of CND and an officer of the Stop the War Coalition. She was Head of Social and Policy Studies at London South Bank University and is now a Visiting Research Fellow.

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Stop the Arms Fair in York-this Saturday!


Stop the Arms Fair is in York this Saturday! We’ll be running a workshop with York Stop the War at the St Lawrence Church Hall in York on Saturday 5th August from 2pm to 5pm. It’s free to attend and there’s no need to book- just join us on the day.

Expect creative action ideas, and some friendly faces to take action with- activists from York and the surrounding area are already planning to join the week of action this September, and there’s plenty to do over the summer to help build the movement to shut down DSEI.

The DSEI arms fair is one of the world’s largest arms fairs, and comes to London every two years. It’s scheduled to return in September 2017- unless we can stop it! A huge week of action is planned to stop the set-up of London’s DSEI arms fair between 4-11 September 2017, and it will take all of us to stop the arms fair. You can read more about DSEI on the Stop the Arms Fair website.

You can see more details of the workshop online, or join the facebook event. Please invite your friends and help us spread the word!

Thanks, and best wishes,

Kat Hobbs

CAAT Local Outreach Coordinator

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Climate Change, Migration and Security

Paul Rogers
31 July 2017

Notwithstanding the populist and securitised backlash of recent years, mass migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe is near certain to continue for the foreseeable future. This is due not so much to the continuation of violent conflict, which is difficult to predict, as to the near certainties of economic marginalisation and climate change. Effective, just responses are possible, but only if we recognise that migration and climate change are now inextricably related and that that this is an issue for the “now”, not the future.

Last October’s briefing examined European attitudes to migration, especially in relation to the substantial numbers of often desperate war refugees trying to get to Europe from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. It pointed to the deep antagonism that had developed in the destination countries, not just to refugees from violence but to migration as a whole, with this prompting the enhancement of far-right political ideas and associated parties, not least in Eastern Europe.

On an apparently unrelated topic, an earlier briefing last year took a wider look at the issue of climate change, pointing to the evidence of an increase in the rate of warming and asking whether that would be sufficient to prompt intergovernmental action. It concluded that much depended on the results of the US presidential election. In the event, Donald Trump’s success did not show much promise but last November’s briefing pointed to the increase in commitments by a number of governments as well as impressive technological improvements in the exploitation of renewable energy resources.

That somewhat optimistic conclusion in no way diminishes the problems faced, and this briefing examines one of the most fundamental of these – the impact of climate change on migration in the context of the social attitudes cited above.

Migratory Pressures
One of the most substantial migratory movements in the century to 1940 was from Europe to the United States and a second was to Australia after 1945, with both countries now experiencing political moods that are particularly antagonistic to further inward migration. For Western Europe the much more recent experience after 1945 has been of immigrants from former colonies or the Middle East, which also led to periods of considerable antagonism and social unrest.

In the past decade there has been a further substantial increase in migration, primarily into Europe. The origins draw broadly from two areas – firstly, the refugee flows from war zones already mentioned and, secondly, what are often described as economic migrants, not least from sub-Saharan Africa. These latter movements have been made more possible because of the chaos in the failed state of Libya following the western-supported regime termination in 2011.

The continuing of refugee flows from war zones will depend substantially on the levels of violence that are experienced across the Middle East and North Africa. This cannot be predicted with much certainty, but the movements from sub-Saharan Africa are more clearly predictable and are likely to increase substantially due to the combination of one existing element and one that is only just becoming apparent.

Economic Factors
The first is the awareness among some millions of relatively marginalised peoples that their life chances may both be dismal and unlikely to improve. For many hundreds of thousands of people one such response is to seek to migrate to wealthier regions where work may be available. Typically in such circumstances, extended families or even wider communities may share resources to enable a fit young man to attempt the journey, hoping to succeed, find work and then send money back home and perhaps even enable relatives to join him. The journey may be fraught with danger but the rewards are sufficient when measured against the levels of desperation.

Such migratory pressures may be difficult to explain generically, given that many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing modest degrees of economic growth, but there is abundant evidence that this economic success is not shared equitably. At the same time, improving literacy and communications make marginalised communities all too aware of their predicaments. Given that there appears to be little prospect of moving towards more equitable economies, the expectation must be that migratory pressures will be maintained.

The political and social consequences will also persist, especially the anti-immigrant attitudes that are so prevalent across much of the North Atlantic community, and this may become more intense as migration becomes conflated with fear of political violence from extreme Islamist elements. A clear current example is Australia where immigration is seen more blatantly than in most countries as a security threat. As one analyst, Waleed Ali of Monash University, has put it recently:

“Australia began this century with a Department for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. Back then, the department’s slogan was “Enriching Australia through Migration.” Just over a decade ago it dropped the multiculturalism portfolio entirely, creating instead a Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Now it’s to be rolled into a national security department. Thus, we can chart Australia’s public conception of migration from being a celebrated aspect of its multicultural character to a civic idea whose highest ultimate expression is citizenship to a threat to be managed.”

This points to the progressive securitisation of migration, which is already problematic but likely to become more so with the onset of the impact of the second factor, climate change.

Environmental Factors
In relation to climate change, two elements concerning migration are particularly relevant. One is that in many parts of the world the process is accelerating and the second is that its effects are geographically asymmetric. The rate of change in the near Arctic is currently exceeding the prediction of the most reliable computer simulations but there is also growing evidence that this is also happening in many regions across the tropics and sub-tropics. In these regions the main effects are increases in temperature and decreases in rainfall, the latter because of a trend for rainfall to be distributed away from land masses and towards the oceans and the polar region. The primary impact of this is on the ecological carrying capacity of tropical and sub-tropical agricultural systems, with the capacity to produce food much diminished.

Perhaps most important of all, this is a phenomenon that is already apparent in many parts of the Global South – it is not something for the future but is happening now. Moreover, it is directly affecting the displacement of people. Last month the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) published its Global Trends report ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June. According to the report, a record high of 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) last month predicted that:

“By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.”

That means that nearly one-quarter of the world’s population could be living on less than 500m³ of total available fresh water per year. That is Currently, World Bank data lists at least 27 countries surviving under such conditions. While a few of them, like Israel, Singapore, Malta and the Gulf States, have the wealth to invest in desalination, storage, imports or draining aquifers of millennia of deposited water, this will not be the experience of most. Indeed, even most such high-tech schemes may only last for decades, as long as the aquifers or oil wealth available.

Notably, the list of countries already experiencing absolute water scarcity includes all of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa (except Morocco) and the Levant (except Lebanon) and large parts of Central and Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa. Some of the most critically affected countries included Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. It may be no coincidence that these countries are some of the world’s most conflict-affected, nor that they have produced some of the largest volumes of refugees in recent years.

Looking from Europe, where not one mainland country is yet threatened by such water scarcity at a national level, populations are largely static and the effects of climate change relatively subdued, violent competition for such a basic resource may seem remote. Yet it is striking how closely the map of water-stress aligns with the maps of global conflict and displacement in the first decades of this century. As populations in the stressed Southern regions are growing and fresh water supplies there constant or, far more likely, decreasing, the Mediterranean is likely to look like a very narrow moat indeed between the water-rich and water-poor worlds.

Conclusion: Responding to the Impact on Migration
It is simply not possible to be precise on the figures but the trend is clear – existing migration pressures stemming mainly from economic pressures are already being exacerbated by the impact of climate change and this will intensify greatly. Moreover, securitising the problem in terms of a “close the castle gates” mentality simply cannot work in a globalised and interconnected world and is a futile response. Effective responses obviously need to address the failings of the prevailing neoliberal economic approach but the environmental element is also crucial. This element needs much greater action in four respects:

• A much more rapid transition to ultra-low carbon economies across the industrialised world in order to mitigate the causes of climate change.
• Assistance to the countries across the Global South that are most affected by climate change to mitigate the effects, not least in changes in agricultural practice.
• Assistance to the same countries to develop low-carbon economies such that they may further develop and industrialise without amplifying climate change.
• Investment in water storage and carbon-neutral desalination technologies to mitigate the impact of fresh water shortages, especially in the Global South.

Probably the greatest current challenges are to recognise much more fully that migration and climate change are now inextricably related and that that this is an issue for the “now”, not the future.

Image credit: Climate Vulnerable Forum/Flickr

About the Author
Paul Rogers is Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. His ‘Monthly Global Security Briefings’ are available from our website. His new book Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threats from the Margins will be published by I B Tauris in June 2016. These briefings are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.

Copyright Oxford Research Group 2017.
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Public Meeting: Maya Evans Co-ordinator of Voices for Creative/Non-Violence

7.30 pm Wednesday 12th July
Friend’s Meeting House, Friargate, York

A first-hand Report on the inspiring work of the

Afghan Peace Volunteers

A Kabul based group of young peace activists

Maya regularly visits Afghanistan, and will give an overview of this forgotten war. Following the decades of civil war, leading to NATO armed intervention and the continuing threat from the Taliban and ISIS, grassroots peace activists are now bringing real change and hope to Afghans suffering fron crushing poverty and government inertia.

Organised by York Against the War




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