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  • Questioning the Sustainable Development Goals

    By admin | October 8, 2015

    World leaders have officially agreed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aka Global Goals. Are they useful and thus worthy of support? That’s a question without a straightforward answer.

    In total there are 17 goals with 169 targets, all of which should be met by 2030. Some have suggested that this agenda is too broad and therefore unmanageable. Yet problems such as poverty, environmental degradation and violence are multidimensional, complex and often interrelated, and it is primarily a lack of political will that prevents transformational change when it comes to these problems.

    It’s worth noting that a number of important issues in relation to the SDGs have yet to be decided. For example, indicators to measure progress on the targets have still not been developed (and even well-designed indicators require that appropriate data are collected). Similarly, the system for holding governments to account has not been fully agreed upon.

    What one can say is that the SDGs are a lot more comprehensive than their weak predecessors the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It’s also true that the process for developing the SDGs has been considerably more participatory than the process for developing the MDGs, and the new goals apply to all countries, unlike the MDGs, which rather patronisingly largely focus on the poorest countries.

    But I do possess real concerns about the SDGs. In many respects, the story of the struggle to get tackling economic inequality into the SDGs explains how and why the SDGs are problematic. As it happens, David Cameron is a central character in this story.

    Back in July 2012, the UN Secretary General appointed a High Level Panel to produce the first major official report on what would eventually become the SDGs. This Panel was co-chaired by the leaders of Indonesia, Liberia and the UK. Just under a year later, it was reported that Cameron was using his position to argue that the SDGs shouldn’t commit to reducing economic inequality (i.e. disparities in income and wealth).

    I believe that the level of economic inequality in the world is morally wrong. Moreover, an incredible amount of research points to the damage caused by high levels of economic inequality. Firstly, a range of social problems, including those that relate to education, health and crime, are worse in more unequal countries. Secondly, economic inequality severely undermines democracy, as acclaimed studies from both the UK and the US demonstrate. Thirdly, even the International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – hardly the most progressive institutions – have recently asserted that less economic inequality is beneficial for a country’s economic prospects.

    So I’d argue that Cameron had neither ethics nor evidence on his side. And ultimately world leaders have agreed that the SDGs should include a goal to ‘reduce inequality within and among countries’. However, the goal is far from strong, and this is most likely due to the resistance of influential people such as the Prime Minister.

    The first part of the goal on inequality says that by 2030 the poorest 40% of the population should grow their incomes at a rate higher than the national average. This is ok in itself but the danger is that the incomes of the richest, particularly the top 1% (and even the top 0.1%), will continue to surge ahead. As for the remainder of this goal, the wording is often pretty vague (some of the other SDGs are also unclear). In addition, the goal appears to ignore wealth inequality, and it isn’t clear on the need for redistribution. And here is the wider problem: many of the SDGs water down or simply disregard genuinely important issues. One can reasonably assume that, in many if not all cases, this was done to placate reactionary forces, just as it was in the case of economic inequality.

    It’s worth noting that there are those who criticise the SDGs from a broader perspective. They lament the SDGs’ failure to challenge the deeper political and economic narratives at play. While I believe that there’s only so much a framework like the SDGs can do in this regard, I agree that the SDGs could’ve done a better job of engaging with power imbalances and confronting conventional thinking. The difficulty is that different people will have different views about what this would mean in practice. For example, although the SDGs that relate to economic growth are clearly unsatisfactory in my view, I also disagree with those who denounce all forms of economic growth.

    At the end of the day, the SDGs are here to stay. I advocate supporting them and criticising them depending on the context. In a sense nothing has changed: overcoming injustice remains the real goal. I hope that we can have an inclusive conversation on what exactly that means and how to achieve it.

    Sunit Bagree is ACTSA’s Senior Campaigns Officer. This blog is his personal view.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    “Refugees Welcome Here”, National Day of Action, Saturday 12 September – Assemble noon at Marble Arch

    By admin | September 7, 2015

    National day of action, Called by Stand up to Racism, BARAC, Stop the War Coalition, Migrant Rights Network,  War on Want, Peoples Assembly Against Austerity, Unite Against Fascism, Movement Against Xenophobia, Love Music Hate Racism and Black Out London.

    Saturday 12 September 2015, 12pm, Assembly point Marble Arch 2pm Rally,Downing Street

    This event has been called to show solidarity with refugees fleeing war, persecution, torture and poverty, losing their lives or struggling to find a safe haven. This includes the death of 200 refugees off the coast of Libya, around 70 refugees in a truck in Austria and ongoing reports of refugees drowning crossing the Mediterranean, stranded in Hungary and prohibited from moving around the EU, and those in Calais struggling to find sanctuary.  It will call for greater action by the UK government to accept refugees in the UK.

    Those who cannot attend the national event in London are encouraged to organise/attend an event in their area to show solidarity with refugees.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    August E-Update

    By admin | August 25, 2015


    Welcome to August’s issue of ACTSA’s E-update with a brief rundown on key issues from across southern Africa, in addition to a summary of what we’re getting up to at the moment.

    Hope you find it interesting and informative. Gives us feedback by emailing info@actsa.org

    News in brief

    Swaziland:  Unfair Trial, Arbitrary Detention and Judicial Impropriety in Swaziland

    The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) recently released its trial observation report of the trial in the High Court in Mbabane, Swaziland, in The King v The Nation Magazine, Bheki Makhubu, Swaziland Independent Publishers (Pty) Ltd, and Thulani Maseko. Makhubu and Maseko were both sentenced to two years imprisonment in July 2014 for ‘contempt of court’ and have recently been released.

    The report concludes that the arrest and detention, trial, conviction and sentencing of the defendants involved multiple violations of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a fair Trial in Africa and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    For the full report click here

    Mozambique at 40

    Mozambique celebrated its 40th anniversary of independence from Portugal on the 25th June. Shortly after the watershed anniversary, the country decriminalised homosexuality. The new penal code that this law formed a part of also included the decriminalisation of abortion. Mozambique was given a lead place in the annual Pride in London parade and celebration on 27 June. Pride in London is a celebration and affirmation of the LGBT+ community. The organisers estimate more than one million attended this years event.

    In Maputo, the 40th anniversary was marked with military parades and a number of ceremonies. The main event was the arrival of the “flame of unity”, a torch symbolising togetherness that had been carried across the country since April 7.

    Chatham House have also produced a report, ‘Mozambique to 2018’ that discusses how the country’s recent political developments may mark the beginning of an important new era of real change. The report can be found here

    Zimbabwe – Abduction of Itai Dzamara

    Itai Dzamara, a prominent human rights activist, was abducted in broad daylight from a barber shop in Harare on 9 March 2015.

    President Robert Mugabe has so far remained silent over the issue, which has attracted international criticism. On the weekend of the 10July 2015, a prayer meeting was organised by churches to put pressure on the government to find Dzamara; it attracted MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda and former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman, Temba Mliswa. This convergence of opposition parties is said to have unsettled the government. George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson, accused the parties of trying to use the disappearance of Dzamara as a way to “regain a political foothold”.

    On the 17th July, the government announced a “reward” of $10,000 for anyone with information about Dzamara’s whereabouts; some human rights groups have said this should have been done much earlier in the investigation.

    There are calls for the production of a detailed report of what the government has done to find Dzamara. The Zimbabwe High Court ordered the home affairs minister, the police commissioner-general, and the director-general of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) “to do all things necessary to determine his [Itai Dzamera] whereabouts.” The ruling included an order to advertise on all state media and work closely with lawyers appointed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to search for Dzamara “at all such places as may be within their jurisdiction.” The judge ordered the government to report to the court every two weeks on its progress with the case until Dzamara is found. It seems the state has not complied with the High Court ruling.

    You can Email the Charges d’Affaires at the Embassy of Zimbabwe and urge him to use his influence so that the Government of Zimbabwe takes all necessary measures to find him.

    Anniversary of the Marikana Massacre

    16 August 2015 marks the third anniversary of the killings at Marikana. 34 people were killed on that day and 10 in the week preceding it. The 34 were shot by the South African police. The Marikana commission of Inquiry report was published at the end of June. You can read ACTSA’s statement on it here

    News from ACTSA

    ACTSA co-signs letter criticising Foreign Minister’s remarks on migrants

    ACTSA co-signed a letter published in the Guardian on 10 August criticising Phillip Hammond MP’s comments on migrants and called for action by the British and other governments to tackle the causes of poverty. Read the full letter here

    Stories from Swaziland Exhibition

    ACTSA will launch a new photo exhibition, ‘Stories from Swaziland’, on 16 September at UNISON headquarters. As well as seeking to shine a light on Swaziland’s political, economic and social problems, the exhibition provides an insight into how the country’s people and their allies abroad are working for human rights, democracy and development. If you or anyone you know would be interested in hosting the exhibition, please contact us at: campaigns@actsa.org

    2015 AGM

    A reminder that the closing date for motions and nominations as 9am Monday 21 September.

    If you have not yet registered to attend and receive the agenda and paper please email info@actsa.org putting AGM in the subject line or phone ACTSA: 020 7186 0750. Papers will be sent out at the end of September. There is no charge for attending the AGM.

    Registration, motions and nomination forms are available here

    Angola Monitor

    Our latest Angola Monitor issue 3:2015 is now available here on our website. Or you can email us at info@actsa.org to sign up and receive it by email (it’s free).

    Issue 3:2015 covers the sect killings in Huambo province, China’s investment and aid, President Hollande’s visit to Angola and much more.

    Annual Fundraising Dinner

    This year our Annual Fundraising Dinner will take place on Friday 27th November.  To book your places contact info@actsa,org or tel us 02071860750.

    We are also looking for volunteers to help us organise the event and also some people to help out on the night to make sure the evening runs smoothly. It would be fantastic if you could help in both capacities, but any help offered is greatly appreciated, even if it’s just a few hours on the day/ evening of 27 November.

    If you would like to get involved with organising the event or helping out on the night, please get in contact at: info@actsa.org

    Ageas Zip Wire Challenge

    This October, the Ageas Bowl, the home of Hampshire Cricket, is challenging people to jump from the top of the Ageas Bowl’s iconic pavilion roof terrace and zip-line down to the famous outfield to raise money for your chosen cause.

    If you are interested in challenging yourself and getting a glimpse of the stadium as you’ve never seen it before, get in touch with us at: info@actsa.org and we will provide you with all the information you need to take part for ACTSA.

    For more information on the event take a look here

    Nelson Mandela’s grandson in Liverpool to mark Slavery Remembrance Day

    Ndaba Mandela will deliver the Dorothy Kuya Slavery Remembrance Lecture in Liverpool on Friday 21 August. As well as remembering those lost through the transatlantic slave trade, Slavery Remembrance Day also reminds us of the threat of racism and discrimination in modern society. For more details on the event click here



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    SADC People’s Summit Communique

    By admin | August 20, 2015

    More than 500 representatives from a range of Southern Africa civil society organisations met in Botswana on 15 and 16 August and developed and presented a communique to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government. The communique was received by the SADC Deputy Executive Secretary. It covers seven thematic areas:

    1.Tax Justice and the Fight against Illicit Financial Flows

    2. African Solidarity, Migration and People’s  movement

    3.Governance, Democracy and Human Rights

    4.Cross-border traders, small-scale farmers

    5.Trade Negotiations and Agreements

    6.Climate Change

    7.Agricultural Finance,  Seed Sovereignty and Climate  Justice

    The whole document is available here: Gaborone SADC People’s Summit 2015 Communique Document

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Zambia: Vedanta in the dock

    By admin | August 3, 2015

    An action has been launched in the High Court in London by the law firm, Leigh Day, on behalf of 1,800 Zambian villagers against Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines.

    The action alleges that the villagers’ water sources and farming land were poisioned from the copper mining operations of both companies. Vedanta Resources Plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has a controlling share in Konkola Mines, which is the largest copper mine in Zambia.

    Vedanta and Konkola copper mines were the subject of a report by ACTSA, Christian Aid and SCIAF in 2007, “Undermining development? Copper mining in Zambia”

    Read more on the current case here

    Topics: News | 1 Comment »

    An interview with Mario Masuku , ‘the struggle goes on’

    By Fiona | August 3, 2015

    Greg Nicolson of South Africa’s the Daily Maverick has carried out this interview with Mario Masuku, leader of the banned political party Pudemo.

    The interview covers Mario’s time in prison, what is next for the pro-democracy movement and the role of other countries in the southern African region in supporting Swaziland’s struggle



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    International Nelson Mandela Day

    By admin | July 22, 2015

    In 2009, the United Nations declared that 18th July, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, would be named Nelson Mandela International Day, in recognition of his contribution to peace, reconciliation and justice.   The UN called upon people to donate 67 minutes, one for every year that Nelson Mandela gave to public service, to support voluntary and community activity.

    Unsurprisingly, South Africans took to this with huge enthusiasm, and there are now so many events that the celebration has been extended over the whole of July.   There will be celebrations across the whole country.  People have been sewing blankets to keep people warm on the cold winter nights, and nights in the mountains of South Africa are cold.   People have been collecting books for libraries in remote rural areas, and in the impoverished townships.   People have been raising money for community projects.   And all this is done in a spirit of celebration of the life and legacy of an incredible man.

    And people the whole world over have thrown themselves into the celebration.    This year, for instance, there will be a poetry slam and live art demonstration in Denver, USA.   In Napier, New Zealand, they will be raising funds for a community project.   In Hanoi, Vietnam, they will be donating blood.   In New York, there will be a commemorative event at the United Nations.    In Owerri, Nigeria, they will be celebrating through fundraising.

    In London there will also be a celebration.   On Friday 17th July, there will be a concert at South Africa House, to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, where young South African artists such as Mi Casa and Toya Delazy will be performing.   On Saturday 18th July, Mandela’s birthday, there will be a festival of music and arts at the South Bank Centre.   So, just wander along the river by the Royal Festival Hall, and look for the sculpture of Mandela’s head.

    In Glasgow, we will be sending a large container of children’s books (I am guessing at 40,000 but we will not know until the day) to schools and public libraries in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.   Mandela himself was born at Mvezo, near Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, and retired to where he was born.  He is now buried there.

     Our volunteers have been sorting and packing these books for several weeks now, and there are still thousands to be packed with only four days to go.

    The container will leave City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow at 2.30pm on Saturday 18th July.   It will be sent on its way to the Eastern Cape by Sadie Docherty, the Lord Provost.   This will be followed by a Civic Reception in which the guests will be entertained by Charlie and the Bachelors, a local jazz band, and Magnus Walker, a young baritone, will sing “Nkosi Sikelel’I Afrika”.

    This year, the world is celebrating Nelson Mandela’s legacy in style.   And in 2018, it will be the centenary of his birth, so start making your plans now.   Mayibuye I Afrika!

    Topics: News | 1 Comment »

    Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini released on bail

    By admin | July 15, 2015

    The Supreme Court ordered the release on bail of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini after they served nearly 15 months in jail. They were not brought to trial. The charges against them have not been dropped and they are banned from attending and addressing political rallies.

    Read the full article here:


    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Strike! Play on the Dunnes Stores anti-Apartheid strike

    By admin | July 13, 2015

    The Ardent Theatre company are looking to produce a new version of the play, ‘Strike!’.

    Strike!, written by Tracy Ryan, tells the story of the Dunnes Stores Anti-apartheid strike in Ireland, 1984-1987. The script was written through interviews with original Strikers, Brendan Archbold (Union Organiser) and archive material.

    This production would mark the London premiere of the show and the Company is in talks with venues as high profile as the National Theatre.

    To make it happen, they need our help. They are trying to bring the play to the attention of as many people as possible in order for it to attract funding and potential audiences.

    To find out more about Strike! and about other shows that the Ardent Theatre Company are showing, follow this link: http://www.ardenttheatre.co.uk/strike

    Topics: News | 1 Comment »

    Statements on the Marikana Inquiry

    By admin | July 1, 2015

    National Union of Mineworkers Statement: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=10588

    Lonmin mining company statement:  http://www.lonmin-farlam.com/

    Bench Marks Foundation statement:  http://www.bench-marks.org.za

    Topics: News | No Comments »

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