Security, Conflict and Exploitation in Congo

The  Democratic Republic of Congo  (DRC) is one of the largest countries in Africa and has experienced intense human and resource exploitation and violence throughout its history. This talk explores the links between violence, resources and political power, and the effects that these have had on development and migration. The recent presidential elections have seen a relatively peaceful handover of power, and the emergence of a new form of political opposition. These have taken place alongside a marked continuation in the destitution suffered by majority of the population, and a critical lack of service provision, which is evident in the responses made to the on-going Ebola outbreak  in the east of the country. 

 Zoe Marriage is a Reader in Development Studies at SOAS  and a member of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice.  She has researched extensively in countries affected by conflict in Africa and has focused on the relationship between security and development in the DRC publishing on demobilisation and the imposition and pursuit of security  (Formal Peace and Informal War, Routledge 2013).  She will talk about the current situation in the DRC and the prospects for development and security.

Marriage, Zoe (2018) ‘The Elephant in the Room: Off-shore companies, liberalisation and extension of presidential power in DR Congo.  Third World Quarterly, 39 (5). pp. 889-905.

You can follow Zoe on twitter here: https://twitter.com/VCDatSOAS

15th April 2019

 


Saudi Arabia & the West: the Future of a Toxic Relationship

The war in Yemen and the Khashoggi murder have highlighted the ruthless and brutal nature of the Saudi regime and the extent to which it has been supported over many years by the west. The need for petrodollars and access to the sovereign wealth of Saudi Arabia to ease western current account  deficits  has led to western connivance with the Saudi regime in its regional objectives in the Middle East generally and specifically in the Yemen, where western arms and military advisors are used by the Saudi regime to fight a war that is resulting in a humanitarian disaster.

David Wearing is a teaching fellow in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London,  and has studied relations between the West  and Saudi Arabia over many years.  He has provided expert comment and analysis on numerous occasions for Sky News and BBC tv and radio, as well as writing regularly for outlets such as the Guardian, the Independent, CNN, New Humanist, the New Statesman, London Review of Books, openDemocracy and Le Monde Diplomatique. In September 2017 he published ‘AngloArabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters  to Britain’. He will look at the nature of the Saudi regime and its foreign policy under the Crown Prince and how far it will be possible for western policymakers to change, recalibrate and disentangle existing relationships which are so dependent on the flow of Saudi money to the west.   See all Guardian articles.  See David on Twitter.

1st April 2019


Plastics & Us: A Relationship Gone Bad?

Plastic is an extraordinarily versatile material. It is cheap, durable, low-weight and versatile, and our building and construction industry, industrial and agricultural machinery, transportation, electrical goods, textiles, medical supplies and packaging are all dependent on its various forms. The accumulative amount produced since mass production began in the 1950s – 8.3 billion tonnes – is roughly equivalent to the entire weight of the human beings living on the planet, and almost half the items made from it are for single use. This results in huge amounts of detritus, which is polluting our landmasses and contaminating our oceans, affecting over 700 marine species. More recently, the presence of minute ‘microplastics’, less than 5 mm across and often invisible to the human eye, has been causing grave concern. These are ubiquitous in habitats as diverse as the deep Indian Ocean floor to Arctic sea ice. They can cause harm to marine invertebrates if ingested, and potentially carry a cocktail of chemicals. Recently, their presence in foods destined for human consumption has prompted concern regarding possible human health effects, which are still unknown. Tonight’s speaker Stephanie Wright is an environmental health scientist, researching this particular aspect of the problem in the Analytical, Environmental and Forensic Sciences Department of King’s College London. She will discuss the whole issue with us, including what can be done to limit the damage and re-align our relationship with plastic through smarter use and better waste disposal of this essential material. 

Dr Stephanie Wright – 18.45 on Monday 25th February


The Impact of Foreign Interventions in Africa

Western involvement in Africa extends from massive corporate investment in mineral extraction and technology, to direct government aid and a network of programmes  run by NGOs. In addition China is now also heavily involved in investment in Africa. But the impact of these interventions may produce either different outcomes from those intended or be detrimental to the economic, social and political development of the countries concerned.

Alastair Fraser lectures at SOAS in the Department of Politics and International Studies and he is on the Editorial Working Group of the Review of African Political Economy. His research includes: the politics of ‘call-in’ radio and television; the privatisation of the copper mining industry, including relations between workers, the state and Western and Chinese investors; the strategies African states deploy to negotiate with foreign aid donors; the ideological effects on trade unions and NGOs of ties to the international development industry; and the relationships between technocracy, democratisation and populist modes of political mobilisation. He will look at how foreign aid donors, international NGOs and multinational companies promote their preferred economic and social agendas in Africa, and how African elites and citizens respond to these influences. See full academic biography

4th February 2019


The Threat of Surveillance in an age of Technology

In recent years, the British state has spied on law-abiding environmental activists, democratically elected politicians, victims of torture and police brutality, and hundreds of journalists. With the development of new and emerging technologies, this often lawless use of sophisticated surveillance is becoming increasingly alarming. In 2016 a law called the Investigatory Powers Act was passed in the UK, enabling the British state indiscriminately to hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population, making it the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. The prospect of a free trade agreement in mass surveillance between the UK and the US has exacerbated the situation, with the US President committed to monitoring all mosques, investigating Black Lives Matter activists, and deporting two to three million people. Silkie Carlo will discuss this critical issue with us. She is the Director of Big Brother Watch, a non-party, non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting privacy and civil liberties in the UK. She is a passionate campaigner for the protection of human rights and freedom, and after working for Edward Snowden’s official defence fund, became the Senior Advocacy Officer  at Liberty, where she led a programme on Technology and Human Rights, and launched a legal challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act.   She co-wrote the handbook “Information Security for Journalists” which was commissioned by the Centre for Investigative Journalism.  See also article on Apple´s monopoly on free speech.

21st January 2019

 


The Challenge of National Populism

Across the west, there is a rising tide of people who feel excluded, alienated from mainstream politics, and increasingly hostile  towards minorities,immigrants and neo-liberal economics. Elections in America and across Europe have shown that many of these people have turned to national populist movements in a revolt against liberal democracy and the rationalism of the enlightenment. Their ideas can be seen as anti democratic and in some cases fascist, but support for this right wing populism has grown inexorably over the last five years. How should we engage with and respond to a set of ideas and values which which appear so alien to mainstream political thinking in the west in the post war decades?

Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at Rutherford College, University of Kent and a Senior Visiting Fellow at Chatham House.  He is the leading authority on nationalist and far right politics and has written extensively on this topic.  In 2015 he won the Paddy Power Political book of the year for ‘Revolt on the Right’. His most recent book ‘National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy’is due to be published in October and signed copies will be available to purchase on the evening of his talk.  He will look at the background  and ideas of national populism, the challenge that it presents to western democratic systems and will suggest ways in which we should respond to that challenge.

Monday 3rd December 2018


Incarceration as a Weapon of War

Detention and confinement, both of combatants and large groups of civilians, have become fixtures of asymmetric wars over the course of the last century, with a huge increase in the employment of detention camps, internment centres, and the enclosure or isolation of groups of people. Laleh Khalili is professor of Middle East Politics at SOAS, and will discuss this development with us. She has written and lectured widely on the politics and political economy of war with specific focus on the Middle East, and her most recent book Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies investigates the two major liberal counterinsurgencies of our day – the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. War on Terror. She argues that although practices of incarceration have been defended by the assertion that they constitute measures to “protect” populations against violence and terrorism, liberal states have in fact consistently acted illiberally in their confinements, and that this has increasingly encouraged policymakers willingly to choose to wage wars.

19th November 2018


Japan and the Asia Pacific

Japan has the third largest economy in the world by GDP and is a military power of great significance. It also has the highest life expectancy in the world and public debt which at 230 percent of its annual gross domestic product is larger than any other nation. The country’s constitution renounces the right to use military force in international disputes but in recent years governments have indicated that they wish to take a more active role in regional security particularly in view of the challenges Japan faces in its relations with China, North Korea and Russia and long standing disputes with these countries.

Christopher Hughes is Professor of International Relations at the LSE and a former Director of the Asia Research Centre. He specialises in the Asia Pacific region and has been a visiting fellow at two Japanese universities. He will talk about the current political and economic situation in Japan and the geopolitical challenges it faces in the Asia Pacific as it pursues a more interventionist foreign policy.

29th October 2018


The future of social housing in an age of global capital

The provision of social housing in the UK has declined dramatically in the last twenty years. This is part of a global phenomenon in which neoliberal urban policies fuelled by quantitative easing have led to social cleansing of cities, a crisis in the provision of affordable housing and a rise in homelessness.

Anna Minton author of ‘Ground Control‘ and ‘Big Capital’ is Reader in Architecture, in the School of Architecture and Visual Arts at UEL. She will talk about the crisis of social housing in the context of the impact of globally mobile capital on urban populations worldwide and the policies that are necessary to provide affordable urban housing.  See Guardian articles.

1st October 2018

 


The Secret World of International Accountancy – the Scandal of the ‘Big Four’

The four major global accountancy firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG have developed into vast multinationals, showing multi-billion profits and paying huge salaries to their high-ranking staff. Their part in the 2008 financial crash effectively forgotten, they are now regarded as ‘too big to fail’, and ruthlessly exploit the financial system, encouraging tax avoidance, propping up anti-democratic movements, pushing sometimes damaging deregulation, and even infiltrating the machinery of state. By 2016, they employed 890,000 people across 150 countries, more than the five most valuable companies in the world combined. In their oldest markets, the UK and US, they are growing at over twice the rate of the countries’ economies, auditing 97% of the largest US companies, and all the UK’s top 100 corporations. Richard Brooks is an author, journalist and former tax inspector. He has twice won the Paul Foot award for campaigning journalism, and has worked closely with the BBC Panorama Team on several programmes. His new book Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and how they broke Capitalism examines the evolution and current practice of a profession that is no longer marked by financial probity, but has become an exploitative and damaging industry that reinvents global regulations for its own benefit.  See article on Carillion scandal & Guardian Long Read 29 May 2018

17th September 2018