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

 


A Basic Income for all: the answer to financial insecurity

The growing lack of job security, including intermittent employment or underemployment, which has arisen from the global spread of neoliberal capitalism, has led to the emergence of a social class – the ‘precariat’ – whose lack of a reliable income leads not only to poverty and lack of time control, but also to a damaging insecurity of identity. This development has become a serious issue in the 21st century. 

Guy Standing is Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, and a founder and co-President of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). He describes the precariat as an agglomerate of several different social groups, notably immigrants, young educated people, and those who have fallen out of the old-style industrial working class, and he has been at the forefront of thought about Basic Income (a regular cash transfer from the state, received by all individual citizens) for the past thirty years. His latest book covers in authoritative detail its effects on the economy, poverty, work and labour, and dissects and disproves the standard arguments against it.

Professor Standing has held Chairs at the Universities of Bath and Monash (Australia), was previously Director of the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the International Labour Organisation, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He lectures in many countries, and is the author of numerous books, including A Precariat Charter: from denizens to citizensand most recently The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay (London, Biteback, 2016) and Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen (London, Penguin, 2017).  See Guardian articles.

Monday 4th June 2018


The Global Food System – Urgent Problems: Possible Solutions

Our global food system has serious inherent problems. Our production, distribution and consumption patterns are responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and are the main cause of deforestation, and of unsustainable use of irrigation systems. They cause soil and water pollution, and bio-diversity loss. Nor are they efficient: in a world where there are enough resources to feed the population, and 641 million adults are obese, hunger is on the rise again. Over 800 million people do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life, and suffer from multiple forms of malnutrition. Around 9 million actually die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year. All these issues most urgently need to be addressed.

Tara Garnett initiated and runs the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), based at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and is the principal investigator at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of FoodHer work focuses on the contribution that the food system makes to greenhouse gas emissions and the scope for emissions reduction, looking at the technological options, at what could be achieved by changes in behaviour and how policies could help promote both these approaches. She is particularly interested in the relationship between emissions reduction objectives and other social and ethical concerns, particularly human health, livelihoods, and animal welfare.

Monday 14th May

 


North Korea: Dangerous, isolated & ready for war? The reality behind the caricature

North Korea is portrayed in the media as a dangerous and irrational military power that represents the greatest current threat to world peace, with its arsenal of nuclear weapons and a stated intention to use them against the United States.  In addition the North Korean state is seen as uniquely repressive driving its population to untold levels of poverty and deprivation, and heavily involved in international criminal activity. North Korea is, allegedly, a criminal state because state representatives systematically abuse diplomatic immunity to smuggle counterfeit currency, narcotics, counterfeit cigarettes, endangered species and other illicit goods across borders and state companies are manufacturing counterfeit currency, goods and narcotics in a system which is designed to enhance the personal fortunes of the leadership.

This picture obscures the fact that the North Korean state is, sadly, hardly unique and its 25 million population, whose priorities are economic survival in one of the world’s poorest countries, face complex and diverse challenges shaped, importantly, by generation, gender, occupation, social class and geographical location.

Professor Smith discusses the complex realities behind the conventional caricatures of North Korean society; identifying what we can say we know, because we have the evidence to support our knowledge claims, and what we can only guess at.  Guardian article 2015Guardian panel discussion 2017.

Professor Hazel Smith is a leading authority on North Korea and Professorial Research Associate in the Centre for Korean Studies at SOAS. She has written extensively about North Korea over many years, including her most recent book ‘North Korea: Markets and military rule’ (2015). She is regularly called on to advise governments, including the UK and the US and is a frequent broadcaster for the global media on North Korea, where she lived and worked for United Nations humanitarian organisations for two years and from where she earned a (still valid!) North Korean driving license.

Monday 30th April 2018


The Fate of Women in Iraq

In a country ravaged by a war that has still not drawn to a close, the erosion of women’s rights has received little international publicity. But although in 1959 the law in Iraq was considered to be the most protective of women’s rights in the Arab countries, in 2014, the Iraqi council of ministers approved a new personal status law called Ja’afari, named after the sixth Shi’ite imam Ja’afar al-Sadiq. Many of the new Bill’s articles, including marriage at age nine, the legalisation of marital rape, and unconditional polygamy, are in breach of existing Iraqi laws, international agreements, and UN conventions on human rights, in particular those relating to women and children. If enacted, the bill will have disastrous consequences for the women of Iraq who are already suffering the devastating consequences of years of conflict, resulting in serious education, health and displacement problems.

Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist, author, artist, and political activist, will discuss all these issues with us.  Haifa grew up in Baghdad where she graduated at the School of pharmacy in 1974. She was imprisoned by the Baath regime, and on her release remained in Iraq to continue her studies. As a member of the PLO, she was the manager of the pharmaceutical unit, moving between Syria and Lebanon. She has written numerous books, the best known being Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London, and City of Widows and is also a contributor to European and Arabic publications such as The GuardianRed pepperAl Ahram weekly and Al Quds (weekly comment). She was a founding member of the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Brussel’s Tribunal on Iraq. 

Haifa Zangana – 18.45 on Monday 16th April


The complicity of the Saudi Coalition in the starvation & destruction of the Yemeni people

Kim Sharif is a London based solicitor, human rights activist and Director of ‘Human Rights for Yemen’.   She has given talks about the worst man made humanitarian catastrophe in the world today at UN Human Rights Council Side Events as a panelist and has spoken and written widely about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the involvement of the UK through its crucial air command support and arms contracts.  The meeting between the Prime Minister and Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 7th March, was opposed by hundreds of protesters and attracted widespread condemnation by politicians, press and the public – Guardian article on protest. See also a recent article by Craig Murray

19th March 2018

 


Algorithms: are they taking control of our lives?

Algorithms are computerised formulae designed to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. They can perform calculations, data processing and automated reasoning tasks, and are used by all sections of modern society – sciences, financial markets, medical research, manufacturing, and numerous business practices, especially those of large corporations and their advertising agencies. These powerful tools largely determine the information we receive about the world we live in, and have a profound impact on the way we think, directing our political and economic choices, our value systems and our consumption patterns. Who designs these algorithms? Whose interests do they serve? And is there any way in which we can control them? All these questions must be addressed when we consider our ethical approach to Artificial Intelligence. 

Kathleen Richardson is Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science and Informatics, De Montfort University. She is a social anthropologist, and much of her work is focused on a critique of coercive models of human behaviour that are transferred to the making of new technologies.  She is Director of the Campaign against Sex Robots, and was part of the Digital Bridges Project, an innovative AHRC funded technology and arts collaboration between Watford Palace Theatre and the University of Cambridge. She is author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines.

Monday 19th February

 


The Prison Crisis – what are the alternatives to incarceration?

As the prison population in the UK, which is now the highest in Western Europe, continues to escalate, we must ask ourselves whether our criminal justice system is fit for purpose. Why are our prisons overflowing? Is imprisonment meant to be rehabilitative or punitive, and what measures would help to prevent criminalisation and recriminalisation? If other international approaches to social problems based on criminalisation and punishment are proving successful, what can we learn from those countries whose policies and practices are producing more satisfactory results? Richard Garside is the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, where he set up the Crime and Society Foundation, and is the lead author of the Centre’s keynote annual publication: UK Justice Policy Review. He is also Senior Visiting Research Fellow at The Open University. Richard is in favour of the long-term abolition of prisons and the development of practices that are socially transformative, rather than punitive, and he writes and broadcasts regularly on issues of crime, criminal justice and social harm.  See Guardian references.

Monday 5th February


Countering Terror with Terror: Kill Lists, Drone Programmes and ‘Targeted’ Killings

When President Trump took office in January 2017, he received more than just the keys to the White House. President Obama also handed him the keys to his go-to weapon in the War on Terror – a Kill List created during ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings and a covert drone programme used to target and kill individuals far from battlefields and in countries where the US is not at war.

In his first year in office, President Trump massively expanded the programme, rolling back safeguards, tripling the number of strikes and dramatically increasing the number of civilian casualties. Worryingly, he’s done so not just with covert support from his allies, like President Obama, but also with increasing public support.   Allies, such as the UK, are now adopting their own Kill Lists, with the UK Defence Secretary declaring last month that the UK will ‘hunt down’ and kill its own citizens suspected of terrorism oversees in an effort to prevent their return.

As the first international NGO to expose the collateral damage of America’s use of armed drones for ‘targeted’ killings in late 2011, Reprieve has been at the forefront of challenging the use of Kill Lists and assassinations as a counterterrorism tool. Through on-the-ground investigations, novel legal challenges and advocacy, Reprieve has challenged not only the secrecy surrounding the programme, but also debunked the myth that these strikes are ‘surgical and precise.’

Jennifer Gibson heads Reprieve’s Assassination team and will talk about the flawed intelligence underlying these strikes, some of the human faces that are too often missing from the debate and the threat drones pose to long established legal frameworks. She will also touch upon the UK government’s own complicity in the US drone programme and recent comments that indicate the UK is following the US down the slippery slope of creating its own Kill List.

With a Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School, Jennifer regularly writes and speaks about her work with those who have been harmed by abusive counterterrorism practices. She frequently appears in the media and has testified about her work before the British and European Parliaments, as well as the US Congress. In December 2015 she gave oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the British use of drones for targeted killing.

Contact: [email protected]  or on Twitter @jennifermgibson

18.45 on Monday 22nd January