News Briefing and Comment


03/22/2017 09:31 AM
On World Water Day, the WCC asks: “why waste water?”

As World Water Day is observed across the world today (22 March 2017), Prof. Jesse N.K. Mugambi, giving the fourth reflection during Seven Weeks for Water 2017, said: “The great challenge is how to reduce the cost of treating wastewater, especially in the equatorial and tropical zones.”

As World Water Day is observed across the world today (22 March 2017), Prof Jesse N.K. Mugambi, giving the fourth reflection during Seven Weeks for Water 2017, said: “The great challenge is how to reduce the cost of treating wastewater, especially in the equatorial and tropical zones.”

If the cost of treating wastewater exceeds the benefit, there must be other justifications for such expenditures, said Mugambi. “Under such circumstances, reducing the use of fresh water to the bare minimum is a prudent policy.”

While the World Health Organisation recommends a bare minimum of 20 litres per capita consumption of water, some developed countries use up to 400 litres per capita.

World Water Day – designated by the United Nations – is observed by governments, non-governmental organisations, communities, churches and individuals who want to call attention to the global water crisis. All the rivers and lakes of the world comprise only 0.3 per cent of the fresh water available on our planet for human consumption. The remaining 99.7 per cent is  found in the oceans, soils, icecaps, and floating in the atmosphere.

As part of its ongoing pilgrimage of justice and peace, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been communicating the message that the global water crisis is not only an issue of scarcity but an issue of justice. The WCC Ecumenical Water Network has been engaged in the Lenten campaign Seven Weeks for Water which this year is focusing on Africa.

As part of the campaign, seven theological reflections on water justice have been written by African theologians and academicians.  About half of the world's population without access to safe drinking water and about one-third of world's population without access to adequate sanitation facilities come from sub-Saharan Africa.

* More about World Water Day here and Seven Weeks for Water here

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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03/22/2017 09:11 AM
New GCHQ chief urged to 'come clean' on UK role in US drone strikes

The Foreign  and Commonwealth Office has announced that Jeremy Fleming will take over GCHQ, the UK intelligence gathering agency that has been directly implicated in assisting covert US drone strikes in countries including Yemen.

The Foreign  and Commonwealth Office has announced that Jeremy Fleming will take over GCHQ, the UK intelligence gathering agency that has been directly implicated in assisting covert US drone strikes in countries including Yemen.

Secret US drone strikes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. Last year, an investigation by The Intercept showed that some of the aspects of the US programme of covert strikes in Yemen – including the location of targets – had been “tasked by several offices at . . . GCHQ”.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has expressed concern about potential UK complicity in the US drone programme, and urged the Government to “clarify” its understanding of the legal basis for such support.

Otherwise, the committee has warned, it could potentially be putting “UK personnel who have a role in assisting or facilitating the use of lethal force by coalition allies, such as the US” at risk of “criminal prosecution for complicity in murder”.

President Trump has faced criticism over his covert drone policy, after a US raid on a Yemeni village in January 2017 killed at least 23 civilians.

The international human rights organisation Reprieve has found that among the civilian dead from the raid were a newborn baby, an eight year old girl, and an 80-year-old tribal elder.

Reprieve has written to Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking for information about any UK involvement in the raid, and in future covert operations under President Trump.

Jennifer Gibson, Drones and Kill List Project Lead at Reprieve, said: “The new head of GCHQ must come clean over UK involvement in covert US drone strikes. Parliament has raised serious concerns that UK intelligence feeds into US assassinations without charge or trial. It is now more urgent than ever. President Trump is loosening the rules of engagement for covert operations around the world – with his debut raid in Yemen killing at least 23 civilians and his decision to once again involve the CIA in its covert killing programme. Fleming must immediately clarify what role the UK has in covert US drone strikes, and the legal basis underpinning that involvement, before more innocent people are killed.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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03/21/2017 09:40 AM
Put Libya ahead of ‘narrow interests' says UN envoy

Warning of escalating tension across the North African country due to mobilisation of forces, the worsening security situation in the capital, Tripoli, as well as recent violence in Misrata and Benghazi, the United Nations envoy for Libya yesterday has called on all parties to unite and to put the country ahead of their “own narrow interests.”

Warning of escalating tension across the North African country due to mobilisation of forces, the worsening security situation in the capital, Tripoli, as well as recent violence in Misrata and Benghazi, the United Nations envoy for Libya yesterday (20 March 2017) called on all parties to unite and to put the country ahead of their “own narrow interests.”

“Do not let the agenda be driven by violence on the ground and extremism,” urged Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), in a news release.

“Calm must be restored immediately, democratic bodies and ideals must be respected and freedom of speech must be protected,” he added.

Last week, the UN human rights arm (OHCHR) had sounded an alarm over the situation and had spoken of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses stemming from recent fighting in the country’s eastern oil crescent area, including summary executions and mass detentions.

In his statement,  M. Kobler also mentioned violence, hate speech and mutilation of corpses. “[Such incidents] are completely unacceptable,” said the senior UN official, calling on Libyan institutions to commit to advancing the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and swiftly implementing the security arrangements in the capital, Tripoli, that would provide for the withdrawal of armed groups there and the deployment of army and police.

He also made reference to the Quartet meeting on Libya, held on 18 March, which urged the Libyan parties to re-engage in the political process. The Quartet comprises the League of Arab States, the African Union, and European Union as well as the UN.

Recalling the international community’s strong commitment to the country, Kobler emphasised: “The responsibility, however, lies first and foremost with the Libyans themselves to end this escalating violence.”

He concluded: “All political and security stakeholders in a position to influence their constituencies should act now.”

* Read the Libyan Political Agreement here

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html

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03/21/2017 09:19 AM
Inspectors criticise 'prison like' immigration centre

A ‘prison like' immigration removal centre  has been criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for detaining too many people for too long.

A ‘prison like' immigration removal centre (IRC) has been criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for detaining too many people for too long.

In a recent inspection of Morton Hall, an IRC near Lincoln, inspectors discovered that 31 people had been held for over a year, including three who had been detained for two years. On average, people were locked up at Morton Hall for over three months.

Worryingly, the inspection also revealed that three children had wrongly been imprisoned alongside adults: one for 12 days, one for 36 days and one for 151 days. Some of these detentions were prolonged because of disagreements between local authorities over who was responsible for assessing the child’s age.

Cases of self harm at the centre had also rocketed, with inspectors revealing there had been a three fold increase. The revelation follows two recent deaths at Morton Hall. Inspectors said that a new Government ‘adults at risk’ policy, designed to protect vulnerable detainees, wasn’t understood, with staff unable to identify people who’d been identified as at risk of harm.

Responding to the report, Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: "This troubling report further reminds us that the Government’s immigration detention estate is a stain on the nation’s conscience. Every year, thousands of people, including children, are spirited away, sometimes in the dead of night, through a shadowy government policy, to these bleak prisons.

"What’s even more alarming is the fact that people entering immigration detention have absolutely no idea when they’ll be released, leaving many people with their mental health in ruins. If the Government truly believes in justice and liberty, then it must close Morton Hall and places like it as soon as possible.”

* Refugee Council http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/

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03/20/2017 08:46 AM
New poll shows rise in racism since Brexit vote

Over a third of Black, Asian or minority ethnic people (BAME) witnessed or experienced racial abuse in the seven months following the Brexit vote in June 2016, a TUC  poll has found.

Over a third (34 per cent) of Black, Asian or minority ethnic people (BAME) witnessed or experienced racial abuse in the seven months following the Brexit vote in June 2016, a Trades Union Congress (TUC) poll has found.

The ICM/TUC poll of over 1,000 BAME working adults also found that since the referendum:

  • 1 in 5 BAME people (19 per cent) have suffered or witnessed racial assault
  • 2 in 5 (41 per cent) have heard racist remarks or opinions
  • 2 in 5 people (38 per cent) have seen racist material online
  • 1 in 4 (27 per cent) have seen racist graffiti, posters or leaflets

The poll is part of a major TUC project to combat racism in the workplace, which will document the British BAME experience of racism and harassment, and set out ways to tackle it.

The TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Bring in rules about third-party harassment, which protect workers who deal with the public such as shop workers, street cleaners and bus drivers from abuse at work;
  • Develop a full race equality strategy, which includes tough action to crack down on harassment and discrimination at work, online and in everyday life;
  • Make sure the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has enough funding to take more legal cases and make sure the law reflects how contemporary racism plays out;
  • Make private sector companies responsible for promoting equal treatment throughout their activities just as public sector organisations already are.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Brexit has given racism a new lease of life. Discrimination has never gone away, but since the referendum racism has been on the rise.

“The scale of abuse is shocking. We have to come together and draw a line in the sand about what is acceptable in modern Britain in 2017 – and the government has to take a lead. It’s unacceptable that shop workers, bus drivers and street cleaners face abuse from members of the public – and their employers don’t have to do anything to protect them. 

“Anyone who has been harassed or mistreated at work should talk to their union rep or join a trade union. And we all have a responsibility to call out racist harassment wherever we see it.”

* The TUC commissioned polling by ICM Unlimited, which surveyed 1,003 BAME adults living in Britain and in work. The polling relates to the seven month period between the EU referendum in June 2016 and mid-January 2017

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/

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03/20/2017 08:28 AM
Call for ILO to continue probe into Qatari migrant worker abuse

The International Labour Organisation's governing body must continue to scrutinise Qatar's record on migrant labour abuse, Amnesty International says, ahead of a crucial 21 March 2017 decision on a complaint brought by trade unions against the Gulf state.

The International Labour Organisation's governing body must continue to scrutinise Qatar's record on migrant labour abuse, Amnesty International says, ahead of a crucial 21 March 2017 decision on a complaint brought by trade unions against the Gulf state.

Last week, the Qatari government claimed said it had "repealed" its controversial sponsorship law, including the requirement that migrant workers obtain an exit permit from their employers to leave the country.

However, Amnesty does not accept this claim and considers that there are currently insufficient grounds to close the complaint against Qatar. Amnesty is calling for the ILO's complaint process to continue, in line with a draft decision issued ahead of Tuesday's session.

Last week, the Qatari authorities told the ILO that its new employment law (Law 21 of 2015) "repealed the kafala [sponsorship] system", and that a subsequent amendment, (Law 1 of 2017) had "repealed the exit permit". While Qatar's new employment law does include one potentially significant change – removing the rule preventing migrant workers from returning to work in Qatar for two years unless their former sponsor agreed – the law has changed little for workers overall. The words "sponsor" and "sponsorship" have been removed but the core elements of the sponsorship system which drives labour abuse remain. In particular:

  • Workers still need their employer's permission to seek alternative employment during the period of their contract, which can last up to five years. If they change jobs without this permission they face criminal charges for "absconding", which lead can lead to their arrest, detention and deportation.
  • Workers still require permission from their employer to leave the country. Under Law 1 of 2017, workers now need to "notify" their employer to leave the country. The process of notification mirrors the established exit permit system.
  • Regrettably, Qatar's new employment law introduces a loophole which makes it easier for abusive employers to confiscate workers' passports. An increase in the fine imposed for passport confiscation is undermined by now allowing employers to legally keep workers' passports with written consent. This measure increases the risk of abusive employers retaining workers' passports against their will.

James Lynch, Amnesty International's Global Issues Deputy Director, said: "This is a critical juncture for migrant workers in Qatar. The government has made some public commitments in response to ILO pressure, but its claims that it has abolished the sponsorship system simply do not add up.

"If the ILO governing body endorses Qatar's inadequate reforms by dropping this complaint, this could have damaging consequences for migrant rights in Qatar and across the region."

The ILO has been reviewing labour abuse in Qatar since 2014, with a specific focus on forced labour and labour inspection. On 21 March, the ILO's governing body will consider a draft decision that proposes giving Qatar a further eight months to show it has made adequate migrant labour reforms. The Qatari government has made a series of labour-related announcements in the run-up to the ILO governing body meeting, suggesting the complaint process is having some impact. However, these announcements have not yet led to substantive reforms, and further pressure is needed to turn these promises into reality.

* Read Amnesty's 2016 briefing New Name, Old System? here

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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03/18/2017 10:27 AM
Boris Johnson fails to secure death row Briton's return from Ethiopia

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has said that on his first trip to Ethiopia, he has received assurances that a British man who is illegally held on death row has been permitted to see a lawyer.

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has said that on his first trip to Ethiopia, he has received assurances that a British man who is illegally held on death row has been permitted to see a lawyer.

Mr Johnson said yesterday ( Mar 17 2017) that he had received undertakings that Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, who is held illegally under sentence of death in Ethiopia, would have “regular access to a lawyer” in Ethiopia.

The announcement comes nine months after a similar promise of legal access was made by Ethiopia to Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Philip Hammond.

Mr Tsege was kidnapped from an international airport by Ethiopian forces in 2014, and rendered to Ethiopia. He has been held there unlawfully for nearly 1,000 days, and is currently held at a prison that has been described as ‘Ethiopia’s gulag.’

Mr Tsege – who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian ruling party – was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009, in a trial that the US State Department said was “lacking basic elements of due process.”

The Foreign Secretary appears today to have refused calls to seek Mr Tsege’s return, which have come from MPs, British legal experts and others such as the legal charity Reprieve.

In a recent letter to the Foreign Office, former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve, Labour Lord (Charlie) Falconer and Lib Dem peer Ken MacDonald argued that Mr Tsege’s kidnap and rendition are grounds for a UK request for his return to Britain. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23768)

Their letter pointed out that the Ethiopian Government has said that Mr Tsege has no prospect of appealing his death sentence. The legal experts asked the Foreign Secretary to “call for Mr Tsege’s immediate release to his family in London.”

Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “Boris Johnson appears to have missed a vital opportunity to press for the return of a British dad who has been subjected to a shocking litany of abuses over the past 1,000 days. It’s clear that there can be no just process for Andy Tsege in Ethiopia, where he is held under an illegal death sentence. Boris Johnson must urgently listen to his own MPs and to Andy’s family – he must secure the return of this British citizen without delay.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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03/17/2017 10:14 AM
New report urges early intervention for women in criminal justice system

New research by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women who come into the criminal justice system.

New research by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women who come into the criminal justice system. Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest provides solutions and examples of positive work being delivered by police to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women. However, the report also found that opportunities are being missed to intervene early, reduce women’s offending and protect the public.

A separate analysis of arrest figures shows that whilst the majority of police forces in England and Wales have seen some decline in the number of women arrested in the last year, in nearly two-fifths (37 per cent) of police forces arrests of women rose. The largest increase was seen in Lancashire, where arrests rose by 46 per cent between 2014/15-2015/16. Similar rises were also seen in Dorset (45 per cent) and Hertfordshire (40 per cent).

However, impressive reductions seen in other police force areas give hope that similar results are within grasp if dedicated efforts to intervene early, and tackle the problems that drive people into crime are provided.

In the last year, the number of arrests of women in areas such as Leicestershire, Greater Manchester, and Avon and Somerset have fallen, dropping by 29 per cent, 24 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

Women are more likely to be serving a sentence in prison for theft and other non-violent crimes than men. In many of these instances an out of court disposal may be appropriate, however the use of out of court options for women who have committed low-level offences fell by over 45 per cent since 2007.

Women represent a small minority of those in the criminal justice system – in 2015 there were 157 first time women offenders per 100,000 of the population, compared with a first-time offending rate of 439 per 100,000 of the male population. The drivers to and patterns of women’s offending are different so a distinct approach is needed. 57 per cent of women in prison report a history of domestic abuse and 53 per cent report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared to 27 per cent of men.

Writing in the foreword of the report, Dame Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumberland said: “Like many of my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners I firmly believe that crime prevention is the way forward…[This report] showcases how local areas are responding to the changing demands on police resources at a time when money is short…I hope this discussion paper will raise awareness of the practical steps now being taken across England and Wales to improve outcomes for women at the point of arrest. Not only can this lead to less crime and fewer victims, but it also pays dividends for the families and communities who depend on the women who are helped.”

Drawing on detailed research and interviews with the police, probation staff, women’s voluntary sector providers and national policy-makers, the report examines current practice and demonstrates how problem-solving approaches can improve outcomes for both criminal justice agencies and women in trouble with the law.

Author of the report, Dr Thomas Guiney of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The evidence is clear that point of arrest can be the ideal opportunity for effective early intervention, giving women the support they need to tackle the issues leading to their offending. Our report shows that this is working well in some areas—where police and other agencies are collaborating to ensure a proportionate and fair outcome. More must be done to ensure these services are available across England and Wales.”

Jenny Earle, director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment said: “Most of women’s offending is rooted in financial hardship, abusive relationships, addiction and poor mental health. For too long the criminal justice system has been used as a safety net to get women’s lives back on track, when what is needed is treatment and support. The government has found £1.3 billion for new prisons, but community schemes across the country providing vital support for women in trouble battle to survive. The government should be investing in the future of those services, not pouring yet more money down the prison building drain.”

*Read  Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest  here

* Prison Reform Trust http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/

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03/17/2017 09:08 AM
Right to citizenship means one humanity says WCC chief

 World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, joined a panel at the United Nations Office in Geneva, speaking on the theme 'Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working jointly towards equal citizenship rights'.

At the United Nations Office in Geneva on 15 March 2017, World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, joined a panel speaking on the theme 'Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working jointly towards equal citizenship rights'.

Tveit noted that, together, Christians and Muslims represent about half the world’s population. “We, here, are not talking about only ourselves. We are talking about humanity in many ways”, he said.

The panel discussion was held as a side event of the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The WCC addresses the issue of citizenship – and humanity – from a theological perspective, Tveit added. “What does it mean to believe today in the one God who created the one humanity? And what are the implications of that in our time? Well, it definitely should not be that believing in one God, we see only part of humanity as our sisters and brothers.”

After citing examples of how the WCC fellowship is strengthening Christian-Muslim relationships around the world, Tveit concluded that citizenship – which is a basic source of identity in many countries – is not only a matter of legal principle but also a matter of how we understand one another as human beings.

Citizenship, he said, is not only a political or a legal principle, it is also a principle that expresses our deepest faith in the one God creating the one humanity.

Even the word 'minorities' calls into question our collective ability to accept the citizenship of others, Tveit noted, because there can be a sense that 'minorities' really don’t belong. “We must be careful that we don’t use that word all the time but that we also say ‘communities’ – those who belong here.”

Equal Citizenship Rights was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Algeria, Pakistan and Lebanon, as well as the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the United Nations Office in Geneva that were represented by their respective Ambassadors.

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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03/16/2017 09:09 AM
Christian Aid urges world leaders to end suffering in Syria

With ongoing bombardment in and around Damascus and countless people trapped in besieged areas throughout Syria, Christian Aid has asked world leaders to act now to end the horrors, and reaffirms its call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire.

With ongoing bombardment in and around Damascus and countless people trapped in besieged areas throughout Syria, Christian Aid has asked world leaders to act now to end the horrors, and reaffirms its call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire.

Frances Guy, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid, said: “Today, six years on we owe Syrians under siege and under fire, the respect of remembering their daily horrors and urging world leaders to put in that extra effort to bring an end to this suffering.”

Ms Guy added: “Six years of brutal civil war, that has left millions of people stranded in hard to reach areas. Six years during which the world has watched the medieval tactics of siege and starvation. 

“Six years where children have not been to school, where neighbouring countries have strained to match the demands on their hospitality that the rest of the world tries to ignore.  And still there are new stories to tell and still the daily hardships continue.

“The current ceasefire is clearly not working.  Syria and the world needs a real ceasefire to help all Syrians breathe a little."

According to the United Nations 13.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 4.6 million people in need trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

Just in the last few weeks an intensification of bombing and military campaigns to towns north east of Damascus has forced tens of thousands of people to flee under heavy bombardment.

A Christian Aid partner described the events in one town in rural Damascus: “Around 20,000 people fled in two weeks.  After five years they have moved a lot, those who fled in these last weeks have already moved three times before.  You become a nomad, you flee for your life. But it is not like you go to a safer place – you flee, come back home if it is safe, and if not you keep on moving. At the end of the day, there is nothing bright on the horizon.”

For next month’s conference in Brussels, Supporting The Future Of Syria And The Region, Christian Aid hopes that this will bring solid action to guarantee an end to sieges, an end to attacks on civilians, unhindered humanitarian access and keeps humanitarian protection at the heart of decision making about the future of Syria.

Within Syria, Christian Aid is supporting partners to provide hot meals to people recently displaced by the bombing of towns north east of Damascus.

Outside Syria, the organisation is helping to support the most vulnerable of Syrian refugees, including women, girls and those with pre-existing disabilities or injuries sustained as a result of conflict. Christian Aid partners enable Syrian refugee children to continue their education and provide livelihood training for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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03/16/2017 08:57 AM
Zero-hours workers treated as 'disposable labour' says TUC

The Trades Union Congress has commented on figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, which show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has increased by 13 per cent over the past year.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has commented on figures published yesterday (15 March 2017) by the Office for National Statistics, which show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has increased by 13 per cent over the past year.

The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts allow bosses to treat workers like disposable labour.

“If you’re on a zero-hours contract you have no guarantee of work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong and you can be let go in a heartbeat. Turn down a shift because your kid’s sick and you can be left with little or no work.

“That’s why employment law needs dragging law into the 21st century. Far too many workers do not have the power to challenge bad working conditions.

“Zero-hours contracts can be a nightmare to plan your life around. And are a huge drain on the public finances.The growth in zero-hours working over the last decade is costing the government almost £2 billion a year.”

The TUC estimates that the growth of zero-hours working is costing the exchequer £1.9 billion a year. This is because zero-hours contract workers earn significantly less than regular employees and therefore:

  • pay less tax
  • pay less national insurance
  • are more reliant on tax credits.

Median pay for a zero-hours worker is a third (£3.50) less an hour than for an average employee.

The TUC has launched a new initiative for workers to share their experiences of insecure work anonymously. The findings of the survey will be presented in May.

* More about the TUC initiative here

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/

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03/15/2017 09:24 AM
Peruvian government denounced for failure to protect uncontacted tribes

In an open letter to the Peruvian authorities, three organisations have denounced the failure of the country's government to protect uncontacted tribes.

In an open letter to the Peruvian authorities, three organisations have denounced the failure of the country's government to protect uncontacted tribes.

The organisations, Survival International, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Peruvian indigenous organisation ORPIO are calling for the government to create an indigenous reserve, known as Yavari-Tapiche, for uncontacted tribes along the Peru-Brazil border, and to put a stop to outsiders entering the territory.

In the letter the three organisations state:

Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They have made the decision to be isolated and this must be respected…

The Yavarí Tapiche region is home to uncontacted peoples. Despite knowing of their existence and enormous vulnerability, the government has failed to guarantee their protection…

These tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Only by creating the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve and implementing effective protection mechanisms that prevent the entry of outsiders, will the indigenous people be given the chance to determine their own futures…

We are also concerned about the government’s refusal to exclude oil exploration within the proposed reserve…. No exploration or exploitation of oil should ever be carried out on territories inhabited by uncontacted Indians…

We believe that the oil company Pacific Stratus is poised to begin operations this year in areas where there are uncontacted tribes…

By failing to both create the reserve and to rule out oil exploration, Peru is violating both domestic and international law…

If the government does not act urgently to protect the uncontacted peoples of Yavarí Tapiche, we fear that they will not survive. Another tribe will disappear from the face of the earth, before the eyes of the world.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples' rights, said: “We’ve repeatedly called for the Yavarí-Tapiche indigenous reserve to be created and for oil exploration to be ruled out, but the government has dragged its feet. The lives of uncontacted Indians are on the line but once again, economic interests take priority.”

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

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03/15/2017 09:05 AM
DEC launches East Africa Crisis Appeal

Leading UK aid agencies today announced a joint fundraising appeal to help millions of people facing hunger in East Africa.

Leading UK aid agencies today (15 March 2017) announced a joint fundraising appeal to help millions of people facing hunger in East Africa.

More than 16 million people in the region do not know where their next meal will come from and children are at risk of dying from starvation.

In South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, drought and conflict have left millions of people in immediate need of food, water and medical treatment.

The DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal is launching today and will be shown on all major UK Broadcasters including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. Money raised will support the efforts of DEC member charities to reach affected families and communities.

DEC Chief Executive, Saleh Saeed, said: "Hunger on a massive scale is looming across East Africa. More than 800,000 children under five are severely malnourished. Without urgent treatment, they are at risk of starving to death.

"We are hearing that families are so desperate for food that they are resorting to eating leaves to survive. This is something no family should have to endure.Unless we act now the number of deaths will drastically increase. Don't delay – please donate."

DEC member charities are already on the ground delivering life-saving aid, such as food, treatment for malnutrition and clean drinking water.

They are ready to scale up their humanitarian support, but they need more funding to reach the millions of people in urgent need.

The UK Government will match pound for pound the first £5 million donated by the public to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal.

*Stay up to date with developments in East Africa, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts with the DEC on twitter: www.twitter.com/decappeal, on Facebook via www.facebook.com/DisastersEmergencyCommittee or by searching #fightingfamine

* To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 610, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.

* Disasters Emergency Committee https://www.dec.org.uk/

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03/14/2017 09:49 AM
US pastors reflect on Holy Land pilgrimage

In mid-February, 16 African-American pastors from the USA toured the Holy Land to learn more about the Israel- Palestine conflict. The visit was an initiative by the Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community and led by its president, the Rev. Dr Alyn E. Waller, who is a senior pastor at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia..

In mid-February 2017, 16 African-American pastors from the USA toured the Holy Land to learn more about the Israel-Palestine conflict. The visit was an initiative by the Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community and led by its president, the Rev. Dr Alyn E. Waller, who is a senior pastor at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“This tour will help us help the Palestinians in their struggle for justice and peace. We need to be part of that”, says Waller.

The group was welcomed in Jerusalem by Yusef Daher, executive secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center in association with the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches. As the organiser of the tour, this was a special occasion for Daher, since it was the first in a series of planned pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land.

“It sure feels great to welcome the first group and I am glad that they are enjoying it and that they engage in our struggle for justice and peace”, says Daher.

Having visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Sea of Galilee during their eight-day tour, the group brings back home a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on the people in the region.

“This pilgrim tour has given me a new perspective on the Palestinian struggle and how that is related to the African-American struggle. It has been an eye-opening and enlightening experience”, said Pastor Deborah A. Marshall from Morning Star Baptist Church in Clairton, Pennsylvania.

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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03/14/2017 09:36 AM
Church of Scotland responds to second referendum request

The Church of Scotland has responded to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement she will ask for permission to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

The Church of Scotland has responded to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement she will ask for permission to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

The First Minister said she would ask the Scottish Parliament next week to request a Section 30 order from Westminster. The order would be needed to allow a fresh legally-binding referendum on independence to be held.

The Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “Today, the First Minister has declared her intention to seek the authority for a referendum on Scottish Independence. And with a majority of MSPs in favour of independence it is likely that such a vote will be passed. The UK Parliament will have the final say on whether to grant the right to hold an Independence Referendum. It would be wrong if it was withheld.

“In 2014, rather than taking a position on either side of the independence debate, the Church of Scotland consulted individuals and communities on what sort of Scotland they wanted to live in. It also hosted, and encouraged others to host, respectful conversations where people expressed their position passionately but with courtesy and a strong commitment to listen.

“Individual church members will always be entitled to their own views but the Church retains a position of active neutrality on the matter of Scottish Independence.

“In the 2016 EU Referendum, the Church of Scotland spoke out in favour of continued membership as being in the best interests of Scotland, the UK and Europe. This has been the Church of Scotland’s policy since 1996 and it remains the Church’s current position.

“As with the UK’s membership of the European Union, Scottish independence is an issue on which there are many strongly held positions. There are justifiable concerns that the debate could be bitter, divisive and divert attention away from the hugely complex negotiations which are taking place as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

"Some will also point to the instability which referendums can cause and of their inability to address deeply complex matters with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. Others will point to the 2014 debate which encouraged a fresh generation of people to become active in political debate and re-engaged many others in the discussion.

“Whilst these risks are real, there is nothing inevitable about this debate being divisive and acrimonious. All those who take part in this debate about Scotland’s future – and the UK’s future as well – must be committed to holding a positive and informative debate.

"The Church of Scotland will contribute to this debate in creative and inclusive ways. It will also seek to call to account those who exaggerate their claims or who move from committed debate to inappropriate ways of treating one another.

“On all sides people hold their convictions with honesty and integrity and they must be treated as such. As we continue to grapple with these complex, contested and important decisions it is important that we do so with as much grace as we can muster and in a way that recognises the humanity of all concerned.

"All those who take part in this debate about Scotland’s future – and the UK’s future as well – must be committed to holding a debate which informs and inspires and not one which derides and dismisses.”

* Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/home

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