Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘UCL’

Global Citizenship

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 7th June, 2013

global citizenship 1global citizenship 2In an increasingly globalised world, our individual and collective identities are inevitably complex. As I said in a speech at the Global Citizenship Forum at University College London last night, nonetheless we can live comfortably with layered identities. Though not born in London, I feel strongly that I am a Londoner and my passport tells me that I am British. But the passport also declares that I am a citizen of the European Union, which is a dimension many people living in the EU have yet to get their heads around. One can only hope that the current European Year of the Citizen will assist in the construction and realisation of European identity (not related to skin colour or “race”, but rather to culture and location), despite the efforts of UKIP et al. Most of the attendees at last night’s UCL event — which was organised by the NGO Development in Action — would aspire to be global citizens, but that can be quite difficult to achieve; I argued it’s all about mindset. Part of the problem of the discourse and practice of international development has been the assumption that poorer parts of the world and communities will have their problems solved if they become just like us in affluent societies such as Britain. Instead, we need to recognise the differences between us and respect them and provide a space for individuals and communities in developing countries to work out their own path of progress, while offering appropriate assistance. I reminded the predominantly young audience of some of the basic principles of the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, who argued that education in disadvantaged communities first of all required helping people understand the status quo so they could then challenge it and use new skills to empower themselves. I also stressed in the Q&A session afterwards with my fellow panelists Daniela Papi and Nicole Blum that there is not one single model for global governance or blueprint for what a globalised world should look like, which further complicates achieving global citizenship. China and India have very different conceptual frameworks, for example, and the days when the United Nations was shaped along European lines must surely be coming to an end.

Link: http://www.developmentinaction.org

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What Kind of Intervention in Syria?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 15th October, 2012

This evening I took part in a lively and well-attended debate at the University College London (UCL) Debating Society, speaking on behalf of a proposition in favour of international intervention in Syria. I pointed out that there already has been intervention of various kinds on both sides of the conflict for several months, with the Russians, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah notably helping the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad try to cling onto power, while countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — not to forget jihadis from all over the world, including the UK — have backed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or other armed opposition groups, including the Muslim Broherhood. So the real question to answer is: what sort of intervention is desirable? I emphatically ruled out an Iraqi-style US-led invasion (which I, along with the Liberal Democrat Party, vociferously opposed in 2003). But I also excluded a Libyan-style intervention (which I did support), as the situation on the ground in Syria is so utterly different; as Syria’s population density is much greater and there are no big centres of opposition strength, such as Benghazi. No great military intervention would be likely to achieve much except raise the casualty levels, which probably top 35,000 deaths already. On the other hand, the world cannot just stand by and watch Assad and his cronies slaughter the Syrian people (and destroy the country’s rich cultural heritage in the process). We are morally and legally obliged to do something, now that the Responsiblity to Protect is part of International Law, i.e. that when a leader is unable or unwilling to protect his own people then there is an obligation on the international community to come to their aid. I argued that Lakhdar Brahimi’s new plan — which involves a ceasefire and a UN-organised peacekeeping force — should receive strong international endorsement as a good starting-point. I believe even Russia could be won round to this, as Moscow is desperate for some face-saving exit from its current embarassing alliance. Today, even Assad said he would go along with the plan, though the FSA has turned it down. A ceasefire is an essential step in the direction of a workable and lasting solution, but clearly the departure of Assad and some of his closest associated would have to be part of the package.

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Lobbying the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th February, 2009

This evening I was one of two speakers at the European Society at King’s College, London, on the theme of lobbying the European Union. My co-panelist, David Coen, of University College London (UCL), presented an excellent academic framework to and analysis of the current state of the lobbying operation in Brussels, notably by the commercial sector, whereas I concentrated more on the political principles involved and the work of NGOs. About 2,600 organisations and groups of various kinds have a permanent base in Brussels, from which they can establish a close working relationship with officials in the European Commission and — increasingly — members of the European Parliament, as the latter institution increases its powers.

I used illustrations from the work that I did after I left Reuters in Brussels, as the first Executive Secretary of the NGO Liaison Committee to the European Communities — which brought together European-based Third World charities such as Oxfam (UK) and Trocaire (Ireland), which were conduits for European funds for development and development education — as well as the founding Secretary of the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), which has for the past three decades monitored EU matters of interest to the Religious Society of Friends and other sections of the peace movement, for example on the right to concientious objection and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Using a template devised by Wilhelm Lehmann and others six years ago, I spoke of the four main functions of lobbying in Brussels: (1) a service function in researching and providing information to one’s client base or special interest group, (2) a lobbying function of influencing decision-making by contact with the appropriate authorities, (3) a decision-making function, in which special interest groups are consulted and involved in drafting  directives and other measures, and (4) an implementation function, putting European policies into practice (for example, NGOs working with the elderly, helping to implement anti-age discrimination policies).

Lobbying sometimes has a bad name in the popular imagination or the tabloid press. But in a modern democracy, the powers that be should consult widely with a wide range of interested sectors in society. When done well, this means that European legislation is better than it might have been, and is closer to the citizens of Europe.

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10 Years of the Euro

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009

1-euro     The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.

However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said — in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is  vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.

The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’  The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.

Link: www.euromove.org.uk

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