Corruption – 2

Further to my previous blog on corruption, we come to the key to stopping most corruption and that is to close tax havens and thus obtain the missing taxes that are needed to finance infrastructure, especially in Africa.  Below, are key points to consider.

Five things the UK government said it would do (but hasn’t) since the Panama Papers to tackle corruption:

  1. Crack down on the UK’s tax havens: Only last year the Conservative government described the need for all countries – including the UK’s tax havens – to reach the ‘gold standard’ of public registers of beneficial ownership to stop corporate secrecy enabling tax evasion and corruption. However, as time has passed the UK government’s ambitions have dropped. Now the Foreign Office says that only if public registers become a ‘global standard’, then they would expect the UK’s tax havens to follow. Rather than expecting them to be part of the drive to tackle offshore corporate secrecy, they are now only expected to act after the rest of the world does.
  2. Stop dirty money entering the UK property market: Despite promising to clean up the London property market as its headline commitment for the Summit, the UK continues to offer safe haven to corrupt individuals by allowing anonymous companies to buy property here. This means it is far too easy for the criminal and corrupt to launder money through luxury property, hiding their identities and disguising the source of their ill-gotten gains behind anonymous companies, often registered in offshore havens that offer secrecy – such as Bermuda, Panama, or the British Virgin Islands. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ran a consultation seeking views on the beneficial ownership property register which closed on 15 May 2017. The government has yet to publish its response – and there is no space in the parliamentary schedule for the legislation.
  3. Deliver a plan to fight corruption: As one of its Summit commitments, the UK promised to develop a cross-government Anti-Corruption Strategy by the end of 2016. This is now almost a year overdue. Any strategy should provide the framework to counter corruption, with a full description of the problem, a clear set of objectives, and a long-term vision. It should also tell us about the scale of the problem and where the UK plans to focus its efforts. The delay on this speaks volumes about the government’s commitment to act.
  4. Punish companies that commit economic crimes: In January the Ministry of Justice opened a call for evidence about new criminal offences which would punish fraudulent, dishonest and harmful activity committed by companies. The call for evidence was closed in March but the Ministry has yet to respond. The government cannot drag its feet on this crucial reform any longer and still claim to be in favour of creating an economy that ‘works for everyone’.
  5. Missing in Action: Anti-Corruption Champion, Sir Eric Pickles, stood down from parliament in May. Six months later, and in the midst of a corruption crisis, the government is yet to reappoint his successor and the post remains vacant.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/blog/five-things-uk-government-said-it-would-do-hasnt-panama-papers-tackle-corruption/

Below are eight reasons why beneficial ownership information needs to be fully public.

1.  To help businesses know who they are doing business with.  91% of senior executives worldwide believe it is important for them to know the beneficial owner of entities they do business with.  Several prominent business leaders have put their name to the call for company ownership transparency, including Paul Polman, the CEO of UnileverBob Collymore, the CEO of SafaricomDominic McVey, entrepreneur, Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post and Mo Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel. For more arguments on why company ownership transparency is good for business see the excellent report ‘The Business Case for ending anonymous companies’.

2.      To help businesses and consumers protect themselves from being victimised by crime.  Is the health insurance you are buying actually going to pay out when you need it, or is it being run by people who are spending all the premiums on themselves?  Is the company you are going to invest in actually the company you think it is, or another company set up by fraudsters with the same name?  Is that business you are looking to invest in actually a Ponzi scheme?  Public beneficial ownership information is needed to help prevent and detect crimes like these (which are all based on real-life cases such as this, this and this).

3.      To help level the playing field.  If you own a small business or plot of land, you can be ripped off if you think you are negotiating with a small, unknown company, but are in fact doing business with a wily multinational hiding behind an anonymous company.  Public registries will help small companies negotiate on a more competitive basis.  The free market works best when all parties have full access to information.

4.      To help protect civil and environmental rights.  The restaurant you have been working at closes down owing you months in back-salary that the owner never paid you.  To take the owner to the small claims court to get your money back, you need to know who it is who owned the restaurant.  The same argument applies to companies that, for example, pollute the environment, manufacture defective products, harm their workers, and steal pensions.

5.      To help civil society detect crime.  If you live in a country where you can’t trust the police to carry out decent investigations, especially into people who are rich and powerful, then you are in particular need of company ownership information being available to journalists, NGOs and concerned citizens in order to help find out what is going on, and keep the system honest.

6.      To help law enforcement detect crime and apprehend criminals.  If the automatic exchange pilot doesn’t give automatic access to all beneficial ownership information, then law enforcement too will benefit from making beneficial ownership information public.  The problem at the moment is that police struggle to come up with the evidence they need to justify why another country should tell them who owns a company.  It’s a catch-22.  In addition, if police and tax inspectors have to request company ownership information from someone, there is a risk that the company owners are tipped off about the investigation, allowing them to move their money elsewhere.

7.      To help save money.  Three separate analyses (this, this and a 2002 UK government impact assessment ‘Disclosure of beneficial ownership of unlisted companies’) all show that the likely economic benefits of collecting beneficial ownership information and then making it public outweigh the costs.

8.      To help prevent insecurity.  Money laundering fuels political instability around the world and supports terrorists and extremism.  Making beneficial ownership information public will reduce the places around the world in which terrorists can hide their money.

The UK data that’s been released isn’t just being made public, but is also being published in an open data format.  In other words, the data is free for anyone to download and use and can be read by a computer.  This is massively important as the advantages listed above of making beneficial ownership information public are critically dependent on making the information as easy to analyse as possible.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/blog/eight-reasons-why-we-all-need-be-able-see-beneficial-ownership-information-rather-just-police/

The Financial Secrecy Index from Tax Justice Netw0rk – http://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.

The Financial Secrecy Index is released every two years and it was first launched in 2009. The latest Financial Secrecy Index was launched on November 2, 2015. The next Financial Secrecy Index will be released in January 2018.

Shining light into dark places

An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world. Secrecy jurisdictions – a term we often use as an alternative to the more widely used term tax havens – use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows.

Illicit cross-border financial flows have been estimated at $1-1.6 trillion per year: dwarfing the US$135 billion or so in global foreign aid. Since the 1970s African countries alone have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, while combined external debts are less than $200 billion. So Africa is a major net creditor to the world – but its assets are in the hands of a wealthy élite, protected by offshore secrecy; while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Yet all rich countries suffer too. For example, European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees partly by decades of tax evasion and state looting via offshore secrecy.

2015 Secrecy Ranking

1.Switzerland2.Hong Kong3.USA4.Singapore5.Cayman Islands*6.Luxembourg7.Lebanon8.Germany9.Bahrain10.United Arab Emirates (Dubai)11.Macao12.Japan13.Panama14.Marshall Islands15.United Kingdom*

* British overseas territory or crown dependency. If Britain’s network were assessed together, it would be at the top.

See full index here

A global industry has developed involving the world’s biggest banks, law practices, accounting firms and specialist providers who design and market secretive offshore structures for their tax- and law-dodging clients. ‘Competition’ between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of financial globalisation really took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets.

The problems go far beyond tax. In providing secrecy, the offshore world corrupts and distorts markets and investments, shaping them in ways that have nothing to do with efficiency. The secrecy world creates a criminogenic hothouse for multiple evils including fraud, tax cheating, escape from financial regulations, embezzlement, insider dealing, bribery, money laundering, and plenty more. It provides multiple ways for insiders to extract wealth at the expense of societies, creating political impunity and undermining the healthy ‘no taxation without representation’ bargain that has underpinned the growth of accountable modern nation states. Many poorer countries, deprived of tax and haemorrhaging capital into secrecy jurisdictions, rely on foreign aid handouts.

This hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike.

What is the significance of this index?

In identifying the most important providers of international financial secrecy, the Financial Secrecy Index reveals that traditional stereotypes of tax havens are misconceived. The world’s most important providers of financial secrecy harbouring looted assets are mostly not small, palm-fringed islands as many suppose, but some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest countries. Rich OECD member countries and their satellites are the main recipients of or conduits for these illicit flows.

The implications for global power politics are clearly enormous, and help explain why for so many years international efforts to crack down on tax havens and financial secrecy were so ineffective, it is the recipients of these gigantic inflows that set the rules of the game.

Yet our analysis also reveals that recently things have genuinely started to improve. The global financial crisis and ensuing economic crisis, combined with recent activism and exposure of these problems by civil society actors and the media, and rising concerns about inequality in many countries, have created a set of political conditions unparalleled in history. The world’s politicians have been forced to take notice of tax havens. For the first time since we first created our index in 2009, we can say that something of a sea change is underway.

World leaders are now routinely talking about the scourges of financial secrecy and tax havens, and putting into place new mechanisms to tackle the problem. For the first time the G20 countries have mandated the OECD to put together a new global system of automatic information exchange to help countries find out about the cross-border holdings of their taxpayers and criminals. This scheme is now being rolled out, with first information due to be exchanged in 2017.

Yet of course these schemes are full of loopholes and shortcomings: many countries are planning to pay only lip service to them, if that — and many are actively seeking ways to undermine progress, with the help of a professional infrastructure of secrecy enablers. The edifice of global financial secrecy has been weakened – but it remains fully alive and hugely destructive. Despite what you may have read in the media, Swiss banking secrecy is far from dead. Without sustained political pressure from millions of people, the momentum could be lost.

The only realistic way to address these problems comprehensively is to tackle them at root: by directly confronting offshore secrecy and the global infrastructure that creates it. A first step towards this goal is to identify as accurately as possible the jurisdictions that make it their business to provide offshore secrecy.

This is what the FSI does. It is the product of years of detailed research by a dedicated team, and there is nothing else like it out there. We also have a set of unique reports outlining detailed offshore histories of the biggest players in the game.

A global industry has developed involving the world’s biggest banks, law practices, accounting firms and specialist providers who design and market secretive offshore structures for their tax- and law-dodging clients. ‘Competition’ between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of financial globalisation really took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets.

The problems go far beyond tax. In providing secrecy, the offshore world corrupts and distorts markets and investments, shaping them in ways that have nothing to do with efficiency. The secrecy world creates a criminogenic hothouse for multiple evils including fraud, tax cheating, escape from financial regulations, embezzlement, insider dealing, bribery, money laundering, and plenty more. It provides multiple ways for insiders to extract wealth at the expense of societies, creating political impunity and undermining the healthy ‘no taxation without representation’ bargain that has underpinned the growth of accountable modern nation states. Many poorer countries, deprived of tax and haemorrhaging capital into secrecy jurisdictions, rely on foreign aid handouts.

This hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike.

What is the significance of this index?

In identifying the most important providers of international financial secrecy, the Financial Secrecy Index reveals that traditional stereotypes of tax havens are misconceived. The world’s most important providers of financial secrecy harbouring looted assets are mostly not small, palm-fringed islands as many suppose, but some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest countries. Rich OECD member countries and their satellites are the main recipients of or conduits for these illicit flows.

The implications for global power politics are clearly enormous, and help explain why for so many years international efforts to crack down on tax havens and financial secrecy were so ineffective, it is the recipients of these gigantic inflows that set the rules of the game.

Yet our analysis also reveals that recently things have genuinely started to improve. The global financial crisis and ensuing economic crisis, combined with recent activism and exposure of these problems by civil society actors and the media, and rising concerns about inequality in many countries, have created a set of political conditions unparalleled in history. The world’s politicians have been forced to take notice of tax havens. For the first time since we first created our index in 2009, we can say that something of a sea change is underway.

World leaders are now routinely talking about the scourges of financial secrecy and tax havens, and putting into place new mechanisms to tackle the problem. For the first time the G20 countries have mandated the OECD to put together a new global system of automatic information exchange to help countries find out about the cross-border holdings of their taxpayers and criminals. This scheme is now being rolled out, with first information due to be exchanged in 2017.

Yet of course these schemes are full of loopholes and shortcomings: many countries are planning to pay only lip service to them, if that — and many are actively seeking ways to undermine progress, with the help of a professional infrastructure of secrecy enablers. The edifice of global financial secrecy has been weakened – but it remains fully alive and hugely destructive. Despite what you may have read in the media, Swiss banking secrecy is far from dead. Without sustained political pressure from millions of people, the momentum could be lost.

The only realistic way to address these problems comprehensively is to tackle them at root: by directly confronting offshore secrecy and the global infrastructure that creates it. A first step towards this goal is to identify as accurately as possible the jurisdictions that make it their business to provide offshore secrecy.

This is what the FSI does. It is the product of years of detailed research by a dedicated team, and there is nothing else like it out there. We also have a set of unique reports outlining detailed offshore histories of the biggest players in the game.

Click here for the full 2015 ranking. For further questions, click here.

Take action, write to your MP and MEP, demanding action is taken.

 

 

 


 

The Vatican and Roman Catholicism – 1

It is good to have a Pope who is not keen on all the pomp and ceremony and prefers the simply lifestyle.  It is amazing the amount of work that many nuns and other Catholics do in caring for the vulnerable of the world.  Also, there is much to be said for Catholic teaching in areas such as pro-life issues and the environment.

Because the Pope has a voice that is taken notice of, I hope that he will take action in the coming year:

1 – The Roman Catholic Church has much wealth through its cathedrals,  other large buildings, the Vatican with its art collections, business dealings (and at the same time deal with tax avoidance of its funds by removing them from tax havens), etc, such that a lot of it could be sold to release funds to help re-structure business and society, dealing with the source of the many ills in this world;

2 – The Vatican should allow priests to marry.  God did not make us to be alone.  There are specific situations where celibacy is called for, but God is the initiator of that calling.  If priests are to truly relate to people, they should have the option to marry;

3 – All priests should be encouraged to see that the Bible has the supreme authority in all matters of faith and that it provides a framework for an integrated lifestyle, based on the commands to love God, our neighbour, our enemy, one another and ourselves;

4 – All of its teachings need to be reviewed to check that they are based on the Holy Scriptures;

5 – All Catholics should be challenged to realise that Christians are people who have accepted by faith that Jesus is the Saviour and Lord, and they do this through repentance and believer’s baptism, and then by living out their discipleship through developing Godly character and an integrated biblical worldview, which affects every area of the lives.  As most denominations, there is too much nominalism (churchgoers or others who call themselves Catholics because of tradition, but do not truly believe). There should be no Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox or any other ‘label’, but only that of Christian;

6 – Bishops need to live a simply lifestyle, by moving out of their large houses into a smaller property, and become more of a servant in their pastoral care of the priests and their families as well as taking the lead in speaking prophetically to the community they are part of.

7 – The renewal movement that has brought new life to many churches should be encouraged so as to make worship more accessible to people outside the Kingdom, using language that people can understand.

8 – The Pope should renounce infallibility (only God is infallible), marology, sainthood and other non-biblical practices, to help become a holy church.

There is much good in the Roman Catholic Church, but a real ‘root and branch’ renewal needs to take place for it to be really effective for the glory of God.

Israel and Palestine – 1

When it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestine, it is amazing that both sides are so stubborn and just cannot see the bigger picture.

We have Israel on the one hand building the illegal settlements in the West Bank, which cost a huge amount to protect; treating Palestinians who have to work in Israel with no dignity; and politics controlled by a small extreme Jewish party.  The current Prime Minister does not appear to really want peace – he is only concerned about Israel’s expansion.

Then you have the Palestinians, some of whom do not recognise the State of Israel, and who seek to antagonise the Israelis through their bombs and suicide attacks.  The West Bank Palestinians do not trust the Gaza Palestinians and vice versa.  Although many of the Arab states support the Palestinian ‘struggle’, they are not really interested – it is all about getting rid of Israel.  (In Kuwait, the Palestinians are non-citizens and have very few rights.)  In Jordan, where there are many Palestinian refugees, other Arab countries are not prepared to take them, nor help fund their care.

One feels like banging their heads together as they are acting like children.

A possible solution is move all the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank, and all the Israelis in the West Bank to move to the Gaza Strip.  The Israelis will need to help finance the development of the West Bank, installing irrigation systems and other infrastructure.  And then there also needs to be the recognition of the State of Israel by the Arabs, especially the Palestinians.  Israel should keep the Golan Heights for security reasons.  By moving the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will also give Israel assurances that arms cannot be delivered to Hamas and help them control the border with Egypt, especially with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda operations in that area.

To make this happen, both sides need a mediation partner who is not from the West, Russia or China.  A possible candidate could be India, which has strong links to the West and Russia, in terms of getting grants to support the development of the West Bank, along with Israel.  There is also a requirement to find a way to develop strong trading ties so as to give the West Bank a stable economy and the less likelihood of unemployed people becoming radicalised.

The issue of Jerusalem should be seen as a separate issue.  I personally feel that Israel’s capital should be Jerusalem, but at the same time because Moslems also see Jerusalem as the Palestinian state capital (for religious reasons – same as the Jews), one could extend the city, by building it so that it forms part of the main city but houses Palestine’s parliament buildings and become the main border between the two countries.

After the success of the mediation, then the West needs to encourage Israel to dispose of its nuclear weapons as part of an international  ban throughout the world.  Therefore, Pakistan, India, Russia, France, Iran, the UK and the USA will need to come together to agree to destroy their nuclear weapons and find a way to stop North Korea from developing them, to help make the world a bit safer place to live.

Marriage – 3

Ideally, a marriage should be a lifetime relationship, through ups and downs, working through problems.  It is also about getting priorities right – a marriage comes before a job.  This may mean living a very simple life, not worrying about what others think.

But, not all marriages are stable, and hence a divorce takes place.  Unfortunately, divorces are on the increase, most often because a couple do not listen to each other and realise it is hard work.  The pace of live is so fast, that we often do not take time to be still and develop our marital relationships.

In the Bible, there are only a few reasons why someone can divorce.

  • adultery – where one or both partners have a sexual relationship outside of the marriage.  Part of the reason for this to be used as a reason for divorce is the high status sex has been given by society and the media.  Sex is special and should only take place within a marriage and therefore having one night stands or even a short relationship based on sex, prior to a marriage, often means that one can easily get bored with having sex with one’s partner.  Sex outside marriage cheapens the intimacy one needs within a marriage between a man and a woman.
  • consummation of a marriage – if there is no sex within the marriage, one does not become one ‘entity’.  That does not mean one can demand sex, but it should be seen as a normal part of the relationship within the marriage.  Hence, the importance of also not having other sexual relationships before or during the marriage.  I would hope if this is a problem that counselling is sought.  Obviously, some people cannot have sex for physical reasons.
  • violence – although there is no direct mention of this being a reason for a divorce, other teachings infer that if the perpetrator does not stop, even after counselling, then for their safety, the ‘victim’ should divorce.  For the Bible says that we are to love one another, and within a marriage, we are to serve each other out of love also.  Unfortunately, domestic abuse is on the increase, partly because of such things as unemployment and/or alcoholism, or a bad upbringing in childhood.

Hence, the importance of marriage preparation and, where necessary, counselling to deal with issues that prevent a successful marriage.  In fact, I think it should be compulsory.  And that is where the Church comes in, as it can teach the wisdom of the Scriptures on the subject.  There are many good resources available these days, so even there is not anyone in a church suitable to lead couples in preparation for their marriage, it does not matter (http://themarriagecourses.org/; https://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/courses/marriage-preparation-prepare-for-marriage-engagement-couples-pre-marriage-day)

One issue that often starts the problems within the marriage is the cost and extravagance of the wedding.  It should be a simple celebration, thus preventing there being debts to start the marriage.  For, money is often the cause of strained relationships – maybe one should get counselling in managing your resources – there are organisations that specialise in this area (eg https://capuk.org/; http://themoneycharity.org.uk/).

And, finally, we need to find ways to ‘improve the image’ of marriage in the media and society in general.  What about people coming up with great ‘scripts’ for television and radio and writing letters to the press, with an attitude of love and gentleness? And Governments can help through tax incentives.

Any comments.

War and Peace – 3

In my last blog, I talked about the issue of militarism being rampant in this world, thus leading to the concept of ‘kill first and ask questions later’.

To stop this being an issue, we need to control the arms that are used.  We already have agreements on chemical and biological weapons, along with ones on cluster bombs and landmines, though the last two are not proving very effective unfortunately.  There is also the recent Arms Trade Treaty (http://controlarms.org/en/), which is slowly being ratified around the world.  The problem is that it does not go far enough to reduce the amount of arms, especially small arms being sold around the world and fuelling much violence and murders.  In fact, the amount of arms sold last year went up (see https://www.sipri.org/media/2017/global-arms-industry-first-rise-arms-sales-2010-says-sipri ).  What we need is a framework which tightly controls all arms sales and makes it transparent which will lead to countries not wanting to show how aggressive they are.

A suggested framework could be as follows:

May we encourage the EU Commissioners, MEPs and the European Commission to create a Directive on the Arms Trade based on the following Principles:

   A publically-held list of countries with a reasonable record of human rights, to be determined by an independent group consisting of MEPs (who have no connection with

defence companies directly or in-directly) and NGOs representatives (eg Amnesty International), with whom possible trade in weapons could be undertaken.

   A publically-held framework of conditions that a sale to one of the above countries would be considered to take into account those countries’ actual defence needs and their effect on their economy, especially in terms of expenditure on education and health.

   An effective end-user monitoring system is put in place to prevent any weapons sold or given to the above countries being passed onto countries not on the approved list. A website set up with annual reports. The group monitoring should be independent of the EU.

   BAE Systems and other large arms companies are broken up into several smaller companies to reduce corruption, and cases of corruption are pursued through the courts.

   Sufficient funding is made available to communities affected by the reduction in orders as a result of the above changes to develop alternative industries to take on the skilled staff made redundant.

   All Pension Funds to have to withdraw from investments in defence companies. They are making money out of people’s misery.

   Government ministers and members of any of the Royal Families to refrain from encouraging or supporting defence exports.

   Arms Trade Fairs to be banned throughout the EU as they encourage a militaristic viewpoint instead of a defensive one.

   Each EU member country to set up a Commission to determine their own actual defence requirements, but also the processes to obtain such equipment and any training required to use it (which are based on the EU Directive – see below). It should also take into account of their responsibilities within the United Nations peacekeeping forces. This Commission to consist of the country’s Minister of Defence plus a few of that country’s MEPs (who are not connected with the Defence industry directly or indirectly). Ideally, the MEP’s should be cross-party.

   An EU Directive is created based on the above principles. This is to include the processes to obtain such equipment, which would cover from whom they are obtained (based on their human rights and environmental record – countries and companies), the areas of  application to which the equipment is to be used (and whether they fulfil the requirements of the various Treaties in place like the one for Cluster Bombs) and whether they are necessary (in terms of avoiding excess buying of military equipment and hardware). Also the Directive should stipulate the need to take into account value for money and effectiveness and not for political reasons.

Although, I believe that war usually does not achieve anything, there could be a case made for ‘defensive’ wars, whereby a United Nations peacekeeping team could be used to defend a people group from being attacked.  This may mean some ‘offensive’ actions to stop attacks, but only in a limited way.  In such situations, the goal should always be to disable the forces used to attack the people that are being defended.  This does not mean a ‘full scale’ war.   Such a scenario would mean the following:

  • National armed forces becoming fully trained Territorials (this includes the navies and air forces), thus reducing the ‘militarism’ of the country – this will also cut the costs of defence, but still making sure there are professionals available to defend the country
  • Some of those professionals to serve for three year stints with UN peacekeeping forces around the world
  • All UN peacekeeping forces to be professionally trained, particularly in the areas of discipline, ethics, character and mediation
  • All Governments to be willing to provide personnel for the full-time permanent UN peacekeeping forces, as well as paying for their upkeep and a contribution towards operating costs, based on a formula which takes into account the earnings of the country
  • The UN is allowed to make rapid decisions as to where it is necessary to deploy peacekeeping forces, and to make sure a mediation process is put in place to deal with the issues.

When it comes to actually fighting a war, the aim should always be to capture as many prisoners as possible, disable their weapons, and, if at all possible, not destroy any infrastructure, so that after the end of the war it does not become costly to re-build the economy and services of the communities affected.  This means being very careful about what weapons are being used and how they are used.   We need research into developing weapons which disable combatants without being open to being killed yourself.  All this means is making sure that the supply line allows for proper care of prisoners, especially in the area of the provision of appropriate food, clothing, shelter and medical care.  By focusing on the taking of prisoners, at the end of the war there will be personnel available to re-build the communities affected.  Most weapons today are based on killing as many combatants as possible with total disregard for life or the future.  Armed forces personnel also need better protection in terms of what they wear so as to prevent them being killed and to be able to operate in a number of different scenarios.

So, in conclusion we need to consider the following:

  • we are all made in the image of God
  • we are commanded by God to love our enemies
  • we should live a simple lifestyle, better share our resources and take care of our environment to reduce consumption
  • businesses should be turned to either social franchises or co-operatives
  • we should re-consider the world of jobs as to whether they are really necessary and whether they are ethical and sustainable
  • if war is necessary, it should be a defensive war, protecting peoples under threat, using UN peacekeeping forces
  • all countries to only have part-time professional trained armed forces
  • all countries to provide personnel for the permanent UN peacekeeping forces and as well as financial support
  • weapons are only used to disable combatants and take them as prisoners of war
  • a framework for arms control is used to reduce militarism

There is probably more to say on the subject, but I will leave there for now.  If you have any comments, do feel free to contact me on campaigns@cgfletcher.plus.com

War and Peace – 6

Following on from my last Blog, there are a number of other things we need to consider, especially in relation to preventing war and if it does get to war, conduct during and after war.  I will focus on the first in this Blog.

Apart from living a simple lifestyle, we need to tackle the issue of who owns the land and that which is on or extracted from it:

  1. The principle of ownership. 

The psalmist begins the 24th psalm with,

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

In the beginning of Genesis, God creates everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation that God has given him.

This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf. Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.     Echoing Deuteronomy 8:17, we might say: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to think otherwise:

Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. 

  1. The principle of responsibility. 

In explaining responsibility, Peel writes,

Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities. We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.

  1. The principle of accountability.

A steward is one who manages the possessions of another. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us.

This is the maxim taught by the Parable of the Talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator managing his creation in accord with the principles he has established. Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.

  1. The principle of reward. 

In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The Bible shows us in the parables of the Kingdom that faithful stewards who do the master’s will with the master’s resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next. We all should long to hear the master say what he exclaims in Matthew 25:21:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

As Christians in the 21st century, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship, which goes beyond church budgets or building projects, though important; it connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world. We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through his providence to glorify him, serve the common good and further his Kingdom.

https://tifwe.org/four-principles-of-biblical-stewardship/

One way of making sure the resources we have is to convert all businesses into smaller units but linked through a concept called ‘social franchising’.

Social franchising is the application of the principles of commercial franchising to promote social benefit rather than private profit.

In the first sense, it refers to a contractual relationship wherein an independent coordinating organization (usually a non-governmental organization, but occasionally a governmental body or private company[2]) offers individual independent operators the ability to join into a franchise network for the provision of selected services over a specified area in accordance with an overall blueprint devised by the franchisor.[3] Once joining the network, operators are given the right to employ previously tested incentives including: professional training, use of brands or brand advertisements, subsidized or proprietary supplies and equipment, support services, and access to professional advice.[4] Members also gain beneficial spin-off effects such as increased consumer volume and improved reputation due to brand affiliation.[1] Franchisees must adhere to a range of requirements including: providing socially beneficial services, meeting quality and pricing standards, undergoing mandatory education on provision of services, subjecting outlets to quality assurance mechanisms, reporting service and sales statistics, and occasionally, paying fixed or profit-share fees.[1][5] Social franchises have been used for primary health services, pharmaceutical sales of essential drugs, HIV testing and counseling, and reproductive health services in the developing world.

A second application of social franchising is as a means of enabling social enterprises and the social economy to create more employment for disadvantaged people and achieve social aims. This is done principally by enabling joint working and knowledge sharing and transfer. The European Social Franchising Network has identified over 60 social franchises of this type in Europe, which employ over 13,000 people and more recently in 2012 The International Centre for Social Franchising identified 140.[6] The largest of these is De Kringwinkel in Flanders employing 5,000 people. Others, like the Le Mat hotel and tourism social franchise or the School for Social Entrepreneurs operate in more than one country. Social franchising provides an opportunity to rapidly grow the sector to the benefit of disadvantaged people and society more generally.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_franchising

Another way would be to turn them all into Co-operatives with social, environmental and ethical policies.

The next important issue is reducing the effect of what is called militarism and the Governments’ subtle support for it:

  1. The armed forces are an alternative to crime and poverty for many young people. Entering into the armed forces at a young age threatens long-term health, educational outcomes, career options, future relationships and quality of life. The armed forces should never be presented as the only option young people have; this undermines the concept of full consent, which requires valid alternatives to be available.
  2. The military needs to educate young people about what they do. The narrative painted by the military to young people about armed forces life is unbalanced and misleading. The image portrayed is one of fun, excitement, outdoors sports and opportunities to gain skills; violent conflict, ethical issues, the restraints of military contracts and the downsides of military day-to-day life are hardly touched upon. Other pressures, such as wanting to make family proud and lack of other job options, suggest the importance of young people being fully informed before enlisting.
  3. A ‘military ethos’ is good for children and young people. The Government’s policy of promoting a ‘military ethos’ in schools is based on a one-sided view which raises the military above other professions and provides a military framework for school activities which is inappropriate for an inclusive education environment. Targeting disadvantaged communities for these activities raises concerns about equal opportunities.
  4. We need to maintain a strong military capability to keep us safe. This belief leaves us blinkered to the biggest threats to human security, such as climate change and resource shortages. Militarism promotes an atmosphere of insecurity rather than asense of long term security. Investing heavily in the military prevents us from investing in nonviolent solutions to conflict. It also feeds into the international arms trade which increases global and national insecurity.

and there are many more ways Governments do it – see https://www.forceswatch.net/sites/default/files/difficult_questions_Feb17_web.pdf for more the rest of the article.

Then there is the close relationship between Governments and the military establishment (including the manufacturers):

‘Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned of the danger of the ‘military-industrial complex’. The huge budget and reach of America’s modern defence industry has proved him correct, says Rupert Cornwell

The true tragedy is not quite the one that Eisenhower imagined. The US by itself accounts for roughly half of military spending worldwide. How much better if some of that money would be used to improve the country’s education and infrastructure, or provide health care for all, or increase foreign aid, rather than on protecting America from threats that geography alone renders illusory.

In reality, the dangers of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” are not new; from the earliest days of the Republic, political leaders have warned of them. “Overgrown military establishments,” George Washington said in his own farewell address of 1796, “are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty.” Nor is the concept confined to America.

In the Soviet Union, the ultra-secret arms industry devoured a third or more of GDP (compared to around 4 per cent in the US currently) and was a cornerstone of Communist power. Or, closer to home, consider Krupp in Germany during two world wars, or later Dassault in France, or Vickers and British Aerospace in the UK. But nowhere has the synergy between government and defence manufacturers, most of them headquartered a lobbyist’s lunch drive from the Capitol, been as entrenched as in the US.

Ah yes, some say, but the tide is now starting to turn. After experiencing some contraction in the 1990s, the industry enjoyed a boom after 9/11. But the deep recession of 2008-2009 and the continuing colossal deficits will not spare even the hitherto sacrosanct Pentagon budget.

Once again, one might note, Eisenhower hit the mark in January 1961. Back then, budgets were more or less balanced, and the possibilities of the future seemingly boundless. Even so he urged his countrymen to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow”. That of course is what has happened with the “credit card” wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose costs will burden American taxpayers for years to come.

Nor is that reality lost on Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, who back in May was warning that Congress could not, and would not, write blank cheques for ever. The Pentagon had to make every dollar count, he said, rather than indulge in such projects as “$20m howitzers, $2bn bombers, and $6bn destroyers.” Alas, as Gates knows full well, the arms contract that comes on budget has yet to be invented.

Since then of course Republicans have taken back the House of Representatives, which controls the pursestrings of government, a victory driven by a Tea Party movement vowing to eradicate deficits. Last week, Gates announced $78bn of cuts over the next five years, to pre-empt demands from deficit hawks for even greater reductions. But the MIC has survived far worse, and will most certainly survive this modest downturn in its fortunes.

For one thing, even when the Pentagon wants to cut a programme, Congress – prodded by its defence contractor benefactors – sometimes won’t let it. Take the case of the back-up second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive procurement programme in even the Pentagon’s extravagant history, at a total of $382bn or a mere $112m per aircraft. The Pentagon doesn’t want the second engine, to be built by GE and Rolls-Royce, and nor does the White House. But it gets funded anyway.

And so the show goes on. The Republicans may vote through some shrinking of the military budget. But giant arms projects, however wasteful, provide jobs and exports at a time when the broader economy struggles to do either. Congress will not sacrifice them lightly.

At the same time, the infamous “revolving door” between the Defense Department, the top military contractors, their lobbyists and congressional staffers will continue to spin, strengthening a commonality of viewpoint between the separate components of the MIC, and tightening the bonds of the “Iron Triangle”.

Campaign contributions meanwhile will grow even more important. Defence companies give money to sitting Congressmen who have fought their corner. True, in the ferociously anti-incumbent mid-terms of last November, they could not save Ike Skelton, their ally and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, from defeat.

But financial support from Boeing workers was key in the re-election of Senator Patty Murray from Washington State, where she has fought hard to save Boeing jobs threatened if the company loses its bid for a $35bn tanker contract, for which the European-based EADS is also competing. That battle, incidentally, is also playing out in its own fierce ad war on WTOP, aimed at the same audience of government and Congress.

And even if budgetary pressures temporarily compress the market for top-of-the-line military hardware, fear not. The demand for national security and intelligence in the “war on terror” continues to surge – to the point that a Washington Post investigation last summer found that 33 facilities for intelligence work, equal to three new Pentagons, have gone up around Washington alone since 9/11.

Most fundamentally, there remains the popularity of all things military, at a time when civilian leaders with the stature and experience to challenge the Pentagon brass, and by extension the MIC, are few. George HW Bush was the last commander-in-chief to have tasted war and its horrors. His son famously had not, and – perhaps to make up for it – gave the military everything it wanted, and more. So maybe there is only one answer. America should elect a general as commander-in-chief. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower.’

Independent newspaper

Take the battle for Iraq which took place because of using false information as a reason to go to war.  As a result of the downfall of Saddam Hassein, more civilians have died since then that all that were killed during the dictator’s period of rule – the difference runs into many, many thousands.

Another point to make is throughout the last decade or so, military spending rose by 50%, but the number of armed conflicts fell. Much of that spend increase was on the ‘war on terror’, but more US citizens are killed by lightning strikes than by terrorists.  When we talk about ‘terrorists’ entering the USA, many thousands more of people have been killed by guns (including the police) than by any terrorist event.

A lot of conflicts could be sttled by very earlier mediation:

See http://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke5.cfm and http://www.accord.org.za/ajcr-issues/%EF%BF%BCconflict-and-conflict-resolution-in-africa/ for further thinking on the subject.

An example of a mediation/conflict resolution process:

A Twelve-Step Program

What follows is a multi-layered twelve-step plan for increasing the capacity of hostile communities to prevent, resolve, and recover from conflicts. I offer it in hopes that it can be modified to fit local conditions and used to break the cycle of violence that ultimately impacts us all:

  1. Convene a cross-cultural team of experienced trainers
  2. Meet with the leaders of hostile factions to secure agreement on a common plan, build trust, and encourage on-going support
  3. Interview leaders of opposing groups, sub-groups, and factions, listen empathetically, and clarify cultural mores, interests, goals, and concerns
  4. Elicit from each group or culture the methods currently used to resolve disputes and identify ways of supplementing and expanding them
  5. Identify a core of volunteers in each group who want to be trained as mediators, facilitators, and trainers
  6. Design a program to elect or select volunteer mediators and facilitators from neighborhoods and workplaces, and from key educational, social, religious, cultural, economic, and political organizations
  7. Form cross-cultural teams of mediators to design conflict resolution systems, conduct mediations, encourage forgiveness and reconciliation, and arbitrate disputes
  8. Train volunteer facilitators in techniques for processing grief and loss, reducing prejudice, facilitating public dialogue, and organizing truth and reconciliation commissions and similar interventions as needed
  9. Form cross-cultural teams of trainers to train others throughout civil society
  10. Build on-going support for conflict resolution programs
  11. Conduct periodic evaluations, audits, and course corrections to improve capacity and identify where future support may be needed
  12. Redesign conflict resolution systems in governments, organizations, and civil society to increase opportunities for early intervention, dialogue, mediation, and negotiation between adversaries

By implementing these steps and modifying them to fit each situation, we can substantially reduce the destructiveness of evil, war, and terrorism and create a platform on which deeper social and political changes might take place. By comparison with the long-term costs of war and terrorism, the most ambitious program imaginable would be inexpensive and well worth undertaking.

http://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke5.cfm

We need to exponentially increase mediation between the many people groups around the world to make sure that conflict does not arise.  It also needs to be taught in schools and workplaces.

More next time!