Argue with an Academic: Andrew Harrop on the Abolition of Inheritance Tax

When you tell people about the British tax system they don’t think it’s fair. Of course that’s true with respect to multi-nationals like Google, using legal loopholes to pay tiny taxes on their profits. But it’s also true when it comes to the balance of tax between rich, middling and poor families.  Continue reading “Argue with an Academic: Andrew Harrop on the Abolition of Inheritance Tax”

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Argue with an Academic: Yuan Qiong Hu on Access to Medication

The year of 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). TRIPS came into being and faced controversies since its early years. The impact of TRIPS on access to medicines and innovation has triggered international activism and resistance, especially from developing countries. Essentially, medicines that were once excluded from patent protection in many countries are now subject to patenting as required by TRIPS. Continue reading “Argue with an Academic: Yuan Qiong Hu on Access to Medication”

Female Genital Mutilation: An International Response

FGM. Three letters that have a power to send chills down any spine. It is incomprehensible that someone else could choose to excise a part of a human body, a piece of flesh, and someone’s womanhood.

Also known as female circumcision, FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, ie clitoridectomy and infibulation. Mainly preponderant throughout Africa, but also in the Middle East and Asia, it also occurs on our doorstep due to the constant migrations of vulnerable populations to Europe, in particular asylum seekers and refugees. The girls at risk can be as young as the age of 5. This is not a medical procedure: it has no health benefits. Neither does it stem from any religious beliefs. The justification for this procedure is solely cultural.

So why am I writing about this? Does it affect us? You and I are privileged to be in a position where it is our prerogative to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice. Freedom of speech is not a luxury – we own it. We have a power to raise awareness and protect our equals in this world. These cultures can seem worlds away from ours, which may marginalize the issue. Furthermore FGM is not always a priority and comes second to so many other forms of violence. Although strategies and conventions have focused on this cruelty, the fact remains, that according to the WHO, over 125 million girls and women in the world at this moment have been cut and numbers are perpetually increasing. Having access to this knowledge, how can we remain passive?

Before attacking this custom and banning it, it is important to understand why it prevails, as it is difficult to persuade those who uphold and carry out this practice to uproot a deeply entrenched custom overnight. It is still a sensitive topic in many countries, and one that must be addressed with prudence and diplomacy.

For the parents who submit their child to FGM, it may not be considered harmful, an assault or a violation. It is the belief that this is what must be done as a rite of passage to allow a girl to transition to womanhood (cultural and gender identity) or to prevent her from tendencies such as promiscuity or sexual deviation. It is seen as part of a “cleansing process”, to hinder bodily secretions and odours accompanied with maturity. Moreover, it is a means to ensure the purity of the female when presenting her to potential partners. These may be considered as protective measures, but the essence is that it remains a violation of human and women’s rights (it contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), the right to life, physical integrity and health.

The social convention theory illustrates how it has become the norm to carry out this practice on girls without their consent, or their realisation of the potential future impact on their lives. This is thus the challenge: to convince not just a minority of the population, be they male or female, to break free from the social norm, but to educate the majority so that they understand the damage, and change their ideology in order to introduce a reversal of expectations. This is established through dialogue.

The United Kingdom is home to a wealth of cultures, including some for whom this practice is commonplace. The country therefore has an important role to play in eradicating this brutal act.

Educating our teachers, healthcare professionals and students at school to remain vigilant about the early signs of those at risk of an imminent procedure or to the symptoms of those who have just been cut is paramount. Signs such as a lack of integration into society, isolation from participating in physical activities, long trips to countries performing this rite and subsequent social withdrawal should be looked out for. It is imperative to provide support in the face of further complications: lasting physical effects, reluctance to seek medical attention, infection and other organ damage, as well as emotional or psychological repercussions.

Resources should be available for those who require legal guidance, and stricter measures put in place for offenders to be prosecuted. In 2003, the Female Genital Mutilation Act declared it illegal to arrange FGM outside of the UK regardless of whether it was legal in the country it takes place. However despite the criminal penalty being up to 14 years imprisonment in the UK for taking girls abroad, until this day no convictions have ensued.

We must recognise that in cultures where FGM is prevalent, avoiding the procedure can be considered as defiant, and individuals concerned are threatened with punishment. This changes the shape of their society from one of safety, to one of endangerment. However culture cannot be a means of justification for breaking the law or violating ones rights.

Abolishing female circumcision involves a multi-disciplinary approach: prosecutions, medical examinations, reporting of violence…

International governments have the manpower to support local communities to introduce educational campaigns. But we must circumvent the existing issues with these campaigns: they are mostly short term and small scale. It is time to think big: implement programmes, but monitor progress and evaluate their effects. Targeting those in power such as tribal leaders, healers, soldiers, and turning those people into role models will influence the communities who seek guidance in these leaders to follow suit. The other side of this coin however is the economic incentive for these matriarchs of society who are well paid for the procedure. Hence despite the steps taken to educate the local population, there is still a need for solutions. This is the ideal intersection for change and collaboration, partnerships and networks intertwined are key.

The access to media and other communications also enables us to propagate a message like a ripple in a pond across borders and achieve a much-required change and combat gender-based violence. There is a movement, but a more urgent effort is crucial to reach all corners of the world.

Rani Chowdhary

Ambitious Realism at the Paris Climate Talks

On the morning of 12th December, President of COP21 and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius delivered a passionate speech preceding the release of the final draft of the Paris Agreement. He spoke of the need to recognise how “collective efforts are more than the sum of our individual actions”, that if nations failed to agree, “our children would neither understand nor forgive us”, and that the negotiations had produced an “ambitious and balanced” agreement that recognised the notion of climate justice. Continue reading “Ambitious Realism at the Paris Climate Talks”

Access to Medication – The Dimensions of the Problem

On November 10th The Kings Think Tank Global Health Policy Centre hosted a public event discussing current issues of drug development, medication distribution and tiered pricing, in particular its crippling effect on developing countries’ healthcare systems. Probing questions were asked regarding who is ultimately responsible for delivering solutions; big pharmaceutical corporations, governments or international policy makers? Three panelists, each with a different expertise and approach spoke on these issues; Continue reading “Access to Medication – The Dimensions of the Problem”

The Spending Review: Short-termism, Ideology and Economic Illiteracy

On Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne presented his long-awaited Autumn Statement and Spending Review. The Spending Review sets departmental spending limits for the next four years and was combined with the annual Autumn Statement, which lays out government taxation and deficit reduction plans for the coming year. They have engendered much protest as they continue the austerity policy that the Tories have vehemently pursued since 2010. Continue reading “The Spending Review: Short-termism, Ideology and Economic Illiteracy”

Health Diplomacy: A Path to a Better Model

In our increasingly globalised world, health is no longer an internal issue; it needs to be examined through a host of different lenses. Governments invest a lot of money in health, ranging from richer countries such as Canada with universal healthcare provision, to India with state-provided public health to the opposite end of the spectrum in places like Angola, where there is effectively no state healthcare provision. Add to this the effect of health outcomes in countries near and far, and the issue escalates from local to global pretty quickly. Today, departments of defence, labour, and even tourism have a stake in the global health profile. Continue reading “Health Diplomacy: A Path to a Better Model”

NATO and an Ethical Foreign Policy: A Reply

A few weeks ago, in our first blog of the academic year, Steven Male compellingly argued for a more ethical foreign policy, and posited several suggestions as to how this may be achieved under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Within this piece however, there was one aspect that I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with – the idea that membership, and unquestioning support, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), was absolutely key to any ethical foreign policy. I felt this played into the common, and flawed, assertion that Putin’s Russia is an expansionist, imperialist power bent on world domination, and that only NATO’s expansion could stop it. I, and in fact many pre-eminent scholars on Russia, including McCgwire, Rynning, and Karabeshkin, disagree with this, both on the idea that Russia is indulging in unprovoked expansion, and that NATO is either a protector of European security or an ethical body. This author believes that if NATO is to perform as an ethical body in foreign policy, or represent a genuine protector of European security, it must undergo a process of self-examination of its actual effectiveness, and a reappraisal of its behaviour. Continue reading “NATO and an Ethical Foreign Policy: A Reply”

Call for Submissions: The Spectrum 2015

King’s Think Tank is looking for policy recommendation submissions for their annual journal, The Spectrum! This will be our fifth edition and every year the work gets stronger, our network of contacts gets wider and your policy has a better chance to be heard! Please email if you are interested in being sent an electronic copy of our previous work. Continue reading “Call for Submissions: The Spectrum 2015”