‘Made in China’ vs. ‘made in the EU’: what’s the difference?

Dr Rutvica Andrijasevic, Senior Lecturer in Management

Dr Rutvica Andrijasevic,
Senior Lecturer in Management, University of Bristol

Foxconn, a Taiwanese-owned firm best known for being the main assembler of Apple products and for harsh working conditions at its Chinese factories, is the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer. While Foxconn also operates in Europe, it is from its factories in mainland China that we hear of militarised disciplinary regime, excessive and unpaid overtime, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions and forced student labour.

Just how different is the situation in Europe? I set out to answer this question three years ago along with my colleague Devi Sacchetto from the University of Padua. We conducted 63 interviews in the Czech Republic and 29 in Turkey with current and former Foxconn workers and managers, trade union representatives, government officials and NGOs.

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Refugee crisis: Ten practical ways to help

How can we respond to the refugee crisis? Ten practical ways.

Dr Naomi Millner is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol. She is also part of Bristol Hospitality Network - an organisation which helps support and house refugees.

Dr Naomi Millner is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol. She is also part of Bristol Hospitality Network – an organisation which helps support and house refugees.

In the past couple of weeks, an issue that has long been an issue has hit a ‘tipping point’ in terms of public awareness. It’s strange when this happens. Suddenly the language of ‘crisis’ proliferates. Suddenly everyone wants to know what they can do to help. Historically, it’s often been images of suffering children that either provoke such tipping points, or channel them to a wider audience.

Perhaps it is the powerlessness of a baby in the face of indifferent natural or political forces that brings this rise out of us. Or perhaps it makes a far-off struggle suddenly feel very near.

Personally, I find it problematic that, first, we are (almost) only moved to action by such images and second, that the action we are moved to is largely motivated by pity or sympathy. I wish we were as easily moved by the struggle or suffering of any person. Still more, sympathy can unwittingly depoliticise what are extremely political situations. If I feel sorry for you and want to help you, I am largely ignoring the fact that I have, and am, part of creating this situation that you are in. Better to be angry, outraged, repentant, about it.

Perhaps it would be better if, for once in our long history, we actually did nothing. But we still want to act. It’s also true that systems, attitudes and policies need to change, if people seeking liveable lives are to be able to do this within our current world. So what will we do? How can we respond?

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Tax abuses, poverty and human rights: spotlight on the role of law

Stephen Halsey, Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

Stephen Halsey, Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

Where should the line between legitimate tax avoidance and immoral tax abuse be drawn? What are the responsibilities of governments, corporations and legal professionals in combating tax abuse? Tax revenues lost by the developing world due to tax abuse are estimated at $120bn per annum. This is equivalent to the total amount of aid provided to these countries each year and the situation is worsening. Recovering the lost tax would make a substantial contribution to the alleviation of poverty.

Last week PolicyBristol and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute hosted a high level panel discussion addressing these issues. The event was chaired by Shirley Pouget, Senior Programme Lawyer at the IBAHRI and panellists were:

  • Anders Dalhbeck  Tax Justice Policy Advisor at ActionAid
  • Celia Wells  Head of Bristol University Law School
  • Lloyd Lipsett  Advisor at Shift
  • Thomas Pogge  Director of the Global Justice Program and the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University
  • Ben Dickinson  Head of the Tax and Development Programme at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The topic of tax avoidance has been drawing headlines recently on a micro-economic scale (Gary Barlow’s tax activity being an example of a celebrity abusing tax laws) and the matter is becoming increasingly publicised. In discussing the relationship between tax abuses and poverty, the panel argued that the current economic crisis has created a strain on financial policy, felt by members of the public and therefore raising the stature of the issue; they considered that all tax avoidance cases should be viewed as criminal.

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Les Misérables, Guantánamo Bay

Mr Gilberto Algar-Faria, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Mr Gilberto Algar-Faria, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Les Misérables, the world’s longest-running musical, is set 200 years ago, in 1815. The story  follows the life of a convict / ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who is beleaguered by guilt related to past mistakes made at the time out of desperation, unknowingly, or with good intention. His initial sentence of five years of hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, extended by 14 years when he tries to escape, affects his life irreversibly.

While Les Mis is a work of fiction set in 19th century France, it is based on the real-life experiences and readings of its author, Victor Hugo, who lived through the time in which the story took place. Watching the musical, or the recent film adaptation, one is compelled to feel relieved and thankful that the world is no longer so unforgiving. Unfortunately, however, one is incorrect to do so. The excesses of criminal (in)justice in 19th-century France continue today in the Western world.

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Promoting freedom from torture in Africa

Miss Debra Long, Research Associate, University of Bristol Law School

Miss Debra Long, Research Associate, University of Bristol Law School

In 2014 the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) will be thirty years old. The UNCAT is the primary international treaty which sets out a range of measures which countries should take to prohibit and prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. While much has been achieved since the UNCAT was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1984, torture and other forms of ill-treatment continue to occur throughout the world.

The majority of African countries have ratified the UNCAT, however unfortunately little has been achieved to actually implement the objectives of the Convention on the ground. For example, few have made torture a specific criminal offence under their national laws as required by the UNCAT or respect safeguards to ensure that persons detained by the police, or other officials, are treated humanely and not subjected to torture. While a lack of political will, training and resources may be to blame for this limited compliance, in many regards, some of the provisions of the UNCAT are too abstract and it can be difficult for government officials and others to know exactly what must be done to translate the provisions of the UNCAT into effective action on the ground.

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British citizenship and the vagaries of foreign nationality laws

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

The security of someone’s status as a British citizen would not generally be expected to depend upon the operation of foreign nationality laws. It seems logical that there should be something fundamentally British about British citizenship. However, it is often the case that when decisions are made by the special court – the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – the vagaries of foreign laws play a part in determining who gets to continue as a British citizen and who does not. One such case was decided this month by the UK Supreme Court after having been heard by the SIAC in 2008 on appeal from an order made by the Secretary of State in 2007. This is the case of Mr Al Jedda. ([2013] UKSC 62; judgement delivered on 9th October 2013).

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