Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

IPPR interviews Julia Schaff and Guinevere Carter on fossil free movement

By Shuting Xia, on 25 November 2016

Deputy Head of Editorial Islam interviews Fossil Free UCL members Guinevere and  Julia to gather their thoughts on climate policy in UCL, the UK government and internationally.

Fossil Free UCL are currently distributing a petition urging the university to break its ties with the fossil fuel industry. You can read and sign it here.

Interviewer: Islam Abdelgadir (IA)

Interviewees: Julia Schaff (JS), Guinevere Carter (GC)

IA: Hello and welcome to the first edition of IPPR interviews, with the International Public Policy Review. I am  Islam Abdelgadir, current deputy head editor of IPPR. I’m joined today by members of Fossil Free UCL – seems so official – a student society on campus, which is the UCL arm of the fossil free movement. The fossil free movement, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a growing international divestment campaign calling for organisations, institutions and individuals to demonstrate climate leadership and end the support for the fossil fuel industry.

So would you guys like to introduce yourselves and maybe give a few reasons (of) what drew you to fossil free UCL?

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Photography of Politics and People – Interview with Nick Danziger

By Sarah E L Stricker, on 6 March 2016

IPPR President Alexandra Heaven interviews Nick Danziger. Nick Danziger is one of Europe’s finest photojournalists having spent a life documenting what he sees in best-selling books, and in award-winning documentaries and photography. His most recent books have included: Mana, a unique behind-the-scenes look at New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team and Onze Femmes, tracing the lives of 11 women from countries in conflict over the last 10 years. His photographic work is held in museum collections worldwide. His ‘mirror’ image of Tony Blair and George W. Bush shot during a 30-day, ground-breaking study of a Prime Minister at war won the World Press Photo Award. 


ND3

AH – My first question is about working with politicians. They are notoriously good at putting on a face. They have had so much media training, they know exactly how to hold their faces, they know what to say, yet for us as the public the human face is so important for our perception of politicians. So I want to ask you about the challenges you face in representing politicians?

ND – First of all, it is very difficult to get access, especially the kind of access that I want, which is not on a long lens. I shoot on wide angle lenses so I actually have to be pretty close to the politicians that I photograph. And there is no doubt that it has taken almost 30 years to work out the way that you work to get that, not only the access, but the trust. It takes time. I don’t want to have a relationship with the politician because I want to keep that independence. I don’t want to be drawn into becoming a friend. But hopefully the types of pictures that I take are both very intimate but equally very dispassionate in the sense that I am documenting what they are doing. They are doing a job, and I’m not looking to take cheap pictures or funny moments, and I think they understand that. Obviously, what I do, that cannot be achieved in an hour or two hours, so the idea is really always to spend days, if not at least a week or 10 days with the person that I’m profiling because that’s when – you know, they have other things to get on with – they can’t show the public persona that they might like to portray, it just can’t happen for them. You become you part of the scenery and they’ve got to get on with their work. Hopefully I’m with people who have pretty busy schedules and they can’t worry about this photographer, they might initially, but then it’s up to me to take over and blend into the background.

AH – So a lot of it is waiting and looking and watching what they are doing…

ND – Absolutely, also to know when to push to get the access and when to withdraw. Even if I had the access there are moments I realise, right, there is no point me sticking around now because I could ruin the access later on. So it’s a very fine line, it’s a balancing act of having to get the picture and having some kind of strategic plan in your head as to what might be more important later on down the line, so this is not the moment to push.

AH – Are there particular events in that stretch of time that are better (for photographing)? Is it one on one meetings or the big meetings?

ND – Exactly, that’s what I want to do, it’s interesting you say that, I want a variety, of different elements. It might look as if it’s shot in a day, but that’s what you want, the private moments, the one-on-one with a minister, you might want it with the whole cabinet and times at home, so you do get that kind of behind the scenes. It’s not the politician, it’s; who is he? He’s also a human being, man or woman. So yes it is very much trying to build up a picture of the rounded aspects of work and downtime, or family time.

AH- Does that help you choose the end picture, you get so many shots of them at many different times, does that help you choose one where you can say you feel this represents the whole person?

ND – It’s actually very difficult. That’s what I have discovered. And in fact words have become important too, because I don’t think that one image can represent the many aspects and facets, I mean if I say to you pick one picture of yourself, what would you choose as that one defining picture?

Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013

AH – Yeah that’s too hard!  So that leads onto my next question, as consumers of photojournalism in many different spheres, what would you consider important for consumers to understand about what they are looking at?

ND – I think integrity and authenticity of what I am doing is really important. I’m getting on with the work, I’m not particularly thinking this is the message I want to convey, other than when I might be going to a very difficult part of the world, and probably focusing on individual lives, in circumstances that shouldn’t exist. So (in that case) probably I’m getting people to think about the people I’m photographing and trying in a sense to imagine what it would be like if they had to live under that set of circumstances. That’s why I say that the words also become important as well, because with words you can round the story out, inform you, they bring you additional information.

AH – Given you work with some of the most powerful people in the world and some of the most disempowered people in the world, what personally do you find the most fascinating situations to shoot?

ND – You know, I would rather be with the people who are disempowered, as you wanted to use that word, so, the marginalised. Because I think the others have plenty of opportunity to speak, convey messages etc. I’m trying to look at corners of the world that don’t have that kind of access.

AH – In what way do you think that journalism should be a watchdog of international organisations as well as states? Do you think there is an important role for following up global development programs?

ND – Absolutely. I think that journalism is one of those pillars that keeps people and society and companies in check. You know we have laws, but also we have what used to be called investigative journalism. I say what used to be called, unfortunately, there are less and less media outlets that do investigative journalism or indeed can finance investigative journalism. I think it’s a really strong and important part of journalism, not just to report but indeed, to really dig deep to find out what are the real issues. What is really happening? And a bit like in development it’s not just about rolling out programs, but are those programs effective? What impact do they have? So I think that’s really, really important.

In the two months leading up to his 50th birthday, PM Blair took on a Labour Party, sceptical electorate, Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein. And all of this as he led the nation to war with Iraq. These were the most testing weeks of TB's premiership and photographer Nick Danziger was given unprecedented access to the Prime Minister and his closest aides. Geroge Bush comes to Britain for Security briefing with the UK counterpart, PM Blair, following the beginning of Iraq war. Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 08/04/2003.

AH – We were talking about this today in a Global Ethics class actually, about representation – who gets to represent who?

ND – It’s really, really important. And you know, it’s difficult because journalists also have to be responsible. So equally, to what extent, at times, can you reveal what is happening? Because you have to think of that bigger picture. You as a journalist can have a big impact, but equally, stories are very complex, multi-faceted, and I’ve often maybe wanted to accuse, or point the finger, when in fact you know, more resources and more investigation needed to take place because there is that point when you ask yourself whether you tell the story or not because it can have a big impact and a negative impact on the program or people.

AH – How do you feel about citizens journalism? I know it is connected to the lack of finance for some investigations.

ND – I think there is a place for everything. The problem is today that people from every walk of life are looking to spend the least amount and you get what you pay for. It’s not that media outlets are not wanting to do investigative journalism, but it’s extremely expensive. So there is a place for citizen journalism. Say you were going after a PM because we have talked about heads of state. It is phenomenally expensive! If you wanted to uncover something you would need lawyers and so on, so everything has its place. The sadness for me today is that someone who isn’t wise and hasn’t got experience might take that image that you think is very indicative or true of a situation, when in fact you might be causing greater harm because you haven’t spent the time and investigated and you’ve been tripped up.

AH – How do you deal with representing people who are such a world away from your world? How do you deal with your own personal bias in that situation?

ND – Well you know for a start I’ve been photographing vulnerable people and however I explain it to people, it’s very hard for them to understand, what the impact of their image could be because they don’t have the accesses that we have. So I try to explain as much as I can what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, the uses of the picture etc., but If I’m totally honest, however much you explain, how can someone who doesn’t have access to electricity fully understand the implications of an image on the internet.

I didn’t train as a journalist, and often they start by saying “oh you’ve got to be objective”. But now in what I do, I’m not trying to be objective, if it’s wrong, its wrong and you know that’s the way that it is. I’m not a politician and I’d love things to change but it would be very patronising to think that little me could change anything in this world. So one has to be very careful about overestimating what you do. It’s a personal quest. I see things and I’m drawn back to them because I think that situations could change for the better, but sometimes we need to know about it if we want it to change, you can’t change something that you don’t know needs fixing.

AH – You see this with journalists often, they try to be objective and they’re not.

ND – Yeah well you see this with American journalism, you read American newspapers, they say “one observer noted” well that one observer is you, the bloody writer! You know, just come out with it! It’s insane.

AH – Perhaps, sometimes it is important to say “actually this is where I’m coming from and this is what I think”.

ND – Yes and that’s where I hope a lot of what I do speaks for itself, I don’t think you’ll hear me saying “this should be done” “we need to…” you know? So I’m hoping that people will come to their own conclusions and if they are not conclusions, then I think even just being informed is important.

You can check out more of Nick’s work at: www.nickdanziger.com

And support his current project Another Life, at this link:  https://unbound.co.uk/books/another-life

IPPR interviews Scilla Elworthy

By Sarah E L Stricker, on 22 January 2016

On the 15th of December, the President of IPPR, Alex Heaven had the pleasure of speaking with Scilla Elworthy – 3 times nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, the founder of the Oxford Research Group, Peace Direct and the Bee School, the author of Pioneering the Possible, Making Terrorism History (co-author), and Peace and Security Now, previous adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’, chair of the Civil Society sector of the Hanwang Forum in China and a Councillor of the World Future Council among many other things. Scilla and Alex spoke about social entrepreneurship, the power of social media and how to be heard. 

To find out more about Scilla Elworthy check out her website here: www.scillaelworthy.com.


Scilla Photo

AH – So I wanted to start the conversation with a bit of a thorny question. There is a lot of debate about the particular definition of social business, and given that you are an advisor for the DO School in Hamburg, I wanted to know how you would define social business.

SE – Well I’m not an expert on social business, I know a little bit about social entrepreneurship and I wouldn’t define them as the same, I think there is a difference. What I think is special about social entrepreneurs –  those that I’ve worked with, and I can only speak from my own experience – is that they operate in a very new way in terms of their efforts to change the world. In other words, they are not setting out as people might have done, as real amateurs when I started out in the 60’s. Where we were just driven by passion and sometimes fear, anger, all those sort of things. Social entrepreneurs are now far better trained. There are places like to DO School in Hamburg where they can apply, they might be one of 2000 applicants for a place on one of their courses. The one I ran was a peace challenge, where they filtered out 20 successful applicants from all over the world. I challenged them to find a way to locate and make known all the effective local peacebuilders in their country. So it was a case of Pakistan, India, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burundi and so on. The way they set about it was very methodical, with high use of social media and extraordinary global outreach. What I shared with them was the importance of incorporating self-awareness in anything you do, because if you bring your personal fury into an interaction with, say, a politician or a policy maker, you usually lose out. You have to contain your own anger before you enter into that kind of dialogue if you want it to be successful.

AH – In those sort of projects, how do you go about teaching people how to make it a reality? If someone wants to dedicate their life to that, in terms of say funding, how do you suggest that they approach it?

SE – Well any decent social entrepreneurship training will give you a section on fundraising. Where I think the advantage lies now, for millennials, is that there are so many crowd funding possibilities. Where how quickly you can get yourself started is really up to you and your personality. So I would start with crowd funding, I think that’s the obvious one. Or, you know, running your marathon or whatever, you put yourself on the line in some way. Preferably something more novel than running a marathon. Show your survivability, your determination, your charisma and so forth. Then people will notice you, you will start getting fan mail, messages, being talked about on twitter and so on. You will be able to find out who is interested in you, and if you ask them who they know, who has got disposable cash they would like to invest, then you can start some sort of a share scheme or you can run it as a business or you can run it as a charity, but it takes a bit longer to get registered as a charity.

AH – As you say social media is a huge tool for any change maker these days. However, we are still seeing people who know a lot and have a lot of awareness about what is going on, but it is sometimes difficult to translate all that public care or what seems like public care into action or giving or something more solid. In your experience, have you seen any particular campaigns that have really grasped that social media care and turned it into something more solid?

SE – Yes, two things: authenticity and real stories. So at Peace Direct, which I founded in 2002, what we do is always bring in people from the areas in which they worked. Like Henri Bora Ladyi, who rescues child soldiers in the Congo. He is authentic because he himself was a child solider. And now he goes back into the bush and trades goats, at a price of $5, for a child he can bring back to their family. So that’s a very, very memorable story, everybody remembers that story. Mark Rylance, the star of Bridge of Spies, most recently, did a one man show about Henri on Broadway, so he has in his own way has become a star.

AH – Do you see these things being translated in policies and action further up the chain?

SE – Oh yea, and again it is a question of media. Outstanding politicians have said to me over dinner when I want them to change their policy. They say “fine, run a campaign, make it absolutely unavoidable in the public eye that I have to pay attention to this. Then I can do something”. So the louder you get and the more noise you make, and be careful about the kind of noise you make, the more reason you give to a decent politician, who wants to make change, to say “look I have to do something because there are 1000 people dressed up as sheep running down the street” or whatever.

AH – What do you think about the big, old world institutions like the WTO, IMF, World Bank, UN in supporting these local grassroots entrepreneurs? (… for those at home – that was a yawn!)

SE – I mean, I think they are yesterday.

AH – What about even as a way to fund these smaller projects?

SE – They don’t. Unless you are above $5 million a year turnover, which is quite hard for a charitable start up to get to, they don’t take any notice of you at all. They are not interested in grassroots stuff. For reasons of their own, because they find it too messy. Even the department for international development here in Britain, which has stuck to its guns and given away a lot of money for reconstruction and rehabilitation and so on. But even they say look we can’t deal with smaller outfits that need $100,000 or even $500,000, it’s too messy for us do all the accounting and all the checking up and the due diligence and evaluations and all the things you have to do to be responsible in giving away money. So it’s a question of you putting your passion on the line and you’ll get there.

AH – In terms of international collaboration, we were talking before about social media giving unprecedented access and a global perspective, do you see particular areas of international collaboration that we should be fostering?

SE – Oh yes, I mean it depends on your subject. But yes, I mean your networks need to extend to China, definitely now, Russia, South America. You need to be global on your issue, assuming that it is a global issue. Did I understand your question right?

AH – Yes, well I guess it has 2 parts. What are the ways a global network can help in terms of domestic politics, if you are trying to change something locally, how can you use the global network? Secondly, on particular issues, do you see some issues that need to be more global than they are now? For example labour rights, do we need to have a global system of labour rights?

SE – I’ll take your first question first. Your global reach will be important in the sense that you can get stories about what has worked in other countries and that make people more willing to believe that what you’re proposing can work here. For example de-radicalisation programs. We’ve got a brilliant woman working in north western Pakistan who originally stated when she was 15 getting girls into school in the Swat Valley. Her life has been threatened more or less every day since, and what she is doing now is training teams of young people to go into the Madrasas and identify the men who have been trained as jihadists and then go home with them to their families and talk about why the Qur’an wouldn’t want them to do that. She is now in contact with about 2000 young potential jihadists. Now that is powerful work. So if you can relate what you are suggesting to something that has worked elsewhere and that could be applied in this country then that adds credibility.

(To the second question) Sure, well definitely. I think that is happening far more than it used to. And I’m thinking of women’s rights and issues like rape as a weapon of war and so on, that’s becoming much more internationally recognised.

AH – And on that, have you seen any particularly amazing women’s rights campaigns around the world?

SE – Yes, well I think One Billion Rising is good. It was brilliantly animated with music and dance and so forth and huge amounts of energy. Eve Ensler, who started it, who did the Vagina Monologues, she is not afraid of saying anything (AH – you wouldn’t be after that, SE – No!), so I think, be outspoken, don’t necessarily be angry, but be really clearly outspoken. Get your message into a very short statement and try it out on all your friends and see if it works with them and back it up with a short story of how this works. And that’s the sort of short cut to getting through, rather than writing a 13,000 word essay.

AH – There’s a real lack on engagement of men on women’s issues. Do you think we should be engaging with men more on women’s issues?

SE – The field that I know that I can talk about is in peace building. Before we started Peace Direct we analysed 350 different locally led peace initiatives, in hot conflict areas around the world and we isolated the 50 most effective of them, and wrote them up in a book called War Prevention Works. And of those, the ones that were women led or largely women run were the most durable and the most cost effective in the long run. So women are exceptionally good at all the sort of key but unglamorous bits of peace building like bridge building, confidence building between religious minorities, rediscovering weapons dumps and things like that. Brokering local agreements showing that they can do it, you know agreements between clans in north eastern Kenya and so forth. There are 1000’s of examples of how brilliantly women do it. There have been some very good academic studies, there hasn’t been a good popular book, except, a book by Nicholas Kristof and his partner (Sheryl WuDunn) called Half The Sky, which is wonderful.

AH – What role do you think young people have in this space?  We are seeing lots of international issues or previously “charity issues” being brought together, labour rights, the environment, women’s rights, what role do you see business taking in these issues?

SE – I think business has got to be really held to account by their younger employees. In other words, as I understand it now, given the surveys that have been done by Deloitte, KPMG and Goldman Sachs who have all established that a majority of millennials have 3 priorities before their own personal profit. That is people, planet and purpose. So, assuming that’s the case, those that are thinking about what companies to apply to join, and they will be sought after if they come from a good university like this one, can establish the conditions. They can say “what is your CSR policy and is it real or is it just on paper? What are you doing and XYZ issues that concern this business?” You can always look up a good example like Unilever and see what the company you’re thinking of applying to is doing compared to them. Lay out your conditions, that’s going to make them sit up and think. Even if you don’t accept that appointment or vacancy, you will have made your mark just in the interview. Because the more candidates that speak out about these things, the more that it will go straight up to the top and give more sleepless nights to CEOs. I mean, you have a huge advantage now that you have never had before, largely because of social media, because you can spread the word if a company isn’t behaving as you would like it to behave. Now you’ve got campaign like Avaaz which are superb, and full of integrity. I’ve checked them out thoroughly. They run really effective campaigns and they use humour and they use all sorts of very, very good methods of getting change to happen.

AH – I really appreciate their multi-pronged approach. Right from grassroots stuff to meeting with politicians.

SE – Yes, and the other thing I’d like to say is that dialogue is really important. I mean, demonstrations in the street are important and certainly petitions have a certain importance, but I set a lot of store by actually finding out who has a yes or no on a decision that you are interested in and writing a very well informed letter to that person. Say, I’d like to come and see you with my 2 colleagues from UCL or wherever and I’d like it to be in the 3rd week of December or whenever it is – be very precise about what you would like to talk about – and offer that person something that you will bring to the conversation, that you’re not just going to bend their ear, but that there is going to be something in it for them. And by writing a well-informed letter you show them you are not going to be wasting their time. That they could learn something from you. And I think that dialogue approach is massively effective and you never know. We ran a huge campaign in the 80s to match up locally led peace groups, whether they were women’s groups or Quaker groups or whatever, with individual decision makers both here and in China. And their job was to learn enough about that person’s responsibility to write them a really well informed letter and ask for a meeting. That campaign had a huge effect. They still talk about it now.

AH – Thank you very much Scilla. If you would like to hear more about Scilla Elworthy and her work you can visit her website on scillaelworthy.com.

10 Minutes with Srđa Popović (Serbian Activist)

By Chris C B Rogers, on 26 November 2014

Before you were engaged in non-violent action, what was your background?

I was engaged in a rock band and this was very anti war and anti establishment at the time Milosevic was building his nationalist case, and then when I went to university I was engaged in the first year of my studies, which coincided with the first big student protest in 1992. In 1992 we cut our teeth, and in 1996-7 we were leading movements after the stolen elections. And in 2000 we won.

 

Was there a event that got you involved?

It was the mix of a few things: the being a young person in Serbia in the 90s, and especially coming from this generation which remembered the good old days. You look and there is this crazy guy who gives you guns and says: “go to Croatia and kill people because they are Croats” and you say, “that’s what I am”, and he says “no, you are a Serb”. Because nationalism didn’t really matter when I was a kid, and it only started to matter when I was 18 or 19. This was a very schizophrenic situation for my generation. So my generation was either sucked into war, or forced to emigrate. This was the biggest brain drain in history – 200,000 young people left the country. So for us it was more a matter of necessity than courage.

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The role of art in environmental activism: Interview with Dr. T.J. Demos

By Olivia Robinson, on 25 September 2014

By Harriet Bradley

On the 26th March 2014 the Royal College of Art (RCA) held the last of their ‘Sustain Talks’ series, on ‘The Rights of Nature and the Nature of Value’, about how and why we value and protect the natural environment and what the implications are for environmental ethics and governance. Dr Demos, art historian and cultural theorist, UCL History of Art faculty, spoke about art’s role in environmental activism and conflict. The rest of the panel included author and policy director Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and Global Witness and Polly Higgins, the international environmental lawyer and author of Eradicating Ecocide. I caught up with Dr Demos at UCL to elaborate more on the themes of political ecology, eco-aesthetics, Earth Law and what art and political science might have in common.

Q: Could you explain the idea of the ecology of politics or political ecology?

A: It’s a very complex term, one with which I’m very occupied in my current research on a new book on contemporary art and political ecology. On a basic level it’s a term that insists on reading ecology in a political way- so ecology isn’t simply about ‘green living’, or ‘green design’ in a way that doesn’t challenge some of the basic premises of the political, economic and social world that we live in. The term is used in the discourse of Bruno Latour, the French Science Studies scholar, who in his book Politics of Nature, talks about how we can’t allow decisions related to climate change or global warming or ecological crisis to be left to the ‘experts’ alone, whether that means scientists, or politicians working in policy, NGOs or organisations like the UN. In other words it’s a process of breaking down the hierarchies that exist today in relationship to the decision-making about the environment; so that the views of all citizens, all people, and in fact all life forms should be taken into account in what Latour calls a ‘new ecology of politics.’ It becomes very experimental and increasingly speculative the more you get into it – such as what does it mean for a non-human life to have a legal stake and to express a political view?

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