7th November 2019

Catch up: Safety in Numbers?

On Saturday 2nd November 2019, around 20 people came together in Birmingham to explore the question: ‘how can we rethink security for a more just & peaceful world?’

It seemed fitting for Peace Hub’s 5th anniversary to look at a topic bringing together many of themes that we’ve looked at over the years, including the arms trade, human rights, inequality, climate change and peacebuilding. Many thanks to the Rethinking Security network for their help in the lead up to the event.

We started the day by considering how we perceive different threats – from spiders to knife crime. We recognised a tension between what is often highlighted in the media and prominent in people’s minds (such as terrorism) and which problems underlie many of the others, but are long term and often not considered in terms of ‘security’ (such as climate change or inequality).

The day was all about changing the stories we tell each other about what makes us secure – and the stories we tell ourselves (‘changing our expectations’, as one participant put it.)

Our main speaker, Patricia Sellick (Associate Professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University) provided some helpful examples of positive projects being publicly funded in the UK, that we could highlight and encourage more of.

‘Pages of the Sea’ was a thoughtful and reflective approach to remembrance at the centenary of Armistice Day, curated by Danny Boyle (of London 2012 opening-ceremony fame). Patricia highlighted the contrast of this event, attended by ordinary people in coastal towns around the UK, to her expectations of a militaristic and politicised approach to remembrance, sometimes seen at the cenotaph in London.

The Protecting Bedouin Lived Cultural Heritage project is funded by the British Council, and is bringing together young Bedouin people in the occupied Palestinian Territories with elderly people, to help pass on and record their nomadic heritage. Three of these Bedouin youth researchers will be speaking in Birmingham at a film showing and panel discussion on Sunday 24th November (5pm at the MAC).

We explored the question of why public money was funding a projects like these, whilst official policy is to ‘project UK military might and power’, and to recognise the militarised border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Is it simply ‘culture-washing’ to distract from the negative impacts of UK policy? Or are there genuine pockets of British government that see the value of alternative approaches to security, which could be supported and magnified?

In the afternoon, workshops looked at two ways we might take action for a new approach to security.

Colin Darling (Ethical Money Churches) helped participants to connect with the real-life impacts of the arms trade, in particular considering cluster bombs and land-mines. The group then looked at how our pensions and savings might be invested in the arms trade – and how we can weigh up different options for ethical investment. The Good Shopping Guide is recommended as a simple free tool, whilst a subscription to Ethical Consumer Magazine can offer more in-depth analysis.

The second workshop looked at the relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights. We considered how the climate emergency will affect human rights, such as the right to life and liberty, the right to an adequate standard of living, or the right to property and housing. Participants also looked a case study of the Mujeres Amazónicas (Amazonian Women collective) who are defending the rights of women and girls, indigenous people and the planet against oil and mining companies. We considered the power of personal stories when talking about abstract subjects such as climate, and how we can reach out to people who don’t always agree with us.

To round up the day, participants each chose an action to take away from the event. Once suggestion was to write to Prospective Parliamentary Candidates about some of these issues in the run up to the general election. Resources on the Quakers in Britain website are recommended for anyone who would like to do this.

The event was a great start to our theme for November & December 2019: Safe & Sound. If you’re interested in exploring any of these ideas, or want suggestions for actions to take: pop into Peace Hub, we’d love to see you!

“Hugging Salt and Pepper Shakers”by Andrew St. Clair is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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