US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

sibeal devilly

8th of November 2021

 

Since 1945, the United States has often counted on the European Union as a critical ally. Yet, recently there has been a shift in how the United States approaches its relationship with Europe and with influential European Union leaders like Emmanuel Macron. US President Joe Biden is determined to confront the rising threat of China and the United States Government is seeking new partners in this fight. 

The new US approach to foreign policy can be seen in the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan despite protestations from their European Union allies. The new US approach was also clear from the formation of the AUKUS agreement,  the Australia- UK- US security pact aimed at confronting growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. AUKUS was notable because it was formed without any EU member’s involvement. This confirms what European leaders had suspected, that the United States no longer requires the European Union. It is no longer integral to have the EU on side when confronting the critical issues in the 21st century.

For several years, the EU has wanted to position itself as the mediator-in-chief between China and the United States. This strategy is no longer viable. The rise of China has provoked a moment of reckoning for the EU and for the US- EU partnership. The European Union’s position is precarious. How it approaches this issue will determine its future place in international order.

The shift in the American approach to foreign policy was clear from their handling of the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan. The opinions of European nations on how the withdrawal should take place were cast aside as the United States sought to remove themselves from a war they began, leaving a power vacuum which they knew the Taliban would fill. When dissent was voiced by the Czech President Milos Zeman at a NATO summit in June, where Zeman described the withdrawal plan as “cowardice”, it was disregarded. It seemed Biden was on a one-track train, determined to continue on his ill-fated journey unperturbed.

 

The rise of China has provoked a moment of reckoning for the EU and for the US- EU partnership. The European Union’s position is precarious. How it approaches this issue will determine its future place in international order.

The Biden Administration, hellbent on fulfilling a Biden campaign promise, left untold devastation in their wake. The US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and the devastation that followed served to break the spell that surrounded Biden in his victory over Trump in the 2020 election. He propelled himself onto the international stage at the G7 summit in June with his ‘America is back’ narrative, aimed at reassuring allies that the Trump isolationist policies were gone. This narrative shattered before our eyes in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  America is indeed back, but the rules of engagement have changed. 

The announcement of the AUKUS agreement proved what the Afghanistan withdrawal gave early insight into: the United States are redefining their foreign policy emphasis under Biden. The AUKUS agreement means Australia will be provided with US-made nuclear-powered submarines to confront the growing threat of China in the Pacific. In recent years, China has been growing its sea and air capabilities. The present-day threat of China is undeniable, from its land reclamation projects in the South China Sea to its continued aggression towards Taiwan. AUKUS is designed to establish a key strategic alliance with increased military capability, most notably nuclear-powered submarines but also cyber capabilities and underwater technologies all designed to meet the growing Chinese threat.

The AUKUS announcement provoked a strong backlash from France, which had an existing contract with Australia to provide diesel-powered submarines. The Macron meltdown, in which President Macron recalled his diplomats from the US and Australia, was about more than this lucrative submarine deal. The reality that France and other EU countries were excluded from this new Western Alliance to combat China speaks to a shift in the EU’s standing in the world.

As the EU’s foremost military power in the post Brexit era, for France to be left out of a military strategic alliance of this nature is a catastrophic blow to French and European strategic interests.  Macron was forced to confront a new reality. The European Union, while still remaining a critical player, is losing its prominence and is less integral to the US in how they approach global affairs. What AUKUS shows is that the European partnership is not central to US foreign policy going forward. As the US seeks to confront China, partners in Asia are becoming increasingly important.

 

The European Union, while still remaining a critical player, is losing its prominence and is less integral to the US in how they approach global affairs.

 

The dynamics of global affairs are changing. China is the catalyst for this great sea change. How the European Union approaches its relationship with China in the coming years will determine the future of its relationship with the United States.  Over the past decade, with Angela Merkel at the helm of the EU, Europe has increased trade links with China and in 2020 China became the EU’s biggest trading partner, taking over this position from the United States. Merkel herself believed that the EU should be a mediator between the United States and China as they look set to go head-to-head. Yet the views of European leaders are changing and the ending of Merkel’s tenure could see a shift in the approach taken by the EU. In the recent German election and across Europe there are calls for a tougher approach to China. This tougher approach to China will be difficult to impose giving increased levels of trade. It remains to be seen whether there will be the political will to do this.

China will be a great determinant of international order in the coming years. Where the European Union falls on China, as supposed mediator-in-chief or firmly on team USA is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, the EU’s standing in the world is shifting. The nations of the  EU, while still important partners, are less relevant to Biden as he seeks to confront China. Biden has made it clear with his recent political manoeuvring that the time has come for everyone to pick a side on China. He has also shown he will act with little regard for traditional allies and is unwavering in his quest to achieve America’s strategic aims. European reluctance to engage with the question of how they will approach China has left them vulnerable.  They must define their role in this new international order and act decisively in the coming months and years. Otherwise, they risk having no seat at the table when the cards are dealt and this new international order is determined.

 

Featured photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

sibeal devilly

1st of November 2021

Hi there! My name is Caoimhe O’Carroll and I’m attending COP26 on behalf of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) from the 1st to the 6th of November. I’ve never been to a COP so I really don’t know what to expect but I’m really grateful for the opportunity and keen to share my experience! 

So, what is COP? COP stands for the Conference of Parties and refers to the meeting of 197 members of the UN on matters relating to climate change. At these annual conferences, world leaders commit to certain pledges/ambitions in the area of climate action. For example, in Paris 2015 the Parties adopted a legally binding international treaty to limit global warming – aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. In short, COP is “the room where it happens” when it comes to combating climate change.

 

because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26

Why have I been invited? I work as USI’s VP for the Dublin Region, and because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26. Climate Action may not be at the centre of our mission as an organisation but there’s no doubt that it’s at the centre of our future as young people. 

It’s really exciting to be able to actively participate in the conference this year. We were granted access by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications at short notice but there was no chance we were going to pass it up! COP is a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded people, to learn more about climate injustice and to spread the message that we need urgent action now to save our planet. 

As a real newbie to the workings of COP, imposter syndrome began to kick in real quick… I am sorely aware that I am no expert on all things environmentalism. I’m no plastic-free, all organic, vegan. However, these concerns soon dissipated in some pre-meetings with colleagues from Friends of the Earth, STAND, Stop Climate Chaos, COP26 Coalition Ireland. They kindly reminded me that you don’t need to be an expert to engage with the COP and the voices of regular civilians are just as important as climate activists.

Heading to the airport!

How am I preparing? With the existential crisis out of the way, I’ve been getting ready to travel abroad for the first time post-pandemic. I found it impossible to pack since becoming so accustomed to life at home in lockdown! I’ve also been busy reading COVID testing requirements, following through with those tests, and recording the results accordingly. The restrictions surrounding COP are very tight and I’m required to do both a PCR test 48 hours before arrival in Glasgow and then daily LFT (Lateral Flow Testing) which is quite a demanding regime!

Packing light!

What will I do while I’m there? I don’t yet have a set schedule when it comes to my time in Glasgow. However, one thing is certain – I’m going to be busy! A lot of the official events have already been booked out but there will be plenty of side events, stalls and protests for me to participate in. I have loose plans to go live on Instagram every evening to discuss each day’s events and bring COP home in any way I can. I’m looking to push myself out of my comfort zone and be open to any opportunities that come my way. 

What are my expectations? So far, I don’t know what to expect! From my own perspective, my ambition is to engage with as many people as possible and to relay all my learnings back to the Irish student population. From a policy perspective, my hope would be that COP26 marks a turning point in climate action and climate policy. It’s key that COP26 brings about progressive and radical change to the global approach on climate change in order to adequately address concerns that our generation have. 

 

Want to learn more about what Caoimhe is up to in Glasgow for COP26? Follow STAND social media accounts for regular updates including an Instagram Live check-in!

 

Make your own contribution to confronting climate change by take the pledge to #RiseUp! Click here to learn more, to take the pledge, and to receive an action pack with 100 ways to make a difference.

 

 

 

Featured photo from UNFCCC

 

This article was supported by: STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin

 

Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

sibeal devilly

22nd of October 2021

 

The non-binding referendum held in Berlin has sparked hope for the future of renters in more cities than just the German capital. The referendum, which called for the expropriation of giant property landlords (vulture funds) campaigned for throughout the COVID-19 crisis, received enormous support. Receiving a total of 346,000 signatures, campaigners comfortably cleared the threshold of 175,000 needed to secure the referendum being held. The public desire for the referendum comes after Berlin rents have increased 45% in the last five years.

 

In Berlin, where 86% of residents are renters, the prohibitive rent prices, and a failed attempt at rent control have led people to try and make the government change housing policy. While the referendum is non-binding, meaning the government does not have to follow through on the motion, there is now significant public pressure for a policy change. The referendum calls for the property to be bought back by the state and used as public housing from companies that own over 3000 rental properties. The hope is that 240,000 apartments will be returned to state control, since the sale of public housing during an economic downturn in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

 

The inspiration the referendum holds for Berliners and non-Berliners alike is already apparent, even throughout the campaign many people living in other regions of Germany travelled to the capital city to take part in gaining signatures. The 56% of ‘yes’ votes (to 39% ‘no’) in the referendum outnumbers the votes any German party received in their federal election of the same day as the referendum, signaling that this is a motion that crosscuts political persuasion or party lines, an issue which impacts so many residents of Berlin, that party loyalty doesn’t appear to have been a major player in the passing of the motion.

 

The reclaiming of property for public use and provision of publicly owned housing would mark a shift away from market-based solutions to market-created problems

If Yes campaigners and voters are successful, this could mean a significant shift in the growing neoliberal norm of vulture funds and corporate real estate companies running rental markets in large cities throughout the world. The shift would set an EU precedent that has the potential to undermine many of the excuses provided by the government of Ireland when it comes to vulture funds here. The reclaiming of property for public use and provision of publicly owned housing would mark a shift away from market-based solutions to market-created problems such as prohibitive rents and build-to-rent developments in Dublin.

 

The referendum was held with the vote being based around expropriating property held by private companies (vulture funds) which own over 3000 properties. The motion rests on the the government buying back these properties and renting them to the public, in a move to reduce rent profiteering by property giants and re-socialise Berlin housing.

 

What next?

 

Campaigners have already drawn up suggested legislative documentation to back up their success in the referendum, using the same-day federal election to bolster their position as new parties look to create a viable coalition.

 

As for outside Berlin, renters around the world are looking on in hopeful admiration, waiting to see whether the newly elected officials of the region will set a fresh example of housing in the 21st century. In Ireland, where a referendum on the right to housing has been promised by the government, and where the most severe housing crisis, paired with the highest rents are preventing people from moving out of home, or in many cases, attending college, the German grassroots campaign serves as a case study to examine and replicate among ‘Generation Rent’, ‘Generation Locked-Out’ and ‘No Keys No Degrees’ campaigners. The form of the vote by referendum is particularly important in Ireland, where constitutional change is required to tip the scales of favour from protection for landlords, to the provision of housing for the people

 

Featured photo by Ingo Joseph

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Roisin O’Donnell

7th of October 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

Socially-engaged artist, Kate O’Shea argues that “if we are trying to create another social imaginary and another world, then we need other languages, and we need other spaces”. Some of the most interesting work exploring the impact of the current housing system on people’s lives is being produced by artists. Housing, for artists, is not not merely an area of interest, but a significant barrier to engaging in creative work long-term. Artists such as Kate O’Shea, Seoidín O’Sullivan and Fiona Whelan are creating projects that reflect the desires, hopes, and often devastating deficiencies that characterise people’s experience of living in the housing systems of cities like Dublin, and beyond.

 

Kate O’Shea is currently engaged in an artist’s residency–the Just City Collective–with Common Ground in St. Michael’s Estate in Dublin 8. The work of Common Ground includes connecting artists with the range of established community projects that exist in Dublin 8. The project focuses on ‘spatial justice’ in an area acutely affected by the financialisation of Dublin. Most recently, a four-part online series called ‘Networks of Solidarity’, aimed ‘to strengthen transnational networks of solidarity and deepen awareness of place-based struggles that reverberate from Dublin 8 to Gadigal Country (Sydney, Australia)’. Speaking to Kate, she emphasised that building deep relationships with people and groups in Dublin 8, and beyond, was the most important part of her work and life. Kate’s 2019 project, ‘Art, Activism, Architecture’ included exploration of the ‘The Living Commons’, a model of communal living that ‘moves beyond strictly policy-led integration attempts and instead works with a more natural mode of forming and nurturing long-term relationships between people through a focus on working on commons goals/interests’.

 

 

“Communities–with unique knowledge of their own place–should be leading environmental initiatives

 

Artist Seoidn O’Sullivan, in collaboration with Common Ground and UCD School of Geography created ‘Mapping Green Dublin’, another interesting project that posits that communities–with unique knowledge of their own place–should be leading environmental initiatives. The Community-led greening strategy involves people identifying existing green spaces, trees and spaces of potential intervention. The project’s mapping process, and resulting data, demonstrate the importance of expanding the types of data we draw on when discussing housing and urban space.

 

What Does He Need?’ is a collaboration between artist Fiona Whelan, theatre company Broken Talkers and Rialto Youth Project, exploring the lives of young men living in Dublin city. The public poster project saw responses to the question printed across the city, generated through workshops involving young men and community workers. Short and striking answers: ‘a decent pair of runners’; ‘to hit back’ and ‘hugs everyday’, demonstrate the power and potential of creatively using public space to start conversations.

 

Artists and arts organisations are also raising the issue of access to creative spaces for everyone. We can create housing and other spaces that recognise and engage the creativity that is intrinsic to us all. This creativity is essential to navigating the adaptations necessary to confront the various social, economic and environmental challenges in Ireland.

 

The housing and care of people experiencing and facing homelessness, and the work of organisations such as Community and Tenants Union and Threshold, must be prioritised in plans to improve the housing system. But, let us remember we deserve homes and spaces that meet our needs and allow us to live good lives. Let’s demand a system that enables us to build and shape our own spaces.

 

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Roisin O’Donnell

4th of October 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

What kind of space do you want to live in? Our ability and capacity to shape our spaces is rarely considered a priority in the conversation about the production and supply of social and affordable housing. Housing is generally understood to be something people passively receive, or as the case may be, do not receive.

 

One organisation that is confronting assumptions about how we overcome housing challenges is Self-Organised Architecture (SOA). SOA is a ‘not-for-profit action research think tank’, examining potential of collaborative and cooperative housing in Ireland. SOA’s work is based on the ‘conviction that a house is not just a building, or an asset, it is a home: a place to live’. Community-Led Housing (CHL) encompasses a variety of approaches, including cooperative housing, co-housing and Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Their recent work has been the production of five rich and comprehensive guides to establishing a Community-Led Housing (CLH) infrastructure in Ireland. They define CLH as an ‘empowerment of future residents to meaningfully participate in both the design and long-term management of their homes’.

 

“Co-living brings images of tiny living environments to peoples minds, which is not at all what co-housing or collaborative housing advocates for

 

Speaking with Kim O’Shea of Collaborative Housing Limerick, she emphasised that co-housing is a means of creating homes that enable individuals to live intentionally, communally, and often more sustainably. Interestingly, Kim pointed to co-housing and collaborative housing as a means of living in cities that are becoming increasingly expensive, arguing that: “If people could figure out what they want from their living spaces… and come together to find like-minded people who have similar needs, then they could pool their resources and potentially have enough to buy somewhere in the city centres to live. Of course, this is simplifying the idea, so actually going about it is a bit more complex, and certainly very time consuming”.

 

She identified public perception as one of the barriers to the expansion of collaborative approaches to housing, stating that cohousing “has been incorrectly conflated with the idea of co-living, and brings images of tiny living environments to peoples minds, which is not at all what cohousing or collaborative housing advocates for”. There are now several co-housing and collaborative housing groups across Ireland. The main barriers to their growth include the lack of recognition of Community-Led Housing by state agencies and local authorities, and the lack of access to affordable finance and public land.

 

Nimble Spaces’ Inclusive Neighbourhoods is one example of the potential of Community-Led Housing. Nimble Spaces is a housing project that was initiated in 2012 by Camphill Community–a community of people with intellectual disabilities living in Callan, Kilkenny–in collaboration with Callan Workhouse Union. One of the first and most important phases was the collective exploration of people’s different ideas of home. Lid Architecture practice used games and movement as a means of determining people’s spatial needs. Nimble Spaces is hoping to soon embark on the construction of a mixture of social and cooperative homes. Nimble Spaces’ Rosie Lynch argues for the power and potential of engaging people’s “innate understanding of [their] needs”, emphasising that many people “just maybe haven’t had the resources, the time, the processes, the support, and the space to be able to articulate those needs”.

 

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

Roisin O’Donnell

28th of September 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

Recent debates highlight the contested nature of approaches to the supply and financing of housing. Significant media and public attention has been given to issues such as the proportion of social, affordable and private housing to be built on public land; the role of the Land Development Agency; the financing of future plans; and what role private-equity funds should play. The supply of housing remains particularly important. Sinn Féin’s Eoin O Broin, asserts that if Sinn Féin got the opportunity to implement their housing plan, it would result in the large-scale building of social and affordable homes on public land. Professor of Economics in Trinity College, PJ Drudy, argues, in the Irish Times, that the new strategy must be ‘underpinned by a new philosophy which provides a central role for the Government…in the supply of housing’. He stresses the critical importance of a shift away from the current reliance on the private rented sector, limiting the role of ‘multinational landlords’ and expansion of a cost-rental model of public housing. The arguments outlined by Eoin O’Broin, PJ Drudy, and other politicians, commentators and activists, are becoming more mainstream, now considered a pragmatic response to an entrenched crisis.

 

Clearly, a coherent and long-term plan for the supply of housing is essential. Still, the highly centralised, top-down approach to the supply of social and affordable housing is often framed as the only alternative to the fragmented, failing and investor-driven existing system. But are there alternative means of producing, organising and owning housing? It is important to highlight the groups, organisations, artists and individuals who are currently imagining and advocating for an exciting variety of ways to build, own and occupy spaces in Ireland.

 

What does housing mean to us? 

What is home? What makes us feel “at home” in certain spaces? Has anyone ever asked you what kind of space you want to live in? Dr. Michael Byrne, a housing academic and activist, believes that establishing answers to these fundamental questions is important. Many people and families now live in the private rented sector long-term. His research highlights the impact of living in the private rented sector on people’s sense of security and control–both critical in creating “a sense of home”–as a result of an inability to physically shape homes, own pets, poor quality spaces and the abuse of power by some landlords.

 

 

“What should social and affordable housing be like if it is to meet people’s different needs? For what kind of person, family and life will it be designed?

 

The private rented sector fails to provide a secure and safe place in which people can flourish. So, what should social and affordable housing be like if it is to meet people’s different needs? For what kind of person, family and life will it be designed? Groups and organisations engage with these kinds of questions, using their answers to plan and construct housing they need and want. Housing, and the solutions we require, can be highly technical; spanning aspects of EU law and the complex structures of finance. The groups, organisations and individuals profiled below demonstrate that we can determine the spaces we live in, including their financing, ownership and management.

 

The question of how to meet people’s various needs also raises the issue of access to non-housing spaces, especially in cities. It’s crucial to interrogate the current narrative around the inevitability of change. The idea that Dublin, and cities in general, have been changed irrevocably by the pandemic has been a recurring theme in the media. But as restrictions ease, the question is also what has stayed the same. Change is not inevitable. The aftermath of the Global Financial Crash and the high levels of vacancy that resulted in Dublin, produced a temporary increase in access to space for ‘non-commercial cultural uses’.

 

But now research reveals how ‘policies introduced to support temporary use have been too weak, and subservient to Dublin City Council’s support of the commercial property market’. The adaptations we have seen in cities over the last year–pedestrianisation, more bike lanes–do not not necessarily reflect a significant shift in policy. If access to public and community spaces is something we believe people living in cities deserve, then the transparency of and access to decision-making at the level of local and regional government remains crucial.

 

Stay tuned for part two and three of this series.

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy

27th of September 2021

 

 

Hong Kong and China are often seen as interchangeable, an extension of one another. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The relationship between the two is deeply complex and involves a variety of political, legal, and economic variations. This difference is rooted in the fallout from the First Opium war. China ceded the island to Britain in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 as payment for their debts. The former colony was returned to China in 1997, and Beijing began its re-integration attempts. The National security law which was introduced in July 2020 signified a more forceful and legally binding step in the removal of Hong Kong autonomy. As the first trial under this law gets underway, Beijing’s dedication to nationwide unification becomes ever clearer, and the independence of the people of the island slips further into living memory.

 

On the 30th of June 2020 Chinese legislators unanimously passed a new national security law. The law was introduced just weeks after it was first announced, its enactment bypassed Hong Kong local legislature, and the text detailing the logistics of the new law was kept secret both from the public and allegedly from the Hong Kong government until after it was enacted. The law has been criticised for a wide variety of reasons including its application to all individuals. The law asserts jurisdiction over those who are not residents of Hong Kong and those who had never set foot within its borders. This essentially means that regardless of nationality or location anyone on earth can be deemed in violation of the law and be prosecuted if they are in a Chinese jurisdiction.

 

The law itself is incredibly vague, terms like “ subversion”, “ terrorism”, and “conclusion with foreign forces” carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment however the legislation does not expand on what exactly is meant by these terms. Individuals can be arrested for “endangering National Security” which can mean essentially anything. People who have previously been deemed by the Chinese government to be endangering national security include those attending peaceful protests, or criticising the current Chinese government. Amnesty International has documented multiple cases in which journalists, lawyers, and other individuals have been charged with “subversion”. In 2017 Wu Gan was imprisoned for 8 years due to his criticism of the government on the internet.

 

Almost immediately after the law was passed, Chinese authorities began to crack down on peaceful expression. People have been arrested for carrying flags, stickers or banners which display political slogans, or for possessing items that can be deemed to be political slogans. Individuals have been arrested for wearing t-shirts containing song lyrics that could be deemed as endangering national security. As an act of protest after the law was introduced many individuals began silent and peaceful protests in shopping malls and other public areas holding blank pieces of paper. The Chinese government has also begun to associate this with subversion and other crimes under the new national security act.

“Almost immediately after the law was passed, Chinese authorities began to crack down on peaceful expression. People have been arrested for carrying flags, stickers or banners which display political slogans, or for possessing items that can be deemed to be political slogans.

Tong Ying-kit has become the first individual to be charged under the Hong Kong security law. The 24-year old was arrested after he ran his motorbike into a group of police officers whilst carrying a flag with the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of our times”. He was found guilty of “intimidating the public in order to pursue his political agenda”. Despite his defence team arguing for one. He was tried without a jury as the Hong Kong Justice secretary argued that the “jurors’ safety may put it at risk given the city’s sensitive political climate”.

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

Irish housing: homes for people not for profit

Irish housing: homes for people not for profit

Irish housing: homes for people not for profit 

housing estate at sunset
sibeal devilly

30th August 2021

 

What is one accessory from childhood or your preteen-era that you would still wear today? This is a question that often has people reminiscing over plastic beaded bracelets, Heelys, and tattoo chokers. For myself, the answer is easy: a red badge inscribed with six little words: “Bollocks to Austerity. Tax the Rich.”  

 

Thanks to the Irish voters’ remarkable ability to have faith in political parties who have succumbed to drinking the neoliberal Kool-Aid of low governmental intervention in markets, eleven years later the badge is as relevant, the situation worse, the fight harder, and the representation remarkably similar. Today as in 2010 we see a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach backed by the Greens in power, although in 2021 the blame is no longer conveniently escaped by Fine Gael. 

 

The badge sits today, as anti-establishment as ever, on my desk in my over-priced Dublin rental. Were it not a grim sign that things don’t seem to change for the better economically in this country, the placement might just seem poetic. Sadly, it serves more as a reminder of a fight that never quite seems to be over. 

 

So, how did we get here? From the declaration of independence to the establishment of the Irish state, we vowed this country would serve her people better than the exploitation of colonialism. We would eradicate tenements, remove a foreign source of power, and be a country returned to her people. Yet today, we see public housing riddled with rats, a build-to-rent heavy rental market that has been proclaimed a “government sponsored cartel,an average single first time buyer age of 42, and an asylum system described as “devastating” by its residents. 

 

This is all before we even look to rising levels of homelessness, a crisis with levels dubbed “not high” by our then (and current) Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar in 2017. Is this symbolic of the governing parties of Ireland? That old tactic of insisting that an issue is not yet at crisis level while burying heads in the sand until such point as a crisis occurs? 

  

And of course, while talking about housing it would be remiss not to mention Direct Provision (DP): a horrifying and inhumane situation arising in the modern era in the same state which writes off mother and baby homes as a shameful thing of the past – a state which does its utmost to avoid the necessary conversations around them both. These serve as two features of Irish accommodation that you would be hard-pressed to justify, and so the government simply doesn’t even try; it just seems to hope people will forget about DP. It isn’t supposed to be a home anyway, more of a (never-ending) stop-gap, so why would the conditions need to be any good? Can’t we let the market fix that too? Furthermore, the state of accommodation and halting sites for members of the Travelling community in Ireland makes a mockery of modern anti-racist sentiments in the country. 

 

Part V of The Planning and Development Bill (1999) called for developers to have to include a proportion (up to 20 per cent) of properties or land in a development sold to the state (the local authority) as social housing, in developments of nine houses or more. These developments are known as mixed tenure estates,” whereby private property owners and social or affordable housing residents live in the same development.  

 

A revision to the Act in 2002 (by a Progressive Democrat/Fianna Fáil government) allowed for a financial payment of the equivalent value of the land to be paid to the local authority, much to the delight of building associations and developers around the country who had opposed Part V since its inception. This revision meant that while the housing supply was increasing, social housing was not being contributed to the stock, allowing for an increase in private ownership in the market. While it was found that Part V had a relatively limited contribution to social housing output, the revision meant that, in many cases, no developmental contribution was made at all.  In 2015 this proportion was further reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. 

 

Additionally, with a renewed property bubble spiking housing prices, often local authorities could not afford to purchase land or properties from developers, resulting in no addition being made to social or affordable housing stock whatsoever. 

 

Part V is symbolic of the shambolic planning that is a legacy of the Irish state. The long-term consequences of the revision (which is once again up for amendment in 2021) meant that public and affordable housing stock was not boosted. Lack of intervention by the government ensured housing prices were not capped, and so the unaffordable inflation of both house prices and rent continued. 

 

The right of a private landlord to make money is protected in our Constitution – but the right to housing is not.”

While the state could not afford 20 per cent or 10 per cent of developments, the ESRI this year estimates that by the end of 2021, the state will have spent €1.4 billion on the payment of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to private landlords, subsidising a lack of state infrastructure with social welfare which perpetuates inflation of rents, which the government also refuses to cap.  

 

The right of a private landlord to make money is protected in our Constitution – but the right to housing is not. So, while rents have been allowed to increase by 4 per cent per annum, a figure which is not matched by salary increases or indeed by increases to minimum wage, the taxpayer is not just footing the bill for their own unaffordable rent, they’re footing the bill for HAP too: even the government can’t afford the rental market in this state. 

 

And really, none of this should be surprising. The Irish property market is not advertised as forever homes, but as investments, whether at a small-scale to individuals with money to invest in the build to rent market, or to vulture and cuckoo funds looking for the investment of their neoliberal dreams. 

 

The state’s solution to the problem of the Irish housing market seems not to be much different in the Irish modern state than it was during the era of British landlords: emigration of our (domestic) young. Admittedly today, the solution of emigration is paired with an assumption that inheritance will balance the disadvantage of our generation, not exactly the method of redistribution of wealth the leads to a successful welfare state – I come back to the solution of my favourite accessory: tax the rich. 

 

The legacy seems to remain of a land that does not provide viable opportunity or quality of tenure to its people, and so watches them set sail for countries happy to welcome the hard-working Irish with open arms. Trendy as world travel may be, our government doesn’t seem to recognise that it is no coincidence that those who stay are of either considerable means or those for whom leaving is not an option. For those in the middle, when faced with the prospect of rental inflation which exceeds salary, and with home ownership being a prospect only when paired with inheritance tax, if you’re lucky enough to have something to be taxed on, leaving is logical.  

 

A post-colonial society, successive Irish governments have behaved like anxious school children, scared  that the headteacher (the market) will chastise their adult choices. To save themselves the anxiety of taking the reins on the Irish economy, politicians have distracted themselves by blowing bubbles and crying to supranational supervisors when inevitably the bubbles of fantasy burst. For all the criticisms of Irish people throwing the baby out with the bath water during political scandals (with Phil Hogan still licking his wounds over this tendency), in election after election, we never seem to learn that no matter how shiny a bubble may seem when it’s growing, it really does always burst. 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Tom Thain

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Alex

 

Ethiopia’s forgotten war

Ethiopia’s forgotten war

Ethiopia’s forgotten war

man stands on a bridge above an ethiopian highway
Emily Murphy

24th August 2021

 

While the world focuses on helping evacuate and support the people of Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the prolonged conflict in Ethiopia seems to be slipping from public consciousness. In 2019, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the 20-year border conflict between his nation and Eritrea. It seems that this period of stability was, however, to be short-lived.

 

For more than 20 years, the Ethiopian government has been dominated by a coalition of four ethnic-based groups. The Tigrayan group, who account for 6 per cent of the national population hold a considerable portion of government power. The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) became the lead member of the government coalition in 1991, after war raged across Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s. Following discontent and national protests, Abiy Ahmed was eventually appointed prime minister. In 2019, he dissolved the coalition and formed the Prosperity Party with several opposition parties, which the TPLF (controversially) refused to join. In the same year, national elections were also due to take place,  but these were postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In spite of this, the Tigray province went ahead with local elections, in direct defiance of government orders. The TPLF also alleged that Abiy Ahmed was an illegitimate ruler.

 

More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan.”

In early November 2020, an offensive operation in Tigray was carried out by the Ethiopian central government after allegations that the Tigrayian forces attacked Ethiopian military infrastructure in the region. This marked the beginning of the latest conflict in Ethiopia. More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan. However, as communications have been almost entirely cut in the region, it is impossible to calculate exact numbers. The TPLF has been designated a terrorist organisation and have since formed the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) with non-TPLF members.

 

Speaking outside the Security Council Chamber on World Humanitarian Day, United Nations Chief António Guterres said that he is gravely concerned about the “unspeakable violence” against women and others in Tigray. He appealed for forces to “give peace a chance”and urged that “there is no military solution, and it is vital to preserve the unity and stability of Ethiopia.”

 

UN officials have warned that more than 400,000 people in the Tigray region are facing the worst global famine in decades, with an additional 1.8 million people on the brink of a food crisis. Since the conflict began last November, some 5.2 million people are in need of aid, which is being provided by the UN and the Ethiopian central government. On June 28, Tigrayian forces recaptured the region’s capital, Mekelle, and Abiy Ahmed declared an unilateral humanitarian ceasefire. However, the TPLF forces have seemingly ignored his call to action, allegedly continuing to fight and seizing more land in the process.

 

Many experts are now expecting that this unrest and violent discourse will continue in the west of Tigray and focus on the neighbouring Amhara region. There already exists a territory dispute between these two Ethiopian states. Experts also fear that the continued fighting may cause regional instability in a part of the world already consumed by conflict.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Gift Habeshaw

This article was supported by: STAND Business & Politics Editor Sean + Programme Assistant Alex

 

Is a diamond anyone’s best friend?

Is a diamond anyone’s best friend?

Is a diamond anyone’s best friend?

diamond on red background
june harhen

23rd August 2021

 

The diamond industry is wrought with historical strife that carries through to the present day and is home to rampant human rights abuses, but will turning away from mining and towards lab-growing provide a more comprehensive solution? 

 

Elegance, timelessness, and true love: markers of what we all know to be the consumer side of the diamond industry. But it’s no secret that the sparkle wears off all too quickly when we look past the marketing and that the diamond industry looks very different on the other side of its long supply chain. The global diamond jewellery industry is worth approximately $79 billion as of 2019, whilst those who mine the diamonds in small-scale, artisanal mines, which produce 15 per cent of the world’s diamonds earn less than one dollar a day. Measures such as the Kimberley Process (KP) have been in place since the blood diamond scandal of the early 2000s in which the world became aware of the sale of diamonds to fund the civil wars of Angola and Sierra Leone. 

 

However, the KP has many loopholes and does not exclude diamonds that have been mined in violation of human rights or labour laws. Its definition of “conflict diamonds” is limited to “gemstones sold to fund a rebel movement attempting to overthrow the state.” And where the KP has imposed a ban, diamonds from that place are still mined and sold by smuggling them over the border to an unbanned country. As diamonds are mostly impossible to trace to their respective mines, this practice is very difficult to regulate. It is in these loopholes that the abuses exist. The majority of small scale mining is unregulated in places where labour laws either do not exist or are not enforced.

 

The lack of laws leads not just to well-below-the-poverty-line wages, but also to fatal working conditions, child labour, and the flourishing of public health issues as the sex trade thrives in many diamond mining towns, leading to the spread of HIV and other STI’s.”

The lack of laws leads not just to well-below-the-poverty-line wages, but also to fatal working conditions, child labour, and the flourishing of public health issues as the sex trade thrives in many diamond mining towns, leading to the spread of HIV and other STI’s. It also causes the displacement of indigenous peoples, destruction of the surrounding environment, and not to mention abandoned mining pits filled with stagnant water becoming havens for mosquitoes, leading to the spread of malaria. Although these abuses do not exist throughout the entire diamond industry, they occur largely across Africa which is responsible for at least 50 per cent of the total global production of diamonds. In short, if you are purchasing a diamond you cannot guarantee that that diamond does not have blood on it.

 

The global jewellery industry is dominated by thirteen companies that are estimated to generate more than $30 billion annually, making up a significant sector of the diamond industry. These companies which include Tiffany’s, Cartier, Pandora and others were assessed by Human Rights Watch for their responsible sourcing of gold and diamonds. They analysed the companies’ actions based on company information that they were given directly and by the publicly available information about the company. It was Tiffany’s alone that was awarded a “strong” rating in the report, as they could trace all of their newly mined gold back to one mine of origin and conduct regular human rights assessments with the mine. They have partial custody over their diamonds and can trace some of them to specific mines. Bulgari, Cartier, Pandora, Signet were awarded “moderate” as they took some important steps towards responsible sourcing.

 

The remaining eight companies were rated weak or lower, and overwhelmingly the research found that there was an over-reliance by most companies on the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) for their human rights due diligence. The RJC’s governance is flawed and certifies companies that fail to meet even basic human rights standards. It is clear from the report that where there exists more money there does not exist higher standards of responsibility. These companies are responsible for a huge part of the demand for diamonds yet they are largely irresponsible when it comes to regulation of their supply chain; naturally, the industry accepts that low standard as standard. Therefore we see the continuation of acceptance of human rights abuses across the industry.

 

But there is another side to the diamond industry, one that produces diamonds that are aesthetically and chemically indistinguishable from mined diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds were invented in 1954. Whilst there was not much interest to begin with, the industry is on the up, having grown “15 per cent to 20 per cent in 2019, following a similar trajectory in 2018.” The interest in lab-grown diamonds is rising after years of them being perceived by the consumer and perpetuated by large diamond companies as fake or cheap. However, according to the most recent Bain report on the global diamond industry the “continued advances in technology contributed to double-digit growth in production and lower retail prices for lab-grown diamonds in 2019 and 2020” they noted that the growing demand was also thanks to consumers and investors alike prioritising “sustainability, transparency and social welfare.”

 

What’s more, lab diamonds typically retail at 30 per cent cheaper than their mined counterparts making the industry accessible to a larger consumer audience. The industry is beginning to accept the shift towards lab-grown diamonds, however, it is doubtfully thanks to the realisation that the diamond industry is so harmful to so many, and more likely due to the acceptance that diamond supplies are dwindling and that there is more money to be made by expanding to include cheaper lab-grown diamonds. Nonetheless, the industry giant DeBeers has launched its “Lightbox” collection which is exclusively lab-grown, Signet jewellers (the world’s largest diamond retailer) sells lab-grown diamonds alongside their mined ones, Pandora aims to use lab-grown diamonds exclusively by 2022. While there have been concerns in the past that lab-grown diamonds come with a huge environmental cost, requiring large amounts of electricity to produce, and in China where 50 to 60 per cent of these diamonds are made, the electricity is powered by coal. But the largest US producer, Diamond Foundry, says its process is “100% hydro-powered, meaning zero emissions.” It is also important to consider and compare the environmental costs of mining, manufacturing and shipping “natural” diamonds.

 

And so, if there seems to be no catch when it comes to lab-grown diamonds, what’s to stop them from being the sole future of the industry? They eliminate the problem of abuses in the mining process of natural diamonds, and if we were to move exclusively to the synthetic diamond, it would follow that there would be no more mines in which to exploit miners, therefore removing the problem. However, this thought remains purely ideological, because, for many places where the mines are a source of injury, pollution and exploitation, those same mines are one of few or sometimes the only source of income for the people there – these places include the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. One Congolese boy who left school to work in an artisanal mine to support his father said to Time, If people stop buying our diamonds, we won’t be able to eat. We still won’t be able to go to school. How does that help us?” In short, this represents a problem not just for the diamond industry, but for a plethora of industries.

 

Perhaps with the continuation of attempts to regulate the industry, there will remain both jobs and progress. But the change needs to be systematic if there is to be any hope that the mines will no longer be an equal source of suffering and livelihood. So, synthetic diamonds may be part of the solution but the diamond industry cannot simply turn its back on the portion of its supply chain that has provided for them for so many years, and turn the billions of dollars of profit towards creating change for those people who are responsible for 15 per cent of their supply. As consumers, we can continue to remain aware and educated and support only those companies that are taking responsible action.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Sabrina Ringquist

This article was supported by: STAND Business & Politics Editor Sean + Programme Assistant Alex

 

Taliban wins war in Afghanistan: what next?

Taliban wins war in Afghanistan: what next?

Taliban wins war in Afghanistan: what next?

foggy morning in afghanistan
Sean Creagh

17th August 2021

 

October 7, 2001: US President George W. Bush sits perched neatly behind the resolute desk of the Oval Office, directly facing the camera with a determined stare. Off-screen, his foot taps restlessly against the carpet. “Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan… We are joined in this operation by our staunch friend, Great Britain. Other close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany, and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds [sic].”

 

In the month following the devastating and shocking 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration took the opportunity to wage a new kind of war: one against terror. The mass public support for the president (a whopping 92 per cent approval rating at one point) gave the administration the necessary momentum to take revenge against those who had wronged them. “Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader. We will not fail,” Bush critically remarked. “The Taliban will pay a price.”

 

Two decades on from this initial 2001 invasion, poised on an effervescent and unique moment in history, and the wheel seems to have come full circle for the American story in Afghanistan. Four presidencies later, and the push-pull of who was winning or losing at any one moment has proved rather pointless, as new advances by the Taliban have threatened to reverse any undoubted civil liberty gains for the Afghan people. After 20 years of US and NATO involvement, with trillions of dollars spent and over 3,500 coalition deaths, the allied forces are set to fully withdraw under a formal agreement by September 11 of this year – and no, the date is not a coincidence.

 

As the US continues to remove troops, the Taliban has taken this chance to retaliate with increased aggression, reclaiming large territories at breakneck speeds. In the last week alone, they have stepped up the pace to recapture crucial provincial capitals such as Ghazni, Kandahar, along with nine other cities. Now, it appears that insurgents have taken Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, as well, in a bloodshed moment where Taliban helicopter gunships fired free reign over government buildings. This has drawn widespread recrimination for the US in its choice to carry on with troop withdrawals despite the obvious risk the Taliban still currently poses, and the security risk that they now present should they take charge of the entire government – which they most certainly will.

 

This has led to some easy victories for the Taliban, who have now taken control of over two-thirds of the country and forced thousands of families to flee for their safety.”

The Afghan military, who have found it too difficult to defend rural districts, in response to the Taliban’s belligerence, have decided to simply abandon vast arrays of land – all in hopes of culminating their forces to defend (more) economically valuable cities. This has led to some easy victories for the Taliban, who have now taken control of over two-thirds of the country and forced thousands of families to flee for their safety. The Taliban has now also seized airports outside of Kunduz and Sheberghan in the north and Farah in the west, making it even more difficult to supply troubled government forces with arms.

 

President Joe Biden’s decision to continue the troop withdrawal (despite this retaliation) is unlikely to be reversed either. The agreement was made in May last year, under then-President Trump. It followed on from years of pressure at home to end America’s “forever wars,” and as a result Trump continued to sharply reduce troop numbers each year. Not an unpopular move, the appetite for war and revenge seemingly evaporated from the American public’s conscience. 

 

However, the US can still wield power from a minority position (without direct involvement) if it persists with its effective air strikes and special force’s operations. Other powers such as Pakistan, Iran, and Russia can also help, if they so choose, to push the Taliban to make concessions in return for recognition. 

 

This might include a power-sharing agreement which could see guarantees on women’s rights and free expression, or a peaceful transfer of power. Encouragingly, some in the Taliban leadership do not wish to become a pariah state once more, and recognise that to run the country successfully they would need some foreign trade links and international aid. However, all these talks of peace negotiations still seem a long way off, especially if one side presently has all the leverage.

 

Unfortunately, it does not seem in any scenario that there will be a valedictory moment for the final US troops who depart Afghanistan by September. The advancements made for women and young girls in terms of education and freedom, amongst others, are set to be lost when abject Islamic law is reinstated as a societal norm by the Taliban for the Afghan people. Washington now must cut its losses, but equally recognise its moral obligation to the country which it so failed; the final military cargo plane shooting off into the sky a lasting reminder of the shortcomings with the American imperialism ideology, which it so loves.

 

20 years later: July 14, 2021. Former US President George W. Bush sits down for an interview with DW News. His hair is greyer now, his eyes more dispirited and wearier than in 2001. “Is the withdrawal a mistake?” asks the interviewer. “You know, I think it is, yeah. I think that because the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad; and eh—I’m sad… It seems like [The Afghan people] are just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and eh – It breaks my heart.”

 

 

 

Featured photo by Mohammad Rahmani

This article was supported by: STAND Business & Politics Editor Sean + Programme Assistant Alex

 

A diamond is forever, or is it?

A diamond is forever, or is it?

A diamond is forever, or is it?

woman holding diamond ring
Emily Murphy

16th August 2021

 

For just over two hundred years diamonds have been a universal symbol of wealth and status. Despite their discovery in India in the 4th century BCE, they only became a significantly valuable commodity in the early 1800s. After decades of strategic marketing and celebrity endorsements, diamonds have become one of the most widely recognised and sought-after precious gems. However, with continuous mining and gradually depleting resources, a new alternative must be found. So, like with almost all issues, we turn to science and the lab-based manufacturing of these ever-popular paragons. 

 

Diamonds only became a mainstream product in 1947 when De Beers, a British company that mined in South Africa launched arguably the most successful advertising campaign of all time. “A diamond is forever.” Perhaps not their intention, but that simple slogan completely changed the way in which we see diamonds. The tagline sought to create a parallel between the gem and eternal love, but the company didn’t stop there. In 1977, De Beers launched a television advertisement with the tagline: “How else could two months’ salary last forever? A diamond is forever. De Beers.” The world was hooked. While the company has had many successful campaigns, none compare to their original. It was so popular in fact, it has even found its way into the entertainment industry. Artists like Shirley Bassey or the James Bond films for example, have chosen to adapt the famous phrase for popular titles in their respective fields, namely the hit 1973 song and 1971 film (both under the title “Diamonds are Forever”). 

 

Each year they release only enough diamonds to meet the annual demand to create the illusion of scarcity.”

However, diamonds are (in reality) not special, or rare. In fact, they are the most common precious stone in existence. In the 1800s, a diamond trove was unearthed in Kimberly, South Africa. This threatened to flood the market and render the gem worthless. De Beers intervened and purchased the mine to maintain control of the global market. Each year they release only enough diamonds to meet the annual demand to create the illusion of scarcity. In reality, there seems to be an almost unending supply, all hidden beneath the veil of capitalism.

 

Despite our historic love of diamonds, it seems young people are choosing to abandon the gem due to their high price economically, environmentally, and humanitarian-wise. While these reasons made up a significant number of ‘The Economist’ questions “why aren’t millennials buying diamonds,” they are not the only reasons. One of the most controversial issues surrounding the stones are conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds. These are aptly named both because of the high injury and mortality rate of miners and the catastrophic impact they have on the environment. 

 

Thus, those who do buy the stone are opting for a lab grown alternative. These are created by placing a ‘carbon seed’ (a tiny diamond fragment) in a microwave plasma oven with a varying amount of carbon heavy gas. The gas sticks to the seed creating a plasma ball which eventually forms a diamond over a 10-to-12-week period. This is not a new technology – it dates to 1954, however, it is increasing in popularity, Forbes estimated that by 2021, lab-grown diamonds could possess 7.5 per cent of the $80 billion global market. This process can reduce the final cost of the diamond by up to 40 per cent. These eco-friendly, conflict-free alternatives could become a significant contender in the jewellery market soon. 

 

The question remains though, if there is significant demand for this product, and awareness is growing without aggressive advertising campaigns, then why are jewellers so slow to include lab-grown diamonds in their collections? It seems that it mostly falls to the diamond companies’ reluctance to share the market. If demand continues to grow, they may be left with very little choice. It seems that millennials and Generation Z love the  lab-grown alternative, so they might be here to stay. Time will tell.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Jeremy Bishop

This article was supported by: STAND Business & Politics Editor Sean + Programme Assistant Alex