Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.

Videos about Campaigning & protest

Live blogs about Campaigning & protest

Patrick Alley talk

Patrick Alley featureAnd so to our last talk, from Patrick Alley of Global Witness, recipients of the TED Prize.

He’s here to talk about a perfect crime, involving a whole host of shady characters. Some are obviously shady. Others wear suits and look like you and me. They destroy habitats, and people’s lives and lifestyles. They are involved in industrial logging in the Tropics.

Logging can be divided into criminal and legitimate, much the same except that the latter has better PR.

Patrick visited Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge return, earning millions of dollars from the trade in illegal logging. Later he was in Liberia, where Charles Taylor used income from logging to prop up his regime. Taylor doled out the rainforests to a coterie of business men. As the logs and money flowed out, the arms flowed in. When Taylor’s timber trade was subject to UN sanctions, the business men escaped intact, or carried on in the Congo.

What makes the crime so perfect is that the shady characters are propped up by less shady characters.

The big myth is that industrial logging in the Tropics brings sustainable development. It is neither sustainable nor does it bring development. It has created the euphemism “sustainable forest management”. In the last decade, Cambodia has lost its forests faster than anywhere, and a generation of farmers has been forced off the land. This despite the World Bank’s involvement. The war ended in 2003 in Liberia, but the problems haven’t been solved, and discontent is growing again. But if sustainable forest management can’t work in a small country, where can it work?

In order to sell the myth, the logging industry requires people to buy in. In Sarawak, a few have become rich using loans from international bank HSBC. The WWF believe logging is inevitable, and want to try to regulate it. But active members of the WWF scheme are involved in illegal logging and human rights abuse. The FSC rainforest logo on loo roll is also problematic. It’s another tool used by loggers to cover their tracks.

Forests are the world’s lungs, regulating water and climate systems. They are home to about half the world’s biodiversity. We can do something, if we regard the rainforests as a fundamental part of the biosphere that gives more buy azithromycin and cefixime value than the financial return. Brazil has recognised indigenous rights, returning power from vested interests to the local communities, a step in the right direction. Similar smaller steps are being made in Liberia. Some rich countries are paying poor countries not to cut the forests down, but more money is needed.

What can and should be done? End impunity, and prosecute the criminals. Stop governments financing destruction using our taxes. Campaign against banks bankrolling the destruction. Encourage WWF to do their job. They need to condemn industrial logging straight out. Reduce our soaring consumption.

Otherwise, we will all, loggers included, become victims of the perfect crime.

Bandi Mbubi talk

Bandi Mbubi 2014 featureBandi spoke at TEDxExeter 2012, and is back to update us about his work with the Congo Calling campaign. The campaign was a direct result of the support following his talk.

He is reminding us of the impacts of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo has gold, diamonds, tin, tungsten and tantalum, which are vital components of mobile technology. Congo should be wealthy, but this wealth has become a curse. The profit from the trade in conflict minerals has financed much of the war.

At the moment, there is an international peace process in the Congo. There are signs of hope, but the suffering of ordinary people continues. What can we do?

Congo Calling encourages individuals to lobby for and buy fairtrade technology, and lobby their governments; it encourages governments to develop and enforce legislation; and it encourages technology companies to purchase their minerals from conflict-free sources.

Our actions are beginning to make a difference. released Bandi’s talk on the same day that Apple released the iPhone 5. Bandi has asked us all to take our mobile phones out of our pockets. He wants each of us to ask our phone company what they are doing to source conflict-free minerals; and ask our MP re what they are doing to support legislation.

Sarah El Ashmawy talk

Sarah El Ashmawy featureSarah is a minority rights activist and Egyptian. In recent years she has been trying to reclaim her sense of identity as an Egyptian, instead of listening to the pernicious message that she should pursue her rights as an individual, not as a member of a people.

As a student, she was talking to a friend about the revolution in Tunisia, and didn’t think it would happen in Egypt… but of course she was wrong. She left the country one week before the revolution, and then had to watch from the sidelines, and had a love-hate relationship with it! She realised she had been disconnected from her country for 20 years, and decided she would return and have random conversations about the revolution. She discovered others also had this bitter-sweet response. One contact described how the government took him in for his anti-regime writings. Until the uprisings in Tahrir Square. 

Before the revolution, everyone was stuck in their categories in a pyramidal structure, and everyone else was excluded. Everyone felt excluded, not matter where they were in the structure. So all agreed they wanted the end of the regime. But the revolution didn’t mean the end of exclusion. The military took over, and trades unions and other groups responded violently. Sarah’s own government (her mother, in the audience!) didn’t want her and her friends to join in. But they went to Tahrir Square and shouted and screamed anyway.

Sarah was in her car when she heard of President Morsi’s decree on the constitution, which protected his back.  That is, the new president had excluded her again from decision-making, and at that point she hit rock bottom. She says this is the sort of government that sows the seeds of violence. People need to find a place and fulfil their own potential, without having to trade freedoms and rights to criticise governments and get involved.

She believes that democracy starts at the margins. Countries need to look inside themselves, and even beyond inequality, to engagement of the people. We need blunt, honest dialogue about all the things we are doing wrong. As a positive example, there is now an electronic map of sexual harrassment. So yes, she still believes that the revolution will succeed.