Friday, October 14, 2011

Quaker Council for European Affairs

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Gerry and I met with Martina (left) and Liz (right) at the Quaker House in Brussels.  They have been co-directors of Quaker House here for 10 years and in September 2012 are planning to “retire” and return to London, meaning that they are committed to not taking on any projects for a year.

Prisons: They wrote a “green paper” recently regarding the conditions of prisons in Europe.  Inhumane detention conditions prevalent in some countries are affecting the ability of countries to extradite prisoners to their country of origin via a European Arrest Warrant.  This paper was given to the EU Committee for Prevention of Torture.

Peace Tax:  There was a several year effort to allow citizens to contribute to a Peace Tax fund instead of war and military funding.  They couldn’t get any politicians to even give them an audience, so they will wrap up the project with a report on the efforts so far.  There is an organization, Conscience Peace Tax International, which we might contact regarding this issue.
Conscience Objection:  the War Resisters International report on Conscience Objection has been updated.  There is a European Bureau for Conscience Objection.  Martina and Liz have worked with the “Connections” group in Offenbach, Germany.  Check the web site (Quaker Council for European Affairs) for further information.

Prisoners and former prisoners:
·         There is a new, very successful program of “Circles of Support and Accountability for Sex Offenders”.  The idea is that the sex offender is surrounded by at least 6 people.  They meet weekly to discuss his ideas and experiences.  If he is tempted to re-offend, he has the phone #s of the support people, who are all volunteers.  For these circles, there has been no re-offending.  However, there are not enough volunteers to expand the program further.

·         The European Union has a road map for prisoners’ rights.  However for some reason the UK and Denmark have been allowed to opt out of the program.  It is hoped that this will change.

Israel / Palestine:
They wrote a discussion paper based on workshops in 2010.  One of the issues is treatment of Israeli privileges and goods within the pre-1967 borders versus the occupied settlement lands.  This would apply to any boycott, divest and sanction ideas as well as preferential import tax treatment for goods.  In order to further investigate how border agents apply the law, the Quakers have requested a list of postal codes for pre-1967 lands and for occupied settlement lands.

Security Research funds:
There is a European Research Framework which has a large budget, historically 53 billion Euros (I think per year), from 2003 – 2007. However in 2007 the amount increased to include “Security Research”, a new theme, which was written by the arms industry.  Israel can apply for funding and now has 23 big projects including computing, surveillance, drones, first responder kits, airports, etc and Israelis lead 6 or 6 of these projects, far more than any other country.  The European Director General for Enterprise and Industry controls this fund as opposed to the other research funds.  This group also controls the security/military and space programs.  They said they want Israel to be included.  One interesting aspect of the research programs is that unless the information would endanger the national security of a country, the research must be shared.

Rachel Tansey, the policy officer at the Quaker House, wrote a very compeling article, “SustainableGrowth or Growth versus Sustainability”.

Powerful tool:
Form coalitions with other NGOs – like a working group – facilitate connections between groups and concepts, and then lead the new group.  This gives you a bigger influence on the group and facilitates more radical ideas.  Eventually new leaders must take over.
Two examples are the European Peace Building Liaison Office and the Human Rights and Democracy Network.

Concluding topics:
Liz and Martina plan to eventually retire to the Quaker Retirement Home, in part funded by the Joseph Roundtree Charitable Trust.
QCA is similar to Friends Committee on National Legislation more than American Friends Service Committee.

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