News in brief

Buckling down

On 5 November, the government bowed to pressure from 150,000 members of the 38 Degrees campaign group, who signed an online petition in the 24 hours before a vote in the house of lords that could have paved the way for public forests to be sold off to property developers.

As a result of the pressure, the infrastructure bill included explicit protection for state-owned forests.

Baroness Janet Royall, Labour leader in the lords, whose forest-protecting amendment had previously been resisted by the government, said afterwards:
‘This is a big victory for everyone that has campaigned to protect our forests. The 38 Degrees petition was a vital part of that. I’m grateful to all who showed their support.’

Setting up

A year of intense campaigning against fracking in Wales resulted in the government flatly rejecting a petition for a moratorium. On 17 October, the first anti-fracking protest camp in Wales was set up near Wrexham.

Borras and Holt Community Protection Camp needs support:

Paying out

On 24 October, the Metropolitan police agreed to pay £425,000 to a woman whose child was fathered by Bob Lambert, who she did not know was an undercover police officer.

In a statement released by her solicitors, ‘Jacqui’ said: ‘The legal case is finished but there is no closure for me. There is the money, but there is no admission by the police that what they did was wrong, no meaningful apology and most importantly no answers.

‘My world fell apart on June 14, 2012, when after 24 years I discovered my first true love, the father of my first child, was a police officer paid to spy on me and my friends.’

Police Spies Out of Lives support the legal action by eight women deceived into long-term intimate relationships with undercover police who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaigns:

Edging in

In November, the activist-led grant-making group, the Edge Fund, held its first ‘Forum for Radical Sharing’ in Manchester, one of several initiatives coming out of a review earlier in the year.

Among other things, Edge has amended its policy on faith-based groups, and now says individuals and groups with a religious purpose are welcome to apply, but Edge does not fund ‘any activity, initiative or project where the primary aim is to promote religion’.

New Philanthropy Capital recently named Edge as one of 10 innovations in global philanthropy that they’d like to see replicated and scaled up in the UK.

Nepal deadline

Since abolishing its monarchy and electing a constitutional assembly in 2008, after a brutal decade-long civil war, Nepal has been struggling to agree a new constitutional framework.

The political parties look unlikely to meet the latest deadline for passing a new constitution, 22 January 2015.

The two main political parties, the United Marxist-Leninist (UML) communists and the Nepali Congress (NC), were, at the time of going to press, continuing to resist setting up an ethnic identity-based federation. Instead, the UML-NC want to limit the number of provinces to a maximum of seven, keep a parliamentary system, hold first-past-the-post elections, and have a supreme court.

The UCPN-M Maoists and their 22-party coalition instead favour a decentralised system of 10-14 provinces based on ethnicity, a directly-elected president, proportional representation, and a constitutional court.

The UML-NC coalition very nearly has the two-thirds of the constituent assembly needed to pass ‘their’ constitution.

The Maoists have threatened to return to street protests (and possibly violence) if the establishment parties do not use consensus rather than voting.

Western Sahara

In mid-November, despite the Moroccan security forces, women demonstrated publicly in Laayoune, capital of occupied Western Sahara, against Kosmos Energy’s plans to drill for oil offshore.

Earlier in November, a group of Sahrawi prisoners wrote to christian churches in Texas, USA, where Kosmos is based, explaining the appalling human rights situation of people in Western Sahara, and the illegal use of Sahrawi natural resources by Morocco. If Kosmos found oil in Sahrawi waters, ‘it will give the Moroccan government even more incentive to stop us from exercising our right to self-determination’, and could ‘aggravate an already horrific situation’, the prisoners wrote.

Kurdish peace

The Kurdish peace process in Turkey has had a rocky road over the last two months, partly because of the Turkish government’s refusal to help defend ‘Rojava’, the Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria, from attack by the al-Qa’eda splinter group ISIS. Turkish Kurds launched massive protests calling on the government of president Erdogan to take action. Around 30 people died before Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK Kurdish guerrilla army, called a halt to the demonstrations on 9 October.

The government has laid out a draft road map for the peace process that includes an amnesty for PKK fighters, and set up two institutions Öcalan had asked for: the settlement process council, and the inter-agency monitoring and coordination commissions.