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Commonwealth Matters The termly online newsletter for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Autumn/Winter 2008

Contents Motivation with Sarah Orr – Page 2

This issue of Commonwealth Matters, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies online newsletter, celebrates the multidisciplinary activities of its staff, students, fellows and graduates.

Obama & The Commonwealth – Page 4 Working the ICwS Network – Page 5 Black Britain Seminar Series – Page 7 Dates for your Diary – Page 8 ICwS Open Day 2009 – Page 8 Profiling CHRI – Page 9 New Appointments – Page 10 Farewell to Staff – Page 10 Alumni News – Page 10

We hope you enjoy reading Commonwealth Matters. Please forward any comments, suggestions or ideas for future articles to marked ‘Newsletter’.


Motivation with Sarah Orr I am a continuing student on the MA Understanding and Securing Human Rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. I have been involved with a UK based NGO called Motivation for some time and in November 2008 I assisted on one of their new overseas projects –helping improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries in an IDP camp in Uganda. Motivation work in a number of developing countries throughout the world, but through the MA I had learned a lot about the political situation in Northern Uganda and so I was particularly interested to learn they were piloting this project there. The project consisted of a two week field trip to Gulu in Northern Uganda to work with spinally injured people displaced by the 20+ year war that has been going on there. Over 1.5 million people are still living in camps because their villages were destroyed by the rebels during the fighting. A ceasefire in 2007 means the area is now relatively peaceful and there are many aid agencies running rehabilitation programmes in the area, and people are gradually returning to their homes. We were working with a local DPO, Gulu Disabled Persons’ Union, to provide training to people with spinal cord injuries. The hospital treatment people receive varies widely and some people receive little or no information on how to manage their injuries. The resulting degree of paralysis varies widely depending on the injury and so each individual’s needs are unique. As well as healthcare issues, we also helped people learn various other things such as different ways to use crutches as well as certain wheelchair skills depending on the type of wheelchair they had been given. Some people had even made their own wheelchairs to manage the local terrain most efficiently. The living conditions in the camps are very basic and this makes life even more difficult for anyone with a disability. Before the start of the training course, we visited the local hospital which has a ward specifically for people with spinal cord injuries. Only a lucky few get treated on this ward. Just getting to the hospital is a challenge because of the road conditions (vehicles and ambulances frequently get stuck in the 1metre deep potholes) and it is a local joke that people’s injuries will only be worse by the time they have made the journey to get to the spinal ward. The acute ward has 32 beds and the entire specialised staff team consists of one occupational therapist, one physio assistant and one nurse. Once patients are ready, they are moved to a rehabilitation ward and then they go ‘home’ to the camp they are living in. Some people arrived to the training course without a wheelchair. Others had wheelchairs but no cushion and the types of chairs varied from imported wheelchairs, to plastic chairs with wheels somehow attached, to large 3 wheel trikes which work best on the local terrain. Without exception, everyone we met had been directly affected by the war, for example through losing family members, disrupted education because their school had been burned down, or friends who had been kidnapped by the rebels and never returned. Over half of the spinally injured people attending the training course had war related injuries such as gun shots or a road accident due to landmines. Others had been paralysed by diseases such as TB and measles. Despite the extreme trauma these people have been through in recent years and the hardship of everyday life in northern Uganda everyone had a lot of fun during the training and people went home with new friends as well as improved knowledge of how to manage their injuries.


In early 2009, GDPU are planning to visit each participant in their homes to assess the impact the training course has had on their everyday lives and to look at ways they can provide additional support. They are also planning to run further training courses to other people with spinal cord injuries, but the extent to which they can provide this depends on the ever-present issue of sufficient funding. If anyone would like to know more about the project or about Motivation in general, please contact me on Sarah Orr


Obama looks forward to working with Commonwealth Many of us watched history in the making on 4th November 2008, when Barack Obama became the first African-American to become President of the United States of America, motivating a new generation of voters under his slogan “Yes We Can”. As the world watches the new President, what will this mean for the relationship between the U.S and the Commonwealth? The piece below is taken from the Commonwealth Secretariat webpage :( Barack Obama, the new President of the United States of America, is looking forward to working with the Commonwealth over his next four years in office. In a letter to Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, he wrote: “I am confident that we can work together in a spirit of peace and friendship to build a more secure world.” “I look forward to working with you in that effort, and in promoting good relations between the United States and the Commonwealth,” he added. Mr Obama was sworn in as the 44th President last month on 20 January 2009. In his inauguration speech he acknowledged that while the many challenges facing the world may be new, “those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.” The Secretary-General called Mr Obama’s election “a resounding affirmation of America’s commitment to the democratic process and powers of renewal.” “It was equally a tribute to Mr Obama’s inspirational qualities of leadership and what he represents to the hopes and aspirations of millions,” he said, adding that the Commonwealth is particularly proud of the President’s links with Kenya – and therefore with the Commonwealth. Mr Sharma continued: “The United States and the Commonwealth share many fundamental values and objectives based on democracy and freedoms, and I look forward to continuing to working in partnership to promote them.” The Secretary-General is expected to visit the US this September, when he will address a meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers which is held each year in New York in the wings of the annual United Nations General Assembly.


Working the ICwS Network On February 11th 2008, Guy Njike (MA Human Rights, 2004) went to his monthly appointment with the Borders and Immigration Agency. This had become routine for Guy since he had applied for political asylum on entering the UK nine years ago but on this occasion he was arrested and informed he would be deported back to Cameroon within days. This was how he found out that his application for asylum had failed. On hearing that Guy was being held, friends he had made while studying at the University of London were outraged and responded immediately by stepping up the campaign to stop his deportation. Nine months later- with the support of this campaign- Guy has successfully fought the deportation order with the Home Office conceding a judicial review and ordering his case to be considered as a new application. Guy Njike arrived in the UK in 1999 after escaping from Cameroon: as a member of the political opposition (the Social Democratic Front), he had been arrested and tortured before his escape. Guy feared that if he returned to Cameroon he could expect more of the same treatment, consequently when he arrived in London he applied for political asylum. His initial application was refused in 2004 but he entered another application in 2005 with new supporting evidence. He heard nothing about this application until the time of his arrest in February, when he was told the new supporting evidence had been rejected without even being considered. Even though he had been living in a state of limbo during the 10 years in which his applications were being considered, Guy had tried to establish a life for himself in London. He had worked for Selfridges since 2004 and volunteered at a number of organisations, but it was while studying for his MA in Human Rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies that he made many of the friends who would campaign so hard to stop his deportation. When he was first arrested, his friends used their knowledge and experience in the field of human rights to contact anyone they thought might be able to help. Even though experts offered the opinion that the imminence of the deportation meant it was unlikely it could be stopped; his friends refused to give up. When the incumbent MA students at ICS heard about the campaign, many offered their time and support to help an ICS alumnus. With this increase in numbers, ICS students and alumni managed to organise two protests (the second outside parliament) and with the resulting press coverage, public support grew. A petition expressing support for Guy currently has nearly 2,000 signatures and the facebook group has over 1,000 members. Guy is also supported by his MP, Jeremy Corbyn, and Lord Joffe, who defended Nelson Mandela in the famous Rivonia trial. Joffe appealed to the Home Secretary saying: “I arrived in the UK in 1965 as a political exile from South Africa and was allowed to remain here. I naturally have particular empathy with others who, with equal grounds for remaining, are denied


that opportunity. The Home Office letters conclude with the slogan "Building a safe, just and tolerant society". A decision to allow Mr Njike to remain would be entirely consistent with this.” After superb work by his legal team, Guy learned that the Home Office had conceded the judicial review in June. Although I like to think that this was partly due to them at last appreciating the value of Guy’s case, we also believe the show of public support played a big role. So this is in part a story of the power of protests- a reminder to students that their voice can make a difference. But this is also a story of the friendships that can be made both while you are studying and afterwards with alumni. Of course we do not know what the ending to this story will befor Guy the fight to win asylum continues- but he now has support from friends, both old and new, who believe that anything is possible. By Jo Easton – Jo is an Alumni of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, graduating from the MA Understanding & Securing Human Rights programme in 2008. As this newsletter was going to press we received the following good news from Kirrily Pells (working on the Stop the Deportation of Guy Campaign): We have heard that Guy Njike has been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Some of you will remember Guy who was a student on the MA in Human Rights 2003-04 and many others of you have joined in over the past five years in campaigning in support of Guy's asylum claim. Guy fled to the UK in 1999 after his involvement in opposition politics in Cameroon led him to being imprisoned and tortured. We can't thank you all enough for everything you have done to support the campaign over the years. This outcome would have been impossible without your support. Please accept Guy's deepest thanks for all your support and encouragement.


Forthcoming Events Black Britain Seminar Series It is with great pleasure that the Institute of Commonwealth Studies can report the successful launch of a new seminar series, Black Britain Seminar Series, chaired by Senior Research Fellow Marika Sherwood. Six seminars have been scheduled between January and June, starting at 6pm, and are open to the public: Date 21st January 2009

Speaker Hakim Adi, Middlesex University

Seminar Title The Negro Welfare Association 1931-1937

Location Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS)

19th February 2009

Julia Bush, Northants Black History Association & University of Northampton

Sharing the Past: community historians at work

Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS)

18th March 2009

Miranda Kaufmann, Christ Church, Oxford

The African Presence in Britain 1500-1640

15th April 2009

Maghan Keita, Villanova University

The return of the Black Knight: the African in the construction medieval and renaissance European identity

ST273, Stewart House – 31 Russell Square Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS)

13th May 2009

David Clover, Librarian, ICwS

Dispersed or destroyed: archives, the West Indian Students' Union and public memory

ST273, Stewart House – 31 Russell Square

10th June 2009

Cliff Pereira

Black and Asian Community voice and Local History The Bexley example

STB6, Stewart House – 31 Russell Square

As well as launching the above seminar series, ICwS continues to operate the established Canadian, Caribbean, and Centre for International Human Rights seminar series.


DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Friday, 1st May 2009, Recovering Stolen Generations, Land, and Culture: Indigenous Rights & Truth Commissions ( Thursday 11th and Friday 12th June 2009, Easier Said Than Done: 20 years of children’s rights between law and practice (

Caribbean Seminar Series Wednesday 25th March 2009, Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment, Peter Hallward (Middlesex University) and Paul Sutton (London Metropolitan University) Wednesday 3rd June 2009, When and why did Haiti fall behind? From Independence to US Occupation, Victor Bulmer-Thomas For further information on these please contact Troy Rutt (Events & Publicty Officer) at or 020 7862 8853 or alternatively check the events listing at both and

Open Day 2009 The Institute for Commonwealth Studies was pleased to host another successful Open Evening on Wednesday 18th February 2009. The Open Evening offered visitors the opportunity to look around our library, learn about the programmes on offer at ICwS and meet staff and students alike. We were fortunate to have representatives from NGOs (Womankind Worldwide and Progressio), University of London Careers, CHRI and CPSU. The Open Evening began at 4pm and was followed by a wine and food reception at 5.30pm. Feedback has been positive and we would like to thank everyone involved, staff, students and visitors alike, for making it such a success. Further information about applying for our courses can be found on our website:


Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international non governmental organisation working for the practical realisation of human rights across the Commonwealth. It was founded in 1987 in London by a group of Commonwealth Associations which believed that while Commonwealth countries shared a common set of values and legal principles from which to promote human rights, little had been done to set human rights standards and to promote a culture of human rights within the Commonwealth. In 1993, CHRI moved its headquarters from London to New Delhi, India in keeping with its goal of periodic rotation of the HQ around the Commonwealth main regions. Currently, CHRI operates from three offices, each with its own regional focus. The New Delhi (India) office and headquarters is pan-Commonwealth but its project work focuses on Asia and the Pacific. The Accra (Ghana) office is responsible for member states in Africa while the London (UK) office covers the Commonwealth Secretariat and Western hemisphere members. The three offices work in synergy to achieve shared goals. CHRI’s objectives are to promote awareness of and adherence to the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other internationally recognised human rights instruments. CHRI believes that while the promotion and protection of human rights is a core responsibility of governments, the active participation of civil society acting in concert is vital to ensuring rule of law and realisation of human rights. The pan-Commonwealth nature of CHRI’s constituent groups – journalists, lawyers, doctors, legal educators, trade unionists and parliamentarians – ensures for it both an international and a national presence. These strategic constituencies highlight issues, bring expertise and insights into local situations and, acting collaboratively, seek to catalyse public policy changes in favour of human rights. It conducts public education programmes and workshops, policy dialogues and comparative research around its priority areas. CHRI’s work is currently based on three programmes: Access to Information, Access to Justice, and Human Rights Advocacy. CHRI’s Access to Information Programme is designed to provide legislators, advocates and the public with resources and training on Commonwealth and international principles and standards on the Right to Information. The Access to Justice Programme involves two core themes: police reforms and prison reforms. CHRI’s work on the police focuses on achieving police accountability and reform throughout the Commonwealth, while its work on prison reforms aims to check, correct, and prevent human rights violations through training, monitoring and community involvement in prisons. The Human Rights Advocacy Programme adopts a multi-pronged approach so as to comprehensively highlight Commonwealth human rights concerns. It targets national structures of the Commonwealth member states as well as international and regional bodies. CHRI continually draws attention to progress and setbacks in human rights in Commonwealth countries through its reports to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) and periodic fact finding missions. Since 2002, it has held Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and in July 2005 was granted Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.


New Appointments Professor Warwick Gould has been appointed Acting Director, in addition to his role as Director of the Institute of English Studies, whilst a permanent replacement for Professor Richard Crook is found. He has been Professor of English Literature at the University of London since 1995. He holds this post on full-time secondment from Royal Holloway College. We welcome Professor Gould to the Institute. Jane Kirby joins us today on a twelve month contract on an archives cataloguing project funded by the Vice Chancellors Development Fund. Jane has just completed a project at the Wellcome Library and will be working on cataloguing the Catholic Institute for International Relations collections currently held at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies (material relating to Southern Africa and Sri Lanka) and the Institute for the Study of the Americas (material relating to Latin America). Due to the forthcoming moves Jane will have her office at the Senate House Library but will also be spending some time at both Institutes in the initial phases of the project. As a part of the project there will be a one day conference planned for late 2009 looking at the role of NGOs in international development and the records and archives of development NGOs.

Staff who have left Jasvinder Kaur-Hunjan, Finance and Resources Officer, left us January 2009. We want to thank Jas, as she was known to us, for her time here and wish her all the best for her future endeavours. The stationery cupboard will never look the same again! Professor Richard Crook, Director of the Institute, retired at the end of December 2008. Richard has had a long association with the Institute; he was a Junior Research Fellow in the early 1970s and wrote his doctoral thesis in a room under the rafters atop the Institute. Richard has taken up a position as Professorial Fellow in the Governance Team at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

Alumni The Institute of Commonwealth Studies is aware that occasionally you may receive notifications of events or jobs that you don’t wish to receive, or that you do not receive certain notifications that you would like to. In an effort to get our databases up-to-date we are asking ALL our Alumni to update their information (even if you recently submitted a form – as the Alumni form has been updated). Please return all forms to Troy Rutt (Events & Publicity Officer) at Should you have any questions about this do not hesitate to e-mail me (see above) or call on 020 7862 8853. The form can be found on the Alumni web page at:


Commonwealth Matters: Autumn/Winter 2008  

This issue of Commonwealth Matters, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies online newsletter, celebrates the multi-disciplinary activities of...