Don’t Forget the Women of Sudan

Below is the transcript of a recent email exchange between the Next Century Foundation’s Education Officer, Mrs Veronica Morris, and her Member of Parliament, Mr Derek Thomas. Mrs Morris implored Mr Thomas to consider offering asylum to Sudanese refugees in light of the horrific accounts of what these people are going through. Both Mrs Morris’ original email and Mr Thomas’ response are transcribed below. We felt they might be of interest:

Dear Derek Thomas,

I am one of your constituents. I was simply horrified to hear of what is happening to the ladies in both South Sudan and the Darfur region of Sudan. It is not even safe for them to go outside in case they are kidnapped or raped. And a colleague of mine has been there and she says what is happening to those ladies is unimaginable. Now we live in a lovely part of the country. Is there any chance of letting some Sudanese refugees come as asylum seekers to this area? I think it would be great for the country to do something like that. This friend said that up to 1,500 women get raped every week.

The Penzance based Next Century Foundation that we work with had an interesting meeting about Sudan and that really opened our eyes to what was going on there and that forgotten part of the world really needs help because nobody talks about Sudan at all.

Another problem is the international banking sanctions against Sudan proper. There is no real hope for the women of Darfur unless those sanctions are lifted because there will never be development. That area really needs development so I would ask for that.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Veronica Morris


Mr Thomas responded:

Dear Veronica,

Thank you for your email regarding the plight of those in South Sudan and the ongoing refugee crisis. I can only apologise for my delayed response.

I too am horrified by the sickening accounts of the brutal disregard for human rights being displayed in South Sudan, especially toward women, as you rightly raise. I am heartened that in the 18 months since Omar al-Bashir was removed from leadership, Sudan has been set on a good trajectory. Progress is never as fast or as complete as we would like, but the trajectory is solid. Some of the legislative changes brought in so far to end the oppressive legislation of the Bashir era are world class in their scope. I will draw your attention to the fact that female genital mutilation has now been criminalised across the country and the UK was instrumental in funding programmes to help women speak out against this practice on behalf of their daughters. Women have also been given the right to travel abroad with their children without producing proof of permission from their husbands. Whilst these seem like small steps to those of us in more privileged positions, they are giant for places like Sudan where basic human rights have been denied for many years. 

In June of this year the Government committed to pledge £150 million to help the economy, including £75 million of bilateral support and £80 million for the World Bank and IMF’s work on economic reforms. This bilateral support covers not only vital humanitarian assistance but vital funding for health, clean water, media freedom, social programmes, new infrastructure, Government reforms, and, in addition, the coronavirus response.

I appreciate the growing concerns around the international sanctions imposed on Sudan these were put in place, appropriately, because of previous state sponsored terrorism. However, this new civilian-led Government led by Prime Minister Hamdok has taken steps to agree reparations. Sudan has been greatly hampered by being on the United States state sponsor of terrorism list, and I am delighted to inform you that as of December 14th that has been rescinded. ( With this movement from the US, Sudan is in a much better place to attract global investment and move toward the development you are asking for. 

Now to your call for increased Asylum support in Cornwall. The Government has committed for 2020/21 for 5000 global refugees to come into the UK. This extends the previous Vulnerable Persons Scheme working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to wider geographical areas to meet more need. The Government has already highlighted Africa – particularly Sudan, the Congo, and Somalia as having the highest need and work is being done to attempt to meet it. The Government is also committed to expanding this work with local communities. It may be helpful to reach out to Cornwall Council resettlement support ( who are in the best place to answer your questions. In principle I welcome the desire to help these people on a more personal level and will be seeking further advice on what we can do here in this constituency.
Thank you for raising this with me.
 Yours sincerely,

Derek Thomas MP
For West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives)

UNHRC Submission: Remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list

The Sudan was first placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorist List in August of 1993 when General Omar al-Bashir became president. The sanctions that accompanied this placement included restrictions on assistance from the United States of America, a ban on defense exports and sales, controls over exports of dual use items, and other miscellaneous international financial restrictions including those on funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These restrictions were implemented with the purpose of limiting funding to terrorist groups present in the Sudan. Nevertheless, the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019 has brought a sense of international hope for the future of the Sudan. In view of recent developments within the region, the Next Century Foundation’s U.N. Liaison Officer, Katya Cox-Kruger, calls for the urgent removal of Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in a written submission to the 45th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

The United States of America has now decided that it will indeed remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. But words are one thing. We still await action. We hope that this may be done by Presidential decree in order that things may proceed swiftly. Katya’s oral intervention to the UN is above.

Read the written intervention in full – The urgent need for the removal of the Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list

UN Oral Intervention: Remove Sudan from State Sponsors of Terrorism List

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation UN Liaison Officer, Katya Cox-Kruger.

The Next Century Foundation calls for the removal of the Republic of Sudan from the United States of America’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. A sufficient level of democratization has been reached and now there is an urgent need for Sudan to access humanitarian financial aid. Resolution 2508, declared a consensus view by the UN Security Council that Sudan’s sanctions had served their purpose and Resolution 2429 reminded the world that numbers of those in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan have increased from 5.5 to 7.1 million.

The new government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is committed to seeing a more progressive and humanitarian Sudanese nation, installing a civilian cabinet and holding a democratic election in 2022. Recent progress in human rights includes the outlawing of female genital mutilation, the repeal of apostasy laws, and abolishing flogging. Sudan has also made strides in media freedom, releasing imprisoned journalists and promising an end to censorship.

Sudan has signed an agreement with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open a main office in Khartoum with field offices in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and East Sudan. The Next Century Foundation backs the swift opening of the offices in the hope that they will help to monitor the situation on the ground.

For Sudan to continue making progressive reforms, the economy needs to revive, an action that is only possible through foreign investment and funding. The Next Century Foundation suggests the monitoring of aid through an annual review of Sudan’s progress.

The Next Century Foundation, in supporting Sudan’s removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, is concerned with alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese, and facilitating a process by which peace and greater economic stability can be encouraged.

Healing the Nations – Book Now!

The Next Century Foundation’s 
Healing the Nations
Summer Conference


The Next Century Foundation is holding a ten-day online conference over the end of July and the first week of August.

Events will be taking place covering all of the Foundation’s key nations and areas.


To book, contact with details of which sessions you are planning to attend.
Sessions will run in the mode of the NCF’s successful weekly meetings, mixing input from knowledgeable speakers and key players with both breakout room and round table discussions.

This conference provides a unique opportunity to take stock of the geopolitical situation in the Middle East and beyond, and gain on-the-ground insights simply unavailable in mainstream reporting.

We would be honoured if you would join us in confronting the key issues in these countries and working towards peace and positive change through constructive discussions – just have as we have for the last three decades.

Conference Sessions
(London BST)

Thursday 30 July 
11.20 am US/UK 
3 pm Lebanon

Friday 31 July
3 pm Palestine 

Saturday 1 August
3 pm Libya

Sunday 2 August
3 pm China

Monday 3 August
11.30 am Afghanistan 
3 pm Iran 

Tuesday 4 August
11.30 am Iraq
3 pm Syria 

Wednesday 5 August
11.30 am Kashmir 
3 pm Yemen

Thursday 6 August
11.30 am Israel 
3 pm Sudan

Friday 7 August
3 pm Bahrain

Saturday 8 August
3 pm Conclusions

Image: Sunrise in San’a, Yemen taken by yeowatzup / CC BY

Possible Futures: Sudan

Joe Waters looks into the political climate, as well as potential forces for change, in Sudan – a country that emerged from dictatorial rule only one year ago. As the civilian government attempts to bring the nation into a new era of peace and prosperity, visions and possibilities intermingle with the cruel realities of the country’s situation: a lack of basic resources, hideous levels of sexual violence, paralysing international sanctions and neglect from major charities, as well as the destabilising presence of the national army. The future looks brighter than it has in decades but, to reach it, Sudan must first face the harsh challenges of the present.

On 11th April 2019, after many months of uprising, the thirty-year reign of President Omar al-Bashir finally came to an end. Five months later, the first civilian cabinet was sworn in, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The new government claims it hopes to “[put] into effect: a transitional programme that lays the foundation of a country capable of fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of its people in a way that recognizes societal collective contribution in the process of decision making; ensuring transparency, accountability and strict commitment to standards of justice and principles of human rights and social justice.”

Their aims certainly seem laudable and those in charge have a good track record. For most of the last decade, Hamdok was the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, whose staff remember him as “a diplomat, a humble man and a brilliant and disciplined mind.” Of the cabinet ministers Hamdok has appointed, six are women, including Lina al-Sheikh Mahjoub, founder of Impact Hub Khartoum, as Minister of Labour and Social Development, and Intisar Saghiroun, Professor of Archaeology, as Minister of Higher Education. The appointment of those with relevant expertise in positions of power relative to business and higher education is encouraging for the prospects of intellectual and economic reinvigoration in Khartoum. The Civilian Government clearly have positive aspirations and the wherewithal to go some way towards achieving them.

However, the positive intentions of the government are being undermined by many factors. The closest to home is Sudan’s army itself. While those at the head of the army have been replaced, the organisation remains close to those allied to the former administration. During the uprising, the army attempted to resume business as usual after the removal of Omar al-Bashir, before a civilian government could be established (this failed). Subsequently, reports say they have also announced the removal of certain cabinet ministers, independently of the civilian government, in a bid to blunt the power of the new government (these also failed). In addition, American sanctions are limiting the ability of Sudan to recover from dictatorship. America imposed sanctions on the country due to the al-Bashir government’s alleged funding of terrorist organisations. However, despite the change in government and the ceasing of this funding, restrictions on banking have not been lifted even despite other sanctions having been previously removed in 2017). Similarly, major charities such as Oxfam and Wateraid are refusing to do large-scale work in the country due to previous expelling of specific charities by the al-Bashir government (Oxfam were directly expelled) and fears for the safety of their employees.

Again, this seems unwise given that the government have been entirely replaced, since the uprising, and need support to help the many villages battling both starvation and terrible cases of Covid-19. Charities need to rethink their position on Sudan. One of the few charities who currently do work in Sudan is Kids for Kids, whose flagship project is loaning goats to communities in need. Their website details how, “Children are malnourished in every village.  Many have had no protein, minerals or vitamins for months on end which not only means lasting damage to them physically, but their IQ is reduced, often irreparably.” Given the existence of large ground water deposits in the country, this is definitely possible to combat. However, to build wells, support and donations are needed. Now is the time to re-orientate Sudan as an farming-based economy rather than relying on oil deposits, that will continue to cause environmental damage and, eventually, run out (especially given the loss of certain oil reserves in the split with South Sudan).

Perhaps the most horrific problem in Sudan is the regular use of tactical violence against women. A UN report reveals how, for example: “In 2018, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur documented 122 incidents of sexual violence involving 199 victims: 85 women, 105 girls and 9 boys in Central, South, North and West Darfur States.” The report draws attention to the fact that many women are scared to report instances of such violence, so the numbers belie a much more endemic problem. These cases fit squarely within the UN definition of “Conflict Related Sexual Violence.” Sadly, during the 2019 uprising, this phenomenon continued. Crimes such as these need to be shown to be unacceptable. If not, they will continue to proliferate. It would be a step forward for the civilian government to start putting some of the widely known perpetrators on trial. The Middle East Monitor recently reported that “according to the Sudanese news agency, the meeting between the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, and the Governor of Darfur, Abdel-Wahed Yousef, showed that “there is an official political will to fight violence based on gender”.” Given the scale of the problem, though, outside support and supervision will undoubtedly be needed to fully tackle this issue.

All in all, this is a crucial time for Sudan. Prospects for the nation are significantly better than they have been. However, they need support from the international community – both nations and charities. In the past, intervention in the Middle East notionally to bring “democracy” has been doled out by many Western countries. However, can these nations bring themselves to help a nation transition to democracy from a grassroots perspective? If not, the Covid-19 crisis risks causing the population at large to see Sudan’s moves toward democracy as a failed experiment and the impetus for change could slip away. Sudan has many natural resources (the water table, for example) and these need to be harnessed but money and aid are needed to make this happen. This is a situation in which we can all, but particularly those in power, intervene and make a difference in the present moment. Charities such as Kids for Kids, that are working in the region, need support. Governments need to be lobbied to care about the plight of Sudan’s fledgling democracy. The time to act is now. Real change is possible. Let us not squander the opportunity.

Image: Abdalla Hamdok taken by Ola A. al-Sheikh / CC BY-SA (


The youth of Sudan, the Shabab, step up to the mark

This came in today from one of our friends in Sudan: This is a post written by Opheera McDoom, she is the principle of Legacy School in Khartoum where my girls go, and a former Reuters reporter, depicting the revolution in Sudan.

Just to give those of you outside the country an idea of the atmosphere on the ground -Sudan now: Governing without a government. As you walk into the area of Khartoum now completely controlled by the young ‘revolutionaries’ down town, you see the difference.

Street outside: full of rubbish with plastic bags strewn across the roads. Street inside: clean of rubbish – bags to put your garbage placed strategically around and young men with long hair and skinny jeans roaming around, picking up trash and encouraging others to help.

Overnight as the crowds thin out, they wash the roads in teams. People arranging prayer areas and ensuring privacy to do so. Volunteers organising checkpoints every few metres to ensure no one gets through with weapons. Women search women and men search men. “We apologise for the search brothers and sisters. This is for your own safety and your brother’s safety” is the refrain repeated to anyone moving through.

A pharmacy run by young volunteer pharmacists to dispense medication to those who need it. Medicine provided by companies and individuals for free. Two blood donation trucks to ensure those injured in the protests obtain the blood they need.

People collecting cash contributions and bags of money left at the side of the road for anyone to take if they need money to get home. Shifts organised – the ‘day revolutionaries’ go home at night after the ‘night revolutionaries’ arrive to take over. Tents set up and run by volunteers to arrange cash, water and food donations.

Traditional Sudanese hospitality not forgotten – anyone visiting MUST drink tea or water. No cars allowed in unless you’re bringing donations – water, drinks, food. No exceptions or ‘mujamala’ even for foreign diplomats – the U.S. Charge D’Affaires was stopped outside when he came to visit.

Street children being fed and looked after – included in this new society. Group parties on every corner singing nationalist Sudanese songs and performing traditional dances.

Security? Taken care of. Makeshift blockades of bricks and borrowed razor wire block the roads to stop any attacks at night after a few failed but violent attempts to forcibly disperse the sit-in. Missing the football? Supporters sent a huge screen to watch the last big Barcelona match.

The roads in Sudan are normally chaotic and, during a black out, the traffic police (if they appear), can hinder more than they help. But the roads leading to the army HQ have been taken over by the people who are happily directing huge volumes of traffic and hundreds of parked cars

Children are given flags and biscuits, carried on shoulders so they can see above the throngs of people. Birthday parties, weddings – you name it, it’s happening right there in the street. Christian Sudanese Coptics holding fabric shades over the heads of their Muslim brothers while they pray under the hot sun.

Without any ‘leaders’ whatsoever, these young Sudanese managed to effectively run this sit-in, this mini ‘state’ within the capital, and do so politely, without infighting, ego or provocation. Instead humour, cooperation, unity and solidarity are the order of the day. The Sudanese people have a long and proud history of peaceful change.

Stay proud.

Sudan violence continues tonight – demonstrators dead

Reports are coming in from desperately concerned NCF members in Khartoum tonight. Demonstrators are besieged in Buri neighborhood at this moment. Seven have been shot dead thus far this evening. Demonstrators sought refuge in the houses of residents but armed militia has been going in after them. Many are being arrested and being tortured, including the mothers of some of the demonstrators.

NCF members in Khartoum are appealing for the intervention of the British Foreign Office whom they regard as having a historic responsibility. They are also begging the world’s press to take an interest in the catastrophe in Sudan.

The current demonstrations in the Sudan call for the downfall of the government headed by president Omar Al-Bashir. They have been going on for days now and the government response has been characterised by increasing violence against the peaceful demonstrators.

President Al-Bashir has not responded to the demands of the demonstrators calling those that oppose him, “mice”.

What is astonishing is the low level of interest being shown in the mainstream international media in the events in the Sudan. We do not understand it.

Encouraging National Dialogue in South Sudan in the Hope of Peace

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 13th of March 2018. Interactive Dialogue on Item 4, South Sudan

Mr President, the Next Century Foundation wishes to speak today about encouraging peaceful and inclusive dialogue for South Sudan and appeals to the United Nations to promote this dialogue. The human cost of the long-running Civil War in the Republic of South Sudan has been catastrophic. Millions of people have been displaced, millions face starvation and even famine and hundreds of thousands have been killed. Progressive steps and a national dialogue are imperative in bringing an end to the human suffering this Civil War has caused.

The Next Century Foundation strongly believes that national dialogue is in the interest of those who wish to see peace in South Sudan. Such dialogue should not be restricted in any way and should be inclusive to all those who are party to the conflict. Therefore, whilst we acknowledge the efforts that have been made via the January and February 2018 establishment of peace talks between the government and opposition delegations, we believe it is important that the former Vice President Riek Machar is included. The perceived opposition leader is currently in exile in South Africa and his access to the South Sudanese peace process is incredibly limited despite being a long-standing key figure in the country’s politics and the Civil War. The NCF believes that it would be beneficial for a national dialogue to include the former Vice President so that all sides can work cohesively to address the great issues facing South Sudan and to finally bring an end to the suffering of the South Sudanese people. The Next Century Foundation calls upon the Government of South Africa to stop its grossly counterproductive detention of South Sudan’s Vice President, an act which is both unethical and illegal.

Despite the push for peace talks and dialogue, there have been continued difficulties in moving the talks forward. The African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on International Development and the UN have asserted that “measures should be taken against the so-called spoilers of peace and negotiation”. Inflammatory and controversial decisions and actions are not conducive to progress and have the potential to hinder the peace process. We urge all parties to observe and respect the December ceasefire. Machar’s spokesperson has recently been sentenced to death by the South Sudanese government for alleged treason, an act which of itself is a violation of the ceasefire agreement and has contributed to tensions.

We understand that the situation in South Sudan is complex and difficult, but we consider peace to lie in the nation’s future. This will require international support and commitment and, most importantly, the commitment and participation of all South Sudanese factions in the realisation of a progressive national dialogue. Thank you.

Don’t Forget Me

And, sir, it is no little thing to make mine eyes to sweat compassion”, (William Shakespeare, Coriolanus).

This is my last blog post for The Next Century Foundation. During my time at the NCF, I addressed several hot issues, speaking about different situations and topics, even very controversial ones, which have sometimes generated harsh reactions. I suppose it is inevitable if you are speaking about politics, human rights, dictators, victims or perpetrators. These social fabrications give us a social identity and lead us to often take on conflicting and controversial positions, dictated by interests, simple visions or specific goals. In such circumstances, the “political animal” inside each of us reveals itself trying to impose its own point of view.

However, in spite of the ideas and values that humans can have, every person is made up of feelings and emotions. Before being classified as political animals, humans are sentient beings, with emotions and feelings which define us and make us unique. The same sort of emotions and feelings that are gradually being extinguished with the frenetic and uncontrolled evolution of this world. And today, I want to talk about this. Today I want to talk about who we are. Today, I want to write about the emotions, hopes and feelings that define us and how this world is changing them. And I will do it by speaking through the lense of one of the generations that, more than any other, is experiencing this change in full; a generation that particularly expresses the contradictions of our society but also the dreams and the betrayed hopes: my generation, that of the Millennials.

We live in strange times. Times of great uncertainties, immense fears, incessant and fast changes. I am the son of a generation that has been living through the golden years of development, where entrepreneurs would invest in the job market and believed in the value of their employees. Years where politicians would constantly strive to find new ways to improve people’s lives. The high level of births, the prolific job market, the certainty of the future, the first and the second car, big savings, the summer holidays by the sea or in the mountains. And then the great investments, the incentives to progress, research and development, the high general morale, the man on the moon, the hope for a future of well-being for everyone.

But sometimes expectations about the future are bigger than what reality has to offer and, just like a bubble that swells excessively, sooner or later reality explodes right in your face. And here, all of a sudden, we have a system where the excessive well-being and the immeasurable potential of the third industrial revolution clashes with the individual economic interest. The big industries and multinationals come into play and alter the balance. Human greed grows stronger and stronger while the big multinationals knock on the doors of politics for some “boosts”. And there you go; the first agreements born to maximize profits by damaging workers’ rights; national factories shutting down to re-open in those countries where labor costs 1$ a day, or renegotiating workers’ union achievements with politicians in exchange for a few bribes or support during election campaigns; the high transnational finance getting hold of large company shares and becoming the main protagonist of a new global perverse game. The cost of labor for multinational companies drops dramatically while working hours increase. As a consequence, the price of produced goods decreases. Small and medium-sized businesses close or fail for they cannot compete with similar standards, whereas those able to make it through are the big names of industry or those entrepreneurs who, through criminal support, have managed to reach out to and influence politicians to get some extra procurement contracts or personal favors. The West becomes the center of unbridled capitalism, with no rules, with no ethics or respect. Everyone for themselves. It is against this backdrop that my generation, the Millennials, is born. The first true generation without any clue about its future.

The final blow comes with 2000 and all its technological capacity. It started with the first mobile phones and laptops on a large scale, up to smartphones and tablets. Technology moves; the great giants of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon develop; technological power becomes incredibly significant. And here’s Black Friday, the purchases with a click, the ads in every corner of the city, superfast transportation and trains in the underground every minute. The illusion of a world as a global, super-technological and limitless village is born. A sense that all this frantic lifestyle is necessary and inevitable emerges.

The savings of our parents are spent in this super-technological world while employment becomes more and more an urban legend. The new contemporary frontier of slavery 2.0 is born. Jobs poorly paid with meal vouchers; fixed-term contracts; easier layoffs; unbearable working hours. The prediction of Charlie Chaplin in his movie, Modern Times, comes true. Man becomes a productive factor with no rights, little money and a need to spend money without worrying too much about the future. It is the betrayal of the dream of a global Californication that we all expected: a happy world with more freedom and less problems to think about; a world where everyone can work and build a better and sustainable future.

But man’s greediness has shattered this dream. The betrayal from a global political class of spineless servants of high finance and powerful world lobbies has sanctioned the end of this dream. And while constitutions drown in an ocean of decay, my question is, what is left of all this?

On the one hand, there is an army of clueless kids, educated in the best prep schools which are financed by international magnates, who repeat as robots notions of economic and political theories aired on televisions and published in newspapers by those same people responsible for such a global delirium. Those same theories that legitimized the unbridled capitalism that is crushing us; theories such as those of the great industrialization or those that ultimately justified the plundering of the marvelous African countries or wars of interest such as those in Iraq or Libya.

On the other hand, there are people who live in the moment, who believe in what the World tells them to believe, only able to find their own identity in the television culture of the Big Brother, phony talk shows or in the trashy pop-porn culture spread throughout the day by MTV. George Orwell’s predictions have never been so true, huh?

And then, what remains is a people of perfect strangers.

I turn around every day, in the train, on the bus, down the street, and I see hundreds of people far away. People with a blank look on their face, lost in the void or on the screen of their smartphones. Lonely, sad, aloof people, with not much of humanity left; people walking quickly through the streets remorselessly hitting whomever is in their path because they are too intent on continuing their virtual conversation with someone miles away; people unable to express emotions or feelings; people too busy masking their loneliness behind the perfect image of their virtually perfect life on Instagram; depressed people no longer connected to reality; people who get together and break up through a telephone because they are incapable and afraid of meeting or knowing each other in a normal, real, natural way. And finally, people unable to associate, to connect, to unite and resist the power, or to oppose unjust decisions.

So what is left of feelings, of humanity, of us being people? For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to answer this question. Particularly, in the last period of my life.

During my time at The Next Century Foundation, I have been able to reflect a lot on politics, religion, people and the complicated relationships that bind us to each other and that bind us to society. I have not really ever considered anything I am writing right now. Not because I did not think about it but rather because this complex machine of intertwined relations, politics, economy, religion and power is difficult to fully understand and, above all, to make it work. And in this sense, in the end you end up accepting it because you understand that things are almost always impossible to change, peace will always be difficult to establish, power will always preserve itself and religion will always be used as a political tool to manipulate the masses. So, almost passively, you end up accepting the status quo of things. Almost like a condition of the universe, immovable and immanent. Everything has always been this way and it will always be this way.

At least until this World decides you are the next target and this status quo affects you in person, lashing out at you with all its strength. And then everything changes. You withdraw, let yourself down, look for explanations, seek yourself and your role in the world. You frantically turn around to find yourself, unsuccessfully. And you cannot help but compare your situation to that of the contemporary world, that of a world that perhaps will never change; and that of the Millennials, that of a simple person surrounded by lonely individuals, unable to sense or feel emotions in one of the largest cities in the world. You wonder if maybe it is just the natural order of things that you eventually have to accept, because perhaps that is how it works, because it has always been and will always be like this. In the last few months of my life, I have been looking for an answer to this question, without luck.

Until something happens; that deus ex machina you need to get you out of trouble. And here comes the answer to your questions. Something that helps you to understand; something like a trip to Holland, a beer with a trusted friend, an exhibition of an artist or walking in the rain in the streets of London without a destination. And it is at that precise moment that when you look into people’s eyes – those you’ve been so reluctant about or that you’ve lost hope in – you suddenly see something different, something you’ve never seen before, something that changes your perspective. And you can suddenly feel a vibe, a feeling, a sparkle that leads you through their eyes. And, like a flash in a pan, you are able to feel all the power and the emotions that each of them has locked within and that can be conveyed through their story or personality. Pure energy, pure emotions, pure humanity. The people’s smiling faces at the Tulip market in Amsterdam; the encouraging wink of a friend down at the pub that – around a pint and some good indie-rock in the background – shows you the right way of looking at things; the power of humanity in the symbolic life scenes of Banksy’s works that lead you to reflect on the true nature of people and humanity; the feeling of the rain falling on your skin in the gray of London’s streets that brings you back to life and connects you to reality again. Your prospects start to change and now you can see things differently. Suddenly you can find an answer to that question in that stream of people and things around you.

And, like a flashback, everything suddenly made sense.

During my time at the Next Century Foundation, I met ambassadors, Lords, religious leaders; I even spoke to the World for 2 minutes before the UN Human Rights Council. All exceptional experiences. However, I now understand that none of these experiences would have made sense without a particular detail that each of them has in common, the confrontation with people. Before the NCF I had not realized how even simply talking with people is essential; how much people can express through their words, their looks or their smiles. And, above all, I had not realized how effective it is to be able to talk with them to try to solve problems.

This is exactly what humanity is. Humanity is talking, confronting each other, solving problems together, uniting different and opposite perspectives. When you can achieve that; when you can take your eyes off your smartphone for a moment and you turn around; when you abandon the social and political fabrications for a moment and drop the mask they gave you, it is only then that you see potential and opportunities in those stranger’s faces rather than indifference and solitude. In that precise moment, you can hear the flow I was talking about earlier. And you understand that that potential is unimaginable and terrifies governments and institutions, and shakes the establishment. Just like the stories I tried to tell you about so far in my articles. And whether it is the Christmas truce or the international mass mobilization for the death of a young man in Egypt, you realise it is all about looking at the world from another perspective. If some people managed to refuse to fight, to kill and be killed, on European soil a little less than a century ago, destroying the socio-political fabrication of wars; if some people managed to get together to protest against a fierce dictator in Egypt without being afraid of the consequences; if one man could revolutionize his country after being imprisoned for 27 years, upsetting the entire institutional set-up based on violence, lies and terror; if other great men like Martin Luther King or Gandhi or so many others have managed to mobilize millions of people around an idea of peace, justice or freedom, then we too can change this mad world.

It is all about being able to channel those vibes into positive, collective paths. And you can only do it through dialogue, confrontation and associationism. Talking and dealing with people, precisely. Alexis de Tocqueville once said that the only way to resist power in a positive and constructive way is through the democratic instrument that starts from the bottom, by means of associationism from the municipal level, from small realities.

People are the solution to the world’s illnesses. And the positive dialogue that you can have with them. Social Capital. It is so simple. The greatest evils of our generation come from this absurd lifestyle that is offered to us in the form of well-being, technology and comfort. Loneliness, depression, indifference, hatred and division are all the fruit of a society that tends to divide us and speculate on our collective incapacity to react, associate and confront each other. It is that simple, and we are the cure.

It is possible. And you can find the proof around you. Turn off the TV, put down your smartphone for a moment. Go down the street, talk to people, listen to what they have to say. Take a hike in the park, maybe in the pouring rain. Try to feel something. Go to the pub, read a newspaper and comment on the news with bystanders. Have a coffee or a beer with them. Ask them how they are and give them a smile. Everything will change, everything will be different.

And speaking of smiles.

Once, a bearded man told me that if you try to smile while walking down the street, this will positively influence your attitude towards others and, above all, your self-confidence. I will never forget those words. I recently tried to do it often and, I’ll tell you something, it worked. If you try to walk down the street smiling at the people you meet, most of them will reply with a smile. And you will feel different as well, more secure, more positive towards others and the world. It’s all about that. Those emotions and feelings I was talking about before. They can come out, if triggered.

We only have to reconsider our values, our priorities for a moment. What we want from life and what we are looking for. And above all, remember who we are and where we come from, always. Love every single rise and fall and take them as an opportunity to grow and improve yourself and the world around you. I think this is the solution, the cure for the ills of mankind. Creating a community of people based on diversity and dialogue. Only then can we overcome all this. And we, Millennials, have boundless potential to do so.

By the way, I have gone too far. And now it’s time to conclude this post.

My time at the NCF gave me a lot. I grew up a lot professionally but mostly as a person. I owe you a lot, William and Veronica, to your kindness and warm welcome. I was welcomed and treated like a son. You gave me a lot to think about and work on. You gave me a smile in tough times and support when needed. And for this, thank you.

Then there is you, Rory, William and Yousef. Some young minds full of passion and desire to change things. You are fantastic. Every day, I saw in your eyes that power and passion of which I spoke about right above, waiting just to be fully exploited. And I know you’ll find a way to do it, it’s just a matter of time.

You were my second family here, in this gigantic crazy world of sharks. I’ll never forget that. And I’d like to conclude this blog post with this thought, while sipping my double espresso in some coffee shop somewhere in London and listening to these fantastic notes of Redemption Song, one of Marley’s masterpieces. He succeeded! He succeeded in uniting people around words of peace and hope. Like Hendrix’s solo or Mercury’s unique voice or even the Boss playing a piano version of Thunder Road. This is the right time, the perfect moment.

Ciao NCF, a presto!

Luctor et Emergo ex Flammis Orior, Per Aspera ad Astra

#lastblogpost #peoplehavethepower #believe #change #ciaoncf


Both Sudan and South Sudan in aching need of a little brotherly love

Sudan was once the largest country in Africa at a million square miles. Then the British ripped it into two using the pretext of a referendum on a rigged ballot in which South Sudanese refugees and those displaced to the North were denied the vote. All this “for the good of Sudan”.

It is way past time for us to stop “playing the Great Game”. We are not good at it and we were never good at it.

And now the North is riven by war, and South Sudan is riven by war. And come the day they solve that, they will probably start fighting each other.

Unless, that is, we start seeing a little brotherly love.

And the easiest conflict to solve is the worst of conflicts, that in the South Sudan between Southerners backing the President and Southerners backing the exiled Vice President.

President of South Sudan, the war leader Salva Kiir, sits in Juba, the capital. The exiled vice president, his political rival Reik Machar, sits in South Africa. And church leaders go back and forth between them. Which doesn’t work.

What is needed is a conference for representatives of both sides to come together. And not in South Sudan. Nor in South Africa. Nor in any other Arab or African country, all of which will be regarded as parti-pris.

No, it should be in Britain. After all, we were the ones who created the mess in the first place.

And why not go for the whole deal while we are about it. A conference on all the issues of the South and the North, as all the issues are interrelated, with Northerners fighting for factions in the South and vice-versa. Indeed, with everyone fighting each other.

Worth a shot wouldn’t you say? Perhaps we’ll try it. Somebody should.

The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

FGM: Why have we not eradicated it yet?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) causes severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth. It affects at least 200 million girls and women alive today. Despite this, very few charities, Non-Government Organisations or activist groups focus on this as one of the most serious issues the globe currently faces. FGM could be eradicated within one generation yet the current response to FGM by government and the media is one of denial and inaction. Why is this?

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The UN defines FGM as all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and this is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

FGM is a global problem, not just an issue facing central African countries, and should be tackled as such. The UN have been ignoring the prevalence of FGM globally most particularly in parts of the Middle East and Asia. Indian activist, Masooma Ranalvi, recently urged governments and donor countries to help fund research and data collection in Asia at the 2017 ‘Ban FGM’ conference in Rome. This would allow a much better picture of the seriousness of FGM across the globe and would help to spotlight which countries and cultures need the most attention.

It is not just a lack of funding and research which undermines attempts to eradicate FGM. Many cases of FGM go unreported but cases which are reported tend to have very lenient prison sentences. This sends the wrong signal to those who continue to practise FGM. In January 2017, four people were prosecuted for FGM after 17-year-old Mayar Mohamed Moussa died from undergoing a procedure in Egypt. Mayar’s mother and doctor were given a fine of £1000 (EYP) and a suspended sentence of only one year. Lawyer Reda Eldanbouki, who was representing Mayar, expressed shock at the sentences saying “it is unfair and unjust and will be ineffective as it sends the wrong signal”.

A serious side effect has occurred because of the pressure that is starting to be put on communities that perform FGM in Africa. There are a greater number of reports suggesting FGM is being performed on much younger girls and in the dead of night in order for people to avoid the consequences of the law. This ‘under the radar’ approach makes it more complicated for authorities to effectively deal with the problem. The UN and human rights groups need to come together to stop these inhumane procedures by educating people on the dangers of procedures being done incorrectly or in unsanitary conditions.

We have an obligation as compassionate humans to eradicate FGM and help to rebuild the lives of the millions of women and girls it has already affected.