Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Funding for your Charity or Community Enterprise - What you'll need if you're applying for a grant

I've come across many wonderful groups of people in the last year of weirdness and lockdowns, doing essential volunteer and charity work in their neighbourhoods. Many of them could use a bit of extra cash, but aren't sure how to go about applying. You can hire a bidwriter (rather expensive) or ask someone to do your bidwriting for free, but they will need some information from you first, and you may well find you can do the applications yourself with a bit of preparation and research. Here's a checklist to get you started: 

First Steps: 

Think about why YOU are best placed to do the necessary work. Is there another charity or enterprise in your area already doing a good job? Could they use your help? Sometimes groups merge, and can work together really effectively. Don't try to re-invent the wheel, if you can offer your epic skills to an organisation that's working. 

Is there no-one doing the work you can do? Excellent, that's the first thing you should tell your funders! Meet with your team, and decide exactly where you're going. What are your core values? You'll need to look at how you're helping. How many people have you served? Is it a diverse section of society, or specialised group? How does your service help them? Can you link your work with current events, such as political or health or climate events? Collect as much data as you can, and tell the story of your data. Depending on the funding organisation, this bit of storytelling could be 250 or 400 words, up to 500 at most. Have a document ready with different versions in different word counts, and practice being succinct! You will definitely want to apply for more than one lot, so you could cut and paste from your master document if you're well organised. 

To help you tell your story, look at resources such as British Indices of Deprivation maps (and if you're a spreadsheet person you can download useful spreadsheets here) or  Young Persons Education Stats, which can give you data on income, employment, health and disabilities, educational attainment, crime and more. If you are working towards environmental recovery, see here. Outside of the UK, you should be able to find similar resources, reports and news articles which will give you useful data to back up your application. 

If you are wondering where to find funding, you might try approaching your local council or a larger local charity who could have someone in the know about what's currently available. New funds pop up all the time, so it's helpful if someone's got their finger on the pulse. Network! You could also do searches on the web. Try to be fairly specific, for example 'charity funding gardening mental health', or 'charity funding art teenagers'. There are countless funds available - but be on the lookout for scammers, please, and don't give your bank details to anyone unless you're sure they are legitimate. 

What you'll Need in your Application: 

Every funder is different, but apart from your story or description above, they will also ask you for certain pieces of evidence. Here are a few horrible ones that are likely to come up: 

Your income over the last accounting year. This will need to be audited, if you’re a larger charity. For new charities, some funders are happy to chat and may accept applications without accounts. If your charity or enterprise accounts show a significant surplus or deficit, you may be asked to explain this. If your application is successful, you will probably need to prove that the funds have gone where you say they will, so be prepared to keep careful records and to answer detailed questions. 

Your budget for the project. Argh! Hopefully you know a friendly quantity surveyor, accountant or savvy person with numbers. You'll need to convince your funders that the money you receive is going to specific items, such as petrol for the van, or gardening tools, or art supplies... be as detailed as possible here, keep your receipts, make a spreadsheet to track everything. Often, salaries are not covered by funding, but sometimes you can ask for this. 

For small, new charities, the name and contact details of a reference, a member of some local charity, council, church group, who can receive or manage the money on your behalf, may be needed. If you have such a person in your network it would be good to have a chat with them anyway, as they could be a good ally.  

It might be a good idea to apply for a charity registration number. This is not always required but the larger funding bodies such as National Lotteries, Comic Relief and so on will definitely need you to be registered. 


Of course, there are many ways to raise funds: platforms such as Crowdfunder or JustGiving, passing the hat around and good old-fashioned lemonade* stands on hot days, so be creative and get out there. As your organisation grows, there will be important things to think about. You will certainly need a bank account, as most funding bodies prefer to pay into an official charity account. You may need a safeguarding policy, data protection policy, a website... at some point you may wish to hire someone to help you steer your charity and ensure you are developing in a way that's in line with your values. Volunteers may become salaried workers. There will be legal obligations, differences in opinion, and challenges. 

*not actually lemonade

From time to time, think back to your first steps. What are your core values, have they changed? Has another excellent charity appeared, that you could partner with? Are you serving the purpose you set out to? Look at your people as well. Are you all using your skills in ways that bring you happiness? Could you outsource the chores you struggle with? No matter how small your organisation is, these are good things to think about. Being able to help others by using our unique skills, and working with and creating social connections with people who have similar values, can be so rewarding. 

Monday, 20 July 2020

Things we've found in summer pockets

Today, I swam in the sea. It's definitely colder than the Caribbean here in the English Channel, but it was delicious to float and gaze up into the blue sky and feel grateful for many blessings.

We have many beachy things in our pockets - sand as usual, shells, two sweet heart-shaped stones, wrappers from ice cream cones. money, because cards don't work at the ice cream kiosk on the beach.

What have you got in your pockets?

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Things I've Found in Lockdown Pockets

In these strange times, there are no tickets, coins, bills or interesting oddities in our pockets, which is unusual and this blog is suffering an identity crisis.

However, there are things afoot. It's been so interesting to see the outpouring of optimism and community strength everywhere. In a YouGov poll, most Britons don't want things to go back to the 'normal' we once knew. The importance of caring for our planet and our people is on everyone's minds, it seems. Those of us who have been harping on for a million years about inequality and marginalisation are saying 'I told you so'. Local food security charities like this one are getting some love, but the need is greater than ever.

In home news, my youngest son has had his A Levels and his gap year travel plans scuppered. We're having interesting conversations about life, flexibility and resilience with his older brothers and other loved ones. Heaps of books are being read. Music and art are being made, scrabble is being played and help and support are being shared wherever we can be useful. We are used to communicating with our extended family on video chat, as they are spread out all over the world, so there's lots of that. We have heard sad news of friends who are really struggling, deaths in families, anxiety and fear - we feel a bit like we're in a lovely bubble, enjoying the down time and re-connecting.

A son just came in and said 'where have the googly eyes gone?' and went off giggling merrily with them. It's never boring around here. Much love and merriment, to all of you out there from all of us here!

And tell me: What have you got in your pockets?

Monday, 30 March 2020

Sudden Stop

A couple of weeks ago, I was working at one university, teaching a group of second year students about globalisation every week, whilst holding down a job at another nearby university in the widening participation department, which helps young people from diverse backgrounds to see the path to higher education. Meanwhile, I was peripherally involved with mass grave protection and some people who are doing the most amazing and inspirational work. My life was so full of interesting people and projects that I actually dared to complain about it. Then along came a pandemic, which is just not funny at all. 
This week, I am teaching scrabble (plus adding scores in columns of hundreds, tens and ones) to some small children, losing a cat (she came back though) and doing lots of yoga. Things I've found in pockets have included freshly laundered crisp packets and sand, which is bringing back old memories. 
The other thing I'm doing this week is brushing off some children's stories which I'd written way, way back when my boys still wanted fabulous tales told about themselves (we had no TV in our rainforest). I even got the watercolours out and splashed around. These tiny yellow frogs are called, according to my herpetologist friend Amy, ‘dendropsphus microcephalus' or ‘small headed tree frog’. They sing a high pitched “riti titi titi!” I remember them being the most beautiful buttery yellow, and quite tame. 
I'm loving this project, so even if nothing comes of it, I'll have spent the coronavirus quarantine happily. 
I don't necessarily believe that we should ALL be achieving anything during this time - it is stressful, and my own response is to have something to do. Naps are also very much recommended, and deep thinking. My wish is that we come out of this kinder as a global society. These are interesting times. 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Tips for Mature Students

Getting my degree and my masters was one of the hardest, most rewarding things I've ever done. There are a few things I learned along the way which made my life easier. 

  • To begin with, visit the university nearest to you. Is it close to support systems and existing flexible work? Can you get around without a car? Go to an open day, mooch around, talk to people. If it seems like a good option for the course you want, and you won't have to relocate, apply there. Particularly if you have children! I am lucky to live in Bournemouth, where the uni is amazing
  • Your best bet for application is through Clearing. Many mature students don't meet the conditions required to apply in the regular way, but many universities are willing to take a risk on a student who has older qualifications, life experience and writing skills. 
  • Finance matters: The most common statement I have heard is, "I'd love to get a degree, but I can't afford it." Yes, you can. Student Finance is amazing. Yes it's a loan, and you will have to pay it back, but Student Finance will lend you not only your uni fees but maintenance money as well if you have young children. This will need to be paid back out of your salary, like a tax. There are also maintenance grants via Student Finance which will not have to be repaid. Be aware that these and your student loan can count as 'income'. Any benefits you receive will be calculated based on 'income' some of which you will be expected to repay once you are working and earning over the threshold. 
  • Housing Benefit and Council Tax Exemption. If everyone in your home is a student (you and your children), you are exempt from paying council tax. Go to your Town Hall and ask about housing benefit (now universal credit). They will ask you lots of personal questions and inspect your bank statements. It's pretty intrusive but it works. You can also check Turn2Us for more tips on what to expect and make applications for grants. 
  • Emergency money and loans are a thing. When my ex stopped sending child maintenance and went to live in Thailand (apparently this is a thing?) I found myself in sudden panic mode and unable to pay bills. I thought I'd have to drop out of uni. The first thing I did was go back to work, not realising that my housing benefits would fall as soon as I started earning money again... Eventually I turned to Student Advice, my academic advisor and everyone else I could think of at the university and got some extra funding. There is always a solution, even when the problem seems *that* disastrous. The kids and I are still dealing with the debt repayments and stress from that year, but the money I can earn with a Masters Degree is going to catch us back up - in time! 
  • I spoke to a friend who works at at the Job Centre about this recently, and she pointed out that the new Universal Credit system should work better for those who are working part time while studying. There is a cap on how much you can earn and not have benefits reduced - so working part time could 'top up' your income. Again, talk to an up-to-date benefits advisor at Town Hall or Job Centre about this. 
  • Child maintenance does not count as 'income' and does not affect benefits in any way, since it is technically not your money at all and pays for your children's needs. 
  • That support system of friends and family you've got, and those other mature students? Really utilise their fabulousness. Make a study group. Share academic articles. Take notes for each other. Your non-student friends, hang on to the good ones. They will forgive you if you're too busy some of the time, but give them a lot of love for supporting you. 
  • Look up effective notetaking skills, and come up with a system. If you've ever taken meeting minutes, you're one step ahead. Get gorgeous notebooks which have good quality paper and can open out flat, so you can write on both sides of the paper. Take a LOT of notes, and go over them regularly. 
  • Do a bit of reading and revising before you attend your first lectures. I promise you, you will have forgotten all of your A Level Sociology if it was more than 10 years ago. When the lecturer says "following from Engels" and you put your hand up, furiously writing notes with your other hand, and say "Engle who?" and all the cool 19-year-olds in your class are giggling, you will wish you'd looked up the key terms and Important Dead White Men in your field. 
  • Other mature students will lean over and whisper "I'm so glad you asked, I didn't know either!" Go to the pub with those excellent people after your lecture, you have just found your uni soul mates. 
  • As a mature student, there is a fine line between being pals with the faculty academics, and being a student. First, be a student. If in your final year you really must tell your favourite academics that you love them forever and want to grab them and give them a big hug, navigate with care. Some may be younger than you, some may wish to maintain a professional distance, many will have a perfectly reasonable policy about not being friends with students. Some will hug you back and tell you to stay on forever and do a PhD. I now count a couple of my lecturers as true friends but I'm still a bit starry-eyed about them. They are SO cool. 
I now have a masters degree and my time at uni has been one of the best times in my life. Having graduated in August, I've been working part time, trying to decide what the rest of my life looks like and applying to really lovely sounding jobs. My youngest child will sit his A Levels in 2020, and going to uni has allowed me to be flexible and be there for him and his brothers more than a 40-hour-a-week job ever could have. If I hadn't taken the leap and applied to do a degree, I'd be stuck in the same-old jobs, not quite earning enough. Think about yourself in 5 years. Who do you want to be? 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Sustainable Resistance - Chocolate Makers in Trinidad and Tobago

My BA dissertation was probably the most fun I've had, ever. And people now bring me chocolate from all over the world, because apparently I'm an expert on chocolate? Just to set the record straight, while I LOVE CHOCOLATE, I'm not an expert, alas. Do feel free to continue sending me chocolate, though.

Sustainable resistance and structural inequality, though, is my thing. For a downloadable PDF of the entire research paper, click HERE.


Globalisation and its impacts have attracted interest from many disciplines in recent years. The modern world-system has been created over centuries of colonial trade, slavery and migration, creating core and peripheral nations. Powerful countries at the core are said to have started out during the 16th century, with higher capital investment capabilities which made them powerful negotiators, able to compel peripheral producer nations to unequal terms of trade which undermined third world industrial development and free trade. Development discourse, with origins in ethnocentric ideology, not only reproduces trade and development inequality in the modern day but affords excessive significance to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of development, with little emphasis on community or environmental sustainability factors or personal agency in peripheral nations. One co-operative group, the Alliance of Rural Communities of Trinidad and Tobago (ARCTT), may have an answer for entrepreneurs who choose not to compete in the world-trade system. The ARCTT is a group of farmers, chocolatiers and activists who use single-origin local cocoa to make fine quality bars for the local market in Trinidad and Tobago. This study documents the stories of the individuals behind this push for agency in Trinidad and Tobago with in depth narrative analysis, which reveals a passionate concern for individual agency, as well as an agenda for community, economic and environmental sustainability. Often, these concerns are not seen as significant factors to consider when creating trade and economic policy, but the data collected in this study suggests that issues of agency and sustainability should be taken as seriously as macro-economic outcomes such as GDP.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Sand and Other Things I've Found in Pockets

When I started this blog in 2007, it was full of things I found in my sons' pockets, pre-facebook escapades and book reviews. This blog followed us from the rainforests of Trinidad to to beaches of Bournemouth. Not much changed about us, but the things we found in pockets did, from interesting beetles and snakeskins to conkers and bus tickets. Now, those boys do their own laundry, but my pockets are often full of sand and other beachy finds.

Like life, this blog is evolving. I'm better qualified than I was a decade ago, older and wiser you might say, but I'm doing the same stuff: writing, educating, trying to make the world a little bit better. But getting sand and other interesting things in my pockets will always be a thing. I don't see any point in acting like a grownup all the time!

Monday, 2 September 2019

The UN Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations vs the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes

For full article PDF, with introduction, citations and footnotes please see Linkedin.

Global Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility 

The international ‘Human Rights’ concept was advanced in the UN Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1945, and was built upon in subsequent covenants, with concepts focused initially on protecting individuals and groups from abuses by states. The idea that corporations should not violate human rights evolved as a result of expansion of industry and trade supply chains into the competitive global market economy . Increasingly, business activities take place outside of the country where the business is registered. Transnational corporations (TNCs) are one step ahead of the globalisation phenomenon and their influence continues to grow, to the extent that their budgets and sphere of influence may exceed those of the nations in which they operate. Breaking up their spheres of influence between different countries restricts state ability to ensure corporate accountability and domestic social welfare.

The development of a legislative framework for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been challenged in several ways. International law is increasingly shaped by transnational corporations, and some authors are sceptical of the real potential for good behaviour by corporations without binding legislation to keep human rights abuses in check. Corporations’ stated commitments to responsible behaviour is linked to broader respect for accepted norms in human rights laws, such as the right to life, children’s rights and environmental sustainability. These goals are often in tension, however, with existing binding legislation such as the World Trade Organisation’s rules for reducing barriers to trade, which may result in weaker states compromising national health requirements  and consumer demands. In the absence of any global authority for regulating CSR, attempts have been made in domestic courts to litigate against corporate violations of human rights.

Historical Justice Litigation

The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), also known as the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), was first presented in 1789 as a means of litigating in the United States (US) between non-US citizens, in any violation of the laws of nations or US treaties , in hopes of avoiding international disputes. Few cases were brought to federal courts under the ATCA between its inception and 1980, but with the rise of globalisation, commercial activities between diverse nations saw a renewed need for such litigation. 
The use of the ATCA resurfaced in 1980  in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, wherein the court ruled that international law or jus cogens, known in the USA at the time as the law of nations, was a fundamental part of United States federal law. This expanded the scope of the ATCA to redressing non-domestic abuses. Thus, while the treaty’s original intent may be unclear, and this move to adjudicate on the matters of foreign states was probably not an intention of the original drafters of the ATCA , its evolution into a vehicle for actions between foreign entities has served a purpose, partly to litigate but also to highlight the difficulties involved in litigating in any nation against international human rights violations. The scope of the ATCA was further developed in the case of Kadic v Karadic , when abuses committed by Karadic were deemed to violate the laws of nations, whether under the auspices of a state or as a private individual, and in the 1997 case of Doe v Unocal Corp, setting an important precedent where a corporation was treated for the first time as a legal person under the ATCA. 

In 2004, a landmark case, Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, began to narrow the terms of the ATCA. The court held that no international norms were violated in the holding of Alvarez-Machain and this limited the scope of the ATCA to more serious abuses than the reported detention and transfer by law enforcement agencies. A further dispute has been seen to reduce the scope further. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., the corporate defendant Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell) was held not to have committed unlawful acts which concerned the US, despite those acts including torture and murder of community leaders. A related case, Wiwa v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, was dismissed as ‘forum non conveniens’, on the grounds that another state may be a more appropriate forum for the extraterritorial case. In a press release, the Centre for Constitutional Rights expressed concern over what was seen as a limitation of the extent to which US Legislation be used as an example and aid development of international law. 

The Royal Dutch Petroleum Co cases are ongoing in the Dutch courts, and it has been suggested that the tarnished corporate image and bad PR surrounding the human rights abuses by Shell, along with investor pressure, may be enough to encourage the corporation to behave better. Indeed, recent moves by Shell may point to a better awareness of social and environmental responsibility but under the current legislative environment they still may not be held accountable for future human rights violations. The ATCA remains one of the few regimes where individual victims may seek damages for international crimes, and there is a concern that the US courts may decide not to accept a case, if the matter might adversely affect economic outcomes in the US under the ‘political question doctrine’, a limitation enabling the dismissal of a case on the grounds that US governmental interests may be impaired in politically sensitive cases. 

Out-of-court settlements can also undermine the development of corporate limitations. They can be kept confidential, thus maintaining a favourable public relations image and keeping details of the case out of the media, and settling out of court also prevents the setting of legislative precedent, so that future cases are unable to draw on rulings . The out of court settlement of Doe v Unocal Corp was seen as a human rights victory but an unfortunate development in terms of strengthening the existing litigation and answering legal questions. A holocaust victims’ case against banks alleged to have profited from Nazi slave labour was similarly settled out of court, affecting later slave labour cases. Thus, despite some successes, it appears there are ways in which corporate bodies can avoid punitive damages and precedent-setting judgements in cases where human rights have been violated under the ATCA, and few other litigation options exist. The global corporate battle for self-regulation and its undermining of potential for binding legislation on social responsibility is well illustrated in the history of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the WHO Code), discussed in the next section. 

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes 

The World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (WHO Code) is a non-binding health policy framework to regulate the marketing of infant formula. It was developed after a libel suit was filed in the Swiss courts by Nestlé against the publisher of a 1974 report, ‘Nestlé Kills Babies’, documenting the deaths of infants in Africa resulting from Nestlé products . While the Swiss court found that the report was indeed libellous , the judge cautioned the corporation on its grossly unethical behaviour, and the evidence presented to the court and ensuing public media discussion highlighted severe abuses by Nestlé knowingly causing thousands of infant deaths internationally and prompted an international boycott against the corporation . In 1978, the Health and Scientific Research Subcommittee of the US Senate, chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy, held investigatory hearings on the marketing of infant formula , which determined that the marketing practices of the corporation had led to the use of the product in situations where it should not be used, and this led to the drafting of the WHO Code in 1981, providing a framework for legislation to prevent the marketing of breastmilk substitutes . In discussions at the World Health Assembly in 1981, regarding whether the WHO Code should be a ‘regulation’ or a ‘recommendation’, the softer language of a non-binding code was favoured despite unanimous support for the WHO Code and some calls for stronger language. 

Today, an estimated 823,000 infants and 20,000 mothers die annually as a result of inadequate breastfeeding rates, and it has been reported that reducing formula use would prevent more infant deaths than any other health policy. Yet evidence suggests that Nestlé regularly breaks the WHO Code, continuing to use advertising and marketing practices contra to the agreement . Nestlé also uses tactics to undermine any policies which they see as threatening profits: corporate political lobbying , industry funded studies which cast doubt on science, gifts to state officials, and misleading information on issues related to infant feeding are well documented practices . Marketing claims for infant formula are not evidence based , and Nestlé has been criticised for their marketing strategy in developing countries  and product labelling in incorrect languages  which causes product misuse, leading to malnutrition and high mortality. Even in the UK, corporate interference undermines breastfeeding and costs the NHS £40 million per year, according to conservative estimates, but NHS officials and health workers accept generous donations and sponsorship from formula manufacturers . 81% of British mothers wish to breastfeed and try to do so but many fail, citing difficulties and lack of support, and at 6 weeks only 55% were still breastfeeding. 

Formula manufacturers use aggressive marketing tactics similar to those historically seen in the tobacco industry, including hijacking the legislative and political process . US trade representatives have criticised countries for promotion of breastfeeding as a barrier to trade which harms the profits of the US dairy industry . Despite cultural differences enshrined in the regional legislations for human rights, the rights of infants and children for a good start in life and not to be harmed are universally agreed , but the threat of litigation may undermine state resolutions to improve infant health , and the consistent lawfare implemented by industry and front groups continues to place infant and maternal health at risk , while heavy investment in public relations strategies diverts criticism whenever civil society questions corporate actions . The Global Reporting Initiative, a self-appointed reporter on CSR standards, lauded Nestlé as a new organizational stakeholder in 2011  and has been condemned by other human rights advocates. Today, Fortune ranks Nestlé as one of their 50 most admired companies and includes social responsibility as one of the factors in calculating their rankings, with a revenue of US$ 90.8 billion, despite the ongoing boycott. 

Infant formula can be a lifesaving product, if used correctly, but corporate resistance to regulation has caused the unnecessary deaths of millions of infants. The non-binding WHO Code has thus not been sufficient to satisfactorily reduce infant mortality or affect real corporate behaviour. Corporate accountability being left to voluntary and self-regulated industry standards poses unacceptable costs to corporations in a competitive market economy , and they are unlikely to follow fair or sustainable practices which impose costs without profitable benefits . 

Recent Attempts to Regulate Corporate Social Responsibility 

The lawfare tactics seen in the formula industry are as effective in many other industries where there exist very necessary products for agriculture , medicine  and even national security. The need for binding obligations on corporations resulted in the UN Commission on Human Rights drafting the Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights in 2004, with the intention to impose binding obligations on states and corporations. Business was, naturally, ‘vehemently opposed’ to the Draft Norms . 

In the subsequent years, human rights advocates, state representatives and corporate lobbyists have endeavoured to come to an agreement. In 2008, John Ruggie was appointed to propose a framework for business and human rights, in which he proposed that the state has a duty to protect human rights; corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights; and effective remedies for victims are required . This was followed by the 2011 Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights , with less focus on binding elements, other than a caution that States should bear human rights law obligations in mind when pursuing investments or contracts since existing international law in such issues may be binding, and a lack of any accountability or enforcement mechanisms . 

In 2015, a new strategy came into play: the United Nations Global Compact’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was hoped that the SDGs would provide a substantive framework for corporate action . Meanwhile, domestic and regional bodies have wavered on support for the Guiding Principles. The Council of Europe, the EU and others expressed initial support and have drawn on the Guiding Principles for a regional strategy on CSR . However, critics have suggested the Guiding Principles are not positivist law, may undermine the role of states in making economic decisions, and contain contradictory articles . A working group in October 2018 highlighted that human rights advocates continue to demand binding obligations and criminal liability for organizations, including in areas affected by conflict . And in March 2019, it was leaked that the weakened EU, one of the Guiding Principle’s greatest initial allies, may be considering withdrawal from the treaty ‘to protect business interests’, a decision which would place economic concerns over human rights. 


Many of the decisions made by states, corporations and international legislative bodies such as the WTO are centred around economic precedence and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Increase in trade and GDP have been linked to improvements in national health spending and education in developing countries, but factors such as national health and education outcomes are not counted when calculating GDP. When breastfeeding rates fall and infant mortality rises, for example, the increased sale in feeding and medical paraphernalia result in an increase in GDP. Industry lobbyists also exaggerate the importance of economic growth within their industry. Moving the discussion away from one solely centred on economic development may be a useful way for transforming the political and economic discussion into technical, legal questions about social rights and responsibilities. 
The absence of any global regulatory authority with binding rules for CSR needs to be resolved . 
Corporations must consider economy in order to remain competitive, and the profitability of CSR has not been satisfactorily established. Expecting TNCs to establish, adhere to and self-report on non-binding CSR frameworks is not reasonable, no matter how the corporations themselves may advocate for them. In some cases, binding obligations have been passed with success. In the US forbidding corporations from conducting transactions with business connected with apartheid South Africa, the binding nature of the legislation created real economic and social change. The international political will surrounding the binding Ozone Convention  has driven new innovation and had a lasting positive effect on the environment without negatively impacting corporate interests. The level playing field in these cases was advantageous to all corporations involved, rather than just playing to the strengths of those with the largest public relations budgets. The effectiveness of binding legislation is thus proven to be a positive force socially and economically. 


As we have seen, corporations use a host of public relations strategies, political lobbying and marketing techniques to ensure profits, and this is natural in a competitive market. Where internationally binding legislation does not exist to prevent human rights violations, TNCs may use tactics which negatively affect domestic social and health outcomes but escape litigation, and victims may have no recourse for reparations in domestic courts. The ATCS has been a useful forum for highlighting not only corporate abuses, but also the difficulties inherent in bringing TNCs to justice. 

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals are developing useful substantive frameworks which corporations might follow, but without binding effects and enforcement mechanisms it is unlikely that corporate culture will see any change beyond increased political lobbying and public image spending. 

Permitting TNCs to direct the discourse surrounding potential regulations will see a focus on economic imperatives, whilst legislators should enable a discussion about human rights, social welfare and the binding responsibilities of corporate entities to obey international laws. Evidence seen in the Ozone Convention and South African divestment suggests that binding legislation can drive innovation and create positive environmental and social change. There is still hope that the Draft Norms can become a powerful driver for sustainable development and human rights, even placing sensible limits on potentially lifesaving products, and all but the largest monopolies should welcome a level playing field and a reduction in human rights violations internationally. 


Amnesty International, Shell involvement in execution of 'Ogoni Nine' in Nigeria to be decided by court, 29 April 2019 [online] (accessed 02/05/2019).
Amnesty International, Nigeria/Netherlands: Shell ruling “a vital step towards justice”, 1 May 2019 [online] (accessed 02/05/2019).
Bachmann, SD, Human Rights Litigation against Corporations, 2007 J. S. Afr. L. 292 (2007).
Baker, JC, 'The International Infant Formula Controversy: A Dilemma in Corporate Social Responsibility', Journal Of Business Ethics, 4, 3, pp 181-190 (1985).
BBC News, US firms seek changes to UK standards on beef and drugs, 29 January 2019 [online] (accessed 15/05/2019).
BBC News, Donald Trump to withdraw US from Arms Trade Treaty, 27 April 2019 [online] (accessed 15/05/2019).
BBC News, Monsanto 'compiled dossier' on political opponents, 13 May 2019 [online] (accessed 15/05/2019).
BBC News, US jury awards $2bn damages in Roundup weedkiller cancer claim, 14 May 2019 [online] (accessed 15/05/2019).
Bellinger, J, Kiobel: Justice Kennedy Questions Extraterritorial Application of the ATS, Lawfare Blog [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Black, RE et al, Where and why are 10 million children dying every year? The Lancet 2003 361: 2226-2234 (2003).
Blackaby, N, Redfern And Hunter on International Arbitration (Oxford University Press 2009). 
Blum, J and Steinhardt, R, Federal Jurisdiction over International Human Rights Claims: The Alien Tort Claims Act after Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 22 HARV. INT'L. L.J. 53 (1981).
Bousso, R, Citing climate differences, Shell walks away from U.S. refining lobby, Reuters, April 2 2019 [online] (accessed 02/05/2019).
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises Zero Draft, 16.7.2018 [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework and Guiding Principles [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, The Fourth UN Intergovernmental Working Group session on proposed business & human rights treaty (15-19 Oct 2018) discussed (accessed 12/05/2019).
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, 15 March 2019, ‘Leaked document reveals EU's decision to withdraw from proposed UN binding treaty negotiations’ Author: Friends of the Earth Europe [online] (accessed 09/05/2019). 
Cave, T and Rowell, A, A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain, (Vintage Books 2014).
Centre for Constitutional Rights, Historic Cases: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Amicus) [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Centre for Constitutional Rights, Press: Kiobel Decision: Supreme Court Limits US Courts’ Ability to Use Human Rights Law to Address Human Rights Abuses Committed Abroad [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Dubinsky, L, ‘The Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop: Garment Industry Monitoring in Los Angeles’, in: Corporate Responsibilities and Labour Rights: Codes of Conduct in the Global Economy, Gill Seyfang et al eds., (Taylor and Francis 2002).
European Food Safety Authority, Appellate Body Report EC-Measures Concerning Meat and Meat Products (Hormones) (1998).
Ferriman, A, Advertising Standards Authority finds against Nestlé, BMJ 1999;318:417 [online] (accessed 02/05/2019).
Fortune, World’s Most Admired Companies [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Giddens, A, The Politics of Climate Change (Polity 2011).  
Global Reporting, GRI welcomes new Organizational Stakeholders - featuring Nestlé 06 September 2011 (accessed 05/05/2019).
Granheim, S, et al, ‘Interference in public health policy: examples of how the baby food industry uses tobacco industry tactics’, World Nutrition 8 (2)  pp 288-310, (2017).
Guilfoyle, D,  International Criminal Law, (Oxford University Press 2015).  
Gulland, A, 'Paediatricians call on royal college to drop financial ties to infant formula firms', BMJ: British Medical Journal (2016) [online] (accessed 26/04/2019).
Hughes, H et al, 'Marketing Claims for Infant Formula: The Need for Evidence', JAMA Pediatrics, 171, 2, pp. 105-106 (2017).
Kennedy, E, Opening Speech at the 1978 Senate Hearing on Infant Formula, [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
The Lancet series, Breastfeeding: achieving the new normal, January 30, 2016 387:10017 [online] (accessed 13/05/2019).
Marshall, CF, Re-framing the Alien Tort Act after Kadic v. Karadic, 21 N.C.J. Int'l L. & Com. Reg. 591 (1995).
Metcalf, C, Corporate Social Responsibility as Global Public Law: Third Party Rankings as Regulation by Information, 28 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 145 (2010).
McCurdy, L, Lessons from U.S. Trade with China: How to Use the World Trade Organization to Promote Public Health in Trade Relations with India, 14 J. Health Care L. & Pol'y 405 (2011).
McElroy, M, Has the GRI consigned itself to irrelevance? GreenBiz May 2013 [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Miller, D and Harkins, C, 'Corporate strategy, corporate capture: Food and alcohol industry lobbying and public health', Critical Social Policy, 30, 4, pp. 564-589 (2010).
Miretski, P and Bachmann, SD, ‘The UN Norms on the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises With Regard to Human Rights: A Requiem’, Deakin Law Review 17: 1 (2012).
Mohraz, AB, The Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's Decision in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004) on the Alien Tort Statute, 12 Law & Bus. Rev. Am. 363 (2006).
Moody, G, Want to Promote Breastfeeding? That's A Trade Barrier, Says US Trade Rep, (2017 ) [online] (accessed 16/04/2019).
Muller, M, Nestlé baby milk scandal has grown up but not gone away, The Guardian [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Palmer, G 2009, The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business, (Pinter and Martin 2009).
Parthasarathi, P, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600–1850, (Cambridge University Press 2011).
Pokhrel et al, 'Potential economic impacts from improving breastfeeding rates in the UK', Archives Of Disease In Childhood, 100, 4, pp. 334-340 (2015).
Posnikoff, JF, Divestment from South Africa: They Did Well by Doing Good, 15 CONTEMP. ECON. POL’Y 76 (1997).
Raya, R, The Philippine Breastfeeding Struggle Continues, Lancet 371 (9615) 794–795 (2008) [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Ruggie, J, UN Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework Outline, September 2010 [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Sackset, G et al, How food companies influence evidence and opinion – straight from the horse’s mouth, Critical Public Health, 28:2, 253-256 (2018).
Shaffer, ER et al, Global Trade and Public Health, 95 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 23,23-24 (2005).
Shaw, MN, International Law (8th edn, Cambridge University Press 2017).
Shell: Communities. “We aim to be a good neighbour wherever we work, by contributing to the well-being of communities” [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Sklair, L, Globalisation: Capitalism and its Alternatives, (Oxford University Press 1995).
Smith, K et al 2016, Tobacco, alcohol and processed food industries – fitting them into the public health agenda, LSE Blogs [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
Smith, JP, 'Lost Milk?: Counting the Economic Value of Breast Milk in Gross Domestic Product', Journal Of Human Lactation, 29, 4, p. 537 (2013).
Smith, RKM, Textbook on international human rights (Oxford University Press 2015). 
UNICEF, Statement to the European Parliament Development and Co-operation Committee 22nd November 2000, European Parliament public hearing on Nestlé's baby food marketing activities [online],2000.pdf (accessed 02/05/2019).
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR), Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, John Ruggie Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, 17th sess, Agenda Item 3, UN Doc A/HRC/17/31 (21 March 2011).
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR), Frequently Asked Questions about the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN New York and Geneva 2014) HR/PUB/14/3 [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR), ‘Elaboration of an International Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights’, A/HRC Res. 26/9 (26 June 2014),
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR), Draft Optional Protocol to the Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
United Nations Global Compact [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).
United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [online] (accessed 14/05/2019).
Van Esterik, P, The Politics of Breastfeeding: An Advocacy Update, in: Counihan, C, & Van Esterik, P, eds: Food And Culture: A Reader (Routledge 2008).
Wallerstein, I, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction, (Duke University Press 2004).
WHO, Increasing breastfeeding could save 800,000 children and US$ 300 billion every year [online] (accessed 12/05/2019).
Emma Wilkinson, More breastfeeding 'could save NHS millions': BBC Health News [online] (accessed 05/05/2019).

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Archaeology: Come for the Dig, Stay for the Puns

A few months ago, I emailed one of my lecturers and asked if I could please, since I had to do more classroom archaeology next year, despite my degree being sociology and anthropology, for complicated reasons, pretty please would they let me come on the Durotriges Big Dig, three days a week? After some discussion and my reminding them that I'm a star student, they said yes.

I thought this would be a good way to get some field work done and learn more about what I've only studied in lectures and books. Plus, I've always liked the idea of archaeology. It looks like fun.

Fun it is! This week I've met some amazing people. The Big Dig draws serious archaeologists - who all seem to be incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and kind, willing to answer questions and offer encouragement. There are also 'bucket list' people from as far away as Australia who have always wanted to channel their inner Indiana Jones and do serious supervised archaeology. One young lady got her ticket along with a little trowel for Christmas, and has been waiting for months. Some are regulars, coming along every year to dig and enthuse.

I've been informed that the tiny bones may belong
to little toads that long ago fell into the pit
we are excavating.
My ground-breaking* theory is that we have
discovered an ancient lost tribe of toad worshippers
who dug enormous pits where they buried their Tiny
Toad Gods. Look out for my upcoming
paper** on this exciting new discovery. 
Besides being great fun for geeks of all kinds, archaeology is very hard work. Crossfit has nothing on archaeology. Stooping and standing a hundred times, hoisting buckets of flint and chalk out of pits, running up the spoils heap with wheelbarrows - all in the sun and rain from 9 to 4.30 - make for a long day and an early night. You'll need sharp eyes and passion. You'll need to bring sustaining sandwiches to eat while you are collapsed in a heap during the lunch break. You'll need sturdy boots, sunblock, rain gear... and everything will be caked with chalk, or mud, or both, at the end of the day. But then you'll get seriously cool finds, which make it all worth the effort.

I thought this would be fun, and it is, but it's also been very informative. I love the way the site has been inhabited over so many thousands of years. I love the sudden silence, almost reverence, when something really good is found. Seeing the layers appear in our pit has been eye-opening for me. I thought I was doing archaeology units for kicks - but my pit in Trench F has given me a lot to think about. If you happen to be stuck for a birthday or Christmas gift, I'd definitely suggest a week on the dig. There are still tickets available, with two more weeks to go, and I've heard that Dorset residents get a discount. Probably because we've just dug up half their field.

And if anyone asks "how's it going?" the correct answer is "down!"

*Pun alert
**I am not a real archaeologist. Don't listen to me.  

Monday, 20 February 2017

Calais, Refugees and Thinking

Mrs. Sheppard, where I come from, there is a saying: 'The patient man will be patient until he dies.'
- Anon, pharmacist from Afghanistan living in the Jungle in 2015

When I went to the Calais 'Migrant Jungle' in 2015, it affected me enormously. I meant to really write something. But other things kept happening, internationally, politically, (gosh, a lot has happened in the world since August 2015!) and I wished that I could come up with some 200-word SOLUTION that people would listen to, but all that happened was that I read more and talked to more people, and everything I would share would take 100 years of talking and writing. So this will be more of a short and useless ramble.

The Calais Migrant Jungle was similar to many slums - similar to Trinidad's slums in some of its architecture, economy and vibe, so it felt a bit like home for me. The people there divided themselves into loose neighbourhoods by religion and language, and many spoke some French with a smattering of English. We were handing out three vehicle loads of sleeping bags, tents, split peas, rice, seasoning and other goodies, knowing full well that it would have been better to have given them to an agency who could distribute them as an when needed rather than just handing them out to the strongest, pushiest and least needy. The economy of a slum is based on power, and the trickle down effect does not work there - similar to the way in which giving tax breaks to large companies does not help the neediest in society but only enriches the rich. The power in the Jungle, as in many slums, is held by strong men. But our planned contact in Calais had fallen through, and handing out goodies seemed to be less tragic than returning to the UK with all of that good stuff. I'm still not sure if it was! But since I was personally there for fairly selfish academic reasons, I thought I could at least interview a few people in exchange for sleeping bags. We hooked up with some young ladies from Secours Catholique who were valuable allies, they had experience and spoke the language.

My Afghan friend was well-spoken and earnest, and educated enough to understand that I was not there to help him. We surveyed the scene and talked about travel, passports (I hid mine upon my person like a true Trini at Pan Finals, but I needn't have worried, no-one tried to pick my pocket), education, politics... He wanted me to understand, looking at the dozens of Afghan and Somalian men searching for shoes in their size and belts and decent shirts, that every person there was going to keep moving until they found a home. Nothing we could do would stop them. He wanted a backpack, because if you have a backpack you can keep your things with you - money, treasures... passport. I hoped we would be able to give him the one we had, but it was snatched away and disappeared. I thanked him for his patience.

We had a scary moment. At one stage we ran out of the best goodies and mob mentality took over. The crush of angry men threatened to destroy vehicles or worse. Why didn't we have more? They had waited in line nicely (not really), for nothing? What about in the front of the van? What was that stuff? Whose bag was that? I pushed into the mob and grabbed one man by the shoulders, made him look down at me, and said "Can you help me? Ask your friends to be peaceful. Ask your friends to let us look and see if we have anything else. We need your help." The light of the mob faded from him and he was a human again. Next man, next plea. Next man, next plea. Look at me, I'm small, I'm a woman, I need your help and I won't be giving you anything in return. Gradually we had peace and humans again. But we were all humans to begin with. There were no troublemakers there, wanting to punish or make war. It was a risky tactic for me to assume that every man there was going to cool down and walk away empty handed. It was sheer luck in action. There were no police or any sort of security nearby and the UK and French border controls had both said, tight-lipped, that we were not at all advised to go and did so at our own risk.

An hour later, we were kicking a football around in the dirt with the same men. Somalia VS Dorset!

A week or so after we returned to the UK, the camp was bulldozed. Our gifts became landfill, along with the treasures, papers and passports of anyone who wasn't quick enough to save them. I've thought of them often since then: the chef who skipped off merrily to a central cooking area with lentils, curry powder and onions; the Somali footballers, with their deflated and worn ball; the drummers; the artists; the farmers; the engineers and other professionals who, if and when they arrive at their final destination, will find their qualifications invalid and have to do janitorial work or whatever they can to get by.
Latrine Pun

The Calais Jungle residents have been moved on, so who knows where they might be now. Whenever the weather is cold, I think of them, and all those landfill sleeping bags. Thanks to my trip to Calais I have ideas, which drive some of my research. When I started my degree, I thought finally I would have some answers. All I have, it seems, are more questions.

If you'd like to keep up-to-date with the latest news from Calais, there's a facebook page to follow.

(Photos: Me, Kitty Forester, Sharon Carr-Brown)