Child sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Australia (2019)

I drafted this case study for the Child Rights International Network at the end of 2019, as part of its work to hold the Church in Latin America to account for the extensive sexual abuse of children.

For many years Australia’s Catholic Church resisted being held to account for the sexual abuse of children within its institutions. Residential institutions, in particular, where also the site of widespread cruelty and neglect. But persistent survivor truth-telling and investigative journalism eventually led to a national inquiry (2013-17) in the form of a Royal Commission, which was tasked with investigating child sexual abuse in all institutional settings across Australia, including religious institutions. This case study looks at the build-up to the commission and the impact it had after publishing its findings and recommendations.

Continue reading “Child sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Australia (2019)”

Six ‘core conditions’ of well-grounded hope (2019)

In the second half of 2019 I was travelling around the UK, sitting down with people who work with hope in some way, wondering how some people and communities are better able than others to hold faith with hope in an increasingly violent world.

Continue reading “Six ‘core conditions’ of well-grounded hope (2019)”

‘Youngest British army recruits come disproportionately from England’s poorest constituencies’ (2019)

I co-wrote this paper with Charlotte Cooper (lead author) at the Child Rights International Network. It shows that substantially more British army recruits under the age of 18 come from the poorest fifth of constituencies than from the richest fifth, and discusses the health implications.

Continue reading “‘Youngest British army recruits come disproportionately from England’s poorest constituencies’ (2019)”

Caught in the crossfire? An international survey of anti-terrorism legislation and its impact on children (2018)

I co-authored this with Leo Ratledge (who did most of the research) for the Child Rights International Network in 2018. It shows how children are affected by both non-state terror groups and the ‘counter-terror’ policies of governments around the world. Children are exploited, in different ways, by both parties. Continue reading “Caught in the crossfire? An international survey of anti-terrorism legislation and its impact on children (2018)”

A children’s right’s approach to assisted reproduction (2018)

I developed this paper with an expert on assisted reproduction at the Child Rights International Network. Children have much to gain and much to lose from rapid advances in assisted reproduction (IVF, cryopreservation etc.) – CRIN produced this paper to get the debate going from a child rights perspective. Continue reading “A children’s right’s approach to assisted reproduction (2018)”

RUSI: Is it counterproductive to enlist minors into the army? (2016)

Yes (short answer).

Rachel Taylor and I wrote this article for the journal of the UK’s military thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), on behalf of Child Soldiers International. It summarises some of the main ethical and practical arguments for raising the UK’s enlistment age from 16 to 18. As the editor’s subheading has it: ‘The arguments in favour of early enlistment fail to stand up to scrutiny, and the British military should reassess this policy.’ Published December 2016. Continue reading “RUSI: Is it counterproductive to enlist minors into the army? (2016)”

Rethinking security: A discussion paper (2016)

So, do you feel ‘secure’ with the way the world’s going? Don’t worry, no one else does either (pretty much). Or worry, if you like – you wouldn’t be wrong.

This paper, written for the Ammerdown Group with additional input from colleagues on the group, queries the prevailing approach to peace and security in the UK (and the West in general) and suggests principles for a more humane and effective approach. It was launched in the House of Lords in May 2016. Continue reading “Rethinking security: A discussion paper (2016)”

Out of step, out of time: Recruitment of minors by the British armed forces (2015)

Every five years or so, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child evaluates each state’s progress on implementing its legally binding commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK had its turn in 2015-16. I wrote a technical report for Child Soldiers International presenting evidence on the UK’s enlistment of children aged under 18 into its armed forces. Continue reading “Out of step, out of time: Recruitment of minors by the British armed forces (2015)”

Spectacle Reality Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism (2014)

In 2014, ForcesWatch asked me to write a long essay on militarism and culture. I didn’t have a printer at the time so never printed off the draft and didn’t know how long it was. When I sent it off to the editor, the ever-forbearing Louisa Wright, she said I’d sent her a book – 44,000 words. Ah, I said. So it’s truly an accidental book. Once again, Emma Sangster did the painstaking laying-out and publishing. Continue reading “Spectacle Reality Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism (2014)”

The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces (2013)

I wrote this in-depth report for ForcesWatch in 2013. It questions the main narrative about veterans’ mental health: that only a small minority are affected by their military employment. Because of the way mental health problems are measured, many veterans who may be harmed by war (and also by their military training) are deemed to be well. It also emphasises that a major contributor to mental health problems can be ethical crises, particularly as experienced by those who are made to kill other people at close quarters.

The report shows why younger recruits, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, tend to be the worst affected. An adverse childhood makes them more vulnerable to trauma later; they are more likely to be in frontline army jobs where traumatic experiences are most frequent; and they are more likely than other personnel to struggle with mental health problems after they leave the forces. It’s a ‘perfect storm’ of greater psychological vulnerability, greater exposure to trauma, and diminished support after leaving. Continue reading “The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces (2013)”

Young age at army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks (2013)

I produced this paper with Anna Goodman, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical  Medicine (the world’s first public health university). The paper shows that British army recruits who enlisted at 16 and completed their training were about twice as likely as adult recruits (aged 18+) to die or be injured in Afghanistan. It was produced for Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch. Continue reading “Young age at army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks (2013)”

One step forward: The case for ending the recruitment of minors by the British armed forces (2013)

This was written with Rachel Taylor at Child Soldiers International. I think it was the first thing we wrote together.

By this point (2013)  we had gathered enough evidence on the ethical issues arising from enlisting 16 and 17 year olds, and on the feasibility of raising the age to 18, that we could outline the case for change in a report of this kind. Continue reading “One step forward: The case for ending the recruitment of minors by the British armed forces (2013)”

Culture and conscience (2012)

I wrote this short article for the Quaker journal The Friend in 2012 about corporate sponsorship of the arts, which often masquerades as philanthropy. In reality, the arts don’t get much money from it (about 5-10% of the budgets of major arts organisations) but some of the most harmful big business get a lot of free advertising and the chance to represent themselves to the public as social and ecological benefactors. Continue reading “Culture and conscience (2012)”

ForcesWatch (2010)

In 2009 Emma Sangster and I put together a proposal for a small organisation that would critically scrutinise armed forces recruitment practices, other military personnel issues, and the interface between the military and wider society. We got together with a few others to create ForcesWatch.

Army recruiters visit London’s poorest schools most often (2010)

This report showed that the army visited 40% of state secondary schools in London over an 8-month period (and quite a few primary schools as well). It also showed that recruiters visited the poorest fifth of schools most often (51% of these were visited).

This was the first statistical evidence to indicate socioeconomic targeting by army recruiters and the first time I worked with Anna Goodman at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to produce a statistical report.

Continue reading “Army recruiters visit London’s poorest schools most often (2010)”

BeforeYouSignUp.info (2008)

After I produced the Informed Choice  report, in 2008,  I built BeforeYouSignUp.info to make the research useful for young people and their parents. The site tries to convey the pros and cons of joining up, so that users can make their own minds up. It’s also a source of support and impartial information for those who are wanting (and often desperate) to leave the army in particular, but find they have no immediate right to do so. Continue reading “BeforeYouSignUp.info (2008)”

Informed Choice? Armed forces recruitment practice in the United Kingdom (2008)

This report, produced in 2008 with some funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, asked whether young people and their parents are provided with the information they need to make a genuinely informed choice about joining the armed forces. It also challenged the UK’s low enlistment age: 16.

The report was the first independent inquiry into the materials and practices used to persuade young people to join the armed forces. It’s quite a lengthy report, since it also attempted to documented a number of risks to young people that follow enlistment. Among these were (and are) a high rate of bullying and the very restrictive terms of service, which can bind young people to the armed forces for a number of years with no right to leave. Continue reading “Informed Choice? Armed forces recruitment practice in the United Kingdom (2008)”

United States military and intelligence bases in Britain: A briefing (2004)

This briefing was produced in 2004, while I was working with the Quakers, after a Quaker activist had been maltreated by US military security guards at RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. Despite its name, the base (pictured) is a very large spy station run entirely by US military intelligence. It’s the downlink for spy satellites above Britain and a telecommunications processing centre. It’s part of an extensive network of US military bases in Britain, including the largest military base of all, at Lakenheath in Suffolk (also disguised as’RAF’) Continue reading “United States military and intelligence bases in Britain: A briefing (2004)”

US Missile Defence: Ten reasons for UK concern (2001)

I produced this with Helen Hughes in 2001 while working with the Quakers, on behalf of the UK Missile Defence Working Group. The group had gathered to resist plans to set up a US missile shield in Europe, possibly at the joint UK-US base at Fylingdales on the North York Moors.

The idea of a protective shield might sound like common sense, but it risked re-igniting the arms race with Russia and making everyone less secure. And anyway, it wouldn’t have worked. Still, the ‘sword-and-shield’ idea hasn’t gone away, and nor has the arms race.

PDFs didn’t exist then, so here it is copied and pasted. Continue reading “US Missile Defence: Ten reasons for UK concern (2001)”

European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (1999)

EPLO was created in 1999 as a way for organisations with an interest in peacebuilding to engage with the European Union institutions with a view to influencing the way the EU intervened in conflicts around the world.

It was my job while working for a year at the Quaker Council for European Affairs in Brussels to put a proposal together and build support for it. It was set up at the end of that year by a coalition of peacebuilding organisations.