Public Statement FAO
Diane Coyle and Richard Davies, Co-Directors of the Festival of Economics
Zoe Steadman-Milne, Producer and all other organisers of the Bristol Festival of Economics as well as the Panel discussion on ‘What are the Ecomnomics of Reparation’.
I am writing to let you know that upon further reflection, I feel compelled to withdraw my participation in the forthcoming panel discussion on ‘What are the Economics of Reparations’. Since my agreement to participate in July 2021, I have come under scrutiny from Afrikan Heritage Community Members, who have quite rightly raised concerns about the ethical and legal dimensions of the contentious admissions policy for those attending the Festival of Economics and the panel discussion on reparations.
One overriding concern is how the admission requirements indirectly discriminate against certain sections of Afrikan Heritage Communities who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore creates differential treatment among individuals based on characteristics, (such as immunity status or vaccination status); thereby restricting their access to and ability to effectively participate in public events concerning issues of reparations. Indeed, the findings of report of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) on COVID-19 vaccine certification released in June 2021 are instructive here. The report raised concerns among MPs’ that certification schemes would “disproportionately discriminate” on the basis of race, religion, age and socio-economic background. It states: “While the committee accepts that in emergency situations the prospect of temporary infringement of rights may need to be weighed against public health or other emergency considerations, these occasions should only ever be when there is an overwhelming case of necessity and should, in all situations, be proportionate to that necessity”.
Even the PACAC has expressed concern about the UK Government’s “failure to make the scientific case” for COVID-19 certification schemes. It is not surprising then, that for some sections and groupings within Afrikan Heritage Communities, there is a lack of trust due to the UK Government and the medical establishment’s failure to provide convincing explanations and evidence regarding the scientific case for COVID-19 vaccinations, including concerns about vaccine efficacy and safety for a plethora of reasons, such as institutional racism, medical forms of discimination and structural inequalities in health outcomes. The arguments often put forward as justification for the infringment of human and people’s rights in imposing certification schemes, like public health and safety, also have racialised and other intersectional dimensions. Addressing these issues requires embracing intersectional human and people’s rights approaches which balance risk and benefits across society taking into consideration such risks and benefits for specific communities and groups.
There is a simple maxim that has been adopted by Afrikan Heritage Communities regarding the disturbing trend of many institutions to hold meetings which put on events discussing issues of reparations pertaining to Afrikan Heritage Communities, but which at the same time largely exclude us. This maxim is: Nothing About Us Without Us, Anything About Us Without Us is Against Us! Questions are also being raised about the way this event is organised and whether this is the best use of resources.
Whilst I was indeed looking forward to participating in such a discussion and offering perspectives from the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations on the ‘Economics of Afrikan Reparations’; I have had to take very seriously the challenges and critical questions raised by Afrikan Heritage Community Members about my own participation in the panel discussion. Some of these critical questions relate to perceptions that I appear to be ‘legitimising white spaces’ which host events of interest and vital concern to Afrikan Heritage and other Majority World Communities, but at the same time impose exclusionary conditions limiting their own access and ability to participate themselves, including among other things cost prohibitions.
This becomes all the more serious when many such discussions end up becoming springboards for policy and other programmatic proposals of white-led institutions as well as NGOs, which are not informed by Afrikan Heritage Community experiences, voices, perspectives and lineages of mass struggle and are often unaccountable to Afrikan Heritage Communities of Reparations Interest and the movements that they have built which advance the strategic goals and cause of effecting and securing holistic reparatory justice. This often occurs even when such institutions and NGOs choose particular scholars, scholar-activists and other professionals who represent particular classes disposed towards Eurocentricity, from Majority World Communites to work with, who are prepared to engage on the terms of ‘whiteness’, but do not necessarily recognise the wider autonomous structures and networks of accountability which promote substantive representation for the communities and groups that such persons are part of. In this regard, I am guided by the call for ethical engagements on issues pertaining to reparations for people of Afrikan ancestry and heritage as highlighted in the Principles of Partcipation of the International Network of Scholars & Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR).
In particular, objections have been raised about the requirement of an NHS COVID Pass for all ticket holders over the age of 18.
One such intervention, (but by all means not the only one), has been offered by
@AfriThinka who in a recent tweet states:
The full admissions requirements can be found here:
@AfriThinka then follows up with a tweet to me personally:
Concerns have also been raised about the data protection implications, for Afrikan Heritage Communities, of the Festival of Economics admission policy in terms of individual community members COVID-19 status being ‘special category’ data, and a lack of assurances that use of it will be “fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose”. Furthermore, questions have also been raised as to whether We The Curious and Bristol Ideas have undertaken a data protection impact assessment which takes into consideration the potential disproportionate and high risks of the admissions policy to individuals from Afrikan Heritage Communities on the basis of data known thus far about the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, the human rights dimensions of imposing the NHS Covid Pass as a requirement for admission as well as how COVID-19 discrimination manifests.
As you may be aware, there is a heightened sense of awareness of, and expectations among Afrikan Heritage Communities regarding their rights to effectively participate in events and discussions about reparations given their involvement, and that of the Stop The Maangamizi Campaign, working with Bristol based advocacy organisations, such as the Afrikan ConneXions Consortium and others, in creating the environment conducive to the passing of the ‘Atonement and Reparation for Bristol’s role in the Transatlantic Traffic of Enslaved Afrikans‘ motion by Bristol City Council on 2nd March 2021. This is more topical given the fact that Bristol based Afrikan Heritage Communities are organsing to develop their own glocal reparations plans of alternative progression known as Pempamsiempango’s given that the Bristol ‘Atonement and Reparations’ motion identifies that Bristol City Council resolves to call on Councillors, the Mayor or the Chief Executive as appropriate to:
2. Support Afrikan Heritage Community (AHC) organisations in Bristol to galvanise support for the emerging Bristol AHC led ‘Reparations Plan’ from, and in collaboration with, wider stakeholders including institutions, city strategic leaders, corporate leaders, key strategic programmes/initiatives and cross-party politicians, and
4. Recognise that reparative justice should be driven by Afrikan Heritage Communities experiences, voices and perspectives to ensure that advocacy messages not only reflect but also respond to the real needs of the community in order to recognise inequalities.
In these circumstances, my own participation in an event which appears not to have sufficiently considered these implications for and sensitivities of Afrikan Heritage Community stakeholders, has now become untenable.
I hope that as organisers you will draw the necessary lessons and do better going forwards in properly consulting stakeholding communities of reparations interest about everything to do with topics of particular relevance to such groups of people with particular emphasis of issues concerning barriers to participation.
Coordinator-General, Stop The Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide Campaign (SMWeCGEC)
Co-Vice Chair, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)
Official Spokesperson, Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee (AEDRMC)
Co-Facilitator, International Network of Scholars & Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR)
Co-Founder, Global Afrikan People’s Parliament (GAPP)
Co-Founder, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN)
This is the response to @AfriThinka’s tweet above