Shrinking Beach
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Max Couper
The Shrinking Beach Portrait 2000

Land, Human-rights, and the Environment

Presented at the
Lecture Theatre,
25th May 2002

  The Signing of The Protocol of The Shrinking Beach. Colour photographic print (centre section detail). Overall print 4 ft X 12 ft (120 X 365 cm)
Part of the Couper Collection

  The Protocol of The Shrinking Beach.
Protocol of agreement on paper signed by the participants.
33 X 33 inches (84 X 84 cm)
Part of the Couper Collection

Protocol of The Shrinking Beach (in précis)
Agreed 6th September 2000, Low tide, River Thames, Chelsea Beach, London

“The participants of The Shrinking Beach:

Desiring to clarify the relationship between business, government, non-governmental organisations, and the individual, with respect to land; and to reconcile our use of land with the forces of nature through sustainable development;

Concerned about the relationship between economic and civic ownership in the use of land; and for peoples and cultures marginalised by existing systems of land ownership;

Concerned that the existing system of global free trade can endanger certain cultures and livelihoods; and that our existing systems of trusteeship of land may not be sufficient for the future;

Recognising existing international agreements on human rights that remind all parties of their obligations to society and the need for land; the right of the individual to public space which confers human dignity;

Recognising the importance of all living people having the relevant knowledge, if genuine democratic decision-making is to take place; the importance of a free media in informing the people; and the lack of rights in many societies to free democratic expression;

Emphasising that wildlife and the natural habitat cannot speak for themselves and must have their rights and interests defended; the need to preserve a sense of reverence towards the natural world; and that the needs of communities must be balanced with the environment; through sustainable development;

1. Call on business and all levels of national and international government to ensure that civic space is of paramount consideration in any development;

2. Call on all levels of government to improve democratic consultation procedures that recognise everyone’s need for space and dignity, especially where land use policy is being development;

3. Urge nation states to adopt and implement rational and international land strategies to improve the situation of marginalised peoples, and protect them against discrimination;

4. Request all levels of government to consider methods of direct participation in the decision-making process, such as public hearings, civic conferences and citizen’s juries”


The Shrinking Beach
3pm, 6 September 2000
The Transcript

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Time & tide waits for no person and by half past three we should be coming up with some resolutions from the subject before us. The gathering includes: -

General Sir Hugh Beach
Baroness Angela Billingham, Local Government concerning land
Bishop Tom Butler (Diocese of Southwark)
Max Couper (artist)
Dean Leslie (businessman)
Bhikkhu Nagase (Buddhist Monk and custodian of Battersea Park Peace Pagoda)
Kamal Samari (political refugee)
Pierre Sane (Secretary General of Amnesty International)
Nina Samoes (Brazilian Land Movement)
John Vidal (Guardian Newspaper Editor)

A word about the event, and before that we have had good wishes from Mo Mowlam, John Prescott, and apologies from Anita Roddick, and alas this morning from Clare Short, who had another engagement to attend.

The Couper Collection is one of the Millenium String of Pearls Sites and is the site of several millennium discussions, of which this event today is one. ‘The Shrinking Beach’ is a metaphor concerning the issues of Internationalism, Land, Human Rights and the Environment. We must pay tribute and salute the originator of the event, the artist Max Couper, who wishes to draw attention to the fact that time is running out in our search for solutions for these issues.

We are gathered here as archetypal persons at the dawn of this new millennium. It is worth remembering that at this very moment in New York, heads of State and Heads of Government, including our Prime Minister, are deliberating world concerns at the Millennium Summit. We are an alternative assembly. And now I take great pleasure in introducing our Rapporteur Carole Tongue. Carol has been our Member of the European Parliament for London East for 15 years 1984 -99. A European Parliament Spokesperson on Culture and Media, and European Parliament Spokesperson on Public Service Broadcasting.

Carole Tongue
Thank you Ivor. It is beholden to me to explain briefly the shape of the event because time is pressing. Whilst the topics are all of profound importance we only have 15 minutes to spend on each topic. I know that you have all received prior notification of these topics and some of you will have noted your own particular interest in one topic. You have a placard taped to the table in front of you and I was going to say raise it if you wish to speak, but it is fastened down for obvious reasons. I am going to sum up at the end of each question. If you have amendments to what has been said or extra things you would like included, please could you pass me a written amendment, because that would be helpful in formulating a final protocol. Please feel free to use the paper in front of you to jot down your thoughts, doodles are accepted and are even encouraged. They will make a great contribution to the work of art. Any comments you may have about the event in general would also be welcomed on the sheets of paper in front of you. I trust we will be able to sign a protocol before the tide overtakes us and we also will hope to move down at about 3.45pm to have a photo, which is part of the overall artistic creation. As you know we need an important record of this event.

Now, if I can introduce Ivor to you all. Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron, whose roots are Indian, has been resident for the past half a century in this country. He has among other things been the first Asian Chaplain to HM the Queen, and member of the Royal Household, and we are very honoured that Ivor agreed to Chair this important event, and I would like to pass back to you Ivor to introduce the first question.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
We have 15 minutes for the first question and really only 12 and a half minutes for us actually talking. I want really to introduce the first question:

How should economic ownership relate to civic rights?

I am going to ask Baroness Angela Billingham if she will kick off.

Baroness Angela Billingham
I am delighted to do so because like everything else in life timing is everything. It so happens that when I go back to the House of Lords in three weeks time, the first thing that we will be considering is the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill. The work that has been done on that is actually almost a blueprint for how consensus should be sought over all disputed land rights, wherever they occur. Whether they are urban or whether they occur in this country or take place elsewhere. This has taken something like four years to draw together. There have been something like 2,000 respondents coming from all sides, and the task of this Bill is to balance the needs of individuals to having rights to access to open spaces against the legitimate rights of landowners. You all know how complicated that is. Now when I was involved, a long time ago, in Local Government, these were the issues that we had to deal with all the time. How do you find the right solution between a major development, which requires open space and commercial development at the same time? Well, there’s only one sure way of doing it and that’s the democratic way, and having enough public hearings and enough openness within local Government and within National Government to ensure that all people’s views are held. I know that it’s a difficult question; one of the difficult things that I remember, most clearly, was in access to countryside even in rural areas. Where I was representing, in the middle of Oxfordshire, the blocking off of rights of way was highly contentious. They were felt to be, by locals, positively offensive. So this is a difficulty that I hope that this Countryside and Rights of Way Bill is going to be able to address. We come into committee stage and it’s going to take about two to three weeks to get through the House of Lords. I hope that it will be on the Statute Book because I think that certainly, in the United Kingdom, this is not going to be the answer to the maiden’s prayer but it’s certainly going to go a long way in trying to balance up the needs of all sides of our society. So I recommend it to you as bedside reading and it’s something that I’m very happy to answer further questions to later on.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Is there anyone who would like to contribute and take the other point of view please? What about our Businessman, Dean Leslie?

Dean Leslie
Thank you Ivor. It is interesting to hear Baroness Billingham’s thoughts on the Countryside Bill. I think that it’s a very interesting point that we have come to in society, that we have a situation where we have to make a choice between using efficient economies for making these decisions and trying to come up with some sort of subjective mechanism for figuring out exactly what the rights to land should be. What is really interesting about the countryside issue is that many of the people that need this are not the people who are really suffering from disaffection from land. These are people that are enjoying the countryside not people that need to work seven days a week and don’t have the time to enjoy the countryside. I think that for land ownership to be dealt with in an equitable and efficient way we have to look at economic models.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Can I turn to the landowner and ask what he thinks about that?

General Sir Hugh Beach
Well, perhaps I could make a few general remarks first Ivor.

I was asked to come here as an archetype. The archetype that I have chosen is that of the English country landowner. Indeed, at a tender age I inherited some 1500 acres of moorland in Derbyshire. Already the wildlife had been decimated. There used to be huge population of grouse and sheep are run there of course, I became a good friend of the tenant. It’s not an unmitigated blessing. I would take the stance that like St.Francis that the wildlife has an equal claim to be consulted, and of course they miss out on the consultation programme. There are unfortunately ramblers who leave cans around on the moorland. There are even worse ones who think it funny to run the sheep over the edge, so that they fall to their deaths 100ft below. I made, I thought, a good bargain, I came to a voluntary agreement with the local authorities to declare the whole empire open countryside, which the positive effect of the Bill will be, in exchange for which, and this is crucial, they put on a warden service. Which meant that although these were volunteers, they had on an armband, if they saw people behaving in a yobbish way they had the status and authority to reprimand and talk to them.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Did you not think that was a compromise?

General Sir Hugh Beach
No, I was happy to do it. I note that what the Bill is doing is in producing the element of compulsion about this. It applies to mountain, moorland, heath and downs. A de-markated area marked on the map, marked by signs, and what I have misgivings about this are firstly, is this not the nanny state yet again? Whereas, is it not better left to the sort of arrangement I came to happily and willingly. And secondly, the point I started with, what about the poor old grouse? On my bit of moor land there will be several hundred climbers every weekend who come along in charabancs from all over the country. What about the grouse that used to think it belonged to them?

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Well, you may be the perfect model of the perfect English Gentleman.
The sad thing is, of course, is you’re not the only model. I think that this Bill is to address some of the problems that have occurred over many, many years.

Could you direct two or three of those problems?

Baroness Angela Billingham
Well, the problems that have been identified. I am more interested in solutions and one of the solutions that are contained within the Bill is the enhancement of the SSI – The Special Scientific Interest Areas. It says quite clearly that part of the legislation is to appoint wardens, just as you have done in your own small deal. Which is an excellent idea. There will be wardens, there will be some form of regulation and there are controls and the Bill itself says that there are times when it’s not going to be appropriate to have open access, breeding periods, certain times of day, etc, etc. So it’s not complete laisse faire, you say we are going to throw the gates open but that isn’t the entire story. I think that this is a very moderate, controlled and creditable Bill, which I hope will bring a solution to some of the problems that you have quite rightly identified.

John Vidal
With deep respect to the Government it is being deeply unambitious. The scale of the grouse land, which I think the General, and mainly his ancestors, started many, many years ago, has been so horrendous, and basically, up there the whole of that land has been left to one person, or to the benefit of very, very few people indeed. The process of the taking away of the land from people in Scotland must be one of the most outrageous acts of the last two to three hundred years. The fact that the Government is only just allowing a few people to just wander over this land at certain times at the benefit or convenience of the landowner just seems wrong. If anything I am deeply against the whole idea that anyone can actually own land. Land is not to be handed from one generation to the next. The idea of benefiting from a sole use seems to be archaic and arcane, and land rights are the greatest problem in the world, as much in Britain as I’m sure we’ll hear in Brazil and elsewhere.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you let me bring in our businessman again.

Dean Leslie
I wanted to point out that we have been focusing on the UK and, of course, we’re here and we’re on a beach here in the UK. We could be anywhere actually. I think that we should pay a little attention to the global issue. What we’ve set up. We are working in a paradigm where we support free trade and global economic and the question becomes, if we have these values about land, if we want to try to maintain land that is culturally sensitive, that looks at diversity, how can we give voice to everything? How can we give voice to all of the people that are having issues with land? The problem is that the economic system is not necessarily working. It’s not that it’s that wrong system. It’s that it has flaws. We need to look at the flaws in the economic system before we try to figure out supplanting it with a value system that somehow doesn’t look at economics. Cultural diversity is paid for by money. When we talk about the Arts and we talk about protection of cultural rights, people pay to do that. People pay to build Opera Houses, people pay to make Web Sites that give us cultural diversity that we treasure so highly. As long as we find efficient methods of getting the information across, about the cultural issues that we are talking about, the model that we are working, in Global Trade and Free Trade, can work. I just don’t want us to start dismissing the use of an economic model and economic solutions before we recognise that there are ways to deal with it in the systems that we have.

Canon Ivor Smith Cameron
I’m just going to now point to my Bishop because he belongs to a church in which every inch of land throughout this country is included in what they call a Parish. So there is nothing really which is outside that ambience and orbit. Have you anything to say on this?

Bishop Tom Butler
Well, that’s absolutely right. Even this Diocese or my Diocese goes from the river here down into the Surrey countryside. Which means we are in the most uncomfortable areas and the most comfortable areas. Very often the twain doesn’t mix and don’t meet. The real, real challenge is those who feel themselves excluded from the kind of wealth that we have been hearing about, totally from ownership of land or ownership of the means of production. How do we actually involve them in caring for their own planet and their own part of the planet?

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you. Now I’m going to ask Carole if she would simply try and raise the little bit of protocol which we can spend a minute or two over before I get onto the next important question.

Carole Tongue
Just some preliminary ideas. As I said, if you would like to raise a particular problem orally, or pass me in writing any additional point that you think we should raise. First of all, just to reiterate that we are concerned about the relationship between economic and civic ownership, and that we want to clarify the relationship between Business, the Government and the Individual in the decision making process for land use. Much was said about the need to hear and understand the voices of all interested parties including those of Business, Individuals, Voluntary Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, where decisions regarding land use and ownership are concerned, in a way recognising everyone’s part in creating a fair and efficient system. Recalling what the General said, I thought of including some wording that perhaps would be more specific regarding the countryside issue in this country, recalls that either wardenship or a system of custodianship of land may be required in order to achieve greater public access to the countryside.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you. Now to move on to the second question which I believe several of you may wish to have a word in. What sort of relationship should there be between Business, Government and the Individual in respect of land ownership? I want to call the Secretary General of Amnesty International Mr Pierre Sane, to start the conversation.

Pierre Sane
Thank you very much. Let me start with this in the same way that we are running against time. With the tide that is coming in. I used to work in an organisation devoted to science and technology and they had this clock in the entrance of the building. The first set of data was the population; the clock was ticking every time a new baby was born worldwide. The second one was the amount of arable land available, not put to use, available. It was decreasing on a daily basis because of pollution and because of appropriation for agricultural use, etc. Therefore the question that was asked is ‘how do we solve this?’ How do we make sure that we solve our problem before we are run over by the tide? And the answer in that organisation was that we need to develop a knowledge that will allow us to take action. Even if the knowledge was developed, the action was not taken because of the various interests that were powerful enough in order to prevent a solution that would benefit everybody, but that could be detrimental to their own personal interests, be found. We think that from our perspective now in Human Rights we obviously will look at these from a Human Rights perspective.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
May I come back to you? I want to ask General Hugh, have you got anything to say about that?

General Sir Hugh Beach
Sincerity is an admirable objective but don’t forget the livestock.

Kamal Samari
I will call myself like your Roma really. Like a Gypsy who managed to land up on these shores, forced to land. But, it’s where I found some humanity. Humanity being that this is our land. With the shelter that I have it has helped me to maintain a little bit of my humanity towards my relationship with the land. When I came back to my country of twenty years of wilderness I didn’t recognise things. Being deprived of the basic right to enjoy the freedom of the space I believe is one of the worst violations of Human Rights. When I say like a Roma because the Roma are demonised. They are estranged and lately there were a set of recommendations, which I passed to Carol, which are very interesting. How could Government introduce a Civil Society and most importantly the media participate in finding the solution for the Arab. Estranged and every time demonised because he is a different race. Because he didn’t have the chance to inherit.

John Vidal
I think those are very powerful words. I think that the role of the media is absolutely fundamental in exposing the human outrages, which are going on right the way throughout the world. If half of us knew an eighth of the tragedies which are happening right the way round the world, in your country and all the countries against you, then we probably wouldn’t have this. We have a very blind and limited media, very inward looking, and it’s part of the problem.

Baroness Angela Billingham
I was going to say that Carol and I come roughly from the same pathways working from the European Parliament. One of things that we have to do there is resolve conflict through mediation and consultation and consensus. I take the challenge that John gave, for example, about this particular Bill. But I don’t think that revolutionary methods are necessarily going to be successful. He in anxious and he is exasperated, but I think that the consensus bill, the one that you have outlined, the building up of knowledge, the aquaintainship, between all the participants about what the facts are, and then how we are going to deal corporately in a consensual way in how to deal with it. I think then that the interests of all the necessary parties are taken on board. So I would say that I don’t think for example in an undemocratic country that we take in the same rights and same same pathways that we do in a democratic country. We do have to go through these stages. Now I believe that for example this Bill may be at the first stage, but my goodness me, however dismissive you are John it’s going to be, when we get it on the statute, this is going to be a very fundamental Human Right. This ‘right to roam’ that we haven’t enjoyed even in this country for the best part of the last century.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
I’m going to ask our artist because I think he has some very strong views on this matter, Max.

Max Couper
I have lived on this river, on the other beach, for the last twenty years. During that time I have experienced all sorts of things that have happened to me where I have been treated as being on the margins. It started with Shell. Shell’s tankers used to come shooting up here with 500 ton of aviation fuel on board and just smash the boats and mooring to pieces. When I got in touch with them they were very dismissive ‘who are you?’ ‘you’re an individual!’ I had to resort to filming them eventually to stop them. I have had similar experiences from the developers of Canary Wharf, who were running the riverbus services. We had to actually arrest one of the river buses in order to get that stopped. I mean that is just one side of things but on a more general perspective this river represents a link with the rest of the world, a certain freedom, a certain freedom that is enshrined as a right to be here, and by necessity, a reverence of the wild life around you. Especially a reverence of the forces of nature which are unstoppable, which will clear this table in the next hour and a half.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Dean, do you agree with all that as a businessman?

Dean Leslie
I agree with much that I have heard. I think that we haven’t really been addressing the flaws that are in the civic relationship. When you look at the relationship, for instance between Business, Government and the Individual, it is very much a relationship of ‘after the fact’ complaining about something that business might have done. As opposed to being included in the decision making process itself and you know, part of the reason for that is businesses have a very difficult time making partnerships with NGO’s for instance. NGO’s are notoriously mismanaged. We have Amnesty International as an exception; it is obviously a wonderful organisation. But that’s certainly not the feature of an NGO. A typical NGO is something that business would do quite well to stay far away from rather than lose a lot of money. So I think until we talk about methods of including individuals and NGO’s in those decision-making processes, we are really not going to get anywhere as far as developing the relationships with business and individuals.

Bishop Tom Butler
Business stays away from NGO’s because businesses go where life is profitable and the NGO’s go where the need is. That is why there is a divide between business and NGO’s. Businesses get involved with NGO’s on the businesses own terms. Perhaps so that the shareholders see ‘a human face’ in the business or perhaps because it helps along some executives who have to be sidelined for the main cutting edge. NGO’s are very cautious about getting into bed with business because often a divorce follows and NGO’s are left in a worse position. They are there permanently not just there when the pickings are good.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
I’m coming back to you now Pierre Sane, because we began this question with you, have you anything to say now?

Pierre Sane
Well, I wanted to actually try to answer the question from the Human Rights perspective. It seems to me that answering the question of the relationship between business, individuals and Government on this issue, from the Human Right perspective, one has to ask the question ‘What is the responsibility of business? What are the obligations of business?’ Vis-à-vis, the protection and promotion for the Human Rights of everybody within the community. Business, very often, is seen to have only responsibility to its shareholders or to its stakeholders. Businesses have a responsibility towards the entire community. And if the answer is yes, and we believe the answer is yes, according to International Human Rights, according to the International Declaration of Human Rights. If business has a responsibility towards the entire community in terms of protecting all the Human Rights; Civil and Political rights; as well as Social and Economic rights. That should come first and therefore the question of ownership and use of land needs to balanced against the interests of the entire community, and whether the ownership and use of that land for individual business purposes runs against the enjoyment of the rights of the entire community. Therefore, what we need, in this phase, is to convince business that they have a responsibility to protect Human Rights worldwide. That they will be, tomorrow, held accountable in courts of law, like we have started to do now, with litigation, in the United States of America. This company is operating in Burma, for instance, we can establish that they have been complacent of Human Rights abuses committed by the government. For example their building pipelines uses slave labour. Or Shell in Nigeria, there is a legal suit in the USA from Ken Saro-Wiwa’s family, taking Shell to court.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Can I stop you there because I want to ask Carole if she has got enough now for the Protocol on this question?

Carole Tongue
I think more that enough. If I omit something that somebody said then please remind me of that. We’ve recalled the importance of objective reporting in the media around these issues. We have underlined the importance of adequate knowledge being available to all parties if genuine democratic decision-making can take place. We’ve looked at the need for improved methods of dialogue between different parties in order to achieve consensus. We’ve recalled Pierre particularly, and I hope the wording here is appropriate; International instruments on Human Rights that inform all parties of their obligations. We might want to say particularly business interests. That would be very much a pre-amble to a resolution. Returning to the first question, and the General, recalling that the wildlife and the natural habitats cannot be physically consulted, and whose rights must be taken into account and defended. Kamal, you raised the issue of the right of the individual to public space, with equal human dignity. You were also concerned for peoples and cultures marginalised by existing systems of land tenureship, I hope my use of the word tenureship will be all right in that respect? The same as under our first question, we are recognising the need to hear and understand the voices of all interested parties. Finally, I think we are asking that all levels of Government improve democratic consultation procedures. Recognise everyone’s needs and skills and it really is incumbent upon them to ensure that all the relevant voices are heard, have the relevant knowledge where land use policy is being developed.
Thank you.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
I’m now going to move onto the third question. Welcome also to David Henke from the Guardian, who has been able to join us. Thank you for coming.

As we move to the third question I am going to ask John to major on. How should societies deal with those marginalised by land issues? After John I am going to call Nina.

John Vidal
Well, I think it’s how should the marginalised deal with societies when they are basically being thrown out. The scale of what is happening around the world is so horrendous at the moment. I was just telling the Bishop before I came here that last year I was in Zambuango, in the Southern Philippines, and the Bishop there took off his mitre and he threw it into the local river because he was so appalled at the scale of the land grabs which were going on by the mining companies. The whole of the Philippines is being, just like many, many other countries, divided up into spaces for mining companies. Now this is the free-trade system which we have got which is putting more and more and more pressure on the marginalised societies around the world. We will hear later from Brazil in particular. The scale is now to a point where languages are going, cultures are going, hope is going. The only way people are finding it able to exist is to resist. The resistance is now building everywhere. Sometimes it’s directed at corporations, sometimes at Governments, wherever it can be. People are taking up arms. People are coming up with new democratic ways of countering the land grabs and the marginalisation everywhere. This is going to be the future whether we like it or not, the scale of the free-trade, the globalisation which is happening at the moment, is the only option for the Chappas or dozens of indigenous groups around the world, is to resist and resist powerfully. To go with the democratic methods where possible but if not, to find their own ways. I’m sorry but I fear that that is the way ahead.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Nina, would you like to say something? Tell us your personal experience please.

Nina Samoes
I think just following on from what John says about new ways to fight for land, it is so far away to be here from the very edge of Brazil. It is so different, different ways to talk about the issues that they have there. I’m going to try to say a bit about my last experience of Brazil. I went last April, for the 500 year Anniversary of the discovery of Brazil. I was following 3000 indigenous people, plus 100 thousand landless people, from the landless movement. For a few days they were discussing new ways, or their rights for land, and at the end of three days they wrote the paper they wanted to give to the Brazilian Government. But the way that they wanted to hand this paper to the Government was after a march, so they decided to march. So you had indigenous people coming from all over Brazil. From remote areas, from the Amazon, from the countryside, people who had perhaps never been to the cities. After 4km of marching we had 8,000 military police throwing bombs at the indigenous people. Hurting many with rubber bullets. These people basically didn’t have a voice. They couldn’t give away the paper that they wanted to give to the President. This is the way that people are treated in Brazil. Fortunately we are under a democratic rule, but people are not respected, people are not listened to. So when we say ‘new ways to fight for land’ I very much defend the landless movement, where people are seeking justice. They are going and fighting for their rights. Under the Brazilian Constitution they don’t have the rights to occupy certain areas. They are going to the land where the big land owners are not cultivating anything. They are grabbing the land and sharing the land with the people who most need it - People that are dying of starvation. So my experience is just to say that in Brazil we still don’t live in a democratic country, the dictatorship ended in 1985, but actually I think the dictators just changed their clothes.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Bishop have you got anything to say about that?

Bishop Tom Butler
I was in Brazil, at the World Council of Churches Conference on Marginalised Peoples, about three years ago, and I totally agree. It is a totally different world sitting here. I think that there are two major realities that cause change, one is money and one is people. If you can mobilise the people then even the power of money can be used for the public good. But it is not going to be used for the public good without the power of the people. I think that the kinds of movements that are going on in Brazil are very important for the future of this subject.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Max.

Max Couper
Could I just say one thing? Almost without exception every person from the business community that was invited to be here has declined. Mr Varley, CEO of British Gas, was asked then considered then turned us down. Richard O’Brien who is the European boss of the Global Business Network that represents most of the multi-nationals, as a sort of ‘window-dressing’ operation, at the last moment declined, and there were many others from the business community.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
I’m not allowing our businessman to let you get away with that.

Dean Leslie
Well, I think that there are a couple of things. First of all I would like to say, look at the shape of this discussion, to start with, it starts out with a presumption against business. It is very easy and clear to see that that presumption, that the landowners are misusing or mismanaging something, is something that can be very off-putting. And very briefly responding to something that Pierre Sane said, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, one of the two covenants that come from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, guarantees the right to profit from your work as well. But no one ever mentions that, that it is a Human Rights guarantee as well. I recognise that most businesses don't respond to that, and most businesses don’t operate that way, but there are many businessmen that want to do the right thing and enjoy doing the right thing and give their time to Human Rights. I think that it is important to remember that these rights ascribe to not only individuals, but also groups as well, and business groups particularly.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Angela.

Baroness Angela Billingham
Can I ask Nina, I was interested to hear what you were saying and your feelings of isolation and the feeling of time being against you, is one that comes across. You know the encroachment is so fast and the resistance, because it is not co-ordinated is not going to withstand the onslaught. So my question is who do you want to help you? Are you looking at the Churches, the United Nations, are you looking to NGO’s, are you looking to journalists to highlight you plight? Where are you hoping and trying to gain your own constituency, which is going to give support to your very real needs?

Nina Samoes
I think everyone should know more about what is going on. Not just in Brazil, but in every country. But certainly the Government should know more about what is going on in Brazil. There are conversations between Governments. And certainly the right words from the people of Brazil are not getting into the Parliament. I very much would like people here to know what is going on over there. There was a massacre in 1997. Constantly they are shooting. Land owners in Brazil are contracting hired gangs to kill landless people all the time. The news doesn’t talk about that. They say that landowners are constantly being invaded, their land is being constantly invaded by landless people in Brazil. It is a very difficult issue; it is a very broad issue to be discussed at this table. Certainly I think the Church, and I am sure the Church knows. Certain NGO’s and the KR are already helping the landless movement. John Vidal, in 1997, was in Brazil, following the march of the landless people to the Capital Brazillia. Where I think he followed thousands of people in the streets where they were demonstrating to the Brazilian Government to need to be listened to, to be heard. I pointed out very much to the British Government to listen to what is going on in Brazil, but also certainly everyone should know a little bit more about what is going on.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
I remember as an Indian, and I can’t remember the name of the man, who walked right through India telling landlords to give away bits of their land and so on, making an enormous impression with a very great peoples movement behind him. His name escapes me at the moment. And of course it was Archbishop Helde Kamari, wasn’t it Bishop, who said that ‘When I give the people bread they call me a saint, when I ask why do the people need bread, they call me a communist.’ The whole thing seems to be, the peoples’ movement is so important and is growing. We say that about South America and that’s right, but I believe that in Asia the peoples’ movement is growing very, very strongly. Have you got any examples?

Bishop Tom Butler
Absolutely. I have just come back from the Delta Region, Nigeria. Shell is now the 12th or 13th largest landowner in the world. It is the equivalent of the largest country in the world. It owns or controls more land than more than 200 countries, has searights and, whatever. The way it is treating the Ugoni and other communities in The Delta is an outrage, is a shame. If it were seen in Britain we would not believe it. Shell is a Government there, in those regions. Not just the ‘Shells’ but mining companies, International Companies of all sorts, the business community unfortunately does not want to pay any attention to it. It does not want to address this. It is motivated by something else. I have to say that for all the good words, of good people in the business community, the situation is getting worse and not better.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Carole I hope you have got enough for a Protocol for this one?

Carole Tongue
May I just come in?
We shouldn’t finish the discussion without mentioning the responsibility of the Governments. At the end of the day the laws are made in Parliaments, they are implemented by Governments. The whole area of trade has been de-regulated due to the influence and power of business and excise for the Government. At the end of the day it is a decision taken by our Governments. They are the ones who, by law, are accountable to us. We also have the possibility of removal of those Governments if we are not happy with the decisions that they are taking. So, Governments are responsible, but also we are responsible, we have to make sure that we are making the decisions, in terms of democratic decisions — that we make sure that the changes we want to see are active.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you. David.

David Henke
Yes, I would come in on something I saw as a tourist and not as a journalist. In Norway I saw a very interesting exhibition about the plight of the Laplanders. It was about the plight of the Sami people in Lapland. Basically the Sami people know no boundaries they just follow their reindeer. They travel from inland to the sea. Today most of them are in Norway but they also come from Finland, Sweden and Russia too. The communists don’t recognise them at all. The Swedes and the Fins don’t really recognise them. They eventually pushed them towards Norway and Norway was even quite bad. But something happened there, which is better late than never, they have a voice, which goes into the Norwegian Government.

I think that might be a way forward. I just put that in more as a sort of tourist than a journalist.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you.
I would like now to hear some of the protocol please.

Carole Tongue
Well, the issue of the system of global free trade has been mentioned two or three times so I think that it is important that we record in some way that there are problems with International Governing. Presumably people were referring to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in particular? Then, John went on to express concern at the power of certain business interests. Maybe somebody has a particular idea of the way that one might word that so that we get a percentage of who’s around this table?

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Can you start thinking about that please?

Carole Tongue
Because I won’t write anything on this. I’m trying to write down what I really do think we all have agreements on. And, again finding wording around the issue of trade de-regulation and how the present system of International Government, particularly the WTO, is going to properly again seek the views of individuals. They haven’t got it right. Many of us, I myself, have warned officials before the WTO, ahead of Seattle, what was going to happen. So I will be seeking to find some kind of wording that records the insufficient nature of consultation. It’s not sufficient to say ‘just replace your Governments’ that would be the argument of Sir Leon Brittain, as it was recently on television. No, when it comes to International Governments we need some new methods and some new structures of consultation.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Thank you. Well, you may not believe this but the tide is coming in. We have really got to work through this fourth one quite rapidly.

How should we conserve our uses of land in balance with the forces of nature?
Somebody will say something about the Aboriginal people and somebody will say something about what the Native American Indians.

Bishop Tom Butler
I will begin with the statement Need not Greed, and I think this is at the heart of it.
There are two different approaches, one is that the land is sacred, and it can’t be owned. To the Aboriginal people or the American Indians, to think that they were giving their land away, when they Europeans came along, they though that they were sharing their land – land is sacred and it can’t be owned. The other approach is that land is a gift from God, it is a gift that is held in trust, it’s to be treaded with respect – need comes before greed. The bible, which is my own tradition, again shows, that for example at harvest time, you don’t go to the very edges of your field or your vineyard. You leave that for the poor, the landless, for the orphans, you treat that land with respect. It is a very interesting thing about the bible, when they were thinking about a perfect world of the future there is no more sea. They were terrified of the sea and the chaos it could bring. It could engulf everything, everything that you stood for. That’s where the need and the greed come together. If you are in your little bit of land whether in Brazil, Africa or in India and the greed comes rolling towards you, swallowing up your land and everything can be swallowed up in front of you. You’ve got nothing, everything that you hold secure is gobbled up by that sea, the chaos of the sea. Need coming before Greed.

Canon Ivor-Smith Cameron
Thank you. Bhikkhu Nagase, Buddhist monk, would you like to say anything from your tradition?

Bhikkhu Nagase
(he reads a text in Japanese dedicated to peace and written by one of the founders of his movement)

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Also remember what they say about the Aboriginal people, that they don’t own the land but that the land owns them and they are so intimate with the land that they can do nothing except obey the land throughout their life.

You may not believe this but the tide is coming in and we have time for only a few more comments.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
(the Canon then asks Nagasi, Buddhist Monk, to ring the bell and give the table a Buddhist chant, whilst Carole Tongue completes the writing of the protocol)
Thank you to all the participants.

 

Paul Boateng MP
Deputy Home Secretary
Contribution to The Shrinking Beach
Interview at The Couper Collection barges
11am, 6 September 2000

Left to right: Dean Leslie (Trust Co-ordinator), Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron (Trust Chair), Paul Boateng (Deputy Home Secretary), Carole Tongue (Trust Advisor) and Max Couper (Trust Administrator).

Carole Tongue
I think that there is a general concern in society about increasing voter alienation, and quite low turnouts at election. People feeling that they can’t get really meaningfully involved in the things that concern them. I think that we are wanting to look at different ways that people can come together in free assembly and really influence opinion formers and people like yourself who have been given the space to do that. I think a lot of the emphasis, perhaps, on local government is one of things we are looking at, to explore ways of involving citizens better in decisions that affect their lives.

Paul Boateng
I think the issues of space and use of space and land is a very important one. One of the pieces of work that we are currently engaged in, at the Home Office, is how we create space in our towns and cities for democratic discussion, debate, decent, for the sharing of ideas. We have a project, the Speakers Foreign Project, that is very much about saying that there ought to be places where people feel free to go and to exchange views and to dispute and to contend for ideas. And that we shouldn’t get caught in the little, private boxes, whether it’s the internet or whatever. Even if it’s a trapped box that involves many other people but we’re in our private space, doing it as it were. We shouldn’t get caught into that and into watching television and discussions on the television, with soundbites, and watching the parliament channel. That is all part of it and that’s great and that’s important but it’s not enough and it’s not a substitute for people sharing a common space, and facing each other, and exchanging ideas in that way. So what you are doing, what is happening on the beach, is very, very exciting and a good way of not only graphically illustrating that but also taking it forward.

Dean Leslie
I wondered if you might say a few words perhaps on your views on land itself and maybe the reverence or the cultural or spiritual attachments it brings to land, or the usage of land, or understanding of how we relate to each other through that medium?

Paul Boateng
I am very fortunate in having grown up in two societies, two different cultural contexts in which the approach to land itself has been very different. Certainly, when I was a boy growing up in Ghana, land is seen much more for its spiritual significance and importance than is in fact the case in the 21st Century Britain. I think in a way we have got a lot to learn from other cultures, here in Britain, in terms of how we should treat land as being something, which even where there is private ownership, there is a responsibility that is a public responsibility and is a responsibility that extends across the generations, in terms of the way in which land is held, treated and respected. It is something about the need to respect the integrity of creation that I think we have lost in the Northern Hemisphere. We need to re-discover it. If the debate around land, and how we treat land, and how we hold land, and how we use land helps us in that process of re-discovery and a greater reverence for creation then I think that it will have been great assistance. We need to have it at this time as we start a new century, a new millennium.

Dean Leslie
There are those who would say that the separation, that you referred to, between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is often considered an economic one. I was wondering, we were just talking about individuals and governmental organisations, but I wondered how you thought business and the business community might fit into this equation? What do you think their relationship to this, and how can we help them to meet the ends that we are looking to meet?

Paul Boateng
Well, I think that that’s a dialogue that business needs to be part of. That’s a dialogue that we need to have between the private sector and the public sector, between the voluntary sector who have a very important role to play in all of this.

Carole Tongue
Do you think the government and particularly now we have a GLA, can be quite pivotal in creating that kind of dialogue and that partnership, in perhaps more of a meaningful way than has been done in the past?

Paul Boateng
Well, one of the great values of local government ought to be its closeness to peoples’ active communities. At its best, local government opens up its processes to effective consultation, not consultation in terms of a passage of time between two particular points, 1. Where the consultation is announced, 2. When a pre-determined result is arrived at. That makes a mockery of consultation, but where local authorities are committed to local consultation and there are some good examples of good practise in local authorities being prepared to consult, to involve their citizens, and the citizens too across the generations. One thing that concerns me as a minister in government with particular responsibility for young people is that all too often we conduct our consultative processes in ways that are alien to young people. I think that one of the exciting things about this project on the beach is that it does actually capture your imagination and looking at issues in this way may be a means of re-engaging young people with the processes of politics, with the processes of government, whether locally or nationally, I think it’s to be welcomed for that. Space is very important to youngsters. They have a closeness to the issues of space, which I think you can lose, particularly in mid-life. Interestingly enough I think you re-discover it, which I think is where I am lurking at the moment. So you can –re-discover it as you get older. Young people do actually have a pretty good idea about what they want to do and out there. But I do think that we can lose it a bit. My generation, the 40+ generation can lose it a bit.

Carole Tongue
I just wanted to say that your department, the Home Office, I know has been involved with some interesting projects around citizenship. Particularly seeking to empower young people, to feel that they can make a change in their local communities. I think that it was through a project where I know the Home Office played a large part, where a young person could ring through and say ‘I’ve got this bit of land I think should be changed and transformed into something that could really benefit the younger people, how am I going to do that?’ So, here’s a young person, and something I really can do, I think it was called ‘A can do’ project, or whether it was linked to the Scarman Trust? I’m not sure, you may be aware of it?

Paul Boateng
We had a very, and have, an ongoing piece of work with the Youth Bureau, and others, called ‘Listen Up.’ It’s very much about seeing how, not only in Central Government but also in Local Government, and as a society, we could listen more and involve young people more. Some good stuff came out of that which we are going to be building on in the coming months and years, and I have responsibility for that as Minister for Young People. The Youth Parliament, we are very keen to be part of that, the new children’s and young people’s unit.

Carole Tongue
Can you tell us about that?

Paul Boateng
The Social Exclusion Unit based at No 10 in examining issues of community and young people found that there was a great big gap in terms of the way we co-ordinate, or rather fail to co-ordinate youth policy in relation to young people. What we want to do, linking it with the assault on youth and child poverty, is actually organise government much better in terms of young peoples issues. One thing we have learnt through the process of getting to where we are at the moment in terms of youth and young people, is that you have to deliver on the expectations you create. One of the problems that you have described in relation to young people being encouraged to ring in or to use the internet to access local authorities or central government about the use of land, is if when they’ve done that, when they’ve entered into the dialogue, they then ultimately hit a brick wall. I have seen this happen to a young person myself, who had a great idea about using some available space as an on-line skating and board park. Did all the work and then, at the end of the day, you know, the brick wall was there, they hit it and at the end of the day nothing happened. The young person was, in fact, turned off even more as a result of having the expectation created that something was about to happen but nothing actually happened. We have to create these spaces both in the physical sense and in the metaphorical sense, in terms of our structures and institutions for young people. But once having created the space then young people have got to be able to build on it. They have got to be able to see the processes deliver. So that is a challenge for us. We are working on it and I don’t underestimate the difficulties however, in delivering on it. I am determined to do so.

Dean Leslie
You were talking about engaging citizens and engaging the public, but there are certain elements of society that are marginalised, it’s not really easy to engage them, for instance the people who are not physically able to call up. Often these are the elements of society facing the most severe land issues, homeless people, people who have been disassociated from their traditional homes, etc. What do you think that we can do in that situation? How can the public hear those voices? And not only the voices of the people who have home computers that can get on the internet, those without telephones at home? What about those people who are facing the more difficult issues?

Paul Boateng
Well, I think the first responsibility of government is to bring people in from the margins, isn’t it?

It isn’t to accept that there are people feeding on the streets, but to say that people need to be re-engaged with society, with shelter, with opportunities to work. They need to feel that they have a place, a role within society, that’s a responsibility we have. You have to be very careful, I think, on the issue of homelessness, to recognise that it is not enough to be there in terms of sentiment, you know the sentiment that leads people to being sandwiches and hot drinks down to the Embankment. That's all very well, but you would in fact be doing much more, and it can actually be counter productive. You would actually be doing much more, you could act as a mentor for those homeless people. Bringing them back into society. You could in fact work for a day shelter or a night shelter, bring the socks and material assistance into that shelter, where we could be engaging them with a mental health system with the jobs market, with opportunities for training. Do you follow me? So I think what I would argue for is for the need to move from sentiment in this area to strategy. Sentiment is all very well, but you have got to have a strategy for change. If gatherings like the gathering that is taking place on the beach enable that transition from sentiment to the beginning of a strategy that we can then take forward, that is based on the development of some form of consensus, then they will be invaluable as a tool for progress and for change.

Carole Tongue
I think one of the groups in society that Dean was referring to are those, not just homeless but of no fixed abode. That is part of their life, like the Roma for example. How we overcome some of the more negative attitudes against people who do not have a fixed abode, do not stay in the same place. That is one of the issues we are going to be discussing today. Is it right that our society, as it were, confers a lot of legitimacy, if I may put it like that, on those who actually own property but far less on those who either rent or indeed are partially nomadic in their lifestyle?

Paul Boateng
Well, I go back to the point I was making at the outset, the way in which we relate to land and the occupancy of land. It has to be, with respect, the true nomad respects the land, respects the environment. If you had seen, as I have seen, as a constituency MP, quite apart from a Minister in the Home Office with responsibility for law and order, amongst other things, what is left after some travelling people have visited and occupied land. The chaos, the rubbish, the damage done to the land and adjoining property. Now that is not a nomadic lifestyle that indicates respects the land. My knowledge of, and understanding of the Roma people is that they do respect the land. The genuine Roma respect the land. But there are some people who have a travelling, itinerent lifestyle, who don’t. The call for respect and dialogue has to be a call that is reciprocated, and if it’s not reciprocated then I’m afraid that those negative stereotypes are perpetuated.

Dean Leslie
I wasn’t sure if I could ask you about the Right to Roam Bill?

Paul Boateng
Well you can’t ask me about the detail of it but I can talk about it generally.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
It started today.

Paul Boateng
No, I don’t think it has started yet.

Carole Tongue
We are into exploring these ideas and general principles and ways of moving the debate forward. I’m sure Paul has got something to say about the Right to Roam without having to be forced into the minutiae of when a landowner can bring out his shotgun, or not.

Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron
Paul is much more on the side of the marginalised?

Paul Boateng
Paul is also a government minister. Paul isn’t going to trespass in areas that are not my responsibility. But you can push as much as you want.

Carole Tongue
If you’re looking at something like the King’s Cross development? It’s a classic. How you reconcile the commercial with the public spaces.

Dean Leslie
I was wondering if you had any comments on the Right to Roam Bill, which as you know is at board now, there is a great amount of fear that the bill will die due to the number of the amendments that have been attached to it. There is a movement now, many associations are involved, trying to eliminate some of the amendments that have been brought to it. But I thought that maybe you could give us some of your ideas on the general prospect of the Bill, and of the Bill itself?

Paul Boateng
We are committed as a government to the Bill and to the principles that underlie it. They are very much a part of the tradition of the Labour movement. No one should underestimate or for one moment doubt the governments’ commitment to the Bill. But of course we are engaged in a democratic process. We have a bicameral parliament and the House of Lords are currently considering the Bill. We are obviously committed to the legislation that we have introduced. Legislation that is long awaited, legislation campaigned for by the Labour Party and by many who respect and love the countryside and people’s relationship with it over very many years. We are committed to the Bill and its principles.

Max Couper
Do you see any parallels? The beach has long been associated with free access, do you see any associations with this?

Paul Boateng
I think that’s very interesting. They are undoubtedly real, deeply held principles of public access, to the shoreline. They are deeply rooted in our society, and I think rightly so. I’m glad that we live in a country where people are allowed to enjoy the shoreline in the way they are. I think that is a tradition well worth maintaining. The idea of the beach and the tide is an enormously powerful and healthy one. The tide is a fascinating phenomenon isn’t it? Because every new tide brings with it a sense of renewal but also brings with it certain imperatives, you know it is going to happen. That time and tide wait for no one. That imperative is a spur for action. But you know to that with the tide comes renewal. But of course with the tide comes all sorts of unexpected things, doesn’t it? You never know what is going to be washed up and what use of it you will make? Or indeed, what will be washed away. So the concept, the idea is an immensely exciting one, and it is important that people have access to that.

Max Couper
On a personal point, we have had a group for community service coming down here on a Saturday for the past eleven months. It has been very curious. They’re not used to having any contact with nature and this whole question of the environment and young people having something to do for the environment so that it’s there for the next generations, is something that is implicit within this piece. The whole question of young people, I don’t know if you’d like to say something about that?

Paul Boateng
One of the most exciting areas of volunteering is in relation to young people and the environment. The important notion that nature isn’t just something that happens in the countryside. It is very odd that somehow and for some reason in society we put everything into little boxes and nature is something that happens to countryside not cities. Well, in my role and I live very much in the city, in London, foxes and hedgehogs are commonplace, and that’s in Brent. When I lived in Lambeth foxes were commonplace. We had a hedgehog cross our road just the other day. This is nature. What is happening by the river is nature. What happens in the square and happens in the flowerpots is nature too. Why do we have this view that somehow it is something that happens to someone else and we are not connected to it. We do have to rediscover this notion that we are linked to nature and to the land. I think that this link is both spiritual and material and we need to integrate the two. I think that’s a great challenge for the 21st Century, how we integrate the spiritual and the material, and in responding to that challenge we have got to do so across the generations.

Thank you.

 
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