Tuesday. 6/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Peter Firth

Conflict resolution

In most democracies, parliaments carry considerable weight when it comes to decisions on whether governments should go to war. In the UK, some believe that the voice of MPs in these discussions is quieter than it ought to be. According to the law, if the UK prime minister wants to use force – from sending commandos on a night raid to ushering in an all-out armed conflict – all he or she has to do is put in a call to the Queen (who, by convention, agrees).

Today a select committee from the House of Commons will publish a report called Authorising the Use of Military Force, making the case for parliament having a bigger role in discussions of this kind. It advises a more thorough means of sharing information between government and MPs (currently only an ad-hoc arrangement exists). It also calls for MPs to brush up on their knowledge of defence and foreign affairs so they can make informed decisions.

Judging whether to use lethal force is the most solemn decision a leader ever has to take, so considering more perspectives when making that choice is a sound idea. But the report also says that governments mustn’t be inhibited from acting quickly and decisively when urgent situations occur; alas, parliament’s lack of consensus doesn’t lend itself to fast action. Without a legal framework for a parliamentary vote, the word “urgent” is open to interpretation, especially from loose cannons who find their way into the top job.

Geopolitics / Cyprus

Frontier justice

Fed up with waiting for the EU’s faltering resettlement programme to kick in, Cyprus will start asking fellow member states to repatriate some of its 30,000 refugees this week. It is facing a growing crisis: about 1,000 people enter through the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus every month. On Sunday interior minister Constantinos Petrides announced that the island nation will be approaching EU countries, including the Netherlands. Though migration to Europe has significantly slowed since 2015 thanks to deals with Libya and Turkey, research funded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that 45,000 migrants have already arrived in Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus this year – that’s more than have been resettled under the EU scheme since 2015. Perhaps the new EU Commission will have fresh ideas for addressing the issue when it takes office later this year.

Aviation / Hong Kong

Fight and flights

More than 2,000 of Hong Kong’s aviation workers took part in strikes yesterday, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights to and from the city. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, was forced to cancel more than 150 journeys and urged passengers to postpone non-essential travel. Despite indirect warnings of intervention from Beijing, protests and strikes show no sign of abating and Hong Kong remains at an almost total standstill. Hong Kong International Airport is the world’s busiest cargo hub and, considering the importance of air travel to the city’s economy, these strikes have the potential to put authorities in a chokehold. This might work better than placards and shouting on the streets.

Protests / France

On the march

As G7 members prepare to attend the group’s 45th summit in Biarritz, beginning on 24 August, climate protesters are also gearing up for the event – and they’re making a serious effort. A camp in France’s Kingersheim, put on by a collection of non-profit environmental activists groups (including Friends of the Earth) is showing hundreds of citizens how to effectively stage a demonstration. The camp is hosting 12 days of courses on everything from how to fundraise, relay messages during protests and safely (and non-violently) resist police intervention (going limp helps, apparently). Protests at G7 events are nothing new: last year’s summit in Québec City saw dozens of groups demonstrating against everything from housing shortages to human-rights abuses. But as various protests dominate headlines around the world, it’s not surprising to see activists ramp up their organisational skills.

Environment / New York

Great barriers

New York state has an inventive way of disposing of disused material as it updates the urban landscape: tonnes of debris, from girders to pipes, is dumped into the ocean. It’s not an environmental scandal, however, rather a means of creating artificial reefs that sustain marine life and protect the coastline from erosion. The state manages 12 such reefs and on Saturday governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 1,000 tonnes of metal – from Staten Island Expressway, Erie Canal and the Kew Gardens and Kosciusko bridges – will be dropped into the sea 3km off the coast of the city, adding to the huge artificial Fire Island Reef. Giving structures from the city a second life is an inspired way to help the environment.

M24 / The Urbanist: Tall Stories

Bletchley Park

The former Government Code and Cipher School is now a heritage site in Milton Keynes, the newest of the UK’s new towns. We go on a journey through what was once the home of Alan Turing and the Enigma codebreakers.

Monocle Films / Wales

Made in Wales

From a lavender farm in the countryside to a denim mill revitalising a harbour town, Wales is using its traditions and craft to benefit new industries. Monocle films profiles two inspiring Welsh enterprises that are bringing international success home.

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