News from Zerbanoo Gifford: the Asha Centre and the case of the Chagos islanders

ashaAs many readers will know, a few years ago, Zerbanoo founded the Asha Centre, a UK charity working for the empowerment of young people, sustainable development and peace & reconciliation worldwide.

It is a hub of intercultural activities, hosting a range of educational, performing arts and environment-based programmes throughout the year.

Gloucestershire’s Dean Academy asked if they might name one of their three colleges after Zerbanoo, so there is now a Gifford college.

She writes that Adrian, Mark and Sandy went to Brussels in May 13, to collect a European award for Asha’s 2011 Youth Exchange ‘Acting it Out’. This project involved orphans and young disadvantaged people from Armenia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and the UK. It was chosen by the British Council as the UK’s most outstanding project in the past seven years of the EU’s Youth in Action programme.

The death of Nelson Mandela brought back memories for Zerbanoo who remembers speaking alongside Neil Kinnock at a rally at Trafalgar Square, in June 1985, calling for sanctions on apartheid South Africa and presenting a petition to No 10, with Trevor Huddleston.

ASHA now works with the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre in Johannesburg. Together, they have created an exchange programme, through which young South Africans from the townships have visited ASHA and devised theatre productions which have toured the UK as well as being performed in South Africa.

Continuing their Chagos story

Background: for many years, since meeting exiled Chagos islanders when she and her husband Richard were on holiday in Mauritius, Richard has given his services as a solicitor in the long struggle to enable those who wish to do so to return to Diego Garcia.

In December 2012, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the islanders bid to return was inadmissible, William Hague announced a review of UK policy towards resettlement of the islands. In June 2013, the High Court dismissed Olivier Bancoult’s challenge to the marine protected area and did this by ruling the Wikileaks cables – which revealed the intention to exclude Chagossians from their homeland – inadmissible. During that case, access to the file on the infamous 2002 feasibility study, which had been deployed to abolish the right of abode in Chagos, was obtained.

However in July the British government announced a new feasibility study into resettling the islanders. So now the issue is to secure a truly objective study and make a decision before 2015. In October, Richard and Zerbanoo flew to Mauritius to attend the 30th anniversary of the Chagos Refugees Group.

Richard’s address described how the attacks of 11th September 2001 set FCO policy back several years and led to the disreputable feasibility study, in parallel with the dodgy dossier on WMD and the discredited advice from the Attorney General on the legality of the war in Iraq. These all appeared within weeks of each other, no doubt influenced by FCO’s perceptions of the value of the US base at Diego Garcia as a military asset.

But while the Government is willing to contemplate resettlement, nothing has been decided and legal moves cannot be dropped; The Court of Appeal rejected the challenge to the ruling on the Marine Protected Area in March 2014. Richard is even working on a plan to set aside the House of Lords’ decision of 2008, which was procured by chicanery (involving ‘lost’ documents), now revealed by FCO papers recently obtained. More from the New Zealand press here.

A practical guide for peace education

The Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme: This manual is the outcome of a two-year Learning Partnership with the Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission – implemented jointly by civil society organisations from Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and United Kingdom – ASHA Centre. The manual aims to provide a practical guide for peace education.

Ongoing event: Discovering Interfaith Dialogue: Eastern Religions 26th August – 3rd September 2014: participating Countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, United Kingdom: the ASHA Centre’s first ERASMUS+ Training Course will bring together 32 youth leaders and youth workers from the EU.


Fordhall Farm wants a part-time Senior Administrator

fordhall header

As many on this and other mailing lists give moral and/or financial support to the Fordhall project, this message is being forwarded.

Jane Edwards, the Fordhall project’s senior administrator will be leaving at the end of this month to move on to pastures new. She will be taking a job a little closer to her home at the Three Tons Brewery.

Ultimately that means there is a position available at Fordhall for a part-time Senior Administrator. All relevant information can be found on the website.

If you or a friend has the experience and are passionate about Fordhall then please get in touch.


Network news from Caroline Whyte, continuing Richard Douthwaite’s work in FEASTA

feasta logoThe Fourth International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity will take place in Leipzig from September 2-6, 2014.

Feasta co-ordination member Willi Kiefel will be presenting a paper on the late Richard Douthwaite‘s contribution towards a material degrowth society in Ireland in a session which will focus on Richard’s work in Ireland towards a material degrowth society, especially his work within Feasta and his activities in “seed projects “ coming from civic society or grass roots level. There will also be a presentation by Hans Diefenbacher on Richard’s scientific work.

feasta degrowth eventThe focus of the 2014 conference is on concrete steps towards a society beyond the imperative of growth. The conference will give room for scientific debates, exchange between activists and economic pioneers as well as artistic approaches to the subject. Both scientific insights and concrete projects and policies will be presented, experimented with and discussed. It is part of an international cycle of events: so far, there have been conferences on degrowth in Paris 2008, in Barcelona 2010 and in Venice and Montreal 2012.

Many analyses from various scientific disciplines imply that a growth-based economic and social system cannot have a future: Despite a growing number of technological solutions for “Green Growth”, inequality and the destruction of nature are significantly on the rise. It is high time to develop economic and social models that are independent of growth and can provide for a good life for everybody.

The final registration date is August 11, so it’s a good idea to book quickly. Free childcare will be provided. Contact: Tel: +49-(0)341-39281686 – E-Mail:

STOP PRESS: all places now filled but people can participate by ‘livestream’ and/or check for cancellations.


Network news from Eirwen Harbottle

eirwen harbottleEirwen sends news of Peace Child activities. Her daughter Rosey and son-in-law David Woolcombe founded this organisation which works to “empower young people to be the change they want to see in the world”.

Many good people are working for a more peaceful world , yet we see an escalation of killing. However, I think this work, paralleled by Zerbanoo and the Asha Centre, is the most hopeful approach. The FT reports that a new opinion poll on Friday by Gallup demonstrated a big generational gap in views about Israel. Among Americans aged 65 and over, 55% said they supported Israel’s actions in the current conflict.

Encouragingly, among the 18-29 group 51% said Israel’s behaviour was unjustified and only 23% supported Israel’s actions.

In September last year Eirwen attended a new production of the original “Peace Child'” musical at UN HQ in Geneva. Green Cross international had asked Peace Child to do this as part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of its creation by Mikhail Gorbachev. Eirwen relates:

“The story begins with the catastrophic explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant which financially beggared the old Soviet Union. The cost of seeking advice from world experts on how to render it safe had left a huge hole in the Soviet military budget.   National – and global – security had suddenly assumed a new environmental priority.   It proved the political undoing of Gorbachev. Sacked, he was left to ponder where the essence of global security actually lay. Green Cross International was the result.

peacechildlogo“The show was called “2050 – The Future We Want”. Whereas back in 1981, the story of ” Peace Child” had focused on how young people had made friends with the young of Soviet Russia, supporting disarmament as the road to world peace, 32 years on the spotlight was now on environmental security.

“It was not hard to edit the words of the original songs.   “The Military Industrial Complex” easily became “The Petroleum Industrial Complex”. There were additional songs from Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) who was delighted to be there with his wife.   The Geneva City community choir were joined by singers from 3 former Soviet satellites – Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus – and 19 other countries. Brilliant dancers were trained by a UK choreographer; 11 younger children from families in Geneva gathered round Rosey, playing the Story Teller, (and looking absolutely beautiful!). A few of the cast below – all may be seen here:

eir cast world we want 2050“On screen a poignant film about Chernobyl’s demise showed the stricken countryside where nothing can now thrive, as though people had just left in a hurry, leaving food on the tables, children’s toys and shoes strewn around and an eerie silence everywhere. Much individual rehearsing had naturally already been going on in various locations but this jigsaw of a production had now to be assembled by David, lighting and sound technicians, others responsible for scene setup, changing props &c – and all within a bare fortnight!”

(Please see for instructions on viewing the show)

Peace Child then hosted the first international “Jobs Creation Summit” at a Westminster location provided by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills:

“The keynote speaker was Andries Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, followed by Lord Young, Prime Minister Cameron’s Enterprise Adviser.   Half the 165 delegates were young people, the remainder being representatives of NGOs, business, academics and a single MP – Jeremy Lefroy (Con)- who organised a later follow-up meeting in the House of Commons. Basically all this was the culmination of a series of 6 smaller meetings over the past year within a EU network that seeks to identify best innovative practices already running for 18-20 year olds. Peace Child’s partners have been Multiple Learning Solutions and InspirEngage International.

“One particular individual stood out for me from the array of innovative leadership on the platform that day – Larry Sullivan, the Australian Founder/CEO of Look him up, if you will, and see how many start-up enterprises he has created.

“The new Youth Training Programme of EU Partnership for Enterprise has a challenging task ahead, does it not? But I have confidence that they will make their mark!”

New Era news was read by people from these countries last week






News from Shaun Chamberlin

teqs 2 fleming centreShaun has issued an invitation to a seminar on TEQs in the House of Commons (Committee Room 17) at 2pm on the 15th of July.

The joint seminar is being held by the All Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG) and the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group (APPCCG).

TEQs is an electronic system that would guarantee that a nation meets its emissions reductions targets, ensure fair access to energy for all, and support the active participation and cooperation of citizens and all other energy users in rapidly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Read more:

The event will be chaired by Alan Whitehead MP, and will take place at the House of Commons (Committee Room 17) from 2pm-3:30pm on Tuesday 15th JulyFull details here. 


Shaun ChamberlinTEQs’ Managing Director
Dr. Tina FawcettEnvironmental Change Institute, Oxford University
Prof. Michael GrubbCambridge University Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (invited)Please reply to Neha Nijhon at the APPCCG Secretariat either by email or telephone: +44 (0)20 7833 6035.


Read the latest TEQs newsletter here:


News from Geoff Tansey

Geoff writes:

Every year in December and early January, I get lots of letters from friends and family updating me on their news for the past year. Most are only of interest to friends and family. But this year, news in one of these e-mailed letters could make a huge difference to tens, maybe hundred of millions of people in India.

gt satheesh writing“It was a year that took me to great heights of happiness when India passed a brand new Act called National Food Security Act which for the first time in our history recognised millets as food security grains of the country and put them firmly in India’s Public Food system”, wrote P. V. Satheesh, from Pastapur village, about 100km from Hyderabad, on the Deccan Plateau in Andhra Pradesh.

The challenge now, says Satheesh, is to start a process of decentralised procurement of food grains to ensure small farmers benefit from this change. They don’t want to see supply of millets captured by corporations that become the sole contractors for supplying millets to government granaries.

As a start they have been invited to begin a pilot in decentralised procurement and distribution by the government in the southern state of Karnataka in two districts where Ragi and Jowar are popular millets. I’m hoping next year’s letter will tell of their success in this pilot and be the beginning of a decentralised, localised food system for India in which the poorest farmers will benefit most.

gt millet complexIn 2013, the Africa – India Millet Network was set up. It will build on the work of the Millet Network of India (MINI), which has worked for a decade to bring millets into India’s public food system, ending the exclusive focus on rice and wheat.

Read the article on Geoff’s website: Millets join India’s public distribution system and new India-Africa links are born