Posts tagged ‘diplomacy’


The trials of being a dual national (or, Kiwis are better at this stuff than Brits)

28.02.2015

I have just under a year before my British passport expires. In the great tradition of apartheid, it’s a British overseas national passport for those of us born in the colonies, and both in 1996 and 2006, I had to use a different form to British citizens. I presume Britain was worried about overseas British subjects flooding to their country if anything happened, and as we all know, they would much rather that Johnny Foreigner from the Continent head there to get work.
   Naturally, they don’t make the renewal easy. Once upon a time, you got the form, filled it in, paid the fee, and went along to the British High Commission. It approached New Zealand levels of efficiency, which is very un-British, as it goes against the national tradition of strikes. However, I bumped into the new High Commissioner late last year (strangely, I never saw his predecessor in all the years she was here, so presently I still wonder whether she exists) and he advised me that these were all being done from the UK. It does beg the question of why we need High Commissions, just as I’m sure Gordon Brown was asking once why Britain needed all that gold, and earlier leaders why Britain needed a domestically owned car industry. You just never know what is round the corner.
   But I digress.
   I Tweeted the British High Commission’s account to ask about this, and they pointed me to www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration. It’s not terribly useful. Here was how our Twitter conversation unfolded:

   I did try the form for regular British citizens, which is one thing a search gives you. I’ve been through it, and there’s nowhere in which you can tell them you’re a BNO. This might be good news, because it means the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has started treating us the same as everyone else. Except you just know that that’s too good to be true. And the silence from the High Commission is interesting. You can always count on the Foreign Office to make you feel second-class. By telling them you are BNO, it rules out that you have any blue blood from their lot, so they have nothing to fear if you are a pleb.
   This is not atypical of the British High Commission: I had a query in 2001 on a fairly serious matter, and they ignored my correspondence. The Foreign Secretary then ignored it. The Shadow Foreign Secretary then ignored it. Thank goodness for Ms Doreen Welch of the Prime Minister’s office, who acknowledged it, to the point where I took her correspondence to Britain to show that even if the FCO were incapable, the PM accepted my viewpoint. (Who knew? Tony did good.) We return to the question of just why we need High Commissions if they actually serve no function for British subjects abroad. (The only High Commissioner who ever bothered responding was George Fergusson, because of our St Mark’s old boys’ connection, but in classic British fashion his people got the address wrong on the envelope and the correspondence took months to get from Thorndon to Kilbirnie.)
   I enquired again, this time with the Passports’ Office. I have cited the wrong link below, but at least I admit it when I am wrong.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The British High Commission in New Zealand provided me the link to your new service at https://passportapplication.service.gov.uk, and it looks very easy to follow.
   However, I am a British overseas national. I note your website has a separate PDF form for us, and a separate set of guidance notes. What your website does not detail is the process and where we send this PDF once completed.
   Most websites seem to point to the above link.
   Please can you enlighten me on the actual procedure? If it is the first link given, then I am happy to proceed through it and do it online. However, if the presence of the PDF on your website is any indication, then I suspect we have to jump through different hoops, and I would appreciate your guidance on that.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Yan

   Here is the reply. This is in full. Salutations, you see, are no longer part of FCO correspondence. That makes it officially one step down from responses from Amazon.com.

You will need to apply using the online application service. Please see the advice here: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports.

Regards

HM Passport Office Webmaster

   My response:

Thank you for your reply. So you are saying that there is no difference whether I am a British Overseas National or a British Citizen, and that I follow the one procedure at your link?
   This also means I can ignore the downloadable PDF on your website for British Overseas Nationals: is this correct?

   That’s the thing. There are two forms. One is the standard one, and the other is the BNO one, for which there are no instructions. No addresses are given on where to send this form. And when you ask them, no one will tell you a thing. Britain is sworn to silence when dealing with British subjects.
   Now, you might think, why don’t I just follow the link given? Sure, but this is the UK. I am happy to follow it and pay the fee but if they cock up, I pay again. It’s not like New Zealand where you can explain this to someone and they do the logical, right thing. It’s not even like Hong Kong or Singapore, places blessed with a decent civil service when the sun still shone on the Empah, but where the functionaries actually function. This is why I want to be sure. And you would think this was a delightfully simple query, innit.
   No one appears to have blogged about their experiences, hence this post. I even used my last-resort search engine Google to take a look: you know I got desperate when I allowed the NSA to know and to pass that on to the GCHQ.
   If you’re a BNO who has been through this post-2013, please feel free to comment.
   It’s in stark contrast to my urgent New Zealand passport renewal last year, which was done by the DIA in Wellington in four hours. That was not a typo.
   I realize that with electronic media somewhat difficult for this department, I will give them a call during the working week. To make sure that I get an answer, I will adopt an American accent, because we all know the British government listens to those.
   Failing that, one might have to fly there just to get this done.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in humour, New Zealand, politics, UK, Wellington | No Comments »


The UK doesn’t look good as it pursues Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy

21.08.2012

I missed Julian Assange’s statement on the day (catching up on work after being out) but who would have thought we would see a situation where Ecuador would be seen to be upholding a foreign national’s press freedoms (never mind what it does at home) and the Vienna Convention, while Britain would be making diplomatic threats?
   I realize the UK has sent Ecuador a letter citing its own law, giving it authority to ‘take action’ against the embassy. Here is some of that letter:

   As we have previously set out, we must meet our legal obligations under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision and the Extradition Act 2003, to arrest Mr Assange and extradite him to Sweden. We remain committed to working with you amicably to resolve this matter. But we must be absolutely clear this means that should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused, in line with our legal obligations …
   We have to reiterate that we consider continued use of diplomatic premises in this way, to be incompatible with the VCDR (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) and not sustainable, and that we have already made clear to you the serious implications for our diplomatic relations.
   You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the UK—the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act—which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.
   We very much hope not to get this point, but if you cannot resolve the issue of Mr Assange’s presence on your premises, this route is open to us.

   My memory of the conventions, which the UK has ratified, is that the embassy remains foreign soil. There are provisions under various criminal acts which allow prosecution of diplomatic and consular staff. The Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 could see the embassy’s consular status revoked, something which the letter hints at.
   This is where the UK has to think twice. If the UK is willing to do revoke the status of the mission, then its desire to be seen as a sovereign nation that respects public international law will be damaged. The DCPA was created for very different purposes: it was developed in the wake of the murder of a police officer, Yvonne Fletcher, during the Libyan Embassy siege, on April 17, 1984, and the attempted abduction of Umaru Dikko on July 5, 1984. The Act was subject to huge scrunity, but it was developed to give the UK the right to go in to the Embassy in extraordinary circumstances, such as the pursuit of suspected murderers if the Fletcher situation recurred, or, as Baroness Young told the House of Lords in 1987, in cases of terrorism.
   This time, the UK wishes to invoke the Act over the breaching of bail conditions—a very different matter altogether.
   In the world of diplomacy, usually veiled with political-speak and niceties, such strongly worded correspondence is rightly construed as a threat, never mind what William Hague says in denying that the letter hints at the UK storming the mission. It also gives the state greater powers in determining how to remove inviolability before it takes action against the premises—but it could also be quickly challenged by Ecuador and it would be up to the courts to decide.
   Where things get muddied is that Assange is an Australian, and he doesn’t fear prosecution from his own country—usually the way through which someone claims asylum. He fears it from another country altogether, and most likely argues that his own country has failed to protect him. Assange has good grounds to believe that, since it has come from the Prime Minister herself:

   It’s within living memory for a lot of people how the international community frowned on Iran during the 1979 revolution and the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran. While one could argue there was no host nation at that point—the Shah had left town, so to speak—it sealed in many people’s memories just how sacrosanct diplomatic missions’ soil is. In Britain, Fletcher’s murder in 1984 again pointed to the inviolability of foreign missions’ soil—and just how extraordinary the circumstances have to be for DCPA provisions over revocation to come into force.
   It’s not hard to see why—if you look at my Facebook feed—the UK is getting criticized on its handling of the affair. It appears to be doing others’ bidding, using an extraordinary piece of legislation to pursue someone who had breached the bail conditions of another European country. It’s not the first time one law has been bent to suit unrelated purposes, and it won’t be the last—but in this case, a lot more people are watching the UK’s conduct.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in media, politics, publishing, Sweden, TV, UK | No Comments »


Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, leadership, media, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


The Julian Assange affair looks like a Smith and Jones gag

08.12.2010

In the news: Julian Assange.
   While the prosecutor in Sweden is denying it, the lesson here seems to be: publish a Wikileak naming anti-Taliban Afghan sources and risk getting them killed, and nothing happens to you. Publish a Wikileak embarrassing the United States, and get the whole media talking, while you’re charged with rape.
   I’m not happy about the earlier leak because it shows gross irresponsibility on the part of a website that is, effectively, a media outlet. I reckon they should be held accountable for that. But this time, I’m sorry: red diplomatic and corporate faces are far less serious.
   Without undermining what the two Swedish women allegedly went through, which is either connected to the leaks through political pressure or sheer bad timing, this whole affair reminds me of one gag in the old Alas Smith and Jones sketch show.
   In it, Mel Smith, as the newsreader, briefly reads an item about a terrible tragedy in México where thousands had died, but ‘it didn’t matter because they didn’t speak English,’ and emphasizes another where an Englishman was assaulted over an argument about the cut of his suit.
   Put some Afghans’ lives at risk, ‘it doesn’t matter because they don’t speak English,’ but embarrass some diplomats and rich guys, and it’s a big deal, sexual assault charges or not.
   All because some English speakers have red faces. Oh, how we love flexing our muscles.
   I’m not much of a fan of these wiki-style sites, even if I run one, but Assange might become a bigger name than the diplomats realize, a cause célèbre for free speech. Already the first hearing in England suggests as much.
   The establishment may be closing in on him, with Visa rejecting payments, and a Swiss bank saying no to Assange opening a bank account. Anyone who has loved the “young loner on a crusade”-type stories (you can tell I watched Knight Rider) might find an unlikely hero in Assange—Jemima Khan, Ken Loach, and John Pilger (who himself is no stranger to fighting on the little guy’s behalf) have.

PS.: The credit card company was not Visa, but Mastercard.—JY

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in humour, internet, media, politics, Sweden, UK | 3 Comments »


Wellington wants free wifi

17.02.2010

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »