World Review: Afghanistan, child labour and vaccine passports in France

In this weekend’s World Review, Tom Arms reports the Taliban is proving to be a loose coalition that is quickly falling apart along centuries-old tribal lines and more contemporary political axes. He turns his attention to the impact that Covid is having on child labour in the developing world. And he reviews how Marcon’s insistence on vaccine passports turned France from an country opposed to vaccination to one where 74% of adults have had at least one dose.

Afghanistan has started to drop off the news headlines of the Western media. It is done and dusted. The troops have withdrawn along with the cash hand-outs. Afghanistan is no longer a responsibility or interest. If only there was nothing to be interested in. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As predicted, the Taliban is proving to be a loose coalition that is quickly falling apart along centuries-old tribal lines and more contemporary political axes. Politically, there is a moderate faction led by Deputy Leader Abdul Baradar, who has promised an end to Afghanistan as a terrorist base and education for women (within Islamic law). There were reports that he been killed in a presidential palace shoot-out by his main opponent Khalid Haqqani. Baradar was forced to appear before the television cameras to deny the reports, but rumours of dangerous dissension persist. Haqqani is on the FBI’s most wanted list and leader of the hard-line Haqqani faction. Backing him up in the government are two his nephews, Sirajuddin Haqqani (also on the FBI’s most wanted list) and Anas Haqqani. Members of the Haqqani faction are believed to have links with ISIS-K who were responsible for the bombing of Kabul Airport which killed 200 people. While the government falls apart nicely, the people of Afghanistan are literally dying of starvation. The UN reports that four million Afghans are in immediate danger. Their fate is further exacerbated by a severe drought in 25 of the country’s provinces and the fact that there is no money to buy seed for the crucial winter crops. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has promised to release funds to pay for the winter seed—but only if it is reassured that a government capable of distributing money and seeds is in charge in Kabul.

A story which so far has not made it near the Western news headlines is the impact that Covid is having on child labour in the developing world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported that between 2016 and 2020 the incidence of child labour around the world had risen to 160 million, with most of it Sub-Saharan Africa. Then came covid and the closure of schools across the continent. In some mining districts, the number of children breaking and sorting rocks rose by 50 percent. The ILO reckons that 39 million children under the age of 15 are involved in dangerous work in the mining and fishing industries. The situation, however, is not completely cut and dry evil versus good. Seventy percent of the child labourers work on family farms. Without their help the family would go hungry. The answer appears to be reducing poverty levels so that families can afford to send their children to school to play and learn rather than push them into the fields and mines. One solution might be a programme being promoted by the World Bank whereby poor families are paid to send their children to school in order to replace the money they would have earned in the field. Of course, this requires the schools to open which in turn depends on an end to the pandemic. There is no sign of the latter, especially as the developed world is being slow in supplying the required vaccines.

France—the international home of Liberty and libertarianism coupled with muleheadness—was the leading anti-vax nation. In December, 60 percent of the population said they would refuse to be jabbed. Then in mid-July, President Emmanuel Macron announced the introduction of the Covid passport. If you wanted entry into sports stadiums, night clubs, trains, planes or cinemas, you had to produce a document proving you had been or tested. The libertarian right and left cried foul. There were massive street demonstrations. There was a heated dusk to dawn debate in the National Assembly. Macron stuck to his guns. The people caved in. A return to normality and the good life trumped libertarianism. Within hours of Macron’s announcement one million people volunteered to be jabbed. By the end of August 74 percent of the French population had been vaccinated with at least one dose. Other European countries (Italy, Denmark and Greece) have adopted similar programmes with similar results. Britain has considered but for the time rejected vaccine passports and death rates are rising. Germany is another outlier. Biden has made vaccinations compulsory for 100 million workers and vaccination rates have jumped five percentage points, despite objections from Republican states. Both France and Biden’s America prove that a stiff resolve coupled with rewards defeats the anti-vax conspiracy theorists.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is LDV's foreign affairs editor and Campaigns Chair for Wandsworth Lib Dems. His book “America: Made in Britain” was published on 15 October.

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12 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 19th Sep '21 - 8:41am

    “Britain has considered but for the time rejected vaccine passports…”
    Actually, the Scottish Parliament has voted to adopt vaccine passports from October 1st while the UK government, for England, has rejected vaccine passports.

  • Tom Arms…”Britain has considered but for the time rejected vaccine passports and death rates are rising.”..

    Perhaps, on this site that should read….. “LibDems have totally rejected vaccine passports and death rates are rising.”..I listened to Ed Davey (Andrew Marr) opposing Vaccine Passports and quoting reasons that are the opposite of what France found ‘in the real world’..

    IMO, for what it’s worth, Nicola Sturgeon/ Mark Drakeford have got it right and Boris Johnson/Ed Davey have got ir wrong..

  • Matt Wardman 19th Sep '21 - 2:45pm

    It’s worth a note that France has now suspended 3000 Health Workers without pay.

    “Home of Liberty” is seriously open to question.

  • Matt Wardman 19th Sep ’21 – 2:45pm………….It’s worth a note that France has now suspended 3000 Health Workers without pay…..“Home of Liberty” is seriously open to question.

    Health workers were told in mid-July that, unless a medical condition was involved,
    vaccination was compulsory and were given two whole months to comply.
    As the article says such requirements, together with Covid passports, resulted in a surge in vaccination take-up..

    As for your, “Home of Liberty” is seriously open to question…. They have the freedom to refuse to be vaccinated but, as in all things (speed limits, etc.), such decisions have consequences..

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Sep '21 - 4:19pm
  • Brad Barrows 19th Sep '21 - 6:29pm

    @Martin
    Very smart point.

  • How many people are we prepared to kill in order to enjoy our extra freedoms?
    That’s the question that Ed Davey – that all of us – should be asking before taking a stance on vaccine passports or any other Covid preventative measure because the simple reality is that the more we socially intermix without sensible and effective precautions, the more people will become infected, and the higher the level of infection the more people will die.
    One of the fundamental ‘social contracts’ in any civilization governed by the rule of law society is that we agree to relinquish some individual freedoms in order to protect others from our actions. We opt to obey speed limits, stop at read lights, drive on the same side of the road, limit our noise levels, respect other people’s property and person, wait our turn in queues and generally act in a manner that doesn’t unreasonably impinge of the wellbeing of others.
    In times of crisis we desperately need leaders who are willing to forgo popularity in order to do what is necessary to solve the problem and protect the people they respresent, even from their own stupidy.
    It comes as no surprise that Pontius Johnson lauds personal choice in areas that he thinks will gain him popular support while simultaneously legislating against the freedom the demonstate or criticise his government’s actions.
    I (perhaps foolishly) thought that the Lib Dems were more enlightened.

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep '21 - 7:44am

    Anyone who attended a football match over the weekend will have noticed a total rejection of face coverings by the other members of the crowd. I must admit I kept my own mask in my pocket out of concern that I would be the target of some abuse.

    This is the reality which doesn’t at all correspond to the Lib Dem concept that individuals can always, or even usually, be relied on to do the right thing.

  • “a stiff resolve coupled with rewards defeats the anti-vax conspiracy theorists.”

    Except that it doesn’t, it might actually do the opposite. People who haven’t had the COVID vaccine are not necessarily anti-vaxxers in the usual sense. The way to persuade them is to answer their arguments and concerns respectfully. It is irresponsible to lump them in with genuine anti-vax conspiracy theorists.

    By the way what are compliance rates like with the Pass Sanitaire?

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '21 - 1:44pm

    The coalition that propped up the Afghan government and provided military support bears a moral responsibility for the people it helped during the 20 years. Whatever the legal position it can’t wash its hands of those who were promised so much and now are left hopeless. There are both limits to what it can do and a remit to do what it can.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '21 - 12:03pm

    The problem we have now is that Covid is largely a disease of the unvaccinated and we need to understand the drive for vaccine passports as a way of pushing the ‘refuseniks’ towards doing the right thing.

    I would have headlined this article “Less than fully vaccinated people account for 98.8% of Covid deaths”

    That’s around 10% of the adult population who have a factor of 741 times more chance of dying from Covid than the other 90%

    (98.8 x 90) / (1.2 x 10)

    If you allow for those who have had a single dose still having some protection the figure is even higher for those who haven’t had any jab at all.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/13/fully-vaccinated-people-account-for-12-of-englands-covid-19-deaths

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