Yali Banton-Heath


yali bio pic

Yali graduated last year with an MA in Human Rights Law from SOAS, having studied for her BA in International Development at UEA. She writes about Myanmar, human rights, anti-capitalist resistance, and pretty much anything to do with land justice. Her mind tends to wander, and her heart will always be in Norwich, but you can find her on Twitter @yali_BH.


(07.04.21) – Our Land, Our Streets: Norwich’s Kill the Bill Protest

While Archant published clickbait headlines in the EDP and Norwich Evening News that chose to spotlight the pink chalk ‘vandalism’ of a war memorial, Saturday’s Kill the Bill protest in Norwich city centre was in fact a peaceful display of solidarity, and an empowering antidote to the violence that protesters elsewhere in the country have been subjected to. In Bristol, boards reading ‘People Over Property‘ now surround the former plinth of the Edward Colston statue, and act as a visual reminder of both the police and the media establishment’s skewed priorities when it comes to covering protests. Chalk gets washed away with a spell of wet weather. Authoritarian bills don’t.


(29.11.20) – Right to the City: An Anglia Square for People Not Profit

For the past 8 years the future of Anglia Square – a 1960’s-built shopping complex in Norwich’s north city – has been a contentious local concern. In 2018 Norwich City Council approved a £250 million development planning application submitted by asset management group Columbia Threadneedle, who bought the site in 2012, and property developers Weston Homes. The proposal included plans for a new shopping centre, hotel, cinema, and 20-storey apartment block. After receiving over 700 objections, which collectively led to a government inquiry, earlier this month Secretary of State Robert Jenrick officially rejected the plans, on the basis that they “did not protect and enhance the heritage assets of the city”.


(24.11.20) – DOPE: The Newspaper Offering Radical Ideas and Real Solidarity

DOPE magazine – popularly dubbed ‘the anarchist Big Issue’ – is a quarterly newspaper published by Dog Section Press. It’s jam-packed with slick art, contemporary culture and radical ideas, and has featured content from the likes of David Graeber, Sleaford Mods, Molly Crabapple, Ruth Kinna and Benjamin Zephaniah (among many many others) – but not only is its content cool as f*#k, so is its growing social impact.


(29.10.20) – Criminalising Trespass, part II

As part one of this series warned, the Conservative government are pushing to make trespass a criminal offence, rather than a civil one. This iron-fisted extension of the long arm of the law would not only endanger – and indeed criminalise – certain groups and their ways of life, but it would also serve to stifle our collective sense of curiosity and affinity with the natural world which surrounds us. It has the potential to jeopardise our age-old freedom to roam.


(22.10.20) – ZAD du Carnet: A Bastion of Radicalism on the Loire Estuary

Graffitied in swirly red French handwriting, on the wide concrete track that leads through the camp, is the motto: ‘Nous sommes toutes des enfantes du Carnet!’: we are all children of the Carnet. The Carnet is a stretch of land on the Loire Estuary, next to the Saint-Nazaire seaport and downstream of France’s sixth largest city, Nantes. The 110 hectare area which incorporates 51 hectares of wetland and is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which are endangered and on the brink of local extinction, is under threat of development. With a nationwide shift towards supporting green energy projects, and the Saint-Nazaire seaport earmarked as a prime location for offshore wind farms, the Carnet has been chosen as the site for a new ‘green energy industrial park.


(29.05.20) – The Agriculture Bill was a Missed Opportunity to Build Resilience in a Time of Crisis

The Covid-19 crisis has rusted the already weak links holding the UK’s food supply chain together. From just-in-time logistic strategies to a desperate reliance on imported goods and labour, supermarkets have struggled to keep up with panic buying, farmers have feared that their vegetables will rot in fields, and farm to table supply chains have been hugely disrupted.

It is exposing our food system’s incapacity to respond to emergencies in the short-term, whilst also beckoning reform in terms of its sustainability in the longer-term.


(21.03.20) – Covid-19, Postcapitalism and Exterminism; It’s time to build a better future

We’ve been in the final throes of capitalism for some time now. Since the financial crash of 2008 long-term economic stagnation has persisted in the west, yet 1% of the world’s population have managed to hoard almost half of global wealth. As the world faces a global pandemic of the life-threatening novel coronavirus aka Covid-19, now more than ever the faults in our capitalist system are screaming out for scrutiny, and it is fast becoming obvious that inequality kills, and capitalism is to blame.


(15.02.20) – In Solidarity with Al-Mounadil/ah as Morocco Continues to Stifle Voices of Dissent

The revolutionary socialist newspaper and website Al-Mounadil/ah or ‘The Militant’ is facing an existential legal threat from the Moroccan state under it’s continued assault on the Left, progressive voices, and freedom of expression in the country. The onslaught of arrests and passing of restrictive legislation in recent years has targeted independent journalists and publications, and the use of social media and the internet as a platform for political expression. As the statement released by Al-Mounadil/ah’s editorial team reads: “the restrictions will not succeed in gagging voices; the advancement of technology will make a mockery of anyone that tries.


(22.01.20) – China Strengthens Ties with Myanmar as Human Rights Fall by the Wayside

Chinese head of state Xi Jinping made his first official visit to Myanmar (Burma) on Friday, where he met with State Councillor and de facto leader of the country Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and the Burmese military’s infamous commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Although it was Jinping’s first visit since assuming office, the occasion marked 70 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries and signifies a continued mutual desire to unite their economic and strategic interests.


(24.11.19) – Land Justice and the 2019 Labour Manifesto: A Local Perspective

A massive issue facing the UK at the moment is right under our noses and indeed right under our feet. That issue is land. Though land injustice may stem from historical legislation such as the Enclosure Acts and the shrinking of the commons through large-scale land grabs over past centuries, the phenomenon continues today, with land inequality becoming ever-increasingly stark. Land is moving more and more from public control into wealthy private hands, with land and housing prices rocketing over recent decades as a result of speculative inflation. In 1995 the total value of land in the UK was around £1 trillion, that figure is now more than £5 trillion.


(06.10.19) – Rojava: A revolutionary vision under fire

It’s been over a week since Turkey launched a fresh military offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. The death toll in Rojava is rising, and an exodus of civilians from the area has already reached a mass scale. Conflict in Syria thus deepens, becoming evermore complex, with the Syrian regime armed forces now reported to have moved into Kurdish controlled Manbij in order to counter the Turkish invasion. But what has sparked this new wave of insurgency? What role does the US have? What are the Kurds fighting for? And what significance does this have for the wider global justice movement?


(08.08.19) – Myanmar’s displaced remain reluctant to return home, and I don’t blame them.

Renewed discussions have been taking place about the future of the displaced Rohingya population in Bangladesh, and their potential repatriation journey back over the border to Myanmar. The progression of the repatriation process however, as the UN has reiterated, remains frustratingly slow. A lack of guarantees, respect, and honesty on the Burmese government’s part is fostering a firm unwillingness among Rohingya community leaders to make the decision to return home.


(24.04.19) – Remembering Polly Higgins: Ecocide, Our Planet, and Moving Forward

It was deeply saddening to read that prominent environmental campaigner and lawyer, Polly Higgins, sadly passed away on Sunday. Her efforts and contribution towards the global environmental struggle have been both immensely brave and intensely important, thus she and her work must not go unforgotten.


(20.01.19) – Genocide And International Intervention: Too Little, Too Late

The Rohingya crisis has saturated global media over the past two years, but since it was placed under the spotlight in 2016 I can’t help but think the international response it has initiated has been too little, and too late. All over the world we see grave injustices occurring and human rights abuses on mass scales. It only seems as though an international response is warranted, however, when these injustices reach some sort of pinnacle; often manifesting as the deaths of many thousands. We should be able to see the warning signs by now, and 2019 should be a year of working towards prevention, rather than mastering the art of tidying up the mess.


(01.10.18) – UN Vote to Reaffirm Peasant Rights

Some positive news! A solid step has been taken towards the wider global push for an increased protection of rural workers rights. In Geneva on Friday 28th September 2018, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution culminating in the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

With 33 votes in favour, 3 against (one of which being the UK), and 11 abstentions, the declaration will now be taken to the 3rd committee session of the UN General Assembly in New York in October, where it will be open for adoption by all UN member states. Once adopted, it will serve to strengthen the obligations of governments in upholding the rights of its nations rural populations: of peasants, indigenous communities, migrant workers, and small-scale farmers alike. Some argue that we must be wary of such expansions of rights. I disagree.


(18.02.18) – Don’t be Fooled by China’s Greenwash

China has been the subject of environmental scrutiny for years now. It remains the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has horrendously high levels of air pollution, and still uses coal fired power stations to generate its electricity. 2018, however, seems to be welcoming the beginning of change for the country. International media has reported on new environmental protection laws, policies and bans, as China attempts to turn a new leaf. For better or worse, China is the world’s largest player in our changing climate, and how this change plays out out in the coming decades rests largely on their shoulders.


(04.02.18) – Criticism of USAID’s Legal Aid Toolkit in Myanmar

Myanmar is a country under the spotlight at the moment. Human rights abuses, allegations of ethnic cleansing, economic development and foreign investment, and piss poor freedom of speech are among many controversial issues which cast shadows in today’s political discussions. On the ground, such issues require adequate legal aid, but Myanmar’s judicial system has been in tatters for decades.


(07.01.18) – Hotspot for Environmental Killings: The Philippines Moving into 2018

A figure which always captures my attention at the end of each year is the number of environment and land defender murders that have taken place over those past dozen months.

2016 was bloody. 200 people lost their lives that year while protecting their land and natural resources. The Guardian and Global Witness have estimated that last year, in 2017, there were 185 such deaths. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, these figures are always underestimations, as in reality far more deaths occur over land and environmental struggles than get reported.

As the country with the third highest environmental defender death toll globally (beneath Brazil and Colombia), the Philippines continues to have the highest environmental activist death toll for any Asian country. The archipelago of over 7,000 islands is seen to be one of South East Asia’s booming economies. But what will 2018 bring with regard to the country’s piss poor human rights and all too frequent environmental killings?


(10.12.17) – It’s Time to Change the Legal Narrative When it Comes to Environmental Protection

On December 4th Trump signed proclamations to shrink two U.S. national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears National Monument is to be squeezed from 1.5m to 228,784 acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 2m to 1,006,341 acres. Unremarkably, this decision has sparked a backlash from various groups. It is a textbook debate on who possesses the rights to the land, and is one of many such disputes in which the environment itself is all too often overlooked.


(26.11.17) – Business, As Usual: The Rohingya Crisis, Repatriation And Economic Interests

Content warning: ethnic cleaning, sexual violence.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have just signed an agreement which concerns the repatriation of over 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled their homeland in Rakhine state since August. What many are now rightfully calling out as genocide, the persecution, murder and rape of Rohingya people and the burning of their villages has left deep scars.


(12.11.17) – Japan Must Reflect On Its History If It Is To Revise Article 9

On September 25th, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe called for one of those snap elections we all know and love. Unlike Theresa May, when the results were announced almost a month later on October 22nd, Abe managed to pull through and secure himself a majority in the Diet.

Japan is now swinging heavily to the right. With Abe possessing a mandate to attempt implementation of his main objective – revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution – is the country about to embark on a dangerous path of no return?