UCL statement in response to recent UCL Qatar coverage
4 September 2014
In response to recent media coverage about UCL's presence in Qatar, the following letter was published in THE.
I believe that recent THE coverage of UCL's presence in Qatar (21 and 28 August) offers an incomplete picture of our activity in the Gulf and the role we are playing locally to minimise labour abuses. In particular, the notion that UCL is 'shirking its moral duty' over workers' welfare in Qatar is neither fair nor accurate, and I have offered Alison McGovern MP, the shadow minister for international development, the requested meeting at the earliest possible opportunity to enable us to explain UCL's position.
Since the opening of UCL Qatar, we have worked consistently with our partner on the ground, Qatar Foundation, to encourage better practice and address the need to deliver meaningful change for migrant workers. The necessary changes will not happen overnight, but we are very encouraged by the willingness of our partner to engage with this issue. Notably, QF last month published new standards for migrant labour recruitment to Qatar, in a document which both set out the challenges to bringing about lasting change and made a series of far-reaching policy recommendations designed to stop human rights violations. We will be discussing progress on delivering this agenda at our next formal meeting with QF later this year.
Any university that seeks to branch out and establish an overseas presence faces the challenge of remaining true to its ethos while appreciating that legal and societal practice evolves at different rates in different countries. We do not make labour policy in Qatar, but having chosen the path of constructive engagement we have a voice, and are using it to support the case for change. We may be open to criticism from those impatient with the pace of that change, but I believe it misrepresents us to imply we are part of the problem and not the solution. Whether in Qatar or elsewhere, we have to respect the laws of the countries where we work, but that should not be taken to mean that we leave our values behind when we leave London.