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SCA Review Panel Announced To Review Dubai Selecti...

SCA Review Panel Announced To Review Dubai Selection Process

Early last week, the Specialty Coffee Association announced Dubai as host city for four international World Coffee Events programs. The day after, it announced the suspension of planning these events. In a letter to its members, the SCA stated the “UAE’s human rights issues were not taken into consideration in the selection process. This is a serious problem that shows that our selection process was not broad or inclusive enough and we at the SCA intend to correct it.”

The SCA has followed up this announcement with the appointment of a panel to review the selection of Dubai.

Here is the announcement in full, sent to all members yesterday afternoon:

Last week the President’s Council of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) met to review the community’s response to the announcement that World Coffee Events (WCE) selected Dubai as one of three host cities for the 2018 world championships. Today the President’s Council would like to formally announce that a panel has been created to review the selection of Dubai and provide recommendations on future processes for selecting host cities for WCE and other SCA events. The WCE has since its inception been solely responsible for selecting the locations for its events.

The review panel listed below—composed of members of the SCA Board of Directors, the WCE Advisory Board, SCA Volunteer Leaders, and senior members of the SCA staff— will seek input from the executive councils and working groups of the SCA’s guilds, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the specialty coffee community in Dubai and beyond.

Paul Stack – SCA President

Bart Deprez – WCE Advisory Board Chair

Chad Trewick – SCA Board Member

Colleen Anunu – SCA Board Member

Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos – SCA Board Member & Events Chair

Andrew Tolley – SCA Board Member & Barista Guild of Europe (BGE) Chair

Laila Ghambari – Barista Guild of America (BGA) Executive Council Past Chair

Ric Rhinehart – SCA Executive Director

Yannis Apostolopoulos – SCA Deputy Executive Director

Cindy Ludviksen – WCE Executive Director

The review panel will analyze information collected from member statements, research on the human rights environment in Dubai, and experiences from other cities where WCE events have been held. A recommendation on the final decision will be sent to the President’s Council. Once approved, the recommendations will be presented to the SCA Board of Directors and be brought to a vote.

As a member-driven organization, the diverse voices of our membership are paramount in the decisions we make at the SCA. This review process recognizes the importance of the diversity of our global community. It has been created to review the criteria of our procedures for the selection of host cities, seeking to continue our mission to support coffee communities around the globe.

Upon completion of the Dubai review process, the SCA Board of Directors will seek to draft a policy document outlining new vetting procedures for sponsorships and event locations for all future SCA and WCE events.

The outcome of the review panel’s work on the selection of Dubai is expected to be announced at the end of September.

Sprudge reached out to SCA Board Member and panelist Chad Trewick, who tells us they are working on “an appropriate definitive outcome” and that a “review process is quickly forming. This effort will be as broad and as inclusive as we can make it; we have already begun reaching out to various stakeholders to hear critical perspectives.”

Board Member and panel participant Colleen Anunu says that “the obvious immediate goal of the RP is to review the decision, which includes taking various stakeholder perspectives into account. ‘Who’ those stakeholders are and ‘what’ are the queries are crucial to the final analysis and recommendation.”

In response to the SCA’s announcement of Dubai as host city, feminist podcast Boss Barista put out a Change.org petition calling to “change the location of the ’18 Ibrik, Brewers, Cup Tasters, and Roasting Championships”. It has received nearly 500 signatures.

Boss Barista co-founder Jasper Wilde wrote a public statement posted this evening on Facebook:

The reason that there has been such a strong stand against the SCA’s decision is because we as oppressed people are used to being the only ones who stand up for ourselves. When we are forced to explain why we are hurt, we are further marginalized.

The system of homophobia and transphobia that are so normalized in Dubai might feel far away to a straight/cis person living in the US or Europe. But that same system watered down is responsible for the heteronormativity and cisnormativity displayed by the SCA’s decision to ignore those atrocities. We are outraged that once again queer people, and specifically trans people, have to spend their time and energy convincing the specialty coffee leadership to consider our safety. We are outraged that we must once again bring up the pain from being disowned by our families, threatened on the street and in public places, and legally attacked to get our needs considered. It is not our responsibility to parade our wounds to the straight and cis specialty coffee leadership to create a shred of empathy in them. And yet, we are not heard unless we become a spectacle.”

And we are appalled that no one considered the extreme human rights abuse and slavery when choosing Dubai as a host city. Ignoring thoroughly known horrors of slave labor might be easier for a person of privilege to do, but not for people of color. Black American and black Latinx, specifically because of their history of systemic slavery, will feel incredibly triggered if they are to attend one of the SCA events. Once again, it is appalling that we as activists and allies have to remind SCA leadership of the potential trauma that people of color will experience because of their reckless decision.

We demand that the SCA immediately pull all commitments from Dubai, pledge not to host world coffee events in the country until these injustices are rectified, and create a rigorous set of standards for host countries that include a zero-tolerance policy towards countries that condemn the rights of any citizen regardless of their identity or background. We also ask that the SCA issue an apology and statement acknowledging their misstep in this matter.

“It is so critical to elevate and amplify the perspectives, experiences, and identities of marginalized people in the LGBTQ+ community,” says Anunu. “Concepts like ‘passing’ and ‘privilege’ are not widely understood but hold an immense meaning for non-normative people. A less obvious goal is to develop an inclusive, understanding culture among decision-makers elected to represent ALL of our members. It needs to be embedded in our DNA and demonstrated through our policies. I’m committed to working within this process for that outcome.”

This post is open for comments.


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  1. Kim Thompson

    24 September

    I read your recent article about the SCA awarding Dubai the WCE events and the subsequent suspension of these events. In your article, you focus on slave labor and the fact that homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates.
    I really enjoy your magazine, but I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the points you raised.
    As an introduction, I am a divorcee (grandmother), originally from New Zealand and I have lived in Dubai for more than 20 years. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have had, but this is basically because of where I was born, not through any great skill of my own. My daughters have been raised and educated here, they do not distinguish between the colour of someone’s skin, or their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation. I started a coffee roasting company 10 years ago, and I have a talented multicultural team of more than 30 people working with me from; Nepal, India, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Canada, Italy and New Zealand. My business partner and I hold our SCA Diplomas, three of the team are AST’s and we have an accredited and very active SCA training facility, as we strongly believe that knowledge is the key.
    I have seen immense growth and positive changes in human rights over my time living here, while acknowledging that as with many young countries (The United Arab Emirates was established in 1945 and Dubai is one of the seven Emirates), that there were real improvements that needed to be made. (Qatar which you quote is not within the UAE, but another Gulf country that has separate laws and separate Rulers). To not acknowledge that Dubai is a leading example of positive liberal change in the Middle East, is misinformed.
    • Every single expatriate, so non-Emirati (we make up 90% of the total population of Dubai) has a residency or employment visa. We are the driving force, the work force, for the rapid growth of this city but we are all foreigners living here and we are doing this by choice
    • An employment visa is for 2 years with repatriation airfare home at the end of this term or a mutual extension and a stipulated annual leave entitlement (for example, our team have an annual airfare, a one month paid annual leave plus one-month unpaid leave each year)
    • Every single individual has health insurance which is a legal responsibility covered by their employer
    • Every person that is employed, no matter what country or skill, has their salary paid through a government worker’s protection scheme and employees have a dedicated labor court to represent them in disputes
    • While Dubai is a Muslim country, there are churches of most of the common denominations for non-Muslims to worship their own religions
    • The majority of men and women from poorer countries come here to send money home to their families as there is no work in their own countries, with individuals working here often supporting extended families, educating siblings and the money they send home each month is the only source of income for that entire family
    • In an ugly twist of power and caste, it is often companies/loan sharks/people from their own countries, who exploit these less fortunate workers desperate to get employment before they even land here to begin their jobs, and organisations have also been established here to help and protect those most at risk, which are often the women
    Yes, it is illegal to be a homosexual in Dubai, but there are 73 other countries in the developing world, where this antiquated law is also the same (South Korea to soon host the WCE events has questionable discriminatory LGBTQ laws and human rights records). Just because it is illegal does not mean that there are not many LGBTQ individuals living here, couples who have celebrated same sex marriage in their home countries and returned by choice, to live here because they are enjoying a better standard of living or advancing their professions. As in many countries, some from this LGBTQ community have their preferred restaurants and bars, often with the most amazing atmosphere and music and while not exactly open, they do exist but there is a certain undercurrent of respect and discretion. Please also remember we have strict zero policy anti-drugs law. This anti-homosexual law is not right, and yes there needs to be change, and I am confident there will be in due course. There are now elections here and we have women who hold important government positions; with the inclusion of women I believe we will see more awareness and more issues related to families, human rights, equal rights and gender equality addressed.
    The specialty coffee scene here is an emerging market, with cafes and roasteries starting to understand if they train and empower their employees, there will be positive quality flow on effects. The opportunity for Dubai to host this caliber of WCE events would surely help share the knowledge and allow these budding coffee enthusiasts to witness what dedication and what a passion for their industry can achieve. That has to be the best motivation for all the people working in the coffee industry.
    I am not a politician, I don’t write articles, and I usually do my best to avoid conflict. It will be hard for me to read the comments that I am sure I will see posted in response to this reply, but I also believe I have a responsibility to respond from an informed position both as a resident of Dubai, a humanitarian and a coffee lover, to your article and now the subsequent suspension of the WCE events.
    No country is perfect, but we don’t have homeless living on the street, we don’t have racial police shootings or mass murderers, or some of the other horrific issues some other more developed societies have, this is a safe place to live. The rule makers here in Dubai are trying, they are making a concerted effort to improve and they are aware of the world’s focus on it. Modernization and political development takes time to evolve, but please, do you genuinely believe a World coffee event, is the correct platform for this.
    Thank you, Kim Thompson

  2. Buzz

    20 September

    Thanks for the update.

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