PEOPLE’S GLOBAL ACTION SUPPORT STRUGGLE FOR THE CLIMATE
This was decided at the recent 3rd conference of Peoples Global Action in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for inclusion in the PGA manifesto. (See also www.agp.org):
´The ´global commons´ is being appropriated...this now includes the atmosphere. Climate change is a result of capitalist resource exploitation. It reinforces existing global inequalities initiated by colonialism. As the climate warms, essential resources will further become the privilege of the elite, who will use increasingly militarised force to acquire them. Also, the very problem of climate change is being seen as a profit-making opportunity. Market based ´solutions´, including carbon trading, in which governments and TNC´s buy and sell their ´rights´ to pollute, and carbon sinks (appropriated forest areas or GM plantations which theoretically absorb carbon pollution) are used to avoid reducing their own emissions.’
Report from the 3rd, PGA Conference
Four hundred people from over 50 countries came to the 3rd International People's Global Action (PGA) conference. The location - Cochabamba in Bolivia - is a vibrant and laid-back city, with friendly, inventive and down to earth citizens. They made huge waves last April when an incredible coalition formed in protest against government and US multinational Bechel's privatisation of the water. The 'Water War' stands as an enormous victory over the neo- liberal model. It spanned the urban population, peasant farmers, lawyers, professionals and more. Women and young people played a crucial role on the dusty, teargas-filled streets. The conference was jointly hosted by the Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba (representing over 35,000 subsistence farmer families in the Chapare region of Cochabamba) and the National Federation of Domestic Workers of Bolivia (campaigning for equal work rights for women from rural communities working in urban households). Discussions were productive - ranging from north/south solidarity to Plan Columbia, indigenous struggles, land rights and more - though confused at first by the lack of a decision on how to take decisions!
Gender was top of the agenda, with the first roundtable enthusiastically dedicated to it and workshops following. Particularly touching was an elderly Bolivian man who described how as capitalism increasingly influences his indigenous community their age-old high status of women is being threatened. So the women and men of the community talked it over separately at first and then together. A younger man told how hard it was at first, but respect is being re- established towards women. It was agreed that globalisation generally benefits men more than women, so every issue raised at the conference would be discussed in relation to how women are particularly affected by it. The PGA manifesto was updated and much enriched by this perspective. Though there were still instances of a minority of men dominating or manipulating speaking time, I hope the positive progress is continued at the next meeting. We also adopted a statement on climate change in the manifesto for the first time. Referred to is how the opening up of the third global commons - the atmosphere - to free trade 'solutions' to climate chaos will increase existing inequalities first established by colonial appropriation of the global commons of land and water.
The hallmarks (or PGA working principles) were amended with a rewording of the PGA statement on 'non-violence', which raised a strong debate. Many Latin American groups felt marginalised by the term non-violent, stressing they sometimes need to defend their lives against extreme violence. The Indian delegation and others replied that to strongly define struggle as non- violent is necessary for them as part of their fundamental opposition to violence itself. We recognised that definitions of violence differ greatly from one country to another, that different approaches are relevant in different situations, so we decided to move away from defining the network as either violent or non- violent. We broadened the hallmark to a call for "direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements' struggles and resistance to maximize respect for life and people's rights as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism." It was very moving when consensus was reached. I felt we had taken time to understand and appreciate the various perspectives and possibilities of this issue - and all learned a lot.
The timing and setting were very influential to the meeting: with the accelerating cultural and economic genocide against peasant coca farmers of Chapare, our meeting came under scrutiny from the government and international police. When the World Trade Centre was attacked, the authorities, the military and the drug squad intimidated us 'anti-Americans' and 'terrorists'. Delegates with approved visas were arrested at La Paz airport and illegally held, others were kept at the Peruvian border throughout the conference and a Congolese delegate was deported. Tension was high.
Communication platforms were set up for: organization of an international indigenous conference next year; creating a new interactive PGA website and global technical support for local community struggles; exchanges and caravans; documenting legislative reforms; establishment of regional confederations; expanding PGA contacts and facilitating more funding to southern movements. Two international days of action also have been called. The first will coincide with the next WTO meeting in Doha, Qatar (Nov. 9-13) and the second with the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting in Quito, Ecuador, next March.
The highlight of the conference was attending a manifestation of 20,000 men, women and children subsistence farmers in Chapare opposing the US military base in their community. Only days later one of the farmers was shot dead by a soldier in front of six reporters, such is the chilling level of repression. Suddenly, in the current climate, this doesn't seem so far away...
Ell, from ARK, NL. More about the history and the aims of the Peoples Global Action Network on their website www.agp.org