Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Monthly Archives: December 2013

When people lose the right to grow and sell their own food, their dignity is stripped away

by Edgar Franks, Community to Community DevelopmentBellingham, WA

Pathak Lal Golder of Bangladesh Krishok Federation, and Kartini Samon of Indonesia and GRAIN organization

Pathak Lal Golder of Bangladesh Krishok Federation, and Kartini Samon of Indonesia and GRAIN organization

Food Sovereignty is the right for everyone to have access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. It is a human right that should not be commodified. The people’s right to survive and live in a dignified way is being stripped away by transnational corporations in the name of the “free market” and for profit driven motives, not to feed and sustain the people nor the land or waters that people care for. In the World Trade Organization (WTO) model, expanding markets and profits drive the agriculture industry throughout the world. With corporate agriculture, resources are becoming scarcer and the exploitation of peasant farmers and landless people worsens. What happens is that people who were once farming for their village, community, and family are forced to give up that way of life because the global “free market” has made them expendable. The connection to the land that sustains them gets broken. The corporate model of producing food is unsustainable and is destroying the fabric of community including our relationship with our planet.

With the new WTO Bali package, it is clear that the right to food will be even more deeply threatened in many emerging countries and the WTO will continue the trend of displacing small farmers and hurting the environment.  In the United States, farming is heavily subsidized by tax dollars and more and more it is moving towards industrialization. Subsidized agriculture is a luxury that farmers throughout the Global South do not have. For farmers in Southeast Asia, having access to local buyers and consumers is what keeps local agriculture and families alive. The WTO and free trade agreements restrict nations from helping their own farmers, and producers from aiding their local food systems.  WTO policies prefer countries to import food that could otherwise be produced by its own people, within its own borders.  Read more of this post

WTO Bali Package: A Bad Deal for People and the Planet

By Jose Bravo, Just Transition Alliance and Sha Grogan-Brown, GGJ

GGJ-fists

The week of action to End the WTO in Bali was truly a historical moment; we were up against the pillars of rampant greed and destruction. It had been 14 years since the Seattle WTO meeting and along the way we have been persistent in the fact that globalization has only brought us misery and despair. While we were in Bali, our delegation witnessed the atrocious “Bali Package” come into affect, which will have severe impacts on communities across the world.

The “Bali Package” Jeopardizes our Future

“Today, the WTO tries to revive itself and bring back credibility to its delegitimized institution, by producing a Bali Package that jeopardizes our future.” said Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. “It takes away our right to food sovereignty by limiting agricultural policies and tying our hands into an expansive Trade Facilitation deal.”

The “Bali Package” was what the WTO meeting in Bali boiled down to, and while many countries were originally blocking the package, we saw them fall under the pressure of capitalism. Some countries were offered to be the new strategic sites for the war on terror and security hubs with new military bases and infrastructure enticements.  Others were just offered to be the new and improved product assembly nations for the developed nations. Nothing was off the barter table, not even ending the embargo on Cuba. The alarming agreement on Trade Facilitation makes it easier Transnational Corporations (TNCs) to maximize their profit and opens trade borders in all member countries except Cuba, reinforcing the 60-year long US blockade against Cuba. For the majority of the meetings, Cuba and other countries in the Latin American bloc held a strong veto against the Trade Facilitation Agreement as they pushed for a challenge to the US embargo. In the end, an empty clause was added to the declaration and Cuba dropped the veto, but the reference to the non-discrimination principle of Article V of the GATT (General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade) is not written into the Trade Facilitation agreement and remains pure rhetoric with no promise of ending the blockade.

From the start of the talks India held international attention as they pushed to protect their food subsidy program that feeds over a third of the nation.  However after multiple negotiations they ultimately accepted a peace clause and allowed the agreement to go through.  With the restrictions and rules applied, the peace clause essentially only applies to India and is not an option for developing countries.  It is also only a temporary solution with vague promises for a longer term solution in future negotiations.  “This peace clause is nonsense simply because no country should have to beg for the right to guarantee the right to food. Food and agriculture should never have been included in the WTO in the first place,” say SMAA, Gerak Lawan, La Vía Campesina and global allies in a December 7th statement.

The countries blocking the package succumbed to the pressure at the final hour. A “Bali Package” deal was reached and for us our work just doubled in magnitude and became more entrenched. It was as shameful as usual to see the US government’s role in the “Bali Package” was that of arrogance and bullying.   Read more of this post

A Common Platform for Asian Social Movements

by Donna Truong, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities

As someone still learning about our own movement in the United States, how we may increasingly strengthen our inter organizational networks, develop political analyses, and support our respective organizational efforts, I feel extremely honored and humbled to be in Bali amongst such powerful resistance against the neoliberal systems. Representatives from organizations from around the world, mostly the Asian region, brought their experiences of community power to the space, their resilience, their resistance.

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Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA) have been able to mobilize a number of international and national alliances and organizations under the common platform of “Another Asia is possible and necessary.” It envisions: “A new Asia governed by its peoples. Where democracy is real. A new Asia that is sovereign and not colonized by the financial capital or divided by geopolitical interests of superpowers. An Asian society that does not follow the consumption pattern of capitalism. That respects human rights of all and the limits of our Earth System. An Asia where there is a new balance between the countryside and the city to reverse massive urban slums of rural refugees. A new Asia that has food sovereignty and that shares with the rest of the world. A new Asia that is the peaceful home of diverse cultures and nations.”

Time and time again the people have witnessed the destruction of their communities, the migration of their loved ones, the loss of traditional and indigenous cultures and crafts. Movements across Asia have been organizing their communities and their countries to fight transnational corporations and the greed of capitalism, so that they may preserve their cultures, fight back the tyranny given to TransNational Corporations (TNCs) by local governments, create alternatives to the current oppressive system touted as the only solution for the world, in the name of progress, for the future. These organizations are now coming together to form SMAA so that they may unite and fight similar battles against oppressive systems. It allows the organizations and the movement in Asia to strengthen their collective voice, to broaden perspectives on the overall context, and to relate to each other for greater solidarity.  As we begin to envision an alternative system we may begin to practice the type of society, system, and alternatives we want for our world.

Specifically for Asian migrants in the United States, SMAA reminds us of the importance of pan-Asian solidarity and organizing.  We must engage in each other’s struggles: To be ready in numbers for rallies and actions; to engage in political studies; and to share tactics and strategies, all for the sake of building a stronger Movement of Asian and Asian Pacific Islanders in the United States.  Much of the plundering we see in Asia and the Asian pacific islands affect social dynamics in communities in the United States. It is important to see that despite the challenges and divisions provided by language and culture, our histories and the struggles of our peoples, we are facing a fight posed to the entire Asian bloc. To unite is to survive. That is the hope we have for an alternative that truly transforms our conditions and our world regardless of where we are.

Press Release: WTO Protesters Denounce REDD Rice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 6, 2013

Reject carbon trading with food
Contacts: Indra Lubis, Via Campesina, SPI, +6281266660561 (Bahasa and English)
Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, +62 812 3724 2271 – Indonesia
+ 1 218 760 0442 – USA
Denpasar, Indonesia – As the WTO struggles to resurrect itself in Bali, protesters denounced what No-REDD-Ricethey are calling “REDD Rice” – using GMO rice for the carbon market trading regime – and voiced concerns it could cause land grabs, impoverish peasants and privatize nature.
Over 75 organizations from all over the world including Indonesian groups, launched the No REDD Rice Manifesto to defend this sacred staple crop which feeds billions of people, from the clutches of carbon traders and the WTO.
According to the No REDD Rice Manifesto, “The United Nations, World Bank and fossil fuel polluters like Shell and Chevron and mining company Rio Tinto, have been pushing a carbon trading regime called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). REDD+ uses agricultural land, soils, forests and tree plantations as sponges for greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Evidence is mounting which indicates that climate polluters want to use rice cultivation as an offset for their pollution instead of reducing emissions at source”, says Tom BK Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, an international indigenous organization that has been denouncing human rights violations linked to REDD-type projects and carbon forestry. Read more of this post

No REDD Rice Manifesto

No WTO! No REDD!
No to using Rice for Carbon Markets!
December 6, 2013 ● Bali, Indonesia
We, the undersigned Indigenous Peoples, peasants, fisherfolks, immigrants, women, youth, cooks No-REDD-Rice-2-weband civil society of the world gathered in Bali to protest the WTO, know that rice is a sacred staple crop which feeds billions of peoples worldwide. We, who courageously resist efforts to impose the use of genetically modified so-called “Golden Rice” of Monsanto, now unite to defend rice from being used as a part of capitalism of nature and carbon markets – “REDD Rice”.
Since 2007, the United Nations, World Bank and fossil fuel polluters like Shell and Chevron and mining company Rio Tinto, have been pushing a carbon trading regime called REDD** (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). REDD uses agricultural land, soils, forests and tree plantations as sponges for greenhouse gas emissions. Now these climate polluters want to use rice as an offset for their pollution instead of reducing emissions at source. Market-based solutions for addressing the climate crisis are a false solution.
We do not want our rice paddies or rice beds to be excuses for more pollution which causes global warming and typhoons. For peasant farmers, REDD+ constitutes a worldwide counter-agrarian reform and perverts the task of growing food into “farming carbon.” The UN and northern industrialized countries have introduced other false solutions to climate change such as “Climate-Smart Agriculture”. In Africa, where climate-smart carbon credit projects are being promoted, peasant farmers are starting to resist the use of their lands and soil for carbon sequestration, which is a carbon market scheme of capitalism. These new soil carbon markets are opening the door for more GMO crops and land grabs. Read more of this post

An Economy for the People and the Planet #EndWTO

by Edgar Franks, Community to Community

Many times we are asked about what does an alternative to capitalism and free trade look like? Trade has been part of our history and contributes to our human interaction. To be clear, the total elimination of trade is not a solution to modern transnational trade pacts and agreements. However a critique and analysis from the grassroots has established that trade and neoliberalism is tearing apart the fabric of communities and nations. Capitalism is far too destructive.   It can not be reformed because of the economic and environmental crises caused by it’s need for endless growth and consumption.

Cindy Wiesner co-facilitating the Economic Justice Assembly with Riza Damanik of Indonesia for Global Justice.

Now more than ever, we need an economic model that prioritizes the harmony between people and Mother Earth over unsustainable forms of production and accumulation of wealth and resources. We the people from the grassroots not the corporations or corrupt politicians and governments will be determining our own path to an economic model that is designed to respect human dignity.

The second day of convergence at the #EndWTO Week of Action in Bali, focused around what an alternative to Capitalism and Free Trade would look like from a peoples perspective. Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA) released the alternative economy vision statement as the foundational document for the economic justice assembly. The SMAA “Economy for life in our Earth Community” document emphasized social and environmental justice and universal human rights.  In this vision of an economy of a new type, the contributions from all sectors will be represented and all people will have a space where they belong in community with others.

“We feel it is important for this gathering to happen because we want to join Gerak Lawan and SMAA in showing everyone that the WTO and other Free Trade Agreements do not benefit farmers, workers, youth or local developing economies,” said Indi Hikam of the Youth Food Movement Caravan.  “The WTO is a tool that only benefitted Western Countries like the US an European Nations as a form if modern colonialism where important resources are extracted and commodified in a way that destroys emerging local countries.”

Members of the Youth Food Movement marching in BALI. #EndWTO

The first day of the convergence introduced the history and context of why we are in Bali. The second day focused on visioning an alternative economic vision and a call for social movements to begin practicing alternative models at the local levels of our communities.

No matter the language you speak, the language of struggle is universal. The growing leadership from the grassroots movements in Asia and the global South are leading us into a direction to a world where many worlds can live and have a space.  People from the Global South know the serious implications that neoliberalism has caused within their communities and nations. They know that reforming or compromising is a false solution.

This reality has yet to take hold within mainstream society in North America. The oppressed and marginalized of our own country are fighting and struggling with the harmful effects of capitalism. Indigenous people, immigrants, African Americans, working class white people and the LGBT community have been at the forefront of fighting against this exploitative system. Within our own country with all of its wealth, a vast number of people are beginning to recognize that help is not on its way. The only thing we have left is to organize as a way of survival.

Through actions like the #EndWTO Week of Action in Bali, grassroots movements within the US are deepening our alignment with the movements of the Global South.  The social movements in Asia are showing us all how to create an alternative economy and world.

Update from the #EndWTO Week of Action in Bali!

By: Edgar Franks, Community to Community Development

Solidarity between different fronts of struggle was apparent at the opening day of the #EndWTO Bali Week of Action.  From the Philippines to Thailand to Korea to Africa, every speaker called out that the current economic and governing systems and the expansion of neoliberal and neocolonial policies are hurting people and endangering the planet.  They called for the end of the WTO, the end of free trade agreements, and the creation of true people’s alternatives in its place.

GGJ delegates with Pablo Salon of Focus on the Global South.

GGJ delegates with Pablo Salon of Focus on the Global South.

The solidarity proposed by the speakers and presenters made it clear that no matter where you are from or what is your fight, the liberation of one group is directly connected to the liberation of another. Allies and networks can be formed with groups and individuals we may have never considered before but because of the current climate and economic crises’ it is crucial to make those links and connections.

I was particularly moved by the testimony of a sex worker from Cambodia who shared her story of how the self-terminating seeds from Monsanto have destabilized the countryside forcing many women to migrate into the cities for survival.  With profound sincerity and clarity she connected the role of multi-national corporations in the destruction of local communities, to the increasing exploitation of women who are pushed into the sex industry for survival.  The margin between survival and disaster becomes smaller and the urgency to create change becomes a matter of life or death.

The grassroots are at the forefront of this movement.  In the end of the day leaders from social movements in the Philippines, Korea, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, and Taiwan filled the stage to declare the formation of a new hemispheric alliance called Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA).   This alliance has been years in development, since the 2005 protests against the WTO in Hong Kong.

Grassroots leaders from social movements across Asia tie their scarves together at the declaration of the SMAA hemispheric alliance.

Grassroots leaders from social movements across Asia tie their scarves together at the declaration of the SMAA hemispheric alliance.

Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA) and Gerak Lawan declared the unity and action is what is needed at this moment.  We are living in a historic moment where struggles are confronting unchecked, unregulated free markets all across the globe.  The moment calls for us to build and stand side by side with the people of Asia. The moment call for us to engage participatory process in our communities where we get to decide who and what power really is.  It is up to us to create our own alternatives and to demonstrate that another world is possible.