Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Category Archives: People’s Climate Process

Post Venezuelan Social Pre-COP Reflections by Ife Kilimanjaro


Photo taken by Ife Kilimanjaro

Submitted by Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

Climate change is a geo-physical reality, the evidence of which is captured in numerous geologic  formations around the world. The destabilization of natural climate and ecological systems that we are experiencing today, however, are due to unnatural forces. Specifically, climate disruptions, extreme weather events, global warming and similar events are fueled by conditions put in motion by generations of resource intensive industrial production driven by profit, organized to meet the interests of the capitalist ruling race, class, gender and culture.

Solutions to this global crisis must come from a global community concerned about current and future generations’ ability and capacity to live, work, love and create.  Unfortunately governments do not agree on what to do or who should do it.  Well, to clarify, there is consensus that something must be done; but some world leaders say that those who have been polluting longer have a greater responsibility and should shoulder a higher proportion of the burden to reduce emissions, mitigate impacts of climate change on hard hit nations, etc. Other world leaders, such as those from the Unites States, Europe and her other children, contend that current governments and corporations shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of their forefathers and that the playing field ought to be level. (Although we know this is not the case).

At the heart of this difference are questions of historical responsibility, differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.  Though I am pretty green on the UN process, it would appear that these issues were raised in the development of the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in December 1997.  The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement between member nations to commit to setting binding emission reduction targets. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities reflects the recognition that countries with a longer history of industrial development are “…principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity…” (Quote source). The Kyoto Protocol places a heavier burden on these countries for reducing emissions now and in the future than those who have more recently begun to follow similar paths of development.

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July 17 2014 2 023 2  GGJ delegate Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, Texas (in the red dress) is helping translate for the Spanish speaking Indigenous Peoples participating in the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, at the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. This was an Indigenous caucus meeting organized by Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, a member organization of GGJ. The indigenous person participating that came from the furthest distance was Mrinalini Rai, from Nepal. Photo taken by Tom BK Goldtooth

GGJ Delegate Tom BK Goldtooth Presents on Social Participation in Decision Making at the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP

July 17 2014 2 019

Tom BK Goldtooth, GGJ delegate, and Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network was a presenter on the thematic topic on Item III. Social Participation in Decision Making.  This was part of the Mesa process on the second day of the historical International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. The description of this thematic topic was: Adequate and effective participation of social movements in the decision making process to face the climate crisis.  The guidelines for the discussion was to discuss the question of effective participation of grassroots organizations, local communities, children and youth, indigenous groups and minorities in decision making to face the climate crisis.  Guidelines included: Different forms of social organization, its characteristics and effective forms of participation; Specialized language as an element of exclusion; Gender, cultural and ethnic diversity and equity; Local, national and global participation; and Recognizing traditional knowledge, experience and wisdom. Tom focused on the topic of Indigenous Peoples and did a 10-minute intervention that started out the process for discussion.

These were the talking points that Tom covered:

  1. Indigenous Peoples, from the North and global South have a political, legal and cultural-spiritual relationship within the countries they come from. It is not just social.
  2. Indigenous are not mere stakeholders, but rights-holders, because they are the original-First Peoples in the countries they come from. Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who originally inhabited the territory of a country before the arrival of colonizers from other parts of the world, either by conquest, settlement or other means.
  3. Politically, within climate policy initiatives, Indigenous peoples’ consistently reaffirm their rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage their ancestral lands and territories, waters and other resources.
  4. Indigenous peoples have the right to meaningful participation in decision-making matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making processes and institutions.
  5. Indigenous peoples have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with their lands and territories. The link to their lands and territories are inextricably linked to their survival and to the preservation and further development of their indigenous knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ecosystem management.
  6. In order to participate in climate discussions, Indigenous peoples need popular education and training on the topic of climate change and global warming, including the pros and cons of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. This especially applies to those living in far remote and rural locations. This education and training includes the crosscutting issues, solutions and risks, such as violations of treaty agreements by the U.S. and Canada; violations to the access and right to water; human rights instruments; just transition; etc;
  7. These popular education materials need to be available in the Indigenous Peoples’ language;
  8. The need to de-mystify the negotiating language of climate change within the UN climate meetings.
  9. Apply the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially related to the standards and principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Indigenous peoples’ need to be fully informed on all aspects of climate change as a condition for decision making.
  10. Financial mechanisms need to be increased for Indigenous participation in national, regional and international meetings, seminars, workshops and conventions on climate change and its crosscutting issues.

Submitted by Tom BK Goldtooth, IEN and GGJ delegate

At the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP: Reflections by Diana Lopez

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The International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change taking
place July 15 to July 18 will basically discuss the effects and causes of climate change but mainly its to create solutions though unity and education. Social Movements and the Venezuelan Government are coming together in Venezuela for a preparatory meeting in anticipation of the Social PreCOP happening in November. The meeting takes place on La Isla Margarita, which is part of Venesuelas Nueva Esparta state. Nueva Esparta means New Sparta, it was named after the Revolution for independence when native islanders fought until death, like Spartans, for liberation from the Spanish. La Isla is also where Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez converged on ALBA to unite the Caribbean and Latino America.

As US organizers prepare for the UN Climate Meeting in New York City this September this meeting comes together at a critical moment within the international movement for climate justice. Going back to the past four UNFCCC there has been great push against binding agreements that would force the worlds worse polluters to cut emissions. China, Canada and the US are among the countries that attempt to dominate the landscape in oder to continue extracting resources. Going back even further the US Government has played a key role in colonizing the economic and social structures of Latino America and Caribbean countries. Thus we go into this meeting with a deep analysis of our own country which also continues to create systemic structures that keep poor people, people of color from reaching justice.

Within in official UN international spaces there is always a lack of representation from the people most affected by climate change. Grassroots organizations/ civil society brings the solutions and understanding of how to live well in connection with mother earth. Venezuela sees the need to have civil society and youth present during meetings which is why there is a strong presence from Latino America’s base building organizations. However the reality is that there is a global south within the global north that is being left out of many international spaces. There is a strong force of people taking on climate change at the local level, building community owned energy, creating intergenerational community planning, and connecting the need to not only fight for environmental justice but also to address the economy, reproductive issues and governance.

Coming into this meeting there are may thoughts and questions that link our work and understanding of political and social movements.

  1. To begin there is a long political history around liberation and independence in Latino America that shifts the way conversations are developed and who is part of the discussion. We understand that power comes from the base, from people of color, farmers, women, indigenous community, and youth that have traditionally been left out of decision making space within the US and international spaces. Knowing the struggle and how the US has played a part of those movements is critical to building international relationships and developing united solutions that have systems change at the center. In general the GGJ delegation is looking to to deepen understanding among international allies of the ways that people of color, poor folks and Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by U.S.-led domestic and international policies and practices.
  2. Building relationships and solidarity movements are necessary to break down systems that keep oppressing our people. One of goals of the GGJ delegation is to deepen relationships with national and international groups who demonstrate understanding of the intersection between capitalism, ecology and justice and that work to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

Submitted by Diana Lopez, Executive Director, Southwest Workers Union

At the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP: Preliminary reflections by EMEAC’s representative


As one of GGJ’s three delegates to the social pre-COP on climate change sponsored by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, i am glad to be part of the process of shaping, with others, the country’s official statement on climate change going into the 2015 negotiations.  Venezuela invited civil society organizations and movements from around the world to engage in this process as a way of inviting the voice of the people into what has become a very closed and corporate-led UN space. Though there are some questions circulating about the underlying intentions of the Venezuelan government and caution by people who know what it is like to be tokenized or have their work/ideas appropriated by larger bodies and institutions (be spoken for by them), one thing is clear; that this is a huge (though not unprecedented) undertaking deserving of note. Why? For one, the document that emerges from this process will be on par with those that other nations produce around the world, discussed and debated by world leaders.  Additionally, if its essence remains after the governmental ministers make their revisions in November (meaning that if it doesn’t get gutted of the essential parts that our organizations and movements bring), then the document will embody the lessons, expectations, hopes and visions of people who are harmed by and who fight against a system that exploits people and the planet.

I join Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Diana Lopez (Southwest Workers Union) on the delegation.  While here, we aim to  deepen relationships with national and international groups that work to address the causes and impacts of climate change; deepen understanding among international allies of the ways that people of color, poor folks and Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by U.S.-led domestic and international policies and practices; and build unity and support toward the Our Power national gathering (Richmond) and the People ‘s Summit (New York).  It is within a broader context, articulated above, that we seek to fulfill these aims.

As i represent GGJ in this space, i too represent the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) as we have some concrete organizational interests in so doing.  For one, we are able to share with and learn from other frontline communities around the world in ways that help to deepen our understanding of the global impacts of local practices, particularly of corporate polluters.  For example, in such spaces, we often meet folks who are at the points of extraction for raw materials that get processed and/or consumed in places such as Detroit.  Additionally, we are working alongside many – some of whom are political allies – to craft a draft document that will ultimately inform the official position that Venezuela takes during global talks on climate change.  So the experiences, stories and lessons we offer from Detroit will be a part of this process.

Finally, we are interested in meeting new global allies in the march toward system change.  In Detroit, where the struggles are intense, the fights are real and the enemies attack from all sides, it will help in the long run to link our struggles with those around the world. So that as we fight in Detroit, we are also fighting the same opponents in San Antonio, in Senegal, in Bolivia, in the Philippines and more; but we are doing it together, with strong voices and solid conviction.

Our work is significant over the coming days in Venezuela and back at home in Detroit.  A lot is required of us, but we’ve been prepared to take up the task and will do so with dignity, honor and respect of ourselves, our communities, those who’ve come before us and those who will follow.

I look forward to sharing more later.

Submitted by Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director, EMEAC

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


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


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 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