We will report
back on the forum at the Socialist Potluck at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood
Center (953 Jenifer Street Madison, WI) on Saturday, July 10, at 5:30pm. Following are my blog posts from the forum.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
United States Social Forum
second United States Social Forum (USSF) started this afternoon with a
massive march through the streets of Detroit. Representatives of various
social movements led the march with a banner of the forum. Behind them
were representatives of native peoples with their own banners. As
always, people in the march had a wide variety of demands, with an end
to repression against immigrants (especially in Arizona), universal
access to health care, and freedom for Palestine being particularly
large issues. The slogan for this forum adds "Another Detroit is
happening" to the previous USSF slogan "Another US is necessary" and the
standard World Social Forum (WSF) insistence that "Another world is
march ended at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit which is the main venue for
the forum. As we filed into the cavernous hall, native dancers on the
stage greeted us with songs, drumming, and dancing. George Martin from
the Ojibwa nation invited us to the native lands of Detroit. An African
dance troop and others performed as well, including hip-hop artist
Olmeca with whom just last week I attended an Indigenous
encuentro in Ecuador!
addition to the cultural performances, political, labor, and social
leaders also presented short speeches. Organizers emphasized the
multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of the event, including providing
Spanish and sign language interpretation for the opening, closing, and
plenary events. About 10,000 people are here at the forum. The energy
level is high, with expectations for a useful and positive forum.
appears that I will have good Internet access access here, so I will
try to blog and upload photos as we go along. I have my first batch of
photos from the march and opening session at http://picasaweb.google.com/marcbecker2/USSF.
after spending last fall in Ghana, a panel
listed in the addendum to the USSF by the Cuban Working Group of the Black Left
Unity Network on African Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution caught my
eye. I'm fascinated by connections between Kwame Nkrumah and Fidel
Castro in the 1950s and 1960s, and thought that this panel would be
another example of such south-south solidarity. Instead, the room was
filled by African-American solidarity activists. A woman sitting besides
me said said "it's hard to find the language, something that you've
never felt before in your own country," but she urged people to travel
to Cuba "if you want to know what freedom feels like." She pointed to
her time in Cuba as a life changing experience, as something that she
never felt or saw in the US.
Efia Nwangaza from the Afrikan
American Institute started the conversation with the observation that
Cuba is an ally of African people on the continent as well as in the
US. Cuba was also particular an ally for women. “We as African people
have a long standing debt to Cuba,” she stated. She then read a March 10
statement that she had helped draft on International women’s day with
the Cuban Women’s Federation.
Tony “Menelik” VanDermeer from
U-Mass Boston described a trip to Cuba that he took in March on a
replica of the Amistad, the famous slave ship. They had managed to
acquire State Department clearance to go to Cuba on slave freedom day.
They traveled with the UN, US, and Cuban flag, the first time anyone had
ever done that. There were few international reports on the trip, but
it was big news in Cuba. Instead, the international news reports focused
on the women in white who were protesting against the revolution. It is
important to have solidarity with Cuba, he said, and that there is a
lot we can learn from them.
VanDermeer described a recent trip to
Nigeria, and while he said he loves Nigeria Cuba is much better.
Nigeria is politics as business, while people in Cuba care about each
other. If Africa was 25 percent as organized as Cuba, he said, it would
be a power house. What is happening in Cuba that the US doesn’t want us
to see? We need to go so we get different perspective. It’s not perfect,
but people are engaged with the process.
Saladin Muhammad from
the Black Workers for Justice said that the Cuba Working Group in the
Black Left Union Network is particularly important in the era of Obama
because of how his election gives an image of a post-racial society. But
this is not true. They have initiated a thank-you Cuba campaign to
highlight Cuba’s role in a struggle against racism. They want people to
express their thanks to Cuba by signing postcards, hold events, etc., so
people can see and feel the role that Cuba has played.
these introductory statements, they opened the panel to a broader
conversation and comments. One woman emphasized that we need to go and
see advances in Cuba, that socialism is doing something right. Before
the revolution people were not allowed on beach, just like in US, but
now that has all changed. A former SWP candidate for the governor of
Illinois observed that the same people who maintain us in poverty in the
US also want to maintain Cuba in poverty. The only way we can make a
revolution is to break that oppression. Others also provided testimonies
about their positive experiences in Cuba, underscoring how important it
is to travel there to see how things from a different perspective, and
also explaining why the US government does not want us to travel there.
Hey, so I
thought I'd continue blogging throughout the rest of the day, but it
didn't really work like that I guess. After lunch I participated in a
panel on scholar activism. It's hard for me to take notes and
participate actively in a panel at the same time, so I have very minimal
notes from that session. We broke into three groups to talk about
fighting the neoliberalism of the university, knowledge and information,
and advocacy research. Many of the attendees were graduate students and
spoke of the need for faculty mentorship in order to support student
interests and validate their activism. We used to have an International
Network on Scholar Activism (INOSA), and the session made me wonder
whether we needed to rejuvenate that network to support, encourage, and
facilitate scholar activism.
After that session I went to another
one, but the room was so full that I left. Instead, I returned to
display area to sit at the Historians Against War table. To my surprise, a group from Chicago had taken over our table. We
reacquired the table, but I didn't have much literature and the table
looked very bare so not many people stopped.
Now I'm at the
evening plenary. A series of three plenaries are focused on the crisis
that neoliberalism has created, tonite focusing on Detroit, tomorrow on
the national and international arena, and then concluding Friday nite
with alternatives and solutions. These are billed as fishbowls, but with
a couple thousand people in attendance a true fishbowl doesn't really
work so the presenters are sitting in a semi-circle really talking to us
instead of each other with us eavesdropping in on the conversation.
I've had a long day and increasingly I quickly hit a conference wall at
these types of events, so I really don't have much concrete and
conceptual to contribute to these discussions. I haven't left Cobo Hall
once today, and it really feels like a bunker in here. A storm passed
through earlier today and I was completely oblivious to it. Tomorrow is
another long day, and so I think I'll go home so I can start over again
in the morning.
Future of the Forum, Part I: The Social Forum
Process from a Global Perspective
Following what is now
an established tradition at social forums, the Network Institute for
Global Democratization (NIGD) helped organize another session at the
USSF on the future of the forum. The purpose of these discussions is to
help define where the forum process is going and where it should be
going. At Detroit, we had two such sessions, though some people argued
that we should have many more. Following are some notes on the first
Sociologist Scott Byrd launched our discussion by
raising three questions:
1. How does the international process
inform and influence our organizing in the US context?
2. How will
the social forum process change in the future?
3. What are some
strategies going forward for making the social forum a more effective
agent for progressive change and innovations?
WSF founder Chico
Whitaker began by observing that Detroit has a similar ambience as Porto
Alegre had at the first forum in 2001. Whitaker observed a feeling that
we were small, but that we also found energy and strength here. People
began to organize both forums without a clear idea about what we would
find. Porto Alegre realized success, and from Brazil it spread out into
multiple forums throughout world. It was not easy to leave Brazil for
India in 2004, but in doing so we began to understand what we had
invented. Now, ten years later, we realize that we could not have
expected this success. We began with one event, and instead we launched a
process. The challenge was to create spaces, to create a new political
In examining the future of the forum process (as opposed to just the forum
itself), Whitaker pointed to three key issues:
development of new politics and a new political culture. We need a new
way to pull people together, and a new way of doing politics. A threat
always exists that old ways of doing politics will restrain and disrupt
us. To avoid this problem, we need to change minds and processes.
The proposal of the forum was to give political power to civil society,
not governments. In the process, we learn and build together.
third issue is the level of content. We need to think about what is
happening in the world, what we need to change and how. This is
changing, and we are facing new challenges, but how to do this is
emerging more clearly.
Michael Hardt picked up on two themes in
Whitaker’s presentation. First, he urged a rethinking of the forum as a
subject vs. seeing it as an open space. Originally we saw it more as
open space, but this debate looks differently in the United States. At
Belem, those who wished to see the forum as a subject wanted to interact
with leftist presidents. This raises the whole issue of relations
between social movements and electoral politics. A second question is
that of the politics of the common, not only of the earth and its
ecosystem but also human creativity including intellectual production.
How do we structure and manage the common? Hardt urged seeing
administration of the common as neither an issue of private nor public
property, but rather democratic self management. We need an alternative
forum of the political subject in which we see the forum as an issue of
governance rather than global government in terms of the institution of
common, constructed, and institutional concerns. In this way, Hardt put a
slightly different twist on the question of the forum as a subject or
Francine Mestrum from Belgium provided an European
perspective on the social forum process. She sees it as a space where
people who are not in agreement come together to overcome their
differences. We agree that capitalism is not sustainable, but we need
more of a political engagement to make this a reality. Her point was not
to abandon the open space idea, but rather to give it more relevance.
Mestrum argued that while it is easy to criticize Europe for its
colonial past, especially since the continent is currently experiencing a
deep financial and ecological crisis of civilization, it is a mistake
to reject modernity in its entirety, particularly ideas like individual
rights and emancipation. The WSF should be a place to discuss these
issues. The point is not to find convergence, but we need to clear them
out. The forum’s greatest achievement is its focus on diversity, and
that can help us on the left. This raises two extreme views: should the
forum become a new international party, or remain an open space without
any structure? The most important issue, she argues, was to preserve a
focus on diversity in order to enhance our political relevance.
Jackie Smith pointed to the defeat of the WTO in Seattle as the
emergence of something new. Globalized capitalism is a failure, so we
need something different; we need to move forward. She explained how
scholarship has changed in working on forum, how it has guided a path to
creating new world, and we make that path by walking. What we have are
not so much solutions to the crisis, but rather a guide as to where to
step next. So, the point is not just to criticize the forum, but to
understand how to find a path forward. We have to think of ourselves as
agents. We cannot stay separate as scholars, but we have to jump in and
become involved and take agency. Smith said that she has learned more at
the USSF than by going to Porto Alegre, because trying to implement
these ideas in a local setting gave her insights on how to inspire
people at local levels to new ways of thinking. This means engaging a
new type of politics to try to implement these ideas locally, to
introduce models we have learned. She echoed previous presenters that we
need the emergence of a new political imagination with new ideas that
invites new people into the process. The people movement assemblies at
the USSF are part of this expanding process to link local issues with
Finally, Scott Byrd, the co-chair of the
communications working group at the USSF and a member of Sociologists
Without Borders (SSF) provided an insider perspective on these events,
specifically touching on the issue of bureaucracy and the management of
the commons. We need a forum to manage the forum, Byrd argued. We need a
certain amount of hierarchical bureaucracy to get stuff done, but we
need to look at how we can work toward democratizing this bureaucracy to
spread out the power. Byrd also noted the problem of the “tyranny of
the workshops,” where we run from one workshop to the next at these
forums, which makes it hard to connect with each other. The People’s
Movement Assemblies (PMA)s were created to help counteract that problem.
We should also think of the forum as an incubator where we develop new
ideas and ways of relating with each other.
same time that social movement activists are meeting in Detroit, leaders
of the countries with the twenty largest economies are meeting across
the border in Toronto. The Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)
organized a press conference “From Detroit to Toronto: International
Social Movement Leaders Challenge the G-20” to bring us some of the
voices in opposition to the Toronto meeting.
Colin Rajah from the
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) noted how the
USSF has different goals than the G-20 in Toronto. How they can further
exploit, criminalize, and use people, he asked. We are looking for
opportunities at the USSF, Rajah said, because we know that they will
not happen at the G-20. Here we have answers to problems with equality,
answers that flow from the bottom up. We’ve learned to disregard
top-down answers from the G-20 because they fail. Rather, we listen to
our brothers and sisters from around world. In Detroit, we are enjoying
an enormous opportunity with people who are engaged in struggles around
Alejandro Villamar from the Mexican Action Network on Free
Trade pointed to the G-20 as an exclusive club that tries to replace
the UN and their problems. We cannot follow the G-20, he argued, but we
must learn from Venezuela and other countries. Otherwise, countries like
Mexico will not have the opportunity to grow.
the innovations of the USSF is the organization of Peoples Movements
Assemblies (PMAs) for groups to collaborate and present their concerns
around common interests and concerns. One of about 50 groups at the
forum was the Indigenous Peoples Assembly, led by the Indigenous
Environmental Network (IEN).
Tom Goldtooth, IEN leader and a
member of the NPC, pointed to the need to decolonialize our mindsets.
When he travels to Latin America, activists there ask him what they are
doing in the US to address ongoing problems with imperialism. Goldtooth,
however, noted that Indigenous peoples are the south that is located in
the north, they are also communities that are oppressed. This
contributes to an urgent need to develop political connections with the
global south. Manny Pino added that IEN is an environmental justice
driven organization, but it is multi-dimensional.
developed four principles of climate justice:
1. Leave Fossil Fuels
in the Ground
2.Demand real & successful solutions.
Industrial countries have to take responsibilities.
4. Living in a
Good Way on Mother Earth (Come to understanding for living with mother
earth, coming back to mother earth. Reaffirm spiritual relationship with
José Matos addressed immigration issues. Even
though they are not immigrants, all the issues that effect immigrants
still effect Indigenous peoples, especially those in the Southwest.
These issues include a negative impact of border control efforts such as
fences on the environment and the destruction of ceremonial sites. The
United States government needs to respect the sovereignty of Indigenous
peoples, and this will give new meaning to sovereignty and self
determination. Matos called for the government to understand and respect
Visiting from Peru, Miguel Palacín, the leader
of the Coordinating Body of Andean Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) spoke
about the move in Latin America from Indigenous peoples resisting
oppression to making concrete actions and proposals. The are working on
intense changes in order to reconstitute Abya Yala. Two key proposals
are for the establishment of plurinational states and the Buen Vivir.
The demand for plurinational states is to recognize diversity that is in
our countries, to make democracy more horizontal and to make relations
more equilibrium. This goal has been codified into the constitutions of
Bolivia and Ecuador, but still a lot of work remains to be done.
Realizing that goal is more complicated elsewhere, including Peru, but
he said that they are going to continue to try to implement
plurinationalism in Abya Yala South.
The second proposal is the
buen vivir, the sumak kawsay, not living better but to live well.
Palacín noted how western states have destroyed the mother earth through
an irrational exploitation of resources. People are responsible for the
climatic crisis, but Indigenous peoples live with this resulting
reality, it puts their lives in danger. Living well means harmony, being
in equilibrium with our own selves and realizing a full life with other
beings in nature. The point is not just to accumulate riches, but to
redistribute these resources for the betterment of humanity. We have to
“caminar la palabra,” to weave harmony with all of society.
a variety of opening comments, we broke into three groups to discuss
1. What are the common messages that unite us?
What does victory look like?
3. How do we organize together and with
allies to be victorious?
4. What is one collective actions we can do
in the next 6-12 months to win?
We reported our smaller group
discussions back to the main group, and delegated a commission who will
synthesize the contributions into a document to present to the final
peoples movement assembly on Saturday afternoon.
of the Forum, Part II: Rooting the US Social Forum Process in the
Everyday Practices of the Subaltern - How else are other worlds
This was the second part of a two-part forum that we
started yesterday. I think others will present something more formal on
the discussions from this panel, but here are some quick notes.
Sen from CACIM introduced the session by noting that it is important to
engage with the forum process, and especially the Detroit forum. We
learn from this process, something that it is not just an event. How are
other worlds possible, other than just in the actions of the subaltern?
That is the great contribution of the forum.
Will Copeland from
the Detroit Local Organizing Committee began his presentation with a
poem, intentionally pointing to the importance of culture in the forum
experience. For him, the USSF represents a major generational shift in
activism as 1960s peace and leftist activists give way to the coming of
age of new activists. Interest in the forum slowly start to build in
Detroit, and it took awhile for communication to get going between
African American and Indigenous communities because of cultural gaps.
Poverty in Detroit also results in a significant low tech/high tech
divide. Many people who are on verge of having their utilities shut off
do not have easy access to the Internet.
Bineshi Albert from the
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) pointed to the importance of
connecting with local Indigenous community. This was hard to do in
Atlanta because most tribal communities had long since been forcible
removed. Detroit has a larger urban Indigenous presence, which helped to
create a different space. Events like a welcoming dinner hosted by the
local community created a different, much more welcoming type of
engagement. As a result, these issues were easier process this time
around. A key lessons from Atlanta was that they had their own
Indigenous tent and it was easy to connect with each other in their own
spaces, but they had not reached out to others. They needed to do a
better job of connecting with others on issues like militarization,
environment, and criminal justice system. Connecting with others still
remained a challenge, but Indigenous peoples can learn from others.
Leon Guerrero from Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) spoke about the USSF
as a people’s victory. He briefly outlined the history of how GGJ began
to work on a global scale, and how important that engagement was. Their
objectives were to strengthen their work in US, and to develop these
global links. He stressed the importance of reaching out to marginal
communities, and the need to start with them. An open space is not
necessarily a level playing field. The result of the USSF has been a
life changing experience. The result is the construction of a strong
progressive social force on left for upcoming elections.
Juris from Northeastern University provided a reflection coming out of
Atlanta. That forum was a process of opening spaces, and he questioned
what spaces are closed when others are opened. There are no correct
strategies, and tensions are inevitable. Did we move too far to the side
of intentionality? Were anarchist groups being left out? Can we push
back toward more openness, without losing community participation? Can
we expand without losing people who need to be at the center? Juris
argued that there are no right or wrong answers, but it is important to
put that conversation out there.
responded that intentionality does not make exclusivity, but we want
the process to be consolidated enough so that it was not overrun. We are
so far behind we need to be quick to make changes, but we also need to
be deliberate so that these changes are successful and solid. Guerrero
also briefly summarized discussions whether to hold another USSF, or
possibly the idea of holding a North American forum in Mexico. He said
that they are ready to host one.
Thomas Ponniah from Harvard said
that we need to start with the local and subaltern, but that we also
need to move beyond that. Focusing on the local gives a needed feeling
of agency. We need to engage with state power, and unfortunately
conservatives are better at this that we are. We need to fill these
social spaces, otherwise we remained locked out.
up late for the panel Dialogue with Activists from the Haitian Popular
Movement (organized by the Haiti Action Network) just as Rea who we met
at her school SOPUDE back in January in Haiti is complaining
that aid from the hurricane several years ago is still sitting on the
loading docks. After she finished talking, the widow of CLR James, the
famous author of The Black Jacobins also complained about how NGOs are making money off of the crisis in
Haiti. A main demand remains for a return of Aristide. She said that his
policies are like Chavez, but the difference is that Chavez has oil.
Frances Jerome disagreed. He pointed to the building of oil refineries
and asked whether this was part of a project of reconstruction or the
looting of Haitian resources? Walter Riley from the Haiti Emergency
Relief Fund notes that every U.S. president including Obamba have
opposed the forceful symbol of an independence Haiti.
approved a final document "Support the Call of Haiti’s Grassroots for
the Return of Aristide and the end of the UN Mission."
to catch a quick bite to eat before the evening plenary, which turns
out to be a huge mistake. I returned to the same stall where I ate last
nite on Hart Plaza. It was slow last nite, but at least we were at the
front of the line. Tonite, I was at the back of the line, and it's not
so much that the line was long but that it was impossibly slow. I was
supposed to meet Thomas at the plenary at 6:30, and as the time slipped
away I wondered whether I should bail or stay. Do I throw good time
after bad? Now it's an hour an half later, and I've missed the first
hour of the plenary--as well as my scheduled meeting with Thomas.
walk in just as Jihan Gearon from the Indigenous Environmental Network
is speaking. It sounds like she's saying interesting things, but of
course I'm just arriving rather than paying attention. Nevertheless,
it's significant that an Indigenous person is on the closing plenary,
and she mentions how natives are often excluded and forgotten. She also
fits her struggles in a global context, including the Cochabamba
People's Climate Change Accord from the meeting in Bolivia in April.
representative of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas) speaks
after Gearon, and all I can think is that my Indigenous compas in
Ecuador are currently mobilizing people against an ALBA meeting in
Otavalo. This same guy spoke last nite at a screening of Oliver Stone's
new movie South of the Border,
and now I'm regretting not taking advantage of that opportunity to ask
him what he knew and thought about this Indigenous opposition to ALBA.
Gearon spoke of celebrating October 12 as Indigenous peoples resistance
day rather than Columbus day, and the ALBA rep said that this comment
brought back distant memories, since it had been a decade in Venezuela
since that date meant anything other than celebrating Indigenous
Time slips by, and somehow I'm always at the wrong
place at the wrong time and miss my best opportunities.
up this morning with a plan, but life hasn't really played out like I
thought it would. There were three things I wanted to do, no, four, I
guess. I wanted to get some breakfast (and check my email), catch a bit
of a climate change march that was scheduled to start at the Detroit
Public Library at 9am, and then head to Cobo Hall for a panel on the
history of labor in Detroit at 10:00. Best laid plans never work out so
well. Instead, between waiting for people to join me, and then trying to
find a new place to eat that was closed, and a ride apparently leaving
without me, I missed breakfast, barely caught a small piece of the
march, and missed the first part of the panel because now Cobo Hall was a
two-mile hike away on foot.
finally at the panel, but rather than paying attention I'm multi-tasking
in trying to catch up from all of my morning delays. But I should be
paying attention, because the panelists are really giving inspiring and
rousing speeches. They have spent decades in labor struggles, recounting
what they had gained, what they have learned, what they have lost, and
what lessons they have for the mostly youth audience at the USSF.
the innovations of the US Social Forum is the People's Movement
Assembly. Over the course of the organizing and convocation of the
Detroit forum, over one hundred assemblies were held, 45 before and 52
during the forum. Because of their depth and brilliance, the resolutions
of the assemblies could not be read at the final assembly of the forum.
Instead, a committee crafted summaries of the resolutions that were
read to the gathering. The resolutions in their entirety will be posted
commission of five people (including our own Rose Brewer from the MWSF
and an Indigenous representative) read a reflection on a synthesis of
the resolutions. Then, in very quick order, representatives of the
different working groups read very brief summaries of their resolutions.
Significantly, and perhaps as a result of a conflict at the closing
assembly in Atlanta 3 years ago, the first one out of the gate was the
Indigenous sovereignty group. Seemingly,they were allowed to take just a
bit longer than the other groups.
from subsequent groups reflected the wide range of issues that
activists engaged at the forum, including workers struggles, gender
justice, transformative justice, poverty, immigration, environment,
media, and an end to endless war militarism. One group gave a passionate
call for the independence of Puerto Rico. The groups laid out
politically charged summaries that required multiple strategies to
realize their goals. Looking over the list of resolutions on the
website, it looks like the list of presentations were a relatively small
sampling of what has been accomplished at this forum.
quickly reading through the summaries of the various resolutions,
organizers put up a list of proposed actionto discuss and plan, and then
voted whether people were willing to take action (blue card) or be in
solidarity (orange card) with a specific proposal.
afternoon's work began with a presentation by the children's forum,
including the singing of a song they wrote and the presentation of a
poster they drew and signed to present to president Evo Morales of
USSF lead organizer Adrienne Brown joked that after the
world's longest opening for a US Social Forum, we would now close with a
short and sweet closing. Instead, after reflections on what we had
brought and done and learned in Detroit we dropped into a holding
pattern of poems and other performance artists while we waited for the
final 2 speakers to arrive since the people's movement assembly had run
so short. The first was a WSF international committee representative
from Mali who welcomed us to Dakur in February, and told us that when
Africa arises, the world arises.
Manny Pino from the Indigenous Environmental Network introduces Pablo
Solon, ambassador from Bolivia to the United Nations. Pino briefly
mentions the work of the IEN at the Cochabamba Climate Summit in April.
Then Solon takes the stage, and in flawless English talks about how he
just arrived from the G-20 meetings in Toronto and the long struggle and
need for an end to neoliberalism. He discussed the water wars that
expelled Bechtel from Cochabamba when they tried to privatize the water
supplies. This was the beginning of change, because if it was possible
to expel Bechtal then anything is possible. From there they began to
talk about the nationalization of gas, and they knew it was possible
because they had already won the water wars. But they learned that they
could not realize these gains without organization, and so they began to
build political organizations.
In 2005, for the first time an
Indigenous leader Evo Morales won the presidency with 54 percent of the
vote, and six months later they nationalized the gas sector. Under
Morales, they have improved the lives of the poor because now the
resources of the country belongs to the people. We can do this two ways,
either ask for the people to sacrifice or to cut the profits to the
large corporations and then we’ll have enough resources for the needs of
the people. The example of Bolivia shows that this is possible if we
organize from the bottom up and take the needs of the people into
After last year’s climate change meeting in
Copenhagen, we realized that the situation is getting worse and that we
need to take action. We need to build a world-wide movement to defend
life and the mother earth. We only have one opportunity, and it is now
to create a new alternative not only for us but for our children and
What do we want? In the short-term, we want
industrial countries to reduce emissions. This is the only way out. The
Cochabamba meetings show the path forward, and we hope to achieve this
in the Cancun meetings. But we can only achieve this with the
mobilization of people. But to do this requires changing how to relate
to Mother Earth. We’ve treated the earth like a commodity, but now we
see the consequences of that. We need to change what BP is doing with
the spill in the Caribbean. In order to guarantee human rights, we need
to guarantee the rights of mother earth. We are part of a system; we’re
not the owners, but just one part. We have to take responsibility to
take care of it. We will present proposal to the UN that the mother
earth also has a right to exist. Both humans and nature, all beings have
a right to water.
The challenge of this century is to build a
new contract, not only a social contract, but a social and environmental
contract. This is key to the building of a new and better world. The
G-8 talks about a green economy, and it sounds nice. But it means
brining capitalism to nature, to put a price on nature, and we need to
have property rights. Instead of the Washington Consensus it will be the
Green Economy Consensus, but this still leads to the commodification of
nature. We need to look for the rights of nature, this is why a
declaration of mother earth rights is so important.
Cochabamba, we also talked about making a court of climate justice where
cases like BP can be tried. We cannot allow these abuses to continue.
We need to build it from the grassroots. Democracy is being constrained
at a world-wide level. What is the message? Large countries draft
Copenhagen Accord, give it to small countries at 3am and have only 1
hour to read it. But all countries have the same rights, and large
countries who think they are the most powerful cannot decide for the
rest. We have to end the five permanent members on the UN security
council; no one has elected them, but they have veto power. Democracy
means democracy at a world-wide level as well. We don’t want to see more
military bases in Latin America. In Latin America, we’re worried. Why
do we need military bases in Colombia? What has happened in Honduras? We
have to stop this process. We need democracy at a global level.
of the proposals at Cochabamba was to create a world-wide referendum on
climate change, to reach six billion people on the planet who are
influenced by these policies. People around the world should be
consulted on where resources are directed. Our challenge is to build
this referendum for next year, because we see that Cancun won’t solve
problems. Money needs to go to solve problems of poverty and climate
change, not to war. We can only do this if we engage everyone, each one
of you. That is why I have come from Toronto. I have heard that this
social forum was a great opportunity to organize.
Ten years ago I
was a water warrior in Cochabamba, but now I’m a water warrior
ambassador. We want to declare in the UN the human right to water and
sanitation. In the UN we’ve declared rights to food, education, shelter,
but we haven’t declared yet the right to water. We need to count on
your support to campaign for these rights.
comments, a sister from the Detroit School of Arts with the assistance
of two of her students pours libations to ancient African ancestors, and
then engages in a song and dance of pouring, drinking, bathing, and
woman with a child on her arm then sang a song "hold on to your dreams
child and don't let them go." All together, it was a very moving ending
for the forum. A couple more performance artists did their pieces. And
with that, the second US Social Forum suddenly came to an end.