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(en) European PGA Meeting: information and suggestions

From rts <rts@gn.apc.org>
Date Tue, 30 Jan 2001 17:09:40 -0500 (EST)


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Information and suggestions for the European PGA Meeting: Milan, March
24th/25th 

from Reclaim the Streets (London)

1) Short introduction to Reclaim the Streets (as requested in the Conference
Call)
2) Suggestions for Milan Agenda
3) Notes from September 2000 Prague PGA Convenor/ex-Convenor/Support Group
Meetings  
4) Introductions to other groups/movements involved in PGA   

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------

1)What is Reclaim the Streets?

Reclaim the Streets (RTS) is a direct action network that first came
together in London in the early 1990's and now includes autonomous groups
worldwide. RTS takes creative action in the struggle towards positive,
ecological and socially just alternatives to capitalism and the current
hierarchical social order. London RTS were the Western European PGA
convenors before Ya Basta!, and, in February 2000, put together an English
print version of the last 'official' PGA bulletin. For more information on
London RTS see: www.gn.apc.org/rts and for links to RTS groups worldwide:
www.reclaimthestreets.net


2) Some proposed agenda items for the Milan Conference: 

a) Main PGA issues to be discussed.( From a draft Bolivian PGA Conference
agenda:)

1. Action strategies within the space of communication and  coordination of
the PGA (the step from global days of action to sustained global
'campaigns'; the question of violence; criminalisation and solidarity, etc.)
2. Revision of PGA manifesto.
3. Extension of the contacts and of the space of communication and
coordination articulated through PGA
4. Plans of sustained action (concrete proposals to go beyond the Global
Days of Action through globally coordinated campaigns against  particular
aspects of capitalist domination)
5. Mobilisation against the G8 Summit in Genoa (20-22 July 2001),  against
the annual meeting of the IMF/World Bank (Washington, 2-4 October
2001),
against the 4th Ministerial Conference of the WTO (Nov. 2001) and other
globally coordinated actions."

b) Suggestions more specific to Euroland:
- Strengthening and expanding existing European counter- networks (East
&West )
- European linked issues (Immigration, Euro-integration, etc)
- Relations between Europe and World - (twinning with Global South,
countering repression/criminalisation, etc)
- European Days of Action (G8, No-Border Camps, etc) 
- Communication

c) Thoughts on how to structure the meeting:
- Each day with different focus: one on issues/analysis; one on structures/practical
- Solution for language translations: suggest each group where possible to
  bring their own translators for english, Spanish, Italian. (another idea was
  to use radio airwaves)
- Round-table discussions on specific 'issues'
- importance of good facilitation, preparation of meetings, timing, etc. 


3) Notes from the Peoples' Global Action Meeting, Prague, September 2000

>From the 18th -23rd of September 2000 in Prague, Czech Republic, there was a
gathering of Peoples' Global Action Convenors, ex-Convenors and PGA support
group members. Below are notes taken by London Reclaim the Streets
participants. Hopefully they give a impression of the current concerns of
many in the PGA network and provide a useful starting point for discussions
at the European PGA meeting in Milan.

Convenor/ex-Convenor participants from: Movimento Juventud Kuna, (Panama);
Tino Rangatirotanga, (New Zealand); Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network,
(US); Pioceso de comunidades Negras en Colombia; CONFEUNASSC, (Honduras);
PICIS, (South Korea); Reclaim the Streets, (UK); Bangladesh Krishok
Federation; Bangladesh Kisani Sabha; MST, (Brazil); Confederacion Sindical
De Trabajadores, (Nicaragua); Coordinacion de mujeres de las federaciones
del tropico de Cochabamba, (Bolivia); Tampa Bay Action Group, (US); Guises
Montana Experimental, (Nicaragua); Organizaciones Negras de Centroamerica,
(Honduras); Narmada Bachao Andolan, (India); Canadian Postal Workers.

Plus a number of PGA Support Group members who did a great job helping us in
practical ways through days of often intense meetings.

(The first few days of the gathering were mainly taken up with planning the
participation of PGA in the Prague S26 events. More in-depth discussion
followed on the remaining three days...)

WEDNESDAY 20th SEPTEMBER

The main discussion focused on four issues arising from a previous PGA
Convenors meeting, which were:

1. A call to address the problems in the PGA network structure which would
help convenors/ex-convenors to take responsibility for PGA tasks and not
just leave decisions to the support group.
2. The need for a clearer PGA 'strategy' and to push this forward at the
regional and Bolivian PGA Conference(s).
3. Financial clarification: where PGA gets its' money, how it is spent and
by who.
4. Access and Communication: ie. regular bulletins, website/email,
minutes/reports etc.

General comments: as convenors were still missing from the meeting it was
felt that talking in detail about strategy for instance was difficult. A
discussion concerning how PGA is seen and used by the movements already
'represented' here followed. Issues such as: the differences in our 'on the
ground' struggles; the mainly northern strength of Global Days of Action
(GDA's) and how to go beyond them; the withdrawal of some previously
involved movements from the network; the lack of clarity on the organisation
of PGA ( is it one?); Relations to alliance building and media work - were
all areas touched on. And, while the need for more cross-fertilisation,
reflection and communication between the various struggles was highlighted,
the impact of inequalities in access to finances and resources on our
ability to contribute was an important factor to deal with.

Participants then broke into Spanish and English language groups to aid
detailed and quick discussion on the basic functioning of PGA, attempting to
address issues such as:

* Getting beyond Global Days of Action
* How to enable diverse movements to continue their participation
* Organising the network
* General structure, eg. communications, future plans, relations, daily
struggles

English language subgroup selection amalgamation:

" It's not necessary for PGA to endorse GDA's - they have their own dynamic.
GDA's are not enough, and were never meant to be; more a practical
expression of shared activity and understanding. PGA is a network not an
organisation, but it can still be an organised network, seeking not to
increase members but the real connections between movements and struggles.
Organised is not necessarily bureaucratic. Need for clearer structures and a
well-defined support-group role. Understanding of the relations of local
struggles in a global context. Alternative spaces. Getting beyond 'natural'
identities. Are convenors PGA 'members'? Antagonisms not just between
countries but also within them between different networks and issues. PGA is
an ideological bastard - this may have been necessary to begin with but now
we need clarity and to go beyond 'globalisation'. There is a dynamic between
structure and the grassroots.

The early conference and PGA in general have been quite centralised, in
terms of needing the support group(s) to organise conferences, meetings,
bulletins, funding, the web site etc. This was needed but now we're at a
crossroads: we need clear and more efficient structures or a slower process
involving the movements better. If the movements cannot manage PGA on their
own, if it doesn't work, then it's been a fake process. PGA needs to be for
and by social movements, but until now that's been more an ideal plan and
not really practical internationalism on a grassroots level. But we also
need to recognise the success of PGA already with the GDA's and the many
possibilities of the network. What we need is a methodology to help our
process. The structure and process are not necessarily mutually exclusive -
the former is needed for the latter. Sustainability of the network, finances
etc. Maybe have more regional conferences rather then just the Bolivian
type? Co-ordinated effort at the global conference(s) to make the regions
happen. Convince the support group to abolish itself. Share everything,
databases, web, convenors details etc.

There was also an issue of how to respond to crisis in local struggles, such
as Plan Columbia. There was a suggestion for all groups in the network to go
to Colombia to really show practical solidarity which could create stronger
links between the social movements involved in the PGA network. But the main
problem seems to be more in how PGA can create structures to incorporate all
local struggle, not only spectacular actions."

Spanish language subgroup selection *interpreted* amalgamation:

"GDA's need to work in general forms for particular struggles. PGA needs to
define its' position on non-violence and its' concrete manifestations
towards confronting global capitalism. Do global actions but redefine the
terms and include southern struggles within GDA's. We understand PGA to be a
space for co-ordination, respecting different streams of ideas and action.
PGA expressions should be able to cover radical to reformist streams of
thought. The main struggles today can be a secondary struggle tomorrow.
Movements leave often for incidental reasons. What criteria for funding
search? Who are the donors? What is the support group function in this? Not
judge other movements. Convenors should lead and take seriously their role.
Restate that we can't speak on behalf of PGA unless convenor consensus.

Illustrative extras (speaker from each region): Days of action are not
feasible in Honduras. Three years of daily struggle to stop attacks on our
existence. Bolivia is being blockaded now as part of the massive movement
against capitalisation and the privatisation of water. (Ecuador speaker): We
resisted 'democracy' and state institutions. The theory of our organisation
is being lost. Our movement could qualify as reformist but this is a wrong
perception. PGA has to understand and respect the relative processes in
countries. High level struggle can also involve low-level struggle.
Recognise the diversity of struggles while clarifying we are against
capital. (Columbia speaker): The struggle is everyday. Our language is
stolen and our elders cannot embrace an understanding of the IMF/WB but only
the companies who directly effect us (who are of course supported by the WB
and IMF!). (Nicuraguan speaker): GDA's should be the conclusion of countless
actions in many countries. Constant struggle is the norm. SAP's imposed, 70%
unemployment, no support for agriculture etc. Different realities -
different struggles but need common voice. PGA is possibly the banner
lifting organisation. Southern movements are not trying to tell the North
what to do, we recognise similar attempts to connect struggles in the North.
PGA needs ways of sustained action and spaces for constant sharing. You are
our companeros - we need to get beyond differences and work even better for
the long term. We in Latin American movements will work to reconnect with
the movements who have lost contact and for their return to PGA. (Columbia
speaker): There are different visions for different realities, understood by
daily life. PGA has to attempt to express this divergence in convergence,
then we can co-exist in agreement. How can the South include itself better
in GDA's? This is a challenge for us. The support group has responsibilities
to allow for this globalised struggle - their problem is to help enable
this. But if convenors fail to make decisions then the support group should."

Mention was made of the work being done on a Latin American web server
system to connect LA struggles and to enable easier co-ordination and
sharing of information.

THURSDAY 21st SEPTEMBER

Agenda: presentation of 'issues'; proposed changes and discussion; Bolivian
conference

The discussion yesterday while useful needs to turn into concrete proposals.
Proposal that perhaps commissions can be arranged for concreting ideas in
practise. One for the Bolivian conference, one for proposals for changes
from yesterdays discussions. AGREED

Presentation of various 'issues':
* Davos summit for the World Economic Forum 25th to 30th January 2001.
Activists are mobilising around Europe, if you like snow and the cold then
start making plans to come.
* GDA coinciding with the meeting of the G8 called by Ya Basta! for July
2001, since they were prevented from coming we will have to contact them for
more information on this.
* Gender meeting in Panama to coincide with the 18th meeting of the
presidents of Latin America end Spain on November 12-18th. The gender
meeting follows on from the gender meeting in Chiapas, Mexico April 2000,
this time there will be participation from Panama to Mexico. Will include
discussions on PGA region and action, gender and Plan Colombia.
* Plan Colombia - AGREED a working group be set up to write a document about
Plan Colombia for all groups to distribute in their localities, put on their
websites etc.

Commission report-back on improving the workings of the PGA network:

1) Clearer strategy 2) Relationships with other movements and networks 3)
How to strengthen internal relationships

Beyond GDA's (strategy): For many groups GDA's make little sense, still
GDA's are successful and concrete expressions of our common struggle. Our
objective is to for PGA to connect and highlight daily struggles while
creating the space for constant exchange of ideas and practises. Some
suggestions:
* Global 'campaigns' beyond a day of action, on themes of global struggles
such as militarisation and criminalisation. In this way attention is given
to variety of global but daily struggles. This approach could also help
distinguish PGA's anti-capitalist aims from anti-WB/IMF/WTO reforms.
* Existing spaces for constant sharing and mutual inspiration need more work
(incl. website, bulletin, etc) - establish working groups to define ongoing
practicalities and create new spaces for engagement.

Internal/external relations:
* Establish regional groundwork supporting relations between PGA groups
internally and where possible outside/beyond the existing network links.
* Being non-judgemental and non-competitive internally respecting each other
as a principle. Non-exclusive - attempting to work with other networks.
* Insist on having 'official' confirmation of affinity so as to avoid lack
of a legitimate mandate from movements.
* Ask for precise concrete engagement from already participating
groups/movements. ie. For Bolivia set conditions for attendance which groups
have to respond to.

Organising the PGA Network:
* Reduce support group importance by diffusing it's work within the
movements. Involving movements in redefining the aims of the network
* More practical organisation: 1) Improve communication structure for the
convenors/movements 2) Improve access to reports/minutes 3) Clarify
financial side - more transparency concerning donors, decisions. The
movements (not the support groups) need to ask for money - much easier to
obtain! 4) Clarify support group role; suggest or demand? Act instead of/for
convenors? etc. 5) More concrete engagement from the movements and convenors.

Amalgamated comments and discussion on these suggestions:

"Some movements don't have such skills, need to help groups develop them.
PGA could have a secretariat in each continent as the movements themselves
are often too busy. Need to know not where money comes from but where it
goes - transparency may scare off donors (even internal transparency is
external). Some good ideas here especially for central american black
movement, the expansion of the process. These past days are encouraging that
we can consolidate the PGA process. Global 'campaign' themes is a useful
idea for ongoing struggle beyond the present moment. Capital is in real
geographical areas. The strengthening of global struggle is through local
forms of struggle. The implication of this involves actions reacting to
clear cases such as displacement/migration, matching local space to global
space. Plan Columbia is a good example of this process. There are similar
'campaigns' already ie. Jubilee 2000, Shout of the Excluded: how will PGA
relate to these? There is a danger that such 'campaigning' could stifle
diversity. PGA's strength is in bringing campaigns together, maybe convenors
could attempt to internationalise their areas of struggle. PGA does not yet
have the strength to stop Plan Columbia but it can give statements of the
fight against it and new perspectives on the struggles. The PGA 'trademark'
is presenting the 'uniting' of struggles as part of the solution. We should
relate 'campaigns' to Capital; of material struggles as manifestations of
Capital - difficult but a better focus. Decentralisation is the key to PGA.
Politics is local - some of our most powerful enemies are global.
Co-ordinate and find commonalities, not organise campaigns. This is indeed
our approach from previous days, 'campaign' is NGO language and the wrong
word for the suggestion for sustained action. The difference (from the UN,
shut down IMF/WB etc campaigns) is also in the definition. The call is
issued from local struggle and is universalised, making known the
contradictions of 'reform/issue based' approaches. Not creating a new
struggle but local issues breaking out and linking globally. Plan Columbia
for instance reflects a point when a struggle can be shown to be endemic of
the whole system, and gives a chance to crystalise internationally. It
should be made clear that Plan Columbia is a concrete expression of
capitalism and linked to other regional struggles, this is for PGA. Like
Vietnam - bring the war back home. Important though that it is not a
solidarity campaign for the South, this is problematic and not the PGA role."

Operationalisation:
* International working group on finance: 1) transparency 2) decentralising
3) skill-sharing
* International working group on communication: 1) internal 2) external
* Working group on Bolivian PGA Conference: 1) conference call, position
papers, proposals 2) participant decisions, tickets 3) outreach
* Sustained Global Action working group: theme of
militarisation/criminalisation/ repression.

All Groups/individuals were encouraged to join one or other of these working
groups and arrange between them meetings before leaving Prague and continued
communication afterwards.

Bolivian PGA Conference: An announcement was given that in Bolivia a new
phase of resistance has just begun today involving blockades and occupations
and some serious injuries. It was suggested that because of this and other
commitments (and the problem of organising during Easter week in Bolivia)
the preferred date of around April 23rd is impractical. September 2001 would
be a better time for the Bolivian organisers but if necessarily they could
still go with the earlier date. September it was thought is too late and too
close to the next WTO conference. PGA conferences according to the present
organisational principles are meant to be sometime before the WTO meetings -
perhaps May would be better. But the general feeling here is that we should
not be tied to GDA's or WTO dates so let's fit into the possible dates. A
full year before we meet again though is too long. AGREED proposal for
'working group' and convenors to be allowed to discuss and investigate dates
and clashes during next few weeks but that end of April beginning of May is
preferred.

FRIDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER

Convenors meeting (with RTS standing in for Ya Basta!)

This meeting mainly discussed Cochabamba and in particular the issue of
representation at the next PGA conference. The convenors present felt it was
important that a representative 'selection' of groups should attend each
conference. The number of delegates from each area would be decided by the
convenors. The delegates should be speaking from everywhere, should be
active in the PGA network and/or active in their region, and also agree with
the hallmarks in the manifesto. It was AGREED that groups/movements need to
submit information or 'justify' why they should be able to attend the
Bolivian conference. It was AGREED that there would be 'invitation' of
groups on two levels: regional and by the current convenors (who will have
the last say). Conditions for the participation of the support group are
needed as well. It was AGREED that the support group can speak, but not take
or block decisions during the conference. The convenors also AGREED that
there should be a 70% Southern and 30% Northern balance of groups invited to
the conference in Bolivia. We will aim for at least 200 delegates to attend
the conference, which means that the finance group together with the
convenors need to raise money for at least 140 tickets, money also has to be
raised at a local level. It was AGREED that all Southern delegates will be
asked to contribute what they can to their ticket.

4) Short Introductions to SOME of the movements involved in PGA worldwide

Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST, Brasil: mass organisation
of landless peasants, the most important direct action movement for agrarian
reform. It has already re-distributed land for half a million peasants.

Confederacion Unica Nacional de Afiliados al segure social Campesino -
Coordinadora Nacional Campesiona: the most important peasant movement of
Ecuador, which strongly participate in peaceful takeover of parliament in
2000. This action had been protest against structural reforms, initiated by
IMF  

Frente nacional de los Tradbajadores, FNT, Nicaragua: the main association
of trade union, uniting workers of all sectors of economy

Proceso de Comunidades Negras: the movement of black communities in
Columbia, which played a key role in founding the Afro-American association,
involved in international movement of coordinated resistance.

Movimento de Las Juventud Kuna: youth movement of indigenous Kuna people
from Panama. Kun people are one of the very first communities of indigenous
people, which was granted self-management in the beginning of the 20th century.

Organiziones  Negras de Centroamerica, ONECA: association of black
communities of Middle America, its secretariat is currently managed by
organisation Garifunas of Honduras.

Guises Montana Experimental, Nicaragua: organisation aimed at preservation
of biodiversity, which have been playing an important role in the PGA
movement of South America.

Narmada Bachaao Andolan, NBA - Save Narmada Movement: movement of Indian
Adivivas people and farmers of three local communities, affected by Narmada
Valley Development Programme, which plans to build 3000 dams in a single
valley. NBA campaign of civic disobedience forced WB to cancel the financing
of Sardar project, being one of the main dams in the whole programme.

National Alliance of Peoples Movement: Indian platform of grassroots
movement, aimed at various themes like dam  construction, rights of the
Adivasis people, vital interests of fisherman folk etc.

Krishok Federation: national peasant federation, focusing on problems of
small peasants and landless peasants and impacts of imperialist
globalisation and as part of that at technology of "Green Revolution".

Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform, MONLAR, Sri Lanka: the
movement aimed at obtaining land reform.

Policy and Informational Centre for International Solidarity: the most
important information link to various solidarity campaigns, ongoing in
Southern Korea.

Foundation for an Independent Aoteora: national organisation for
self-emancipation of Maori people, which already had organised several
large-scale actions against ongoing colonisation of Aoteora.

Aoteora Educators: organisation, responsible for information exchange and
education inside the movement Tino Rangatirotanga, movement for Maori people
national sovereignty, based upon independent  tribe-rooted groups.

Karnataka  State Farmers Association, KRRS: the largest movement of Indian
Peasants, renowned by actions like burning of Monsanto-owned fields,
destruction of Cargill seed plant etc.

Garment Workers Unity Forum, Bangladesh: movement organisation the garment
workers, mostly women, employed in the "free trade zones" garment plants,
suffering probably the most intensive exploitation of workforce on the whole
earth.

Seis Federaciones del Tropico: currently the most active resistance in
Bolivia. It has initiated recent battle of water, which overturned the
privatisation schemes of the government.

Strike committee of Autonomous University of Mexico: one of the recent
remarkable examples of resistance against WB and IMF within Latin America.

Kensington Welfare Rights Union and Poor People's Economic Human Rights
Campaign: they have organised several street rallies against homelessness
and poverty in U.S.

Women in Black: the Yugoslavian women anti-war movement.


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