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(en) Inter-Continental Caravan for Solidarity and Resistance

From "Peoples' Global Action Secretariat" <pga@agp.org>
Date Mon, 8 Feb 1999 02:40:00 -0500


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please spread widely this message**
Six Hundred Representatives of Southern People's Movements
will Demonstrate throughout Europe in May and June 1999

600 representatives of Southern grassroots movements will come to Europe
from the 22nd of May to the 21st of June to protest at the gates of the
major transnational corporations, multilateral institutions and at the EU
and G8 Summits. These are the people who are most directly affected by a
development model imposed and maintained from the North in collaboration
with Southern elites, a development paradigm which is condemning them to
poverty, destroying the natural resources on which their livelihoods are
based, taking control of their lives out of their hands and making them
dependent on extremely exploitative and highly volatile multinational
capital.

This initiative has been proposed by the Indian farmers' movements, one of
the strongest and most dynamic actors in the global civil society. These
movements have been struggling for years in order to make their demands
heard both at national and international level, but the results of their
efforts have been limited by the fact that policy-making happens
increasingly far away from the place where they live, too far away for
their protest to be registered or even known about. They have thus resolved
to send a delegation of 500 representatives to Europe, in order to have
direct contact with people of all walks of life, dialogue with a wide range
of organisations about the destruction caused by globalisation and about
alternative development models, and take direct action against the centres
of power that are at the root of their problems. They will be joined by one
hundred representatives of grassroots movements in other countries.

Frequently asked questions about the Inter-Continental Caravan (ICC)
********************************************************************

-> Who are the Southern people coming to participate in the ICC?

Out of the 600 participants, 500 will be representatives of different
Indian grassroots movements. Most of these 500 will be representatives of
Gandhian farmers' movements, and there will be smaller numbers of
representatives of Adivasis (the indigenous peoples of India), Fisherfolk,
people resisting the construction of big dams in their regions and
representatives of the revolutionary struggles in the states of Bihar,
Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The other 100 participants will
represent peasant, indigenous, women's and other grassroots movements from
other Southern countries.

-> Who are the people receiving them in Europe?

A large number of organisations are working in the 'welcoming committees'
set up in each country to prepare the caravan. There are organisations of
all kinds, ranging from peasant organisations such as the French Peasant
Confederation or the Dutch Agriculture Association to squatted social
centres such as Leoncavallo in Milan, EuroDusnie in Leiden and the
Reithalle in Bern, from anti-nuclear networks such as For Mother Earth to
the migrants' organisations of almost all European countries, from direct
actions groups such as Reclaim the Streets! to academic institutions such
as the Institut Argent et Societé, from women's organisations such as
Espace Femmes International to unemployed groups such as AC! Lille, from
activists' support groups such as Theaterstraat to development NGOs such as
CETIM, from Zapatista committees in many different cities to groups working
against genetic engineering such as Biotechnologie Archief NoGen, from
youth environmental groups such as A SEED to the Italian Christian peace
movement. This list is in no ways exhaustive, in fact it is growing every
day, and there are many people who do not belong to any organisation and
are actively involved in the preparations.

-> What is this caravan about?

The political contents of the ICC are (in order of importance):
(1) Global policy-making, with particular emphasis on the push for "free"
trade and economic globalisation.
(2) TNCs and transnational capital.
(3) Agribusiness, Green Revolution, Biotechnology, and Patents on Life.
(4) 3rd World Debt.
(5) Militarism and nuclear issues.

These contents are ellaborated in a manifesto which is being discussed by
the Indian participants of the caravan. This manifesto will be the
ideological basis on which they are coming to Europe, and clearly reflects
the view that if the world is to survive we need a far-reaching and
participatory process of political, economic and social change, a bottom-up
process initiated and controlled by grassroots movements, not by
governments or multilateral institutions. This is the basis on which the
PGA process is taking place.

-> What are the objectives of the caravan?

(1) Bringing its political contents close to people's lives in all the
places where actions will take place.
(2) Encouraging as many as possible to get actively involved in the
preparation and realisation of the actions and to remain active in
confrontational non-violent action in these issues after the project.
(3) Promoting more contact and co-operation between all the organisations
(from Europe and other continents) involved in the project
(4) Attracting local, national and international media attention on the
political contents of the programme. Strengthening and building up new
autonomous media.
(5) Preparing the field (in Europe and everywhere else) for the PGA days of
action against the WTO during the third Ministerial Conference in fall 1999.
(6) Promoting non-violent direct action and civil disobedience as tools for
political change.

-> What will the participants of the caravan actually do in Europe?

They will meet as many European as possible directly, face to face,
communicate with them not through newspaper articles or video
documentaries, but at the human level. They want to convey directly their
understanding of the world system of governance to people of all walks of
life, not just to those who are already politically active.

Many of them do not speak English, but they will use different ways to
communicate with Europeans, many of which are more direct and real than
language - the most important of which is action. There will be plenty of
action during the caravan, action at the gates of headquarters of corporate
criminals such as Nestle, Monsanto, Cargill, Novartis and Shell, action in
front of multilateral institutions at the roots of misery like the WTO and
NATO, action on the face of the 'global leaders' responsible for slow
genocide at the EU and G8 summits. We will also have other activities, like
public meetings with speakers and audience, open-air picnics, living
together with farmers or squatters, press conferences, parties, video shows
and so on, but action will be at the heart of the caravan.

-> Who came to the idea of organising such a notoriously complicated project?

The idea of the caravan was proposed by the Indian peasant movement KRRS
(Karnataka State Farmers' Association), the biggest Indian grassroots
movement with a constituency of approximately 10 million people (the total
population of Karnataka is 50 million).

The KRRS has been since two decades struggling for comprehensive social
change in Karnataka, for the ideal of the Village Republic and for
sustainable and equitable policies and technologies. They proposed the ICC
due to their conviction that unless people mobilise in large numbers in the
countries where the global centres of power are located, their protest will
continue to be ignored. They know that the destruction of their livelihood
is caused primarily by global forces which can afford ignoring their
protest, but cannot (yet) afford ignoring the protest of people in the
North.

Their proposal was immediately picked up by all major Indian movements,
since they all share the same analysis regarding the impact of capitalist
globalisation and the inability of isolated action to stop it. The farmers'
movements of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala,
Madya Pradesh, Maharastra, Punjab, Rajastan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and
West Bengal will be represented in the caravan, as well as the indigenous
peoples of several states.

-> Who is paying for the caravan?

The finances of the Caravan are organised in an as decentralised and
participatory manner as possible. The activists from the South pay their
own travel expenses to Europe (see below). Food and accomondation, as well
as all the costs of local actions and publicity are borne on the local
level by the local welcoming committees. The costs of travel within Europe
and of co-ordination are centralised, but fundraising efforts are shared by
all welcoming committees, which are still very busy asking for donations,
organising concerts, applying for funds and selling t-shirts in order to
gather all the money necessary to make the caravan happen (about 210.000
US$). No money for the central costs will accepted from multinational
corporations, national governments,  EU institutions, or political parties.

-> How can poor peasants and indigenous peoples pay a flight ticket to Europe?

The case of India is quite special: the European groups are preparing to
receive such a large number of Indian representatives in order to make it
much easier for them to participate, since their flight expenses per person
will be less than one half of the normal cost of a return ticket. It is
still a lot of money for the participants, people who are among the most
exploited and marginalised in the world. However, these are also people who
have been struggling for decades in their country on the basis of
self-reliance (i.e. they do not accept donations from any source other than
the constituency of their own movements), and many Indian activists have
spent this kind of amount travelling around India as part of their
campaigns. It was their proposal since the very beginning that they cover
the travel expenses.

-> Does this mean that the participants of the caravan are relatively rich
peasants?

No. Most of the participants own between 2 and 5 hectars. Just for the
purpose of comparison, a farm in the European Union must have at least
around 40 hectars to be considered economically viable (information
provided by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft). And the
Indian government does not pay the kind of subsidies that the EU does.
There will also be some participants who will not pay for their flight
(landless peasants, indigenous peoples, representatives of the
revolutionary struggles) since they cannot afford it but the Indian
organisers consider their presence as politically important. Their travel
expenses will be shared among all the other participants.

These Indian peasant activists give enough political importance to this
project as to devote large amount of resources to it - and this was one of
the things that has really touched us (the organisers in Europe) and
encouraged us to do our best to make this project a success. We see their
determination as a clear sign of their deep understanding that they have to
contribute to increasing awareness and action at a global level if they are
to survive.

-> There are few people working against capitalist globalisation in Western
Europe. Does it make sense to invest so much of this limited potential of
work and resources in one single project, one single month?

We believe that the inter-continental caravan is one of these rare projects
which generate much more energy than it requires. We see already that many
different groups which were not working on global issues and many people
who were not particularly involved in politics before are now joining local
welcoming committees, because the caravan appeals to their imagination and
motivates them to participate in a struggle that so far was not really
theirs.

Furthermore the caravan is not conceived as an isolated project: we see it
as the beginning of a long-term process of organic (i.e. not 'organised')
convergence between a large diversity of organisations and individuals with
similar views on social change - people who agree on the need to reclaim
our lifes, challenging the current structures of power from below, and
constructing alternatives controlled by the people.

-> Can I participate in this crazy project?

Yes! The number of people who will be physically in the caravan will be
rather limited, but there are many ways to join this project - no matter
whether you are in Europe or not. You can join by making information
available to the press and the people in the place where you live, by
organising an action in June 18 (during the days of action against
financial centres), by engaging in similar activities, etc. And of course,
we need lots of help of all kinds (economic, organisational, etc). Please
contact the secretariat if you want to be part of this project:

Inter-Continental Caravan
European Coordination Office
P.O. BOX 2228,
2301 Leiden, NL
Tel/Fax 00 31 71 517 3094 or  00  31 71 517 3019
email: caravan@stad.dsl.nl
Web page:  http://www.agp.org   or   http://stad.dsl.nl/~caravan


*******************************************
Peoples' Global Action 		pga@agp.org
against 'Free' Trade 		www.agp.org
and the WTO (PGA)



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