Focus on the Global South:
Grassroots Alternatives to Corporate Globalization
What is the South-South Exchange? ·Summary Statement of the First Exchange
Statement from Participating Organizations · Brazil · Chiapas, Mexico · El Salvador ·
Nicaragua · Honduras · Haiti · Jubilee 2000 South
Globalization Alternatives: North and South (GANAS)
1830 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-232-1999 Fax: 202-328-0627 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Sponsors: Beyond Borders, Center for Economic Justice, EPICA, Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America/Caribbean, Fifty Years is Enough, Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, Grassroots International, Mexico Solidarity Network, Nicaragua-U.S. Friendship Office, Quixote Center/Haiti Reborn, Rights Action, SHARE Foundation, Witness for Peace (list in formation)
Letter to Sponsoring Organizations about South-South Exchange
in Chiapas, Mexico, October 10-12, 2000
Date: May 31, 2000
Greetings. We write you as collegial organizations to explore how the GANAS process might strengthen your work for land and water rights, cultural sovereignty, and economic and environmental justice. We invite your participation in the GANAS network (formerly the South-South/South-North Exchange: Alternatives to Globalization).
This coalition effort of groups throughout the Americas seeks to strengthen solidarity among struggles in the global South and North to fight corporate globalization and to construct environmentally and economically just alternatives. GANAS builds "globalization from below" by bringing together social movements, especially of low-income people and peoples of color, to exchange analysis and experiences, develop regional advocacy strategies, and create collective strength across borders.
GANAS emerged from the First Annual South-South Rural Development and Advocacy Exchange in Washington, DC, September 21-23, l999 with 22 people from 18 grassroots and technical support organizations in seven Latin American and Caribbean countries. That exchange was organized at the request of four national confederations of campesinos/as and workers in El Salvador, who desired to connect with those from other countries engaged in similar work. At that encounter, all expressed a desire to continue the interchange. We formed coordinating bodies to build on the work from the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
We write you now as part of our international effort to broaden the network, and formally invite your organization to join this process.
GANAS has a particular focus in the global South -- combating the dominant political and economic development model imposed on the poor majorities throughout the Americas through "structural adjustment" programs and other policies of the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, as well as transnational corporations who benefit most from the neo-liberal model. The U.S. government has a major influence over these international financial and commercial institutions, and the poor majorities have virtually none. In the U.S., GANAS comprises counterpart movements peoples fighting to maintain their land, water, natural resources, agriculture, autonomy, cultural integrity, and power. More than just resisting, GANAS is fortifying the growing international citizens movement for economic and environmental justice by lending mutual support to the very concrete alternatives which communities and movements are creating.
The Working Group in the North and South have maintained a high level of activity to foster this network. Were gearing up for more by:
Hosting bilateral exchanges between counterpart movements in different countries;Setting up an ongoing communication system to ensure regular interchange of news and analysis;Strengthening regional advocacy strategies, so that movements from marginalized nations are not forced to fight international structures on their own;Sponsoring international speaking tours by representatives of grassroots struggles for economic and environmental justice;Connecting people from the global South with the vast resource base in the U.S., including technical support and fundraising assistance; Disseminating information and publications about alternatives to globalization; andPlanning for a strong second annual conference to be held in Chiapas, Mexico, October 9-13, 2000. GANAS intends to bring representatives of movements from fifteen countries and five international economic justice networks in the Americas, with a specific focus on indigenous and rural struggles. In addition, priorities in the North include representatives from inner-city groups who are facing similar conditions and involved in similar struggles to their global South counterparts. An emphasis is being placed on the participation of women and youth.
We look forward to collaborating with organizations and movements who share this vision and want to create linkages in the global South and North, and we hope to hear from you regarding this initiative. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions and forward this letter to others who may be interested.
Write: email@example.com and earmark your inquiry: Globalization Alternatives
The South-South Exchange: Grassroots Alternatives to Corporate Globalization
What is the South-South Exchange?
What are the Objectives of the South-South Exchange?
This proposal for a South-South Rural Development Exchange included the following four objectives:
Rationale for a South-South Rural Development Exchange
It is commonplace to hear in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, or in Mexico and Haiti that the quality of life for the poor is worse today than it was even prior to the conflicts of the past two decades. While standard macroeconomic measurements may indicate economic growth, they do not translate necessarily into economic well-being for the poor particularly when the benefits of that growth are not distributed to the majority of the people who are poor, and the poor have no participation in decisions that impact their daily lives. Survival, rather than development, characterizes the present situation of the poor in the region.
The "development" of the First World has been possible because of a global economic order that keeps the Third World in a permanent state of "underdevelopment." Between 1984 and 1990 there was a staggering net transfer of financial resources $155 billion from the South to the North, principally to repay the foreign debt. The disparity between rich and poor in the world is double what it was in 1960. According to past United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) reports, the richest 20 percent of the world's population control 82.7 percent of the world's income, while the poorest 20 percent account for only 1 percent.
This neoliberal agenda is being imposed on the poor of the region primarily through the "structural adjustment" policies of the World Bank and the IMF international financial institutions over which the United States has major influence. Entire economies of Third World nations are being restructured to produce for the global market and earn badly needed foreign exchange not to reinvest in the domestic economy and to produce for domestic needs, but to repay the foreign debt to Northern creditors and international financial institutions. This is particularly true of Latin America, but structural adjustment policies have had a devastating effect on the poor throughout the Third World.
These neoliberal policies will further restructure the global economy in favor of the North against the South; in favor of production for the global market and against production for domestic needs; in favor of free market economies and against measures to protect domestic industries, labor rights and the environment; in favor of exorbitant profits for multinational banks, transnational corporations and financial speculators and against the integral human development of peoples in the Third World. All these factors taken together have had a devastating impact on the daily life of the poor in the region.
Another essential element of the neoliberal agenda is a series of "free trade" agreements being imposed on the poor of the hemisphere through NAFTA, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas. These free trade agreements favor transnational corporations and place labor and the poor at a distinct disadvantage, driving wages down and pitting workers in poor countries against each other as they compete for jobs in a race to the bottom. This has had a disastrous effect, particularly on poor women who compete for starvation wages in the maquiladora industries. What is needed is "fair trade" with labor and environmental protections rather than "free trade."
Structural change in the global economy is vital. The next millennium will be crucial for defining the quality--and even the possibility--of life, especially for the poor in the South. A key to the success of any alternative model of development is the participation and empowerment of the poor, and their ability to design a model of equitable and sustainable development based on the needs of the poor majority. For that reason it is essential to build solidarity with the poor and their struggles to define popular alternatives for development in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Already, people from Southern countries are organizing themselves. They are convening national struggles against corporate-controlled globalization and policies of the international financial institutions. More than this, they are formulating their own alternatives for just and human-centered development. Four national coalitions in El Salvador have just launched their alternative platform for agricultural production and rural development. In Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous peasants from Zapatista communities have undertaken a rebellion against neoliberalism. In Haiti, a popular movement with strong participation of peasants have held structural adjustment programs at bay for five years. The Landless Workers Movement in Brazil is organizing against World Bank and corporate control of lands.
These are critical times. We can use this opportunity to bring together Southern and Northern partners to examine the accelerating harm of neoliberal globalization policies and to together explore alternative development strategies that can uplift the ignored millions of poor in the Third World.
For more information, contact: EPICA: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (202) 332-0292.
Southern Perspectives on Globalization and Alternative Development
by Camille Chalmers, PAPDA, Haiti
The South-South encounter was an invitation of several organizations in the United States that work with partners in the South. The idea was not only to share our analysis about the conditions in which our peoples are living, but to share alternative proposals, and evaluate the extent to which we are able to build real alternatives. Those who participated represented social organizations and movements in seven countries: Haiti, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Cuba. I can assure you these were two very intense days of reflection and sharing. It was a wonderful encounter, full of emotion.
We all noted a close relationship between resistance and alternatives, and the need to root any search for alternatives in the daily resistance of the people, of workers, of those who suffer.
We need to resist the temptation to look for very refined and sophisticated models linked to the dominant world. The important thing, from our point of view, is that the construction of alternatives be rooted in the grassroots. This is a longer process, more painful and with fewer rewards. But it is the only way that we can build visible alternatives.
In Latin America, we have had experiences of people's power that have not survived because the dynamic of the people in the grassroots was not sufficiently linked to the popular government to be able to transform the exercise of power and the institutions of the state in a qualitative manner. So the question of how people are integrated into the process of creating alternatives is very important. We also discussed the whole issue of power. One of the limitations of social movements during this century has been the conception of state power, of taking power, as though power was something that was already defined and established.
The Zapatista movement has shown us that power is something that you build. The only way to really guarantee this new power is by means of this process of building. We also insisted in recognizing that in some sense we already possess power. Wherever we are, we already have power even though we don't know how to utilize this power or to become empowered and we end up submitting ourselves to a foreign power. We need a paradigm change with regard to the question of power in order to understand that we have power and we need to be building power together with other sectors who suffer under the current domination.
We also spoke about the question of cultural models and noted that the dominant powers impose a model of culture based on consumption. We need to invest a lot of effort and creativity in order to change this model of culture, this way of being. Here youth play a key role in terms of the perpetuation of this consumer model.
Movements for Alternatives in Chiapas and Brazil
We listened to two very important experiences_the experience of the Zapatista Movement for National Liberation in Chiapas, and the experience of the Landless Peasant Movement in Brazil_where the center of both experiences is in the struggle of the people. Everything they do_for example, new ways of cultivating the land_is based on their struggle to gain control of the land.
In the case of Chiapas, this means lands that have been liberated; and in the case of Brazil, lands that have been taken over by the peasants, creating a space within which to build something new.
These experiences are very important, and help us go beyond the development paradigm that only responds to basic needs, believing that little by little these responses will lead to structural change.
What's important is to focus on this dynamic struggle for land and begin to build something new with it.
We also had a very interesting discussion about the concept of permaculture, which includes new forms of production, new ways of relating to the environment based on biological cycles and looking for ways to integrate human needs in a harmonious relationship with nature, rather than in a competitive relationship as occurs under the present economic system.
Over a longer period of time, permaculture allows us to have a method of production and to redefine our working relationships. As one person in our group said, "we are born to be happy." If that is so, then these new working relationships may allow us to work more efficiently, to work less, to work in other ways so that we can be happy. This will give you an idea of some of the conclusions we reached during the South-South Encounter.
The Building of a Continental Movement of Transformation
We have also been working on a proposal for building a continental movement. This is one of the first things that we emphasized in the South-South encounter. In a situation of accelerating crisis and collapse in the world economy, we need to build a continental movement of transformation. We also emphasized that there has been an enormous dispersion of forces in the world today with regard to many issues, many distinct ways of organizing. We need something that will unite these efforts, networks and political platforms. So we identified 16 different networks of organizations of the poor in the world that are struggling for alternatives to the dominant system. Each has its own proposal to restructure the global economy.
One of the first steps we proposed was to send to these different networks the principle conclusions of the South-South Encounter here in Washington so we can study ways in which we might collaborate with them.
We need to join forces if we are going to diminish this enormous dispersion of efforts in the world.
We also insisted that any action_at a regional, continental or global level_ought to be rooted in the grassroots. It should be something long-term that will strengthen the work at the grassroots level. We want to prioritize our cultural expressions, who we are as peoples, and what we are already doing in the grassroots to change the present structure of the global economy.
Finally, we reflected critically on the need to transform relationships between North and South, and we issued this final declaration:
Final Declaration of the South-South Forum
On September, 1999 representatives of various civil society organizations from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, the United States, Cuba and Brazil met in Washington DC to reflect upon the impact of neoliberal policies on the rural sectors of our countries. Upon review of open market policies and the process of privatization, we note the following impact on our peoples:
With regard to the economy: We note the loss of profitability and dynamic growth in the agricultural sector along with the elimination of traditional forms of production, a regression in agricultural reform, a return to the concentration of land in the hands of a few and an increase in the dependence on basic food products from outside sources.
With regard to social conditions: There has been an increase in the levels of poverty and indigence, especially among women, children and indigenous people. This has been principally noted in increased levels of malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, unemployment, immigration and delinquency.
With regard to the environment: The level of new vegetative growth has decreased significantly, water sources are contaminated, soil erosion is pronounced and the extinction of native flora and fauna is of major concern.
With regard to political participation: A loss of autonomy and self-determination is of concern, and the violation of human rights continues.
In the face of this reality, we declare that:
1. Economic growth alone does not guarantee progress and the well-being of our peoples. What is needed is development that includes the participation of local communities, takes into consideration the cultural traditions specific to the areas of development, and honors equality within the community, especially among the sexes and diverse ethnicities.
2. A rural development strategy requires the active participation of all sectors of society in the design and execution of policies and specific projects.
3. It is necessary to include the different levels of organization within a community in the creation of new development models. This must be done in such a way that the well-being of all human beings is guaranteed regardless of religious creed, or political, social or cultural persuasion and that all are given an equal opportunity to participate.
4. It is important and necessary to develop a broad-based continental coalition that will confront the neoliberal policies that work against the sustainable and human development of our peoples.
5. There is a need to develop a new Latin American economic and social philosophy that will lead to a unified alternative model of development of our peoples.
6. We reject the US blockade of Cuba.
7. We repudiate and condemn the militarization and repression of the people of Chiapas, Mexico. We call for an immediate political solution to the conflict.
8. We call on all peoples and governments to respect the autonomy and self-determination of indigenous peoples guaranteed by Article 169 of the International Labor Organization.
9. All Latin American governments must adhere to the published agreements on human rights.
Washington DC, September 23, 1999
Brazil: Landless Peasants' Movement (MST)
Cuba: National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP)
El Salvador: Agricultural Forum, CONFRAS, COACES, Permanent Committee of Rural Women, National Foundation for Development (FUNDE)
Haiti: Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP), Lambi Fund of Haiti, Konbit Fanm Saj, Beyond Borders (Limye Lavi)
Honduras: Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPIN)
Mexico: Enlace Civil, Center for Economic Research and Community Political Action (CIEPAC), Fray Bartolom de Las Casas Human Rights Center, The Voice of the Voiceless, Service of the People
Nicaragua: Antonio Valdivieso Center (CAV), Agusto Csar Sandino Foundation, Peasant Activists and Cooperatives of Jalapa
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BRAZIL: Building a New Society from the Bottom Up:
Movement of Landless Peasants in Rural Brazil
by Marina dos Santos, Movimento Sem Terra
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CHIAPAS, MEXICO: The Struggle for Indigenous Rights:
The Impact of Neoliberalism on the Poor in Mexico
by Onesimo Hidalgo, CIEPAC and Mercedes Osuna, Enlace Civil
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EL SALVADOR: The Struggle
for Alternative Development
by Rene Rivera, FUNDE
In El Salvador, the history of our people is one of struggling for land, for credit, for a cancellation of the agricultural debt and for the fulfillment of the Peace Accords.
Despite the amount of money that has been invested in El Salvador since the end of the war, poverty has not been reduced.
Very little has improved economically in the rural areas with all of the negative consequences of structural adjustment.
We realized that many peasant organizations were working to develop proposals for models of alternative development, so we decided to unite. Four national coalitions joined together to form a Coordinating Committee: the Permanent Committee of Rural Women, two agricultural confederations, and the Agricultural Forum. The two confederations_COACES and CONFRAS_are closely linked to the agrarian reform movement of the 1980s.
So we unified our objectives, policies, and analyses for an alternative model of development, with three principal focuses. The first responds to the critical area of economic decline in the agricultural sector. Agriculture has contributed less and less to the national economy, as its capacity to produce for export has declined, and it has become increasingly more dependent on development assistance.
A second area of focus is in the social sector. Sixty-five percent of rural families live in poverty, with women and children being the most vulnerable. There has been a deterioration of traditional cultural values and an increase in violence in the rural areas. Migration to the urban areas and even to the United States has increased.
A third area of focus is the natural environment, where we see growing deterioration of natural resources. In El Salvador, 90 percent of the water resources are contaminated, 60 percent of the soils show signs of erosion, and the native forests only cover 2 percent of the national territory.
These three areas in turn determine the political context of our struggle to strengthen the agricultural sector, and to strengthen investment in the social sector and in the environment. We have proposed several things to meet our needs.
Eight Key Elements for a New Agricultural Policy
In order to strengthen the agricultural sector we need a land policy. We need to find ways to help the transfer of land mandated by the Peace Accords. We need to register peasants and give land titles to both men and women. Not everyone has title to their land. We need to eliminate or reduce the cultural and structural barriers that prevent women from owning land, especially women heads of households who are quite numerous in the rural areas.
We need a financial policy. We are trying to promote an alternative financial system and restructure the present system. In El Salvador, there is no free market for the financial sector, and regulations are not complied with. Only four banks determine the interest rates, and very little credit reaches the rural sector. Only 8 percent of the total credit goes to rural farmers, even though agriculture contributes 13 percent of the GDP. So we need access to more resources in the rural areas, and we need to make credit available to cooperatives and to small and medium producers.
We also need a commercial policy. We need to improve the market infrastructure, including rural roads and highways, and silos so that peasants can store their agricultural products. Even more important, peasants need information about the market price of their products.
We need a system of technological innovation. That means integrating the efforts of the Salvadoran government, NGOs, local governments, and universities in the area of technology transfer and the systematization of traditional knowledge. We also need to invest more resources in training more professionals and technicians who are committed to providing these services.
We need to transform the system of tariffs. In the last ten years tariffs have been reduced drastically, leaving local farmers without protection or the ability to compete in the global market. Remember, we lived through a civil war in the 1980s. So we need protective tariffs for some agricultural products.
We need to increase public expenditures for productive infrastructure in rural areas. Most resources in El Salvador are destined for urban areas, but the needs in the rural areas are tremendous. We need to balance these investments.
We also need to encourage small and medium producers in non-agricultural areas: for example, agroindustry, crafts, making clothes, household utensils, and others things for popular consumption.
And we need incentives for agricultural production in rural areas. We need a Rural Development Fund to make sure that resources, in the form of incentives, reach the poorest sectors.
Strengthening the Social and Environmental Sectors
In terms of the social sector, we need strengthen investment in schools, health clinics, housing and sanitation. We need local governments to become more involved in education and health care, assuming the responsibility of paying for these services and not just seeking to privatize them as they are currently doing. We need to increase the number of housing units for people living in extreme poverty. The conditions in which some people are living are deplorable. They have no clean drinking water or sanitary services or latrines.
In terms of the environment, we need a more unified effort to protect the river basins and recover plant foliage. We believe it is necessary to pay for these environmental services. People in the urban areas benefit from clean drinking water, electricity, oxygen and rural scenery, yet they do not pay for these services. These resources could be directed towards projects to recover certain costs. So this is what organizations in the rural sector, in conjunction with other social sectors, are proposing. We do not want to impose this plan on anybody, but rather to seek a national plan which will benefit all Salvadoran men and women.
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NICARAGUA: Rebuilding Local Communities
After Hurricane Mitch
by Zoila Guadamuz and Zoraida Sosa, Antonio Valdivieso Center
Development from the Perspective of Civil Society
Zoila Guadamuz - Antonio Valdivieso Center: So many things happened in Nicaragua because of Hurricane Mitch. The emergency situation caused us to question the way that people were working, and because of this questioning we started a network called the Civil Coordination for Emergency Reconstruction. There are about 320 organizations involved, including women's organizations, environmental groups, people working with children, etc.
Hurricane Mitch presented us with an opportunity, not only to deal with the emergency, but to present alternative proposals for reconstruction_from the perspective of civil society.
This happened at a time when the Central American governments were negotiating with international donor agencies.
There's a fundamental contradiction between our conception of what needs to be done and the conception of the Nicaraguan government and big business enterprises. We believe that the small and medium producers, especially those who produce basic grains, are the primary motor of the economy; while the government believes that private enterprise, especially those organized in COSEP_which includes the Chamber of Commerce and all large industries in Nicaragua_are the motor that moves the economy.
One of the historic achievements of this time is the fact that the Central American governments listened to proposals from various sectors of civil society and signed agreements with them. We have a basic platform based on an analysis of the situation in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch, with three primary areas of concern. First, attention and prevention of natural disasters, linked to strengthening agricultural production and supporting small and medium farmers; second, construction of housing units; and third, development of local power through the promotion of civilian participation, especially of women.
One of the biggest challenges is to work in such a way that local communities assume ownership of this kind of development. To do this we need to create a fund for local development and decentralize these resources at the local level. We believe our proposal is a good one, and responds to the challenges of this moment, but it fails to sufficiently integrate local communities into the dynamic of development. So we are looking for a way to meet this challenge.
The Human Factor of Development
The Antonio Valdivieso Center, with whom I work, is trying to respond to this challenge, by creating a methodology for planning based on the fundamental needs of the people, which are the same everywhere. What differs is the way in which those needs are met, depending on the culture and the moment in history. This methodology works with small communities in a way such that people themselves plan and put into practice, according to their needs, their own development. This dynamic begins at the bottom and goes to the top, and makes use of our basic platform as a guide. We have begun to use this methodology as a tool to begin to articulate a rationale for an alternative model of development for the country.
There are all kinds of analyses about the impact of the neoliberal economy on the poor in Nicaragua, but we still don't have a proposal for an real alternative to substitute the current neoliberal economic model.
We need to come up with an alternative development proposal that uses the human needs of the community as a starting point.
We have identified four fundamental needs that need to be taken into account: nutrition, protection, mental health, communication_and a fifth, what we could call the spiritual dimension of life.
We need economists to analyze the situation, but we also need psychologists, sociologists, and educators that are involved in formulating an alternative that includes all the elements that constitute what it means to be a human being_not just the need for economic growth. This is the challenge we face, and this is the methodology we are using to meet this challenge.
Crucial Participation of Women in Local Development
Zoraida Sosa - Antonio Valdivieso Center: I would like to focus on what we've done in terms of working with groups of women and the promotion of hopeful and life-giving leaders of the people. The Sandinista government opened the door for the participation of women, and since that time we've tried to open even larger doors, and not allow any doors to be closed on us. For example, the previous government of Violeta Chamorro practically told women to go back to their homes.
Women in Nicaragua have been struggling with two very basic realities: machismo and neoliberalism. Currently we are involved in organizing three large networks: one is the network of women for health, with 90 organizations from different regions. We are working to make health care accessible to all communities and to recover the practice of natural medicine in that process. We are training local and community leaders in health care. We're also working on alternative nutrition with edible plants, promoting home gardens that use organic fertilizer, and education about nutrition.
We've been working on reproductive health issues and sex education to try to avoid maternal death through childbirth and infant mortality, and to guarantee gynecological examinations in rural areas where there are no hospitals or health clinics with medicines. We are trying to prevent teenage pregnancies, especially in girls under the age of 15, and we're trying to prevent risky abortions. We also participated in international women's conferences, in Bejing and in Cairo, where important agreements on the rights of women were adopted.
A second network of women is a network of women against violence, with 500 women's groups and organizations that have started to debate and make proposals to the Supreme Court and the National Police. We've created offices to defend the rights of women, children and young girls; to work for the adoption of a law to protect women against domestic violence; and to promote an educational campaign to get violence out of the private sphere and to get it recognized as a public health problem.
We are also participating in a third network of women involved in literacy training. This is a very new network and it brings together about 40 women's groups. These groups are involved in training popular educators for the communities, demanding the building and rebuilding of schools, and producing educational materials that include human rights, women's rights, reproductive health issues, and gender issues. At the same time, in this post-Hurricane Mitch period, in the midst of all this chaos and death, we tried to recover spaces of political power for women through the purchase of land and urban lots with titles in the woman's name, and the construction of new houses for women.
Finally, we are promoting the Jubilee 2000 campaign in Nicaragua to cancel the foreign debt and its effects on our people.
HONDURAS: Indigenous Lead Struggle
for Values and Development
by Berta Caceres, Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPIN)
The experience that I'm going to share with you is based on the last six years of work with Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPIN) in Honduras. During the past decade we have been part of the Continental Campaign for the 500 Years anniversary. The Zapatista Movement in Mexico has also helped us reflect on our work as indigenous people.
We need to discover something more about who we are in order to open up new perspectives and contribute to the struggle based on our identity as indigenous peoples.
We are convinced that we can make a great contribution to the development of indigenous peoples, not only in Honduras, but throughout the world.
Indigenous Autonomy and the Struggle for Life
One of our goals is to improve the quality of life in our region, not only for indigenous peoples, but for everyone, keeping in mind the great cultural values and spirituality that has sustained us through all of our struggles. We are also concerned about the defense and recovery of our environment and our natural resources. We have expelled 36 big lumber companies from our area and most of them were foreign, even from the United States. We have also proposed that the management and control of all natural resources_including the forests, the water, the mineral deposits_be for the benefit of our communities, and not for the benefit of large transnational corporations.
So we have had to struggle politically in order to gain autonomy for our communities, beginning at the village level and even in the home in order to take responsibility for our lives, something that has been denied to us throughout history. We began to demand that the Honduran government recognize the right of several indigenous municipalities to political autonomy, and that they recognize the right of women to serve as political authorities.
We have also accomplished a great deal over the last six years in terms of health care. We've been able to get the government to build several health centers and schools, with jobs for doctors and teachers; and to build highways and bridges. To accomplish this, we have had to exert pressure on the government by means of pilgrimages and demonstrations of indigenous peoples to demand our rights, and to create new forms of struggle so that we would be recognized as indigenous peoples.
Indigenous Peoples Really Do Exist
That was our first great achievement: to educate the people of Honduras about the existence of indigenous peoples. But it has not been easy. Honduras is still is home to a US military base; and it was the base for the counterrevolution in Nicaragua. We want people to know what indigenous people contribute to our country. So far, our contributions are not well-known. That's why we have insisted on several agreements_signed by the President of Honduras as well as by international human rights organizations_to recognize indigenous rights.
In our struggle against neoliberalism, we helped achieve the ratification of an International Convention 169 on Indigenous People, which affirms the rights of indigenous peoples. This is a very important judicial convention to Honduras, and it has helped us gain support for several projects, including proposals for bilingual education for indigenous peoples in Honduras. We have also presented alternative legislative proposals, based on these international conventions, to reclaim rights that have never been written into law but which are based on our traditions as indigenous peoples.
Part of our struggle against neoliberalism is to get the Honduran government to recognize that the legal system in Honduras that has been imposed on indigenous peoples is not part of our tradition. So we worked on accords that the government signed to initiate a process of consensus building and dialogue. Sometimes, however, the government has broken those accords because they don't have the political will to respect the rights of indigenous peoples.
But this struggle has cost us dearly. The Honduran government has launched a ferocious campaign against indigenous peoples: 47 indigenous people have been killed in this struggle, and several are still in prison. So we have had to open up other spaces for the defense of indigenous communities. Currently we keep in touch with several international organizations so that our basic rights as indigenous peoples will be respected. We are also part of the Indigenous Council of Central America where we struggle to make our voice heard internationally.
At the national level, we are part of a confederation of indigenous peoples of Honduras. We are also connected to other networks_of unions, ecological groups, women's organizations, squatters groups_to change the quality of our lives. In addition, we are participating in a joint effort to rebuild civil society after the destruction of Hurricane Mitch, similar to efforts that are taking place in Nicaragua.
Indigenous Peoples Are Human Beings!
We also have our own proposal for the holistic development of indigenous peoples. Many times these proposals are written by others who only see indigenous peoples as archeological remains. But we are human beings, we are indigenous peoples and we have the capacity, the knowledge and the culture to envision our own development, even though the majority of our peoples do not know how to read or write.
One of the most difficult struggles we've had is the struggle to recover our indigenous lands. Honduras has a great potential to develop its natural resources. At the present time several international organizations are pressuring us to build "megaprojects" on indigenous lands_refineries, tourist resorts, and hydroelectric dams_that threaten to displace our people.
But we ask, "Who are the people that make these proposals? We are the people who live in those areas, and we should have a right to decide what kind of projects are built on our lands.
For example, there is a plan to build a huge dam called El Tigre in Honduras. It's a plan of the economic elites in El Salvador, and the World Bank is very interested in supporting it. But we don't think it's a good idea because it will displace 60,000 indigenous families_a heavy social cost. But not only that, it's also going to have a heavy ecological, cultural and economic impact on the whole area. So we are beginning to coordinate our efforts with Salvadoran communities that will be affected by the dam, and with ecological organizations who are also against the project. It's not a project of the Salvadoran people, but of the economic elites.
So it's important to take advantage of opportunities like this to share with one another how this project will affect the poor. These international organizations exert great pressures on us to accept their projects. They may not dominate us the way they did 500 years ago. They do it in more subtle ways to convince us. That's why we have to wake up.
One of the greatest threats that we face under neoliberalism is the enslavement of our minds and spirits. That's why, as Latin Americans, we need to continue to reaffirm our common identity, our roots, our spirit. We are convinced that this identity and this spirit is the foundation of the resistance of our peoples.
HAITI: Local Alternatives to Globalization -
Organizing for Survival
by Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, MPP and Josette Perard, Lambi Fund
Revitalizing the Peasant Movement of Papay
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, MPP: I am working with the Papay Peasant Movement (MPP), which is part of the National Peasant Movement. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, 25 years of working for social change. MPP is an organization that is working to build a new society in Haiti, without exploitation or domination.
We work in several different ways.
We are involved in popular education so that we can understand the economic system better. In order to struggle against neoliberal policies, we need to educate ourselves and organize.
We have been training peasant leaders for 20 years at our national formation center. We educate people by recovering our cultural traditions, those which deal with meals, dress, dances, music, language, etc.
We also boycott products that the multinational corporations produce, and we do not accept any outside food aid. We educate ourselves politically by means of bulletins_we have a bulletin called Peasant Resistance_and radio_we have a radio station called The Voice of the Peasant. We have materials about the capitalist system. For example, we ask, "How does the system function?" Then we show a picture of a large fish eating the small fish. Another picture shows the small fish joining together and eating the big fish. What does this say? We have to organize in order to change the situation.
We use both educational materials and organizing materials, and try to organize peasants at all levels, from the grassroots up to the national scene. We have trained more than 1,000 peasant leaders who are working throughout the country. Since 1973, MPP has formed 4,500 communities with 60,000 members.
Each group is divided into three sectors: one working with young people, one working with women, and one working with the men. This week were are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Young Peasant Women. Today we have more than 10,000 young people in the organization, and more than 1,200 groups of women _a third of the total number of members.
The focus of our action is agricultural production, and control of production. We struggle for land, and sometimes occupy lands that are not being cultivated. We are working to conserve the soil and to reforest the land. We promote sustainable organic agriculture in order to be able to produce food for our families. We have cooperative storehouses and cooperative distribution centers, as well as cooperatives to process food.
We also raise farm animals, especially pigs, as a way to repopulate the creole pigs that were destroyed by foreign capital in the 1980s. The creole pig is the backbone of the peasant economy in Haiti. The great slaughter of creole pigs meant that we had to import food and spend as much as 80 million dollars a year to import foreign pigs. All this destroyed the autonomy of the peasants.
We have programs for the production of bees and fish, in order to improve the nutrition of the peasants. We process cassava, peanuts and corn. We produce natural medicines from the leaves in the countryside. And we also have programs to create jobs. We are promoting cooperatives of many different types, including savings and loans cooperatives and service cooperatives. We are trying to create a cooperative bank that would offer credit to both rural cooperatives and groups in the city. And we also have credit programs specifically for women.
The Struggle of Rural Women
Josette Perard, Lambi Fund: I work with an organization called the Lambi Fund of Haiti. I began working in the middle of the coup d'etat when the military assassinated 5,000 people. We started community support then so that people could continue to survive. Now we've been working for five years. Many activists were forced to go into exile, so we tried to find a way to help people stay in the country and keep working.
What we saw during those five years is that the poverty of the people did not just come from the coup d'etat. It came from a long history of social relationships in the country and, of course, from the effects of the neoliberal economy.
We went from a strategy of survival aid to support for grassroots groups and development projects for people living in the rural communities.
The government in Haiti under the coup did nothing to alleviate poverty. People are worse off now than before the coup. It's the same thing everywhere: the impact of neoliberalism is such that the poorest among us cannot develop ourselves. So what we try to do is to intervene on behalf of the poorest peasants and the poorest communities so that they can take responsibility for their own development. We work with projects that relate to agriculture, the environment, community initiatives, and especially women's groups.
The Lambi Fund of Haiti helps provide training in technical assistance to empower the communities to lead and develop their own projects, because it is their communities, their lives. In agriculture they get pumps to irrigate their fields, we offer credit to buy seeds and all the other agricultural inputs that they need, because currently they get absolutely no support in this area.
In terms of the environment, which is very degraded in Haiti, certain community initiatives have been dedicated to reforestation. We have tool banks for the peasants, because it isn't possible for the poor to purchase tools in Haiti. There are community stores for the market women where they can purchase the goods they sell in the market at a cheaper rate than the normal price. There are also pig-raising projects.
Women are key to saving their families. They have taken the initiative to begin development projects in their own communities. One of the projects that we are working with is run by women. These women used to stay in their homes to take care of the children and cook the food. Now they know that they must leave their houses, go out into the community and become full-time citizens.
What we see is that when people receive support to work in projects in their own communities, their behavior changes. They know they can't sit around and wait for someone to come from elsewhere. Rather, they must take their lives into their own hands to change their conditions. And they know they need to participate in the local elections so they can have their own representatives in their own communities.
We know that we are small. We know that for us to make a difference and to fight against the structural adjustment programs here in Haiti, where we have so many small organizations, we must put our heads together. That's why Lambi Fund is here today. It's insufficient to work only on a national level or an international level. We need to do both and to learn from one another.
JUBILEE 2000 SOUTH: No to Debt, Yes to Life!
Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Platform
The foreign debt of the so-called Third World--due to its exorbitant amount and rate of growth, and because of worsening conditions--now excludes four-fifths of the world's population from economic and social development. The debt is a direct reflection of the unjust international economic order, the result of the long history of slavery and exploitation to which our peoples have been subjected.
In the mid-1970s, Latin America's foreign debt totalled $60 billion. By 1980, it was $204 billion, and by 1990, $443 billion. It is estimated that it will reach nearly $706 billion in 1999, requiring an annual debt service payment of $123 billion. Just to service foreign debt, between 1982 and 1996 Latin America paid $739 billion_more than the entire accumulated debt.
Under these circumstances, the foreign debt has been and continues to be unpayable, illegitimate and immoral.
It is impossible to pay. There is no mathematical formula that can achieve it. Two full decades of unattainable financing plans drawn up for developing countries have demonstrated this with complete certainty.
The debt is illegitimate because, in large measure, it was contracted by dictatorships, governments not elected by the people, as well as by governments which were formally democratic, but corrupt. Most of the money was not used to benefit the people who are now being required to pay it back.
The debt is also illegitimate because it swelled as a result of interest rates and negotiating conditions imposed by creditor governments and banks, who persistently and outrageously denied debtor countries the right of association, while the creditor groups joined together in veritable creditor syndicates (Club of Paris, Management Committee), backed by the economic coercion of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Their strategy was clear: you negotiate on your own; we negotiate as a bloc.
In addition, it is immoral to pay the debt because in order to do so, the governments of our countries would have to allocate an extremely high percentage of public spending, which affects the delivery of social programs and the wages of working men and women, generates unemployment and seriously hurts the economy. There is already a huge social deficit in terms of people's health, education and nutrition in the debtor countries.
Governments today spend 60 percent less per capita than they did in 1970. Furthermore, attempting to increase exports will only lead to the super-exploitation of our natural resources, which will increasingly damage the environmental balance of our countries and threaten the very survival of future generations.
The debt is also used as a justification to maintain neoliberal policies, including structural adjustment programs, as institutional mechanisms to perpetuate dependence.
Bail-out programs by creditors, with the support of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, including the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative, have only served to insure the continuity of mechanisms to keep countries deep in debt.
From the legal perspective, we stress the fact that international and national laws on debt generally fail to meet the objective of ensuring peaceful coexistence. These are legal measures which threaten the paramount objective of the law, work against the public interest, and jeopardize social peace: therefore, they have no legitimate raison d'etre.
Usury and the charging of interest on top of interest should be forbidden. The monopolistic practices of banks, international institutions and First World governments are illegal, as is the denial of the right of free association for debtor nations. Systematic and quasi-legal corruption, the flight of capital and "tax-havens" are an integral part of the legal problems involved in foreign debt.
In the Bible, Jubilee (Leviticus 25) calls for justice between creditors and debtors, as well as peace and harmony within human society, nature, and the universe, and the elimination of enslavement resulting from the debt.
On the threshold of the new millennium, considering the unbearable situation in which our peoples live, and inspired by the Biblical teaching of Jubilee, we are launching the Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Campaign, joining the international movement calling for the cancellation (annulment) of the debt of impoverished nations of the world by the year 2000.
Demands of the Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Campaign:
1. Cancel (annul), by the year 2000, the immoral and illegitimate debt of the countries of the Third World in accordance with the following principles:
* Transparency in the process, and inclusion of all stakeholders.
* For future negotiations: limit the service on the foreign debt to a percentage not to exceed 3 percent of a country's budget, in consideration of the precedent of Peru in 1946 and Germany in 1953.
* Comprehensiveness and coordination with all the stakeholders involved, in consideration of the Insolvency Law in countries such as the United States which regulates insolvency proceedings for municipalities.
* The right to appeal by any debtor nation. Creditors and debtors will appoint an equal number of judges to an Arbitration Panel or Tribunal. Debtor nations will make such appointments on the basis of broad consultation with all sectors of society.
* In certain cases, when the Arbitration Tribunal deems appropriate, a mechanism may be created to study the possible partial cancellation of debt, taking into account the range of indebtedness, origin of the debt, and the level of poverty of the population.
2. In the process of canceling (annulling) the debt, consider the urgent need to ensure the right of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia to development, with respect for all human rights of individuals and peoples and an end to the current impunity.
3. Conduct a broad audit of the process of indebtedness of each nation, using local tribunals, with the participation of civil society organizations in order to ensure transparency and access to information for all citizens.
4. Ensure that resources freed up from the payment of the foreign debt be used to repay the social and environmental debt to our peoples through plans and programs for human development, particularly the creation of decent jobs; strengthening of social policies on education, health and social security, as well as environmental protection; consideration of the impact of all policies on the most vulnerable groups, especially boys and girls, older women and men, women in general, and indigenous persons; and ensure the active participation of civil society in the design, implementation, follow-up and evaluation of the entire process.
5. Transform the current international economic and financial system to place it at the service of human beings, based on international relationships between nations and peoples predicated on justice, equity, and solidarity. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the political agencies of the United Nations, restoring their function of policy development, a role which has been usurped by administrative agencies.
6. Reject completely the Multilateral Agreement on Investment because of its absolute subordination of men and women, peoples and nations to markets and capital.
We call on Jubilee 2000 campaigns in creditor nations to embrace the demands expressed in this proposal. We appeal especially to campaigns in the North not to put forward resolutions or make any laws which would include specific figures, nor any which would provide less than what we are currently proposing.
We call on the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world to develop new power relations at all levels of society, to ensure the ongoing struggle against all forms of injustice, violence and discrimination.
We are strongly on the side of Peace with Dignity and Justice.
No to Debt, Yes to Life.
Tegucigalpa, January 27, 1999
Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Coalition Members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
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