mobilisation

 

  • 2. Former heads of CIVICUS reflect on 25 years of citizen action

    To celebrate a quarter of a century of organisation, mobilisation and participation, two of our past secretary generals share their lessons learnt for the next 25 years, and their hopes for “reimagining democracy”

    “There’s no easy blueprint to this”

     

  • COSTA RICA : « Les mobilisations ont révélé des problèmes structurels non résolus »

    CIVICUS parle des récentes manifestations au Costa Rica avec Carlos Berríos Solórzano, co-fondateur de l’Asociación Agentes de Cambio-Nicaragua et membre deRed Previos (Réseau de la jeunesse d’Amérique centrale). Avec d’autres activistes d’Amérique centrale, Carlos a récemment fondé le Centre pour une culture de la paix en Amérique centrale. Originaire du Nicaragua, Carlos est un jeune activiste et défenseur des droits humains. Il a participé à des recherches sur les migrations, la participation politique des jeunes, l’intégration régionale et les droits humains, et est actuellement étudiant en Master de Sciences Politiques à l’Université de Costa Rica.

    Carlos Berrios

    Quelles sont les causes qui ont déclenché la vague de manifestations de fin septembre 2020 ?

    Les principales causes des manifestations qui ont commencé le 30 septembre 2020 étaient liées à l’annonce du gouvernement du président Carlos Alvarado, rendue publique le 17 septembre, qu’il demanderait un financement au Fonds monétaire international (FMI) de 1,75 milliard de dollars pour faire face à la reprise économique post-COVID-19 et investir dans le secteur public. Le Costa Rica n’avait pas demandé de financement au FMI depuis près de 20 ans. La proposition impliquait une éventuelle augmentation des impôts dans un pays où le coût de la vie est déjà élevé. D’ailleurs, une législation récente portant sur les finances publiques avait déjà augmenté les impôts, qui étaient déjà élevés.

    En plus de l’augmentation des impôts sur le revenu et sur la propriété, l’accord avec le FMI proposé par le gouvernement comprenait de nouvelles taxes sur les transactions bancaires et le revenu mondial. Elle a également proposé de fusionner certaines institutions publiques et d’en vendre d’autres, comme la Banque internationale du Costa Rica et la Régie nationale des alcools.

    Le gouvernement a annoncé sa proposition unilatéralement, de manière totalement incohérente, alors qu’une négociation de telles dimensions et avec de telles implications dépasse largement le cadre économique et devrait faire l’objet de négociations politiques et de la participation des principales forces sociales. Les conséquences d’un accord ou d’un désaccord avec le FMI devraient faire l’objet d’un débat public qui, dans ce cas, n’a pas initialement eu lieu.

    Qui est venu protester, et qu’ont-ils demandé ?

    Ce sont surtout les syndicats, la classe ouvrière et les fonctionnaires, ainsi que les mouvements sociaux et étudiants qui sont venus protester. La principale demande était que le gouvernement suspende la proposition de demander un financement au FMI et abandonne l’idée de privatiser les entreprises publiques et d’augmenter la charge fiscale.

    Bien que les manifestations aient eu une composante citoyenne, tant dans la rue que dans l’agenda publique, leur composante sectorielle a été mise en avant. Les organisations syndicales ont été plus rapides que les autres à identifier l’impact des accords de financement du FMI sur leurs programmes et leurs luttes.

    La société civile a également dénoncé les intentions de l’exécutif, mis en garde contre les conséquences d’un potentiel accord, et s’est concentré sur l’éducation de la population et l’ouverture du débat, tout en soutenant la mobilisation.

    Comment le gouvernement a-t-il répondu aux mobilisations ?

    Le gouvernement a réagi dans une certaine mesure dans le cadre des normes internationales pour la dispersion des manifestations de masse ; en effet, de nombreux policiers ont été blessés à la suite d’agressions de manifestants qui avaient fermé des points importants de certaines rues, y compris les principaux postes-frontières avec le Panama. Au fil des jours, les tensions se sont intensifiées et il y a eu des brûlures de véhicules et des affrontements avec des bâtons et du gaz lacrymogène entre les manifestants et la police. Les forces de sécurité ont répondu de manière assez proportionnée aux manifestations violentes, il n’était donc pas question d’un usage disproportionné de la force par les autorités.

    Pour neutraliser la situation face aux manifestations incessantes, le gouvernement a d’abord annoncé le 4 octobre qu’il reviendrait sur sa proposition, mais a exigé que les manifestants cessent les blocages comme condition de dialogue avec eux. Les manifestants, pour leur part, ont fixé des conditions pour la levée des blocus - en particulier, que le gouvernement s’engage par écrit à ne pas s’adresser au FMI pour le reste de son mandat et qu’il exclue de vendre les actifs de l’État et d’augmenter les impôts. Les manifestations se sont poursuivies, et en réponse, le gouvernement a rendu publique sa stratégie de négociation avec le FMI et s’est ouvert aux commentaires de tous les milieux. Le 11 octobre, le gouvernement a annoncé un « dialogue social » national et territorial dans le cadre duquel vingt-cinq représentants de divers secteurs - entreprises, syndicats, femmes, églises, étudiants universitaires et agriculteurs, entre autres - présenteraient leurs propres propositions pour résoudre la crise économique aggravée par la pandémie de la COVID-19. La question posée était très précise : « comment parvenir à une amélioration permanente d’au moins 2,5 points de pourcentage du PIB du déficit primaire de l’administration centrale et à une diminution à court terme du montant de la dette publique (d’environ 8 points de pourcentage du PIB), grâce à une combinaison de mesures de gestion des recettes, des dépenses et de la dette publique, pour éviter que l’État ne fasse faillite ? »

    Les manifestants ont-ils obtenu que certaines de leurs demandes soient satisfaites ?

    Malgré l’intense processus de dialogue avec les différents secteurs et les précieuses contributions apportées dans ce processus, les demandes fondamentales n’ont pas été satisfaites, bien que, selon le gouvernement, elles soient examinées dans le cadre institutionnel afin de leur accorder l’attention qu’elles méritent.

    Les manifestations ont repris précisément parce que le processus de dialogue n’a donné aucun résultat et que les autorités ont fait preuve de peu de volonté politique en termes de respect des règles. Cela s’est traduit par l’annonce que le gouvernement allait poursuivre la demande de financement.

    En effet, après le processus de dialogue, l’exécutif est resté ferme dans sa proposition de demander un financement au FMI. Rétrospectivement, au vu de ces résultats, la société civile a estimé que l’appel au dialogue social n’avait été rien d’autre qu’une stratégie de démobilisation.

    Le Costa Rica est souvent présenté comme un cas modèle de stabilité, d’ordre, d’équité sociale et de culture démocratique. Est-ce seulement un mirage ?

    S’il est vrai que le Costa Rica bénéficie d’un cadre institutionnel solide par rapport à ses voisins d’Amérique centrale, qui a permis d’instaurer une stabilité économique et sociale, il n’en reste pas moins qu’il ne parvient toujours pas à remédier aux profondes inégalités sociales dans les zones les plus vulnérables du pays. Les problèmes sociaux sont négligés en raison d’un manque de volonté politique et de l’existence de niveaux de corruption qui, bien que non "scandaleux" selon les normes internationales, imprègnent les structures politiques et économiques du pays et permettent à la classe politique et à l’élite économique de s’entendre pour se diviser l’État.

    Les manifestations ont mis en évidence des problèmes structurels non résolus au Costa Rica. Elles ont rassemblé des demandes immédiates insatisfaites et des problèmes structurels liés à la distribution des richesses, à l’évasion fiscale du grand capital et au contrôle des élites économiques sur le système étatique, qui se matérialise par l’inégalité sociale des migrants, des indigènes, des personnes d’origine africaine et des ruraux.

    L’espace civique au Costa Rica est classé « rétréci » par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Suivez@CBerrios26 sur Twitter. 

     

  • GHANA: ‘Work in the corner of your community has a potential to cause change at the top’

    Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Perk Pomeyie, a climate organiser, environmental advocate and artivist affiliated with the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM), a youth-led environmental group that advocates and campaigns for a sustainable environment and a just world for the current and future generations. GYEM seeks to build an inter-generational network to find solutions to environmental challenges and confront the climate crisis. It focuses on bottom-up solutions and encourages the co-production of knowledge through participatory approaches.

    Perk has recently been selected to take part inCIVICUS’s Youth Action Lab, a pilot co-creation initiative that works on year-long projects with grassroots youth activists based in the global south to support their movements and help them become more resilient and sustainable by building solidarity and networks, strengthening capacities, engaging with policy processes and facilitating resources to support their movement.

    Perk Pomeyie

     

    Can you tell us more about the work that you do?

    My work is part of the broader work of GYEM, a leading youth-led grassroots movement in Ghana. GYEM works by organising and coordinating young people from different backgrounds and empowering them with the tools, techniques and technology to run disruptive campaigns on environmental issues. GYEM addresses key ecological challenges such as poor waste management, various forms of pollution, deforestation and the impacts of climate change in different communities and regions of Ghana. It specialises in running high-impact training for non-violent direct action (NVDA) campaigns, which target state actors and decision-makers from both the government and business sectors.

    GYEM is composed of a youth-led Steering Group that mobilises logistics creatively, forging partnerships with other grassroots activists and community-based organisations to influence environmental change from the bottom up. It employs digital organising via social media and other NVDA tactics to deliver campaigns that challenge the status quo and offer both transformational and incremental community-led solutions that bring together scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems. GYEM also hosts the largest annual youth-led environmental summit in Ghana, Power Shift, which brings together grassroots activists from across the country to share ideas and collaborate on campaigns in various parts of Ghana.

    We do much of our work in collaboration with several other organisations, including Rocha Ghana, an environmental civil society organisation (CSO) focusing on practical conservation interventions in important ecological habitats and improving the ability of target communities to adapt to current trends in climate change; the Green Africa Youth Organisation, a youth-led gender-balanced advocacy group that focuses on environmental sustainability and community development; 350 Ghana, a leading environmental grassroots CSO affiliated to 350.org, aimed at mobilising and empowering young people in partnership with key stakeholders to champion the need to reduce our carbon emissions and promote renewable energy systems; and WaterAid Ghana, a CSO focused on providing people with clean water, decent toilets and sanitation.

    I am based in Accra, Ghana’s capital, but I work with diverse communities in different locations depending on the environmental challenge being addressed. Some of these include low-income groups who reside in informal settlements and are disproportionately affected by the impacts of plastic pollution and flooding. Another group I work with are frontline communities who face the impacts of climate change, such as drought, water stress and food insecurity. I also work in high schools and university campuses with student volunteers, aged between 12 and 25, who are passionate about the environment and require training and capacity to take action. Finally, I engage with CSOs working on various Sustainable Development Goals nationwide. Most of these are youth groups with leaders and members between 18 and 35 years old, working on initiatives and projects in areas such as conservation, plastic recycling, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and climate mitigation and adaptation.

    What have been the biggest successes you have achieved?

    We have had several high-profile victories. In 2016, the government backtracked on a project, proposed in 2013, to build a coal-powered plant in a community called Ekumfi Aboano. The plant was going to pose health and environmental risks to the people there, and especially to children and women. We designed campaign messages, organised the community for NVDA and marched repeatedly. As a result, the government engaged GYEM in a discussion and halted the coal plant project in 2016.

    Secondly, in 2016, WaterAid Ghana approached GYEM in search of support to create awareness of WASH-based climate adaptation interventions. They wanted young people to design a campaign to draw the government’s attention to WASH issues in local communities and informal settlements, and tackle them as part of adapting to climate change. I contributed with my design work and communication strategies to a year-long campaign that reached more than 10,000 young people. This resulted in the National WASH Forum, which brought together local communities and political actors to work jointly towards the goal of addressing WASH problems as part of climate adaptation strategies.

    In 2018, I worked with other activists in an urban poor settlement in an area called Pokuase, to raise awareness about a water source in the community that was being threatened by road construction and other building work. This water source was vital because it served the community during the dry season. For the first time, attention was drawn to the impact of human activities on the river.

    Did you take part in the global climate mobilisations in 2019?

    Yes, in late 2019 I championed the first #FridaysforFuture and #SchoolClimateStrike campaigns in the northern region of Ghana. I organised and coordinated strikes in Damongo and Tamale. I designed creative graphics and campaign materials, which attracted more than 200 schoolchildren and young people to these global campaigns. This was important because it was the first time that children and young people in that part of Ghana came out in large numbers to raise their voice on the impacts of climate change and demand urgent action from their leaders. Northern Ghana is currently experiencing the worst impact of climate change in the form of droughts and food insecurity.

    Ours was one of the many #FridaysforFuture events that were held in Ghana. I think we’ve been successful in mobilising because we’ve used innovative approaches. Personally, I’ve used my skills in design thinking and graphic design and my expertise in non-violent communication and direct action. I communicate to reach my target on various social media platforms, while also mobilising communities for action on the ground with context-relevant messages to address specific environmental challenges.

    Before that, in March 2019, I helped bring together hundreds of grassroots activists from Ghana and activists from the International Youth Climate Movement from other parts of Africa, to campaign for climate justice and urgent climate action, during the United Nations (UN) Africa Climate Week. I think this has been so far the most important achievement of my work as an activist. This high-profile conference was hosted in Accra and was attended by African governments, international organisations and business leaders. During this week, I coordinated an NVDA training session for hundreds of young people, while leading a mass rally of about 300 activists to the summit venue to deliver a strong message to heads of governments, businesses and stakeholders of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to act on the climate emergency.

    I consider this as an important achievement because as a grassroots activist in Ghana, this was the first time I gained a strong personal conviction that my work in the little corner of my community has a potential to cause change at the top, if supported with the right tools, capacity and resources.

    What support do activists like you need from international actors, including international civil society?

    Personally, my work is self-financed. I use some income from my part-time self-employment as a graphic designer to support my activism. I design marketing materials for individuals and campaign banners for CSOs and get paid for it. I use a percentage of this to fund my work. Sometimes, family and friends also donate to support my work if I make a request. I have also financed my work through crowdfunding to help coordinate and implement projects and high-profile campaigns. So one area in which activists like me need support is in generating sustainable resources.

    We also need more opportunities to connect and network with other activists from the global south who may share similar solutions to particular challenges in their respective contexts, to interact with multiple actors and to learn to navigate complex policy processes in the areas in which we work.

    Civic space in Ghana is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement through itsFacebook page andblog, and follow@gyemgh on Twitter.

     

  • PAPUA NEW GUINEA: ‘If we allow seabed mining everyone is at risk’

    Following a year marked by massive mobilisation around the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks withJonathan Mesulam, spokesperson for the Alliance of Solwara Warriors and a campaigner on issues relating to experimental deep-sea mining, climate change and logging in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

    The Alliance of Solwara Warriors is an anti-mining alliance of local communities in areas affected by deep-sea mines in PNG and across the Pacific. It has organised theresistance  against seabed mining since 2009, when the controversial deep-sea mining project Solwara 1 was proposed to mine mineral-rich hydrothermal vents on the floor of the Bismarck Sea. The alliance also launched alegal case against the project in PNG's courts. In November 2019, the company behind Solwara 1, Nautilus, was declared bankrupt and it is uncertain if the project will continue.

    Jonathan Mesulam

    Can you tell us about the Alliance of Solwara Warriors and how it was formed? What are its main objectives and why is it opposed to seabed mining?

    The Alliance of Solwara Warriors was formed in 2016 by representatives of communities along the Bismarck Sea who are threatened by seabed mining. The members of the Alliance also include the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches, international and local environmental civil society organisations (CSOs), educated elites, local community-based organisations and a few politicians who support the call to ban deep-sea mining. Our main objective is to ban deep-sea mining in PNG waters and the Pacific and we also call for the cancellation of exploration and mining licences.

    Seabed mining is a new frontier for the mining industry and is very risky as our understanding of the seabed is very limited. The first discovery of deep-sea minerals was in 1979 and we have no idea how the seabed ecosystem operates. If we allow seabed mining, then we may just call for the end of humanity, as the complexity of the food chains on which humans depend will be affected, putting human life at risk. I think we should all stand in solidarity to ban deep-sea mining in our area because the sea has no boundaries and when the marine ecosystem is affected, everyone everywhere is at risk.

    Environmental and legal groups have urged extremecaution around seabed mining, arguing there are potentially massive – and unknown – ramifications for the environment and for nearby communities, and that the global regulatory framework is not yet drafted, and is currently deficient.

    How has the campaign against seabed mining progressed? What have you achieved?

    The campaign against seabed mining has been very challenging and at times we almost lost hope because of the heavy presence of Nautilus, the company behind the Solwara project, at the project site for the last eight years. However, there has been growing opposition from coastal communities, local and international CSOs and churches, especially the Catholic and Lutheran churches. An environmental law firm, the Centre for Environment and Community Rights, filed a legal case and we were able to stop this project from going into full-scale mining operation. Every concerned individual and organisation has played a very important role in their respective areas of work, such as finance, the environment and politics, to stop this project.

    During the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum, held in Tuvalu in August 2019, the Pacific Island leaders also called for a 10-year moratorium on deep-sea mining. But that is not what we wanted. We arecalling for a total ban on deep-sea mining.

    What challenges has the alliance faced in recent years?

    Funding activism is a big challenge. To travel to a community to talk to people you need to pay for a bus. You have to raise funds to enable mobility and communication. The second major challenge is capacity development. As members of an alliance we deal with that by distributing challenges; we then help each other and strategise in our workshops so that we can learn from each other. Networking helps with this a lot, and the support of partners such as Bismark Ramu Group, Caritas PNG and the PNG Council of Churches.

    We have also received a lot of support from CSOs and individuals outside the country. People and organisations including Sir David Attenborough, the Deep Sea Mining Campaign, Mining Watch Canada and Caritas New Zealand, just to name a few, have really supported the campaign in terms of funding, providing information on the campaign and lobbying with banks and financers not to support such a project. As a result, we have seen positive results in our work on the ground.

    Another challenge we face is that some people in the community support deep-sea mining, and this creates division. We have had to work hard at times to really convince people that this project is not good. It's only through persistent, dedicated work and making information available so that people have all the facts, not just the perspective that the company wants people to know, that people will really support you. Once people know the truth, then you get the support.

    What is the state of civic freedoms – the freedom of association peaceful assembly and expression – in Papua New Guinea?

    The media in PNG is controlled by the state and they only publish stories that are good for the government. Sometimes our stories are not covered, and we end up publishing them through social media. The right to the freedom of association in PNG really depends on the kind of issues that are being addressed. On some very sensitive issues, the police will not allow people to organise and take part in protests. Our ability to carry on our work alsodepends on the kind of companies we are dealing with. Some companies have spent millions of Kina – the PNG currency – to stop environmental human rights defenders, and going against them is obviously risky.

    Civic space inPapua New Guinea is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with the Alliance of Solwara Warriors through itsFacebook page.