Sunday, July 06, 2008

Report on Sao Paulo/Global Greens II

Global Greens in Sao Paulo:
Accomplishments and Questions

John Rensenbrink
United States

A Congress of representatives from 88 national Green political
parties and political formations came together in Sao Paulo, Brazil
May 1- 4, 2008. They adopted the Twenty One Points and created a
global Green Secretariat.

The following report is my personal account of some of the events and
accomplishments of this second worldwide gathering of Global Greens ?
and some questions that loom for this still fledgling organization.
Having attended the first such gathering as a U.S. delegate in
Canberra in 2001, I was keenly interested to see how and in what
direction we would evolve structurally; and I was equally interested
to see what the Global Greens organization and participating
countries would or could do about climate change and about the spread
of militarism in the world, at the forefront of which is the presence
of at least 737 U.S. government military basis in 130 countries. That
presence poses important questions for the United States Green Party
and for its relation with Green Parties in those countries. In the
section on Questions (below) I take this up for Greens in the United
States and for Greens globally to think hard about.

I went to Sao Paulo as one of three alternate delegates from the
United States Green Party. Another hat I was wearing was as co-editor
of Green Horizon Magazine.


--A spectacular event took place on Friday. Representatives of each
of the 88 participating national Green parties and political groups
were invited to come up to the platform. As their country was called,
each country?s representative (and sometimes several!) climbed the
few steps and took their place in the ever growing line that
eventually stretched from one side of the auditorium to the other. It
was a deeply moving ceremony. You catch your heart in your throat at
the sheer fact there here, gathered here, are Greens from every
continent and from most every land on earth, from so many different
places and customs and languages, and yet all together united on
powerful fundamentals about life and politics ? united in a fierce
determination to help save our species and achieve well-being for all.

--Ingrid Betancourt of Colombia was declared Honorary President of
the Global Greens at a special ceremony during the Congress. There
was a showing of her extraordinary address to the first Global Greens
Gathering in Canberra, Australia in 2001. Ingrid is still in
captivity, entering the 7th year that Colombia?s FARC is holding her
in spite of efforts by the presidents of France and Venezuela and
countless efforts by her husband and many Greens around the world to
press for her release. Her husband, Juan Carlos Le Compte, was
present and contributed powerfully to a well-attended press conference.

--Johan Hamels of Belgium moderated the key plenary on Sunday morning
at which the assembly of world Greens took up the 80-plus amendments
to what will be the 21 Points Declaration.(It will be available soon
on the Global Greens website). The first draft had been distributed
via the web before the conference ? and the 80-plus amendments came
from many workshops and meetings during the weekend. It was exciting
and instructive to watch Johan conduct the meeting. Doing this is
never easy. This one was moderately difficult (sometimes hitting
typical roadblocks), but Johan made it look almost easy. When I
expressed my great admiration to him later, he thanked me, but also
said that he has been doing this often for the European Greens
meetings and that by comparison, this one was a gentle event. It is
true that the mood and behavior of the delegates was one of wanting
to cooperate, wanting to come out with a strong and united
declaration on the major issues facing the planet. This was

--An important structural innovation was adopted during the Sunday
plenary, initiated and promoted by the Australian Greens under the
leadership of Bob Brown. The plenary established a Global Greens
Secretariat. The tasks of this new body include: scheduling and
organizing further Global Greens Conferences; promoting the Greens?
common presence at global events; facilitating agreed statements on
matters of global urgency; urging and supporting internal, inter-
federation communications; helping to grow the Global Greens website;
cooperating with the Global Greens Network (GGN); and developing
close liaison with the Global Young Greens.

--As always at conferences, there were innumerable one-on-one
conversations ? people getting to know each other, people developing
stronger ties with people they had met before, people having a good
time and/or intense discussions over dinner or lunch with one
another. This was a big part of my feeling good about the conference
and the future of the global Greens. I had conversations, some brief,
some very extensive, with Greens from Brazil, Canada, Dominican
Republic, Peru, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, UK,
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa,
Congo, Tanzania, Mongolia, Taiwan, China, Japan, Australia. One
wishes there were time and occasion to have been able to talk with
Greens from all lands!

The United States delegation, headed by the two Co-Chairs of its
International Committee, Julia Willebrand and Justine McCabe,
conducted a workshop on Saturday on the relationship of the United
States Green Party with other Green Parties in the world. It was
sparsely attended. Participants in the workshop from other countries
wanted to know more exactly and fully how we Greens in the United
States view and feel about the politics in our own country. Knowing
more of that on a regular basis would help them. Likewise, as we
eagerly pointed out, it would help us in the U.S. to have ongoing
knowledge about how Greens in other countries view the politics in
their country. The workshop did not get into the question of how the
world?s Green parties should view the presence of U.S. government?s
military basis in over 130 countries and how that impacts the
relationship between the U.S. Green party and Green parties in those
countries. I refer to this in the Questions below.

--A big highlight for me and for the conference was the report during
the Saturday afternoon plenary by two representatives of the Young
Greens, Douglas Arege of Kenya and Jana Schoenfeld of Germany. What
especially struck me was their call for ever greater commitment of
the global Greens to democracy, internally as well as externally.
Their emphasis on the values of transparency, horizontal
relationship, and accountability was an important and pertinent
message and struck widespread accord with the delegates and the other
members of the audience. I also refer to this in the Questions below.

--Simultaneous translation was provided. The people who did the
translating did a great and beautiful job! I think five languages
were provided: Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and English. This
is costly, but extremely well worth it. I am sure that later
gatherings will add other languages! Chinese, Japanese, Arabic,

--There were forums on ?Biodiversity and the Climate Crisis?, and
?Sustainable Cities? on Thursday (sponsored by the Heinrich Boell
Foundation of Germany) and a forum during the weekend on issues
facing Greens in government. These were in-depth analyses for the
most part, enlightening, and they provided background and foundation
for the workshops and plenaries on Friday afternoon, Saturday, and
Sunday. Presentations by my colleagues from the United States --
Bruce Gagnon, Julia Willebrand, Ross Mirkarimi, and Mike Feinstein --
were very well received. More on issues raised by Bruce Gagnon in the
?Questions? below.

--The body passed a resolution strongly condemning China?s repression
of the Tibetan demonstrators in Tibet and also expressed serious
concern about its policy of assimilation for Tibet as well as other
minorities like the Ugyhurs.

--There was much discussion and debates at workshops and in informal
conversations about the proposal to establish a Secretariat. How much
power would the Secretariat have and how would it be funded? These
were two of the many issues imbedded in the question of whether to
establish such an office. I am personally very glad that it was
established. It is a stepping stone. It faces a huge task and many
ups and downs. But it will, I hope, expand and grow.

--The attention inevitably given to the proposal to establish a
Secretariat made it difficult for me and others to gain attention for
the need to further explore and discuss the overall structure of the
Global Greens, especially the role of the Global Green Network that
was created as a side-by-side organization with the Global Green
Coordination in Canberra. This matter requires more attention in the
future and is intimately connected to the future development and
evolution of the structures of the Global Greens. See below under
?Questions? for more on this.

--No conference can succeed without the hard work of many people
spending endless hours, tending the million details, the vast nitty
gritty of operations, to make it happen. The spirit behind the folks
who put this Congress on was amazing and truly beautiful. Often this
kind of work goes unheeded by us who eagerly participate. Yet I
think that each of us who attended was aware of the yeoman work, done
with style and graciousness, by so many who gave and volunteered to
make it all happen. I know there was a widespread feeling of deep
appreciation. I was particularly aware of the hard work of Lynne
Serpe of the USA, of Louise Crossley of Australia and Ricardo Peres
and Marco Mroz of Brazil. So I hail them as representing so well all
who did so much to help make this Congress happen.


--Of particular concern to me was the absence of discussion about the
Global Green Network (GGN). Only the Young Greens, in their report,
made a point of bringing it in as an important part of the overall
structure of the Global Greens. The GGN was created alongside the
Global Green Coordination in Canberra in 2001. By the terms of the
document that was passed by acclamation in Canberra, the GGN is
composed of up to three representatives from each of the national
Green Parties and the GGC is composed of three representatives of
each of four Federations (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North and
South America). A further refinement of the respective roles of both
organizations was worked out in Berlin in May 2002. At the latter
meeting, the document that was adopted, stated that ?. . . at some
future point the role of the GGN may evolve. Therefore, the GGN will
be reassessed at the next Global Green Meeting.? This was not done
at Sao Paulo. It remains to be done as soon as possible. The
question is, how and when will this happen?

--The Secretariat needs to be funded adequately. This was discussed
and various proposals were made. One idea that should be considered
is to open up supportive memberships in the Global Greens to
individual ?world citizens? everywhere. This would not carry voting
power but it would connect thousands of Greens worldwide to the
Global Greens, give them access to information and ideas, help
recruit leadership in the organizations of Global Greens, and bring
in a substantial sum of money each year.

--My colleague from the United States, Bruce Gagnon (Director of the
internationally organized Global Network Against Weapons in Space),
in his plenary address, made a powerful connection between the
prohibitive and insane amounts of money and resources devoted to
militarism and imperial policies ? an insanity led by the U.S.
government -- on the one hand and the resulting inability of the
countries of the world to deal effectively with climate change,
ecological destruction, and worldwide poverty. He recommended that
the 21-point declaration that would be approved on the last day of
the Congress needed to include calls for the prevention of an arms
race in outer space and conversion of the military industrial
complex. He finished his address to rousing applause. The 21 Points
Declaration, later in the week passed by the global Congress,
featured language that gets at a lot of this. It calls for ?nuclear
disarmament all over the globe in full respect of the Non-
Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?; and ?a strict ban on chemical and
biological weapons?. It demands that ?arms production and trade must
be severely curtailed?; and that ?cluster bombs and depleted uranium
ammunition must be banned, together with land mines and white
phosphorus munitions?. It states that ?Greens consider that any kind
of military use of space, including the Missile Defense System,
accelerates militarization all over the world and may cause a new
cold war in Europe, Asia and other regions?; and that ?Greens reject
the militarization of space in the name of defense.? These are
excellent statements. Yet they fall short of directly confronting the
war machine itself that dominates national policies everywhere,
especially those of the United States. Nor do these statements
directly confront the connection between the enormous diversion of
resources and the fact that this commitment of resources to military
use precludes any serious attention to climate change, ecological
destruction, and worldwide poverty. In addition, it would seem that a
statement about militarization must at some point encounter the issue
of world governance. These matters are of paramount concern and a
global Green movement of Green political parties, it seems to me,
would and should confront them head on.

--In my one-on-one conversations with Greens from different countries
about Bruce?s speech, there were strong affirmations, yet I also
encountered objection and a degree of dismissal. I tried to get at
why this was so. Part of it, maybe most of it, was a feeling that we
American Greens are too ?radical?. We seem to be seen by some to be
condemning our government too much and too quickly. Or we seem, in
the style of confirmed and ideologically disposed left-wing
dissidents, to put down everything about America. That apparently or
presumably is what comes through to some people when they hear us
being deeply critical of U.S. policies. Perhaps what they hear is
?down with America?, when actually we are specifically rejecting
actions of the U.S. Government in the name of large numbers ? usually
a large majority ? of our fellow citizens. We are condemning the
government for anti-American policies, not America. This calls for a
lot more discussion. There needs to be a determination by Greens on
all sides in all parts of the world to listen to one another?s
perceptions and arguments. Our American delegation at the workshop on
Saturday that the American delegation sponsored, took a step in this
direction but we did not get very far. We need to do more. The
Global Greens organization as a whole needs to do more. What?s at
issue is complex, difficult and potentially thorny and divisive.

--The Young Greens raised issues about the internal structures and
operations of Global Greens. Are they democratic, participatory,
accountable, sufficiently transparent? Doubtless there are efforts
being made by the leadership to reach towards these goals. But more
needs doing ? and more frank recognition that it needs doing. If we
think of our structures as evolving, that will help. Also, it may
help a lot if we think of our Global Greens structures as a foretaste
of the kind of world governance system we human beings on this planet
can and should be evolving towards. That?s a visionary thought, to be
sure. But why not? We need visionary thinking.

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