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South Asian Peasant Movements and Civil Society urge their Governments to vote in favour of the UN Declaration

17 November 2018: In a letter sent on Saturday to Mr Syed Akbaruddin, Premanent Mission of India to the United Nations and copied to the Prime Minister and President of India, the Indian Farmers’ Movements and Civil Society organisations have urged the Government of India to fully support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, which will be discussed at the 73rd session of UN General Assembly in New York.

On a similar note, the Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation also sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, seeking support for the UN Declaration.

Here is the full text of the letter from India;

Shri. Syed Akbaruddin

Ambassador

Permanent Mission of India to The United Nations

New Delhi, November 2018

Re: Requesting Support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas at the United Nations General Assembly

Respected Shri Akbaruddin,

We are representatives of peasant organizations, civil society, activists, NGOs, and citizens from all corners of India. We are writing to request your full support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas which will be discussed at the 73rd session of UN General Assembly in New York.

The resolution to adopt the UN Declaration was recently passed at the 39th session of UN Human Rights Council after six years of intense talks (A/HRC/39/L.16)[1], with an overwhelming majority – 33 votes in favour of the Declaration. India has always been very supportive of the process and we fully appreciate that.

As you are well aware, the process was initiated by the Human Rights Council in September 2012 (UN Human Rights Council Resolution 21/19) — and the intergovernmental working group was formed following a report of the Advisory Committee recommending the adoption of a new international instrument in the form of a United Nations declaration to address the multiple human rights violations and discrimination suffered by peasants and other people working in rural areas. In 2012, a study[2] by the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee (its body of experts), recognized peasants and other people living in rural areas as victims of discrimination and systematic violations of their human rights and recommended the adoption of a United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other peoples working in rural areas as well as the recognition of the right to land, among other rights, in order to better protect and promote their rights.

Therefore, this is an immensely important initiative for millions of peasants and other rural workers throughout the world.

Inclusive by design, the Declaration concerns not only peasants, but also fisher-folks, nomadic pastoralists, agricultural workers and Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations Declaration can undoubtedly contribute to better protecting the right to a decent livelihood in rural areas. It will also reinforce food security, solutions to climate change, and the conservation of biodiversity.

The UN General Assembly has a crucial role to play in ensuring the adoption of this declaration. This UN Declaration will reinforce the human rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. It would represent an important contribution to the efforts of the international community in favour of family farming, peasants and other peoples working in rural areas. This adoption will be in line with the initiatives of the United Nations General Assembly which, while recognizing the important contribution of family farming to feeding humanity (production of more than 80% of the world’s food), declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming and recently launched the decade of Family Farming from 2019-2028. The declaration will reinforce existing human rights standards.

As this UN Declaration will be voted on during the 73rd session of UN General Assembly, we urge India to vote in favor. We deeply appreciate that India has been supportive of this process so far. We would be grateful if you could encourage other Member States to support this Declaration.

CC

Smt Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs

Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law and Justice

Sincerely,

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
Adivasigal Gothra Maha Sabha
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Delhi
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Haryana
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Himachal Pradesh
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Punjab
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Madhya Pradesh
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Rajasthan
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Uttar Pradesh

Environment Support Group, Bengaluru
Focus on the Global South

Housing Land Rights Network
Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM)
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
IT For Change

Jai Kisan Andolan
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene (KRRS), Karnataka
Katch Sarpartra Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, Tamil Nadu
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association, Kerala

MIJARC, India

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM)

Tamilnadu Organic Farmers Federation
Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam (TVS) Tamil Nadu
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), New Delhi
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi, Tamil Nadu

Vanagam-Nammalvar Ecological agriculture training and research centre, Kadavur

Notes :

[1] http://undocs.org/A/HRC/39/L.16

[2] https://www.cetim.ch/legacy/en/documents/G1210803.pdf

Here is the scanned copy of the letter sent by the Bangladesh union;

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We need our countries to stand united FOR our rights, says Ramona Duminicioiu

Oral Statement of La Via Campesina at the Side Event on the Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, New York, United Nations, 14 November 2018

Introduction
Many thanks to all the country delegates present here from all the regions. I am a peasant from Romania, in the Eastern part of Europe. I will speak on behalf of La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement, for peasants and people working in rural areas living in the global north, in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in other regions of this hemisphere. We would first like to thank all the countries for their work and for bringing us closer to the final stage of the peasant rights declaration process and we praise the very transparent and inclusive process, thanks to the efforts made by Bolivia.

We congratulate Europe, Western and Eastern Europe alike but also other countries of the North, for coming so far and for going so deep into the process with comments and analysis. Their participation in the debate is showing that these regions understand the importance of this Declaration and the need to safeguard the future of dozens of millions of peasants and rural workers from the Northern hemisphere.
We still have a rich peasant culture in this part of the world, but affected by poverty, with a shrinking space on the market or marginalized into an invisible economy, affected by massive economic migration, displaced or transformed by urbanization, with less and less opportunity for development, reducing the number of small family farms in certain regions, to a degree that makes it inaccessible for young small family farmers and pose potentially irreversible risks on food security. We produce food, feed our communities and our countries, facing systemic and systematic discrimination, unfair market practices, abuse, extreme labour exploitation and land grabbing. This declaration comes at the right time to fill the gaps of insufficient instruments that could protect and promote the rights of the vulnerable and affected communities of peasants and people working in rural areas. We, peasants, are a pillar of strength and we can be a driving force in a modern society, provided that our rights are recognized and respected, particularly the protection of social security, rights to means and methods of production, access to natural resources, recognition of traditional knowledge, the right to seeds, the right to land. Public policies need a stronger human rights approach and complementary instruments. We need to put the proliferation of human rights violations to the past, where they belong and we need to put human values in human rights.

Further arguments
The Declaration is built on existing rights and please allow me to give you just 3 examples of negotiated instruments that are at the basis of some of the most important rights elaborated in this Declaration: The Right to Food – which provided the general frame of the Declaration, the Voluntary Guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security – which provides the basis for the Right to Land and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – which is the substantial base of the Right to Seeds. Along the process, many experts have put together important analysis and studies, showing the coherence and consistency of the Declaration with other international instruments. But let me give you also my perspective as a seed producer.

This Declaration has the potential to contribute to facing the rising migrant crisis and once adopted, it can help to build more opportunities for young people in rural areas. Moreover, the Declaration would provide us with a necessary tool for contributing effectively to peace and development in our region, as peasant families are the first line of victims affected by conflicts.

Supporting the Declaration would be consistent with the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028) – resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, supported by an overwhelming majority of the UN countries, during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

The Declaration serves not only farmers but also rural communities and consumers, given its holistic approach and the fact that peasants produce public services by feeding citizens from the urban areas and maintaining natural resources in a sustainable manner.

The Declaration provides a positive frame and long-term guarantee for future development for sustainable and economically viable agriculture. The small-scale model of production – promoted by the Declaration – is the basis of quality food, creates the majority of rural employment and manages natural resources in a sustainable way, responding to the climate change challenge, in an interconnected world.
Many international institutions, including European Union institutions, have worked very hard in this process and also there was great work done at the country level. I would name here the support of the European Parliament who adopted an important resolution (2017/2206(INI)) on 3rd of July 2018, calling for the EU and its Member States to support and vote in favour of the Declaration. A similar resolution was also adopted by the European Economic and Social Council, in February 2018. The Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food – Hilal Elver, showed constant support at all levels of the process and we extend also our gratitude to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, the regional FAO offices and also the FAO offices in Rome, Geneva and New York, for the tremendous support and arguments that link the Declaration with the realization of the Agenda2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Closing argument
So far we have witnessed a great diversity of positions in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in other regions of the Northern hemisphere, with various opinions and discourses. We need our countries to stand united FOR our rights, we believe in you, as your role is important for us. A vote in favour would send a clear and needed positive message towards the rural communities of the entire world. We peasants and people who work in rural areas are important for the world. Please vote in favour of this declaration and join the rest of the world in building a better future for us peasants, who have been feeding the world and wish to continue to do so for the next generations!

For further information, you can contact Ramona Duminicioiu at ramona@eurovia.org /+40 746 337 022

The post We need our countries to stand united FOR our rights, says Ramona Duminicioiu appeared first on Via Campesina English.

Movement Generation’s Gopal Dayaneni on California’s Wildfires

Movement Generation - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 20:32

Aerial footage shows homes destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Thursday, November 15, 2018. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

Like many of y’all, the MG collective is trying to wrap our heads around the roots and scale of devastation of California’s “Camp Fire,” now the deadliest in state history (the second time we’ve said that in less than a year). On Wednesday, as Gopal was talking about the wildfires, Brooke pulled out a tape recorder and began recording. Below is the (lightly edited) transcript. It’s by no means our collective’s complete thoughts on the fire, but we hope it is a useful jumping off place for conversation about the intersection of the wildfire, ecological disruption, investor-owned utilities vs. energy democracy, incarcerated labor, and rural-urban interfaces. Want to join the conversation? We’d welcome your thoughts in the comments.

Brooke Anderson: Wait, that thing you just said about the wildfires – can you say it again? While I pull out my phone and record it this time? Because you’re making connections we’re not hearing in the way the fires are being talked about right now and people need to hear this shit.

Gopal Dayaneni: Just listening to the radio, every dimension of the wildfires is being explored in isolation. There are stories about the relationship between climate change and the wildfires, about PG&E power lines, about the urban-wildland interface, about non-management of forests because of the timber industry, and even about incarcerated firefighters. There are plenty of stories but they all exist in isolation. They are not helping people see that all of this is the emergent consequence of a common problem.

Just listening to the radio, every dimension of the wildfires is being explored in isolation… There are plenty of stories but they all exist in isolation. They are not helping people see that all of this is the emergent consequence of a common problem.

Brooke Anderson: Right.

Gopal Dayaneni: Climate change is increasing the likelihood of these epic wildfires. One of the things that causes climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. We get our electricity from centralized PG&E power plants (coal then natural gas) that require enormous distribution grids. Power lines move electricity from these massive centralized power plants all across the state, through forested areas. These massive centralized power plants are part of the thing that causes climate change. That climate change is then responsible for epic drought, broken wood, and increased fuel load.

Brooke Anderson: You lost me. What do you mean by “broken wood”?

Gopal Dayaneni: One of the primary causes of downed power lines isn’t that the wind just knocks the power lines over. It’s the dead, broken wood from the millions of trees that have been lost because of drought and disease, both rooted in ecological disruption. Those get blown around in the wind, knock down power lines, and start fires. And of course when we have a drought and then some rain we end up with fast growing ground cover that is more likely to burn. There is also the decades of fire-repression that increases the fuel load.

It’s also that centralized, utility scale energy infrastructure – the grids where you can move electricity wherever you want – that enables development right up against the wildland in many parts of the state. So the urban-wildland interface is increasingly driven by access to electricity. That power generation is causing climate change which is exacerbating the conditions and it depends on infrastructure that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. If we had decentralized the electricity infrastructure from the beginning, we’d have much less carbon-intensive, much more resilient energy systems. We’d have a lot less infrastructure spread over a huge area that is managed by a single entity. It’d be a constraint on your ability to build developments on the edge of the forest. It’s all related.

If we had decentralized the electricity infrastructure from the beginning, we’d have much less carbon-intensive, much more resilient energy systems.

Brooke Anderson: Energy democracy is not the conversation that people are having around the wildfires right now.

Gopal Dayaneni: Democratizing and decentralizing our energy infrastructure actually makes it less vulnerable to things like wildfires. Right now it’s impossible to maintain centralized infrastructure in a cost effective, timely efficient manner, so the cost of that maintenance has been externalized.

Brooke Anderson: Onto who?

Gopal Dayaneni: Paradise. It’s gone!! Externalized onto everyone. Hopefully PG&E will go bankrupt and we can take it over.

Brooke Anderson: Where do you see people doing the work to decentralize and democratize energy systems? Where are people winning?

Gopal Dayaneni: Local, community choice aggregation – taking energy back from investor-owned utilities – is definitely a huge one. And all the work people are doing around community solar. It’s not because the answer is the technology. Solar panels isn’t the solution. It’s not about the technology. It’s about governance. Centralization is part of the problem. But decentralization and democratization are not the same thing. If decentralization happens but corporate control remains (whether it is Solar City or BP solar) – where we or communities are not in control of the energy system – then it becomes not about meeting people’s energy needs and resilience needs, but about maximizing profit. Profit always creates externalities. You have to externalize cost and consequence onto someone else to maximize profit. You’re either exploiting workers or exploiting nature. So there’s externalization inherent in that process which is why democratization and equity are as important as decentralization.

I also think the win against the coal export terminal here in Oakland is huge. Not moving coal across the planet is a really good idea. It’s not just about the carbon that is released from coal fired power plants. It’s the world that is created through that kind of energy released into the system. That’s the thing that creates the sprawl, development, erosion of natural carbon sinks and wildlands that protect us against these vulnerabilities.

Brooke Anderson: Can we talk about incarcerated firefighters? At MG, we talk about shocks (acute moments of disruption), slides (slower, incremental changes which are not acute but can be equally catastrophic), and shifts (the cultural and systemic changes we seek). And how we need to harness the shocks and slides toward the shifts we want to win. I’ve heard you talk about wildfires as shocks and mass incarceration as a slide. Can you connect the two for us?

Gopal Dayaneni: There is no way to internalize the costs of the real consequences that have been set in motion through colonialism, slavery, and climate change (which is the next iteration of that systemic crisis). The cost is unbearable. There is no way to internalize the true cost of it. There are just further and further externalities. The only way we have enough people to fight fires is to re-enslave people. That’s the assumption in order to maintain the system.

The only way we have enough people to fight fires is to re-enslave people.

In terms of the wildfires, you can think of them as shocks. They are exactly what a shock is. People think shocks are unpredictable. They are only unpredictable in that you don’t know exactly when it is going to happen, but it is entirely predictable in that it is the reasonably predictable consequences of the system playing out exactly as it is set up to. We know this is going to happen. So the question is what do we put in place to address it?

There’s also the slide of the continually expanding Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Policing and prisons were built off of the exploitation of labor, the re-enslavement of black folks, the leasing of convict labor. That is not the business model of the PIC anymore. Their business model is finance. Investors invest in building bigger and bigger prison infrastructure projects. The same banks, investors, and private prison companies that are building these things are fighting for mandatory minimums, increased border enforcement, and criminalization of immigrants. They are driving these policies to fill the beds to justify the existence of these things so they can extract money from the state and federal coffers. We’ll always keep the prisons full so it’s a safe bet to make money off of the financing of the prison industrial system. So then you have this ever-increasing caged population of humans and that’s butting up against this ever-increasing catastrophe of climate disruption and California wildfires. And it’s like two great tastes that taste great together for capitalist bullshit.

Brooke Anderson: The fact that the wildfires is happening closer to urban areas is part of why the toxicity is so intense – because it’s one thing to have trees up in flames, it’s another to have plastics, upholstery, cars, fuel, batteries, light bulbs incinerated. You used to work at Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. You understand better than anyone else the toxins in the air. People know it’s smoky, but I don’t think most people really understand the full extent of what they’re breathing right now. Can you break it down for us?

Gopal Dayaneni: Oh yeah, they’re not wildfires. They are toxic waste incinerators. We’re talking about incinerating toxic waste. Let’s take flame retardants. Ironically, when flame retardants don’t stop fire, then they become toxic and aerosolized. Then when you burn vinyl and plastics, you get furans and dioxins. The incineration of vinyl is high production of dioxins. The particulates are real too. Then there are all the metals. And pressure-treated wood.

They’re not wildfires. They are toxic waste incinerators.

Brooke Anderson: Wait, what’s wrong with pressure-treated wood?

Gopal Dayaneni: Pressure treated wood is no longer made with arsenic, but old buildings with pressure-treated wood have arsenic in them. So that gets incinerated and is now out in the soil. But not even new treated wood should be burned. There’s also Canadian chipboard, formaldehydes, and all the chemicals they use to bind plywood. Plywood is the most safe it is ever going to be when it is in the wall. It is toxic to make and toxic when burned.

So we’re talking about a lot of toxic materials, let alone the synergistic effects, let alone when you incinerate them! These are persistent bioaccumulative pollutants. The consequences of it aren’t just the smoky air today. We’re releasing bioaccumulative toxins that are going to travel and migrate over great distances. They’ll work their way up the food chain and into our bodies. And, of course, the “top-feeder” is the breastfeeding child. We’re chucking the problem into the future. It will have generational consequences. The point is – wildfires that hit urban spaces have both immediate damage and serious long-term consequences.

Brooke Anderson: The state is on fire from both ends. This is the second time in a year that a fire has been named the most destructive in the state’s history. People can’t breathe. It’s intense. More people – not movement folks but the masses – are using the words “new normal.” There’s a certain despair people are feeling. I’ve heard you talk about how despair leads to desperation which leads to false solutions and shortcuts. What do you mean by that?

Gopal Dayaneni: It is easy to despair. There is clearly an urgency to the climate crisis. The challenge is when urgency enables despair – or more directly desperation – which then enables false solutions. We have to have a sense of urgency but there are no shortcuts. There are lots of examples of this, where we end up throwing our weight behind the system despite our recognition of it as the problem. Well, because the suffering we are experiencing through the collapse of the system is so unbearable, the thing we lean on is bringing stability back to the system. This is how capitalism resolves its crises. Capitalism is about the daily resolution of crises and always has been.

Brooke Anderson: We should stop now. This is going to take forever to transcribe!! Any final thoughts?

Gopal Dayaneni: There are all these things that have created the conditions we’re in and that make us even more vulnerable: maintaining centralized energy systems that aren’t based on local and regional resources; building massive coal and gas fired power plants across the state; and managing agriculture by damming rivers, controlling water, and moving it over mountains. The communities that are going to be the most resilient are the ones that lead with a vision of Just Transition; become more local and regional; constrain the development, consumption, production of resources; and transition to community-controlled energy. Those things won’t just help address the long term issue of climate disruption over the next 50-100 years, they’re also what will make the consequences less bad and more equitably distributed.

Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy: an Organizing Proposal

IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 16:27

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 29, 2017

The world faces a crises of enormous proportions. Global warming, caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels, threatens life on Earth as we know it, and yet, those most responsible for causing the crisis, the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class, seems hell bent on doubling down on business as usual. In the United States of America, whose corporate overlords are among the worst offenders, they are led by the recently elected Donald Trump, whose cabinet is bursting at the seams with climate change denialists and fossil fuel capitalist industry representatives. Instead of transitioning to a clean energy economy and decarbonizing society as quickly as possible, as climate scientists overwhelmingly recommend, Trump and his inner circle would seemingly rather not just maintain the status quo; they’ve signaled that they intend to make the worst choices imaginable, putting all of the US’s energy eggs into the oil, natural gas, and coal basket.

Worse still, Trump claims to enjoy a good deal of support for such moves from the Voters who elected him, which includes a good portion of the "White working class" who have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, whose policies are just barely more favorable to addressing the problems of global warming (which is to say, still woefully inadequate). Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO, pushed principally by the Building Trades unions, have doubled down on their efforts to continue to serve as capital’s junior partners, even as the latter continues to liquidate them in their ongoing campaign of systemic union busting.  Just recently, science teachers across the country began to find packets in their school mailboxes, containing a booklet entitled "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming", a DVD, and a cover letter urging them to "read this remarkable book and view the video, and then use them in your classroom," courtesy of the climate change denialist Heartland Institute.

One might think, given all of these situations, that…well, to put it mildly…we’re doomed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in spite of the bleakness of these circumstances, a deeper look behind them reveals that fossil fuel capitalism is in terminal decline, that their hold over our lives hangs by a thread, so much that we the people, the workers and peasants of the world, have the ability to transform the human existence to one based not on plundering the Earth and exploiting the masses for the profit of a few, but one based on true grassroots democracy, free of suffering and want, and one that exists in harmony with the Earth. The key to making this transformation lies with clean energy, and the people who can make this transformation are the very people who helped elect Donald Trump themselves. One may justifiably ask, how is this even remotely possible?

This new organizing proposal, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy, offers a potential solution and practical steps to achieve it which can not only break the reactionary tide, perhaps once and for all, but also can greatly accelerate the very necessary process of abolishing capitalism and building a new, ecological sustainable world in the shell of the ecocidal old by building an intersectional movement championing "Clean Energy Democracy". Such a movement has the potential to unite workers, rural and rustbelt communities, climate justice activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and farmers of all backgrounds and revitalize a vibrant and grassroots democratic anti-capitalist left, and it offers goals that help address the intertwining crises of global warming, decadent capitalism, failing economies, and demoralized communities plagued by economic depression, racism, and reactionary nationalism.

While the burgeoning "resistance", loosely led by a coalition of groups and movements with a smorgasbord of goals and demands, many of which are reformist and defensive (though not undesirable if seen as steps along the way to more revolutionary and transformative demands) has so far successfully held back much of the worst intentions of Trump and the forces he represents, making the latter fight tooth and nail for every single inch (as well they should), such resistance still lacks the positive vision needed to truly meet the needs of most people, including especially the most oppressed and downtrodden. By contrast, Restoring the Heartland and Rustbelt through Clean Energy Democracy offers one piece of a revolutionary and transformative vision that can truly help build a new world within the shell of the old, thus putting an end to capitalist economic oppression as well as the ongoing systematic destruction of the Earth's ability to sustain life.

Download the Proposal (PDF File).

Leave feedback on this proposal by sending an email to euc@iww.org.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Tags: Just Transitiongreen unionismenergy democracyjobs versus environmentgreen jobsgreen syndicalismDonald TrumpDemocratic PartyThe Resistanceclimate justicecarbon bubblerenewable energy workersrenewable energycoalmine workersoilnatural gasKoch BrothersHeartland Institute

Farmers’ varieties are essential to the future of food says new ZIMSOFF case study

 Summary: Increasing the availability of agro-biodiversity will become more and more important, not only in the pursuit of improved crop performance, but also in the context of adaptation to climate change, greater resilience, improved nutrition, maintaining the socio-economic balance of farming communities, and the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystem, asserts the new ZIMSOFF study on Farmer Managed Seed Systems in three selected districts of Mutoko, Zvishavane and Masvingo in Zimbabwe. The study is one of the six studies commissioned by GRAIN and Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) for their recent report on “The real seeds producers: Small-scale farmers save, use, share and enhance the seed diversity of the crops that feed Africa”.

The study reports that smallholder farmers play a critical role in the maintenance and stewardship of biodiversity, including agricultural biodiversity. They actively select, adapt, and enhance agricultural biodiversity. Women, in particular, play this important role.

However, despite farmer managed seed systems (FMSS) being essential to the future of food, they are not well supported by the government. There are no policies and legislation for such seed systems. The current seed policies and laws being developed in Zimbabwe and across Africa and globally neither recognize nor support FMSS.

Download the ZIMSOFF Case study

Download main report by GRAIN and AFSA

The post Farmers’ varieties are essential to the future of food says new ZIMSOFF case study appeared first on Via Campesina English.

No one can teach the farmers what is good for us or can talk on our behalf, especially on GMOs

MVIWATA Press release

The Guardian Article titled ‘’New Push in Pipeline for acceptance of GMO seeds after successful trials’’ is a Propaganda Campaign

We have been shocked by a newspaper article titled ‘’New Push in Pipeline for acceptance of GMO seeds after successful trials “ which was published on the Guardian of 2nd November 2018 claiming that Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has joined farmers across the country in pushing for changes to the existing agricultural laws to allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) seed varieties because they are drought resistant and can’t be easily destroyed by pests including armyworms. Furthermore, the reporting states that “the farmers are also said to have concurred that the use of GMO seeds will ensure bumper harvests while also boosting their own incomes”.

Clearly this article is misleading, unsubstantiated and wants to use farmers as a ploy to convince the public that farmers are in desperate need of GMO seeds which is completely untrue.

We are the national farmers’ organisation with members in all regions of Tanzania. We have debated in many forums on GMOs pros and cons and arrived at one conclusion that GMOs are not beneficial to the farmers and to the nation of Tanzania, economically and environmentally. In all our discussions, all of which have been attended by media, farmers have called for our Government not to allow GMOs to be used in the country for obvious reasons that neither farmers nor the nation shall benefit from GMOs. This position of farmers was crystal clear during our recent convergence of at least 2,600 farmers which was held in Morogoro, on 5 – 7 October 2018, in Morogoro.

We therefore ask the reporter to tell the public which “farmers across the country are pushing for changes to existing agricultural laws to allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) seeds” and which farmers have concurred that “the use of GMO seeds will ensure bumper harvests while also boosting their own incomes”. We challenge the reporter to come up with statistical evidences on these farmers the reporter is referring to especially since this article refers to the work of a scientific body, TARI.

Otherwise, the article in the Guardian, as the case is for the article in Mwananchi of 10 November 2018 titled “Mbegu ya Dhahabu: Mbegu za GMO zinavyoweza kuwaepusha Wakulima na Viuatilifu’ once again proves an ongoing media campaign and propaganda to misinform the public and promote GMOs for the interest of multinational companies while disregarding the Tanzanian national interests.

During the symposium to mark 3 years of President J.P. Magufuli at University of Dar es Salaam, the President said, when talking about Stigler’s Gorge, that “no one can teach us about environment”. Borrowing these words, certainly, no one can teach the farmers what is good for us and no one else can talk on our behalf, especially on GMOs.

We repeat our call to our Government not to allow GMO seeds to be used in our country since no one but multinationals stand to gain at the cost Tanzanian small holder farmers, our economy, our genetic resources and our health.

Download PDF press release

The post No one can teach the farmers what is good for us or can talk on our behalf, especially on GMOs appeared first on Via Campesina English.

Quilombo Campo Grande Camp, Brazil: Urgent Call for Solidarity

Message from The Landless Workers’ Movement MST

07 November, 2018

Dear comrades and friends

First of all, on behalf of the MST and the 450 families of Quilombo Campo Grande Camp, we thank all solidarity letters received against the eviction of our camp.

Unfortunately, during a hearing held on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 7, Brazilian *judge Walter Zwicker Esbaille Junior ordered the eviction of 450 families* who live in the area of the old Ariadnópolis mill owned by a bankrupt debtor in the city of Campo do Meio, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

He established a seven-day deadline to have his order executed.

The decision means destroying 1,200 hectares (nearly 3,000 acres) of corn, beans, manioc, and pumpkin crops, 40 hectares (roughly 100 acres) of agroecological gardens, and 520 hectares (more than 1,200 acres) of coffee crops. Not only that, hundreds of homes, corrals, and miles and miles of fences will be torn down.

The court order will destroy everything people have built in two decades of hard work.

According to the lawyers representing the families, the judge’s ruling is arbitrary and hurts constitutional principles by not recognizing values of human dignity. The hearing was unusual. Representatives of the families who live in the camp and authorities who traveled to attend it were not allowed in. While holding the session, the judge called the riot police to the room. Representatives of big farms and the local government wanted the families to be taken to a gymnasium. The judge eventually quickly rendered his judgement.

The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is appealing this arbitrary, unfair decision. We reiterate our will to continue to struggle and resist yet another attack by the old mill.

The case is now in the State Justice Tribunal.

We are aware that the fascist inclinations of the project recently elected to run Brazil will lead to increasing use of State apparatus to criminalize us and segregate the landless people – as well as urban communities. But the Brazilian people is brave and strong. We have faced the military dictatorship since the birth of the movement. It’s with this story and this courage that the families living in Quilombo Campo Grande will resist and stay in the Ariadnópolis land. A preliminary injunction to remove them will not erase so many years of struggle.

Once more, we urge all organizations, supporters and friends to send the message below to the State Justice Tribunal Judge Nelson Missias de Morais, demanding that the repossession action to be dismissed:

gapre@tjmg.jus.br
contato@crdhsulmg.com.br

À atenção do Exmo. Sr. Juiz Nelson Missias de Morais

Venho me manifestar sobre a ação de restituição de posse n ° 0024.11.188.917-6 inscrita no dia 06/07/2011.

Peço que a ação de restituição da posse seja suspensa, já que existem 450 famílias, mais de 2.000 pessoas, que já estão na posse da área há mais de 20 anos. Essas pessoas têm casas construídas, vasta produção e reprodução da vida neste lugar.

A resolução do conflito só pode ocorrer com a permanência das familias, que já tem a posse da terra por direito.

Nós*[insert your name or name of your organization*], apelamos para que Voissa Excelencia resolva o conflito. Por justiça e em defesa dos princípios constitucionais, pela valorização da vida e da dignidade humana, apelamos!

Estamos diante da iminência de um massacre em Minas Gerais e você pode salvar essas vidas.

<Translation of the email above>

Dear Honorable Judge Nelson Missias de Morais,

The purpose of this e-mail is to express my concern about the action for repossession No. 0024.11.188.917-6 filed on June 17, 2011. I strongly and respectfully ask you to suspend the action for repossession, because there are 450 families, more than 2,000 people, who have been in possession of the area for more than 20 years. They have built their homes and their production and reproduction of life in that place.

The resolution of this conflict can only be successful if they stay where they are, as it is their right.

We [insert your name or name of your organization urge you to do this. For justice and in defense of constitutional principles, out of respect for human life and dignity, we urge you!

There can be a massacre in Minas Gerais and you can save those lives.

Recommended Reading;

ABOUT THE CASE: Who is Justice serving?

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Briefing on Rights of Peasants: Side Event, 14 Nov | ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations Headquarters NY

The Permanent Missions of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, South Africa and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela along with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, co-sponsor this briefing.

WHEN:   03:15 PM,  14 November 2018 , Wednesday

VENUE: ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations Headquarters NY

After years of participating and contributing to discussion on the Declaration in Geneva, a delegation of women and men representing the peasant organisations of Asia, Afria, Europe, Americas are in New York to accompany the adoption of the Resolution and will brief members states about the current situation of peasants around the world and their need for this instrument to be adopted.

Download the invitation to see the list of speakers at the event

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Newfoundland and Labrador announces its “lax tax” on carbon

Work and Climate Change Report - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 12:11

A “ Made-in-Newfoundland and Labrador Approach to Carbon Pricing” was announced and  described in a press release on October 23 , with a carbon tax rate of $20 tonne starting on January 1, 2019.  The details are many, as published here . Exemptions are granted for consumers (e.g. for home heating fuel) , and for industry – specifically “for agriculture, fishing, forestry, offshore and mineral exploration, and methane gases from venting and fugitive emissions in the oil and gas sector.”  These exemptions make sense in light of the province’s Oil and Gas  growth strategy announced in February 2018,  Advance 2030 , which aims for 100 new exploration wells to be drilled by 2030.

Despite the weakness of the provincial plan, it has been accepted by the federal government – thus, Newfoundland will avoid the stricter regime which would have been imposed by the federal backstop plan in 2019.  For a brief overview: “Why the lax tax? Finance minister says Muskrat burden played role in carbon pricing” (CBC) . In depth analysis appears in  “Newfoundland’s carbon tax gives ‘free pass’ to offshore oil industry” in The Narwhal.   (Nov. 9)

Just Transition proposals to protect workers’ interests in a report commissioned by Australia’s energy workers’ union

Work and Climate Change Report - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 09:02

An October  29 report commissioned by CFMEU Mining and Energy union of Australia argues that  government will need billions of dollars for comprehensive  measures to support workers and communities  in a move away from coal-fired power generation. It calls for consultation and participation in planning, and an independent statutory Energy Transition Authority .  The Ruhr or Appalachia? Deciding the future of Australia’s coal power workers and communities  examines case studies from around the world – both successful and unsuccessful  – including South Wales (U.K.), Appalachia (U.S.), Singapore, Limburg (Netherlands) and the Ruhr Valley (Germany).  Within Australia,  the Hazelwood closure is judged as unsuccessful – due to a lack of advance planning – and the LaTrobe Valley experience as a positive model.  The report concludes that advance planning is essential to success, with a national framework …“ International evidence tells us that such a framework will require active participation from companies, workforce union representation, and government.”

The Ruhr or Appalachia?   report was written by Professor Peter Sheldon at the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. It includes an extensive bibliography of other studies of Just Transition. The report was commissioned by  CFMEU Mining and Energy union, which represents over 20,000 workers, mainly in coal mining and also in metalliferous mining, coal ports, power stations, oil refineries and other parts of the oil and gas production chain.  For briefer versions see the union’s press release “New Independent Authority Needed To Manage Transition For Energy Workers”, or a 4-page Executive Summary .

A “new social contract” launches to fight climate change in Quebec

Work and Climate Change Report - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 08:23

An article in the Montreal Gazette on November 12  describes the rapid rise of a new grassroots group in the province: in English, called “The Planet goes to Parliament”.  Their demonstrations have been covered by the CBC– including a march of 50,000 people in Montreal on November 10, calling for the newly-elected provincial government to make climate change action an urgent priority .  A report of an earlier  march in October is here   .

In addition to marches and demonstrations, over 175,000 Quebecers have signed the group’s Pact for Transition (English version here ), French version here ), which calls for “radical, co-ordinated and societal transformation” .  The Pact first calls for a solemn personal pledge to change behaviours “to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.” It also calls for the government to: enact a plan by 2020 for reaching Quebec’s climate targets; commit to reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030; develop an energy efficiency and electrification strategy; rule out any exploitation of fossil fuels in Quebec; and make climate change the first consideration of every policy.  Dominic Champagne, a theatre producer and anti-fracking campaigner, is being credited with launching the mass movement, and states: “This time it’s not just left-wing ecologists and artists. It’s way larger … This is really fulfilling an empty space on the political landscape.”

The Quebec government is now led by the right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party, which had the weakest  environmental platform in the election campaign; Québec Solidaire, a new left-leaning party, had the most well-developed and ambitious climate platform , and went from 0 to 10 seats in the new legislature. (See a WCR explainer here).   Since taking power in October,  the CAQ government announced the cancellation of the Apuiat wind farm , which was to be built in partnership with Innu communities.  As reported by the  Energy Mix ,the Chair and Vice-Chair of  Hydro-Québec resigned due to the cancellation.  Details about the Apuiat project are provided by CBC here (Oct. 20).

The Planet Goes to Parliament  has announced plans for at least two more climate protests, in Quebec City and in Montreal,  during  the COP24 meetings in Katowice Poland in December.  The group is thinking big, with a goal of 1 million signatories to their Pact – out of a population of 8 million in the province.

Information Note: UN Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People working in rural areas

Edition: October 2018

DOWNLOAD THE PDF VERSION

The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in its 39th session on 28th of September 2018 is a fundamental step towards addressing discrimination and re-emphasizing the obligation of the state in this international norm. It is, then, the task and obligation of the UN General Assembly to endorse the protection of the livelihoods of peasants and all small food producers feeding the world.

Small-scale peasants are increasingly at risk and are often victims of forced evictions, violence and harassment. Existing legal instruments worldwide are scattered in various texts, out of reach for the population concerned, and fail to protect peasants and rural workers from on-going systematic discrimination and abuses, with rural women particularly affected. Thus, greater recognition and protection of their rights is a pressing issue. Addressing this is precisely the goal of the long process towards a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas: creating an international human rights instrument, improving the promotion and protection of their rights and drawing attention to the threats and discrimination suffered by peasants and people involved in small-scale food production across the world.

The UN Declaration was originally initiated by the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina (LVC) over 17 years ago, with other social movements, mainly supported by – FIAN International and CETIM (Centre Europe-Tiers Monde) within the UN.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF VERSION

Cover Image: FIAN

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Agroecology as a Tool of Sovereignty and Resilience in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

BY  | First published in Civil Eats

Even before Hurricane Maria devastated the island back in September 2017, Puerto Rico already imported 85 percent of its food. Local farming declined decades ago amid U.S.-led industrialization on the island, following a shift away from diversified small-scale farms to plantation agriculture. An ailing economy, austerity, and the fact that 44 percent of Puerto Ricans lived below the poverty line all deepened household food insecurity.

Facing a non-response from the federal government after the hurricane, residents joined forces to support one another and rebuild. And as part of the larger effort to restore Puerto Rico’s decimated farmland, some advocates have spent the last year helping vulnerable farmers become more resilient to future climate-fueled disasters.

Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico, a 28-year-old grassroots farmer and activist group, has led the charge. With an estimated 80 percent of the island’s crops wiped out, the group mobilized support brigades to assist food producers and used a grassroots, farmer-to-farmer approach to share knowledge about agroecological farming and food sovereignty.

The brigades organized volunteers to lend a hand to farmers in need, turning fields and gardens into hands-on classrooms and a spaces for social and political dialogue. Against the backdrop of and an uncertain death toll, which the government eventually raised to nearly 3,000, limited communications, and a blackout that lasted for months, they planted fresh crops, cleared fallen trees, opened roads, and rebuilt homes. And their effort is ongoing; after more than a year of slow reconstruction, tens of thousands still lack reliable electricity and adequate housing.

For the organizers behind Organización Boricuá, Maria also illuminated the challenges and inequalities of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. On the heels of a U.S. fiscal control board rolling out privatization and austerity to manage the island’s crippling $120 billion debt crisis, the U.S. government’s failure to effectively mobilize federal resources for disaster relief after the hurricane have become the new symbols of Puerto Rico’s colonial bind. In response, Organización Boricuá promotes sovereignty from the fields.

Civil Eats spoke to two Organización Boricuá members—Dalma Cartagena and Jesús Vázquez—at last week’s U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance national assembly in Bellingham, Washington, where the group won the Food Sovereignty Prize  The prize, created as an annual alternative to the World Food Prize and its celebration of market-driven responses to global hunger, spotlights national and international honorees who model and inspire grassroots solutions that democratize and transform the food system. The conversation below has been translated from Spanish, and edited for clarity and brevity.

Jesús Vázquez and Dalma Cartagena of Organización Boricuá. (Photo credit: David Hanson for WhyHunger)

What have been Organización Boricuá’s most important successes or impacts over its nearly three decades of work?

Jesús Vázquez: One of the biggest achievements has been organizing farmers, agricultural workers, peasants, activists, and educators—[bringing] people from different areas together for a more just, resilient, sustainable kind of agriculture, which for us is agroecology. We see agroecology as our tool of struggle to achieve food sovereignty.

What are the greatest challenges of working to advance food sovereignty in Puerto Rico and how have they changed since Maria?

Dalma Cartagena: I think the issue of education continues to be a challenge. Political training on the foundation of agroecology is also a challenge, which has become clearer after Maria. It’s about understanding that we have the capacity to be self-sufficient and produce our own food—healthy food—with fair processes for all, not just for human beings but also for the land, rivers, air, plants, and all biodiversity. We have to be aware that we are part of an agroecosystem. Raising this awareness within and beyond the organization in Puerto Rico is a challenge.

Has the Hurricane’s devastation opened up new possibilities to promote and advance sustainable  farming?

Vázquez: In addition to the bad it brought us, Hurricane Maria also opened our eyes. Especially for those whose eyes weren’t very open yet, caught up in the routine of trying to survive.

We have a direct relationship with the United States, supposedly one of the most biggest powers in the world. How can it be that it treats us this way? How can it be that the money FEMA collects [in part from Puerto Ricans] to do recovery work benefits North American companies in Puerto Rico and not Puerto Rican projects, organizations, institutions, or the Puerto Rican government itself?

The crisis makes our colonial context more evident. Despite the fact that we lost lives—which we should never hide, like the government did—we have to recognize that it is also an educational experience. And in our sector of  agriculture, agroecology, and food sovereignty, we have reflected a lot; we are preparing ourselves better, and we have realized that the best thing is the grassroots.

Have you been able to work on new projects, new solutions?

Vázquez: First of all, Maria was gigantic. Maria hit us diagonally from the southeast to the northwest with a perimeter almost as big as the island, with a lot of force. We started doing what we know, which is the support brigades. But we are in a reflection stage within the organization to formalize our processes. The committee on education and activism, for example, is working on a formal agroecology school.

The organization also created a process of local certification [English translation here] that tells USDA Organic there is a different way. We want to carry out the inspections ourselves in our own way, listening to peasant farmers regardless of whether they are agronomists or not.

And the farmer support committee, which manages the brigades, continues projects within the organization, but also for people, projects, or other communities that ask for help. The organization goes to the farmers [to help them in their fields].

Why did the support brigades start, who benefits, and what are their short- and long-term goals?

Vázquez: We say the brigades are Organización Boricuá’s organizing and educational methodology. We are a grassroots membership, and we have members in different regions of Puerto Rico. The brigades are open to the public in general, not just members. Some people join and go to an agroecological farm for the first time, and a relationship of solidarity between producer and consumer starts.

The brigades offer a way to reach new people. They also offer support to farmers who are behind and need help. Thirty people arrive, many of them with experience in agriculture, and the work it would have taken the family one month to do gets done in one day. The work moves forward, it’s a space for reflection, discussion, a workshop—it has an educational function. And it is replicated from place to place. For us, brigades are a methodology to massify agroecology.

Dalma, you’ve been teaching children about agroecology for nearly two decades. What does that look like?

Cartagena: I start with children who are 8 and 9 years old. And the children learn all the skills related to producing healthy food through agroecological practices. They learn compost-making, about using plants that can improve soil quality, like legumes, about the use of ground cover, planting different vegetables, and Puerto Rico’s staple products.

And the curious thing is that as they learn they become teachers. Once they learn one of these skills, they apply it not only by doing it but also by teaching others to do it. We’ve touched thousands of children over the last 18 years who have learned these agroecological production skills, and many have chosen professions related to agroecology. It’s extraordinary.

Children say that when they are close to the land, they feel like heroes that no one can hold back. These are words I have been hearing repeatedly over the years. They feel they are bringing something new to the world. Our hope is for this to be replicated in every school; the right to know how to produce healthy food should be a fundamental human right. This skill needs to be in our hands and in our memory.

Do you think this land-based education can build a different future for Puerto Rico?

Cartagena: When we lose our relationship to the land, we lose everything it brings us. [Land] gives us peace, power, happiness, sensations of abundance, and all of this is lost—robbed!—from children who don’t have this opportunity. If you cut off that relationship, you have a human being oriented toward death, and not toward life.

How might agroecology in Puerto Rico mitigate the impacts of the changing climate?

Vázquez: Scientifically, we know that agroecology cools the planet. In Puerto Rico’s case, it represents resistance and resilience. Resilience in the agroecosystem, and resistance because when we talk about agroecology, we’re talking also about social justice. The founding members of Boricuá realized that we can’t do it alone; we have to be organized. It offers space for resistance and transformation.

Legally we are a North American territory. We have a colonial context. Agroecology is a tool to exercise our sovereignty on the land. What’s more important than that? If we manage to expand this movement, it will become easier to overcome other challenges. Working the land, watching seeds germinate, and reaping the satisfaction of a successful harvest are more political than any book we could read.

What can other food sovereignty and environmental justice movements learn from the experience of Puerto Rico at this moment?

Vázquez:  The hurricane put agroecology to the test and we had positive results. We have several colleagues with farms who have told us how, through years of practices like crop rotation, intercropping, incorporating organic matter, ground cover, they managed to preserve the topsoil [through the devastation of Maria]. That’s gold. If water doesn’t take the topsoil away, I have somewhere to plant seeds the next day.

We had farmers who had landslides, but in their fields they didn’t suffer erosion. There were even some farmers who managed to have some crops withstand the hurricane. Some farmers with yucca, for example, a root below the ground, cut the stem so the wind didn’t take it away, leaving just a bit above the ground. Water and wind passed over, but the yucca was still there, and the next day they were able to harvest and provide food for the community. It was these agroecological practices that allowed us to eat and to recover more quickly. Without a doubt, agroecology is better in the face of climate change.

We’ve also learned a lot about renewable energy and we’re working on becoming less dependent on state energy resources. We have some projects that already had their systems in place and we have seen results, and other projects that have started developing their systems due to the experience of the hurricane.

We also talk a lot about mutual support. It’s very important. Aside from the technical and practical sides of how the agroecosystem can withstand a hurricane, how we can have energy, and how we can harvest rainwater, there’s the social part and the issue of mutual support. International solidarity is essential especially in the context of climate change.

Top photo: Organización Boricuá member Jorge Cora from Finca Conciencia in Solidarity, Reconstruction, and Climate Justice Brigade in Sejah Farm, St. Croix. (Photo credit: Jesús Vázquez)

This article has been updated to correct the date that Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico.

Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Eco-Orgánica (BORICUÁ) is a member of La Via Campesina in Puerto Rico.

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Transforming the politics of food in Southern Africa, from the local to the global

Across the world, at least 821 million people suffer from hunger. Malnutrition and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing throughout nearly the entire African continent; this has been confirmed by a recent United Nations report. The findings of the State of Food Security and Nutrition study show that hunger is escalating internationally. Nearly a quarter of Sub-Saharan Africans are likely to have experienced chronic food deprivation last year alone.

Paradoxically, the majority of those who are hungry are rural small-scale food producers. This makes access to food an inherently political question. Take Southern Africa as an example: despite continuously increasing investments in agriculture and fisheries over the last decade, the region is facing serious challenges and a deepening crisis.

Neoliberal economic policies were redoubled there in the wake of the 2007-08 food price crisis as a means to resuscitate countries collapsing under the pressure of decades of unfair trade, aid, and globalisation. Further transnational corporate control of the means of production—land, water, and seeds—has resulted in acute marginalisation of rural communities, and in many cases their expulsion from the countryside.

This is done in the name of food security, job creation, agricultural productivity, and overall poverty reduction. For instance, in Tanzania, where vast tracts of agricultural land are being converted into the widely celebrated Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, anaemia, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies proliferate among peasant children and youth.

International dimension

The problems facing Africa’s rural poor and hungry are increasingly transnational in nature. Social movements and grassroots organisations throughout the continent are linking together in creative ways to call for solutions that target the highest levels of global governance. This is often framed as food sovereignty or climate justice, with agroecology as a concrete way of achieving both at the community level. Put simply, scaling up to big policy change first requires localised solutions.

These solidarity efforts for high-level reform are hardly new. What has changed is that there are now official spaces for movements and organizations to interact with and influence global governance.

Perhaps the most significant of these spaces is the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) for relations with the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Since UN Member States make decisions through the CFS, the CSM allows small-scale food providers a seat at the table and a way to exercise political power. In fact, many of their grassroots proposals have been folded into official policy.

Southern Africa

In Southern Africa, the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF), a national peasant movement, and South Africa’s Masifundise Development Trust, which is dedicated to empowering small-scale fishing communities, have been extremely vocal within this global food policy space. While their national experiences have been quite different, these two civil society agents have succeeded in using the CSM to achieve a positive social impact in complex situations.

In Zimbabwe, the new government is pushing mass investments in all sectors of the economy, promoting the line that the country is now “open for business”. With most of its financial interests focused on extractive industries, which already have tainted human rights records, activists are worried that the new administration’s position would be better described as “open to land grabs”.

According to the Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies, prioritisation of large scale farming will likely lead to land concentration by capital and displacement of smallholder farmers, particularly women. Furthermore, the renewed drive for industrial capital to take part in mineral exploitation will, the Institute says, have devastating effects on the livelihoods of peasants, particularly those that depend on the land.

Activists within ZIMSOFF are aware that some of their hard-fought achievements could unravel at the national level. At the same time, they are determined to remain rooted at the local level. These leaders were involved in some of the first land occupations in Zimbabwe, building communities from the ashes of a destructive colonial past.

Deep in the countryside, in the town of Shashe, formerly landless peasants reclaimed their land, bringing it to life through a sophisticated network of agroecological education projects. Yet another wave of resettlement in Shashe occurred when 150 families were kicked out of a neighbouring province to make way for diamond mining. In Shashe, and in parallel experiences throughout the country, ZIMSOFF has its peasant base on high alert.

“We are pushing for agroecological farming practices in Shashe at the grassroots level so as to achieve food sovereignty,” explained Elizabeth Mpofu, ZIMSOFF’s chairperson. Its advocates maintain that food sovereignty is a precursor to any real national sovereignty, and a way to avoid the financial shocks of fragile states.

South Africa

South Africa is currently undergoing a national debate on land redistribution to solve the land inequality prevailing throughout the country as a result of Apartheid legacies. Even today, white South Africans own over 72 percent of the total of 37 million hectares of individually owned farmland and agricultural holdings. Small-scale fisheries are sidelined in favour of industrial exploration—controlled mostly by foreign corporations and large companies owned by a local elite.

Masifundise works alongside small-scale fishers in the Western Cape province. These fishers were excluded from the scope of new fishing legislation in the late 1990s. Much was achieved in South Africa, especially in terms of policy; in fact, it has some of the best small-scale fishing policies in the world. However, good policy on paper is one thing, while translating it into justice through practice is another.

“The conditions and procedures government adopted to implement the national policy contradict key elements of the policy. It is a case of legislation and regulation contradicting itself,” Naseegh Jaffer, Director of Masifundise carefully explained. “To us in fishing communities, it suggests that there is the intention but not the will to protect and promote small-scale fishing,” he added.

Masifundise’s mission is to empower small-scale fishing communities with knowledge, skills and capacity to become agents of change within their own communities, promoting and fighting for food sovereignty and socio-economic, political and environmental justice in South Africa.

High-level meetings

Both ZIMSOFF and Masifundise are part of transnational social movements, La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, and the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, a movement of small-scale fisher people, respectively. Both global movements negotiate global food policies through their participation in the Civil Society Mechanism.

To this end, Elizabeth Mpofu and Naseegh Jaffer have been intricately involved in the international meetings taking place at as part of the United Nations processes in Rome, including the annual CSM forum that just took place from October 13-14. And on the heels of the forum, its positions and key messages have been continually expressed at the CFS Plenary Session, a decision-making space being held at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters this week from October 15-19.

“Spaces like the CFS are not in themselves a place where solutions can be found. Rather, they are spaces where solutions can be developed with the inclusive participation of all parties,” reflected Naseegh Jaffer.

“We are pushing for the participation of women and youth in policy formation processes at local and national levels,” Elizabeth Mpofu echoed, “so a global united voice for the rights of peasants and policies that protect peasants are of great importance.”

The Zimbabwean and South African peasant and fishers’ leaders were part of a delegation of more than 300 participants from various sectors of civil society. And many of them have stayed on to interact with states and influence their food policies over the course of this week’s CFS. It has been a kaleidoscopic gathering of the CSM’s constituents from all continents, among them, smallholder and family farmers, pastoralists, fishers, indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless people, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure populations, and NGOs—because the politics of food affects us all.

———-

Boaventura Monjane is an activist, journalist, and PhD candidate at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal. He is from Mozambique.

Salena Tramel is an activist, journalist, and PhD candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), in The Hague, Netherlands. She is from the U.S.

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Bonds Not Ballots

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 06:30

As another election year spectacle has come and gone, and as we inch closer to irreversible, cataclysmic shifts in our climate, we are reminded that our hope is in each other, in relationships of mutual support that bind us to each other.

 

Many of us have very differing opinions about engaging with electoral “democracy” and its (f)utility, but we find common ground in voting everyday with our bodies, putting our whole weight towards our dreams and desires, rather than merely one strip of paper or button on one day. In Florida, as another proto-fascist (DeSantis) ascends to power, we continue to plant the seeds that we know can take root and bring the fortress down.

These seeds look small: cleaning supplies, baby items, rides, medical care and companionship for a birthing immigrant mother and her family; diabetes care, paying for prescriptions, tree-cutting, supplies, and assistance finding a temporary shelter for an extended family that knows what it means to weather a storm; tarping roofs, clearing debris, checking on prisoners, distributing harm reduction kits, rescuing animals, resisting illegal evictions, applying legal pressure. We are finding, voicing, and building something together that is deeper and truer than the mirage of power authoritarianism offers.

 

Many tenants in numerous public housing facilities have successfully resisted illegal evictions, remaining in their homes while awaiting repairs or relocation. Community barbecues and make-shift stoves have emerged as landlords shut off electricity and gas to force tenants out. One woman shouts from across the street, “You with us, you may as well eat too.” We take a break from helping a new friend move to savor the food and the moment.

 

The state demonstrated its inability (or lack of will) to respond to climate catastrophes at a public town hall meeting. FEMA representatives deflected questions from an audience comprised primarily of low-income residents of color. The FEMA representatives responded robotically, patronizing the residents who sought answers about housing and financial aid. FEMA claimed that the state of Florida requested trailers on the 23rd of October but couldn’t answer to where they were or if they would even arrive at all. Residents shared their difficulties in locating housing in hotels and rentals even with the aid of vouchers and rental assistance. The nearest available housing is between 2 to 7 hours away, rendering it inaccessible to those without transportation and those with jobs, children, or families with disabilities. To this concern, a FEMA representative responded that there are three shelters available. The town hall attendees quickly corrected her, pointing out that there was only one, and it was at capacity.

Disaster Capitalism meets Disaster Bureaucracy. Top-down, bureaucratic institutions and predatory, exploitative landlords both impose their “solutions” and “participation” is just a smokescreen for coercion. Real participatory efforts necessitate sharing power, something the state and predatory capitalists avoid like the plague.

 

As the weeks pass, visual reminders of the destruction of Hurricane Michael are still ever present. But we have learned to listen. Even with the weight of governmental inaction, landlord abuse, and newfound homelessness for many, people recognize a different way of being as possible and desirable.

 

“I know my neighbors better now than I have for the past 14 years.”

 

“People are at their best when things are at their worst.”

 

“There is always good that comes from tragedy.”

 

This is what we hear from disaster survivors in Panama City. And we echo it.

 

When the grid fails, when roads are impassable, amid the profound suffering and loss, we see clearly that all we have is each other — that relationships are what matters — and when things fall apart, people come together.

 

We listen to our hearts, to each other, to strangers quickly becoming friends. We listen to the unspoken words and warnings in the winds. We listen to a world slowly dying — or being born. We are not sure which. We think it is still up to all of us and the choices we make. A movement elder taught us that we will be either the most loved or most hated generation; that we will be known as the generation that either saved or squandered life as we know it.

 

A just recovery and a just transition are necessities for our collective survival. Now is the time to experiment with ways of living that give us the flexibility and freedom to do what we know needs to be done. Now is the time to gain practical skills and knowledge that can be used to further people’s survival in crisis and beyond.

 

Storms are coming. Let’s be ready. Humanity, liberation, justice, belonging and, yes, paradise will never be on the ballot. But if we know where to look, we can still find them — in each other. 

Climate Strikes: Children are leading the way

Work and Climate Change Report - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 14:22

Although all eyes have been on the Juliana vs. United States legal action in the U.S ( given the go-ahead again on November 2, according to  Inside Climate News ), other young people are taking up the fight against climate change.  In September, after record heat and forest fires in Sweden, Greta Thurnberg began to skip school to demonstrate outside the Swedish Parliament buildings, and, using the  hashtag #Fridays for Future ,  is calling for people to demonstrate in solidarity at their own government’s buildings on Fridays  – read “The Swedish 15 year old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis”  in The Guardian for more.

Greta has become a Nordic celebrity, and her protest has spread.  Australian kids from 8 to 15 began their own campaign on November 7, with a call for  a nation-wide strike on November 30 – Updates and news are at  #School Strike 4 Climate   (the website is here)  .

NDP MP Charlie Angus supports Sudbury striker

In  Canada,  an 11-year old in Sudbury Ontario credits Greta for inspiration and began striking from school in November, as reported by the Sudbury Star in “Young climate activist to strike Friday in Sudbury” (Nov. 2) and “Activism runs in the blood for Sudbury student “ (Nov.8) .  The article quotes her as asking: “If adults don’t care about our future why should I? What is the point of going to school?”

Further inspiration also comes from (slightly older) young adults in Canada, in “Meet 2018’s Top 30 Under 30 in Sustainability” in Corporate Knights magazine (Nov. 6). It profiles  young adults from 16 – 29 who have rolled up their sleeves in a variety of green projects, organizations,  and businesses.

India: Youth camp by Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS) in images

Amritabhoomi, the agroecology school of La Via Campesina recently hosted a youth training camp from Sep 21st to 23rd, in the southern State of Karnataka, India. Lots of debates and discussions were held on issues around agraran crisis and responses by social movements. Youth training is one of the most important programs of KRRS and Amrita Bhoomi. Young people, the future of the movement get an opportunity to come together, learn, debate,  and become better leaders.

 

IN A GROUP DISCUSSION

 

TALKING ABOUT WOMEN FARMERS WITH KAVITHA KURUGANTI AND KAVITHA SREENIVASAN OF MAKAAM. ALL THE YOUNG FARMERS AGREED THAT WOMEN MUST OWN LAND EQUALLY.

KP SURESH TALKING ABOUT THE AGRARIAN CRISIS

TALKING ABOUT THE ACHIEVEMENTS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE FARMER’S MOVEMENT

SINGING THE ANTHEM OF KRRS

SINGING SONGS OF STRUGGLE IN THE EVENINGS

TAKING AN OATH OF COMMITMENT TO THE FARMER’S MOVEMENT AT PROFESSOR NANJUNDASWAMY’S MEMORIAL STONE

 

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NFU urges Canada to support Declaration for the Rights of Peasants at United Nations

(LONDON, ON – October 31, 2018) — The National Farmers Union (NFU) urges Canada to vote in favour of the United Nations (UN) Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas when it goes before the 3rd Committee session of the General Assembly. “The UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants is a framework recognizing the human rights of peasants, rural families, and landless farmers around the world,” explained NFU member Joan Brady, North American Regional Coordinator of La Via Campesina (LVC). “Eighty percent of global poverty exists in rural areas. This declaration is a tool to empower and protect peasants and improve livelihoods in rural areas. It celebrates the vital knowledge held by rural people and urges nations to acknowledge their fundamental rights. It is the product of over a decade of work by civil society movements and organizations fronted by La Via Campesina.” According to LVC a peasant is “…a man or woman of the land, who has a direct and special relationship with the land and nature through the production of food and/or other agricultural products. Peasants work the land themselves, rely above all on family labour and other small-scale forms of organizing labour. Peasants are traditionally embedded in their local communities and they take care of local landscapes and of agro-ecological systems… this includes Indigenous people working on the land… the term peasant also refers to landless farmers and farm workers.” The key tenets of the UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants uphold peasants’ rights to natural resources and the right to development; their right to food and food sovereignty; their right to land and other natural resources; their right to seeds and biological diversity and the rights of peasant women. “These rights must be recognized and protected – and urgently,” said Jessie MacInnis, member of the NFU International Program Committee. “Multinational corporations and capitalist ventures are pushing forward their agendas with no acknowledgement of the peoples they disperse or the land they remove from food production. These unsustainable actions threaten long-held knowledge of traditional seeds, lands and farming practices, and are causing a hunger crisis among many smallholders.” As a proponent of the family farm, the NFU believes that Canadian farm families provide the most appropriate and efficient form of agriculture in line with principles of food sovereignty. The NFU is a founding member of La Via Campesina, an international movement that represents over 200 million peasants in 81 countries, bringing together organizations representing small-and-medium scale farmers, peasants, farm workers, rural women, and indigenous communities. NFU farmer leaders will accompany La Via Campesina (LVC) in New York during the third wave of delegates in November to call upon the nations of the General Assembly to adopt this declaration. – 30 – For more information: Joan Brady, North American Regional Coordinator of La Via Campesina jbrady@hay.net or phone 1-226-237-3108 Jessie MacInnis, National Farmers Union Region 1 (Atlantic) International Programs Committee Representative, jessiemacinnis@gmail.com See also:  Rights for Peasants. 2018. CETIM. Accessed October 17, 2018. Declaration of Rights of Peasants – Women and Men. 2009. La Via Campesina. A New Step Forward in the Process for a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants – Via Campesina. 2017. La Via Campesina.

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The Politics of Power: Getting to Grips with Changing Electrical Technologies — TUED Bulletin 80

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 14:49

November 5, 2018

With this issue of the TUED Bulletin, we bring you a guest contribution from Simon Pirani, Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and author of Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, published this year by Pluto Press. Simon is also a long-time activist around issues of energy, democracy and climate change.

Simon’s book provides a thorough and detailed historical account of how fossil fuels have come to shape modern societies, economies and environments. It is an invaluable contribution to debates about the challenges we face if we are to successfully reclaim energy to public, democratic control, and navigate the transition we need towards a sustainable alternative based on renewable sources.

In the piece below, written specifically for TUED, Simon describes key aspects of our rapidly changing systems for providing electrical power. Emerging technologies hold enormous potential for meeting people’s energy needs in safe, secure and sustainable ways — but realizing this potential will require deepening the technical expertise throughout our movement, developing concrete programs for action, and redoubling our commitment to class-conscious, worker-focused politics.

~ ~ ~

Technological Change in Electricity: Why History Matters By Simon Pirani

Electricity technology is changing. The communications revolution of the last quarter century – i.e. the growth of the internet and the instant information-sharing and management techniques that go with it – can, and will, turn supply, distribution and balancing upside down.

Computer technology not only has the potential to ease efficient organisation of electricity consumption by households and larger users. It also makes balancing, storage and distribution simpler on regional and national scales. All this enhances the potential of decentralised generation – and that in turn helps renewables. Properly used, the technology will keep pushing the cost of smaller-scale renewable supply sources downwards.

Many engineers see integrated urban systems – in which electricity, district heating, gas and transport networks are closely linked – as the next horizon. When there is too much of one form of energy, other networks can store it. Surplus electricity would be converted into heat, or hydrogen to be used as fuel. Surpluses of other energy types might be used to produce electricity, which could be stored, for example, in electric vehicles’ batteries. Combined heat and power technologies, long used to boost power station efficiencies, would become more adjustable.

For electricity workers on one hand, and social and labour movements fighting for socially just energy provision on the other, this technological leap throws up both possibilities and problems. Our movement’s strategies for electricity are developing, in opposition to the corporations that control the networks in many countries, and have their own ideas about how technological change can profit their owners.

To fashion effective approaches in the present and future, an accurate understanding of the past is helpful. Having recently researched a book on the global history of fossil fuel consumption – in which electricity plays a big part – five themes, at least, jumped out at me.

1. Technological innovation doesn’t solve class conflict

Working-class militants of the late 19th century were inspired by the thrilling possibilities that electricity opened up. Its ability to provide easily-accessible heat, light and motive power fitted, like hand in glove, with their hopes of transforming society.

August Bebel, the German socialist leader, foresaw electricity lifting the burden of domestic labour from women. Charles Steinmetz, a militant on the run from Germany’s anti-socialist laws, emigrated to the USA, became the chief engineer at General Electric, helped invent alternating current – and believed that electricity grids could lay the foundations of social justice. The mood was summed up in 1901 in Work, a novel by Emile Zola. One of his characters, an electrical engineer, said: “The day must come when electricity will belong to everybody, like the water of the rivers and the breezes of the heavens.”

Were such hopes realised? Yes and no. In the rich countries, with the growth of the labour movement, the welfare state and municipal services, electricity was supplied to urban working-class populations and contributed to a massive improvement in living standards. Domestic labour became less back-breaking, although the time women spent on it didn’t go down much on average. But electricity, almost always and everywhere, remained under the control of corporations who saw it as a profitable commodity, or by governments who saw it as essential infrastructure for industrial development. The democratic potential dreamed of by Steinmetz and Zola was not achieved.

2. Electrification always reflects inequality and class divisions

Between 1950 and today, the proportion of the world population with electricity access rose from well under half to more than four-fifths – while the share of the world’s total fossil fuels used to generate electricity rose from one tenth to more than one third.

But electrification was unequal. Corporations prioritised urban customers, both industry and households – and usually the state did, too, even in the Soviet Union, where most rural areas were only electrified after the second world war. In no country, not even the USA, was the countryside electrified by private corporations. In India, in states where owners of large farms pressured government, electrification was extended to the countryside for agricultural production – but poorer farmers in other states were deprived of electricity, in some cases until today.

3. Struggles over commodification have profoundly shaped how electrical systems have evolved

The tension between the supply of electricity as a commodity (by private corporations) and as a state benefit to industry and households (by governments) persisted in the post-war boom, as networks spread across the rich world, and in the last third of the twentieth century, as they multiplied across the global south.

In the 1990s, the wave of liberalisation and privatisation encouraged by the World Bank and other international financial institutions did little or nothing to advance electrification in the global south. Governments, under pressure from labour and social movements, rejected elements of the institutions’ privatisation recipes – although corporations often took control of profitable generation assets.

In the last three decades, the massive expansion of urban populations in the global south has meant that a huge proportion of the world population – more than 1.5 billion people today – live on the edges of the commercial energy system. They have some access – usually irregular and unreliable – to electricity, but use biofuels to cook, as do the 1 billion people with no electricity at all.

In poorer neighbourhoods of cities in the global south, from Brazil to north Africa and India, the opposition between electricity as a commodity, and access to it as a state benefit, has taken shape in social conflict, in which urban residents have demanded free or cheap electricity as a right.

4. Ownership and control over electricity have proven to be decisive in shaping our options for tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the 1980s, the more obvious it has become that fossil fuel consumption needs to be reduced to avert dangerous global warming, the clearer it has become that possibilities for non-fossil generation, and for energy conservation, are constrained by the way that electricity is owned and controlled.

For non-fossil power generation, governments in the richest countries had focused almost exclusively on nuclear throughout and following the post-World War II economic boom – a technological option that dovetailed with their military activities. In the USA, state support was given to solar development in the 1970s but withdrawn in the 1980s. Countries that persisted with renewables, such as Denmark with wind, proved to be exceptions to the rule, in which incumbents invested, and often over-invested, in mainly coal-fired generation.

Governments and international organisations alike projected constant growth of electricity demand: energy conservation, which began to be seriously researched after the oil price shocks of the 1970s, was pushed to the margins again in the 1980s, as oil prices fell again and globalisation set in. Conservation measures recommended by researchers, such as building regulations with teeth, and wider use of cogeneration, were often brushed aside.

5. Given these patterns, the potential of new technologies to curb demand has not been realized

On one hand, possibilities for rationalising grids with internet-based technologies have been held up by corporations who profit by keeping throughput high. On the other, the internet itself has become a substantial new source of demand – larger than India’s – due not to technical necessity but largely for advertising purposes.

~ ~ ~

These are five general, global trends. Obviously there were and are exceptions and complexities in individual countries, of which readers will be aware. Nevertheless, a general conclusion can be drawn, that the technological evolution of electricity systems has been shaped by the social, economic and political contexts.

From this it follows that a future change in the technological system – and decarbonisation implies very sweeping change – can best be envisioned in the context of deep-going social, economic and political transformations.

This, I believe, applies not only to electricity networks, but to the other big technological systems that account for the vast bulk of fossil fuel consumption: urban car-based transport networks; urban built infrastructure; industrial processes such as steelmaking and manufacture; chemical fertiliser production; and state and military uses.

History does not provide us with any easy formulas to guide future transitions. But it can help us unravel the complex systems that use fossil fuels, and the forces that shape them, to understand better how change can be brought about.

~ ~ ~

Simon Pirani is the author of Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption and a lifelong militant in labour and social movements.

Preview of the recommendations by Canada’s Just Transition Task Force

Work and Climate Change Report - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 07:29

In a November 5 article, “ Federal panel privately urges Trudeau government to do more for coal workers”  ,  National Observer reporter Carl Meyer reveals that the Just Transition Task Force Interim Report is already in the hands of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, though not yet publicly available. Canada’s Just Transition Task Force was launched in April 2018 – an  11-member advisory group co-chaired by Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff,  to “ provide advice on how to make the transition away from coal a fair one for workers and communities.”  The Task Force Terms of Reference   allowed for 9 months for the report; Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna said on  November 2 : “We’re still reviewing the report, but as we talk about the need to power past coal and our commitment in Canada to phase out coal by 2030, we know there has to be a priority to supporting workers and communities.” A formal response is expected in November, and given the Minister’s leadership role in the international  Powering Past Coal Alliance and the public spotlight of the upcoming COP24 meetings in Katowice Poland in early December, that deadline is likely to be met.

The National Observer article of November 5, along with an April 2018 article about the Task Force launch, provide good background to the Task Force.  The new article emphasizes the different needs of different provinces – notably Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  Most of the article is based on interviews with a few Task Force members.

But what are the Report’s Recommendations?  One member states that  “A lot of the recommendations are directly connected to what we heard from municipalities, from workers, from unions and from communities.”  The comments about the actual  recommendations are far from earth-shattering, but include:  1. Just Transition policies should be enshrined in legislation so that they are not as vulnerable to changing governments; 2. The  government should commit to infrastructure funding for municipalities in order to attract other businesses and offset job losses; 3. Support to workers should be extended, to help people quickly and efficiently access benefits like employment insurance, retraining, and relocation assistance.  These fall along the same lines as the 2017 Recommendations from the Alberta Advisory Panel  on Coal Communities , which are more detailed and which also accounted for First Nations issues.

A list of Task Force members is here. In addition to co-Chair Hassan Yussuff, there are members from the CLC, the Alberta Federation of Labour,  United Steelworkers, Unifor, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

 

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