[Pga_europe_process] Relaunching PGA: urgent questions to the network

Sergio sergio.o at gmx.net
Thu Sep 15 02:24:33 CEST 2005

Dear all,

After Chukki Nanjundaswamy's message of the 9th of september (where she 
announced the decision, taken by a number of very significant South 
Asian grassroots movements, of delaying the PGA conference and holding 
an international consultation in Haridwar on 7-9 october 2005), there 
are several questions which the network should address in order to set 
in motion a successful, participatory and inspiring preparatory process.

Unfortunately, not many movements/groups/people will be present in the 
october Haridwar meeting (among other reasons, because there is very few 
funds available for the travel costs of Southern delegates). Therefore, 
in order for the Haridwar decisions to be as legitimate as possible, we 
need a good previous discussion using the (limited, not very democratic, 
and sometimes rather annoying) tools we have: email lists, regional 
consultations, and possibly internet chat. (If anyone knows of better 
and affordable tools, please let us all know!)

Some of the issues which will have to be addressed at the october 
Haridwar meeting are:
* When should the conference take place?
* What kind of conference preparation process shall we set in motion in 
order to ensure that the aims of the conference are fulfilled and its 
contents well prepared?
* How do we make sure that a maximum of movements/groups/people are 
actively involved in the preparatory process, including inspiring 
aspects such as content preparation and also boring practical aspects 
such as fundraising?
* What methodologies should we use to ensure that the conference (and 
the preparation process) relaunches PGA as an effective and inspiring 
tool for revolutionary struggle with a solid basis (instead of falling 
into the "social forum model" of disconnected reports and interventions 
competing with each other for attention)?
* How should decisions be taken regarding the conference programme and 
the distribution of funding for travel costs, in the absence of a 
functioning convenors' committee at a global level? (BTW, this is a 
situation that might change, there will hopefully be a functioning 
global convenors committee in the future, but for the time being this is 
not the case at all, since most convenors have no contact at all with 
other convenors -- which is quite normal after 4 years of complete 
inactivity of the PGA network at the global level -- and it is not sure 
that all convenors will attend the Haridwar meeting.)

Another question that might (or might not) be discussed in the Haridwar 
meeting, depending on the agenda of that consultation meeting, is: Does 
PGA, as a network, want to reply collectively to the 6th Declaration of 
the Lacandonian Rainforest, where the Zapatista Army for National 
Liberation (EZLN) suggests the idea of a global gathering? [see 
www.ezln.org for the 6th declaration, available in English in that page] 
If yes, how? (This question has already been raised by people from Latin 
America, North America and Europe, since the Zapatistas have always been 
a very important reference for very large sections of the PGA network in 
those regions; in fact, PGA has its roots in the Zapatista-inspired 2nd 
Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism which 
was held in Spain in 1997.) One more question that might (or might not) 
be put in the agenda is the rediscussion of the objetives, contents and 
structure of the conference -- they are already defined in the current 
call, but IF (and, i would say, only IF) there is a very good and 
participatory preparation process, they might be redefined on a more 
collective basis.

I write more on all these questions below, but now I wanted to stop in 
order to encourage everyone to send input on other possible issues for 
discussion at Haridwar. The agenda of the consultation meeting, as far 
as i know, has not been established yet, and I guess that it is 
therefore still open. In my understanding, the agenda should be set by 
the Asian movements (this whole process has been their initiative), but 
i am sure that they will be glad to get input from the network in 
different regions, since this will definitely improve the quality of the 

Besides suggesting topics for the agenda, i would strongly encourage 
everyone to start giving their opinions about all topics proposed, since 
there is really not much time till the Haridwar meeting, and we need as 
many opinions as possible to increase the value of this consultation. 
Several emails have already been sent recently about the questions posed 
above, but since maybe not everyone has received or followed them, so i 
include a short summary of what i consider most relevant. Iif i missed 
something important, everyone is welcome to send their own summaries). 
After that, I also send my own opinions.

One strand of discussion about the preparatory process (which, 
obviously, has influence over the date of the conference) was initiated 
by a proposal from the asian convenors that was further developed in 
Olivier's email of the 7th of september: the idea of using long-term 
inter-continental visits of movement representatives in order to prepare 
the contents of the conference and relay the results to the whole 
network. (Olivier didn't mention that the stress should be, in his 
opinion, on South-South and South-North visits, but i'm in contact with 
him and know that this is what he meant, since people and groups from 
the North already have plenty of occassions to visit each other and also 
visit movements in the South.) The "research" or "enquiry" that the 
travelling representatives would make during these visits should be, 
according to his proposal, structured along certain questions that 
reflect the conference contents (which would need to be at least 
preliminarily defined in advance), such as priorities and methods in the 
struggle against global power structures (WTO, G8, IMF/WB, regional free 
trade agreements, etc), the way gender questions are reflected in the 
struggles and movements, the construction of decentralised power from 
below and its relation to established and centralised power mechanisms 
(the state, political parties, etc), the construction of alternatives, 
privatisation of public services and commons, (re-)construction of 
horizontal community relations as basis for political struggle and for 
everyday life, etc. The travelling movement representatives would pose 
these questions to different movements in the region where they are 
travelling (and also witness how these issues are addressed in practise, 
not only in theory), and then send their reports to the whole network, 
as a way to prepare the conference, stimulate debate, come up with 
concrete and practical proposals (especially in the area of 
alternatives), inspire people around the globe, etc. Sanjay Sangvay from 
the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement, India) replied to 
this email suggesting to also include two other issues in this 
"research" or "enquiry": religious fundamentalism (around the world), 
and the struggles in Iraq and Palestine. Momo also replied suggesting to 
revive the idea of a Zapatista-inspired "consulta" in 2 steps (the first 
one amongst social movements and the second one towards society at 
large), along the lines that were discussed in Europe (but never put 
into practise) right after the Inter-Continental Caravan for Solidarity 
and Resistance in 1999. She also stressed the importance of collecting 
information and resources on alternatives, with a view to use PGA in 
order to inspire and facilitate not only protest, but also the 
construction of decentralised alternatives.

Another strand of discussion is related to the last Zapatista 
declaration, which suggests the idea of an intercontinental gathering 
(encuentro, in spanish). There was a bit of confused discussion about 
this in the past, and more recently (on the 25th of august, 2 weeks 
before Chukki announced that the conference is postponed) Rodrigo from 
Brazil/UK wrote a better-informed email to the pgaconfprep list saying 

>-- there is NO date for the next encuentro. more than that, the zapatistas
>seem to expect it NOT to be in chiapas. the reason for this is that, after
>the sixth declaration, their intention is to participate more intensely of
>global articulations, more than simply develop a support network for their
>experience in chiapas. the declaration is meant to elicit replies that
>will tell you who they can count on. therefore, it's possible that without
>some initiative 'from the outside' there might not even be an encuentro.
>a second point is that when i (and later also momo) spoke of working on
>this new encuentro, we were refering to the discussions that some of us
>have had on the need to 'relaunch' pga on a global scale. even if i think
>it's very important for the conference to go ahead, it's clear to be this
>is still not the 'relaunch' we hope for. the zapatistas in turn are also
>(i believe) looking for some kind of global articulation that will be more
>effective than social forums. therefore, i thought (and still think) that
>marrying the two things is the best bet we have for a 'relaunch'.
>for that, four conditions are needed: that we have enough time between the
>conference in india and the encuentro to mobilise and work locally; that
>the conference come up with proposals of dates and places for the
>encuentro (that SHOULDN'T necessarily be in chiapas, perhaps preferably
>not); that the conference come up with concrete ideas and proposals on how
>to revitalise pga, that is, what we expect from a global network and how
>we expect to make it happen; and that dialogue be opened with the
>zapatistas on these questions.

Now some opinions, questions and proposals about these questions, and 
about the preparation of the Haridwar consultation:

I agree totally with the ideas proposed by Olivier, Sanjay and Momo. One 
of the reasons why i really like the idea of the extended visits is that 
they would be an excellent way to reach out to new groups, organisations 
and movements that are not part of PGA yet. But i cannot avoid thinking 
of how and who is going to do all the work to make these ideas and 
projects a reality. One of the problems in the past has been that all 
PGA conferences have made grand plans without there being much clarity 
about who would do the work to make them happen (or even worse, with 
firm committments to work on them which vanished once people went back 
and got confronted to the reality of daily life). This is one of the 
reasons why i think it is KEY that different 
movements/organisations/people define, from a very realistic 
perspective, and BEFORE the meeting in Haridwar, how much time, energy 
and resources they are FOR SURE ready to put into the PGA process before 
the next global conference, and for what kind of purposes, and inform 
the network about it. Having that minimum basis, we can make plans that 
would require more (even much more!) time, energy and resources than 
what has been "confirmed" by the time the meeting in Haridwar takes 
place (since good ideas, and FUNCTIONING processes, always have a great 
mobilisation capacity, snowball-like). But then at least those plans 
would have a minimum real basis, on the basis of which we could ask the 
network for more involvement.

I take the opportunity to ask several questions related to the visits 
proposed by the convenors and further developed by Olivier, which, in my 
opinion, should be answered before the meeting in Haridwar in order to 
make good and realistic plans:
* To movements all over the world: would you be ready to host a visit of 
representatives of movements from other regions as part of the 
preparation of the conference? Even if you would not be part of a 
project of this kind, would you be ready to participate in a collective 
discussion to define the contents of the "research" or "enquiry" that 
such visits would be doing -- or do you think that the whole idea is not 
really interesting?
* To movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America: Would you also be 
ready to send a representative to one such long-term visit to another 
region, knowing that it would have to be a person with very good 
communication skills, ability and eagerness to report regularly on the 
findings of the trip, loads of initiative and energy to overcome 
difficult situations (in short, the kind of person that is really needed 
for the daily functioning of any movement) for a relatively long 
programme which could easily stretch over 2-3 months of continued 
absence? Would you be ready to be part of the rather work-intensive 
preparation process that will be needed for being part of such a project?
* To organisations and groups in Europe, North America and the Pacific: 
do you think that you could contribute to the fund-raising and 
organisational efforts to make these visits AND the conference happen?

If there is a basis for preparatory projects of this kind, i think it 
would make a lot of sense to delay the conference till after these 
extended visits have taken place (in whichever regions they can 
realistically take place). So even though i listed above the question of 
the conference dates as the first question, possibly it would be best to 
answer it last.

I also wholeheartedly agree with everything Rodrigo writes regarding the 
Zapatista gathering. I don't know whether the Zapatistas would agree on 
the idea of "merging" the PGA conference and the gathering they talk 
about in their 6th declaration (including the preparatory processes), if 
they did i think this would be really excellent. So i would suggest that 
we as a network propose them this idea, and also that if they would want 
to hold a gathering independently of the PGA conference, we suggest them 
to link up both processes.

Finally, i would like to propose to hold at least one chat to discuss 
the preparation of the Haridwar meeting, and also at least one chat 
during the Haridwar meeting. There was a very short-notice chat as part 
of the discussion about the dates of the conference, which was not 
announced in the general lists (only amongst the people who were most 
actively involved in the preparation), and despite all its problems and 
shortcomings, it was a very good experience for the people and 
organisations that participated (about 14 from Asia, Latin America, 
North America, Europe, West Asia-North Africa and the Pacific), even 
though it was the first chat experience for many of us. If people like 
this idea, we should define it a bit better, since the previous chat 
extended itself far too long (over 5 hours) despite there being a 
relatively small number of participants.

Enough for today.
In solidarity,

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