Second Congress focuses on climate change
By Mike Feinstein, Advisor, International Committee of the Green Party of the United States
For the second time ever, Green Parties from around the world gathered together for a decision-making Congress. The first Global Greens Congress took place in April 2001 in Canberra, Australia. This time, with 625 delegates and observers participating from 88 countries, the Second Congress took place May 1-4 in São Paulo, Brazil.
In 2001, one of the key objectives of the Congress was to approve the first ever Global Greens Charter. In 2008, the political content was driven by the planetary need to respond to the ever-worsening global climate crisis. One of the reasons São Paulo was chosen as the Congress location was that as a traffic-clogged, sprawling metropolitan area of more than 18 million people, it highlights the challenges that ‘mega-cities’ present in dealing with the climate crisis.
The Congress took place at the Memorial da América Latina. Designed by world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, it is a center for Latin American studies and culture, and is based upon the idea of uniting Latin America through the arts and science. The site of numerous large-scale events and concerts, the Memorial provided a perfect environment—symbolically and practically—for worldwide Greens to gather.
In a Thursday evening opening ceremony reminiscent of the Parade of Nations at the Olympics, representatives from each of the participating national Green parties and political groups came to the podium to make a welcoming statement, then stayed on stage, stretched from one side of the auditorium to the other, to present a virtual United Nations of Greens from around the world.
As U.S. Green alternate delegate John Rensenbrink (Maine) observed, “It was a deeply moving ceremony. You catch your heart in your throat at the sheer fact that gathered here are Greens from every continent and from most every land on earth, from so many different places and customs and languages, and yet all together united on powerful fundamentals about life and politics—united in a fierce determination to help save our species and achieve well-being for all.”
Opening comments were made by Greens from each of the four Federations or Networks that make up the Global Greens—Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas: Jose Luiz de França Penna, Pres ident of the host party, the Partido Verde do Brasil, Dr. Fadimata Bintou Toure espe Diallo, Parti Ecologiste du Mali, Kazumi Inamura, Co-Chair, Greens Japan and Prefectural member, Hyogo Prefec ture; and Ulrike Lunacek (Austria) and Philippe Lamberts (Belgium), co-spokespersons of the Euro pean Green Party. The evening was capped by a music and dance performance by one of Brazil’s well known Grupo de Capo eira Mizinga.
Despite the fact that people came from so many different cultures and backgrounds, a strong effort was made to ensure that the plenary proceedings were understandable to all. Simultaneous translation was provided in Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and English. In order to respect their origins and enable them to speak most expressively, speakers were invited to present in their native tongues.
Friday was spent in workshops going over the initial set of five draft Congress declarations, which were prepared by the Global Greens Congress Steering Group (a group of 20 Greens from around the globe that planned and organized the Con gress and posted for comment before the Congress at plan21.globalgreens.org.
More than 100 amendments were submitted on the Congress documents. Mem bers of the Global Greens Congress Steer ing Group and others integrated the amendments and brought them back before the plenary session on Sunday.
Sunday’s session was moderated by Johan Hamels (Belgium), one of three Eur opean members of the Global Green Co ordination, the 12-member coordinating body for the Global Greens, and Louise Crossley (Australia), who played a key role in coordinating the drafting process for the Global Greens Charter in 2001.
The decision-making process was based upon giving speaking and voting rights to up to three delegates from each Green party and/or political movement recognized by their respective federation/network as able to take part in decision-making at the Congress. If a country sent at least two delegates, one had to be a woman and one a man. If a country sent three delegates, it was strongly recommended that the third be under the age of 36, and, where possible, indigenous representatives be included.
The Congress approved four issue-based, action-oriented Declarations. With an eye towards the 2009 United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, which aims to produce a follow up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, the “Climate Change —Time for Transformation” declaration stated that “Global Greens consider it im perative that global greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2015, and that emissions thereafter decline to a level below the absorption capacity of natural sinks.”
To achieve this, the declaration called for developed countries to commit to domestic reductions of at least 40 percent by 2020 and reductions of at least 90 percent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels, through phasing out all government subsidies on coal, oil and natural gas; promoting investment in renewable energy and sustainable transport; energy conservation and efficiency; and adopting a “polluter pays” principle.
The Biodiversity and Climate Change declaration proposed a common protocol under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change: The Biodiversity and Climate Protocol. Among other things, this Protocol would exclude carbon offsets from emission trading systems in favor of the establishment of a very large global biodiversity fund, which would be funded in part from carbon taxes, a proportion of the proceeds of emissions trading schemes, and from the redirection of fossil fuel subsidies. The declaration also opposed mandatory targets and subsidies for agro-fuels “except where their production is demonstrably greenhouse positive, does not impact on biodiversity, and does not compete against food production for land and water.”
Recognizing the ecological problems and social dislocation that rapid, ongoing urbanization brings, the Sustainable Cities declaration not only focused on green buildings, public transport and land use, but upon addressing poverty, economic op portunity and building community-based democracy.
Finally, the “21 Commitments for the 21st Century” Declaration demonstrated how Greens would comprehensively change policy world-wide, including the adoption of the Tobin Tax (which would tax currency speculation worldwide) in order to help finance the Millennium Goals of the United Nations; fundamental reform of the World Trade Organization around fair trade principles; creating of a World Environmental Organization; and a global ban on the death penalty.
One of the other highlights of Greens coming together in São Paulo was the two-day meeting of 43 African Greens, which occurred before the Congress officially began. In past years, the challenges of organizing on limited resources across vast distances, and across a Francophone-Anglophone divide, have made it difficult in sustaining a Green Federation on the African level.
But the São Paulo meeting brought African Greens together in a unified way and led to their choosing new representatives to the Global Greens Coordination—Adamou Garba (Niger Parti Vert), Frank Habineza (Rwanda Green Society) and Juliana Mugure (Mazingira Green Party/ Green Belt Movement, Kenya.) A bi-lingual English/French website for African Greens was also established as a result of this meeting, accessible both through www.africangreens.org and www.vertsafricain.org.
Global Young Greens
Approximately 60 Global Young Greens (GYG) also chose to meet for two days before the official Congress proceedings began.
based workshops focused on post-Kyoto/post-Bali climate-based concerns like carbon trading, sustainable forestry, agro-fuels and the energy de mands of accelerating economies like China, India and Brazil, and attendees shared their best practices in dealing with these issues.
There was also a focus on the methodology of “what it is to be a Young Green”. Participants addressed questions like “how radical can political youth be?” and “who should Young Greens address— media or real people?” Through this process, they compared and contrasted the cultural differences of being a Young Green in different parts of the world
The GYG also discussed the proposed “21 Points for the 21st Century” at the impending Global Greens Congress, hoping to influence that debate with a united voice of youth. During Saturday’s Congress plenary session, GYG Steering Committee member Janna Schönfeld (Germany) challenged the Global Greens to insist on more open and participatory structures within some of its member national parties.
The largest group of Young Greens, 12 females and 10 males, came from Taiwan, while the youngest GYG participant was Hannah Aulby of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, who had just turned 18. Several 16- and 17-year-old Brazilian Greens attended the Congress but not the GYG, and more than 20 Brazilian Young Greens provided volunteer support for the registration and organization of the Congress.
Completing the Young Greens gathering were the essentials of being young in the 21st century—computers and dancing. During the daytime they discussed and traded free software. Then on Saturday night, Roberta Moreno (Brazilian Green Secretary for International Youth Relations) organized a well-attended party at a São Paulo club that kept Young Greens dancing until 5 am.
Foundations Play Key Role
In addition to being an electoral force, the Green Party has always had its roots in issue-based activism and education. As part of that, Green Party-affiliated foundations have played an important educational role, and this was certainly the case in São Paolo with the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Ger many) and the Green Forum (Sweden).
As has been the case at many major international Green Party meetings over the last ten years, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) hosted an issue-based educational forum preceding the formal opening of the Global Greens Congress. Recog nizing that over half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that while cities cover only a small portion of the Earth’s surface, they generate the bulk of the world’s carbon emissions, the first session focused on “Sustainable Cities with regard to Climate Change, Poverty and Urban Governance.” It included Greens Alfredo Sirkis (Former Director of Urban Planning and Environmental Minister, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Denis Baupin (Vice-Mayor, Paris, France) and Juan Manuel Velasco (Former Environmental Minister, Buenos Aires, Argentina). Then followed a panel discussion, moderated by former Swedish Green MP and MEP Per Gahrton, on the role of Greens in elected office, including in places where they’ve moved from an opposition force to part of the ruling government.
HBF also played a critical supportive role for the Congress, by supporting translation and venue costs, as well as the travel and participation of more than 40 Congress participants, and HBF President Ralf Fücks and its Brazil coordinator Thomas Fatheuer both were part of the Congress Steering Committee.
The Green Forum, a Swedish democracy & aid foundation also affiliated with the Green Party, also played many key roles, especially with Africa. In 2007, it supported capacity building of the African Greens through regional meetings in Africa. In 2008, it supported the highly successful two-day African Greens meeting in São Paulo, as well as the travel and participation at the Global Greens Congress by about 35 African Greens.
As evidenced by the highly successful two-day African Greens meeting in São Paulo, this support resulted in strengthened capacity for Green politics in Africa, increased networking and mutual support amongst African Green parties and movements, and strong African participation in the political and strategic Global Greens Congress debates.
Green Forum also supported Greens from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, while Eva Goës, chairperson of Green Forum, took an active part in the Congress Steering Committee. Lena Lindström, Green Forum chief accountant, managed the account of Global Greens Congress. Overall, the Green Forum contributed one million Swedish Kronor, a US dollar equivalent of $167,000.
In addition to those already mentioned, other party leaders or national spokespersons in attendance at the Congress included Reinhard Bütikofer (Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen, Germany) Senator Isabelle Durant (Ecolo, Belgium), Peter Eriksson (Miljöpartiet de Gröna, Sweden), Eliza beth May (Green Party of Canada), Senator Jorge Emilio González Martínez (Partido Verde Ecoligísta de México) and Claudia Moy Peña (Iniciativa Verde, Argentina), as well as Rebecca Harms, German Green Member of the European Parliament.
The Closing Ceremony featured Tsewang Phuntso (Tibet), the Dalai Lama’s Liaison Officer for Latin America. Phuntso shared developments in Tibet this year and urged the Global Greens to press for immediate remedies for the suffering of the Tibetan people. He also said that the position of the Dalai Lama remains unchanged, whether it is his commitment to the Middle-Way approach, non-violence, or a policy of engagement with China to resolve the issue of Tibet.
In response, delegates approved a resolution sponsored by Green Parties from France, Germany and Taiwan, condemning China’s brutal repression of the Tibetan demonstrators, expressing serious concern about its policy of assimilation within Tibet, calling for an independent international inquiry into the tragic events there and urging the Chinese authorities to grant foreign reporters full access to Tibet and the bordering regions. Affirming the Daliai Lama’s call for direct talks with China, the resolution also stressed the need for both sides to “enter into a substantive and constructive dialogue with a view to reach a sustainable solution acceptable to all that would fully respect Tibetan culture, religion and identity”, and called on the Chinese authorities “to invite the Dalai Lama to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games as a sign of goodwill”.
Along with the issue-based political declarations and resolutions passed by the Congress, delegates and observers, there was consideration given to the future of the Global Greens as an organization.
Greens met globally for the first time at the First Planetary Meeting of Greens in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in May 1992, immediately preceding the United National Conference on Environment and Development, but did not form themselves into an actual global body until Canberra in 2001. At that time, focus was on approving the Charter, along with creating the Global Green Coordination and Global Green Network, the latter of which is a body of three representatives per national Green body established to promote communication among Green parties and movements worldwide.
But after seven years, it had become clear to Greens around the planet that the absence of ongoing financial support and staff was limiting what the Global Greens could accomplish. With this in mind, a draft declaration tit led “Next Steps for Global Greens”, which stimulated the Australian Greens to submit a complementary pro posal to host a Global Greens Secretariat (of f ice) in Australia, which was presented by Australian Green Senator Bob Brown.
The debate over Next Steps was one of the more spirited, with some Greens feeling that a commitment to the resources necessary for an office on the global level might be premature and not sustainable, while others argued that time was of the essence and the Global Greens could not sustain more years of underachieving.
In the end, the Congress approved a Declaration that assigned the Coordination the task of creating a draft Secretariat Work Plan proposal by October 1st, 2008. That draft would be then circulated to the four Green Federa tions and Networks for input, and then re-circulated back as a final proposal by Jan uary 1, 2009. At that point, the Coordination would be empowered to make a final decision by April 1, 2009, with direction from their respective Federations or Networks.
Among Work Plan tasks to consider are: scheduling and organizing further Global Greens Conferences; promoting the Greens’ common presence at global events; facilitating agreed statements on matters of global urgency; urging and supporting internal, inter-federation communications; helping to grow the Global Greens website; cooperating with the Global Greens Network; and developing close liaison with the Global Young Greens —and the staff resources and funding mechanisms necessary to carry these out. In addition, the Work Plan would review the structure, working practices, accountability, election procedures and terms of office for the Coordination, and the role of Congress.
A voluntary funding mechanism was discussed of 1 percent of the salaries of Greens elected on the state, federal and international level. This concept—which goes back to the early days of the West German Greens in parliament in the 1980s —has gained support among Green officeholders within Australia, who have indicated their willingness to contribute.
Next Global Congress
Although a firm date and location will not be established until the Work Plan is approved, the offer from the European Greens to host the next Global Greens Congress in 2013 was well received.
For more information, including all videos and documents from the Global Greens Congress: www.globalgreens.org