2008 Fall World

Want to find out when and where the first Green Parties in the world were founded? Or who were the first Greens to run and be elected on municipal and national levels? What were the themes of major Green national and international meetings in the last 30+ years, and who were the most influential Green figures on every continent?

The answers to those and many more questions will be found on the Global Green Chronological History project now being developed on the Global Greens website. Through a multi-media approach featuring text, audio, video, photos, graphics, and with links to key source documents and interviews, the chronological history will feature entries on:

party foundings
national & international meetings
elected officials
key figures
major party news

As a project of the Global Green Coordination, contributions are coming in from around the world. Coordinated by Global Greens webmaster Mike Feinstein, it will be a long-term effort with input from Green Party representatives from almost 90 countries around the planet.


The past months have been momentous for women

By Mike Feinstein, advisor to the International Committee of the Green Party of the United States

July 2nd:
Ingrid libre—finally

After 2,321 days in captivity in the jungles of Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt gained her freedom in a dramatic release covered on international television. Betancourt was kidnapped on February 23rd, 2002 while campaigning for president in a region of southern Colombia controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Over the ensuing six-plus years, Greens and thousands of others worldwide staged demonstrations and agitated for her release, including directly appealing to the Colombian, Brazilian and French Governments.

Upon her release Betancourt immediately called for a diplomatic and nonviolent solution to the armed conflict in Colombia and for the release of the remaining hostages. Her name is circulating among potential candidates for the presidency in 2010, and she has the second highest popularity rating among Colombian politicians after sitting President Alvaro Uribe.

During her time in captivity, Betancourt and former Senator Luís Eladio Pérez, who was also held captive with Betancourt for four years, created a 190-point government program written on a thick stack of lined notebook paper tied with a string.

“Almost every day we would sit and analyze events we’d hear about on the radio and ask ourselves, if we ever find ourselves in power what would we do about such and such an issue,” said Pérez, who spoke at a special plenary session dedicated to Betancourt at the May 2008 Global Greens Congress in São Paolo, Brazil. That Congress also approved a resolution proposed by the French and Colombian Greens, making Betancourt Honorary President of the Global Greens.

However, it’s not clear Betancourt will pursue that electoral route. “The truth is that after seven years as a victim of tyranny and war, my life’s perspective has changed. Things that used to be important no longer are; at this moment I only feel the need to speak for those who can’t, first of all for those still in the hands of the FARC, people I know very well, and who are suffering.”

She said her priority is to work for the liberation of other hostages in Colombia and around the world. “I no longer have ambitions for a political career in Colombia. Perhaps in the future I will think about it, but I don’t believe my place is in the political arena at this moment.”

Betancourt will address the October European Green Party Council in Paris and is tentatively scheduled to appear at the November Federation of Greens of the Americas annual meeting in Quebec City, Canada in November. Already she has met with the French and Italian presidents, addressed the European Parliament and had an audience with the Pope.

August 19th:
Mongolian Green movement leader Saruul Agvaandorj released

After 14 days of captivity, Mongolian Green Movement leader Saruul Agvaandorj was released after her arrest for participating in a peaceful silent protest against the government. Hundreds of Mongolians were detained for protesting the government for fraud in the June 29th general election.

On August 5th, approximately 20 protesters began a silent protest at Sukhbaatar Square in front of the Mongolian government and parliament in the nation’s capital of Ulan Bator. They wore a piece of paper taped over their mouths with the message “Release.” Agvaandorj and Arslan Gombosuren, Leader of the Just Society Front were arrested on the grounds that the sit-in was unlawful, without having obtained permission from the District Office. The demonstrators had issued a request to meet with the President, but the President’s office replied with a statement branding the demonstration as “hindering with the due government process of finding responsible parties to the post-election riots and therefore illegal.”

An international Green Party campaign for her release was called for by the Global Green Coordination, with requests that messages be directed to Mongolian embassies around the world. Aided in no small part by this international pressure, the two were released on August 19th after being held in a cell for two weeks with 11 or 12 other prisoners.

Upon her release Agvaandorj said “in Mongolia, we have a real Communist dictatorship like before 1989. Calling it the mafia is more accurate. Our Communists must win elections to make big money from foreign mining companies. And as a so-called democratic country, they can get financial support from the G-8 countries. It is similar to the situation of many African countries.”

Agvaandorj said Mongolian parliamentary elections have been manipulated every election since 1990 by the Mongolian Communist Party, which is also called the Mongolian Revolutionary Party. This year it led to widespread protest, to which the government responded with a four-day state of emergency and police crackdown. With plain-clothes police infiltrators inciting violence within the crowds, eight people were shot dead, six others lost their eyes and hundreds were detained.

“Many people could not understand why the police were shooting people in the eyes and killing them,” said Agvaandorj. “Why were these poor people, without any guns or knives, hunted like wild animals? Many of the arrested people did not know their rights. They were punished. They had to sign some documents because they were very afraid or injured. And the Communist leaders, including the President of Mongolia, didn’t want to release those political prisoners.” As a result, Agvaandorj and others began their peaceful protest.

“It was unbelievable that we were released,” said Agvaandor, who attended the May 2008 Global Greens Congress in São Paulo, Brazil, upon her release. “Thank you all dear Greens. We were only fed bread and water for 14 days. Today someone told me that the police did not want to release us. We are not really free though. They are listening to my phone calls and more. We will continue to organize. Thank you and God bless you all!”

September 5th:
Caroline Lucas elected as first Leader of Green Party of England and Wales

For the first time since the Green Party in the United Kingdom was formed in 1973, Greens there have elected a Party Leader and Deputy Leader.

In a two-way Leader race, sitting Member of European Parliament Caroline Lucas (South East England) received 2,559 votes to 210 for British actor Ashley Gunstock. For Deputy Leader the race was uncontested with 26 year-old Green councilor Adrian Ramsey (Norwich) winning all 2,785 votes. The vote was taken among the Green Party’s approximately 7,000 paid members nationwide.

The election culminated a several year party process of internal debate and change from having male and female “principal spokespersons” to a new Party Leader/ Deputy Leader (Co-Leader) structure.

In her acceptance speech, Lucas said that there was an “amazing opportunity” for a party which “genuinely stands for social and environmental justice,” and that “more and more people are ready to vote for us and we need to be ready to provide them with the candidates and the party that they deserve.”

Pointing to growing success in local elections, she said the party was ‘coming of age’ and  she expected it to win its first seats in the House of Commons in the 2009 General Election. “I will work tirelessly to get our positive Green message across to the public, and to see more Greens elected to deliver social and environmental justice in towns and cities across the country.

Calling energy companies ‘robber barons’, she criticized sitting Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown for failing to impose a windfall tax on massive profits. “We’ve got a Prime Minister who says that climate change is the greatest threat we face and yet there he is, unable to even levy any kind of windfall tax.”

Lucas called for a Green New Deal that would include investing the proceeds of such a windfall tax on massive energy company profit into “making the homes of ordinary people warmer and fuel bills more affordable.”

Public investment in “green-collar” issues like renewable energy and conservation, Lucas argued, would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tackle rising unemployment and aid the fight against global warming. Lucas called for a program of free insulation to every home in the U.K. She pointed to the existing and successful Green Party-initiated program in Kirklees. Spearheaded by local Councilor Andrew Cooper, the program insulated 40,000 homes with a subsidy from the municipal government.

In November 2007, the Green Party of England & Wales adopted the new Party Leader structure by 73 percent in a national referendum of party members. It followed a long internal tactical debate within the party about how it could grow to its potential. Members developed strategies to maximize growing support for green issues within the British electorate, including how to achieve the long sought electoral breakthrough in Westminster.

With elections for the House of Commons scheduled for 2009, Lucas identified Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South, and Lewisham as target seats where the party hopes to win. In Brighton Pavilion where Lucas plans to run, the Green Party finished first among the four top parties in the last local elections, winning 30 percent of the vote to Labour’s 25 percent. In Ramsey’s Norwich South district, the Greens came first with 33 percent of the vote, three thousand ahead of Labour, meaning in both cases if the party simply holds its margin from local election, it could win its first Westminster seats.

For more information:
Green Party of England & Wales www.greenparty.org.uk
Caroline Lucas www.carolinelucas.org.uk

San Francisco Green School Board members meet Israeli Progressives

By Wendy Kenin, Green Party of California

What can Greens learn from their progressive Israeli counterparts? That’s what Mark Sanchez and Jane Kim, San Francisco Green Board of Education members, sought to find out as they led the Coalition Mission to Israel last March.

Sponsored by the New York and Tel Aviv-based America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), the Coalition Mission was created “to enable youth advocates of San Francisco and Israel to share their experiences in the field of violence prevention, and to heighten awareness of Israel’s democratic society,” according to an AIFL press release.

Sanchez chaired the Mission’s delegation of a dozen progressive community leaders ages 20-45, representing an array of Bay Area government and non-profit entities. Among sites the Mission toured was the Yemin Orde Wingate Youth Village, south of Haifa in the Carmel Mountains, home to more than 500 immigrant, disadvantaged, and at-risk children and youth from 20 countries around the world. They also went to the Jerusalem Open House, a grassroots LGBT center; and Neve Shalom—Wahat al-Salame (Oasis of Peace), a village situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa jointly-established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel engaged in educational work for peace, equality and understanding between the two peoples.

Some Mission participants faced criticism from their friends and colleagues for joining the Israel trip. The predominant Bay Area progressive view of the Middle East focuses on the critical issue of Palestinian rights, but often neglects to also consider the multi-generational and current experience of the people of Israel.

Sanchez explains, “The tricky part living in the Bay Area is that there’s a perception and then a belief that only Israelis are being heavy-handed or using internationally illegal tactics to resolve their issues. Because that’s kind of the norm. It’s the paradigm and because of that paradigm we tend to have that perspective on Israel. … Many are asked, ‘Are you an apologist or a Zionist?’ We need to have that conversation, not automatically draw a line in the sand. Everybody who lives in the region is struggling to assert their reason for existence. That is the basis for the conflict.”

Gabriel Hernandez, member of the National Chicano Human Rights Council  and director of the Hayward Day Labor Center, “Organizationally and as an indigenous person, I’ve been supporting the Palestinian struggle for decades, including their rights to the homeland. Now since I’ve gone to Israel, it’s become clear that there’s a lot more information that needs to be understood about the land struggles there, because it’s very complex.”

A labor and peace negotiator, Hernandez was most impressed at hearing from non-governmental organization leaders about agreements they have developed through the United Nations, in conjunction with negotiations of the nation states. “The progressive left needs to step back and take a look at all sides of the conflict. There is a peace process that has been developing, but is not being covered enough by the media, progressive or otherwise. Because the sides have been polarized for so long, this middle ground simply isn’t getting the attention it deserves.”

Concerned that polarized positions in the U.S. may be holding back resolution and perpetuating conflict, he added, “Just as the grassroots peace process has developed in Israel, the same must happen here.”

Sanchez, who is running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this November after serving eight years on the School Board, forged a distinct Bay Area progressive strategy in leading the group. “Everybody has to be open to different narratives and to coming up with an approach to bridge the gap… I think the way its going to be resolved will be through people who really understand the multitude of positions.”

“For people who may have felt that Israel is only doing things that are negative or colonial,” Sanchez adds, “they were given another view of the culture. I think that was a positive aspect. It informs the struggle of everybody there.” At the same time, Sanchez felt that understanding could be broadened next time with more contacts with the left-wing and non-Jews. Despite these limitations, Sanchez saw the trip as, “an opportunity to gather progressive folks who work with young people to be able to share our ideas… and to see what other areas of the world are doing.”

A favorite spot for 30 year-old Kim was the Rehabilitation Café, an all night café in Jerusalem where employees such as the wait staff and cashiers are social workers who build relationships and eventually serve youth.

“Highlights of the trip were seeing some of the incredible programs and schools serving young people and meeting passionate activists and organizers in Israel,” said Kim. “I learned new ideas that I hope to model in San Francisco including the Rehabilitation Café.”

For his part, Sanchez aims to host Chaim Peri, the Yemin Orde Youth Village’s Director, in the Bay Area. Peri travels internationally to share strategies on assisting youth with trauma and displacement recovery and reintegration, with a critical component being affirmation of cultural background.

Other Coalition Mission participants included Marquez Gray, a 22-year-old minister with the Word of God Christian Community Church; Timothy Ho, Chinatown Community Development Center; Bobbi Lopez, Youth Coordinator, La Voz Latina Coordinator for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and current SF School Board Candidate; and activists Lateefah Simon and Brian Fox.

Participants also applauded Israel’s educational support systems for at-risk youth that follow the students from early childhood through college and career placement, as well as impressive community-run centers and gardens as prototypes they hope to import to the Bay Area.

Pending new funding, next steps may include programs to support ongoing relationships between Bay Area and Israeli youth, students and youth wellness leaders, and inter-group activities that employ Israel’s models to assist Bay Area communities. In addition, greater interchange is sought with Israeli political parties like the Israeli Green Party, Green Leaf and others, as well as the LGBT, eco-professional, anti-wall, indigenous, immigration, civic, wellness, arts, labor, housing and human rights communities in Israel.

For more information:
Wendy Kenin, wendyy@prodigy.net
Mark Sanchez www.marksanchez.org
Jane Kim  www.janekim.org.