The coalition also challenges structural violence, the result of economic and political systems which systematically harm rural and landless peoples. One way is through aggressively promoting food sovereignty, which is the right of a nation to feed itself through domestic, small-scale, environmentally healthy agriculture. Instead of food serving the proufb01ts of global corporations, food sovereignty privileges the right of small farmers to own land and to produce. It is based in part on the democratic participation of the population in shaping food, trade, and development policies.
(Photo courtesy of Julie Castro)Julie Castro is a young doctor from France, a country that proves that it is possible for a nation to offer quality health care for all. All legal residents have access to coverage, and immigrants gain the right to access after three months. The French system’s slogan is, “Everyone contributes according to his resources and receives according to his needs.” And this is not just rhetoric. Ever since the 1940s, France has made budgetary decisions to turn this dream into reality. But in France, as in many other countries, the logic of the market is now slicing away at universal access. As has been proven elsewhere, and as some in French civil society are now realizing, a strong health care system can only survive if the population fights to protect it.
(Photo: Mona Caron)In case after case around the world, water is being turned into a good for sale and for profit. Driven by a different vision and by economic necessity, a global counter-trend is growing to assure that household water be free or cheap, accessible, and safe, and that the earth’s water be kept pure and flowing. Marcela Olivera is a part of this movement. In 2000, she played a key role in organizing the massive protests in Cochabamba when residents of the city forced the Bechtel Corporation to give up control of the municipal water system, thereby restoring water as a human right for all instead of as a source of corporate income. This victory has been repeated elsewhere in Bolivia and around the world.
(Photo: Vishal Dhaybhai)My activism has always been defined by what’s doable rather then what are we fighting against. What are the positive things we can create in the world, and how are they being created right now? I’m interested in supporting people where their passion is now, as well as trying to unearth their passions through a process of listening and dialogue. There are a thousand entry points to challenge this system and shape alternative possibilities. Shikshantar means “transforming the way we live and learn.” It encourages individuals and communities to reclaim control over their own learning processes and through that, reclaim their heads, hands, and hearts. Shikshantar’s philosophy springs from the Gandhian principle of Swaraj, which refers to self-rule and radiance-of-the-self. It’s individual and community self-realization and contribution.
All of Coumba Toure’s work is aimed at keeping African values alive. As part of this, she is deeply involved in a women-led movement to keep the gift economy thriving. West African gifting is based on the interrelated values that all humanity is linked and that one’s well-being is only as strong as that of one’s neighbor. Profit and exchange are trumped by a commitment to care for community. “African values” refers to a set of values that people share. How do you recognize a human being? How do you treat people? What do you do with what you have? We are talking about a universal, positive way of life.
Deborah James has been a leader in the global movement for economic justice for decades. Today she serves as Director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where she campaigns against the expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and for improved US policy in Latin America. Below she speaks about how international financial institutions hinder countries’ efforts at poverty alleviation, instead prioritizing corporate interests. She also describes citizens’ efforts to oppose the power of these institutions, and tells of the countries that have made strides toward freeing themselves from the economic chains, providing inspiration to us all.
My dream is to see real agrarian reform for all the land, so no child goes hungry, and no mother sheds tears because her son was murdered trying to steal a piece of bread. The pain of a mother is my pain. Every child is my child. I’m not mother to six. I am mother to thousands of youth, of children. I can’t just listen to a mother in pain because her son was murdered in the favelas. Without firing a gun, we created a revolution. Without a death toll, we made revolution. Without shedding blood… it’s unnecessary.