Johannesburg, 6-10 September 2004
The People's Dialogue on Alternative Regionalisms and Regional Alternatives to Globalisation is being prepared by AIDC together with a range of people's organisations - developmental and environmental NGOs, Trade unions and other labour organisations, women's networks, faith-based and community-based organisations - that are concerned with regional development options and the strategic possibilities for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). These Southern African People's organisations are working together with their counterparts in the Mercosur region of South America toward the creation of a dynamic People's Dialogue on the future of regions as an economic and political base to deal with local, national and intra-regional development challenges.
The People's Dialogue will build on already established relations and interactions between people's organisations in each region and will address issues of common concern. But the focus of this particular initiative is specifically on:
• the problems identified and the alternative models of sustainable development, and transformative possibilities that are envisaged and can be promoted within and through their formally constituted regional groupings, or possibly through alternative sub/groupings;
• the positive possibilities and the negative forces against the transformative potential within such groupings posed by governmental and non-governmental/corporate forces and factors within these countries/groupings;
• the contradictory challenges presented and imposed by forces and factors from outside these groupings which are either impacting directly or acting indirectly through political, economic and social agencies within these countries/groupings; and
• the potential for such regional groupings, through
- intra-regional solidarity between peoples, and interactions between peoples and their governments and
- inter-regional solidarity between peoples organisations, as well as relations between their governments, and to pose counter-challenges in order to effect fundamental changes in the currently dominant global economic system and regime.
Within this broad framework there are many local/sub-national, national, intra-regional and international dynamics at work and there is wide range of questions to be discussed.
Within these perspectives this preliminary working conference is conceived as the beginning of a longer and broader process of Peoples Dialogues in many forms and at many levels:
• between a much wider range of peoples organisations and social movements in these two regions,
• between such peoples organisations, separately or in combination, in relation to their respective governmental agencies,
• between such governments themselves, as is already underway, but more so in consultation with their peoples organisations.
This Southern African/South American Peoples Dialogue will also be located and related to wider processes engaging other similar organisations and equivalent regions in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.
The People's Dialogue is one of the activities of the TNI Alternative Regionalisms programme, being jointly initiated by AIDC, IBASE, RMALC, Focus on the Global South and the TNI.
• TNI Press Release The Time is Now! A New Era of People-to-People Solidarity is Launched in Johannesburg 10 September 2004
The Time is Now!
A new era of People-to-People Solidarity is launched in Johannesburg
TNI Press Release, 10 September 2004
Johannesburg: The sense of urgency as well as the potential for new levels of South-South solidarity were captured in The Time is Now! refrain chanted by the Latin American and African participants at the People's Dialogue in Johannesburg, 6-10 September 2004.
Three intense days of exchange, interaction and debate among the participating civil society organisations resulted in a joint programme of action to develop proposals and strengthen initiatives towards the construction of alternative regionalisms for equitable and sustainable development to be built around:
• Citizens' democratization, respect for diversity, solidarity among peoples
• The centrality of peoples rights and human rights, the right to gender equity and inclusion for all, human security
• Environmental and economic sustainability and social justice
The People's Dialogue was initiated by social movements, trade unions, women's networks and other civil society organisations from the regional grouping of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, known as Mercosur, and their counterparts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). However this is a first step in a process which will also link to similar counterparts in Asia and other regions. Speaking at the Conference, Dot Keet (AIDC and TNI Fellow) said " The People's Dialogue between the two regions at the conference would form part of a broader global south-south dialogue and was aimed at providing a base of an alternative development model".
The development of such new inter-governmental alliances such as the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa), and the G20 in the WTO was also highlighted at the Conference. According to Keet, "These alliances of developing countries have enormous potential to shift the balance of power in the current global regime, despite being undermined by the European Union and the United States".
In the concluding panel of the People's Dialogue, Candido Gryzbowski of IBASE, Brazil indicated that "this Peoples Dialogue will go forward on two tracks - building strategic challenges to neo-liberal globalisation and developing new forms of south-south solidarity - as an initiative which will also contribute to strengthening the WSF process".
According to Brian Ashley, of AIDC, South Africa the "greatest challenge for us will be the strengthening of movements and popular campaigns and their mobilisation in the People's Dialogue".
The People's Dialogue also issued a statement of solidarity with the struggles of trade unions and human rights orgnisations currently fighting against repression and for democratisation in both in Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
• AIDC Press Release South-South Cooperation 9 September 2004
AIDC Press Release, 9 September 2004
In has long been recognized by civil society organizations and even by many governments in the countries of the South that the regroupings of their countries into larger economic units can be an important basis or framework for effective and sustainable local, national and cross-boarder regional development programs, but also for negotiating more equitable and balanced relations within and between such regional partners and allies. Such government-to-government, country-to-country and region-to-region interactions carry enormous potential for enabling these countries to deal more effectively together with the challenges of the global economy. Such strategies also carry significant implications for the lives of the people of these countries and demand equivalent people to people interactions
Hence the initiation of an inter-regional South to South People's Dialogue which will bring together 50 delegates from Southern Africa and Latin America to discuss issues of common interest and concern to them, their governments, countries and regions in relation to the global system and regime. The People's Dialogue between the civil society organizations from the regional grouping of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in South America, known as MERCOSUR, and their counterparts in the Southern African Development Community, SADC will take place in Johannesburg from 7-9 September 2004. This will be a platform for civil society to share information and experiences, and building solidarity and cooperative relations between themselves in all sectors and at all levels.
This initiative has emerged in part from bilateral relations between the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town and the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Affairs (IBASE) in Rio de Janeiro, but also within the framework of multilateral relations between many African and Latin American organizations through the World Social Forum.
• Report from Business Day (South Africa) 5 September 2004
South-South Talks on Economic Globalisation
Business Day (South Africa), 5 September 2004
Delegates from civil society organisations in Southern Africa and South America have started arriving in Johannesburg ahead of a three-day conference which begins on Tuesday to discuss the challenges of economic globalisation.
The "people's dialogue" will see interaction between the civil society organisations from the regional grouping of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in South America, known as Mercosur, and their counterparts in the Southern African Development Community, SADC.
Said project co-ordinator Dot Keet: "Everyone in the world is developing important alliances, such as IBSA (the Indian-Brazil-South Africa alliance) and the G20 in the World Trade Organisation. These alliances of developing countries has enormous potential to shift the balance of power, despite being undermined by the European Union and the United States."
Keet said the people's dialogue between the two regions at the conference would form part of a broader global south-south dialogue and was aimed at providing a base for an alternative development model.
Keet said the idea was for civil society organisations to share information at the conference, particularly in the light of business forces in Mercosur and SADC "moving very fast" to make use of newly opened channels.
Keet said the theme of the conference was human rights, democracy and development and the need to build people's solidarity in the different regions.
Asked how the conference would be tackling these issues in the light of developments in Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Argentina, Keet said if delegates wanted to sign a declaration opposing, for example, Swazi King Mswati III's marriage to a 16-year-old girl, this could happen.
"But I can't pre-empt what the delegates will do," she said, adding that the conference was a "working conference" to plan for the future and develop exchanges and research, among other things.
Keet stressed that countries perceived to be stronger and more stable, such as South Africa and Brazil, had an "obligation" to strengthen democracy in neighbouring countries.
"...so that Malawi doesn't struggle on its own, so that Zimbabwe doesn't struggle on its own," she said.
The conference emerged in part from bilateral relations between the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town and the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Affairs in Rio de Janeiro, but also within the framework of multilateral relations between many African and Latin American organisations through the World Social Forum.
A press conference to report on the discussions and decisions emerging from the conference will be held on Thursday afternoon at the Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein.