People’s movement and local government: A synergy against crises

International Conference on Building Local Initiatives for People's Sovereignty – July 29 2009, Medan

The world is now suffering from multidimensional crises: those of food, energy, climate and finance. While governments must deal with the impact of these crises, the people are the ones who suffer the consequences in their daily lives. These crises show that the global financial system has collapsed, which consequently has adversely affected the capitalist mainstream economy.

In mid-2008, an international initiative was kick-started in order to deal with the negative impact of the crises. Nonetheless, the initiative was not table to address the fundamental problem and only affected several elite countries. The G8 and G20 tried to overcome this stumbling block with the same old solutions: anti-protectionism, stimulus for corporations, liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation. With this initiative it is once again the people, the poor and developing countries that get left behind.

The UN Conference on the Financial Crisis finally raised the fundamental issue of how to make the role of the people, the poor, and developing countries significant in order to cope with the current crisis. Here, anti-colonisation and anti-marginalisation sentiment also emerged, especially in Afro-Asia region. The initiative from the year 1955 shows that once again, a strong peoples' movement and the government can overcome many obstacles, especially based on peoples initiatives. On a larger scale, the model could be a new prototype for greatly extending the movement—especially within the Afro-Asian context.

Within this framework, Serikat Petani Indonesia, Sintesa Foundation and some local governments in Asia organised an International Conference on Building Local Initiatives for People's Sovereignty on July 29 2009 at Medan, Indonesia.

Yudhvir Singh from Barath Kisan Union, India, says that the fundamental problem faced by the people is hunger and how to develop rural areas. “On a global level, 1 billion people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition and the majority live in rural areas”. In the Afro-Asia region, 65 percent people live in rural areas, thus there is potential for implementing strategies to make rural economies work as the solution.

One of the members of Asan City Council, Lim Kwan-Goong, is supporting this initiative. On a certain level, social movements working hand-in-hand with local government has huge potential when it comes to solving the current crises. The people and governments could work together to create and implement economic, social and cultural policies. Asan City is a municipality in South Korea whose government is lead by the people’s movement.

Akhmad Sofyan from Sintesa Foundation emphasised that not only local initiatives are applicable in rural areas. Public services such as health care, education, water, energy and social security are also crucial. In this context, social movements like those of workers, fishermen, the urban poor, women and youth can play a bigger role. “Governments should work to fulfil basic human rights in this matter,” he adds.

Finally, there should be a political solution to solve the crises—the daily problems of the people. “Economic, social and cultural alternatives which grow from the people should be synergised within the politic,” said Henry Saragih from Serikat Petani Indonesia. Furthermore, people and the government should try to bridge the gap and produce solutions to the current crises. “Who else could solve the problem, if not us the people and our governments who should set aside to the people’s side?” he adds. The alternatives have to be concrete, able to be implemented and of course written as policy.*****