Transnational Solidarity

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Led by Stephen Zunes (USA) and Bernedette Muthien (South Africa)

This workshop will examine successful examples of how international solidarity efforts with a major focus on strategic nonviolent action have played and can play an important role in complementing liberation struggles within particular countries.

Among the cases examined are those in which nonviolent activists in advanced industrialized nations successfully mobilized in support of liberation struggles in the Global South, altering their governments’ policies in ways which contributed to these movements’ victories. These would include the international anti-apartheid movement, which eventually forced reluctant governments in Europe and North American to impose targeted sanctions on South Africa’s white minority regime, which contributed to the government’s decision to negotiate a transition to majority rule; campaigns in support of East Timor, which succeeded in stopping U.S., Canadian, British and Australian support for the Indonesian occupation, helping to make possible East Timor’s independence; and, campaigns in the United States against U.S. intervention in Central America and elsewhere, which ended active U.S. military involvement and support for violence and repression.

Other cases examined would include examples of South-South cooperation and solidarity, including efforts by women’s groups, labor organizations, environmental activists and others to learn from each other and supplement each other’s struggles. Southern African nations, despite being subjected to severe retaliation from the apartheid regime, remained resolute in their support of the South African people. Today, South Africans are in the forefront of international solidarity efforts with Western Sahara, Palestine, and other struggles; South African dockworkers have refused to unload Chinese arms bound for the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, the pan-African gender network, the pan-African nonviolence and peacebuilding network, the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization, and other groups are challenging the isolation and divisions created by colonially-imposed boundaries to bring together activists in their common struggles.

In each of these cases, we would examine various strategies and tactics utilized by the transnational solidarity efforts, obstacles they faced, and evaluate their effectiveness in advancing the struggle.

The workshop would then turn to ongoing struggles, such as the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation; solidarity struggles against the occupations of Western Sahara and West Papua; and, various solidarity efforts against corporate abuse, neo-liberalism, environmental destruction, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions, and other manifestations of global capitalism.

Discussions could include the appropriate role of capacity-building groups such as WRI, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), CANVAS, and other groups which offer workshops for activists on the history and dynamics of nonviolent action, ways to think more strategically, and methods to encourage nonviolent discipline.

Still another area addressed will be the use of Third Party Nonviolent Intervention (TPNI) – exemplified by groups such as Peace Brigades International, Witness for Peace, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Shanti Sena, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the International Solidarity Movement—in which teams of internationals maintain a physical presence in conflict areas as unarmed bodyguards and other roles to prevent violence.

As Nelson Mandela said in 1993, all our freedoms, our struggles and our oppressions are deeply interconnected and interdependent. This theme group will also address how those involved in such transnational solidarity work, especially those from the Global North, need to be particularly aware of power dynamics on an interpersonal level as well as an international level, never giving unsolicited advice or assuming expertise, and being able to listen.

Discussions and exercises will focus upon such issues as:

* what constitutes solidarity? how are movements formed across international boundaries? what are the advantages and disadvantages of formal organizations versus informal networks?

*ways that all people, particularly from the global North, could be more sensitive regarding intersectional issues including racism, sexism, heteronormativity and homophobia, and “do-goodism.”

* effective means of utilizing strategic nonviolent action and effectively sequencing tactics to raise awareness and popular consciousness of struggles elsewhere and the complicity of governments and corporations in the oppression

* the optimal use of boycotts and divestment, under what conditions sanctions can be productive or counter-productive, and ways of analyzing and targeting the foreign pillars of support of a repressive regime

*under what conditions, if any, should a nonviolent movement consider accepting funding or other support from a foreign government or government-funded foundations

* in supporting movements in which there are internal divisions or no clear leadership, the ways in which outsiders can discern who is representative of the struggle and the implications of effectively “choosing sides” within a movement

* how to address false charges that indigenous nonviolent movements are part of international conspiracies against the state

Finally, the workshop can discuss struggles with which individual participants are involved and help map out a draft plan of action to build a more effective transnational solidarity movement in support of their movements.

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