In a rousing call to action, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International (pictured here), told 400 international delegates at the Quality Public Services - Action Now! Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, to challenge the threat to vital public services “peacefully, principally and courageously”.
Describing austerity measures being advocated by some governments as a “daily, silent tsunami”, Naidoo’s keynote speech argued such policies were a “perfect storm and a turning point” for trade unionists and social justice activists to renew and refocus shared strategies to overcome climate, financial, food, fuel and poverty crises that continue to devastate millions of people.
Naidoo pointed to the fact that for each Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which he described as ‘minimalist development goals’, that was not being met, 50,000 people died each day from preventable causes. He said: “We cannot allow business as usual, nor can we rely on the same strategies as the past. We must use this crisis to make clear what happens when we let profit come before people.”
Arguing that this democratic crisis was an obstacle that had to be resolved, Naidoo said: “Having the form of democracy, without the substance of democracy is of little value. It flies in the face of logic for victims of recent crises to be ignored, while the perpetrators who got us into the mess are allowed to determine our response out of it. Nor can we allow those in power to use the financial crisis to launch a second wave to decimate our public services. Without teachers, social workers and nurses, delivering our public services, we cannot achieve the MDGs.”
In advocating strategies to overcome the deficit of decent, sustainable and green jobs which give all people the opportunity to live with dignity and justice, Naidoo described the need to fight back by learning from successes within workers’ movements, and other struggles for peace, equality and justice. He said: “We must look to the women’s movement and embrace the concept of intersectional experience. We must understand the impact of crisis on race, gender, disability, sexuality and class on all people, and we need to look to a shared agenda between wage and environmental interests.”
Naidoo urged that delegates continue to build on the alliances forged at the conference, to unite trade unions with civil society, equality, environmental and faith groups.
“Our demands, the demands of people, are for fairness and equity, so justice is on our side. History teaches us that when decent people take risks and engage in struggle, peacefully, principally and courageously, pursuing civil disobedience where necessary, then those who occupy the instruments of power, whether in government or in the financial sectors, will listen and understand.”
Further details on the conference in Geneva from 12 to 14 October 2010 can be found in an earlier article here
To visit the conference web site which is available in English, French and Spanish, click here