Fighting Global Challenges in the Peaceweek

Fighting Global Challenges in the Peaceweek

By Marzia and Hannah

For one week in March, we – activists, youth workers and educators – came together in Barcelona for the Peaceweek, a training seminar on the linkages between the climate crisis, (forced) migration and displacement. Our group consisted of 21 people from the Euro-Mediterranean region. All focusing on different issues – the climate crisis, economy, migration and feminisms. But we did not just talk about them in isolation, but connected them in our discussions. We lived together for one week, and to maintain a peaceful and safe environment we established a group agreement, defining rules, limits, boundaries and guidelines based on respect and active listening. A place that we sure will remember with a smile is the Agora Garden, an occupied garden in memory of Juan Andrés Benítez, a person of the Raval neighborhood killed by the police. A place full of flowers and colourful political graffiti, where we had some open-air group activities, lunch breaks and spent some free time during which we managed to get to know each other.

“I loved how openly we discussed such a broad spectrum of topics and how we learned new things from each other” – Gergana

In the first workshop we had drawn our attention to the emergence of mixed migration and the category of climate refugees. This term is widely used in the media and by politicians, however a definition in international law does not exist and there is no legally binding treaty that recognizes climate refugees. The World Bank foresees that by 2050, 200 million people will have to leave their home because of environmental degradation processes. There is an urgency to legally recognize climate refugees and provide tools to protect them; a huge challenge for international law that must be addressed. In a workshop facilitated by SCI Catalunya’s local group Entreterres we were introduced to the concepts of ecological racism and socio-ecological resilience. Ecological racism points out how some people are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards that reduce the quality of their lives. On the other hand, socio-ecological resilience emphasizes the possibility of adaptation and transformation in the face of socio-ecological changes.

The next day started with an introduction to the global economic model by the Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (Observatory of the Debt of Globalisation) , an activist research group based in Barcelona. They approach the pandemic as a turning point that has the potential to push for a green recovery based on a green and digital transition. What must be noted here, is that the very term ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ runs the risk of obscuring the hidden cost of green solutions. Often do sustainable technologies, such as electric cars, rely on raw earth materials which are connected to extraction and production practices that destroy the planet and push beyond its limits. We approached this through thinking about how capitalism produces itself as the solution by upholding the neo-colonial logics of labour and resource extraction. On the other hand, during times of exceptionality and “disorder”, like the covid-19 pandemic, a growing sense of community-belonging and solidarity can emerge.

In the workshop on ecofeminism we reflected on the divergences between how types of work are valued economically, how this contributes to the community and how this is related to people and the planet. Ecofeminist perspectives link feminist concerns, such as care work and our dependence on each other, with our dependence on our environment and the planet. In the words of the facilitators, “ecofeminism is about putting life at the centre”. As such, it does not think of the multiple crises that we face today as separate from each other but focuses on the overlaps that link the exploitation of people through precarious care work and the planet through extractivism that goes beyond the planet’s boundaries. We also had the chance to meet Marta Rivera, a researcher involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who gave us some reflections on the special report: “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. The report highlights the necessity to reduce inequality and foster gender equality. It adopts a human rights approach to climate change, promoting climate resilient development, and acknowledges the importance of indigenous and local knowledge to preserve the soil and make it more resilient to drought and floods. Further, displaced people living in camps face higher vulnerability, because of the population density but also because of their location which has a high correlation with risk areas for climate change. The report also makes visible the impact of the civil society, stresses people’s agency and bottom-up adaptation strategies to climate change which need to be recognized for negotiations at the international level.

“One of the things that I still think about after the Peaceweek is definitely the local contexts of the participants and how the climate emergency is seen accordingly. I also realized that the different political realities of each participant play a key role in determining their lives, as it could dictate their freedom of movement and access to resources, which made me think more about my privileges” – Wejdane

During the Peaceweek we were encouraged to share our own experiences of resistance. In a talk called “Resist to Exist”, two participants from Palestine shared their work as activists on nonviolent action on the ground, aiming to achieve and live in peace. Jawad, one of them, emphasizes that “nonviolence is not just resistance, but a culture”. We had the time to discuss and one participant shared the Kurdish saying: “hope is more important than victory”. Sometime between our dinner and the early morning of the next day, the wonderful coordinators of the Peaceweek had set up the library of resistance, an exposition for us to peruse and to add our thoughts and experiences. We browsed the library, in which articles, pamphlets, websites, and testimonies from nonviolent action and resistance movements from across the world were exhibited.

The last workshop was given by a researcher of the Observatory of Human Rights and Enterprises in the Mediterranean . The Observatory fights against the idea that in order to be safe we need to give up on our freedom. They stress how the covid-19 pandemic was used as a pretext to justify mass surveillance. Although surveillance technologies appear to be race-neutral and lacking human bias, many studies have found that it mainly targets racialized people and migrant communities. The Observatory gathers information about technologies that are used to violate human rights and are sold on the international market and denounces companies that use them. At the end of the workshop, we had the chance to reflect on strategies to resist and to create alternatives. It is key to hold companies that violate human rights accountable, but also to raise awareness about the risks of mass surveillance, to empower people by working at the local level and to become agents of change.

For a fishbowl discussion, we were divided into four groups, each one having to bring a different focus to the debate: climate justice, feminisms, migration and economy. This activity made us aware of how they are all highly interlinked. We found ourselves supporting each other, connecting the challenges and stressing the need to tackle them together if we want to achieve sustainable changes for our planet and for life on earth. Finally, we were invited to think about our local context, about our aspirations and motivations, personal as well as professional. This activity stressed the importance of relying on others, but also to identify who can support us in acting (allies and colleagues) and who can hinder us (deterrents). Who are the actors that gravitate towards us? From international organizations to local authorities, without forgetting the civil society, we have to be open to dialogue.

“Something that I still think about and do is understanding the world and power around me” – Milica

Whereas the Peaceweek was – as its name suggests – only one weeklong, we take the methods and techniques that we discussed with us into the future. Jawad is preparing “eco-resistance”, a volunteer project that will be run in Palestine this summer. There is a reading group on degrowth forming and a workshop that links the topics is being prepared. But apart from the projects and inspirations, what we take from the week is also the community: We shared food, had mindful breaks, held conversations whilst walking through the city or sat at the kitchen table, shared moments and stories, with an urgency of and motivation for collective change. The Peaceweek inspired us to take part in community-led projects, to create bottom-up realities for sustainable alternatives, to resist and deeply contribute to raising awareness about current global challenges and to fight for social and environmental justice through a culture of peace and nonviolence.