‘Social Movements’ is a sub-theme of the ‘Actors’ theme which explores the diverse – and contested – membership of global civil society, from indigenous groups, grassroots organisations and religious movements to the influence of academics and the impact of celebrity campaigners.
One of the most striking ways in which global civil society activists have responded to globalisation in recent years is through the organisation of social forums. Although the term ‘social forum’ is in reality adopted by very diverse groups, a social forum can be understood as a space that facilitates people coming together, either in person or virtually, to engage with each other on political issues. Local, national, regional, thematic and global social forums have mushroomed in the last few years, inspired, either directly or indirectly, by the World Social Forum (WSF) and its Charter of Principles.
State implementation of the right to food remains lacklustre and even the Court’s commissioners are still routinely denied access to relevant documents. However, while the initial petition was brought only by a small group of lawyers from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Supreme Court’s proactive stance has galvanised a much wider campaign. Besides public interest litigation, the Right to Food Campaign organises marches, rallies and fasts, initiates public hearings, conducts research, and engages in media advocacy and lobbying. Provision of midday meals to schoolchildren has been a particularly effective campaign target. On 9 April 2002, the campaign coordinated a national day of action for midday meals. Across some 100 districts in nine states, activists organised a host of activities – schoolchildren lined roads with empty plates in hand, copies of the Supreme Court’s order were distributed, and local communities, NGOs and people’s organisations fed children in public places in order to embarrass the government for not doing so. Some members of the campaign have since expanded their work to include the right to employment, in particular in relation to cash-for-work or food-for-work schemes. The campaign remains largely a volunteer effort, which accepts only individual donations in rupees with no strings attached (Right to Food Campaign URL; Interview Patnaik).
Alongside those seeking to engage the Bank, there is a vocal army of critics such as the Bretton Woods project and many other like-minded environment and development NGOs that celebrated the World Bank’s 50th anniversary by declaring that ‘50 years is enough!’ There is now a rich history of social movements organising around the activities of the leading multilateral development banks that should yield some important lessons for groups mobilising around the climate footprint of these actors. Some of the key reflections from previous struggles are summarised in Box 3.4.
News reports indicate that protests began as early as 27 August with the largest, a march organised by an anti-Iraq group, United for Peace and Justice, on 29 August. Although the police did not give an estimate of numbers, organisers of the march said there were about 500,000 people, the largest ever convention protest (Hauser 2004). Protesters marched past Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention, chanting anti-Bush slogans, led by prominent personalities such as Jesse Jackson and film-maker Michael Moore. Other protests followed throughout the four days of the convention, all helped by the use of cell phones and text messaging.
A parliamentary commission investigating the events of 11–14 March produced evidence that, without necessarily lying, at the very least the PP government had delayed the publication of some critical information, and stated as facts propositions that were still under scrutiny. There was clearly an inclination to favour the hypothesis of Basque terrorism and not to give priority to following the Islamic trail, in spite of the early leads of the police in this direction. But, regardless of the extent of manipulation that actually took place, what counts is that thousands of citizens were convinced on 12 and 13 March that such manipulation was happening, and that they decided to diffuse their views to the entire population through wireless communication and the internet. The main television networks, under the direct or indirect control of the government, were supporting the Basque terrorist hypothesis, as did most of the radio networks (though not the largest one) and most of the print media, after the Prime Minister personally called the editors of the main newspapers and gave them his personal word that the attack was carried out by ETA.
Roh’s age, policy, and personality assured him of great popularity among young voters, ‘just as President Bill Clinton appealed to many American baby boomers’ (Fairclough 2004). At the core of his support is the generation of the so-called ‘386ers’, those who were in their thirties during the presidential election, who grew up in the 1980s with Korea’s pro-democracy movement, and were born in the 1960s at the dawn of South Korea’s industrialisation era (Fairclough 2004). Unlike the older generations, the 386ers are ‘more skeptical of the U.S. in part because Washington backed the same military rulers they fought against as college students’ (Fairclough 2004). In addition, there were also large numbers of younger supporters in their twenties such as Hwang Myong-Pil, a stock trader who quit his well-paid job to become a full-time volunteer at Nosamo (Demick 2003). Together, the twenty- and thirty-somethings were Korea’s baby-boom generation, accounting for slightly more than half the voter population (J.-M. Kim 2001; Rhee 2003). Most of these young activists regarded themselves as having inherited the revolutionary spirit of the student demonstrations of more than a decade ago. At large political gatherings, they would chant songs dating back to the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s, such as ‘Morning Dew’ (Korea Times 2002).
On 16 January 2001 the Senate in a critical session voted by 11 votes to 10 not to open an envelope that was believed to contain records of Estrada’s secret transactions. Within hours, enraged Manila residents – many of them following instructions received on their cell phones – gathered in the historic Shrine at Epifnio de los Santos Avenue, also known as Edsa, the site of the People Power revolt of 1986, to protest against perceived injustice and demand the immediate removal of Estrada from the presidency.
A movement assembles people. Its militants, like the militants of a party, decide to organise themselves to accomplish certain aims collectively. Its formation and existence require that, to attain these objectives, strategies must be defined, action programmes formulated and responsibilities distributed among the movement’s members, including that concerning the direction of the movement. Whoever assumes this function will lead the militants of the movement, getting each of them – with authoritarian or democratic methods, according to the choice made by the founders – to perform a part of the collective action. A movement’s structure is necessarily pyramidal, even when the internal processes for reaching decisions and choosing decision-makers at the different levels are very democratic. But its effectiveness depends on how explicit and precise its specific objectives are, and thus on how delimited they are in time and place.
In particular, as we argued in Global Civil Society 2003, the last 20 years witnessed the institutionalisation of a social movement industry (McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001; Smith 1997; Kaldor 2003). Indeed, environmental NGOs now make up 1,781, or 4 per cent, of the over 50,000 INGOs reported by the Union of International Associations in Brussels. In 1980, there were about 200 and in 1924 just one. In recent years, their number has been growing between 3 and 5 per cent annually( Kaldor, Anheier and Glasius 2003). The new social movements, and the NGOs they spawned, provide the institutional connection between the drop in confidence in conventional, nation-state institutions and the growth of global civil society. In the environmental and other fields, they helped fill and, in cases like the Brent Spar case, expanded the confidence gap.
The forces of renewal: the rise of informed and empowered citizens
Latin America is at the threshold of a new historical cycle in which the fault-lines will be defined by the contrast between old models and new ideas, authoritarian regression and the deepening of democracy. This is a situation fraught with risks but also with challenges and opportunities. Widespread disaffection towards the political system coexists with the emergence of new forms of citizen participation and civic culture that may well prove to be the best antidote to the resurgence of populism. Latin American societies have changed drastically in the last few decades. These changes have deeply affected the relationship between civil society, the state and democracy. NGOs and social movements were at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in the 1970s and 1980s. With the traditional channels of participation – political parties, unions – having been blocked by the dictatorship, the only available alternative was the creation of small circles of freedom at the community level. This kind of grassroots work represented a break with the Latin American tradition of looking to the state and at labour relations as the strategic reference point for political and social action. With their backs turned to the state, social activists have promoted an immense variety of local initiatives that combine the struggle for civic rights and freedom with concrete projects to improve people’s daily quality of life. This flexible, bottom-up approach was profoundly democratic, in so far as civil society organisations grasped emerging demands, gave a voice to new actors, empowered communities, tested innovative solutions and pressured governments.
A vibrant women’s movement developed during the 1990s, particularly around the magazine Zanan. It includes both Islamic and secular women and brings together rich and poor women. It has succeeded in prohibiting stoning and in reversing some laws, such as the rules on divorce. The daughter of Rafsanjani, Faezeh Hashemi, played an important role as a member of parliament (1996-2000) in defending women’s rights. Shirin Ebadi’s Campaign for Equality became famous around the world after she won the Nobel Prize. Despite the crackdown, women’s groups are still very active, as illustrated by the One Million Signature Campaign to end discriminatory laws, which was launched in 2005.
When we shift from a focus on the state to the transnational, the question of how civil society engages with domestic and international systems emerges more clearly. We must ask how access to previously excluded spaces is achieved by global civil society organisations and movements. Specifically, what do these groups do, in fact, to break cartels or otherwise increase their capacity to be effective, and how do states and cartels respond? Put differently, how do such groups invoke laws (even if not authoring them), deploy useful new technologies (even if not controlling them) and muster force (even if it is outside their direct capacity)?
At global levels, this means new forms of accountability for multilateral institutions – mechanisms through which organisations like the IMF, the World Bank, or the United Nations have to engage with and take seriously local opinions. At national levels, it means fostering interactions between governments, municipalities and civil society, helping to overcome taboos, bringing factional groups together, stimulating a notion of public interest, and empowering those organisations that are engaged in public policy like gender issues or human rights, as opposed to sectarianism. Capacity-building assistance has been poured into Iraq and much has vanished through security costs and corruption. Yet what is really needed in Iraq is a broad dialogue, especially involving those groups like the Iraqi women’s network or humanitarian organisations who are outside the current factional intrigues.
However, the highly active and organised groups within the public can continue to function, taking on quasi-institutional forms as advocacy groups or developing, through continued successive coalitions arising through public debate, into political parties representing views on multiple issues. As Price (1992) notes, the organisational remnants of one issue become the backdrop for the next. Publics allow political organisations to adapt and change and they also permit new associations to be formed. World publics thus have the effect of globalising existing national parties through, for example, coalitions such as the Global Greens, for advocacy of environmentalism and grassroots democracy, or the International Democrat Union, for advocacy of conservative and Christian democratic values. They also give rise to novel transnational social movements (known as TSMOs; Smith et al. 1997), some of which become formally organised to pursue particular global issues and spanning multiple countries, such as Greenpeace or Amnesty International.