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Green Forum empowers a new generation of African politicians

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Anna Mate is interviewing interested candidates for participation in the Programme for Young Politicians in Africa.

After a year of meticulous preparations, Green Forum is happy to announce that the Program for Young Politicians (PYPA) in Africa is now starting up in Zambia and Malawi. PYPA is a multi-party political academy that aims to build the capacity of young politicians to take up leadership positions in their respective parties and hence deepen democracy and advance the position of young people in Africa.

This innovative program, funded by the Swedish government, started back in 2012 as a collaborative effort between three Swedish party affiliated organizations – the Christian Democratic International Center, the Olof Palme International Center and the Centre Party International Foundation, who are implementing the program in different sub-regions in Africa. Since 2016, Green Forum is part of this multi-party team and will be responsible for implementing the program in two new countries: Zambia and Malawi.

The timing could not have been better. Zambia recently concluded its national elections in where many people that contested were from the older generation and where the incumbent party, the Patriotic Front was declared winner. The election results have however been contested by UPND, the main opposition party who was beaten with only 50.35 percent. The candidates of the two rivaling parties are not on speaking terms and prospects of reconciliation between are low at the moment. Likewise in Malawi, Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party won the disputed 2014 polls with a 36.4 percent victory beating his two closest rivals Lazarus Chakwera, who won 27.8 percent, and outgoing president Joyce Banda who won 20.2 percent. The Malawian election was dominated by chaos, a symbol of a crippled democratic process.

But there is light in the tunnel. In late November Green Forum together with its implementing partner Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, will gather 44 young promising leaders from 14 political parties in Malawi and Zambia for a two weeks intensive Training Session on topics such as democratic governance, party ideology, conflict resolution, leadership, gender and much more.

According to Anna Mate, PYPA-coordinator at YALI the program will greatly inspire young Africans in Zambia and Malawi “our government hardly has any programs that seek to build young people’s capacity for leadership. Therefore, this training will place our generation’s youth on the pedestal to good leadership prospects for better governance”.

In both Zambia and Malawi, young people face difficulties in taking part in decision making both due to discriminatory attitudes towards youth but also due to lack of qualifications to hold key positions in government. PYPA therefore fills this void by equipping the youth in Zambia and Malawi with the necessary training that will have governments recognize their abilities.

In Malawi and Zambia just as in many other African countries youth have been used as a tool for political violence during elections by older politicians. According to Anna Mate at YALI “this program is the perfect eye opener for many youths to see that their place in the governance system transcends the bottom of the barrel and that with the necessary skills and training provided by PYPA, they will claim their place in leadership”.

/Maria Jacobson

PYPA coordinator at Green Forum 

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Green Forum speeks up about the SDGs

In a local newspaper in Sweden during Human Rights Days, Green Forum argues for the importance of local political responsibility together with international support for the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The headline is: Sustainable development is a Human rights issue.

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Fighting for the city in Belgrade

On my first day of arrival in Belgrade I went to a protest in the city center. The movement has been going on since last year but got new momentum in late april this year after a violent eviction. The eviciton wasn’t legal and has been questioned by Serbian PM Vucic. Demands that the responsible for the eviction should resign and a call for more transparency gathered up to 25 000 people on the streets of Belgrade. That is quite a lot for a country who hasn’t had that much people on the streets during the last decade.

– The movement is out of great importance for the civil society in Serbia, but for its continuation choosing a political direction is crucial. Even though the initiative is against the entire project, demands are remaining the same from one protest to another: a resignation of the city authorities. This is not enough and even if the demands are fulfilled, that would not solve the main issue because people are tired of non-transparency of decisions out of their direct concern. In the end, people want to have a voice on how their city and country is built, and corrupted and manipulative government doesn’t really help it, says Katarina Pavlovic from CDN, one of the Green Forum project partners.

The protest centers around a proposed building project under the name Belgrade Waterfront.  The project consists of a tall building resembling one of the superstructures in Dubai. But it also involves the whole area Savamala by the river Sava and the surrounding buildings. Belgrade Waterfront is seen as a boost for the local economy but what often follows from these projects is that the project budget bleeds and makes the city pay for a lot more of the costs than they had counted with. In Sweden New Karolinska Hospital is an example of that.

The name of the movement Ne da(vi)mo Beograd literally translates to “We won’t let Belgrade d(r)own”. It’s a hint towards the actual problems that escalating climate change will pose to Waterfront Belgrade. Since no definite plans on the project exists local political actors can not examine the problems related to increased flow in river Sava. During the floods on the western balkans in 2014, Sava had extremly high flow and the area closest to the river is by law forbidden to build on. Most likely Belgrade as well as other cities close to water will face more of these problems with escalating climate change.

The Young Greens in Serbia are working together with other groups of making the Ne Davimo movement more political to be able to withstand in the political debate. Citizens movements are getting more and more attention and the political parties are rarely good at adapting to the movements.

– Politization of the protest is possible, but it is uncertain in which direction. The initiative is most likely trying to keep the massiveness of the protest and therefore not taking direction, even though there is a clear demand for it from the certain protests’ fractions. We expect to find it out in the next couple of months, says Katarina Pavlovic.

/Albin Arleskär

Intern at Green Forum

Convenor of International committé of Young Greens of Sweden

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/dec/10/belgrade-waterfront-gulf-petrodollars-exclusive-waterside-development

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Greens ran in parliamentary elections in Belarus

The green party in Belarus, the Belgreens, ran in the parliamentary elections on September 11. You can read their statement on the recent elections here:  statement-on-parlamentary-elections-in-belarus

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Gender equality as a way to sustainability

Ecological and social sustainability requires an equal and inclusive society

Around the world, the parliamentary arm of the green movement has its strength in the broad support from the civil society and its strong grass roots, which share the same view on the need for systemic change. In many countries, the green parties gets both praise and criticism from the green part of the civil society. This help them to reach out with the green ideas, and to find incentives to sharpen their green policies even more.

Just think about the uphill struggle that would be faced for the green issues if there would be no organizations as Greenpeace, Friends of the earth etc. that could shape public opinion and contribute to the creation of independent ideas. Just as the workers movement is essential for the social democracy, the green movement is essential for green policy.

Members of the Georgian Young Greens (GeYG) say that the broad support from civil society that exists in other places such as Sweden, doesn’t exist to the same extent in Georgia. There are plenty of supporters of a better environment and clean air, the fight against deforestation and littering. However, there is a lack of systemic critique and alternative models, which is central for the parliamentary arm of the green movement. Especially when it comes to the holistic view of society, where ecological and social sustainability requires an equal and inclusive society. Therefore, at the same time as there is a need for GeYG to sharpen their concrete policies, they have to spread their ideas into a solid grass root movement, for inclusion and capacity as a green movement.

Alla Parunova is the spokesperson for GeYG, but she also runs the feminist working group of the organization that is supposed to strengthen their capacity as a feminist actor. To the question about why GeYG is such important for Georgia, especially due to the fact that they are one of few organizations that focus on gender issues, she says:

-We are important for Georgia, first of all because of the political vision, which highlights the importance of holistic analyses of the society. That makes the fight against an oppressive system more inclusive to such categories as gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. It is also crucial to mention that GeYG is a feminist organization and we try to show the importance of intersectionality of categories that create new discourses on feminism in the Georgian society.

Especially when it comes to gender issues and feminism, GeYG are relative alone in Georgia as regards the inclusion of these aspects, which is essential for the green ideology. This shows that the GeYG are much needed. They are a voice that can connect the idea of a sustainable society with the inclusion of everyone, which is essential for sustainability. Sustainability requires trust, and if the opportunities are different from people to people, there are no sustainability to talk about. People in Georgia are, for good reasons, skeptical to politics in general. Therefore, GeYG is such an important actor for inclusiveness and progressiveness in a context where other organizations avoid questions such as gender and feminism. GeYG wants to strengthen an inclusive movement at the grass root level, which could be a requirement for sustainability, in the relation between social and ecological structures.

/Per Lundberg, Green Forum intern

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Report from South Caucasus meeting

Strengthening the cooperation in the region

The annual regional meeting with participants from Southern-Caucasus was held in late october. It is a meeting to strengthen the cooperation in the region, and to support each other in their political struggles.

The theme was activism and how political participation works in the different countries of the region. The group consisted of activists from Azerbaijan and Armenia face suppression from the government and opposing the government is hard to do publicly, as well as activists from Georgia where democracy has made it easier to get your voice heard, but where it is still hard for green voices be heard in the mainstream public space.

Beside the Georgian Young Greens, various organizations represented themselves and how they reach out to the public space. For example, Vegans Georgia, presented themselves at the regional meeting. They spoke about their educational activities to promote a vegan lifestyle, how they push for amendments to legislation to save animals from suffering, running a vegan restaurant and about initiating various protests. There was also the Student Self-Organizing Movement, who presented their ambition to build a movement that can change the discourse in the society about issues such as environment, gender, democracy and education. They work hard on social inclusion and on the empowerment of people.

An LGBT activist in from Azerbaijan spoke about the difficulties they are facing in everyday activism and that you, for example, could suddenly be thrown out of the university or get sent to prison because of your activism and opposition against the government. Amongst other things he spoke about an organization he had been a part of called: the Civic Movement of Azerbaijan, which functions as an umbrella organization for various activists with different values that cooperate to be able to have more strength as an opposition. Everything from greens, leftists, LGBT activists to even some fascists.

-We simply had to stick together to be able to survive as an opposition. And it´s nice to be here at the regional meeting as a LGBT and green activist since I feel that I can express myself and share my thoughts more freely.

A strengthening aspect with the regional meeting is that regardless of conflicts in the region, geo-political intrigues or orientations, the participants all agreed on the strong bond between the people in the region and saw the borders as a social construct dividing them from fully cooperating to bring their values to fruition. The regional meeting shows a way to promote conversation and cooperation between borders; to share and unite the struggle for a pluralist, democratic and sustainable society in the region.

Asamblea General Anual de la FPVA y Congreso de Jóvenes Verdes de las Américas

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Los contrapartes de Green Forum en Guatemala han participado en la asamblea general de la Federación de Partidos Verdes de las Américas

Los pasados 14, 15, 16 y 17 de noviembre, se celebró en República Dominicana un encuentro en el marco de la Reunión de la Asamblea General Anual de la Federación de Partidos Verdes de las Américas –FPVA-; donde participaron los delegados de la Asamblea General así como una delegación de jóvenes. El encuentro consistió en la realización de 3 eventos: Los días 14 y 15 se celebró el Congreso del Partido Socialista Verde, del país anfitrión Republica Dominicana, con el lema “Una Mirada Verde, Para Una Isla Verde”. Los días 16 y 17 y de forma paralela se celebraron los otros dos eventos que fueron la Asamblea General Anual de la FPVA y el Congreso de Jóvenes Verdes de las Américas con delegación de los siguientes países: Brasil, Canadá, Chile, Colombia, Estados Unidos, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, República Dominicana y Venezuela. Países ausentes: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica y Perú.

La agenda de la Asamblea General de la FPVA incluyó una reforma de estatutos, así como cada país presentó un informe de la situación política y de desarrollo de su partido, en especial resultados obtenidos de las elecciones celebradas durante el 2015; destacando importantes resultados y en aumento los partidos verdes de México y Colombia. También se dio la elección de la Coordinadora de la FPVA compuesto por 3 copresidentes quedando electos: Colombia, Brasil y México. Carlos Ramón González de Colombia fue elegido Copresidente Ejecutivo. Al mismo tiempo se eligieron los 3 vicepresidentes que acompañan a los Copresidentes.  Guatemala (Matilde Baján) salió electa como vicepresidente de Brasil. También se eligieron varias Secretarias Temáticas entre ellas: de la Mujer, de la Juventud, de Naciones Originarias y Pueblos Indígenas, de Derechos Humanos, Justicia Social y Paz, de Cambio Climático.

La Asamblea General produjo dos declaraciones: la primera la Declaración contra el terrorismo a raíz del atentado en Paris y la segunda la Declaración de Punta Cana de la FPVA. En el caso del Congreso de los Jóvenes, donde Guatemala tuvo una delegación incluyó la presentación de un informe por país de la situación política de los jóvenes y del partido. Por primera vez se elige una coordinadora que quedó integrada por los países: Colombia, Canadá, Venezuela y Brasil. María Isabel Moreno joven diputada del Partido Alianza Verde de Colombia, fue elegida como su enlace en la Asamblea, ocupando con ello la Secretaría de la Juventud de la FPVA. El Congreso de los jóvenes produjo una declaración de Punta Cana. El grupo mantiene una comunicación por las redes desde donde darán seguimiento a una agenda estratégica a desarrollar. Guatemala tiene la responsabilidad de la Secretaría de Comunicación a cargo de Rodrigo Ramírez

En la clausura del encuentro, las delegaciones participantes reiteraron su solidaridad con las víctimas de los hechos violentos de París y condenaron dichos ataques; mientras expresaron la importancia de que los gobiernos inviertan más recursos para contrarrestar los efectos del cambio climático y contaminación ambiental.

African Greens Federation president on BBC HARDtalk

Frank Habineza talks about the political situation in Rwanda

DGPR Calls for Political and Electoral Reforms from the Rwandan Parliament

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The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, DGPR, has on the 10th of February 2016, submitted a petition to the Rwandan Parliament, calling for revisions in the national election laws and the political parties Act. These political reforms, the green party suggests, are needed before the 2017 Presidential Elections and the 2018 Parliamentary elections and would enable a level playing field.

Besides the petition, DGPR requests that the law be revised and conditions be put on foreign support, such as declarations of the source of funding and provision of reports to the concerned Government bodies. The good example is Uganda, where political parties can receive foreign support but declare its source and give reports to the Government. There is also a limit on what a single donor can give to the political party in a given year in Uganda.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, believes that a positive reaction from the Rwandan Parliament will lay a strong foundation for democracy and will allow all political parties have a level playing field before the upcoming general elections.

Gender awareness in Serbia

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Why does the discussion about gender make people uncomfortable? In Serbia, LGBT+ people are being excluded from their communities and International Women’s day is confused with romantic courting. People are afraid to say that they are feminists and young females are facing misogyny. The Green Forum intern Kristina Grujicic met with gender coordinators from two green organizations in Eastern Europe.

 

The Green Forum partner, Cooperation and Development Network Eastern Europe (CDN) is working across Eastern Europe, which despite many commonalities is a very multifaceted and turbulent region. They work to promote and strengthen the green movement in Eastern Europe. Both by conducting own activities in numerous countries and by supporting the local member organizations.

 

One of CDNs member organizations is Serbian green youth (SGY). It is an organization located in Belgrade, Serbia. They are promoting nonviolence, participative democracy, social justice and ecological wisdom.

 

Gender working groups

CDN as well as SGY has various working groups whereof one is the Gender working group, Gender WG.

 

For the last couple of years the SGY Gender WG have been working with LGBT+ issues. This year, they organized an external event called LGBT+ Museum, and it was an exhibition divided in two parts, the first one was a collection of stories from LGBT+ people. The second part of the exhibition was about stereotypical dress codes. In Serbia, there is a “policy” that says what is OK to wear depending on your sex. According to Vanja Zaric, coordinator at SGY Gender WG, Serbia is a very homophobic society and therefore, gay or feminine males are constantly threatened.

 

Jana Szczepaniak, coordinator at CDN Gender WG, mean that people feel comfortable with their cis-gendered heteronormative identity as long as they do not get exposed to LGBT+ people;

– They are in effect passively homophobic through taking their own identity and sexuality as the norm. Realising that sexuality as well as identity exist on a sliding scale makes many people feel less secure in their own identity/sexuality as the borders are not so clearly defined. It makes them uncomfortable especially since there’s a social stigma that makes people scared, says Jana Szczepaniak.

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One challenge for this year is to reach people that are not feminists. Some members of the Gender WG knows a lot, and  some knows very little but wants to learn – the question is how can you bring forth this in a nice way that is engaging for people and not patronizing. The general discussion in Serbia seem to be about dress codes thus what is accepted for people to wear, which is only the top of the iceberg when it comes to gender.

– I think people are interested. Gender is also about rules and constructions that are beyond the idea about how people dress, Jana Szczepaniak says.

 

The CDN Gender WG is focusing on educating in gender and feminism, and clarify what that really is. People seem to cinfuse gender with sex.

– I think three important concepts to understand in this context are how one’s sex, sexuality and gender are all distinct and separate from one another and can occur in any combination. says Jana Szczepaniak.

 

Serbia

The economy of Serbia still suffers from the aftereffects from the Balkan war and its high unemployment and debt levels makes it one of the poorest countries in Europe. The average wage is around 300 euros hence people are primarily thinking about their survival and to satisfy their basic needs. Therefore, everything else is considered luxury. According to Vanja Zaric, it is difficult for people to engage on a voluntary basis in human right’s organizations since it does not pay off economically. Also other things such as going on cultural events, museums or even cinemas is not something many people do. Since their basic security is unstable, it is difficult to strive for better life conditions.

 

In Serbia, the patriarchal norms are strongly impregnated in the society, therefore discrimination against women and other marginalized groups is a major problem. Thus, information and knowledge about discriminated people is vague. According to Vanja Zaric, the education in Serbia is not based on raising gender awareness, on the opposite, they are totally neglected. Also, the information through media is strictly limited, especially on LGBT+ matter.

 

Pride in Belgrade stands for inclusion and acceptance, therefore it becomes problematic when only one organization has the exclusive rights of planning and organizing the Parade. Therefore, the exclusion is also high within the LGBT+ community. Also, you can only get properly informed about Pride if you are involved in a human right’s organization or know people who are.

 

Feminism – a dirty word?

There is a misconception about what feminism is. Many people believe it is something negative. And people who know what it means and believe in it, are often afraid to admit it because they are afraid of being alienated and ridiculed.

 

Feminism is about equality between people, not only between the sexes. It is for everyone to be who they want to be without being categorized and judged accordingly. The patriarchy does not spare anybody.

– Men also suffer under the rules of patriarchy and need feminism. They are taught as small kids to not talk about emotional things and they get violent and depressed. It is difficult to feel accepted when you have this narrow stereotype of masculinity that nobody fits into, says Jana Szczepaniak.

 

International Women’s Day

For this year’s International Women’s day CDNs gender WG is planning to re-launch the group and see where the interest in gender lies among its members. SGY are supporting different women’s rights organizations who organize demonstrations for 8th March.

 

This day is for all marginalized groups of the society, not only for individuals that identify themselves as females. Unfortunately, the number of people that shows up for the demonstrations are not many. Vanja Zaric believes that this is a problem and that more people should support it. But like the Pride Parade, not many are informed about what 8th March truly stands for. The International Women’s day is very romanticized;

– They think this day is only there to for men to pay attention to women by giving a rose, or material stuff. So there is a misconception of what the 8th of March really stands for. They don’t know that it’s there for women’s rights. Last year we had a campaign I don’t want a rose, I want my rights, Vanja Zaric says.

VanjaSGYWhat should be done?

It is a challenge to meet the knowledge gaps, and to find a way to even start talking about gender. But Jana Szczepaniak thinks it is a good idea to start saying what your pronouns are, and maybe by doing that people start to see for themselves.

– Even people who don’t think gender identity is important because they are taking a heteronormative and cis-gendered perspective, should start introducing themselves with their pronouns (for example: Hello my name is Miran and my pronoun is he). People first find it a bit weird and alienating, and are not comfortable doing it but later they’ll find out that everyone in society benefits from this, Jana Szczepaniak says.

 

Vanja Zaric believes that it is a process that should go step by step. First step might be to decrease the level of misogyny and to raise the awareness. Many females do not question their position in the society and they do not know their rights.

– If you want to make a change, for example, you want to improve the position of women in the society or stop discrimination of LGBT+ people, you have to change the system. You have to improve all parts of the system, like education, economy, health care, etc. to see a better and a faster change. You can try to change the position of marginalized group on micro level through organizing events, demonstrations that are going to raise awareness, but the real change can only be systematic, Vanja Zaric says.

 

By: Kristina Grujicic

(Pictures: First one is from the 8th of march 2016, demonstration in Belgrade, Serbia. Second one is on Jana Szczepaniak. Third one is on Vanja Zaric.)