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Global Greens Network - a brief history up to 2003

A Brief Unofficial History of the Global Green Network
By John Rensenbrink, Green Party of the United States, August 2003

The Global Green Network (GGN) was established in April 2001 at the Global Green Gathering in Canberra, Australia. The GGN was created simultaneously with the Global Green Coordination (GGC). The document constituting both entities was adopted unanimously by the Global Greens Assembly there.

The GGN draws upon early roots of formal global Green coordination that go back at least a decade. In the early 1990s, a different, earlier version of the Global Green Network was established, based upon sharing news, information and people among Green Parties. Today’s GGN and GGC both draw upon those early efforts. Aspects of this “first wave” of global Green organizing are cited here.

Early years of Global Green networking

Formal global Green networking dates back to 1990. Between 1990 and 1992, Greens from several continents worked together to plan the First Planetary Meeting of Greens, held in Río de Janeiro May 30th-31st, 1992. The lead organizers were the Green Group in the European Parliament and the host Brazilian Green Party, with important roles also played by the European Green Coordination, the Partido Verde Ecologista de México and the International Working Group of the U.S. Greens. At the Río meeting, a Global Green Steering Committee was created, consisting of two seats for each continent.

The following January (1993) the Global Steering Committee met in Mexico City and authorized the creation of a Global Green Network that included a Global Green Calendar, Global Green Bulletin, and Global Green Directory.

The Global Green Calendar was coordinated by Mike Feinstein of the Green Party of California. It ran first for two years (1993-94), stopped and then was revived in 1997 by Feinstein and Rosalie Steward of the Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand. This second incarnation lasted an additional year.

The Global Green Bulletin was coordinated by Kent Smith of the Green Party of California; it was the first formal ongoing exchange of Green news on a global basis. Consisting of four pages, it had correspondents for each continent. It ran for two years.

The Global Green Directory was coordinated by Mike Feinstein and Fernanda Lapa, a staff member of the Green Group of the European Parliament. The first edition was produced in time to be distributed at the January 1994 Global Green Steering Committee meeting in Vienna, Austria, as well as at the meeting of the European Green Federation, which was held there at the same time.

The next two editions of the Directory - both a 1996 version and a 1997/1998 version - were produced by Rosalie Steward and distributed globally.

During this period, Steward also helped coordinate the process through which 69 Green Parties from around the world signed a common declaration opposing French nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Issued in August 1996, it was the first global Green statement on a current issue. In December 1997, a second statement was issued, this time around the Kyoto climate change treaty negotiations.

Coordinated by Ralph Monö (then General Secretary of the European Federation of Green Parties), and Patrick Mazza (US Green International Committee), 64 Green Parties signed a statement critical of the negotiations, challenging the world’s national governments to pass a treaty worthy of the problem.

The Road to Canberra and the Creation of the GGN

In 1999, a “second wave” of global Green networking commenced, that would ultimately lead to the creation of the Global Green Network (GGN), in Canberra, Australia two years later.

In June 1999, an informal meeting of international Greens was held in Moodus, Connecticut, during the national meeting of the Association of State Green Parties (now Green Party of the United States.)

John Rensenbrink, then US Green International Committee Co-Chair, recalled early global Green networking efforts, and argued that it was now time to form a global, nation-based Green Party network. That network, he suggested, could be used for communication and common action - and with suitable outreach - involve most, if not all of the world’s Green Parties.

Also participating in this discussion were Monö, Jorge Gonzales and Natalia Escudero of the Partido Verde Ecologista de México, Annie Goeke (the other US Green Int’l Committee Co-Chair) and Feinstein. There was agreement among them to forward this idea to the Oaxaca “Green Millennium” gathering taking place in México in September 1999.

In Oaxaca, Rensenbrink, Goeke, Feinstein, Smith, Gonzales and Escudero drafted a Declaration calling for ‘a Global Green Network’, to be composed of duly elected representatives from each national Green Party. The Declaration also identified practical steps to enable the GGN to come into existence as soon as possible.

Christine Milne, a member of the Australian Greens - and of the Global Reference Group that was planning the 2001 Global Green Gathering - was also in Oaxaca and she expressed the concern that this process was moving too fast. She argued that a Global Green Charter should be approved first, in order to establish criteria for membership in the GGN. (At that time in 1999, the Global Green Charter was still in the drafting stages, and would not be adopted until 19 months later in Canberra.)

Milne’s concerns were heard and accommodated: the people involved in drafting a Declaration agreed not to include language that would call for the immediate formation of the Global Green Network but to call upon the Canberra Global Gathering in 2001 to do so. The general assembly in Oaxaca unanimously approved what has become known as ‘The Oaxaca Declaration'. This Declaration called for the formation of a Global Green Network of Green Parties that would take 'coordinated action on matters of common global concern'.

When the action shifted from Oaxaca to Canberra, the role and importance of the Global Green Reference Group - composed of representatives from Europe Africa, the Americas and Australia – increased with it.

The Reference Group’s primary goal for Canberra was for the Gathering to approve a Global Green Charter. This they were very successful at.

When the discussion shifted to structure, the Reference Group was not focused on establishing a Global Green Network. Instead, they argued that a Global Green Coordination, composed solely of representatives from the four Green Federations, was preferable to the GGN and would be sufficient by itself to start.

In Canberra, there was a lively debate over these structural questions. The debate reflects a basic tension between two organizing models - one based upon representation from Federations, and one based upon representation from national parties.

The Oaxaca Declaration was inserted into this debate, as was a Global Action Plan introduced by Tony Affigne (US Green Int’l Committee) and Raphael Thierrin (Green Party of Canada/Parti Vert du Canada), that called for a body like the GGN to implement it.

The GGN encountered opposition in Canberra from the Reference Group. But after several meetings, a compromise was reached between the Reference Group (and other advocates of the GGC on one hand), and GGN advocates on the other, for the creation of the GGC and the GGN, side by side, as a framework for common global Green action.

This agreement was approved unanimously by the Gathering’s General Assembly, as was the Global Green Charter. With these bold steps, the Canberra Gathering established a strong foundation for global Green organizing.

Follow-up in Berlin

A year later in May 2002, Global Greens came together again, this time to further refine what had been done in Canberra. Meeting on the day following the close of the European Green Federation Congress in Berlin, members of the GGC, GGN and other international Greens held a daylong conference at the national office of the German Green Party Bündnis '90/Die Grünen, to strategize for global Green development and to work through their differences in approach.

By the end of the day, a GGN "Statement of Purpose" was approved, as was a document was approved that called for the GGC Steering Committee to aid in GGN growth by facilitating Green Parties within their Federations to name their GGN representatives (up to three per party). The GGN for its part, would actively seek and accept GGC guidance in its actions.

Since Berlin, the GGN has grown from two to 24 participating countries - with several other national Green Parties soon to join.

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