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The Global Greens - Part V Global Greens 2001

The Global Greens
edited by Margaret Blakers

Chapter V: Global Greens 2001
(the story of the 2001 Global Greens meeting in Canberra, Australia)
by Margaret Blakers

Global Greens 2001 began in 1996. Bob Brown had just been elected to the Australian Senate; Sydney had won the right to stage the 2000 Olympics; and the newly formed Green Party of Taiwan had invited Bob to visit. We were increasingly aware of other Green parties around the world and we wanted to put our stamp on the beginning of the new Green century. So in August 1996 we decided to hold a Global Greens conference. As our media release in December 1996 said:

The Asia Pacific region is set to become the centre of economic, social, political and cultural change in the years ahead. In hosting the Global Greens 2001 conference in this region, Australia has a unique opportunity to set Green politics on a course of growth that will see it emerge as the most exciting and creative political movement of the new century.'

Greens around the world have an international outlook, partly because an ecological understanding means that we are acutely aware of sharing and being responsible for the planet Earth. The 1972 ‘New Ethic' of the first Green party, the United Tasmania Group, begins: ‘United in a global movement for survival...'. The first national Green party, the New Zealand Values Party, also in 1972 stated: ‘We cannot afford to base our society on the values of the marketplace - consumerism, greed, envy, competition for monetary gain, and selfish individualism. These may gain us material goods in the short-term. They'll cost us the earth in the long-term.'

From Petra Kelly onwards, key individuals have travelled widely. Petra came to Australia in 1977 and again in 1984 when she stayed with Bob Brown, by then a Green Independent Member of the Tasmanian Parliament. He in turn went to meetings of European Greens in Stockholm in 1990 and Vienna in 1993. Niki Kortvelyessy, spokesperson for the European Greens, visited Australia in 1995 and Ralph Monö, Secretary General of the European Federation visited Australia several times during the 1990s, giving us an important insight into developments, not only in Europe, but also in the Americas. In 1997, the European Greens sponsored Rosalie Steward from the New Zealand Greens to prepare an International Directory of Green Parties.

In 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, Greens got together from around the world for the first time. Between 1993 and 1998, the European Coordination of Green Parties transformed itself into the European Federation of Green Parties and federations were formalised in Africa and the Americas.

With all this integration happening everywhere except Asia and the Pacific, it may seem odd that Australia should decide to host a Global Greens conference. On the contrary, it was logical and almost inevitable. Europe had been very much focused on its own affairs, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 from which emerged a host of new European Green parties to be nurtured and encouraged. The Greens in the USA had only recently become nationally organised and cohesive.

Ideally the conference would have been held in a Southern country since, if the Global Greens were to work, it would need to engage the energy and creativity of these emerging nations. They lacked resources but Australia was a good compromise - a country of the North located in the South. Being in the Asia Pacific region was an added advantage in helping to balance the geographical focus of the Greens globally.Promoting the conference

For the conference to happen we had to gain enough interest and support to make it credible and find the money. The Australian Greens (with an annual non-election budget of less than $US15 000) were in no position to fund a major international conference. Between 1996 and 2000 we made a determined effort to connect with Greens in Europe and the Americas. Bob Brown and I visited Europe and Mexico in January 1998, covering five countries in 15 days. We particularly wanted to meet the German Greens, who were expected to do well in the elections later in the year, and the French Greens who already had joined the government with Dominique Voynet as Minister for the Environment. In October and November 1998, Louise Crossley attended the Council meeting of the European Federation of Green Parties in London and the first Intercontinental Meeting of Green Legislators in Mexico. She bravely took on the task of coordinating the preparation of the Global Greens Charter.

In February 1999, Christine Milne took a discussion paper titled ‘Global Network of Green Parties' to the huge Congress of the European Greens in Paris and gained formal endorsement for both the process and the proposed Canberra meeting. Christine, together with Sarah van Tinteren, promoted the proposal to the 1000 or more delegates, 400 of whom came to a workshop about it. This was the first indication that the concept was generating broadscale interest.

We could not afford to send anyone to the Association of State Green Parties (USA) meeting in June 1999 but prepared a more expansive paper which was discussed there. The first draft of the Charter was circulated in August 1999 and in September Christine represented Australia at the International Meeting of Green Parties at Oaxaca, Mexico, which also endorsed the Canberra meeting.

Meanwhile, it was apparent that Greens in Asia and the Pacific would do well to follow the pattern of Europe, the Americas and Africa and form a regional network. With support from the Swedish Green Forum, we organised the first Asia Pacific Green Politics Workshop in Brisbane in April 2000.

For the Workshop, the first task was to find and contact the region's Green parties and movements. As with the Global Greens meeting a year later, this proved a tortuous process. Some we already knew about, like Taiwan, New Zealand and Nepal. Others we thought existed but had no way of locating. The Mongolian Greens was one of these; we finally tracked them down just days before the workshop and pulled all kinds of strings to arrange visas and travel for their delegate with hours to spare before all official work stopped for the Easter holidays.

In other countries we had to assess whether community activism had led to an interest in political activism which might have a Green dimension. We used the networks of community organisations around the region to canvass for individuals and groups and in the end simply took a chance on inviting those who seemed relevant and genuine. Rainbow and Greens Japan wrote to us about Global Greens 2001 and luckily Satoko Watanabe was able to come to the Asia Pacific meeting with just a week's notice.

In the end, 30 people from 12 countries had an exhilarating, inspiring and productive Asia Pacific gathering in Brisbane and we had had an excellent rehearsal for the Global Greens.Organising

Early in 2000 we finally decided to go ahead with Global Greens 2001. I became the organiser and Convener. We set up an office in Canberra in June 2000, started fundraising, booking venues, arranging interpreters and equipment, organising visas, a web page, accommodation, entertainment and the myriad of other tasks. All our planning was based on 300 people coming from 50 countries.

In July 2000, Bob Brown visited the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) in Berlin and the idea of holding a Rio+10 workshop in conjunction with the Global Greens conference was initiated. Funding for a political event was very hard to obtain and the only way of ensuring good representation from low income countries was to have a parallel non-political meeting. The Rio+10 International Workshop received generous support from HBF, the Finnish government and Ausaid, and the Swedish Green Forum and the Goldman Foundation helped fund delegates to attend both Rio+10 and the Global Greens.

In November 2000, I went to the meeting of parties to the Climate Change Convention at The Hague and then to the European Greens meeting in Stockholm to reinforce the message that the Global Greens conference was a serious political project, that the Canberra meetings would be historically significant, and that many groups were already committed to coming. I met key people like Jörg Haas from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to plan the Rio+10 meeting, Constantin Federovsky who was essential to connecting with the African Green parties and getting the support of the French Greens, Arnold Cassola and Marian Coyne from the European Federation, Juan Behrend from the Green Group in the European Parliament, Annie Goeke from the Greens in the US and Kyryl Tomlyak from the European Young Greens.

Because these face to face meetings in Europe were so much more productive than emails I decided to try to telephone and talk with everyone. From January, with the help of volunteer interpreters, we phoned as many of the parties in the Americas, Africa, eastern Europe, Asia and the Pacific as we could contact. This was important in giving people a sense that the conference was for them: we wanted them to come; we would do what we could to make it possible; we would welcome their contribution.

We also now had an increasingly complex political task to manage. As more parties invested more effort in the conference, it was essential to ensure that it met everyone's expectations.

From the beginning we saw two potential outcomes: a Charter, embodying the formation of a Global Greens Network and building the personal and political links that would underpin future development of the Greens as a global force. The difficulty was how to manage such disparate groupings, from the highly organised European Federation to the relatively new federations of Africa and the Americas, to the effectively non-existent Asian and Pacific groupings.

We formed an International Reference Group with, after negotiation, three representatives from each federation or network. Phone conferences were held to resolve questions about the structure of the conference, which languages would be used, procedures, seating arrangements, speaking rights, resolutions. We also negotiated many drafts of the Charter and the Global Green Coordination resolution.

It was an amazingly good-humoured and cooperative process. It could hardly have worked without the ability to use email to overcome the problem of different time zones and enable rapid exchange of views and information. If it had been held even two or three years earlier, it would have been too soon from a technological perspective.

As it turned out, the timing was perfect. The Olympics had renewed the world's interest in Australia and the American presidential election had focused attention on the Greens. The world was relatively free of elections although Peru and Ireland were prevented from coming by their elections. Even the weather cooperated, staying warm, still and sunny throughout. The conference attracted more than 800 people, with about 350 from 70 countries outside Australia. It met our aims and so laid the groundwork for future development and cooperation of the Greens globally. See you in Africa!

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