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A Year of Results and Resolve: Reflections on 2015 Accomplishments

Together with our supporters, during 2015 Grassroots International championed hands-on solutions to some of the most pressing challenges we face: hunger, violations of human rights, climate justice and economic disparity. At this moment, we stop to celebrate some of the remarkable achievements from the last year.

People power forces resignation and arrest of Guatemala’s president

Following months of massive protests and unprecedented organizing by a broad grassroots coalition, including key leadership from our partner the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC), the people of Guatemala forced the resignation of president Otto Pérez Molina and many of his cabinet members under corruption charges.  In a country with a notorious history of extreme brutal repression of the Mayan-descendent majority, this historic event marks a potential shift in power toward popular movements.

Pérez Molina was a major military figure in the genocide and scorched earth campaigns of the 1980s, which resulted in 200,000 dead—mostly Mayans. His ouster is also a huge indicator of how powerful and effective Guatemala’s social movements have become through the years.  We are proud that the women and men with our long-time partner CUC continue to play critical leadership roles in the mobilizations and coalition work.

Honduran partner wins the Food Sovereignty Prize

Grassroots International partner, Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) won the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize for its brave and dogged efforts to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. The Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes community-based efforts that promote a more democratic food system.  Grassroots has supported OFRANEH for close to a decade in particular for its efforts to stop illegal land grabs.

OFRANEH coordinator Miriam Miranda notes, “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. We need to produce to bring autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.”

Palestinian human rights organizations take Israel to the International Criminal Court for war crimes during 2014 Gaza offensive

In an historic move, Grassroots International’s partner, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and three other human rights organizations submitted initial documentation to the International Criminal Court on behalf of Palestinian victims of Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza. The submission marks the beginning of a legal case to bring Israel to account before the ICC for the war crimes committed in 2014.  Thousands of men, women and children perished during the massacre, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Bringing women’s voices to the USA, United Nations

An important part of our mission is to help our Global South partners build alliances with each other and with Global North activist networks, funder organizations, and international aid institutions. We brought Honduran women leaders to speak at and participate in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), thus bringing an important Global South Women’s perspective to this key international arena. Grassroots International also brought three key women leaders from Nicaragua, Mozambique, and Haiti to speak on several occasions in Boston, Baltimore, New York and Washington on international feminism.

Afro-Honduran communities bring Inter-American Court of Human Rights to witness their land claims

After years of organizing and international legal work, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) succeeded in bringing a legal team from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica to the Garifuna community “Triunfo de la Cruz” to witness firsthand the land and rights violations of Garifuna territory committed by developers, speculators and others in connection with government authorities. This fact-finding mission represents a powerful and meaningful triumph for OFRANEH in their lengthy campaign to promote their communities’ historical rights to their lands, culture and livelihoods.

Advancing agroecology in West Africa

Our initiative to support food sovereignty and agroecology in West Africa gained momentum through the ‘We Are the Solution’ coalition. This women-led campaign promotes agroecology across five nations—Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Ghana—and challenges the false promises of industrial agriculture.   In Senegal alone, three major forums with influential farmer organization leaders were organized on agroecology, local seeds, and local production and consumption. In addition, five major community radio stations in southern Senegal have been promoting the campaign and broadcasting shows on agroecology and the dangers of using industrial agricultural methods.  They are mounting agroecology field schools, setting up demonstration units, and training hundreds of women farmers in agroecology and campaign skills.

Victory on International Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

As a result of a lengthy campaign led by Grassroots partner, the Via Campesina, the United Nations Human Rights Council Assembly passed a resolution to draft an international declaration on the rights of peasants and other rural workers. This resolution brings us closer to worldwide recognition of the critical role that peasant farmers play. The resolution is viewed as a potent legal tool for peasant movements and groups to pressure their governments to improve the conditions of those who live in rural areas and produce 70% of the food in the world.

Honduran partner wins approval of rural women’s credit program.

The Council for the Integral Development of the Peasant Woman (CODIMCA), a Grassroots’ grantee and ally, was a major force behind the October, 2015 legislative win that creates a new national credit program for marginalized rural women. Years of persistence and hard work yielded this victory, which benefits some two million rural women. Historically, the iron door of discrimination against women has largely blocked any fair access to credit for poor women farmers. This legislation opens more economic opportunities and access to rural women.

Belize Mayans win major land rights victory in the Caribbean High Court

Earlier this year, the Caribbean Court of Justice affirmed the rights of the Mayan Indigenous People of southern Belize to the lands and territories they have customarily used and occupied for centuries. The judgement forces Belize’s government to properly demarcate Maya village lands, and protect them against incursions by outsiders. Mayan lands have long been the target of land grabs by outside and international interests who are eyeing the rich resources to be extracted from Mayan lands. Grassroots International has supported the Maya Leaders Alliances who played a lead role in bringing about this victory.

“We have been dragged through the courts for over 30 years but today we are happy that the highest Court again stood with the my people to ensure that Belize gets on the right side of history,” said Alfonso Cal, the highest traditional leader for all the Maya villages.

The Maya Leadership Alliance also won the 2015 Equator Prize for their work advancing and defending the rights of Mayans in Belize.

Leader of West Africa agroecology campaign appointed to Burkina Faso parliament

The former national coordinator of the ‘We Are the Solution’ campaign (supported by Grassroots International) in Burkina Faso, Koudougou Ramata Leaticia was invited to serve in the transition parliament following a rigorous nomination process. Her selection was based on her exceptional organizing work with rural women farmers in the area of and surrounding Bobodioulasso, in Burkina Faso.

Ramata credits the grassroots agroecology campaign for strengthening her skills and knowledge of advocacy, public speaking, leadership and food sovereignty. She says her nickname in parliament is “rural women” because of her staunch advocacy, and she’s consulted on matters related to agriculture and rural development. Most importantly, she says even when she’s not around, her colleagues often ask “What would Ramata think of [the issue being debated]” before they act.

Agro-Giant Syngenta convicted for land grab massacre in Brazil

In an historic and what we hope will be a precedent-setting win for the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and land rights advocates in Brazil, a Brazilian court convicted the transnational Syngenta for a brutal 2010 land grab in the state of Paraná, Brazil.  Syngenta had hired 40 gunmen to dislodge about 150 MST and Via Campesina activists who were protesting the illegal planting and testing of Syngenta’s GMO crops in a protected national park.  On October 21, 2007, the gunmen assaulted the activists with gunfire, killing one man and injuring four others. According to the judge, the event was “nothing less than a massacre.”

Grassroots International supported two of the key groups involved in this struggle: The MST (who brought the case, and also led the actions on the ground to oppose Syngenta’s illegal land use) and the Social Network for Justice and Human Rights (Rede Social de Justiça e Defesa dos Direitos Humanos, or ‘Rede Social’). Rede Social is a human rights organization that supports the work of social movements in Brazil through legal assistance, trainings, reporting and media campaigns on abuses of human rights, and provided legal support to the Syngenta case.

Spreading the Message

Most people in the US do not know about global movements that are creating better ways for communities to govern themselves and their resources. Grassroots International creates connections between those movements and people in the US who value fair and just systems, policies and practices.

Here are some of the ways we spread the message to Global North activist networks, funder organizations and international aid institutions.

Spreading the Word through Web, Social Media and Print Media

Through a range of web and social media tools we disseminated over 100 stories, media presentations and analyses from our partners’ perspectives on resource rights and food sovereignty in language which is accessible to the US public.

Sounding the Alarm and Calling for Justice

Here are some of the actions and alerts that Grassroots International and our supporters took this year:

Building support for Climate Justice, Food Sovereignty and Agroecology among US Foundation Networks

  • We have given keynote speeches at national funder network conferences, presented workshops, and brought Global South leaders to the conference of funder networks such as EDGE Funders, International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG), Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), and International Funders of Indigenous Peoples (IFIP)
  • Grassroots International and our allies collaborated to advance a Black Land Matters series, drawing links to challenges in post-Katrina Haiti and communities in the US, as well as other land struggles around the world.