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  • FRAPH Raises the Stakes

    This past weekend, a former leader of FRAPH, the Haitian paramilitary organization famous for doing the dirty work of the military leaders that overthrew Aristide in 1991, apparently led a group of ex-military men as they shot their way into several towns on Haiti's central plateau. These towns included Hinche, the main population center in the region, where ex-military men killed the police chief and several other people in taking over the police station.

    Hinche also happens to be only a few miles from the main base of operations of the Papaye Peasant Movement, GRI's largest and oldest partners in Haiti. FRAPH members were authors of many atrocities against the MPP during the coup period, and their re-emergence in the Central Plateau is a direct threat to the activists of the MPP...not to mention any other pro-democracy activist on the Plateau.

  • We’ve Got Plans for Almost Anything You’d Want to Do in the World

    Asked whether or not the U.S. had any plans to intervene in Haiti, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said just that on the 2/12 broadcast of NPR's "Evening Edition." The U.S., of course, has contingency plans for another invasion of Haiti, but has no plans to use those plans. Such talk makes Haitians nervous, and it should.

  • Changes of Heart…and Mind

    If you've seen any recent news reports from Haiti. You know that mass demonstrations against the Aristide government have become a regular occurrence. You also know that armed supporters of the government have often attacked those demonstrations.

    As I said in the previous post, Grassroots International got involved in Haiti to help those Aristide supporters trying to do underground work against the military leaders who overthrew Aristide in the early 1990s. During that period, we did our part in the creation of an almost messianic aura around Aristide. Our support went to grassroots organizations and activists committed to building democracy, but that work necessarily projected Aristide as the democratic alternative for Haiti.

    Now most of those same organizations and activists are calling for his resignation. One organization, the Haitian Human Rights Platform, has steadfastly guarded its political neutrality, but has consistently been outspoken in its criticism of the government for its failure to protect basic human rights in Haiti.

  • An Insurrectional Situation in Haiti?

    That's how the National Coalition for Haitian Rights described Haiti in their press release on this past weekend's vicious gunfight between the "Cannibal Army" and the police in Gonaives, Haiti. The death toll is increasing daily and the situation is clearly out of control. NCHR is calling on all armed groups to respect the human rights of citizens living in the areas under their control. (Click here to read NCHR's statement, in French.) Clearly, the situation is going from bad to worse...quickly.

  • Turning to Haiti

    Nisrin Elamin at the World Social Forum is a tough act to follow. I hope that those of you who had comments on Nisrin's posts from Mumbai will send them directly to her or to "Grassroots Journal" via the link provided to the left. I hope you will also continue to check out our list of links, where we will be placing other analysis and reflections on this year's World Social Forum.

    I'm Kevin Murray, Executive Director of Grassroots International. In the spirit of sharing GRI's experiences as a social change maverick among international NGOs, I will, over the next couple of weeks, reflect on our experience working in Haiti.

  • WSF Wrap Up

    I haven't had access to the internet in a while and am not quite sure where and how to catch you up on what has been happening. I haven't talked much about cultural resistance at the forum so i'll start there. It has been amazing to see people use music, popular theater, drumming, singing etc...to talk to people about their struggles. I saw plays about women's rights in Pakistan, people chanting and singing for Coca Cola to go back home to the U.S., people dancing and chanting slogans for transgender rights, people stepping to show people the effects of water privitization on their communities; people acting out parodies of the U.S., the WTO and the World Bank's roles in world domination. Seeing all that was probably one of the most inspiring parts of the whole experience for me. As someone from the MST put it though, the popular base and grassroots movement folks were out on the streets of the forum and weren't as well represented in the sessions and panels inside the halls. "Although Mumbai has been less elitist and dominated by intellectuals than Porto Alegre we still have to figure out how to engage with the local popular movements present at this forum. The popular base is still disconnected from the intellectuals and Ngo workers."

  • More from the World Social Forum, Mumbai

    I haven't been able to do much of a personal reflection on what it's been like to be at the WSF and in Mumbai, because I have so much to process before being able to coherently reflect on the whole experience. I will say, that it feels really good; being out of the U.S.; in Mumbai and in a place where my mind is being stretched and I am constantly being challenged. One of the exciting things has been catching up with GRI partners and meeting people that are organizing around different issues in similar ways (migrant, women's and worker's rights for instance) and see them connect and dialogue with eachother and place themselves within larger movements.

  • What do GMOs, Ibdaa and Amandla Have in Common?

    One of my first experiences at the forum today was watching a group of women from Tamil Nadu shout Amandla Awethu! and sing several variations of we shall overcome. It took me a minute to figure out that they were chanting Amandla until I saw a fellow African nod and smile at me while pointing to the women.

    So its another day and I can't quite figure out how my body is holding up. My task for the day: I promised Ziad Abbas (Co-director of the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheishe, Palestine) that I would join him at his session on child labor, child trafficking and children in conflict situations but was also scheduled to interview Vandana Shiva (Indian physicist and activist against biopiracy, the production of GMOs and its effects on poor people) during the same time slot.

  • World Social Forum, Mumbai: Day Two

    Each day seems to get a little more overwhelming. So I will try to highlight just a few experiences and interactions here. Just a quick note on organization though... because people talked alot about how the organization and logistical coordination of the last WSF was somewhat of a challenge. Given how many people are attending (My estimate is 100,000+) I think they are doing an amazing job logistically. There are "assistance" centers, food counters and volunteers with badges everywhere that have made my life a whole lot easier. The biggest problems they are facing are around timing, space and translation. The fact that translation isn't working out is to me the biggest problem and it limits the amount of audience-panel dialogue and other interactions that can happen.

  • Flight Zurich–Mumbai: A Conversation En Route to the World Social Forum

    Wow where do I even begin? I finally got access to the media center on the large WSF grounds here in Mumbai (am thanking the higher powers for having registered as media) and am for the third time trying to submit a log because the electricity keeps cutting so i'll keep it short. I want to backtrack to my trip over here for a minute before moving on to talk about being in Mumbai and the WSF:

    The plane was basically one large WSF delegation mainly from Brazil and Western Europe. I did my first interview with Sasa K. Director of an development and social rights organization in Macedonia (former Yugoslav State which gained its independence in 1991; population 2 million) who was sitting next to me. Here are some things he shared with me.

  • World Social Forum, Mumbai: Opening Thoughts

    It has been quite overwhelming to be in India and at the WSF. The past 24 hours here have been humbling and eye-opening to say the least. I have never felt more first world and priveleged than here partly because I don't speak Hindi and have so little knowledge of the grassroots movements from India that are represented here. It is hard to know where to begin. It is incredible to see people from all over the world connected to grassroots movements and organizations fighting for justice.

  • Headed to the World Social Forum in Mumbai

    My fellowship program (New Voices) is bringing/sending 30 of us to Mumbai for the World Social Forum (WSF) a yearly gathering of social change organizations, activists, organizers, academics (100,000+ registered) etc... that began in 2001 in Brazil as an alternative to the yearly World Economic Forum organized by large multinational corporations, national governments, IMF, the World Bank and the WTO in Davos, Switzerland to discuss trade policies and agreements.

  • Welcome

    Welcome to Grassroots Journal, the weblog of Grassroots International. As an independent human rights, social justice and alternative development organization, GRI interacts with the world in a number of different ways. This weblog is an attempt to share some of the things we learn from the people we meet and work with, and to open new paths of communication about the kind of work that we do.

    To launch this project, we are proud to present a series of reports on the World Social Forum from Nisrin Elamin, GRI's advocacy coordinator.

    The WSF, a gathering of civil society movements and groups who are committed to building a society based on human rights and social justice, takes place this year from January 16-21, 2004 in Mumbai, India. Many of the most exciting activists from around the world will be attending, giving speeches, participating in debates, and sharing the stories of their successes and struggles with one another, all in the interest of building a better world for us all. Nisrin will be attending this year's WSF and sharing her thoughts and experiences with us, here in this weblog.

    In the future, we will use this space to document other journeys on the road to making the world a better place. We hope you will join us, and we hope you enjoy the trip.

  • Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy

    In 1997, Grassroots International released a research study entitled "Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti." Offering an in-depth examination of USAID development policies in Haiti, the study concluded that, as the title suggests, official aid actually damaged the very aspects of Haitian society it was allegedly trying to fix – namely it created a lack of democracy and too much dependency.