12 Movement Moments from 2021
Before social movements could catch their breath from the unprecedented events of 2020, 2021 arrived with new strains of COVID and vaccine apartheid, intensified climate chaos and (un)natural disasters, and further attacks on human rights across the globe. In the face of these and other crises, grassroots social movements continued to mobilize to meet immediate needs while building toward transformative change over the long haul — even achieving some inspiring victories along the way.
While recognizing that with every victory comes a new front of struggle in collective efforts to transform the world, we cap off 2021 with twelve movement successes involving our partners and allies whom we have been honored to accompany.
Record-Breaking Indigenous Mobilizations in Brazil
When Brazil’s far-right, xenophobic government under Jair Bolsonaro threatened to further strip Indigenous communities of territorial rights through a major supreme court ruling, the largest national mobilization of Indigenous Peoples in the history of Brazil took place in the capital of Brasilia, as participants asserted their right to exist in their ancestral lands. Among them were our grantee ally the Federation of the Huni Kui People of the State of Acre, as part of a delegation of 100 people from the states of Acre and Amazonas supported by a Grassroots International grant. The supreme court ruling has been indefinitely suspended as Indigenous Peoples across Brazil continue to mobilize.
Groundswell in Public Support for Palestine
2021 brought further devastation to Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, including deadly airstrikes, violent expulsions, ongoing land grabbing and settlement expansion, and brazen criminalization of human rights defenders. But 2021 has also been a turning point in international solidarity for Palestine, with many new voices joining the global call for justice. This includes a growing number of US elected officials, reflecting a sea change in public attitudes toward Palestine. The philanthropic community has also stepped up. Grassroots International is proud to be among more than 150 global funders and donors to publicly denounce the Israeli government’s latest attacks on Palestinian civil society.
Sustaining the Global Struggle in Defense of Black Lives
Following the momentum of 2020, when mobilizations in defense of Black lives in the US and around the world grew in number, power, and visibility, 2021 has been a critical moment for regrouping, political education, and strategizing to sustain this momentum over the long haul. As a contribution to these efforts, Grassroots International launched the Global Black Liberation Donor Engagement Group (DEG) in partnership with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD). The DEG broke fresh ground in pioneering new forms of Black-led donor organizing to sustain the struggle, directly informed by movements across the African diaspora, from Haiti to West Africa.
Genetically Modified Corn Gets the Boot in Mexico
Following decades of social movement organizing, the Mexican government issued a decree phasing out GMO corn in Mexico, along with the pesticide glyphosate developed by Monsanto/Bayer. Many of our partners were behind these efforts. For instance, UNOSJO in Oaxaca provided vital laboratory evidence of GMO contamination of traditional Mexican corn while raising public awareness around GMOs through popular education. This year, UNOSJO released the beautiful book El Maiz de la Abuela featuring a dialogue between a grandmother and grandchild on the importance of traditional corn and the dangers of GMOs. Industry push-back calls for ongoing mobilization to implement the GMO ban.
Gender-Based Violence Emergency Acknowledged Through Feminist Organizing in Puerto Rico
Through the tireless work of intersectional feminist organizing, led in large part by our partner La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción (La Cole), the governor of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency for gender-based violence across the archipelago. The declaration recognizes what has been a mounting crisis for women and gender non-conforming people since Hurricane Maria in 2017 (compounded by austerity measures and the COVID pandemic), with femicides occurring weekly. While this recognition marks a victory for La Cole and other movements, they have not stopped — and won’t stop — mobilizing until the government’s words are actually matched by action.
Out of Crisis, Deeper Articulation among Movements in Haiti
2021 has been a hard year for Haiti, with pandemic, political turmoil, and the earthquake that rocked the southern part of the country, among other interlinked crises. But Haitian movements have seized the moment to deepen their articulation toward common visions of systemic change. A highlight is the Montana Accord, spearheaded by Haitian movements including our partner the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH). This document lays out a consensus plan for democratic governance based on self-determination and defines a structure of transition to a free and fair election process. In total, 500 civil society organizations have signed on.
Environmental Justice Gains Ground in the US
This year has seen inspiring momentum toward environmental justice in the US. Our grantee ally Rise St. James won a major victory in the stalling of a multibillion-dollar project to build what would have been one of the largest pollution-causing plastics facilities in the world. Another of our grantee allies, Indigenous Environmental Network, led a valiant struggle against the Line 3 pipeline, from supporting resistance encampments on Indigenous land to peaceful direct actions in St. Paul and DC. While Line 3 has unfortunately not been stopped, resistance continues, and the movements of “water protectors” fighting this and other pipelines continues to grow across Turtle Island.
Grassroots Feminists Generate Transformational Frameworks
2021 saw the launch of the Berta Cáceres International Feminist Organizing School, with upwards of 130 participants from over 40 countries, including more than 20 Grassroots International grantee partners and allies. Made virtual by the pandemic, this dynamic space brought together grassroots feminists of diverse backgrounds to deepen relationships, share experiences, build resources, and develop the best models and methods of resistance. Among the school’s many outputs has been the development of shared frameworks around feminist economies as a powerful organizing tool for social and ecological transformation. Grassroots International has been honored to accompany this process, together with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and World March of Women, through political, financial, and technical support.
Steps Toward Healing Through Justice in Honduras — and Beyond
In twelve years under a narco-military regime, Honduras became the most dangerous country in the world for defenders of land, water and territory. Among countless losses was the 2016 assassination of beloved Lenca activist Berta Cáceres, leader of Grassroots International partner COPINH. After tireless mobilizations, a step toward justice finally occurred this year with the conviction of a mastermind behind Berta’s assassination. As national elections marking the end of the narco-military regime have opened up further possibilities for movements in Honduras, we will continue to accompany them. And through the Martin Baro Initiative for Wellbeing and Human Rights, we are committed to supporting essential healing work by frontline movements and communities elsewhere across the globe.
A Redoubling of Global Climate Justice Efforts
Despite the challenges posed by global pandemic, climate justice movements made their presence known at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. There, they exposed false solutions like “net zero” carbon mitigation schemes and called for an end to fossil fuel dependency, reparations for environmental injustices, and support for real solutions coming from impacted communities. Grassroots International supported the Glasgow mobilizations, and we support climate justice over the long haul. One means is through our involvement in the CLIMA Fund, which channels resources directly to frontline efforts. This year, the CLIMA Fund reached the milestone of raising and disbursing over $10 million, through 300+ grants to grassroots groups in 71 countries.
Caravan Elevates Land and Water Struggles Across West Africa
The West African Caravan for Land, Water and Seeds recently closed with a gathering in Freetown, Sierra Leone, after making its way across Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Despite being delayed by the pandemic, this caravan of the Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles – West Africa, the third since 2016, brought together more than 250 participants from eight countries, representing diverse sectors, from pastoralists to fishers to domestic workers. With leadership including our grantee ally the Malian Convergence against Land Grabbing, the caravan was a direct pushback against land grabbing, providing a platform for impacted communities to communicate with authorities, while also celebrating movement victories and forging new alliances.
25 Years of the Global Struggle for Food Sovereignty
This fall marked 25 years since our partner La Via Campesina launched food sovereignty onto the global stage in response to destructive free trade policies. Since then, food sovereignty has inspired progressive policies from the local to global levels, shifted debates on food and agriculture at the United Nations, and served as a framework for convergence for a growing number of movements worldwide. After successfully protesting a corporate-backed Food Systems Summit this year, La Via Campesina and allies announced their own global summit for 2023, where movements will come together to envision and plan for the next 25 years of food sovereignty, and beyond.