Advancing network-wide collective action and campaigning

Publish Date: 
Thursday, September 27, 2018

From 22-25 July, 31 member representatives from 17 countries met in Durban, South Africa, organized with Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).

The meeting followed on ESCR-Net’s Global Strategy Meeting, held in November 2016 in Argentina, where members affirmed the Common Charter for Collective Struggle and called on the network to undertake collective action to challenge the structural roots of social, economic and environmental injustice. This meeting was an attempt to operationalize this mandate.

The objective of the meeting was to consider topics for collective actions and/or campaigns that ESCR-Net members might undertake together, and the approach that the network would take to that end. It intended to draw on the campaigning experience of members, develop a common vocabulary and facilitate mutual learning amongst members about collective action and determine the focus of the next network-wide campaign.

Following a visit to the informal settlements of Ekukhanyeni and New City, the meeting began with participants considering how ESCR-Net might approach network-wide collective action and campaigning. Several leaders of social movements underscored the urgency of the moment, mentioning a spike in killings of human rights defenders, intensified land grabs of indigenous people’s territories and ongoing efforts to weaken hard-won protections for workers.  Participants then considered how ESCR-Net is positioned to undertake collective action and campaigning. A session on movement-building was followed by a session about a gender and intersectional approach to campaigning. A subsequent session explored some core elements of any ESCR-Net campaign, including a systemic macroeconomic approach, data and monitoring and story-telling. The day’s meeting ended with an overview of responses received to an online survey circulated to ESCR-Net members in July to map their experience in campaigning at national, regional and international levels.

Participants then considered what ESCR-Net should undertake together, as a first pilot campaign. The day began with an overview of criteria that had been developed by the Planning Committee for considering campaigning proposals. This was followed by members presenting three proposals for possible collective action by the wider network. The proposals centered on awareness-raising amongst members around corporate capture, collective work to advance land, housing and natural resource rights in both rural and urban areas and actions to promote the rights of women in the context of work.

While all of the proposals presented will continue to advance as existing collective work, participants decided that corporate capture as a driver of human rights violations – with attention to the particular impacts on and leadership of women – in relation to land, housing and natural resources, would be the focus of the first pilot.

The meeting then focused on defining specific actions that ESCR-Net member might undertake to carry out the agreed-upon campaign pilot.  After reviewing the existing Corporate Capture Project, participants identified a series of actions that were subsequently grouped into three broad strategies: educating and informing ESCR-Net members, capacity-building and mobilizing communities. The type of data that will be needed to support campaign actions and measure progress was then discussed, followed by a conversation about the structures and processes should be in place to ensure proper coordination of the pilot, Participants resolved to create an Action Group to design, plan and implement activities of the pilot network-wide campaign, which would reflect ESCR-Net’s core principles (including regional diversity, gender balance and the centrality of social movements). The Action Group will come together in the coming month and will chart the next steps forward.

In Durban, ESCR-Net members made some important steps to advance a shared undertaking, envision the network-s approaches and respond to the mandate for collective action. The urgent need to harness the collective strength of the network to challenge systemic injustices was reinforced, and ESCR-Net defined its approach tot his challenge. The pilot campaign that will soon follow will facilitate learning and build increased capacities for more externally-focused campaigning, going forward.