In Leipzig on Sunday the conference “Self-determined and in solidarity! Conference on Migration, Development and Ecological Crisis” ended in Leipzig on Sunday.
For three days, more than 700 participants from various social movements discussed in Leipzig’s “Westbad” the ways in which flight and migration are linked to the manifold ecological crises of our time and the prevailing ideas of social development. Participants included initiatives working on flight and migration, freedom of movement, climate, capitalism, agriculture and degrowth – many refugees and migrants were also involved.
Twenty-five workshops, many panels, two plays, four exhibitions, and open discussions addressed issues such as the criminalization of migration, women’s struggles for self-determined development, the devastating effects of international trade agreements between Africa and Europe, and how climate change exacerbates causes of flight. Other topics included the experiences of people fleeing their homes and the situation of refugees in Germany.
Racist police violence during the conference
The conference was overshadowed by racially motivated police violence against two speakers at the conference.
The speakers, who come from Cameroon and live in Germany, were accommodated in the apartment of a childminder during the conference. They were roused from their sleep by several police officers – apparently summoned by neighbors. After one speaker opened the door, one of the police officers immediately went after him violently, shouting “ID card, ID card” and at the same time painfully twisting his arm – and this despite the fact that both speakers reacted calmly and appeared ready to talk. One of the speakers was even handcuffed. Only after the conference organizers, who had been summoned in the meantime, spoke to the police officers, were the speakers left alone and the police left the scene.
“I wanted to call a friend to talk to the police about why we were being housed here and that everything was right,” reports speaker Péguy Takou Ndie, “but I wasn’t even listened to. I just had my arm bent backwards so much that I still have pain in my shoulder today.”
The second of the speakers, Richard Djif, who had to flee Cameroon because he made a critical documentary on corruption and oppression there, adds: “I was shocked that the police officers immediately used force, even though we were only wearing pajamas and were clearly not dangerous. I feel very unsafe in Germany when racist prejudices among the police lead to such attacks. Actually, the police are supposed to provide security. This reminds us how much we have to resist racism in society.”
Conference organizers condemn police violence
The organizing team of the conference – the initiatives Afrique-Europe-Interact, Corasol and the NoStressTeam as well as the Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie in Leipzig, glokal e.V. and the Entwicklungspolitisches Netzwerk Sachsen – condemn the racially motivated police violence. “We are outraged because everyday racism and police violence made it impossible to discuss undisturbed the connections between migration, self-determined development and ecological crisis and to discuss concrete possibilities for action,” said Matthias Schmelzer of Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.
The conference: example of solidarity in action
The conference shows what really matters; it is itself an example of solidarity in action: participants did not have to pay a fixed participation fee, but donated so that refugees could be reimbursed for their travel costs. The hostel “Multitude” provided accommodation for a minimal amount, other conference participants were accommodated privately or with borrowed sleeping bags in gymnasiums via the “Schlafplatzbörse”. Food was cooked by ARKitchen, a group of self-organized refugees. Interpreters also volunteered to simultaneously translate all events into English, French and German. The venue “Westbad” hosted the conference at a great discount.
Voices on the conference
Dora Sandrine Koungoyo Ndedi, activist at Corasol and founder of the magazine “Stimme”, Berlin, co-organizer of the conference
“It is a great success that we were able to mobilize so many refugees to the conference. We talked about many issues. Now it’s about getting very concrete.”
Boniface Mabanza, Church Office for Southern Africa in Heidelberg, Germany
“Anyone who looks at all the crises we are currently dealing with in isolation from one another has a huge perception problem. The boat that is capsizing is not just the boat of the refugees, but that of all humanity. What people need are spaces in which they can discover their diversity and organize themselves. They need spaces where they can shape the changes that they themselves think are necessary and that don’t serve outside interests.”
Ulrich Brand, Professor of International Politics University of Vienna
Researches on topics including globalization and globalization critique, global governance and transformation of the state, environmental and resource policy, and social movements.
“The destructive imperial mode of production and life must be changed quite fundamentally. To do this, the economic, social and ecological problems must be dealt with simultaneously. The social movements for global climate justice and for an exit from lignite in Germany are part of those struggles that are directed in the global South against the exploitation of natural resources at any price. A greening of agriculture in Europe directly takes the pressure off the land and the small farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who are otherwise displaced by the agricultural corporations. We should resume the discussion about de-globalization, which was intensively conducted 15 years ago. It’s about leaving room for the local and regional for independent developments against the globalizing power of the big corporations and the politics that support them.”
Freweyni Habtemariam, Eritrean Initiative for Dialogue and Cooperation e.V.
“Eritrea is a rich country, not only in natural resources. It is bad that big companies are exploiting Eritrea’s gold in collaboration with the authoritarian regime. It’s even worse that this is irretrievably destroying farmers’ farmland and housing.”
Mercia Andrews, Director of TCOE, Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Cape Town, South Africa
“When we talk about gender equality in a global context, we need a feminism that thinks colonialism. That is, the disadvantage of women on the African continent also has to do with the imbalances between Europe and Africa.”
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More about the conference
The issues of migration, development and ecological crises are closely intertwined. However, the political discussions on this have not been so far. This conference aims to change that. It questions the common argument that the right strategy is to use private investment to stimulate growth and thus create jobs – in order to reduce the number of newly arriving refugees in the long term. The theme is the extent to which the growth and prosperity model of the early industrialized countries of the global North stands in the way of global justice and self-determined development in the global South – not least in view of extreme inequality and ecological destruction.
What, on the other hand, can actual self-determined development in the countries of the global South look like? What role does freedom of movement play in this? What are the causes of ecological and social crises – and what do alternatives look like?
Self-determined and in solidarity
The conference is entitled “self-determined and in solidarity”. On the one hand, to contradict the attitude that sees development only as a copy of the Western path of modernization. On the other hand, to make it clear that global solidarity is a prerequisite for development processes that are anchored in the community and oriented toward the real interests of the people.
Afrique-Europe-Interact is a small, transnationally organized network. Grassroots activists are involved, mainly in Mali, Togo, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The network supports refugees and migrants in their struggles for freedom of movement and equal rights. On the other hand, it participates in social struggles for equitable or self-determined development. It participates with actions against the militarization of the EU’s external borders or land grabbing and supports in different ways self-organized protests of refugees and migrants in Europe.
New Economy Conceptual Work
The Konzeptwerk is a grassroots democratic and self-managed collective in Leipzig. It works as an independent and non-profit organization for a social, ecological and democratic economy and society. And it does so out of the conviction that economic activities should be geared toward enabling a good and equal life for all, while respecting the planet’s ecological limits. The activities of Konzeptwerk are networking of actors, educational work and cooperation with and support of social movements, especially in the field of alternative economies, growth critique, degrowth and climate justice.
glokal e.V. is a Berlin-based association for power-critical educational work and consulting that has been active in political youth and adult education since 2006. The members would like to raise awareness of global and intra-societal power relations. They see these as shaped by colonial history and persistent racist structures, among other things. glokal offers, among other things, seminars and process support for development policy organizations that want to review and change their work in postcolonial terms. Furthermore, glokal provides print and online resources for political practice (e.g. the material platform www.mangoes-and-bullets.org).
is a group of people with and without residence status, with and without refugee/migration experience, who try to fight against racism and white dominance in society through structural-political work and mutual support in Berlin and Brandenburg. Corasol has organized an anti-ira shopping event in Henningsdorf, organizes the monthly Friedel Vokü with information sessions on anti-ira issues, and does small public actions. Corasol cooperates with different anti-racist groups in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Saxony Development Policy Network
The Development Policy Network Saxony (ENS) is a federation of associations, groups and initiatives working for sustainable development and global justice. The association was founded in 1995 and is now a platform for development and intercultural initiatives in Saxony. The actors of the ENS want to set out on the path towards a just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world society that enables a life worth living for all. They pursue these goals through lobbying, promoting cooperation between regional, supra-regional and international organizations, providing advice as well as information and training, and communicating development policy issues.
Stress is a kind of basic condition for many refugees. Against this background, a group of refugees in Berlin and Brandenburg – including several activists from Afrique-Europe-Interact – conducted the NoStress-Tour in four refugee camps in Berlin and Bielefeld between June and September 2016. The goal was to get the camp residents out of their stress with low-threshold offers such as sports, music and children’s programs, but to combine this with an explicit empowerment perspective in a second step. In addition, contacts to neighbors and welcome initiatives were to be established by means of the NoStress-Tour.