Gateway Green Alliance/Green Party of St. Louis

From Part 5: October 1999 E-Green Bulletin

Notes on Oaxaca: Green Millennium Global Meeting, Sept 1999

by Don Fitz, Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance, Sept 25, 1999

On Friday evening, September 24, 1999, I introduced the following resolution to the executive of the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas:

"The Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas would like all member parties of this Federation to be welcome to participate in writing the Global Green Charter and be invited to send delegates to the Global Green meeting in Australia in 2001."

The resolution passed unanimously. The vote followed a discussion of the European Federation's refusal to recognize the GPUSA and the Australian Greens' using this as a basis for excluding the GPUSA from the 2001 meeting. Jorge Gonzalez Torres of Mexico said that he had observed the GPUSA and ASGP working together in the Federation of GPs of the Americas and that this Federation, and not Europe, should determine which Green Parties in this hemisphere are legitimate. Joel Kovel added that he hoped the days of European colonization were long gone and that the Green world should not let Europe make their decisions for them.

The decision of the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas gives full support to the GPUSA for equal representation at the Australia meeting. The Federation felt it was making a statement that each Green regional federation should decide the legitimacy of Green Parties in its region and that no one region of the world should be able to decide for others.

Green Millennium took place in Oaxaca, Mexico September 21-25, 1999. It was sponsored by the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas and the Federation of Green Ecologist Parties of Africa. Several official and unofficial meetings took place during the time of Green Millennium. One was the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas meeting on Friday, September 24. Another was the Green Global Message meeting which included two representatives from each continent. Since Julia was the only person present who was a state delegate to both GPUSA and ASGP, she would have been a natural representative. But the GPUSA and ASGP agreed to cede delegation to Canada and Mexico, with the two US parties each having an observer. The GPUSA had 7 members at Green Millennium and ASGP had about 15.

The GPUSA delegation (Julia Willebrand, Susan Metz, Joel Kovel, Dee Dee Hallack, Robert Gold, Gloria Pasen and me) discussed strategy amongst ourselves and lobbied for four days. We talked about problems of GPUSA recognition with delegates from Sweden, France, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. We received the strongest support from Mexico and Brazil. The Mexican Greens are highly annoyed at years of European Green arrogance. Jorge found it very offensive for the European Greens to refuse to give any reason for failure to recognize the GPUSA.

We received the least support from Australia, despite the fact that it is divided between an Australian Green Party and a Western Australia Green Party which has not joined it. Christine Milne simply repeated her statement that they were going to follow the example of Europe. I pointed out to her that the US is not in Europe—the US is part of the Americas, which has its own Federation which recognizes both Green Parties. She responded that that was something she would take back to Australian Greens for consideration.

Four GPUSA members gave presentations at Oaxaca: I spoke on Genetic Engineering, Julia spoke on Waste and Recycling; Joel spoke on Sustainability; and Dee Dee spoke on Media. People repeatedly commented on how much they appreciated the content of our talks, which reflected very well on the GPUSA. In addition, Susan organized a discussion on Green Drug Policy. It proved extremely useful for involving Mexican Greens in a discussion which challenged their party's policy.

We distributed all of our copies of Synthesis/Regeneration and Green Politics. The one thing we did wrong at the meeting was not bringing enough. (This is VERY IMPORTANT for future international meetings.)

The Green Millennium meeting was marred on occasion. John Rensenbrink's behavior was so inappropriate that Natalia Escudero reprimanded him in front of the entire executive of the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas. This was amazing to see. I have worked with Natalia for years and have found her to be one of the most conciliatory people I have ever met. She easily works with Greens from dozens of countries, some of whom are very difficult people. I have never heard her reprimand anyone before. For her to do so publicly must have meant that the entire Mexican leadership was highly offended.

The issue-on-the-surface was the application of the Colombian Greens (Oxigeno Verde) to be a member of the Federation. They began sending documentation six months ago and their delegate gave a presentation on relations between GPs and NGOs. During breakfast on the day of the Federation meeting the Colombian delegate had a disagreement with Jorge and told him that they did not need the Federation because they had good ties with France and they were withdrawing their application. Then she took a plane home. Since France is in Europe (not in the Americas) and Jorge is less than happy with treatment from Europe, he questioned granting full membership a country whose delegate said they were withdrawing their application. I heard from others that this would be a good opportunity to challenge Jorge's domination of the Federation.

The afternoon Federation meeting took almost 3 hours, with 2 hours being devoted to an exhausting debate on Colombia. After failure of a resolution to give Colombia full member status, a compromise gave Colombia observer status with an understanding we would vote on full member status when final information was received.

The Federation meeting broke for closing speeches of Green Millennium and reconvened at 9 pm for a "brief" wrap-up. At this meeting John Rensenbrink replaced Kent Smith as ASGP delegate. He opened the meeting by pontificating that he was "outraged" at the treatment of Colombia and demanding that the question be reopened. Delegates were exhausted from meeting for four days. But we were subjected to debate for another hour and a compromise resolution granting Colombia full member status pending accreditation, which could include an on-site visit. Pragmatically, the second compromise was virtually identical to the first.

Natalia said that she felt Rensenbrink's behavior damaged the ability of the Federation to function-if we revisit every question after it is voted on, then we will never be able to move forward on anything. John was so embarrassed that he apologized to both Natalia and Jorge.

It is important to realize that the Mexican Greens were NOT upset because people disagreed with them. Julia and I were the only delegation to split votes on the first resolution for full membership for Colombia. Jorge gave his total support to GPUSA recognition AFTER I voted against his position on Colombia. On many occasions, I have told various Mexican Greens how I disagree with aspects of their political approach. They were well aware that a GPUSA member organized a discussion on drugs which questioned their approach. Able to handle political disagreement expressed in an open and honest way, the Mexican Greens were annoyed with behavior which undermined the Federation by opening a settled question.

During our many hours of discussing the split in the US, I do not think that any in the GPUSA delegation described the ASGP leadership as devious and manipulative. We didn't need to. Those who came to the Federation meeting got to see the ASGP leadership for themselves.

Note: This is not a final report. It is only my quick notation upon arriving in the US so other GPUSA members will have an idea of what happened in Oaxaca. I hope that others who attended will collaborate in preparing a full report.

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