Public Statement of the International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggles (IFPRS 2015)
17 November 2015
The global capitalist system is in deep crisis the symptoms of which manifest in its persistent attempts to reinvent itself through a new wave of neoliberal offensives. Neoliberal policies have now evolved into new trends of profit accumulation brokered through the most secretive of ‘free trade deals’ and the continuing expansion of corporate power. As millions of the working class increasingly find themselves unemployed and deprived of basic social services, the US, China and other capitalist states have spent hundreds of billions of tax dollars to bail out failed commercial and financial institutions to save the global capitalist system from total collapse.
And despite efforts of leading imperialist economies to feign a semblance of recovery, the doctrine of neoliberal globalization has now become thoroughly discredited in many parts of the world. The rise of the sovereign debt crisis, the age of austerity, the dismal economic outlook and the groundswell of people’s resistance from around the world show no signs of abating—all pointing out to a system in terminal decline.
Celebrating People’s Resistance
To showcase and celebrate the growing people’s resistance from around the world, more than 600 participants including migrants, workers, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, artists and cultural workers, youth and many other sectors and communities from all global regions gathered this 17 November 2015 for the Second International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggles (IFPRS) in Manila, Philippines.
The worsening global crisis has stirred greater discontent among peoples and social movements around the world. The onslaught of accumulation by dispossession has devastated entire peoples and their communities through large-scale land grabs. Corporate investors have stepped up efforts to unlawfully secure land rights effectively dispossessing indigenous peoples and food producers whose lives and cultural identities rely heavily on the lands they have been tilling for generations. The failure of governments and international institutions to offer genuine development for the marginalized has intensified the clamor of groups from various sectors of society for system change. This year’s theme – Amidst the new world disorder and renewed imperialist offensive: Strengthening People’s Solidarity for Genuine System Change – resonates this demand.
IFPRS offered a wide range of opportunities for learning and networking with simultaneous forums, workshops, strategy sessions, film showings and exhibits. The Festival featured a common opening at the University of the Philippines, Diliman with keynote addresses from IBON International Director Antonio Tujan, Jr. and Palestinian Freedom Fighter and political icon Leila Khaled. Messages of solidarity were delivered by renowned international activists including Dr. Azra Sayeed of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA), and Len Cooper of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS). A cultural presentation by Lumad children and other cultural groups were also featured at the opening ceremony.
After the opening program, a media conference was held featuring high-level speakers who spoke on the most pressing issues affecting the peoples of the Global South. Sulong Katribu nominee Datu Jomorito Guaynon, a Higaonon tribal leader, narrated the struggles of indigenous peoples including the plight of Southern Philippines’ Lumad communities and their struggle to free their lands from militarization and foreign mining corporations. Malcolm Guy of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) talked about how APEC is peddling lies after lies with its promises of ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘shared prosperity’ all of which are bound to fail within the current economic system. Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), highlighted the grave impacts of investment treaties that allow private corporations to sue governments for implementing policies that will affect their profits. Congressman Neri Colmenares of BayanMuna partylist discussed how APEC and its neoliberal policies gravely affected the Filipino people. IBON International Executive Director Antonio Tujan talked about the worsening gap between the rich and the poor as the consequence of neoliberal globalization.
The festival hosted simultaneous workshops around the themes, “People’s issues on the new world disorder and renewed imperialist offensive” and “People’s resistance against the renewed imperialist offensive.”The workshops served as venues for various discussions in counteracting neoliberal policies and in addressing issues concerning threats to people’s rights, specifically indigenous communities, migrants and contractual laborers.
Resisting Imperialist Offensives
In line with the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial meetings in Manila, several IFPRS events focused on APEC and its policies that promote neoliberal plunder and unequal trade agreements. Workshop participants engaged in discussions on the intersection of militarism as a key component in the implementation of unequal trade deals that further serve the interest of transnational corporations. As a counterpoint to the discussion on advancing corporate power, a workshop to expose and campaign against TNCs was also conducted to raise international awareness on people’s struggles and strengthen solidarity among victims of corporate plunderers.
Organizers also held film showings on the struggles of the urban poor, including battles of peasants for land and food sovereignty. Photos and artwork exhibits showcasing people’s struggles from various sectors of society including women, children, workers and other marginalized groups were also showcsed at the Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman to increase public awareness on the need to resist inhumane socio-economic and political policies and to assert their rights for justice and equality.
The closing ceremony was marked by messages of solidarity from international delegates representing various sectors including International Migrants Alliance (IMA) Chairperson Eni Lestari from Indonesia, Malick Sy, Jiten Yumnam from the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) based in Manipur, and Kharlo Manano of the Salinlahi Alliance Children’s Concerns based in the Philippines. Joana Carino of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) synthesized the entire day ending with a cultural presentation from the Dapayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK).
IFPRS 2015 was followed by the People’s Campaign Against APEC & Imperialist Globalization (PCAIG) on November 18-19 where women, workers, indigenous peoples and mass movements converged in Manila to protest against APEC and its close-door negotiations pushing for public-private partnerships (PPPs), trade and investment liberalization, and deregulation and regional economic integration.
IFPRS became an occasion to draw lessons from people’s struggles and to celebrate the victories of mass movements that are making strides in efforts to change the world for genuine democracy and people’s rights. IFPRS 2015 left a powerful message that amidst the new world disorder and renewed imperialist offensives, the people shall always prevail!