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Article by Gianluca Solera and Charlotte Ricco
“We, the activists from 20 countries in Europe and the Arab world, participating in the International Forum convened in Luxembourg from 10 to 12 September 2012 […] we have discovered through dialogue and shared experience that what unites us is more important than what divides us in our struggle to create the conditions in which all human beings can live in dignity, freedom and peace. […] We support all actions in favor of the fundamental right of free movement of persons and policies respecting individual freedom, dignity and equality. We support all those engaged in the struggle for self-determination, freedom and social justice”.
These are the words of participants to the IndignaCtion! Forum. From September 10th – 12th, around 70 young protagonists of the Arab Spring and the European Indignant movements, coming from twenty European and Arab countries, gathered together in the Centre Culturel des Rencontres Abbaye de Neumünster, Head of the Anna Lindh Foundation Network in Luxembourg.
The IndignaCtion! Forum, supported by the Anna Lindh Foundation and patronised by Luxembourg´s Foreign Office, was a three day gathering with intense meetings, exchanges, debates and public events, which concluded with the commitment, as stated in a joint declaration, to establish a common networking platform in order to continue the struggle for democratic social change.
The IndignaCtion! Forum provided space for mutual knowledge and dialogue, allowing the participants to exchange their experiences on the ground (“Voices from the Square”) during the respective revolutions, uprisings or social protests in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Open sessions allowed the participants to discuss topics chosen by themselves, and envision joint initiatives or shared actions. The topics of discussion were as varied as the profile of the participants, from the scenario of a new system beyond the crisis of Capitalism to the new ways of social protest, the role of women in the movements, the notion of violence in our society, civil disobedience practices and popular economic initiatives, the role of media the depicting the uprisings, religious movements in the Arab Spring, mutual perceptions and common roots in the crisis affecting the two shores of the Mediterranean, and the capacity to pass from the notion “to revolt against” to the notion “to revolt for”. Questions of the mobility of people and migration were evoked on many occasions, keeping in mind the difficulties the organisers and participants of the event had faced in obtaining visas (although the Luxembourg authorities were very cooperative in granting them).
Participants to the meeting.
The public debate, in presence of former French footballer and antiracism activist Lilian Thuram, researcher and trade unionist Christopher Aguiton, European Investment Bank representatives, Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize nominee Esraa Abdelfattah, director of Luxembourg´s Chamber of Commerce, Belgian journalist Michel Collon and others, with the contribution of Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo, lasted almost 3 hours! Other figures participated, such as Amb. Stéphane Hessel and Father Paolo Dall’Oglio (via Skype), Greek filmmaker and journalist Aris Chatzistefanou, Greek-Gabonese top model and global education activist Gloria Mika, or French polemist Caroline Fourest. Participants visited symbolic spots in Luxembourg, including an Centre for Asylum Seekers, the environmentally friendly town of Beckerich, and the headquarters of the OBGL trade union. The movie “Catastroika” of Aris Xatzistefanou, notably dealing with the privatization of water, transportation and energy was screened, followed by a public debate.
During the drafting of the declaration, the participants, who appreciated the opportunity to discuss social, political and economic issues from a Euro-Mediterranean perspective and to better understand each other’s struggles, expressed the wish to keep in touch and to plan not only regular on-line exchanges of information, but also joint initiatives as another forum of this kind, “promoting non-violent participatory action and all other initiatives protecting the common good (Commons), and the sharing of experiences and information, to strengthen solidarity between peoples and enhance all citizens’ ability to control decisions concerning their vital interests.”
Common problems affecting European and Arab countries require common answers, local solutions applied taking into account the geopolitical context of each country. The Forum attempted to create a networking opportunity between activists from different backgrounds, but sharing the same desire for social justice. At the end of the day, the participants in the IndignaCtion Forum, held in the heart of one of the World’s financial squares in cooperation with Occupy Luxembourg, expressed the will to give continuity to this type of transnational gathering and to nourish a Euro-Mediterranean protest platform. Our wish is that activists and their partners build upon this opportunity so that this Forum, though unique, will not remain a one-time event as conceived with the purpose of inviting protesters from several corners of the Euro-Med region. We hope that a working group shall be formed to think and plan a second edition of IndignaCtion!, which could be held on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
Read the Luxembourg Declaration here.